Jatin Singh, 40, is staring out of the large, glass window. Beyond the tiny water droplets desperately trying to hold on to the glass pane and failing. Staring into the overcast sky and the drizzle.

I’m right in front of Singh, but he’s looking outside.

Seconds pass. A few more seconds. But he isn’t done yet. His face is thoughtful. Angular, fair with dark, bushy eyebrows and deep, brown eyes. His salt and pepper hair, at least the strands in the front, fall over his forehead in the shape of a crescent moon. A small crescent strand on the left, a large, full-of-hair one on the right. He is dressed in a light blue shirt with folded sleeves, dark blue casual trousers and casual white shoes. Hunched over, with both arms resting on the table, he is staring outside. And after what seems to be a remarkable pause, he says, “What do you know about lightning?”

I don’t know much. I can’t say if I have given it much thought…

“So, lightning is one of India’s biggest killers,” he says. Now, looking straight at me, raising his right hand and brushing through his hair. “Lightning kills more people than any other natural disaster in this country. And it is a private company like us who have set up the first lightning detection network. It is the biggest natural killer and the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) couldn’t set up a lightning network since Independence. So many people die of lightning, every day. IMD doesn’t, but I have a network. It is free of cost. You download my App, if there is a lightning strike within 50 km, it will tell you. It will warn you before it strikes so that you can go inside. It is there. It is free. Adopt it, no. The Air Force has a lightning detection network for its 50-55 airbases but that is private. The Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM) in Pune has had one for donkey’s years but the data is not publicly shared. All I am saying is, I will find a commercial way to exploit the data but let the data first start saving lives. Let’s work together. Let’s figure a way out. But no. I just don’t understand what are we waiting for. Who are we waiting for?”

“There are three events in my professional life which I think were clearly avoidable and have caused massive loss of life. Uttarakhand flood, 2013. Kashmir flood in 2014. Cyclone Ockhi. More than 600 fishermen went missing because a cyclone went by the Kerala coast. More than 600. It is not a small number. I wrote a letter to the Chief Minister of Kerala saying, listen, this was an event which was forecast almost two weeks in advance. I had said, there is risk. Had I panicked, perhaps the lives of some people may have been saved.

AUTHOR

Ashish K. Mishra

Ashish edits and writes stories at The Ken. Across subjects. In his last assignment, he was a Deputy Editor at Mint, a financial daily published by HT Media. At the paper, he wrote long, deeply reported feature stories. His earlier assignments: Forbes India magazine and The Economic Times. Born in Kolkata. Studied in New Delhi – B.Com from Shri Ram College of Commerce, Delhi University. Works out of anywhere, where there is a good story to be told.

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