Celebrating 25 Years of WHYCOS

Celebrating 25 Years of WHYCOS
Jointly with three other scientists, I had conceived the World Hydrological Cycle Observing System in 1993. (Rodda, J.C., S.A. Pieyns, N.S. Sehmi and G. Matthews, 1993: Towards a world hydrological cycle observing system. Hydrological Sciences Journal, 38(5):373–378). WHYCOS is one of the main programmes of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). To celebrate its 25 years, Michel Jarraud, WMO Secretary-General Emeritus, reflects upon the past of WHYCOS, looks at its successes and failures and projects into the future in his article in a Special Issue on Water of WMO Bulletin. I’ve reproduced the article in:


Indians can run also!

Sunday, 11.45 am, 6 May 2018 :“You must be British Indians,” I approached a group of a dozen men and women with the Union Jack stickers on their bibs taking a group photo, thumbs raised and broad blissful smiles. “Yes we are. Bravo! Where are you from?”

“I’m also an Indian. I’m very happy to see you. So good to have company. I was born in Kenya, I’m Kenyan Swiss.  Most of the time I am the only Indian running; rarely one sees Indians in this race. I have run all Geneva half-Marathons except one.”

I enjoyed talking to them! One, originally from Mombasa, immediately started conversing with me in Swahili. An ex-Ugandan said he played cricket in Uganda XI. Some were from London, others from Birmingham. It will be difficult to encounter such relaxed spiritual contentment on the faces of a big group.

“Have you run a full Marathon,” asked one.

“No, I would like to try once; but it will be difficult; I’m 81.”

Total silence. Difficult to believe. They showered me with praises and I felt elated.

“What’s your secret of staying young?”

“Running, not yoga! What you require and achieve by running is much more than by practicing yoga. Will power, action, determination, concentration, courage, big lungs to push oxygen required by the whole body, not just the brain.”

“It is meditation,” said one women.

“Instead of yogic breathing through one nostril the runner would welcome addition of one or two more noses!”

All this was short lived but much fun. The joy of talking to them made me forget my knee pains. I wanted to return home. If I had stayed to rest after receiving the medal I would not have the courage to walk to the distant bus stop with such painful knees – a punishment for not training enough before the race.

I regret that I did not think of taking a picture with the group. Should anyone of the group read this, I would love to hear from him or her.



1- Feeding kangaroos near Adelaide

Hot sun tortured me. What should I expect when my twisted brain imagined megalithic Buddha lying in the form of Uluru (Ayers) Rocks in the middle of the great Australian desert? Even in his transcendent vision, Buddha could not have seen that such a land existed. How dare I attribute and give credit to this mortal human being for creating nature’s another magnificent work of art? (http://bigbangyoga.org/birthday-on-the-rocks/). I should have left Buddha alone happy with his Golden Rock covered with glittering gold in Myanmar (http://bigbangyoga.org/buddhas-rock-in-kenya/ ).

2 Koala bear

Naturally intense activity broke down my normal routine and made me lazy in many other ways. My five attempts to lose weight by jogging failed miserably. In Whakatane, the most easterly point of New Zealand, an early morning jog before heat and humidity descended, revived my spirit a little. I boarded the boat to the famous sulphur emitting White Island volcano discovered by James Cook.

Nevertheless, for this folly, I deserved to be punished. Over 40°C for four long days almost dried me up into a skeleton. What deliverance when I jumped into the Qantas three hour flight to Sydney.

3 White Island volcano NZ

For eight weeks I crisscrossed south-eastern Australia and New Zealand North mostly by bus, staying in youth hostels and backpackers, visiting cities and surrounding countryside on foot, looking for koala bears and elusive kiwi birds in the wild, feeding kangaroos, chasing away the fearless emus and doing haka with Maoris.

 In the excitement of returning to Switzerland , I foolishly ventured on the morning before, to jog in the national reserve near our residence in the outskirts of Sydney (West Pymble) without realizing that wilderness in Australia can start just on the other side of the house fence and it is so easy to lose oneself. And that is exactly what happened to me.

4 La Clusaz-Beauregard, France

Just seeing snow on the Alps felt like deliverance. Once recovered from travel fatigue I ventured to the the Alps in March. The bright blue sky contrasted with glittering white snow on the mountains above La Clusaz near Mont Blanc in France with temperature touching 14°C.  In the lively company of six women from different cultural backgrounds, I followed a snowy track to an altitude of 1670 meters where we enjoyed a well-deserved lunch surrounded by snow and with a view of Mont Blanc.  What an exquisite sight!

5 Mont Blanc

This outing dissipated all the stored up Australian heat in my body! However, my usual jogging stamina is still out of order. To test it, I jogged and connected a number of Geneva public parks on the right bank of River Rhône. Look at the shameful time of 65 minutes I took to cover less than 7km! Is it a punishment for being disrespectful to Buddha or have I aged faster in the southern hemisphere?




















La revanche du Dieu Agni 

La revanche du Dieu Agni 

4 juin 2017: Agni, Dieu du Feu, fait monter la chaleur avec une fougue vengeresse.  Hier, il faisait 44°C et maintenant, à 17.00 il fait 50°C.  Il a coupé l’alimentation en électricité pour un temps indéterminé, et ainsi il a arrêté le système d’air conditionné que je venais d’installer dans ma maison à Tajpur, mon village d’origine au Punjab. Quelques semaines plus tôt, alors qu’Agni avait l’attention détournée par les problèmes climatiques du monde, et qu’il essayait de raisonner les personnes difficiles comme M. Trump, il ne m’avait pas vu, moi, le petit hydrologue insignifiant et à la retraite, lançant sa campagne pour soulager les effets de la sécheresse dans certains pays du monde, avec l’aide d’Indra, Dieu de la Pluie.  En janvier, ma fille m’avait appelé: “Tu es hydrologue, alors fais quelque chose.  Il n’a pas plu depuis six ans, en Californie.  Les gens en souffrent.”  À peine le pied posé au sol, le dieu de la pluie se montra dans toute sa splendeur pendant trois semaines.  La soif de la Californie  était pleinement étanchée.  Mais Dieu Indra déborda d’enthousiasme et provoqua des crues, des inondations.  Il m’a obligé à interrompre mon voyage depuis Los Angeles sur cette magnifique route côtière bordant le Pacifique et il avait aussi provoqué des glissements de terrain, notamment à la hauteur des plus beaux points de vue sur l’Océan.  Il nous a forcé à rentrer dans les terres et à passer la nuit dans la célèbre ville universitaire de San Luis de Obispo.  J’ai pris l’autoroute intérieure vers Monterey, puis nous avons mis le cap vers le Sud, le long de la côte du Pacifique.  Après la contemplation des beautés de la terre et de la mer, notre journée s’est terminée dans la demeure du grand écrivain Henry Miller (Tropique du Cancer), maison qui a toujours conservé son état originel.  Les Californiens ont été contents de nous, moi et Indra. Un prétexte me mena à Colombo, au Sri Lanka, le 13 mai.  Les pluies de mousson hésitaient encore à arriver.  Mais peut-être était-ce moi qui avais tardé à apparaître.  J’ai vu une mer courroucée déferler violemment sur les berges.  Après avoir célébré le mariage de Jassi, un Sikh kenyan du Canada, et de Caroline, une Tamil sri-lankaises du Canada, tous deux médecins fraîchement diplômés, j’ai rejoint 25 autres Sikh ex-kenyans pour la plupart, pour une visite guidée de l’île, jusqu’à Anuradhapura, dans le nord.

Mariage canadien dans un lieu de séjour huppé de Colombo Le Dieu de la Pluie, Indra, me rattrapa.  Les pluies annonciatrices de la mousson s’étaient abattues sur la région de Colombo avec un peu d’avance et une violence considérable.  Deux jours plus tard il causait des crues et des morts.  Comme vous en ce moment, je commençais à me suspecter moi-même d’être la cause de tout ce bien et tout ce mal. Mon atterrissage à Bengaluru (Bengalore) m’a donné des frayeurs.  Une puissante rafale a fait tanguer l’avion, puis un grand bond, avant de se redresser en douceur.  Etait-ce un signe précurseur?  À peine sortis de l’aéroport dans la voiture de mon cousin qui nous emmenait chez lui à 45 km de là, il s’est mis à tomber des cordes.  Le trafic a dû s’arrêter.  Il nous a fallu plus de deux heures pour arriver à destination.  Des arbres ont été déracinés, les lignes électriques coupées, les routes bloquées et de  nombreux dégâts aux maisons.  Les météorologistes le savent bien: dans les régions tropicales, on peut s’attendre à tout. J’ai beaucoup apprécié le climat salubre de Bengaluru, notamment lors d’une excursion vers la station de montagne de Medikeri, dans la région tribale de Coorg.  Pendant ce temps, Dieu Agni se préparait fébrilement à défaire tous les ouvrages de ce petit hydrologue.  Il l’attendait pour lui infliger une torture tout spéciale.  Dès que l’avion avait commencé son approche de Chandigarth, je savais que les 37 degrés C m’attendaient.  J’étais heureux de voir des nuages blancs s’écouler le long de la carlingue.  Je me sentais en quelque sorte rassuré : Indra, Dieu de la Pluie, était à mes côtés.  J’ai raconté mon récit météorologique à la personne qui m’accueillait.  “Nous ne prévoyons pas encore de pluie. La mousson est encore loin” me dit-il.  Miracle!  Le lendemain matin nous recevions une pluie très rafraîchissante et la température tomba à un niveau tolérable.  Je pensais que j’avais toujours ma chance d’hydrologue et qu’Indra me soutenait.  Comment pouvais-je savoir que l’averse de pluie était là uniquement pour me jouer un vilain tour?

Apprendre sous 50°C dans le village de Tajpur, Punjab

Dans le village, il fait toujours et encore 50°C.  Quelle chance que mon air conditionné marche à fond pour garder la chambre moins chaude.  Je n’ose pas sortir, de peur que Dieu Agni en personne ne m’attrape par le cou et me fasse fondre en moins qu’une loque.  Et puis j’ai remarqué que la chaleur – pareille à celle d’un four – ne semblait pas déranger ces étudiants de terminale en train de suivre un cours privé, trouvant du confort avec un simple ventilateur de plafond. J’ai survécu.

Naginder Sehmi (Traduction Ilse Bourgain)


Agni, the god of fire, inflicted such revenge on me in India that I thought I would never run again. (see – http://bigbangyoga.org/god-agnis-revenge/ ). A few days after returning to Geneva I tried to run my habitual 7 km. My legs refused to respond. At the finish I felt having run a marathon. It seemed that Agni had dried up my muscles and tendons
On Friday, July 30 at 6.30 pm, I stepped out of the door and felt something strange in the back of my heel. I ignored it – it has happened before and would disappear. I walked to the nearby shopping centre, hardly 300 metres away. An excruciating pain forced me to sit on a bench and rub my heel. I limped back home. It was 7 pm. I tried stretching, messaging with ointment I use for knee pains, took 500 mg of paracetamol. To no avail. I never had suffered such pain before. From experience I knew that my Achilles tendon was not broken. I rushed to Internet. It alarmed me. It must be a blood clot. My daughter rushed me to a clinic. The nurse measured my blood pressure twice before the doctor could see me. Alarmed, she said. “It’s dangerously high – 190.” “It’s normal when a pretty girl measures it. Indians tend to have above normal high pressure,” I tried to justify. “Do you have headache? Do you have chest pain?” She asked. Nothing whatsoever. She made me lie down for twenty minutes before measuring again. No change!
A young doctor examined my leg and assured me that symptoms were not of a blood clot. He made me stand up and lift my heels. No problem. Probably a tiny muscle filament had snapped that caused severe pain. It will heal by itself. But no running for ten days. However he would not release me because of my high blood pressure and told me to contact my regular doctor as soon as possible. “I feel normal. I can almost run back home,” I said. He gave me a pressure reduction medicine and made me lie down for half hour. Pressure lowered to 175, still too high. By then my heel-leg pain almost disappeared. He let me go. I promised that I would contact my doctor. The following Monday my doctor informed me that blood pressure can rise when the brain reacts to some body pain. She was right. Two days later I was back to normal.
Nevertheless, my big worry was if I would ever run again because my legs felt like dry sticks. Hot Geneva did not help either. Agni god will not take pity on a rival, a hydrologist, a meagre human being.
A few days ago the rain god, Indra, noticing my troubled spirit, freshened the air. On Friday 18 August a cool cloudy sky encouraged me to attack Agni god. See the map of the battlefield.

I won. Now I feel light physically and elated mentally my legs having run 11.50 km and I’m not feeling tired. For the first time after two months I slept seamlessly deep.



Courir est une saine addiction!

Courir est une saine addiction!
Le Demi-Marathon de Genève 2017 avait démarré à 08.30, ce dimanche 7 mai, par un matin frais et pluvieux. A 7 km la pluie cessa et chacun se débarrassa qui de sa veste de pluie, qui du plastic dont il ou elle s’était enveloppé(e), et la partie devint bien plus amusante. J’étais en forme, mais je ne m’étais pas entraîné pour cette course. Malgré tout, puisqu’il m’est difficile de me défaire de l’addiction de courir et de concourir, je me suis inscrit au tout dernier moment. J’ai traversé la ligne d’arrivée avec seulement deux minutes de retard sur mon résultat de l’année dernière, mais cette fois sans faire d’arrêt. Seuls ceux qui font de la course à pied peuvent réellement s’imaginer à quel point j’étais content..  (Traduction Ilse Bourgain).
*Note de la Traductrice: Si nous ne pouvons pas ressentir ce contentement, nous pouvons en tout cas le comprendre et le partager, avec fierté. Bravo, Naginder! Tiens bon!

Kale, the Sukuma wiki of Kenya

Sukuma wiki of Kenya

Those who grew up in Kenya or its neighbouring countries should remember the taste of ‘sukuma wiki’. It is possible that you did not eat it because it tasted better with ugali the type of food you did not eat in those days. Sukuma wiki means “push the week” which implies that eating it would give you strength for a week- claimed to be nutritionally powerful stuff. It’s related to kale. Californians adore its big leaves oven-baked as kale crisps. It can be consumed in many ways. Back in Kenya once a poor man’s food, it’s now commonly served on elegant dining tables.

Stung in California, I bought kale (Sukuma wiki) seeds packed in South Africa from Uchumi in Westlands of Nairobi and sowed them in my garden in Geneva. The third generation seeds have adapted to local conditions and now produce luxuriant big leaves for at least two seasons.

This year I picked leaves in February. Every one especially children relished them as kale crisps. Cooked in the Sukuma wiki way or as salad it’s delicious. Recently I mixed the chopped kale leaves and onions in wheat and gram flour (2:1) and made chapattis.

Most of that stack in the picture was consumed in no time. The few remaining are in the freezer.

Then I pondered: Kale seeds from South Africa, bought in Kenya, grown in Switzerland; Indian gram flour (besan) mixed with Swiss wheat flour and onions with a spoonful of Swedish baking powder; chapattis formed in a cast-iron tortilla press manufactured in Columbia and bought in Trump’s USA; and chapattis baked in a non-stick pan bought in Indian Punjab! Practical globalization.