Since childhood, I have been fortunate enough to learn many new things in life. My father, a civil engineer, gets to work in different projects across India. So luckily, I have been brought up in different cities. I have learnt to adjust in new surroundings. But the only thing which I am still in the process of learning and I don’t know when I will achieve mastery in it is how to deal with power cuts. Yes, you read right. I am still unable to cope when there is a sudden power cut. I feel frustrated and annoyed when the fan suddenly stops rotating when I need fresh air and the tube light goes out leaving me to face the dark. It's not my fault, is it? No school and tuition in India can teach 'the ultimate tool and guide to dealing with power cuts' because there is no such chapter in any book under the Indian syllabus. But still we deal with it everyday, in every city and in every state. So much that we have become used to it by now, haven’t we? Eventually we learn how to deal with it by experience. Our ancestors dealt with it and now we do it too!
The year of my board exams had a brand new inverter in my house in Alibag. It was the first in my colony. My father made it clear that power cuts would not come in the way of his daughter’s studies. Before that, many days were spent in partial darkness in the evenings. Power cut had specific timings and my mother used to finish cooking dinner before the much dreaded power supply could go.
The summer holidays were spent in my home town in Uttar Pradesh. Every year, I had the experience of facing no power supply for 6-8 hrs. During that time I got acquainted with mosquito nets and mosquito coils. There was not a single house that did not have the Mortein coils. There I learnt to sleep on the terrace when there was no power at night. I could hardly sleep but my cousins slept soundly being used to it. But this was nothing compared to the condition in the rural areas. Occasionally I used to visit my relatives in Barhalganj in the Gorakhpur district which had power cut for straight 12 hrs. There was power supply in the morning but none at night. Phew! I could never stay there for more than few hours. I would pester my dad to get away from the place as soon as possible before nightfall.
I shifted to Hyderabad before my graduation days had started. There were timely power cuts, the reason being lesser power production due to less rain. My apartment had no power supply for 2 hrs in the day time. And when it rained at night, we used to take out the candles before the power supply could go again. Heavy rains meant no future power supply for a few minutes for sure. We used to brace ourselves with matchbox, candles and sometimes torches. There used to be a mad rush for charging every single cell phone available in the house.
Right now, I am in Chennai. The terms ‘load shedding’ and ‘maintenance’ I learnt in my engineering days but practically I see it here. Everyday, I read about the list of areas under power- shutdown-due-to-maintenance column in newspapers, always hoping that my area isn’t mentioned. The heat is almost too much to bear and no fans and ACs from 9am-5pm can ruin anyone’s day. Worst, once there was a power failure in the area for whole night! No power supply when your mind and soul wants to sleep soundly! Needless to say, the next day was a working day and people went back to their usual routine, sleepy-eyed and tired after fighting with mosquitoes whole night.
The breakdown in power supply in the Northern region some time back created uproar in the country. No power supply for days is unbelievable but I am sure people there had gotten used to it too. Isn’t that what we have learnt from the day we were born? Bear the heat and mosquitoes with our mouth shut and get used to sleeping in the dark? Or purchase an inverter or a generator and just move on?
Sadly Power cuts have become part and parcel of our lives now. I wonder when it will stop to be so.