It was a Friday evening. I sat at my table, busy writing and also listening to my stereo. My mom and my aunt, who was paying us a brief visit, were in the kitchen and I could hear the mixer being run. My father was in the hall going through the day’s newspaper.
It was then that the power went off. I stopped writing, my father stopped reading, I couldn’t listen to music and my mother couldn’t prepare the dinner. Such was the crippling effect of the ‘power cut’. We all came out to the veranda only to see others too come out of their homes. Candles and oil lamps were being lit in a hurry while the affluent class was powering their generators.
I vented my anger, at which my aunt smiled. She then went on to ask me why was I so upset. I told her that I had an unfinished assignment to submit the next day and moreover it was so uncomfortable to be without electricity.I won’t be able to watch the TV as well and not able to sleep properly since it was the summers and the nights were hot and humid.
She smiled again and responded by saying, “You know, there was a time when I was just about as old as you are now and we used to live in a small town where we didn’t have any electricity. Our lifestyle was so different. We used to start the day early in the morning to avail the best use of the available sunlight. And before dusk, most of our work would be over. Within an hour or so we would go to bed. I used to complete all my school work in the afternoon and for preparing for my exams I used to literally burn the midnight oil. We never had any source of entertainment, not even a radio; and so fairs and circuses were eagerly awaited.
Ours was a small town and though the people had petitioned for electricity long time ago, it simply took years for it to arrive. And when finally it did come and I saw a bulb shining in my home, I was very excited and my joy knew no bounds. It was like the time when I first saw a train.
I remember my father saying that the light would dispel darkness from our lives and things would change. And so they too have changed. Today we take electricity as something for granted. We all seen on TV that electricity saved is electricity earned but no one really cares. Do you, Vijay?”
“No, I guess I don’t really”, I replied, “I do often forget to switch off the lights and fans. But you know for us it has always been there and I do believe that one does not know one’s blessings while enjoying them. Like last year we had a canal breach and water supply was severely disrupted for months. It was only then that we realized its importance and that too to only forget it again.That’s human frailty for you.”
But she went on, “Remember sometime back there was a big power cut throughout West Bengal and the ‘blackout’ lasted for about 10-12 days. How much of a hullabaloo was created. It even made headlines of national dailies. But do we realize that even today we have remote areas in our country where there is no electricity and people live by the lamp. We are very selfish and don’t care for them.”
What she said was right and self-evident too. It also had its impact on more critical things likes hospitals, factories, travel. So the message is loud and clear : ‘Save Energy’ and ‘Save Electricity’. Our future and progress depends on it.
The article appeared in the column ‘Have Your Say’ on March 11, 1995 in the youth supplement of The Indian Express in Pune, India.
Our lifestyles now encourage even more ‘energy consumption’ and in small ways too – it is unimaginable anymore to live through the hot and humid summer nights without an AC. And if a power cut is inevitable, so is an inverter. Families having multiple cars is quite common – taking out a bicycle for even small trips in the neighborhood is not.
At least we can still practically contribute by adopting even small measures like opting for solar panels so easily possible in independent homes, doing the ‘car-pool’ and sticking to it, using CFL lamps in our homes …