Thursday, August 28, 2014

The unkindest cut

We feel that the local man in charge of our regular power cuts has given over to megalomania. We used to have them initially in two-hour slots spaced out considerately for households needing to use kitchen gadgets for the day's meals and such, for harried people leaving for school and work as well as others doing their morning kriyas. (Electricity is strictly not a requirement for this activity but it helps, of course – the buzz of household gadgets keeps other intruding sounds away, and there is always the menace of mosquitoes that can be held at bay with a breeze propelled by electric power.) Of course this also served for everyone requiring to charge their tech paraphernalia.

The first cut used to occur promptly at 10.30am and was restored at 12.30. As humans, whose thing in life is adaptability we, accordingly, adapted. Early in the morning, we fought over power plug points, made our chutneys, sent off last minute mails at 10.25 and sat back in somewhat of a smug attitude. In the break, we puttered around the garden, caught up on the bird scene in the neighbourhood, read the newspapers, and some even going so far as to read a book! It was idyllic.

At 4.30 in the afternoon was our second cut of the day. Walkers would reach promptly for their shoes, others for grocery bags, the colony uncles chose to huddle for leisurely powwows. Dusk would gently fall, leading some to make quite a to-do about their sunset pictures. With normal life restored at 6.30, the populace would withdraw indoors to prayers, television and dinner.

Now this is a thing of the past. The man at the switchboard has lost his rhythm. Sometimes, at 6.30am, when most of God’s creatures and snuggling in their razais, dreaming their last dreams of the night, they are awakened most rudely by a cessation of fan-blades. Now having thus dragged oneself out of bed, there is no easy method for obtaining hot water for one’s ablutions, the overhead tanks have not been filled and plans for breakfast must be altered very quickly to include Spencer’s wheat bread. You will note that I said ‘sometimes’. For, at other times, it is another time. Sometimes, 7am, sometimes 7.15, once 8am, occasionally 11am and now he has passed over the morning slot altogether. For two days now it has been 12-2pm and 4.30-6.30pm, which gives us barely two and half hours in between to get the fridge cold again. Food is spoiling and for persons who worry about laptop batteries forming the wrong kinds of memory, this is bad indeed.

Although I have described vividly the torments of unexpected cuts, I have not yet touched on the other kind – the torment of uncertainty and hope! What happens when the citizenry is expecting a power cut and it doesn’t occur? As a sample, I studied my father. At 10.40, it becomes clear that the schedule isn’t being adhered to. Having put off eating so that he can maximise on the router being available, he is famished. Should he have breakfast anyway? Or perhaps he should fit in one more response to an email in the next five minutes before it might be shut down? He teeters, Dear Reader, between work station and kitchen in the most piteous manner. But worse, when we have braced ourselves comprehensively and nothing at all happens. “Is it a festival today? Or some holiday?” Why, we wonder in private, aloud and during every interaction, has there not been a power cut. Having no faith in free lunches, we wonder what retribution will be like.

The maid discusses the cuts as much as she discusses the weather: “Ee rozu teesinadaa, akka?” and then tells me how it was in her locality these past 24 hours. We have concluded that we have a control freak on our hands. Our lives will run, he imagines, on his say-so (as indeed they do). Do you think he breaks out into maniacal laughter every time he pulls the plug? Or that his eyes gleam when his hand hovers on the button and then withdraws, knowing well the consternation he is spreading?

As I write this, my father has been wandering around the house muttering to himself. Tufts of hair stand upright on his head, and he wears a pinched look. There has been no cut today.


Shweta said...


Shweta said...

Bah! What I was asking was do you know his name? to pummel the cushion with.

Sheetal said...

I think it is Shankar. Must be. Gotta be. Or The Ghost of Shankar.

But so glad you explained. I was worrying about having to decode "352".

shweta said...