“With great power, comes great responsibility.”
– Uncle Ben, Spiderman
27th July, 2007 was an idle Saturday – just another random weekend. That night, I was peacefully having dinner, watching T.V. The two ‘events’ are quite synonymous in my lingo. That is, if I’m having food, I’d also be watching TV; a routine that has never wavered. An action movie was being aired on Star Movies. Being a hardcore action-movie addict, I staged a mini-revolt to gain control over the remote control, and firmly established my supremacy by switching channels. The movie was about a commando operation. Eyes transfixed on the television, I finished my rice, and had proceeded into the final (but most-preferred) item, the FISH – incidentally my favourite dish. Like any artful epicure, I salvage the best for the last, and I was waiting expectantly for this last bit. Exactly when I was done munching the last piece of ‘choora’, it happened.
The world around me blacked out.
It was instantaneous and spry. One moment, the room was well-lit, the very next microsecond, darkness prevailed. Well, I was the least shocked at first; I leaned back on my chair unperturbed. The delicacy of the choora still lingered in my taste buds; the laws of optics take some time to sink in…. My taste buds relished the taste of the choora I licked the last pieces from the plate. Power cuts are quite frequent in any part of Kerala. Even with the government canceling ‘load shedding’ as a part of its populist measures (forcing the State Electricity board to the brink of bankruptcy by ‘buying’ electricity at exorbitant rates!), such occasional power failures are common. They could be as short as a couple of seconds.
I wasn’t aware of the term ‘worst case scenario’, was I?
One second, two seconds, ten seconds… One minute… Ten minutes… the blanket of darkness reminded me of the deep dark black holes in outer space. Silently remembering that verse in Malayalam about the virtues of darkness: “Velicham dukhamaanunni… Tamassallo sukhapradam!”(Light symbolizes sorrow, darkness is bliss!), I walked to the sink and reluctantly washed my plate. I’d missed a crucial part of the movie, and I had to see it once more. In torrent we trust!
The power seemed to have no intention of coming back even after an hour. I decided to call a spade a spade and started another exciting (duh!) game of ‘Nature Park’ in my Nokia. ‘Nature-Park’ing was getting on my nerves when a lovable friend of mine seemingly guessed my situation and called me. After some 15 minutes my Nokia threatened to switch itself off, relentlessly showing a ‘Low Battery’ sign in 4096 jarring colours. Harried, I explained my situation. Bidding a quick good-bye to my friend, I gave the Nokia its peace, switching it off.
Another half-hour found me ‘plugged on’ to my new ‘UNIS’ mp3 player (Gifted by a globe-trotter cousin who’d bargained it for a measly $20 from a vendor at Changi Airport, Singapore). But even my music-addicted self was chivvied hearing ‘Californication – Red Hot Chilli Peppers’ for the hundredth time. Psychic spies from China did try to steal my mind’s elation. My heavy eyes drooped down and I couldn’t stand the call of slumber any longer.
The sun-rays seeping in through the open window curtains stung my eyes as I opened them to greet the Sunday. My Rivoli watch mutely announced that the time was 7.20 AM, too early, by my standards. Sleepily I woke up, expectantly looking up at the fan, which contrary to my expectations, stood motionless. I toggled the bed-switch for good measure, but the fan was idle as ever. Enraged, I trudged to the toilet and brushed my teeth. The power should be back any moment, or it would have returned at night, and they’d have switched it off momentarily for maintenance.
When your dad’s a top honcho in the state electricity board, power cuts should not commonplace, ideally. Now, ‘ideal’, like the Carnot’s engine, is a paradox of unthinkable proportions. Dad couldn’t care less. My query met with rude-rebuttal – wasn’t I aware of the hundreds of employees who burned the midnight oil just to ensure that I got my weekly dose of ‘FRIENDS’ without fail? Dad’s rhetoric questions stump me without fail. Reasons behind the sudden blackout were still in the dark, if you’ll pardon the pun.
Dad’s reluctance to inform the local authorities (“they already know and they’re working on it!”), forced me to fish up the number from the directory and call the electricity office. That occupied me for an hour. The
‘Engaged’ tone was music to the ears. After a while I even assumed that the announcer female’s voice was sexy. (I wasn’t aware of speech processing algorithms back then, but some treble in the crackly voice did reveal ‘feminine tenderness’).
‘They’ must’ve come up with the “perseverance pays” proverb in the late eighteenth century (I couldn’t google, to confirm). But Edward A. Murphy prevailed over the over ‘them’ with his eponymous law. Everything that could possibly go wrong went wrong, that day. Needless to say, I couldn’t connect to the electricity office and I’d finally realized that the announcer was actually a male on ‘voice-drag’. My mobile phone died of low battery. I didn’t have any books to read, the one’s I’d borrowed from the library were returned only the day before. Dad’s laptop had run out of charge too. My camera didn’t entirely disappoint, but the low battery sign flashed on the LCD after a couple of macro shots with flash. It didn’t help that my room’s design-defect exacerbated the temperatures; I was melting from head to toe! Rivulets of sweat oozed steadily through every inch of my skin, and my temper was about to flare!
Worst day ever?
Looking back, the 28th of July, 2007 was a day I’d never forget in my entire life. Not because of the lack of power and the numerous inconveniences it hence effected; it was one of the best days of my life. : )
Well, at least, not until that very moment – when things were utterly wrong. It was noon and the temperatures soared. I couldn’t bear it any longer and I scampered to the terrace. I had to get some fresh air. I rested myself on the parapet, under the shade of a coconut tree which loomed large above. A gentle breeze soothed my scorched body. I closed my eyes.
As I made myself comfortable atop the parapet, I didn’t bat an eyelid. For the occasional onlooker, I was either a lunatic sleeping atop a dangerously-risky parapet-wall (one minor turn, and collapse – sudden death) or an actual corpse. Neither was I asleep, I couldn’t be more agile and active! Despite the apparent inactivity of my body, I was in deep thought. It was a while since I took some time off for myself, and those moments with myself was much-procrastinated bliss. I let my train of thought derail and my mind wander. It was such a wonderful experience, letting go of strings of inhibition, observing kites of thoughts fly high in the cloudy vast expanse of my mind. The kites magically dispersed the clouds away. As I woke up, an intellect of the sun shone high and bright in the clear blue sky of my mind.
It was 5:00 PM. Four hours had passed since I climbed onto the terrace. I observed an enriching sense of calmness within myself, as I walked down with a wide grin on my face. I sensed joy, exhilaration and peace.
More importantly, that was the day I realized my true calling lay – in literature.
I marched down the terrace, back to the living room – my tummy rumbled after all the contemplation. I hadn’t had a morsel since breakfast. Dad and mom were watching TV.
The power had returned. 🙂