14 hours without power and teetering at the edge of sanity

Published: July 19, 2014
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It came on the heels of a public announcement that the government cannot vanquish the great beast ‘Power Shortage’ and the good people of this country must grit their teeth and hunker down for the collapse of civilisation.

It came on the heels of a public announcement that the government cannot vanquish the great beast ‘Power Shortage’ and the good people of this country must grit their teeth and hunker down for the collapse of civilisation. PHOTO: FILE It came on the heels of a public announcement that the government cannot vanquish the great beast ‘Power Shortage’ and the good people of this country must grit their teeth and hunker down for the collapse of civilisation.

I recently experienced something that almost every Pakistani is familiar with: a prolonged power outage. It came on the heels of a public announcement that the government cannot vanquish the great beast ‘Power Shortage’ and the good people of this country must grit their teeth and hunker down for the collapse of civilisation.

Notice the use of the word ‘almost’ in my first sentence?

Yes, the people responsible for doing something about the crisis do not experience it at all. Maybe that’s why their actions, not to mention their comments to news agencies, lack a sense of urgency. Perhaps they no longer watch television. Overall, considering all the drivel on our screens (lively political debates/kick-boxing matches), not watching it is a good idea. But then they probably also miss the reports on power outages, the demonstrations, the desperate people and the likes.

So, here is a blow by blow account of the power outage in my area to give those responsible a feel of the other side (assuming they’re literate). I’ve heard that reading about different cultures and environments broadens the minds and creates empathy and if all else fails, the following account may be used as research material for one of the many committees currently siphoning off our tax rupees to investigate… well… stuff.

10:45 pm

The scheduled load-shedding is 15 minutes early. Silent prayer sent up to the heavens.

11:00 pm

Phew! The light is back. False alarm people! Get back to work.

11: 15 pm

Gone again. Is this a new and improved schedule that somehow increases grid efficiency?

11:55 pm

It’s back! Quick, everyone do something productive!

1:00 am

I’m skipping all the bits where the light came back and went again because it’s slightly traumatic to recall. Suffice to say that by this time we’re all in bed watching the electricity come and go. The air conditioner is off because the people who made it anticipated uninterrupted power and we don’t know how it might react to this game of bijli hide and seek.

3:00 am

Good news = the game is over.

Bad news = Darkness has won.

But we can stop teetering at the edge of sanity, eat something lukewarm for our sehri and at least try to go to sleep.

4:45 am

Mum: Let’s go sit on the terrace.

Us: It’s a good 50 degrees outside!

Mum: We will all suffocate if we stay in here!

Us: We choose the UPS. Technology cannot fail us.

6:00 am

Up to this point we had all been mostly silent except for occasional variations of,

“When will the [email protected]%^& light be back?!” (This is the polite version).

After this, all recollection is fuzzy because I dropped off into either sleep or unconsciousness.

10: 00 am

This is the point where memory sharpens because I woke up (became conscious) mostly because of surprise at the fact that the UPS was still functional.

11:00 am

The UPS is dead. It fought valiantly until the very end but it could not win against the great beast ‘Power Shortage’.

12:00 noon

An afternoon memorial service is held for the UPS because the house is now (relatively) clean and we have nothing else to do. My brother is berated for wasting candles.

1:00 pm

Mother decides that now is a good time to do all the chores that we have been neglecting for the past month because of the ‘holiday’. We point out that we are all dying of dehydration. She says that all we need is distraction. We counter that all we need is a working fan.

2:00 pm

Our mother informs us that our grandmother is dying. Investigation reveals that she is not dying; she is simply exhausted by the heat and our mother is merely being dramatic. We call a relative who does have light and send her off (the grandmother, not the mother).

3:00 pm

Everything is defrosting. The freezer deluges the first person to open it with water. While this is refreshing it leaves said person smelling strongly of rotting vegetables. Mother breaks down into a fit of hysterical crying.

4:00 pm

We hear a loud speaker announcement that asks us to turn off all appliances to prevent the power that will soon return from tripping (we don’t really know what this means).

4:30 pm

Voice on loudspeaker asks us to be calm. It is now much lower, presumably because someone has attempted to strangle the owner. We can only assume that a mob of angry citizens has stormed the society offices.

5:05 pm

We have lost all hope. We will die of heat stroke or be eaten by zombies. Goodbye cruel wor- OH MY GOD! The light is back! We’re saved!

Sakina Hassan

Sakina Hassan

The author is currently studying for an Mphil degree at the Centre of Excellence in Solid State Physics.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.