Let there be light

God said, “Let there be light”. And then man said “Let there never be darkness”. Thus came the inverters, generators and the 100% power backups that we have in today’s world. Some days back I made a trip down memory lane when there was a power outage. On a side, I must mention that the power outages in Gurgaon are so frequent now that I would be permanently living in the past instead of making frequent trips down memory lane. Thankfully that does not happen since I also happen to have that contraption called the inverter. But on this particular night I made the trip down memory lane since my inverter had a problem and I had to resort to the “not-so-ubiquitous-anymore-stuff” – candles. I don’t even have candles at home. Luckily, with a birthday just gone past, and with age beginning to fast forward as they show in movies – pages of a calendar flipping past before you can say J for January – I had lots of teeny weeny candles to spare. I lit those up and then it was time to go back to … childhood.

Power outages were very very rare occurances in childhood. But when they happened, they were a delight. It usually meant good quality time for the whole family. Things like the summer heat or the buzzing mosquitoes would be a nuisance but then who cares when one can have so much fun. Some of the things that we did during such times include
– playing with the candle flame by passing a finger through it.
– playing with the wax that trickles down and making shapes out of it.
– making the wax trickle down with ones bare fingers. It’s great fun because one could make finger imprints.
– playing shadow games with ones hands.
– making eerie noises and scaring others.
– playing guessing games.
– relating ghost stories.
– remembering old anecdotes as the whole family bursts with laughter.
– antakshri.
– general chit chat with family, tantamounting to quality time spent.
– inventing new games to be played for the next power outage.

As part of growing up, the frequency of power outages increased and certain areas of interest (during such times) changed. For eg. With time I also became interested in studying the structure of a flame. The games kept getting more innovative. Watching the stars and the night sky when the power is not there, is something everyone should do because the street lights don’t hamper the view and on a clear night one can see proper constellations. During hostel life, the areas of interest changed yet again. Night walks, singing, guitar sessions, Antakshri across girls and boys hostels (with them being locked inside respective hostels), shadow dances done by guys (in guys hostel) by holding a candle against a bedsheet and then doing some sapera naach for the girls (watching from girls hostel), calling spirits on the ouija board; entered the “interesting things to do list”.

Now the situation is different. Seamless integration of devices like the inverter, doesn’t even let one know when the power is out. My mother’s favourite quote is “It’s better to light a candle than to curse the darkness”. It certainly needs to be changed with today’s times because there isn’t any darkness anymore. I need to concentrate really hard to recollect the last time the power was out and I had a great time the way I have had some years back. One of my senior managers was relating an incident at his house where his inverter wasn’t working and a power outage happened. Both his daughters aged 5 and 2 screamed like anything and got absolutely terrified. He in turn got quite shaken up and got the inverter rectified the first thing next morning. It certainly makes me realise that there are already some people in this country who have never seen absolute darkness. How they will be able to deal with the fear of the dark is another thing altogether, but what they are really missing out on is something that can never be compensated. Tsk.

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