The Bright Side of Load-shedding

June 24

Bijli aagaee?” chirps two-year-old Arhu.
Every job has its own vocabulary, terms and phrases that are tossed around like balls between jugglers, foreign to those outside of the office space.  Banking, telecom, journalism – I can of course only recall ones related to journalism because it is obviously the most interesting of these fields! Annoying pomp aside, eras have lingos too.  Who can forget the infuriating but convenient acronymization and abbreviation of already colloquial words! LOL, WTF, and the dreaded one I seem to blurt out too often – O-M-G.  

All the words that come with changing fashions and technology.  And so we have our era of electricity issues.  Load-shedding, UPS, generator, battery – these are part of everyone’s everyday language.  My short week in Karachi with its erratic but still not-too-frequent power outages did not prepare me for this resigned ritual of one hour of electricity followed by one hour of load-shedding.  People in Punjab have been dealt a short hand.  Who made this terrible deal with the government? 

I know I have no reason to complain because honestly, we do have UPSs and generators (even upper middle class families are relying more on UPSs because honestly, fueling generators to run entire households for 12 hours every day of the week and month is taxing), so at the very least, I do have the fan blades chasing after each other in a mad whirl at all times.  Of course every time the AC switches off at night, you wake up because of the shift in the temperature, you push off the blankets and toss and turn for a couple of minutes.  And then again, wake up from deep sleep to grope for the covers blindly. 

I haven’t really gotten straight eight hours of sleep yet but I think I’ll get used to this. 

Everyone has had to reorganize their lives around the schedule of electricity outages, cooking more regularly and storing lesser food in the fridge, water bottles go in the deep freezer if you want really cold water, getting up earlier for work, ironing clothes at a certain time, restricting TV watching to one-hour shows or leaving movie time to the occasional two hours of continuous electricity we get after 8 pm.  I guess in a way we as a nation have been disciplined and taught time-management. 

I wasn’t really ready to look at this in a positive light till last night, when my cousins and I were sprawled in the warm lethargy of summer nights, on the couch in the living room.  The split was trying its level best to cool things down but it was just a degree warmer than the comfortable coolness that makes us doze off.  All three of my cousins were engrossed in the world of their phones – from Nokia’s old-fashioned Snake to the accursed Facebook and the Angry Birds replacement for adults: Candy Crush (this is part of our era’s linguistic heritage too I believe).  Conversation consisted of appeals of attention from me and general comments on the absurdity and sadness of TV shows that we kept flipping through.

“What will we do when the light goes again,” I whined, swatting away at the nearest IPhone.
“Talk to each other,” and although it sounded funny it was a realistic suggestion.  However, when the TV and AC shut off automatically, we instead huddled around my cousin’s laptop.  Facebook stalking if done strategically can make you feel better about your life.  Because the fact is, really, everyone on social media is not beautiful and halfway across Europe on a backpacking tour.  There are the fat husbands, the ugly children, the poor souls who dress as if it is still 2000, and so forth (everyone uses Facebook for terrible, terrible reasons and therefore judgment should be suspended).  But then as fate would have it, the laptop hadn’t been charged and it died on us too.

And I guess that is what it took for us to start talking, about old friends and funny workplace stories, the inevitable journey into our past where we reminisced about the good old days and burst into fits of laughter that we use the phrase ‘rolling on the floor’ for because we were quite literally collapsed on the sofa, shaking from side to side and falling over each other.
“I am Aunt,” one would say and the rest would choke on giggles again. We even went outside in the porch and looked at the stars!

The light did come back on though, and so did the TV, and the laptop.  And my cousin let me play Candy Crush on her phone.  But thanks to the Pakistani government, I can rest assured that there will be many hours of dying technology that will make us turn to humans for company, comfort and entertainment. 


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