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Sunday, September 28, 2014

Our ancestors had no power... no problems either

Power holidays and outages have become the order of the day. People who face eight-hour blackouts are demanding that everyone else should suffer the same fate. The demand for power is going up. But production is not increasing proportionately. Blackouts are only going to increase in duration. Citizens should learn to live with the outages.

During unscheduled power cuts, the lady of the house bemoans that the overhead tank has not been filled and chutney for the meal is not ready.
During my school days, I spent many summer vacations with my grandparents in a village in Kerala. I had first-hand experience of how my elderly relatives survived without electricity.
My grandfather taught me the great epics and how to read and write Malayalam. Those lessons were taught during daytime. My grandparents woke up early in the morning so that enough daylight was available for all daily chores.
Water was drawn from a well in the backyard. No electric motor was employed. For taking bath, we went to the village pond. Clothes were dipped in the pond, pummelled on the granite steps and rinsed. No washing machine or water heater.
My grandmother used firewood for cooking. No microwave, mixer and grinder were employed in the kitchen. Masala and chutney were prepared with manual stone grinders. Smoke billowed from the kitchen on rainy days because of wet firewood. A chimney partly vacated the smoke.
The puja room had lamps made of brass. Gingelly oil with cotton wicks were used to light the lamps for puja. My grandparents recited religious scriptures either from memory or by reading books under the oil lamps. No need for electricity.
Dinner was eaten early at sunset, so that no activity took place at night under a kerosene lantern. Even when electricity came to the village, the voltage was so low that bulbs were no challengers to the lanterns. Since my grandparents had grown up without electricity, the introduction of electricity in the village and their house never made any difference to their daily life. The low voltage only made the bulbs conk out early, a drain on the wallet.
After dinner, we sat on the veranda, chatted for some time and went to bed early. We used hand fans, made of palmyra leaves, until we fell asleep.
An employee of the village panchayat went round lighting kerosene lamps at street-corners. That was more of an official requirement than of any use to the villagers. Hardly anybody stirred in the dark and if people were forced to go out for any reason, they would carry lanterns which withstood rain and winds.
We are now used to electric power and if power fails, we feel miserable. Maybe, we can recall how our ancestors managed and grin and bear the misery caused by power-cuts.
If mosquitoes come buzzing around, we can follow our ancestors' methods. They burned incense and dry neem leaves in a coconut shell and warded off the pests. If any mosquito evaded the smokescreen and disturbed our sleep, we would employ our hands to slap and silence the intruder. The method is tried successfully in many households even today after they have exhausted chemical pesticides and electric devices.
If there is no water supply from the tap, a rope and bucket can be employed to draw water from the sump or well. It will be good for the muscles and bones. Children should be encouraged to do their homework in daylight. It will be good for the eyes and for peace of mind
Housewives should keep a small manual stone grinder in the kitchen so that cooking need not be interrupted by a sudden outage. If all good men learn to live with the inevitable power shortage, the men in power will be spared the curses of frustrated citizens.

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