“Where the hell were you? Don’t you remember we have to complete the cleaning before 8’o clock”.
This was how Vivek’s wife Sadhna greeted him when he returned home. It was a cool January evening and it had just started getting dark. There was a typical cool and silent winter feel in the surrounding. Wednesday meant that the load shedding was due from 8 to 11.15. Sadhna had planned to clean the complete house for the upcoming Makar Sankranti and hence had asked Vivek to return home early so that they could finish up before the power supply went off.
Vivek had one hell of a day in the office. It was MSEB’s new load shedding timetable that was causing havoc in the office. Six hours of no electricity meant pending work, large backlogs, restless colleagues and ever-furious boss. After experiencing such a stressful day, Vivek was really frustrated to bear the same at home too. But there was no way out.
He changed quickly and got into the act of cleaning like a man possessed. Sadhna had also made Shashank and Rahul, their two sons to clean their rooms. It was nearly 6 p.m. and they had just two hours until when they would be left with nothing to do. With lots of nagging, shouts and suggestions from Sadhna they finally completed the cleaning before time. Vivek was right inside the bathroom when lights went off and everything went black. Vivek cursed MSEB for the timing. He somehow managed in the darkness and got out fast without feeling really fresh.
Sadhna and the kids were lucky enough to be fresh before him. The three of them were sitting on the verandah when Vivek came out. It was really cold outside. There was no moon and the streetlights too were off, leaving the surrounding completely dark. The only light sources were the flickering candles and the oil lamps from the neighboring windowpanes.
With a tired body and nothing left to do, the four of them just started chatting. Shashank started it off with the funny incidences that often happened in his college due to the load shedding. He explained how friends often found out excuses for the practicals saying “There was no power mam, my PC was off!” and how teachers postponed their tests because they had to consult the load shedding time table for each and every work, from setting the paper to printing it. Vivek found it fascinating that how Shashank, a hard core TV addict had coped up so easily with the load shedding. When Vivek asked him, he just shrugged it off saying “I have found out lots of new things to do like reading, gardening, playing cards and many more”.
Sadhna had her own point of view over this matter. Although she hated it when she had to cook in heat and dark, she immensely enjoyed it when in the noon; all the housewives from the neighborhood would come together to have a chat. She enjoyed the change very much rather than the boring saas-bahu serials. She also admitted that to avoid the heat of the kitchen, she completed her chores early and thus could spare a lot of time for herself.
Vivek wondered how strange sometimes women could be. But in fact he admired his wife for her thoughtfulness. Sometimes he himself felt surprised to realize the time he had spent on himself and his pleasures since the load shedding had started. He tremendously enjoyed it to stroll through the dark and silent lanes of his colony after dinner, thinking about people and life. It had been at those times, when some of the best thoughts had come to his mind and later he had penned them down. He also loved to play with Rahul and hear his innocent views about stars, moon and the world when, at night, all of them sat on the terrace. He loved it when they enjoyed the hot coffee up there when icy winds would flow and unseen leaves would make pleasant rustling sounds.
Vivek’s train of thoughts was broken by Rahul’s tap at his shoulder. It was nearly 10 o’clock. Vivek felt the mercury must have fallen well below 10 degree Celsius. Shashank suggested that they burn a little campfire on the cement flooring. It seemed a fairly good idea since there was still one hour to go for the power to come back. So, he brought the sticks and other stuff and burned the fire on the flooring. Rahul was so excited that he held a long stick in his hand, put some leaves in his hair and enacted an “adivasi” dancing around the fire. All of them had a hearty laugh over that. Vivek’s neighbor Mr. Joshi and his family also walked down and joined in the fun. Then there were some songs, poems some jokes followed by and lot of laughter. It felt just like a dream…the happiest dream! Everything was so pure, wonderful and lovely. Vivek loved it.
At last it was 11.15. In just a few seconds the surrounding was washed with white light from the streets and the neighbor’s houses. As the power came back, Vivek felt a sickening sensation in his stomach, just like he was cruelly being awakened from the happiest dream of his life.
Vivek bid Mr. Joshi and his family, a good night and returned inside the home. Children were already asleep. As Vivek prepared to sleep, he went over the entire series of events of the day. He thought about the frustration from the office, about the cleaning, about his tiredness and then about the time he had so much fun, about how now he felt happy and content that he had spent some quality time with his family. This day would definitely remain in his memory for years to come. Only three hours ago he was cursing MSEB for its ruthlessness and now he somehow couldn’t help but bless it, for if not anything else, it has helped people to think a bit about there lives and made them come closer.