Darkness within

It’s really difficult to describe the sensation of load shedding to someone who is unfamiliar with their power getting interrupted. The incident in question happened after the last “major bombing” incident, you may insert whichever one is the flavor of the week in Pakistan; a friend of mine called to check up on my well being from the U.S. The conversation went something like this…

Well wisher: Hey man, how are ya doing, all ok? We got a little worried here after what we saw on TV!

F.K : Yeah, we are fine man, just sitting here in the dark.

Well wisher: In the dark? Why are you sitting in the dark? Are you ok? Have you become a meditating ninja or something?

F.K: No, it’s the load shedding.

Well wisher: Load shedding? What the hell is that man?

F.K Err…it’s when the electricity goes for a bit here.

Well wisher: C’mon man, stop pulling my leg, I know I am not well versed about your country, but how can the electricity go, don’t you guys have like backup systems there?

F.K Yeah, I have a generator but its run out of fuel…

Well wisher: Umm, well get more fuel man, how long has it been?

F.K: About 6 hours.

Well wisher: (Gasps) Are you for real?!

I think it would be prudent to mention here that the person calling me was one of my college friends who happens to be of a Caucasian variety, and thus absolutely unfamiliar with the travails of the third world. So I explained a little bit to him and he was aghast, and said things like “but you have a new born there”. I was not shocked at his reaction, but rather at my own calm nature at the horrendous situation we face here day in and day out as the mercury rises along with the consumption of power, and thus the hours of load shedding. So I decided to sit down and think about why we are so immune to this impossible situation. Well, frankly the first thing that comes to mind is a little notion called “NO CHOICE” – it’s 44 C here the KESC (Karachi Electric Supply Corporation) has a distribution system resembling Swiss cheese and not enough money to buy tomorrow’s furnace oil which it burns to make electricity.

So the end grand result is that the lights go out and rather than refer to the situation as “pitch black” or something resembling a sane realistic term, we call it “load shedding”.

Yes dear readers, we do this because it is supposed to mean an infrequent short interruption in the power supply. At least that’s how it started out, but now the only short interruption is in the actual power black out itself as electricity comes to visit only for a few hours a day. I know what you are thinking at the moment, how do you cope with this man, how can you live like this, why doesn’t the government do something!

The sad part is that we have lived with it all our lives and it gets progressively worse every single year. I remember when it was a novelty in my childhood and we would start clapping when the lights came back after a few minutes. Then the minutes got longer and the clapping stopped, in fact it has been replaced by teeth gnawing, strained nerves and wall banging after a few hours of pitch black. Let’s put it this way, we have no resources to buy power from abroad, we do not have resources to generate more power at home and we have morons running the electricity company who are still in their seats extolling the virtues of saving power and what not. How in gods name is a person supposed to save power when he does not get it but for a few hours a day!!!

Naturally since we are being treated like monkeys in a cage, our reactions have been reduced to such as well. Stoning parties take place at the nearest KESC head office if the “darkness’ extends beyond a day and yes, they have sometimes shut it down for more than 12 hrs. In fact, I was standing in the complaint line at the KESC office a few days a go myself when an old man walked in asked politely where the D.E (divisional engineers) car is and proceeded to make a nice big hole in its windshield with a rock. When the employees asked in shock what was he doing the old man calmly replied “We are sorry for the interruption but we are helpless under the circumstances, please drive without a windshield to avoid it being broken” I felt all warm and fuzzy inside, yes I know what he did was wrong, but if you keep pushing a population too much at some point we are going to push a little back eh?

So here is my advice for the 5 people who are reading this.

If you think you have had a hard summer read from line 1 again
If you think you can handle Pakistan in the summer, I hope you never get a ticket
If you think you can understand, say a little prayer for those who are used to it, because the darkness gets a little creepy after a while.

(As printed in Te Saturday Post on 25/1/2008)