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Electricity - Necessity In America, Luxury In India

Electricity - Necessity In America, Luxury In India

March 21, 2012

Have we really ‘arrived’ on the global scene if we cannot provide basic amenities?



Appa, when will the power come?” I would have asked my dad for the 100th time. Yet, he would patiently cajole me into believing that in any minute the electricity would bless our homes. This was in the 90s. We would lose power occasionally and if it ever happened in the night, the whole family would sit outside in the verandah, where the gentle breeze would caress our eyes bulging with slumber. We would resort to playing charades, antakshari or 20 questions. When we got restless my dad would walk to the Electricity Board office accompanied by some neighbors and enquire about the situation. They were always forgiving of the line men and made excuses for them. Very rarely would we lose power for the entire night.

Then came a time when I would browse through The Hindu frantically to verify if our area was listed as part of the doomed ones. The 9.00am to 5.00pm lights out zone. When it was not, I would break into a victory dance, much to the annoyance of the maid who would be indifferent to the whole electricity situation. Mega Serials were not her main focus back then.

After a hiatus of about five years I was stuck without electricity for an entire day. Last year we had a terrible snow storm. Nor’easter wreaked havoc in the state of Connecticut. Nature dumped 16 inches of snow and branches snapped from the weight of the leaves and snow. When they fell they bought down the power lines as well. It was bad timing. The county elections were just round the corner and entire cities had lost power. The utilities company went to work tirelessly and the mayor called us every day to keep us updated on the restoration work. There were shelters opened up for old people and folks who did not have alternative facilities. Friends and family flocked together for about a week until normality resumed. We cursed the storm for a week but since we had enough notice we had prepared ourselves for the onslaught. Within a week’s time we were back to our routines with unlimited power, hot water at a moment’s notice and heaters comforting us with warm air.

While I sat back in comfort, India was reeling under the burden of massive developments. Chennai as a city had spread its ugly wings beyond boundaries and the Government had no foresight for resources or infrastructure. Apartments were rising up all around and crowding the skylines. Industries and software giants were opening shops at every street corner. The city was twitching and twirling and then came the massive collapse. The government announced power cuts for about 12 hours in the state of Tamil Nadu.

Although this was not a continuous span, it made me wonder whether India was really moving forward. Water was a scarce resource, even with rain water harvesting and borewells, Tamil Nadu could never sustain the growth. We had resigned to drinking salt water or distilled water from cans. The once calming sea breeze was contaminated with smoke and fumes. My beautiful Chennai had morphed into this ugly city with nothing but cacophony and concrete to boast off. And finally the city was wrapped in a blanket of eternal darkness.

week without power had sent officials into overdrive in Connecticut, whereas, months without power have done nothing to the local municipal bodies in Chennai. While my parents have calmly worked their schedules around the loss of power, I wonder how much more would they have to endure before the Government wakes up to do its work. Talks of a nuclear power plant being the only solution are reigning high but shouldn’t the government have foreseen these demands? Isn’t it part of their job profile? While my mother calmly fans herself through the heat wave, we will switch on our air conditioners and watch Americans sun bathe. 

6 Comments

  • Vidhya
    By
    Vidhya
    25.03.12 04:52 PM
    There's like 8 hours of power cut in places like COimbatore and in peak summer. I cannot imagine how people survive
  • Dr_idli
    By
    Dr_idli
    22.03.12 04:10 AM
    Well meera ,
    Do farmers get free electricity in the states , or do poor people steal electricity ? I doubt it . In india , if you are a farmer or slum dweller, it is your right to do it.
    In the many years i stayed in India i never met any middle class who would vote, less ask their politician to fix the problem ! In conneticut , your mayor would call you everyday in fear of of losing the next election. In india , the politician would show the people who pays for any service his middle finger! he knows the middle class as Tys would say are "ball less" !
  • Writerzblock
    By
    Writerzblock
    21.03.12 11:16 PM
    I meant, I don't 'completely' agree, but I agree with parts of what you have said :-)
  • Writerzblock
    By
    Writerzblock
    21.03.12 11:13 PM
    Well written, but I don't agree completely. I have lived most of my life in Chennai, and yes like you say, power cuts are a part of life now. And from 1 hr a day, it has now increased to 2 hrs per day, which is ridiculous. The Govt, has some serious work to do, sadly none of it is pro-active!!

    But I don't agree when you say Chennai has turned into an ugly city with nothing but concrete. There are more parks today than ever before. All new apartment complexes that come up these days are legally required to build a public park as part of the project. Marina beach has been spruced up. Over-bridges have come up all over the city, easing traffic a great great deal. Metrorail should happen too, which will be a great thing.

    A lot is happening in Chennai. Yes, we have miles to go, but I believe we are getting there, albeit slowly.
  • beinghindu
    By
    beinghindu
    21.03.12 05:06 PM
    good one......
  • Vivek Iyer
    By
    Vivek Iyer
    21.03.12 11:39 AM
    @Meera: Well written!

    Just beacuse we have a few IT MNCs springing up (which though is a good thing), in no means does it mean that India is in anyway developed. Sadly, many people think otherwise. The govt. is just hopelessly failing in its duties.

    For development and advancement, what we need desperately is world class infrastructure and utilities, and not giving out cheap tablet PCs or TVs. Our politicians can't get that into their head.

    In fact, my previous article, 'El Cheapo India'(http://www.the-nri.com/index.php/2012/02/el-cheapo-india/) lies in that essence. In broader sense, you may find it related to this one.

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