MIDWAY: Life by candlelight

No rain has fallen for several months. The run-off rivers have levelled down and the headrace in the dams has sunk low. It has been long since I last heard the toads croak in the reeds near the sacred Bagmati river and the city is having an unseasonable spell of dry weather. The Kathmandu Valley used to receive, at least during Shivaratri, a drizzle from the dark sky if not a torrent. But nothing of the sort has happened this time around, adding to our miseries.

The Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA), with the autonomy of operation, transmission, distribution and planning of the country’s electricity, has cut down the supply with five hours a day of load-shedding already. In its plea to the city-dwellers for economising on the use of power and bearing up, there is no sign in those at the helm of an admission that the lack of moral water in them has been no less blameworthy. But only the mercurial Nature is being held to be the only culprit.

Amid this growing discomfort to the denizens of having to live in the dark, my wife beams with happiness. “Honey, this is just as the doctor ordered”, she tells me as she prepares to light the candle at the dining table. “I had been insisting that we go out for a candle-lit dinner, but since you did not have time for one, Look, the Merciful has granted us our wish”.

Now, lights out have become a three-times-a-day affair. I am certain, with NEA’s ‘proper planning’ and ‘economic distribution’, in the coming months — until June maybe, till Lord Shiva becomes pleased with the developing scenario in the Kathmandu Valley and opens the check valve up there — many homes in Kathmandu will be beaming, not in the glow of lightbulbs but in the blooming faces of housewives and candles. Kathmanduites are assured of receiving more of this happiness soon with the government’s plan to extend the load-shedding to twelve hours a day. That means we might even have to hone our nocturnal instincts, if conditions so require, that is, to compensate for the load-shedding during the daytime. At least, the cottage and small-scale industry will get a shot in the arm, as candles will be in greater demand. You might resurrect the (oil-fed) lantern and tuki too.