No it is not a weightloss blog! If you grew up in Calcutta in the 80’s this term was synonymous with the state of the state. The Kolkata Metro work had started and the state had not factored in the huge demand of power and it stayed that way for the 16 odd years for the metro to start functioning for the first stretch of 12 kms. And along with football, fish and fashion Bengal had got itself a new word “Loadshedding” or power cut.
It was frustrating, this loadshedding. The power would be absent for long periods in the day sometimes upto 6 hours in 2 hr blocks, sun, rain or chill. Initially, the moment it would go, there would be a collective exhortation from the entire locality — young and old. If during the day, this would bring out the newspapers or the hand fan made from a spread out palm leaf and restrained by a couple of coconut leaf spines. This would be accompanied with a “gamcha” or towel that would be slapped on a bare chest or the end of a saree for the profusely sweating brow during summer. If it happened in winter, it was tolerable weatherwise but not functionally.
As days passed and it dawned that this is going to be a long drawn affair, candles gave way to the hurricane/kerosene lamps for the home and the Petromax for the shops. The people became used to the regularity of the powercuts. The noise of the people became less vociferous, the hands became automated in reaching for the match to light the source of its poor alternative, the handfan or the newspaper would be waved by the left hand while the rest of the body continued in its activity, the body would glisten with the developing sweat and the swatting of the increasing horde of mosquitoes would meet its maker in the rolled newspaper.
The mechanised options gave way to Inverters for the home with a half hour or one hour backup and the number of shops using Yamaha and Honda portable gensets increased exponentially. Specially run on Kerosene, the smells would be nauseating as you walked past. Exams were given in trying conditions.
There were spinoff developments too. It entered the fashion world in the form of loadshedding shirts and saree. They were colours that faded from a lighter shade to a darker shade on the fabric. There was a famous couplet too:
Ondhokar theke alor pothe Jishu, Alor theke ondhokarer pothe Bosu…
Path from darkness to light is Jesus and from light to darkness is Basu (deriding the then CM of Bengal)
But the best part of this inconvenience was the escape to the street for addabaji (chatting) during the late evenings (10 pm to 11 pm or midnight) depending on the schedule. It would be too hot to sleep and we would rush out and find your own group of friends. This would result in laughter, leg pulling and Antakshari. It would lead to romantic interludes or long term relationships. There would be plans made and shelved. Walkabouts for perimeter surveillance would be organised by groups three or four through the night to prevent petty crimes. Cigarette, Tea and snack carts stayed open longer. Card games and carrom on the street happened under a petromax buzzing with flying insects. In short, great deal of bonding would occur as a result of no electricity.
A similar event today would hardly bother regular life as the back up generators or UPS systems would kick into action and the mobiles would keep everyone glued with little or no conversations. So thank you to the infamous loadshedding of the past that formed indelible bonds for the future
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