This article was published in the 8th issue of Lafz Magazine.
We are old pals, loadshedding and me. I don’t recall a time, at all, when I did not experience the absence of electricity. It was always there, coming and going, like it owned the country. And it continues to do so after so many years; no wonder my nephew was confused when he asked his American school friend a week after arriving in US “When does the electricity goes out?” and his reply, with equally confusing facial expressions, was “Never”.
Just take yesterday’s example when I was out playing Cricket after quite a long time. The heat was so intense that I needed water break after every couple of overs. We had placed a pedestal fan in the dressing room but behold, it worked for just an hour because of loadshedding. We also brought a watercooler with plain drinking water, hoping to buy ice from nearby shops, but they were out of ice due to loadshedding. Thanks to them, I had blacked out in the 17th over and was lying spread-eagled in the dressing room (which was nothing more than a tented cubicle with broken benches and hard-edged stones to sit on).
Before that the loadshedding had me running like a mad dog, ready to bite anyone just for the heck of it. I was contemplating spending 80,000 rupees to build a gaming computer to replace my 5 year old computer. I had great plans in mind but so apparently did KESC (Karachi Electricity Supply Corporation). While working on an important assignment, the electricity went out and returned 4 times in 10 minutes, each time with violent fluctuations. Thus departed my trusted friend, my companion, my source of Counter Strike, countless movies and hundreds of assignments as its motherboard decided never to wake up again.
Next thing I did, I bought myself a damned laptop.
But this is just the tip of the iceberg. I am but a small player in the vast sea of people who think themselves as old friends of loadshedding as well. Guess what, each tells the exact same story thinking it’s his own. Some even believe loadshedding is the savior of humanity. They say so because as toddlers they had the habit of plunging their tiny fingers in the electricity sockets, only to realize there is no electricity due to loadshedding. They owe their lives to it.
Some believe that electricity is the root of all evil. It helps run television, the source of all evil, fans and light, source of all evil, computers, another source of all evil, cell phones, mother of all evil … they advocate permanent loadshedding to curb the source of all evil and do away with worldly stuff.
Lying spread-eagled in that tented dressing room as a result of dehydration and nothing cool to experience, I just wanted to strangle one of these advocates.
Some time ago I was sitting with 4 of my friends and we were planning to spend some quality time. After the initial brain-storming session, we decided that we’ll gather at someone’s house and watch movie like old times. That was easy part, what followed next was something else entirely.
Friend A: My place is fine but not in the evening. Loadshedding from 4 to 7
Friend B: You got generator
Friend A: I had. It leaked oil and now gone to repair shop
Me: We can watch at my place, loadshedding time is 1 to 4
Friend C: Nah, your place is too far and I have got to hit the gym by 6
Friend D: Your gym stinks, it doesn’t even have ACs
Friend C: None lasts more than 3 months, thanks to loadshedding
Friend B: What about you?
Friend C: Same, loadshedding from 4 to 7
Friend D: Mine’s from 3 to 5
Me: What about after 7?
Friends: Nah, work/assignment/have to pick mom/quiz preparation
Me: And before that?
And we were planning all that while fanning ourselves with books since it was loadshedding time. The gathering finally managed to take place and we played Cricket instead.
It gets funnier when you compare the level of inequality of loadshedding between urban and rural areas of the country. A few years back my university friends said they wished to see my village. I told them, quite clearly, that it was winter season and it would be a lot colder than you would expect. It is not possible spend the night without turning on the heater.
“So what is the problem? You have heater, right?” asked one of them. I said to him “Yes, we do have heaters and even a hearth which we rarely use now”. He seemed excited, the poor fellow had never experienced cold lower than 3 degrees centigrade.
My friends did visit my village, myself giving them a guiding tour from the city, and stayed for a few days. Only then did I revealed my true friendship with loadshedding and casually told them “We get 17 hours of loadshedding daily, no big deal”. The horrors on their faces and nights spent with chattering teeth are priceless memories, all thanks to my old friend called ‘loadshedding’.