Photograph of VT Joshi

Author - VT Joshi

FREQUENT POWER CUTS and load shedding has become a notorious phenomenon. Not only in Bhopal but in several other parts of India including the national capital of Delhi besides a few state capitals like Bangalore of silicon valley fame. Torn between two fascinating ideas thrown up in recent weeks by the dark phenomenon I am on the horns of a dilemma. To mourn it in sackcloth and ashes or to welcome and enjoy it, as enjoined upon by some robust optimists. Almost “to be or not to be” in the new man-made Dark Age.

A letter writer in a local daily has cheerfully hailed the nightly power cuts as “a blessing in disguise”. Do not brood, she urges. Do not breed, a wag adds. Yet another writer has given vent to his dark thoughts, “musing” that there might hardly be light except a faint glimmer at the end of the proverbial tunnel. Even to reach the end of the tunnel may take years, he has hinted darkly. Both have illuminated the dark nights in their own attractive styles and thoughts. Both are firm in their conviction that the bankrupt Electricity Board is most unlikely to be moved by the plight of the hapless citizens long condemned to stumble in the dark allays and pebbled potholes passing off as roads and streets, lanes and bylanes of their miserable existence.

The ruling elite all over India, despite varied political hues and colours, have convinced themselves that well-lit bright nights and good roads do not bring votes to them. From the deputy Prime Minister L. K. Advani to MP Chief Minister Digvijay Singh most political leaders debunk the very concept of good governance. With Shakespeare they seem to exclaim: “There is a divinity that shapes our ends, rough hew them how we will”! So they propitiate their gods of great things by setting one faith against another. In the firm belief that bad blood is sure to get them votes of rival groups and communities. And votes they must get by hook or crook. Or how else can they serve the people? Serve they must, and they fully appreciate and merrily practise the old adage: ‘Charity begins at Home’.

Let us therefore make the best of a bad bargain, as some one says. Count the blessings of a dark night. Nights to remember, nights to bring together friends and families for a pleasant chat by the soft, soothing candle light, (by the fire side in wintry nights) to converse heartily on long forgotten kings and cabbages. Friends and relatives have hitherto been torn asunder by the tyranny of the TV.

Savour the pleasures of shunning the idiot box that spreads disaffection through endless, senseless, “family” serials, disrupting families, fomenting domestic discord, extolling infidelity. Ad nauseum the same ghastly painted faces of starlets are turned around over and over again in boring stories which, for some mysterious reasons, make housewives their captive audience. Is it not time to escape the crass commercial breaks and silly ads which appear with horrifying rapidity; Or to free yourself from the demeaning images of Sachin Tendulkar stupidly making faces to wear the grotesque chef cap, or Saurav Ganguly threatening to fight a lion to retrieve a bottle of soft drink? Both the over-played demi gods of the willow make their millions (though not centuries), from which the Finance Minister announces tax exemption in a burst of misplaced charity and alleged national pride while cutting the interest rates on the miserable savings of the poor hapless creatures! Likewise it is time to get out of Mandira Bedi’s silly points and fine leg proffering her profound knowledge of cricket!

The so called news channels purvey half truths, inflicting pain and suffering with the pyrotechnics of scuds and cruise missiles zooming across the night skies and raining hell on hapless humans, amidst the shrieks of maimed children and wailing mothers and the gory sights of mangled bodies and bombed ruins.

The modern man complains that he has “no time to stand and stare”, as the poet bemoaned. It is time to do precisely that on a dark night. Stare at the starry skies. Enjoy the gorgeous views of the picturesque stellar constellations in the vast canopy of the universe on the clear summer nights. Full moon or new moon or honeymoon. All are delightful phenomena in nature’s bounty.

On a dark powerless night gather in the courtyard for warm cozy chats and pleasantries with family and relatives, otherwise unavailable in their dreary routine. Engage the children in fun and frolic, quiz and song and poetry sessions amidst mirth and merriment. The only snag is the swarms of mosquitoes partaking of your company. But a moment’s reflection will show that their humming music is not as bad as the noise that goes in the name of music on the TV screen with bands of bare bodies gyrating in senseless crescendo movements totally devoid of melody.

VT Joshi

4 April 2003

VT JOSHI (1925-2008) worked for more than fifty years as a journalist. He retired from THE TIMES OF INDIA in 1989. During 1985-89 he was the Special Correspondent of THE TIMES OF INDIA in Pakistan. His books "PAKISTAN: ZIA TO BENAZIR" and "INDIA AT CROSS ROADS" (co-author GG Puri) were widely reviewed in both India and Pakistan.

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