Monday, July 10, 2006

Those darned electrons ...

Or rather, flowing electrons. You know ... electricity. Think we're addicted to cell phones? Go back a few steps. We can't do without these streaming electrons.

Power outages in Vadodara are uncommon -- maybe half a dozen in the past few months, never lasting more than an hour, and always a polite GEB (Gujarat Electricity Board) rep. on the phone letting us know when it will be back. Yep, this is definitely not the barbarous capital city, forever suffering under 100F+ heat and load shedding.

Well the electricity went off last afternoon. Actually, only two phases did. [The house is supplied by three separate "phases" or, I guess, main cables.] The 15A outlets were working. I was out (at Mass and so on). When I got back we realized that it was just our house that was affected. A call to the substation followed. Someone will be sent over. It will take an hour or more. "Aynay vardi aapi didhi che." (Lit. "He's been given the uniform." I.e. someone's been given this case.)

Most skeptically, I stayed up. And sure enough, around 10 pm, wonder of wonders, a jeep shows up (By Jeep I don't mean a Cherokee. Think WWII Jeep with a cloth canopy. The mainstay of government work vehicles for decades), with four workmen. They cut power to the neighborhood, and shimmy up the electric poles. It's a little eerie standing out in the darkness, the moon shining through breaks in the clouds, with a huge bat circling above. "Everything's in order saab. It's the underground cable going from the pole to the house. That's not our business. You'll have to hire a contractor and dig it up." The main guy speaks with a thick rural Gujarati that I can't place. It sounds Kathiawari, but it could just be local. I have a hard tim following him. What's most surprising is his tone. He uses the formal "tamhe" (of course! Anything else would be unacceptable! I'm used to the super-formal "aap," much more common in Hindi than in Gujarati, so the "tamhe" sounds a little rude when it's not really), but his tone is rough. "Akdu" as we would say in Bombay. Attitude. It's eleven pm. I keep my temper down. That they're out here on a Sunday night in of itself seems a miracle.

They route all the power to the remaining phase and warn us not to put too much load on it. "No a/cs saab." I cringe. At least there'll be lights and fans. I stay up, following the World Cup finals on the Net. Something tells me not to turn the TV on. At 1 am, with Italy and France evenly matched at 1:1, there's a loud bang from the cirucit box in the garage. The lights go out. Something definitely burned in the circuit box. Acrid smoke lingers in the air. The fuse (breaker) is intact. "No power sorry!" I turn the master switch off.

Luckily, it's a breezy night, and with all the windows flung open, it's only mildly unbearable. I drift off to sleep. Until a loud "Allahu Akbar" wafts across the humid night air. Pretty soon, three or four azaans are ringing across the sleeping city. It can't be dawn already? I first shove a pillow over my head, and then glance at the clock. 5:44 pm. My confused brain finally remembers that in some fit of perversity I've kept the bedside clock at Eastern time. Idiot! I do the math. It's 3:14 am. Far from dawn. Normally I love the sound of the azaan. Not in the middle of the friggin' night, however! How on earth did they do this before electricity and loudspeakers anyway?

In the morning, dad calls a friend, high up in the GEB. Within thirty minutes a crew is swarming over the plae, and another thirty minutes later they have a temporary cable set up. The fans are back on. Turns out there was a huge short in the underground cable. Not to worry, they'll have a crew out to take care of it later in the day.

Well. I missed the penalty shoot out. But Italy won! Viva l'Italia! I'm ecstatic.


Anonymous said...

C'etait terrible... Les francais ont perdu... votre amis, Pierre la grenouille.

Gashwin said...

Ah ma petit pauvre ... :-D What the heck is "la grenouille." ? And shouldn't you say "toi amis?" No need for all that formal "vous" crap ... :)

Anonymous said...

sorry... its been a long summer... but what else could it mean but "the Frog"... hehe