darkness engulfing space like a giant, black marshmallow. candles placed on tins,floors and the rare candlestand. kids running about with torches howling and trying to scare other kids. small flames and weak beams of light that interfered with the electricity board's agenda for the night. except for that weird marshmallow reference, you probably know what i'm getting at. a powercut in chennai( and elsewhere too i guess) was like a festival that wasn't on the calendar. sweltering chennai heat meant that familes would often move out to the balcony or to the front of their houses in the hope of catching a breeze. the powercut would thus transport families to a time when the best primetime show was put up on the sky (its still running but most of us are watching the wrong channel). the ones that remained indoors would feel their way to the special corner that always housed the candle which would then be lit.
and thats when i would take off from my house taking along a huge orange torch which was almost never the first thing that one would find in case of a powercut. most of my friends had those bulky stainless steel ones with ridges along the sides. ours was in orange plastic and had a plasticky yellow button that was once white. it was a tad too heavy and when tinkle or some such general knowledge magazine featured a DIY torch , i jumped at it. went to the tiny electrical shop on the main road, bought a couple of AA batteries and a small bulb. went back when i realised i needed a small wire to complete the circuit and finally had the shopkeeper do all the work. i'll point out that my life's ambition at that time was to be an engine driver of the nilgiri express. so if u r thinking budding electrical engineer, hold that thought right at that railway crossing. the DIY torch didnt work out. i could never find a way to hold the bulb and the wire to the terminal and investigate dark recesses like frank and joe hardy.
i'm not sure if the orange torch went out in a blaze of glory but it was the season for something bigger and better. twas, after all, the night of the emergency lamp. it was a device that from front-on looked like an iron box and had a handle on top. the designers i heard were aiming at the niche market of people who wanted to build muscle during powercuts. it was so heavy that the handle was probably put in so you could tie a rope and tow it when you moved. one thing was clear though, no kid was going to run up and down our street flashing the emergency lamp in other kids' eyes. it had a tubelight, a searchlight and an orange light that could be set to blink. kind of like an indicator..but of course, dumbo.. u'll need it when you are towing it. but why would someone name it an emergency lamp. i mean its a lamp and all , but "emergency"..maybe it was invented during a certain period of indian history. the only emergency that i can think of is maybe when your boat springs a leak and you need to unload some weight off..the first thing to go overboard would be the emergency lamp. how your boat started floating in the first place with the emergency lamp on board will be left as a homework for you to solve.
the power would always play spoilsport coming back just when the fun was reaching its peak. a few kids would still linger around till their parents called them in.i was probably already inside doing my homework ..heh heh..i meant watching the last few songs being called out on super hit muqabla. stupid current cut. made me miss most of the show.