Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Topsy Turvy Land

A failed state. This is how Manipur was described in an article in a leading newspaper in English. Every inch of the two centre pages screamed how all is lost in the land of doom. I believed it. For the articles came at a weak moment of anguish when the economic blockade crossed its 100th day.

Cross the thousands of kilometres to the state and one feels the grim picture painted in one's mind is true indeed. The dusty roads and the faded buildings do nothing to cheer you up. Spend a few days in the lull and you see how life actually is. In the face of all the hardship, people actually live it up! Long term solutions to the problems marring the state might take a very long time to come, but for every sticky situation, the people seem to find a way out.

One of the favourite problems people like to cite everytime is the inefficient supply of electricity. Ever since I can remember, people have set their daily routines around the loadshedding schedule of the electricity department. It first started with electricity cut every 4th day. Then the cut became more frequent- every 3rd day and now it's every 2nd day. And on the days people get electricity, the duration is so short that we joke about it saying, one day is mei mutpa numit ( the day when there's no light) and the other is mei muthatpa numit ( the day when they don't supply light). I remember studying by the candle light, petromax or kerosene lamp as a kid. May be it did some good as I could study with absolute concentration as there used to be nothing to see in the dark around to distract me. Few families did use generators but it was never economically feasible for everyone.

Then came the irrepressible wave of invertor usage. The bigger the batteries, the better it was. One could forget eating his or her lunch but never to charge the batteries. Before people understood its working, inverters used to be switched on and off manually. They got wiser very soon and made the switching automatic. The batteries got upgraded to bigger ones. But the scarcity was still acute. There were times when one could never charge the batteries enough to get through one night till dinner was over.

People got wiser still. First came the CFLs instead of the regular bulbs and tubelights, to illuminate homes longer for the available amount of eletricity. Then came the LEDs and solar chargers. Now, you go to any household and you will see several of these. Here I would like to take a few words to thank the traders of the international market in the border town of Moreh for the regular supply of the needed articles. Every home has gone solar and hence green! Traffic lights too are solar powered. The changes I mention here are not those welcomed by the few aware citizens, but waves of masses adapting to newer technologies, compelled by needs, to make lives slightly more livable. Indeed, necessity can make things happen which years of awareness campaigns on efficient usage of electricity failed to do.

People must be commended for their undaunted spirit to survive. When the loadshedding started, our greatest woe was ice-cream disappeared from the local stores except for very few in the main market. But now, all a kid needs to do is find an ice cream vendor with a generator! My brother and his friends would many a times pool in their saved pocket money to buy a litre of petrol to run the generator so that they can watch their favorite animated series. As he puts it, the people of Manipur  will, after some years, mutate and be able to see in the dark. I say, amen.