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BLISS OF BLACKOUTS



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It was some years ago that yours truly resigned himself to sobering reality, which dawns with age, that his candlelight dinner days were over and would be possible again only in the next life, if at all. But how wrong he had been! For about one week until the other day, thanks to the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB), he had enjoyed several candlelight dinners with his significant other at home. Above all, the old couple lounged after dinner, cherishing fond memories of auld lang syne without being distracted by the Idiot Box or the modern version of Turin machine.


"You know a lot of politicians and why don’t you ask one of them to get our power cable repaired." It was the writer’s wife. With a knack for courting danger, he dares correct his wife: "You are wrong. Politicians don't fix things; they fix people and, most of all, nobody really knows those creatures." Sensing danger like an impala which scents a crouching cheetah on a savanna, he promptly offered a suo motu explanation.


"You, see politicians' minds are so elusive and crooked that it is well-nigh impossible for any ordinary human to know them. On the other hand, it is dangerous to telephone politicians these days."


"Why?"


"Well, you see these politicians are always on the wrong side of the law. They commit bond frauds and are engaged in drug dealing ..."


"So ...?"


The writer, with a nodding acquaintance with physiognomy, saw his wife's dimly lit countenance wear the same expression as that of a traffic cop who spotted an oncoming vehicle cross the much dreaded double line.


"To get anything done by these politicians," the writer continued nonchalantly," you have to call them at least one thousand times. There are so many ministers that even they don't know the subjects under their purview. You will have to call at least half a dozen of them to figure out what comes under whom. Worst of all, one day a presidential commission of inquiry probing them will ascertain their phone details and I will top the lists of callers. You know what happened to the honourable Footnote Members, don't you?"


"Then, let's dash coconuts seeking divine punishment for the CEB and its lazy workers." The writer’s better half was champing at the bit even harder to take the battle to the celestial level. (Hell has no fury like a woman troubled by a power outage!)


You can't reason with your wife, but you can always get the rupee to do the talking and rest assured they will listen. The writer, therefore, calculated the cost of the proposed coconut dashing project and offered a cost-benefit analysis. "You see, given the extortionate coconut prices, our neighbours might think we are really mad to smash those precious nuts. On the other hand, all coconut dashing joints have been booked by the Joint Opposition for months to come. We might have to travel a lot before finding a place to canalise our aggression. You never know with Arjuna and we may not have petrol on the way for the homeward journey."


"There is a better way to punish these CEB guys," the writer tried to convince his fuming wife lest he should become a victim of domestic violence. "Vote for the present government. You can depend on it to sell the CEB, for a song, to a foreign firm, which will resort to retrenchment and the guys who have not repaired our power line will lose their jobs."


"The government never lives up to our expectations. Forget about politicians and tell me what you are going to do about this problem."


"Nothing!"


"Nothing?"


"Yes, life is a journey from nothingness to nothingness and the best thing to do in between is nothing!" The writer tried to philosophise but his wife didn’t look impressed; she retired with an exaggerated yawn. The logical conclusion: Wives are averse to philosophy! (Nothing gives a man more relief than sleep, especially when the sleeper happens to be his wife!)


Another candle burnt out. (You realise you are living in a developing country in the clutches of some useless politicians when candles take a bigger chunk of your small income than electricity. The writer fumbled in a whatnot full of bric-a-brac for a candle, wondering why the CEB did not produce candles with its logo thereon.


***


The Ministry of Power and Energy can justifiably claim, "We make people healthy, wealthy and wise." One may wonder how on earth the CEB can achieve that feat. Well, weren’t we taught in school that ‘early to bed, early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise’? When there is no electricity there are no third rate soaps on TV and one cannot burn midnight oil either. Therefore, one doesn’t keep awake till late. When one hits the sack early, one invariably rises with the sun and, thereby becomes healthy, wealthy and wise. Right?


The writer has been dreaming of putting up an off-grid A-frame in rural backwaters, confining himself thereto—of course, with his wife—and living happily ever after until the Grim Reaper beckons. (Truth be told, that is the only way he can think of spending his twilight years with his meagre terminal benefits which will suffer unkind cuts and taxes!) But, it looks as if he did not have to leave the rurban locality where he is currently resident to lead a simple life like the one Yeats tells us about in The Lake Isle of Innisfree. The CEB and the Water Board are busy turning his area into a kind of place out in the boondocks through regular water cuts and power outages. The Ceylon Petroleum Corporation is sure to ensure, through fuel shortages, that roads will be deserted and overgrown with rank grass and nettles with people using either Shanks's pony or bullock carts.


Having called the CEB breakdown service—of course, at the behest of his enraged wife—many more times than some COPE members contacted Aloysius, the writer was beginning to experience the bliss of power failures.


Dammit! A gang of callous CEB workers suddenly appeared and gone was my happiness. They restored power. Woe be unto them!


 


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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