Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Living without electricity!

Our ancestors had no power... no problems either

P. Subramanian

Power holidays and outages have become the order of the day. People who face
eight-hour blackouts are demanding that everyone else should suffer the same
fate. The demand for power is going up. But production is not increasing
proportionately. Blackouts are only going to increase in duration. Citizens
should learn to live with the outages.

During unscheduled power cuts, the lady of the house bemoans that the
overhead tank has not been filled and chutney for the meal is not ready.

During my school days, I spent many summer vacations with my grandparents in
a village in Kerala. I had first-hand experience of how my elderly relatives
survived without electricity.

My grandfather taught me the great epics and how to read and write
Malayalam. Those lessons were taught during daytime. My grandparents woke up
early in the morning so that enough daylight was available for all daily

Water was drawn from a well in the backyard. No electric motor was employed.
For taking bath, we went to the village pond. Clothes were dipped in the
pond, pummelled on the granite steps and rinsed. No washing machine or water

My grandmother used firewood for cooking. No microwave, mixer and grinder
were employed in the kitchen. Masala and chutney were prepared with manual
stone grinders. Smoke billowed from the kitchen on rainy days because of wet
firewood. A chimney partly vacated the smoke.

The puja room had lamps made of brass. Gingelly oil with cotton wicks were
used to light the lamps for puja. My grandparents recited religious
scriptures either from memory or by reading books under the oil lamps. No
need for electricity.

Dinner was eaten early at sunset, so that no activity took place at night
under a kerosene lantern. Even when electricity came to the village, the
voltage was so low that bulbs were no challengers to the lanterns. Since my
grandparents had grown up without electricity, the introduction of
electricity in the village and their house never made any difference to
their daily life. The low voltage only made the bulbs conk out early, a
drain on the wallet.

After dinner, we sat on the veranda, chatted for some time and went to bed
early. We used hand fans, made of palmyra leaves, until we fell asleep.

An employee of the village panchayat went round lighting kerosene lamps at
street-corners. That was more of an official requirement than of any use to
the villagers. Hardly anybody stirred in the dark and if people were forced
to go out for any reason, they would carry lanterns which withstood rain and

We are now used to electric power and if power fails, we feel miserable.
Maybe, we can recall how our ancestors managed and grin and bear the misery
caused by power-cuts.

If mosquitoes come buzzing around, we can follow our ancestors' methods.
They burned incense and dry neem leaves in a coconut shell and warded off
the pests. If any mosquito evaded the smokescreen and disturbed our sleep,
we would employ our hands to slap and silence the intruder. The method is
tried successfully in many households even today after they have exhausted
chemical pesticides and electric devices.

If there is no water supply from the tap, a rope and bucket can be employed
to draw water from the sump or well. It will be good for the muscles and
bones. Children should be encouraged to do their homework in daylight. It
will be good for the eyes and for peace of mind

Housewives should keep a small manual stone grinder in the kitchen so that
cooking need not be interrupted by a sudden outage. If all good men learn to
live with the inevitable power shortage, the men in power will be spared the
curses of frustrated citizens.

(The writer's email ID is mailpsubramanian@

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