The world’s first public electricity supply was a water wheel driven system constructed in the small English town of Godalming in 1881. I was born more than a 100 years later and this article documents my woes around electricity growing up.
Asansol (Late 80s & 90s)
Asansol is a shitty town in West Bengal where one of my uncles lived. It was also the first stop where I went every year with my mother, during my summer vacations. My uncle and his family lived in the Sen Raleigh township at Kanyapur and it is the closest I have ever been to living in a village. I did not live in big cities during those years either (Gwalior, Indore etc), but this place gave new meaning to the term “backward”.
In summers, on average, there was electricity only for a few hours each day. At their house, even a fan was a luxury. I remember lying in bed for hours at night, not being able to sleep because it was too hot. When things were not too bad, the family used an inverter for the hours of the blackout. Eventually, over the years, even that became impractical because you could only charge it for a few hours every few days. Eventually, they switched their lights & fans to DC and hired pre-charged batteries on a per-night basis.
I also remember that they used their refrigerator as a wardrobe, because that’s all it was good for.
Still, I was a kid and resilient, so it didn’t bother me too much.
Kolkata (Late 80s & 90s)
Kolkata was the second stop in our summer holiday itenary & slightly better than Asansol. Electricity was more or less available, but there were sudden un-announced blackouts which the locals called “load-shedding”. Again, these would last for hours and I would lie in bed not being able to sleep. In bed, I would count down from 10 and pretend that at 0, the power would be back. When it didn’t, I would start again. Many nights, my mother would stay up fanning me with one of those Chinese fans till I fell asleep. Eventually, things became better after the power distribution in the city was privatised and today, such things are rare.
Karishma Apartments, East Delhi (1993)
Karishma Apartments (Now called Kirpal apartments) were shitty apartments, I lived in for (thankfully) 1 year around 1993. The story was, the apartment used some illegal way to apply for its electricity connection, which was eventually discovered and the electricity was disconnected for the entire complex. Most of the year I lived there, there was 0 electricity. Most people had their own generators putting away on their balconies. If I remember correctly, we shared a generator with another family and there were often disputes. Because of no electricity, there was hardly any water in the overhead tanks and there was a water tanker mafia selling water to everyone at exorbitant prices.
We lived on rent, we could have easily moved somewhere less shitty, no idea why we didn’t.
DLF Phase 3, U Block
There were daily power cuts during the summers. For others, it was no big deal because the power cuts were mostly in the daytime when they were all in their air-conditioned offices. I worked nights and these power cuts put a real damper on my sleep schedule.
DLF Phase 2, K Block
DLF Phase 2 being more posh than DLF Phase 3 had less power cuts, but they were still there. Still, it was not that bad.
We lived on one floor of a 3 floor house on rent for a few years. This was probably the shittiest house we have ever lived in. The landlords were kindly, but what they call “leechad“. They had 3 electricity connections for 3 floors, but chose to use 2 connections for one (their own) floor and the third connection was shared among the other 2 floors. Consequently, when we used the Air Conditioning, it would frequently overload and blow something on the electricity pole outside. The electricity people refused to resolve such issues at night and we spent many nights waiting for the fan to stop working when the inverter battery ran out. Eventually, we had enough and we gave notice at 2:00 AM one night after another incident.
Thankfully, this was the last of my electricity woes and since then, I have managed to elevate my life above such worries.