Wednesday, January 14, 2009

TALES FROM THE CAPITAL CITY - X

A NIGHT WITHOUT ELECTRICITY

I loved power-cuts, right from the time when I was a small boy. During those days, I would wait for the current supply to go, so that I could play with candle. Now it seems odd that I used to burn pencil lead and small bits of paper torn from my notebook in the candle fire, of course, without the knowledge of my mother. At some point, I used molten wax that fell from the candle to make small figures. All this was done in the study time.

With the coming of inverter and later generator, all these interesting ‘extracurricular’ activities ended. Moreover, from time to time the government decisions would put an end to power cuts.

The good news is that for the past few months the government has imposed a half hour power cut and nowadays we do not use inverter and generator. The good old days are back, in the form of a large candle. Once a teacher told us that power cut times were the times when the members of her family came together, sat around a table and used to share their thoughts and experiences.

When I was a small boy, I visited my uncle’s tharavad, Pazhavoorkonathu Veedu, in a place called Channapetta, in Anchal, which is in Kollam district. It was a new experience living there as the old house was situated on top of a hill, far away from the busy and noisy city. There were small granite steps leading to the house. The house was surrounded by rubber plantations (rubber trees were first introduced at the time of Visakam Tirunal, during 1880s, the very first tree that came to Travancore can still be seen in the gardens of Napier museum.) and nearby there was a small thekkath, which housed the family deity. There was a large ‘chempakam’ in front of the thekkath, with its numerous branches, without leaves, looked like the claws of a Yakshi guarding the thekkath. The tree was considered as the abode of ‘Yakshi Amma’, a minor deity.

The thekkath - a sketch from memory by the author (2006).
The thekkath and the 'yakshi chempakam' infront of it - Photograph taken by the author (2011).
The interesting thing was that the entire region had no electric connection until a few years back. When I first went there, the only modern gadget I found there was a tape-recorder, which worked on battery. We children, in the evening, used to gather around that tape-recorder which was given a ‘respectable’ position, in the verandah around the courtyard. There life seemed to move in a much slower pace, everyone had lot of time to spare, during that night we gathered around grandmother (daughter of Edavankadan Padmanabhan Achari) who told us many stories of the families ancestors and about the treasure which was believed to be buried somewhere behind the house by the native kuravar tribals. Like us, the children who gathered around her to hear the stories, there were thousands of fireflies around us, who seemed to have come to hear the stories.

Years passed and on my visit to the house in 2005, for some function connected with the family temple, I found that they had electric connection and life seemed to have a faster pace than before. Change is inevitable, maybe after a few years the entire region will be affected by the urban sprawl and will lose its identity, but that single night I stayed there, as a small boy, without electricity will be in my heart forever, without any change.

Sharat Sunder Rajeev
14-01-2009.

1 comment:

Manu said...

hehe... that was interesting.... specially the ending... i liked the part about the tape recorder... my mom tells me similar stories from her childhood.. And even today when i go home to kerala and the power goes, its loads of fun. Its during those 30 mins that i get to know more and more about my grandparents and their anecdotes from "our time". Lol