Last & Least
Dr. Binoy Barman
SOME objects may cause discomfort in life with its presence while others may do so with its absence. Electricity is such a thing which takes a toll on life with its nagging absence. We, the Bangladeshis, are far away from the blessing brought about by the discovery of Benjamin Franklin and Alessandro Volta. We aspire for it but all in vain. It evades us like a dream. You and I are the victims of a bad dream.
Electricity, its presence and absence, has tremendous power to influence life. It induces change in life style, which is evident in my own life. Nowadays I am rising early and going for a walk, thanks to the lack of electricity. It becomes impossible to sleep without fan in the hot summer time, so better to take care of health, albeit rather unwillingly. Electric supply authority deserves felicitation for shedding load at the time when it is necessary to exercise.
I make attempts to get ready for office. I enter the bathroom but there is no water in tap. I complain to the landlord but his excuse is logical. There was no electricity so he could not run pump. I sit in the dining table for breakfast and am presented whatever was in the fridge. My mouth cannot take it as all is stale. The fridge could not keep food fresh for lack of electric support. I start for office with a body unbathed and unfed and a mind in tatters.
I try to turn on the computer, but of no avail. No electricity, again. I have some important work to do. I have to compose some documents and send and reply some emails. After a long wait I find the sweet arrival of electricity. It comes and goes, as if always on the run. It cannot stay for long as it is being chased by law enforcing agencies, lest it should be caught and hanged. The dream of Digital Bangladesh hovers in my mind. Yes, our Digital Bangladesh will be established without electricity. It is a magic slogan.
When electricity trips, I just stare at the ceiling fan like a thirsty frog. When will it move, when will the air roll, when will the stuffiness be removed? I sweat under my garments and gossip with my colleagues. They fan themselves with hard paper. We all take our lunch in heat and half-gloom.
We try to lessen the heat of our body with a cool drink. The body temperature somehow comes down but the head temperature goes out of control.
My mobile phone rings. Mother wants to talk to me. As I start talking, the mobile gives a low battery signal. I could not charge the battery. I rebuke myself. The mobile stops before I finish the necessary words. What a lousy guy I am! I plan to call back to mother after borrowing the phone of one of my colleagues. But I cannot find the number as it is stored in the memory of my mobile phone, which is now off, and not in my memory or note book. I relied too much on machine and this is the punishment.
I return home in the afternoon. I press the calling bell and it does not make any sound; that means there is no electricity. Bang, bang, bang! The door is opened and I enter the hot room. I take off my clothes and attempt to take a rest. I grab a hand-fan and revolve it. I take a cup of tea with a piece of biscuit. I set out for a stroll in the alley of the locality. I arrive at the kitchen market and buy some vegetables, though I am not sure whether they would at last be cooked or not.
I need to read something as a preparation for a lecture tomorrow. I engage myself in doing so under candle light. The flame flutters and my eyes swim across the dim pages of bright thoughts. At one time I feel tired and retire to sofa. Electricity returns and I switch on the television. I browse through the channels provided by the dish. Some channels are presenting news on how industry and agriculture of the country are being affected by power outage. Ministers are advising people to use electricity judiciously and utilise sun and wind as alternative sources of energy. I settle on an English film and get engrossed in the plot. The film reaches the climax just when the electricity disappears. What a humour!
I again finish my dinner in the candle light. Different types of insects romp around. I don't know why they like candle flame so much. Some merrily take their life flying into it. Some jump into my plate and dishes around. I cannot say how many of them land in my stomach with rice and curry. I take them as part of my feast. Solid and fresh and free. I again express my gratitude to the government for not providing electricity and take care of my health.
I look through the windows at the other flats around. I find some of them have lighted. They are using generators and IPS. Some have charger lights. They are not bothered by load shedding as they have alternative energy source. I look up and discover ghostly figures on some roofs. They are bathing in the moon light. They have no regret of gloom. They enjoy natural light and natural air.
I sit in the balcony and meditate on life and nation. I think of myself -- success and failure, comfort and discomfort. I think of the public weal and woe. I think of their rights and their downright rejection. Political commitments and their emptiness. The present and future world. The more I think the more I discover the truth. My inner world is illuminated by the absence of outer illumination.
I do a bit of walking after night meal. It will help to digest food. As I feel sleepy I go to bed like a phantom. Soon I fall asleep. I toss in sweltering heat amid unlimited pangs. I dream 2020 when all citizens of the country will get their share of electricity, to which they feel they have a right.
My life is well in vision even in darkness, like many others in Bangladesh. I do not mind huge waste of time. I do not need electricity whatsoever. I am enamoured of blackout. I wish if a pre-industrial and pre-mechanical era came back. I could lead a simple life in the lap of nature without electricity and all other urban elements. I have no sorrow caused by power outage. I just sing away the blues:
“It is a great fun to live without electricity
In the whole world Dhaka is the most comfortable city.”
(The writer is Assistant Professor and Head, Department of English, Daffodil International University.)