Since India has been hit with possibly the world’s largest power cut, we thought these tips might be useful for our northern neighbours as well. We posted Sri Lanka’s power cut timetable earlier, which included our video on ways to occupy yourself during a power cut.
That’s right everyone, for three hours every day we are facing deprivation of the modern world’s lifeblood. For those of you who remember, it is 1996 all over again – that golden age when the war was still fierce, our cricketers were heroes, and the power went out for eight hours a day, every day. All that electric excitement eventually culminated in a three day blackout. A sweltering summer drought left our hydropower-dependent island choked of electricity back then and it appears to have returned in full force.
In Sri Lanka no rain = no lights, and the current bouts of darkness reveal that our reliance on the rain gods has hardly reduced over the past 15 years. The much vaunted Norochcholai plant and the glorified diesel generator at Kerawalapitiya have come up short. It is now clear that what kept us (relatively) power cut free for a couple of years was reasonable rainfall, but the droughts are back and our grid seems no better at coping with the strain. Thankfully, figuring out which combination of appalling corruption, neglect and indifference is behind the current state of affairs is beyond the scope of YAMU.
Power cuts do, however, present a real challenge. It is difficult to be cool when you’re bereft of air conditioning and the fan is stock still. Left to the mercy of the tropical sun, you’re going to be subject to Colombo’s particular brand of super sticky heat that will cling to you the moment the blades of your stricken fan stop turning.
The first droplets of perspiration on your back and forehead will quickly merge to become fast-flowing rivulets. As the superheated air closes in, you’ll struggle to find something to take your take your mind off the fact that you seem to be melting. All efforts will prove futile.
Your TV has failed, the life-supporting beep of the UPS by your PC stopped half an hour ago, the final battery bar on your iPad just disappeared, and your WiFi router’s dead anyway.
Confronting the true meaning of 32 degrees Celsius at 80% humidity, you’ll turn to liquid consolation only to find the last Lion Lager in the fridge is as warm as the air you’re breathing. Stupefied by the extent of your misfortune, you’ll throw yourself into bed thinking that in sleep you might find an escape. Moments later though, you’ll find your sweat leaking into the mattress and a solid weight of stagnant air sitting on your chest. The buzzing of mosquitoes, no longer kept at bay by the fan, will preclude even the thought of sleep. The horror, the sheer tropical horror.
Any Sri Lanka veteran knows the feeling but even in these dark moments, the wise will find a chink of light.
While the first hour of a blackout will likely leave you dazed and disoriented, ancient instincts will recover and your body will naturally revert to the routines of a simpler age.
After you’ve stared at the blank TV screen for long enough and prodded your lifeless laptop for the last time, you might suddenly be tempted to pick up a book. Its unfamiliar format and absence of backlighting might be confusing at first, but soon you’ll be turning pages almost as comfortably as you do on your iPad.
Without the constant need to situate yourself within reach of a keyboard, you might also remember the existence of the outdoors. Armed with a tennis ball and cricket bat, you might be inclined to see what entertainment non-enclosed spaces can provide.
Of course as the sun sets and natural light fails, even reading and playing outside become much more difficult, but then it is time to light the candles. Once they are lit, it doesn’t take very long for most people to discover that burning things is fun.
If the 90s blackouts taught a generation of Sri Lankans one thing, it was that everything – deodorant cans, air freshener, newspapers, electronics, geckos, the dog – burns. A world lit by candles is a world where your pyromaniac urges need not be confined to online gaming sessions.
In fact, a life less electric makes a whole host of old school pastimes – many of them more wholesome than burning the family tortoise – more attractive. Everything from messing around with water colours to origami and a conversation with the grandfather you thought Skype replaced seem like a lot more fun when the power is out.
Torch-lit ghost stories, toasted marshmallows on a roaring fire, furtive romantic fumbling in the darkness…it’s a whole new world and in the interest of a nation about to face a period of powerlessness, YAMU has put together a list of our favourite things to do:
Our Top, um, Eight
- Read a book. They work even when the power is out.
- Go and play outside. The old defence of “it’s hot outside” wont work as it is hot inside too. Moreover, it is definitely better to be hot and fit than just hot.
- Make things. Paper airplanes were a power cut favourite and boats work well too. You can also try painting and perhaps board games.
- Burn things. Similar to making things but much more fun. Use the candles that are always abundant during power cuts.
- Get yourself to water. The sea works well, as does a swimming pool. Failing that, just stand under the shower.
- Use the landline and make some calls. You know that sort of paperweight with buttons seen in your parents’ house? Amazingly, it has its own power supply and works better than Skype.
- Chores. Been piling up the dishes? Now’s the time to do some washing up – you have nothing better to do.
- When things get really bad and Acute Internet Deficiency kicks in – get yourself to somewhere with electricity. Hotels are good, malls are OK, and casinos are best.