Today marks the fifth day of living without electricity and running water. I have a generator half full of fuel which I use only one hour a day to charge all my devices. I also have a small camping stove where I prepare quick meals and drinks such as boiled eggs, noodles, and teas. This is the third power cut in the past two weeks. Every passing day, the Zimbabwean government sends a generic notice that says, “we are working round the clock to fix the issue, and the power should be restored soon.” By now, the term “soon” is starting to lose its meaning for me. Being a Nepali, I am not foreign to frequent power cuts and water shortages; hence I thought I wouldn’t feel this restless. Maybe living in the U.S. has changed me to be used to having electricity and water with no second thoughts.
Interestingly, one thing I appreciate right now is how the power cuts had led me to disconnect from my electronics and reminisce about the days I lived in Nepal. During those days, frequent power cuts called “load shedding” were common in Kathmandu. Often, we wouldn’t have power for as long as 16-20 hours a day in the winter seasons. The schedule for power cuts was unpredictable. In addition, since the water pumps that supplied government water were connected through electricity, no power meant no running water. Most of the time, load sharing happened during the night times. Power would shut off in the middle of dinners or while watching some Indian drama series and lounging.
Looking back at those times, I realize how many beautiful memories we created as a family while trying to pass the time during load-shedding hours. We used to sit around the dining table with a candle in the middle and chat for hours. We would go on the rooftop to star gaze and talk to neighbors. We sat on the porch and ate peanuts and oranges while chatting. Perhaps for me, what stands out the most is the memories of my grandparents during those days. Both my grandparents had their fun way of dealing with power cuts. My grandmother loved telling stories, and load shedding gave her the audience she always wanted. Undistracted and attentive. She loved telling us about her life journey, her past incidents, my father’s childhood, and stories about my village and how it used to be so different when she was young. Whatever story she told, she was engaging and theatrical. I don’t know about my siblings, but I immensely enjoyed these stories during power cuts.
My grandfather’s favorite pastime activity was playing card games. We would sit on the floor in a circle and play cards with him. He knew so many card games and tricks which made it always fun. Sometimes, he would take a quick stroll to pick up some street snacks for us. While playing, we would eat those snacks, chat, and laugh. One another thing about my grandfather that I fondly remember is his persistence in switching on the water pumps frequently at night. Since we had running water only when the electricity worked, he would check the water pump every time the power was back on, no matter when it was. He used to say that the best time to switch on the water pump is when the electricity comes back late at night. According to him, at late night, no one else is pumping water which means we would get an uninterrupted water supply. With this logic, the minute when the electricity would come back on, even if it were at midnight or 3 am, he would run to the water pump and switch it on to see if water was coming. Sometimes, it would work; sometimes, it wouldn’t. But on the days when it would, he used to knock at our bedroom doors to wake us up to fill up water tanks, even at 3 am. Although it wasn’t fun to wake up at those hours to fill up the jars, thanks to him, we always had enough water.
So, these are the beautiful and fun memories that stay with me even though both my grandparents are not around anymore. Load shedding was serendipity that helped us bond as a family. And I sit here today, thousands of miles away from Nepal, facing similar challenges I am reminiscing those memories for some comfort and smiles.
Posted By Dawa Sherpa
Posted Jul 19th, 2022