Here the power goes out frequently—multiple times a day. At first we thought that would stop when the monsoon came…cooler temperatures and I don’t really know what would affect the power grid. But everything I’ve ever learned about a good thunder storm living God’s Country (and by that of course, I mean Tornado Alley) tells me that a good t-storm also often is accompanied by power outages.
When the power goes out at work, the computers (sans Allison’s and my laptops) shut down, the fans stop whirling, and the lights go dark. The internet’s done for. Our saltbox cubicles turn into saunas and we migrate to the front lobby of the office—a few pieces of furniture huddle around a table scattered with newspapers.
What is one thing I love about life in Bhubaneswar? Time every day to read the paper. This method is one of my favorites for learning about a culture—who is in the front page news every day? Here? Pakistan. What did they do today? What themes are important? Education and hard work. What’s in the Lifestyle/Culture section? My horoscope and news about festival and fashions. Thanks to my newspaper reading, I now have a trendy anklet, just like all the other India women. I also know that wearing gold and red bangles on both wrists means you’re married—as do anklets on both ankles. I also know that children’s boutique clothing (costing hundreds if not thousands of dollars per piece) is gaining popularity in Mumbai and New Delhi. What’s going on with Bollywood stars? I know.
What the wealthy value, what the community is doing to help the impoverished, and what foreign policy attitudes and agendas are held are exuded from the pages of the daily paper. Cultural rituals, religious devotions, and daily life are all recorded in one location. …I wish print news was not a dying art in America. I’ll take my Wall Street Journal any day of the week. Now for the time to sit down with a cup of tea and read it thoroughly…that I am still searching for!
But when the power goes out during the monsoon, the sky is already dark and eerie. The rain comes down in buckets, flooding the partially paved partially dirt roadways. There is no light to read the paper.
Yesterday, this daily ritual occurred as it often does, during tea time. (I have since begun to measure the passing time at work by morning tea, the homemade Indian lunch, and afternoon tea time). Armed with all of our teacups, the men in the office and we stood out on the covered porch, watching the rain rage on. And what did our coworkers decide it was time to do? I think the phrase was “take a click” or “take a snap”…as in click or snap a photo.
So I run inside to search for my camera in the sea of my oversized bag in the depths of the dark office. I fish out my camera and return only to find Allison and Ashok posing as they “cheers” their teacups. And so began the photo shoot of Allison and me with our coworkers—first one by one and then a group photo.
I spent the afternoon in the dark and arrived home soaked to the bone from the auto-rickshaw ride of a lifetime (don’t worry, I didn’t slip out the side…but we did forge some roadway rivers a la Oregon Trail). But I am so glad we don’t have a generator. With a generator, we all would have watched the power flicker, remained seated at our desks staring at screens, and continued the craziness that ensues as the foundation attempts to get financial reports from local partner organizations to submit to European donors and as Allison and I analyze our research. We can do that tomorrow and every day after that.
Work is wonderful and necessary. But so is play brought on spontaneously by a power outage and a rainstorm.