AN UPDATE FROM BRIAN AND TED:
It’s 10:00pm on September 9th, our first night in Madurai. We (Ted and Brian) are strategically unpacking portions of our oversized suitcases, trying to maximize the space in our tiny (and temporary) room at our host organization’s Rehabilitation Centre for Torture Victims. It’s hot… real hot. But we’re enjoying the gentle breeze generated by the ceiling fan revolving above our heads.
And snap… The power goes out. Welcome to Madurai.
We sit in the now fanless, almost windowless room as sweat flows down our faces. It’s easily over 100 degrees. The air is heavy. Mosquitoes commence their kamikaze attacks our arms, legs, feet and necks. Despite the discomfort, we make jokes about it for the next hour and play the 8-bit video games on our 1300 rupee cell phones. We imagine the apartment we’ll move into for the next ten months and all the amenities it will have. We dream of windows and working fans.
A few minutes after 11:00pm, the power comes back on. We let out a cheer as the fans begin to circulate air and the lights allow us to resume our space maximization efforts. The worst is behind us… or so we thought. Within two hours, the power is out again. And the pattern of sleeplessness and sweat puddles commences.
Since we’ve been living in Madurai, we’ve averaged of 2-3 hours of electricity a night. We’ve become good at maximizing our “power hours,” making sure to shave, wash clothes, and take care of basic sight-oriented tasks within this short window of opportunity. We’ve also become good at sweating while we sleep. (Does this count as exercise?) When the power goes out, we attempt to distract each other (and the other residents of the center) from the discomfort we are all enduring.
Making this video was just one attempt to keep sane:
So the question is, where is all the power? Everyone we’ve met has claimed that power outages have gotten much worse in Tamil Nadu over the past six months. Is it the result of poor planning or the overconsumption of electricity?
One person we spoke with suggested that the power outages are intentional and that the outages are being used to convince the people of Tamil Nadu that the controversial Kudankulam nuclear power plant, which is set to open in a few weeks, is necessary. Perhaps the frequent power outages would create less sympathy for the plants’ protesters.
We have no idea if this is true. But we do know this–South India is hot. For all of you in the north, please send us some snow.