The happy hour

“I have switched off the fans and lights in your room a number of times. Conservation does not mean just shutting down everything for one hour — it should be a habit.

Anyway I want to watch cricket at 8.30.”

The angry voice of my husband reaches me in the kitchen where I am readying dinner in a hurry.

The kids were eager to keep the Earth Hour, and as with the trusting heroism of teenage beliefs, felt that they would be making a grand gesture towards climate change (Celebrated worldwide on the last Saturday of March, it requires switching off electricity for one hour.)

Untouched yet by the dampening cynicism of old age and fuelled by optimism their young voices moved me. I asked them to collect candles quickly, pointing out to them the truth in their father’s observation.

Being conscious of wastages of electricity and water on an everyday basis was further impressed upon them and unanimously the house plunged into darkness at the appointed hour (the TV silenced too).

Strangely, we were not stumbling over furniture or banging into walls.

For even without the candles, light streamed in from the streets and the neighbours’ houses.

A little disappointed, we lit our candles and ate a quiet dinner with our shadows dancing on the wall.

My daughter switched the fridge off and we sat looking at one another.

Attempting to lighten the atmosphere, I reminisced that when we were younger there were frequent power cuts in summer and we sat in the garden chatting.

I laughed saying that there were mosquitoes by the swarms then, at least there were none here.

Darkness in summer also brought memories of kerosene lamps and annual exams.

I realised that dinner without TV had also conserved time, using up a mere 20 minutes.

Since walking outdoors meant dodging traffic, I joined my husband who was walking on the terrace. We stared at our bright street glumly.

The hesitant strains of the guitar slowly picked up from downstairs and drew us back into the living room with its fluttering candlelight.

She had decided to practice the guitar to fill the remaining minutes of the Earth Hour. Bent over the music sheets, squinting at it in the feeble light she slowly weaved a spell.

Her elder sister set aside the fat medical books began singing along. Soon everyone was humming and tapping their feet.

Favourite old Hindi songs were requested and the father-daughter duet soon filled the house with laughter.

Everyone had a request for the young guitarist and flattered by the attention, she ran through her limited repertoire with joy.

Leaning against the wall I closed my eyes and memorised the happy voices and faces around me.

I prayed my kids would never lose their hope and optimism. One person, one house can make a difference as I learned in that happy hour.

Someone checked the clock and we were still in darkness — 30 minutes past Earth Hour! My daughter had requested an Earth Hour and gifted us a Happy Hour!

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