Bundh alarms

The recent Bharat bundh was apparently a great success for its organisers. Life was paralysed throughout the country, but it went off peacefully in most part. However, I had a bizarre experience that day which skewed my perspective somewhat. I woke up on Monday to uninterrupted birdsong, which is unusual because we live close to a busy road. However, since there were no buses to overpower the music of birds with air horns, it was nice and quiet. How restful, I thought, and set the milk to heat on the stove for my morning coffee. I lit the gas burner, and began to plan the menu for the day, until I noticed that the gas burner had gone out. We were out of gas.

For a moment, I panicked. We didn’t have a spare cylinder, and there was no way we could manage to get a new one from the supplier that day because of the bundh. What was I going to do? Just then I remembered that we had our microwave oven. We had cold milk and Quaker’s Oatmeal, so we could make porridge in the microwave. And luckily, we had plenty of leftovers from Sunday’s dinner. All we had to do was reheat the leftovers for lunch. I was just congratulating myself on my quick thinking when the power supply snapped. We wouldn’t be able to use the microwave also.

But not to worry, said my husband, we could get something for breakfast from the hotels that were near our home. At the very least, we could get bread. When he came back home, half an hour later, he was empty-handed. All the shops were closed.

Scavenging around, I found some biscuits that the children ate as interim relief, but as an hour went by, I began to get seriously worried. The power situation in the state being precarious at best, it was impossible to decide how long the power cut would be. I was just beginning to seriously think of building a small fire in the balcony of our second floor apartment with a few dry leaves and a magnifying glass by focusing the sun’s rays to start a fire, when it started to rain. Wet leaves and no sun... another idea went down the drain.

The next hour was very stressful for me. My children were quiet, but the thought that they were hungry loomed large in my mind.  Also, I am a caffeine addict, and I hadn’t had my morning fix yet. Power supply was restored in two hours. The first thing I did was to make myself some coffee (after all, I have my priorities), and then I made the porridge. I swear, the porridge never tasted better.

As I tucked into my hot, sweet porridge, I had a couple of thoughts. I had worried over my children going hungry for two hours. How about the millions of mothers in our country who couldn’t feed their children for days? How did they feel? Also, the countrywide strike put a lot of people to great difficulties, some far greater than what my family had to experience. So was the bundh really such a great success?

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