Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Wet wet wet

The electricity has been struggling to remain on this evening. There were a few power cuts during the day but this evening it's as if something keeps tripping. It will come on for a few seconds and then drop out. Five minutes later it will retry and then fail again, and so it goes on. Right now it seems that the faulty load has been identified and disconnected. Fingers crossed.

There was the usual "load shedding" period, which was 20:00 to 20:30 today. It will advance 30 minutes next week and then the same again the week after. Eventually it will go back to 18:00 and start again. This is an intentional rolling power blackout which "they" have introduced because of inadequate generation capacity, inadequate distribution infrastructure and ever-increasing loads. I imagine that increasing demand for Air Conditioning must take a big part of the blame.

As I write this the electricity has tripped again.

I was told that this is the dry season in Kerala. Hmmm! It has rained most days this last week. Today, when it was time to go home, it absolutely threw it down, and continued solidly for an hour. It's still raining now, more than four hours later, but not quite as heavily. The roads and tracks were rivers of orange mud. Soil here is not like in the UK - I haven't seen anything here nearly as rich and brown or near-black. It's like compacted orange dust with very little organic matter in it. Things do grow, presumably mostly due to the heat and the moisture, but I think the soil is quite poor quality. It certainly gets washed onto the roads very easily and negotiating the resultant muddy puddles is part of my daily life here.

Anyway, faced with a wall of rain, I wondered how to get home. If I walked, even with an umbrella, I'd get drenched. If not from the direct rain then from the unavoidable soaking from the relentless vehicles. I could phone for an auto-rickshaw but I wondered if any would dare to run in this amount of water. They'd probably float away! Or perhaps a taxi... but I'm a bit tight with my money and it's a hassle. Teacher Ajith offered me a lift on the back of his motorbike and I jumped at the chance. So, clutching my umbrella, we somehow made it back here in one piece. We probably averaged about 10km/h so the umbrella didn't get blown away. It kept our heads dry at least, though my back and anything below waist height got a thorough soaking.

Indian drivers can be so bloody impatient! At one point we got stuck behind some small car which was crawling along, likely because of a no lights or no wipers, or both, and an auto-rickshaw tried to overtake but couldn't get by. Then a small bus tried and failed. Then a big bus came ploughing through, blasting it's horn, and forcing us onto the verge - we had a rickshaw and two buses all abreast of us on a sharp corner, in the pissing rain, on the flooded road, in the dark! Absolute madness! There's definitely a philosophy of "might is right". God help you if you're on foot.

Oh, the temple is playing what sounds like "three blind mice" again and the hour is "chiming" electronically over the tannoy. And it's followed by a female voice, presumably prescribing time for bed. Night-night campers! Don't forget to set your alarms! But even if you do, we'll wake you at 5am anyway with another F'ing announcement and the mellow sounds of cats being strangled!!

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