Features

Losing cool

By Angela Seneviratne
Greetings to all you sizzling hot people of the sun-baked isle! I’m sorry, I don’t mean to be wicked but really, are we not?

Right then, rubbing salt into barbecued skin is not exactly pleasurable, is it now? So, let me soften the marinade in this burning issue. The cheery thought is that we lived. I mean I lived through an era of endless power cuts that lasted eight hours at one time. And before that, in any case, I knew of no air conditioning, internet, WiFi, or such elaborate ways of being distracted from enjoying the fresh air. And a book.

Did I say book? Yes, that was our powerful entertainment that needed no power unless it was after sunset. And we cultivated our imagination in myriads of colour and movement, bringing the pages to life.

Kitchens functioned without the many appliances that housewives cannot manage without nowadays. Banquets were prepared in large homesteads. In fact, out in the village, there was always food for a visitor in every home at every meal.

We did not have even fans – we did not die though. Yes, beads of sweat ran down our spines, our bodies sticky in the humid nights, dampening the mattresses, but we survived with pots of water in the corners of the room and cool baths out in the garden at the well or even in the mediocre bathrooms. Those in the low country headed to the pools and beach when possible and we in the mountains had spouts and natural pools to cool off. I remember evenings at Galle Face Green, where busloads of people would sit on mats enjoying the breeze.

Nowadays, as life is reliant on everything electronic, I sympathise with all those who are suffering and blowing hot puffs of air in exasperation. I know of many people who spend the hours of the power cut in their vehicles or at shopping malls or hotels, if they are not fortunate to own a generator.

I pity the little babies and children who are born into the world of artificial cooling systems. How would they even understand that there is a shortage of rainfall in the hydro catchment areas and the CEB is stringent of supply of electricity? Added to the heat is the problem of buzzing flies and the deadly mosquitoes.

How are they to know that the powers that be believe in miracles and expect the weather gods to be in their favour the next dry season, which has been in existence since the beginning of life?

This makes me ponder far too often, if there is any expectancy and planning of recurring calamities really.

I mean, it is not like the dry season sets upon us once in a hundred years…it also does not mean that the rains fall only when the witch doctors or manthara kaarayas whoop around pleading for it. Why then are the authorities so shocked when they wake up one morning and receive reports that the water levels are dangerously low?

Ah yes, they turned to artificial rain and turned it off after 45 minutes. Mission unaccomplished! Did the inhabitants of the island whoop in return? Did they even know?

Maybe it has something to do with the frequent change of those in the decisionmakers’ seats, as they are swivelled about so often and no one must be long enough in a place to put a plan on the drawing boards. I cannot think of any other logical reason why we the taxpayers, on whose meagre returns the coffers are filled, are deprived of what is now a basic necessity for life. I said NOW!

Having said that, I am forced to consider means of getting by the stuffy hours, now that computers cannot function, air conditioners and fans are stilled, lights are not working, television is blacked out, clothes cannot be ironed, phones are on its last bar of charge, refrigerators are dripping, and there’s no hearth or kerosene oil cooker in the house.

What can we do apart from curse?

While directing expletives at the CEB, just maybe, it would be wise to do what one could to ease the problem. Maybe every household also prepares for the drought by investing in solar power, a generator, and some emergency lights.

For goodness sake, Sri Lanka, forget about ties and synthetic clothes. Let the air flow free where it matters!

Till next week then, keep cool. No pun intended.