With the mercury up at 41 degrees Celsius and "feeling like" 46 (according to weather.com), only one thing was left to make Newark feel exactly like back home, and it happened today.
Load shedding. Power cut. Black out. Whatever you call it.
I was already bathed in sweat this evening when the fan suddenly slowed down, then sped up again, then slowed down and went off with the light. Instantly the room was plunged into darkness. The street light outside the window was off too.
I was at my friend Atreyee's place for dinner. We had candles, but the heat was unbearable, so we decided to take a short walk outside, hoping that the power would be back soon. We found another friend sitting outside her house with her three month old son. We stopped by for chit-chat. Many others in neighbouring houses were out in their gardens too. There was some music coming from the park, so I walked there with Atreyee to investigate.
Some Latin American festival was going on with some loud music blaring from the loudspeakers and a lady singing live on stage. The whole field was transformed into a fairground, and just like fairs back home there were Ferris wheels, carousels, bubble-blowers, balloon sellers and small stalls selling fried foodstuff and drinks all around. We walked around for a few minutes, staring longingly at the food. Unfortunately, none of us had our wallets with us.
We walked back to the friend who was sitting on the stairs with her kid. Her husband had joined her, and so had her mom and another friend. We sat down on their front steps as well and had a good old Bengali style "adda" (useless chit-chat) where we discussed all topics under the sun from sleep patterns of babies to the weather in Iceland. In that sultry, dark evening gathering I felt at home in a way I haven't felt in a long time.
Back home in Hooghly, we spent periods of load shedding lying on the terrace staring at the sky and talking among ourselves. Sometimes we would try to recognize stars - we could still see a lot of stars from Hooghly in those days, and more during power cuts. All breeze seemed to mysteriously stop as soon as the power failed, but the conditions would not be too uncomfortable altogether. In fact, sometimes we enjoyed it so much that nobody would bother to check if the power was back, we simply spent the time lying on the roof talking.
But the country is USA after all, so we could call up PSE&G and ask about our power failure, and soon the lights flickered back on around us. The meeting broke up, and I followed Atreyee to her apartment for dinner. Dinner was a hurried affair and part of it had to be completed in candle light as the power went again.
The power has since been back and stayed on for the last few hours, but the voltage is dipping low now and then and the lights have dimmed more than once, so I decided to type this up and upload it before the feel-good factor faded away. Load shedding may have made me nostalgic for a while, but if I have to sleep in this heat wave without a fan at night, my feelings would be along entirely different lines, and all of it won't be joyful enough to post here.