A Midsummer Nightmare

Skyscrapers look nice if they can scrape through the summers. Not this summer! Those tall, swanky buildings are now just picture postcards for a photo album. The real picture is a hot, humid and grim Sharjah. Plunged in summer darkness, it is no more a photographer’s delight.

Since the Stone Age, man has been a slave of power. We have come a long way living in the comforts of modern luxuries. Electricity, our lifeline, spins our daily needs. With no electric charge, life stands crippled.

So, what does one do? Necessity is the mother of all inventions, right? And so, from the car pool scheme, people in Sharjah have moved to the home pool system. With 41 to 45 degree C sizzling temperatures, 70+percentage humidity and no power, one cannot think of a better idea.

Friends share their powered homes with those from ‘powerless’ homes. Thanks to the power providers, we have cuts generally at different times. Thank God for small mercies! Survival here is a relay, hopping from one home to the other.

Off goes the power, and the family jumps into the car and drives to a power-rich friendly home. There is no rushing here. With traffic signals not working, it takes 60 minutes to negotiate the local roads. The friend’s building is well lit and stands with pride among dark dingy neighbours. Owners envy, neighbours pride?

Another 30 minutes is spent looking for parking. The family isn’t complaining as it is in an air-conditioned car. It is picnic time for the children. Three other powerless families have also arrived. It is ‘common kitchen cooking’, with too many cooks spoiling the broth. The fridge has to be emptied. No food can be stored. We cook what we can eat; the leftovers go into the garbage bin.

There is dinner, party games, television serials … it’s fun until the lights go off there, wishing us a premature good night.

It’s time to climb down the 10 storeys and move to the next station; another house, another friend to park ourselves for the night. We learn what bed space sharing is all about. We wake up in the morning to embark to office in search of power.

The office runs on generators. Industrial machines stand idle as lazy beasts — those power guzzlers. Life without the Internet at office is frustrating. No e-mails, twitter, facebook, fax and telephones … one is back to the Stone Age. There is no business and you are cut off from the world.

The Blackberrys and iPads keep you connected but only as long as the battery lasts. It’s all play and no work. But families are caged at homes.

People sleeping and eating in cars is a normal sight. But it’s the infants, old people and the sick who are the worst affected. Life in Sharjah is being throttled.

It’s an irony that this is happening in a country blessed with abundant sunlight throughout the year. It’s time we harnessed solar energy for power energy needs. Oil and gas reserves will soon deplete. The future lies with sunshine, and judicious spending of available resources.

The UAE lifestyle is a benchmark for several nations. It has been commended for its town planning and infrastructural developments.

It’s now time to iron out the snags and save the residents from the summer ordeal. Let us set summer right, before winter sets in.

First published in Khaleej Times, Dubai - UAE on July 23, 2010

More By  :  S. P. Singh

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