The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

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Excitement starts when the lights go out

It was one of those very humid nights, when there was a sudden power cut accompanied by some shouts from outside the house. I walked out of the house and to the gate. I could see a congregation of people in the corner of the road. Apparently one of the power lines had broken free from the post and was hanging out in the middle of the road. There was a huge clamor to ensure that no one was less than 10 ft away from the cable. Bikes, cycles and aged uncles were placed strategically to block people from treading on the sinister looking cable.

A dozen calls to the local electricity board in a matter of minutes ensured that the power supply for the region was cut until the issue was investigated and resolved. The news that the power has been cut percolated among the dozen or so people at the scene of the incident. Everyone waited around half expecting the cable to suddenly start jumping, or spewing sparks (thanks to many wonderful movies we have seen). Nothing happened.

After a while, the discussion went on as to how could we find out if the cable was live or not. Someone suggested that we should get a tester. This was discounted as silly as using a beaker to measure river water. Before they could draw straws on who would touch the cable, which was what the discussion was heading toward, a little boy darted between the elders and grabbed the mangled remains of a kite attached to the cable. The group collectively gasped, which could have been heard for miles. No sparks happened and the boy was safe. Everyone smiled, relieved. The boy’s father, after a kind word to the people and a swift whack on the boy’s behind, sent the boy on his way home. We edged just a little closer to the cable.

The local corner teashop owner, ever the entrepreneur, got his stove going despite the late hour and had a brisk business selling tea and biscuits to the group. The crowd thickened considerably, every new addition promptly asking if the line was live, just as soon as he or she walked in. The original attendees to the event, full of solemn self-importance, explained to each new person their version of what happened. After a couple of oohhs and ahhhs, the new person then retired to the teashop to fetch a cup of tea and hence complete by joining the ritual.

The cable lay there, looming in its own way, and the occasional brave heart inched a finger or a toe toward it just to check if there was power. Nothing happened much to the disappointment of the crowd.

The silent majority, including myself, had not dared to touch the cable and were seated at or hanging around the steps of a closed medical shop, a nice vantage point since it was right opposite to the electric pole.

The electric company van came zooming in. Out of he van came Batman and his trusty sidekick, Robin. In this case Batman was a generously proportioned gentleman who had the look of Brutus from “Popeye,” and he spoke only in lazy gestures. Robin, who had the talent of a true sidekick, smartly arranged a ladder for Batman to begin his act. Batman purposefully picked up the cable and walked up the rickety ladder as certain elements in the crowd chuckled. Bets were laid on when Batman would slip and fall. Much to the collective disappointment, he scaled the ladder, lithe as a cat – well, lithe as an extremely well fed cat in any case – in pitch dark and started attaching the cable to the electric pole.

A few of us volunteered to get him a torch but were immediately shushed by Robin. We were interfering with the show.

A wobble here, a muted curse there and Batman came down the ladder, the cable now firmly attached to the pole. He walked purposefully to the next pole and his next performance. As Robin ran to ensure that the ladder was in place, a truck turned that corner and honked at them, since Batman and the ladder carrying Robin were right in its way.

Batman gave the trucker one glance, very much the way he would have glanced at a delinquent Joker or a noisy Riddler and, with a grunt, moved on to his next task. The trucker had met his match, and he switched off his engine and joined the audience.

As this was in progress, a group of boys clamored around the electricity van, mystified by the crackling of the radio but not daring to enter the van. As I learned from one of them, they were afraid that there was a policeman inside, since they associated these radios only with policemen. Until the end they weren’t fully convinced about the absence of a representative of the police force.

Batman’s task took him to many other posts, and the crowd magically drawn to this performance followed him in open-mouthed awe and talked only in hushed tones. After the job was done, Batman reported to the base through his radio that things were over. In abrupt tones he obtained instructions on his next port of call. Robin assured us that power would return sometime soon and then got into the van and sped away. The missing elements were probably that Robin didn’t ask us to clap every time Batman walked up that ladder to do his duty nor did he pass a coin bowl for monetary appreciation of a job well done. Like many do-gooders, they vanished in the darkness.

As everyone slowly dispersed and reached their homes, the power came back and the excitement of the night was over.

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