Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Independence Day, Kites and Power Outages

Celebrating 60th year of independence:
The nation celebrated 60th year of independence yesterday amid the cloud of possible terror strike. The tightest security ever helped preventing occurrence of any untoward incident. But the unprecedented security also kept most of Delhites home. We were made victims of Islamic Terrorism, a term I had used in earlier posts as well, without being actually stuck. For security reasons, most major roads were out of bound for traffic till 10am. People were advised to avoid the Ring Road, the spinal chord of Delhi and parking were banned at the New Delhi railway station and all metro stations for the day. The heavy vehicles left stranded at borders for last two days were also expected to hit the Delhi roads by afternoon. Given all these impediments, many like me felt it comfortable to remain indoors. I got to witness a new way of celebrating Independence Day in Delhi – by flying kites in the afternoon. People were seen carrying large bunches of kites in their hands. Most people were found parched atop their rooftops in the afternoon trying their hands in kite flying competitions. Colourful skies made the evening cheerful and made up for most of borenss of the day. I did not fly any, but managed to catch three fallen kites to the delight of my little daughter.

In the backdrop of this I recall scenes from 1998, my first year in Delhi. The year also witnessed the closing ceremonies of celebrating 50 years of Independence. I remember visiting the India Gate lawns on the eve of 15th Aug., primarily to see the lighting of the North Block and the South Block and other government buildings of the area. Once the night fell, all the crowd flocked to the India Gate structure. Many more had poured in by then. The atmosphere was charged with emotions and patriotism. I had never seen a seen like that in my life. It was 1998. Time has really changed now.

Of power outages and kites:
The TOI proudly ran a report that the 1500 MW Nathpa – Jakhri power plant in Himachal has been made functional after a breakdown and the city has started receiving additional power. It termed it is an Independence Day gift for the Delhites who had been living in near blackout conditions for last few days. The day started with promise. But soon the power cuts started. By afternoon, for every 10 minutes of power restore, there were at least an hour of power cuts. The scene continued till about 10pm. For the entire evening we hardly had 30 minutes of power. We braced ourselves for another long powerless night. But then fortunately power was restored and the cycle of power cut and restoration was reversed.

This morning the same news paper ran a report that the power outages were because of tripping of lines caused by metallic manjhas of fallen kites. People use manjha, a mixture of abrasive coating mainly made of glass particles, coated onto the threads used for flying kites. This helps in cutting the threads of competitors. I fondly remember the days in childhood when we stealthily crushed glass bottles to make manjhas, away from the scrutiny of parents. Metallic manjha may be cheaper or more potent, but unfortunately it also had made the threads conductive. In the afternoon, there were kites everywhere in the sky jostling for space to fly. Soon the competition heated up and kites started to fall like pins. As these conductive threads fell on overhead electricity lines, they resulted in short circuits and tripped the lines. The electricity department had hard time locating the places where short circuits had occurred. This has been the reason for yesterday’s massive power outage. I am forced to buy this version, as there has been almost nil power cut by Delhi’s standard.

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