At the beginning of this week, India had the largest electrical blackout in human history (which, in terms of electricity is not all that long, less than 150 years). 670 million people were without power, basically from the Bangladesh border to Jaisalmer near Pakistan. The cynical part of me wants to say How could they tell? When we were in India, near Jaisalmer, there were power shortages all the time. But that was 17 Indian years ago – probably over 45 USA years based on rate of growth – and India has changed.
As an aside, when we were in India, we had a driver that took us a round in an Hindustan Ambassador which was really a 1956 Morris Oxford made in India. To say that it was a primitive car is being generous. The first thing we were told was to memorize our license number because all Ambassadors were the same color – an off creamy white – and at popular places, there could be dozens and dozens of them lined up. End aside.
What India seemed very good at was working around the power outages. Like Scotland – or England, I guess – the Indian impoverished aristocrats rent out their castles, or forts, or palaces, as hotels to make ends meet. That way they can still cling to their social status. One night we were sitting on a previously royal balcony having a drink and waiting for diner with several other tourist when the power went out. It was pretty magical, the balcony overlooking the city below glowing in the moonlight. The hotel staff immediately showed up and lit all sorts of candles which didn’t significantly reduce our view.
We spent the cocktail hour telling horror stories – the kind of horror stories when it is pretty hard to tell if the story teller is complaining or bragging (mostly bragging as I remember) – and laughing about our travels around India. When it was time for dinner we were led into a huge dining hall with all the separate tables pushed together with a couple of huge candelabras lighting the banquet. It was a great save and one of my most memorable travel moments.
The next morning we took some portraits of some of the locals.