Digital Darkness

Dhak kore ghum bhenge gelo. In his semi sleepless state, he fumbled under the pillows and found it. Its blue screen read 2343. In the fragment of an abrupt second, he found himself dragging a near fanatic self towards the restroom. His mind calculated a rough 15 minutes to her arrival. Squirting a forced spray of pale yellow, he zipped and hopped towards his desk. His trepid fingers slapped the computer into an unwanted boot. He muttered something impatiently under his breath and checked the time for the sixth time in the past five minutes. She was going to be here any moment! The desktop blinked into a blue pattern and he double clicked to Gmail. The simultaneous tab logged onto Facebook. He skimmed through the new mails (mostly notifications from his array of social networking accounts) and read through the status updates. Hitting a few ‘likes’, he kicked the machine into a sudden shutdown.

Another time check and he dashed towards the living room. Frenzied, he searched for old magazines in the dark and found something of the sort. Cursing himself for dozing off when she wasn’t here, he flung 120 pounds of his flesh and bones onto the crumpled pillows. His head knocked against the bedstead and landed on the side. At that very instant, she arrived. In the blink of a second, his fan creaked into a stop. Fanning himself with the magazine while rubbing the bump on his forehead, his lips curled into a victorious smile. He was ready to embrace her, embrace her insinuating darkness and humid temperament. Tonight, he was ready to embrace load shedding.

So be it. Surviving routine power losses (or 12 hours of darkness on a daily basis) has become part of our lives. We are more prepared than ever with our productivity and lifestyles reduced to half a day. WASA has little to worry about with forty degrees of humidity in the atmosphere endowing us with three sweaty showers a day. Yes, we are Bangalis – adaptable, adequate and advanced towards 22nd Century technology.

Of course, the joke had to be on. Ever since this whole deal about Digital Bangladesh begun with posters of people carrying transistors (?!), everyone knew we were in for a revolution this time. What better way than cutting down power supplies by 12 hours, eh? No one guessed that and it was the perfect surprise for 2010. Top that with excruciatingly painful traffic congestions and hiking prices of everyday commodities, and new rules suggesting we keep our air conditioners switched off during peak hours, shop only on certain days in certain areas and convert to solar energy. None of those measures would have gone underappreciated if our IPSes didn’t go onto becoming permanently interrupted power supplies (meaning, they don’t get charged enough to discharge adequately and have therefore, died).

But, if we were to take a truly empathetic insight into the scenario, we will realize that none of us are exactly certain about what the term ‘digital’ implies. It could mean one in a million things, such as driving more fuel consuming vehicles (?!), befriending top government officials on Facebook (!!!), changing our middle names online to suit the debated history of our nation in relevance to the ruling party, spending intoxicating amounts of cash to live the ‘advanced’ way only to realize we don’t know how it should be lived, carrying sunlight (Robi) phones and so on. Given none of us really know what we should be expecting; maybe the unprecedented load shedding is actually part of the bigger picture, a digital revolution unfathomable to our mere mortal intelligence.

Maybe, this is a calling for us to become less mechanized and start acting like human beings, not machines locked in a tiny cubicle. Now, who would have thought that, huh? Because we cannot be glued to ‘digital’ boxes otherwise known as computers, televisions and cellular phones, we are forced to interact within a more personal, physical proximity. We get out of our houses to breathe excessively carbonated air and meet our neighbours, people we didn’t even know existed until the day the lights went out… for good. We smack a punch at our friends and say, “LOL, poked!” We shake our worse halves vigorously and scream, “Reply koro na keno? I am nudging you!” We squeeze a stranger’s nose and announce, “iLike!” Truth is, we are being saved from a major phenomenon and when Google and Facebook take over the world to preach GooBookism, we will be the only lot to have conserved what Adam and Eve mistakenly gave us too much of.

Guess who has the last laugh then, huh?

No, seriously with a near 2000 megawatt of power deficit and an economy of approximately 160 million people to run, load shedding is more than just a problem. In 3rd grade science class (that’s way back in the ‘90s), we were often asked to imagine life without electricity and it seemed frightening. Suppose we all exaggerated – life without electricity is possible, not frightening and surprisingly (to date) sustainable. How our newly digitized economy is running is beyond the scope of our Business School professors in college. They say this is no ordinary darkness, this is advanced darkness. This is digital darkness.

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