Ramakant Yadav's CFL Chronicle
It was a smoky morning, someone near our home was using pneumatic hammer to dig into the road. Waking up to the sound of pneumatic hammers is nothing new. In most parts of India, millions of Indians wake up to the sounds of drills, hammers or railway engines.
One of the problems of living in a developing nation is dealing with the constant noise of er.. "Development". After a few years of living in a developing part of town, one gets used to the drilling machines, the marble cutters, flatulent pneumatic brakes of trucks or the screaming honking busses as they try to navigate the hopelessly tangled traffic jams all day. Fatalism and futility work hand in hand to thwart human endeavor.
Evenings in our beloved country are every bit the splash of colour that the old poets dreamt about. As soon as the sun goes down, the evenings roar to life with the thunder of hundreds of diesel generators. Since the government is too lethargic or too busy dealing with "real" problems, the good citizens of the country have to rely on small diesel generators to keep the lights going all night. Of course, diesel power generators are noisy and probably release toxic fumes into the air, but that is just the way things are.
I remember watching an amateur video of my friend's wedding. There was the inimitable sound of a powerful diesel generator throbbing in the background. Weddings are expensive in India and they need megawatts of power. The power utility companies are barely able to keep up with regular demand, imposing such high loads on their fragile infrastructure would surely cause citywide blackouts; hence most weddings have their own portable power plants.
Waking up, I washed my face with tepid, turbid water. For some reason, there was muddy water in the taps. This was nothing new; muddy water in the taps is a common enough phenomenon. The reason the water is muddy is because the pipes are broken or the filtration system sprung a leak somewhere in the huge maze of pipes belonging to the city water supply.
After washing my face with turbid water, I went out to sit on a chair in the sunlight. Since India is in the tropics, the city is a tropical paradise. Unfortunately, this morning, constant sound of pneumatic hammers the assailed the tropical paradise. The birds were chirping, the dogs were howling and the pneumatic hammers kept banging away into the earth.
I wondered what they were looking for. Did they find a pathway to hell and were now working on paving it with good intentions? Was there a hidden civilization buried beneath the road? Are there mummies there? Are they going to bring out gold from beneath the earth? Have they struck oil? Was I going to get rich? What would I do with all the money? Should I invest it or should I spend it?
Surrounded by such rich thoughts, another day began. I switched on the light in my living room, only to discover that the CFL lamp was now broken. The expensive three hundred rupee lamp was now a worthless piece of glass hanging from the wall. Have a blown lamp in one's home is considered inauspicious, so I got up on a chair and reached up to remove the offending device from its holder on the wall. Removing the lamp from the socket was easy. I got down from the chair and headed to the dustbin to get rid of the CFL lamp.
Just as I was about to throw the lamp into the dustbin, I remembered something about mercury in the lamp. There were some instructions on the paper box that had come with the lamp. Holding the CFL lamp in one hand, I looked around for the box. After a few minutes of searching, I was able to find the paper box.
Looking at the side of the box, I found the following warning: "This lamp contains a small amount of Mercury and it can be dangerous when mishandled. Please ensure safe and proper disposal of the lamp. For information on safe disposal, please refer to elcomaindia.com". Nonplussed, I decided to get onto the internet later in the day and find out how to dispose this toxic waste.
I left for work early that day and returned late in the evening. The lamp was still sitting on the shelf where I had left it.
............to be continued