“Do we have to have so many lights on all the time?”
“What’s your problem? Do you think we can’t afford the electricity bill?”
“It is not about the bill, it is about the wastage. Maharashtra is a power deficit state, in case you don’t know.”
“So what? Bombay doesn’t have power cuts does it? And even if we did have power cuts, do you think one person turning off a light makes any difference to the electricity situation?”
When it reaches that point, in the interest of domestic harmony, I withdraw with whatever grace I can muster.
But in that one statement is the root of practically every problem- does the action or inaction of one random individual make any difference in the larger scheme of things. We choose to believe they do not, and use that to justify not changing our way of doing things. But if even a small percentage of individuals care enough to do things differently, they can bring about a change.
Consider electricity supply. Power tariffs are higher in Bombay than in the rest of the state, so the power plants in Maharashtra sell electricity to the distribution companies that service the city, before feeding power into the state grid. Which enables me to keep the lights blazing even at daytime, but ensures that the rest of the state has scheduled and unscheduled power cuts for several hours a day.
The equation is simple - for every hour that I unnecessarily keep an electric bulb on, I am depriving a schoolgirl in rural Maharashtra a light to study under. When children are forced to study using candlelight, when mothers don’t have any electrical appliances in their kitchen simple because there is no electricity to run them on, when whole families go to bed soon after sunset because there is no TV to keep them up longer – isn’t it almost criminal for me to waste electricity even if I can afford the monetary cost of doing so?
Sure, the only long term solution to the power crisis in the country is to generate more electricity, and to bring down transmission and distribution losses. But in the short term, can’t every one of us make a difference, however slight, by just turning off the fans and lights that we do not need?
And will we as a nation ever realize that while festive illuminations do make the city look almost magical, by turning them off, entire villages can enjoy uninterrupted power.