Crash ! Boom ! Bang !

” Then bang he scored the winning goal”, narrated Ayaan at the dining table, giving us a vivid description of the football match consumed the previous night. 

It is the month of July and the Euro Championship is moving to its final stages. The excitement at home is palpable with team standings and score sheets being updated daily. With the School closed for annual vacations Ayaan has permission to watch one late match a day. Fortunately his favourite footballing nation Brazil doesn’t play Euros so it’s joyful for him to keep shuffling his ‘new favourite’ team 😀.

Meanwhile outside our house the rain gods are working overtime. It is the monsoon season and it’s been a week since the Sun shone bright over Ooty. The days are cold, grey and wet.

And so gradually we arrive at the culmination of the Euro Finals with Italy playing England at Wembley. The final is scheduled to start post midnight at 12:15 am India time. We all tuck-in early to bed and set the alarm for midnight. No one wants to miss this bus, surely not Ayaan.

As we doze off the storm outside gathers speed. The winds are lashing and the rain pelts us furiously. At midnight we assemble, tucked under thick blankets. It is biting cold and the oil heater is switched on to warm the room.

The football match starts and an early goal from England sets the excitement soaring. The roaring storm outside is forgotten for now.

It is close to half time when suddenly we hear a BOOM outside. In that moment we instantly exchange glances wondering what fell to cause that sound. The next instant the power voltage fluctuates wildly and SNAP we lose power. It is pitch dark and pouring furiously making it impossible to investigate. I guess it is a branch that toppled and snapped an electricity wire.

With little choice we take the next sensible step which is to switch on the UPS and continue watching the Finals. With Italy equalizing the match duly heads to extra time and finally to penalties when Italy inch it to lift the trophy. It is close to 3:30 am and we at last shut down and groggily fall asleep.

It is a disturbed sleep as I wonder about the cause of the electricity failure. In the morning I notice the storm has reduced but as I step into the terrace the sight hits me. 

It is a massive Jacaranda branch that fell off and smashed an iron electric pole in our garden. A tall iron pole weighs close to 400 Kg and it is now bent helplessly to a V shape. So strong was the impact that there are strewn pieces of branches and dangling electric wires in the garden, the fence and even the road outside.

My heart sinks with the visuals. Being a Monday morning I wonder how many days it will take to restore power at home. We are a remote house and during stormy seasons the Electricity Department -TNEB prioritizes repair work based on the number of people impacted.

But today unknown to us the roll of dice is going in our favor. 

After a quick breakfast I take a few pictures of the carnage and head to the TNEB Sub Division office. I take a longer circuitous road just to check how many other wires or poles are damaged in our area. Incredibly there are none which means I might get the Department to attend to our problem sooner.

When I reach the office the storm has paused entirely. I lodge my complaint in the register and notice the Assistant Engineer is in. We make eye contact and he gestures at me to come over. I show him the pictures in my phone and he raises his eyebrows and immediately asks the Lineman Rammoorthy and two men to go over to our place. 

I can’t believe our luck. At best I had hoped for them to visit by afternoon but they are instantly at home to take stock.

Rammoorthy gets to work and is busy making calls in Tamil. After 15 minutes, he looks at me and our typical broken English – Tamil conversation takes place.

“Branches need to be cut, get a new pole, re-fix the wires and then we charge the lines” he puts the remedy simply.

In my head this seemed like a minimum 2-3 days at the earliest. I mean how long would it take for a pole to arrive for instance? But I mustered courage to ask the obvious question.

“Err, Sir, when do you think the power could be restored ?”Rammoorthy looks me in the eye and simply states, ” By afternoon”. I am simply bewildered to fathom a response. 

But like I shared, the roll of the dice was in our favor today. In a few minutes the Assistant Engineer arrives with a full team of 13 men from TNEB. All equipped with the necessary equipment namely ropes, axes, wires, a whole sack full of bolts, some curious looking parts and a chainsaw.

As I now understood the entire operation hinged on 3 parts being completed. First remove the fallen branches & wires, then procure a new electric pole and finally install the pole with fresh wiring. 

Unfortunately the process to chop and remove the branches was tedious. The TNEB men were putting their best but one massive large branch hunched over the pole was proving a bottleneck. Even their chainsaw wasn’t effective. Meanwhile Suresh was brewing a round of hot cup of tea with biscuits on the side for the hard working party.

Well I thought we will just see how it goes with a sense of gloom building as an hour passed by and progress moved at a crawling pace. 

And that’s when I turned my gaze to the main gate and saw him.

Just five and a half feet tall, in a worn out dark brown jacket with his bearded face holding a mighty electric chainsaw. 

Abu Wakad had arrived.

“Abu !”, I called out with my heart soaring in gratitude. Abu is the caretaker of the Kabaristan (cemetery) at the end of the Deer Park Road. He smiled back and we had a quick fluent conversation in Hindi. “TNEB informed me that help was needed, here I am”, he summarized.

And Abu got to work. For the next twenty minutes everyone, the TNEB team in the garden and Sim, Ayaan & Suresh watching from the windows stopped what they were doing and watched a master at work. He cut precise wedges at the right angles and weakened the branch at multiple places. Finally the branch was cut into three pieces and we had passed our first hurdle. 

As Abu prepared to leave, a Jeep arrived with a new pole. In a matter of half hour the mood had swung. Surely there was light at the end of the tunnel.

Installing a 400 kg pole using ropes and arm strength is quite a task. But first two pitch forks were procured. For what you may ask? Well to dig a hole deep enough to install the new pole of course! We are in a simple town in the Mountains where basic tools and human endeavour are all you have at your disposal. 

Shortly the resting ground for the new pole was prepared. Then with ropes tied on branches to form a pulley two groups were formed. One group to manually push up the pole and another group opposite them with rope to pull the electricity pole upright. There were shouts of encouragement in each attempt to balance the pole. But it was precarious as the 400 kg iron standard was tottering under its weight and was put down each time.

A moment to catch the breath and we were at it again with me desperately in the group pulling the rope. My hands were almost on fire with the heat from clutching the rope. Finally success. The pole aligned straight and quickly with stones it was supported at the base. Phase 2 was over. 

Now it was a race against time to complete the final third phase of wiring up the poles. Why a race against time you ask? Were the storm clouds approaching again you guess ? No. It was almost 1pm and I was paranoid that if the team broke for lunch they may not come back immediately. 

I sheepishly asked the Assistant Engineer,” Will they complete the wiring now?”. “Yes of course”, he reassured, then paused, “yes, it is almost lunch time but they should be able to wire the poles”.

Breathing a sigh of relief I watched a man rappel up and slung the new wires back on top of the pole. Finally in half an hour the wiring work was complete. All that had to be done was charging of the lines and power would be restored. 

As the men packed up the tools to leave I thanked them profusely. Having suffered a week’s outage in the previous year this half day turn around to normalcy was remarkable. 

“Light has come”, announced Sim. “Please put the geyser on, I so need a nice hot bath”. And surely CRASH for an afternoon nap !

—–***—–The title of this blog is a little ode to Roxette who gave us beautiful music in the 90’s and Marie the Lead singer who passed away 1.5 years back. RIP !

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