Load shedding can be a Photographer’s Delight

 

When I first arrived in Nepal, I was completely oblivious to the lifestyle of this little country. I had decided to just pack my bags and move from the tropics and explore the foothills of the Himalayas for a while.

 Having just stepped out of the monotony and robotic lifestyle of Singapore, I was absolutely enjoying the culture shock and chaos that came with the new land.

The first of which was load shedding, scheduled for 14 hours a day, which meant no streetlights, practically ending my days around 4 pm in winters. By the way that was also the first time I was introduced to the word ‘load shedding’.

Taking it as a new chapter in my travel experience, I was getting into the groove of my new, completely contrasting lifestyle.

One weekend we drove to Dhulikhel, a beautiful town not too far from the valley, where I totally treasured my load shedding experience.

 

On a dark cold night in Dhulikhel, we decided to turn on our head torchlights and walk into the village, where we passed by a small house with a number of people seated outside. I can still draw that picture in my head. On one side, a lady cooking dinner in the dark with her son on her lap, on the other side an old lady preparing something in a large pot over some firewood, which I later found out was Raksi. And in the center of these two activities were a group of men smoking and yakking. We stopped by to chat with them, and like most other Nepalis they were warm and welcoming. We were offered some omelets with golbedako achar (spicy tomato chutney) and later, some freshly made Raksi and some buff chilli, which was by far the best buff chilly I had tried.  All of the above was prepared in firewood and was crowded with good flavours.

Still new to the country, my understanding of Nepali language was limited. So I busied myself with my camera while my friends engaged themselves in conversations with the villagers.  A small kerosene lamp lit the place. In fact it was the only light there, in addition to the firewood on the two sides where two women were busy cooking food and preparing raksi. The stubs of lit cigarettes in the hands of men glowed in the dark.

I felt pulled by the harsh contrasts, glowing lights, shadows, people and the whole activity that I perceived just through the small lamp. Convulsing flame of this small kerosene lamp appeared like a golden pocket of imagination. I felt I was constantly chasing the light and the shadows with my camera. I just couldn’t get enough of it. Even the family members got interested and they all sat outside to be captured into my frame.

As the night passed by, we consumed more raksi and continued the conversation; I learnt from my friend that the raksi was being prepared for an upcoming ceremony (of Brataman) for a little boy in the family. Well, they were a Newari family, and the Newars prepare raksi for every religious occasion or social ceremony. In fact, for them, having raksi is an occasion in itself. In no time, they invited us to attend the ceremony, which was supposed to take place the week after. Well, we couldn’t make it to the ceremony, but that’s a different story.

It was a lively evening full of first time experiences. My first experience of downing a raksi shot, my first experience of realizing it was extremely strong and braving a bad hangover the next day. This and many interesting stories, beautiful visuals, scrumptious food and truckloads of imagination – all of these in the backdrop of a small kerosene lamp. Sometimes less light leaves room for more imagination.  This experience wouldn’t have been nearly as good or wouldn’t have made such a strong impression on me, if it weren’t for the load shedding. The unavailability of bright lights and the moment of reflection that became available with everything in shadows.

Probably, we should all begin to wonder… How many such experiences will we gather if once in a while we step out of our zones and embrace dark evenings and avenues?

 

 

Text & Images: Mithila Jariwala

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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