If you’ve ever lived in Bengaluru, also known as the IT capital of India with its official languages being C++, Java, and Python—these jokes are endless (and hilarious) — you’d know that the city is also notorious for its frequent power outages, especially every time it rains. And let’s face it, it rains often here. Its weather is one of the top things to flaunt about the city.
It was one such cloudy evening. Perhaps just a few minutes shy of 8'o clock and I was busy trying to make perfect Rotis (or chapatis, whatever you prefer). Making perfectly round and soft roti has been one of the cookery battles that I’ve been meaning to conquer.
The hardest part was over though ie. kneading the dough. While I was rolling the dough into smaller balls, my mind was super occupied with thoughts.
- It was month-end and I was thinking about some of the bills I needed to pay
- I was trying to plan in my head if I will have the time to work for a couple of hours post-dinner or should I hit the sack on time and begin my day early the next morning
- It’s silly but I also counted the number of days since I had shut down my laptop last. You see I have all these tabs open in my browser and I need to catch up on those articles. And until that’s done I can’t restart my system
Meanwhile, I was carefully rolling the dough, maintaining the circular shape. I was sure to dust the roti with loose flour each time I turned or flipped it over. After placing the roti on the pan, I made sure that just the right amount of brown spots appear before I flip it onto the open flame.
“Not bad!” I was done with my first roti and felt a sense of accomplishment crawling.
And the rain started. Within seconds, the power went out.
I stood there, in complete darkness for a few seconds contemplating whether I should wait a few minutes till the power-back up turns on or should I save time and grab the nearest emergency light.
My uncle had gifted me this uber-cool solar-powered lantern, which I managed to find on top of the fridge. It’s a small one but serves the purpose. It took a few attempts to find the best position for the lantern. I needed some light on the dough, the rolling board, near the pan and the casserole too. Sigh, I had to make concessions and placed the lantern somewhere next to the rolling board.
There wasn’t enough light to see what’s on the rest of the kitchen counter, or how the curry I prepared looked like. In that fleeting moment, I realised something. It was then that suddenly all my thoughts disappeared. My ambition to make perfect chapatis got lost somewhere.
Within a couple of minutes, my kitchen lit up again. Power was restored. If you’ve ever watched the Netflix show Stranger Things, you’d be able to imagine how I felt in those moments like being in the upside-down. But something made me want to revisit that feeling.
So I turned the lights out and continued to make rotis in the dimly lit kitchen.
My field of vision was very limited now. I could not think of all the other things because honestly when I couldn’t even see beyond a radius of one foot who’s to say how my day tomorrow would be like. It didn’t matter to me anymore how round or how soft my chapatis were, what mattered was that I am able to make them and do so as quickly as possible.
Access to electricity doesn’t just light up our house, it also lights up new thoughts and a vision. Standing in the dark, I could hardly welcome new ideas or plan ahead. All I could think of was to get through with preparing my meal.
Are you aware of something known as Tunnel Vision? It’s also a health condition where you lose your peripheral vision. But it’s also a psychological term wherein “scarcity wreaks havoc on cognition and decision making.”
Those with limited means are under so much pressure, it drains the mental energy out of them. The scarcity mindset completely consumes you and hinders your ability to make better long-term decisions or to focus on anything beyond what’s missing.
Standing in my kitchen in complete darkness was that bizarre moment when I got close to understanding the psychology of scarcity.
There’s no doubt that we need to electrify our villages and each and every home. That is the point but we also need to understand what deprivation of basic necessities does to a human mind — it drives us to make the kind of decisions that are weak and don’t last. It’s difficult to imagine our people evolving into citizens of the country we dream of when they’re so busy trying to make ends meet while preparing a meal under a gloomy spotlight.