It is southern discomfort as Colaba and surrounding areas experience sporadic power supply again and fear restoration is just a temporary job
For Colaba residents and those of other pockets around the area never mind what the cliche says, ignorance is certainly not bliss. The residents of Mumbai's Southern tip got sporadic power on Monday (yesterday), after a Sunday night where power came in fits and starts. They are irked with the uncertainty as there is some confusion about how long the electricity crisis would continue. Though many residents and outlets received power by Monday afternoon, residents are skeptical as some claim that they have been told, "These are temporary measures," by people who claim to be in the know in the vicinity. The air is rife with rumours and people conjecturing wildly about the cause of the power failure and a full restoration of electricity.
On Monday morning, Colaba residents Ajay Multani and Anil Chandiramani went to the Backbay Depot to get what they claimed were, "some answers" to the power problem. Multani is a resident of Kavita building in Colaba and secretary of the STRANDMARG association, an association of a clutch of housing societies near the defunct Strand cinema in Colaba. Though power had been restored by Monday afternoon in Multani's building, Multani says, "I hope this is not like Sunday, when power came and went. The worst thing is that there is nobody to speak to. That is why I made the trip to Backbay Depot, to see for myself what is going on and hopefully, speak to somebody in charge for some answers." Multani claimed that some personnel from the BEST actually told them that, "We are going to be getting some people from Japan to fix the problem. As the Backbay Depot cables were put by some Japanese experts." It gives an indication of the conjecture going around in South Mumbai -- the elitist pocket with its mix of upscale residences and commercial towers, where, says provision store owner Javed Alam Shaikh, "There is little concern for the poor."
Javed, who has a 50-year-old provision store, Javed General Store in Colaba near the Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Limited (MTNL) at Mistry Chamber and who was without power till Monday afternoon when this writer spoke to him says, "In my lifetime here at my shop in Colaba, I have not seen a power failure like this. I saw generators being taken to certain buildings where the rich and powerful live but what about poor people like us? Is anybody concerned?" Javed adds that, "Cheese, butter, ice-cream has perished and I have suffered a loss of at least Rs 10,000. Shouldn't store owners who have suffered losses like this be compensated? We want to talk to somebody and we want answers."
Chandiramani, secretary of Atur Housing Society in Colaba, who had accompanied Multani to the Backbay for some details, says, "Many buildings have booster pumps so there may be water problems if power fails again. We are a 12-floor building. On Monday morning, we thought that power supply had been restored for good but it went off again and many residents who had gone for their morning walks had to climb the stairs back to their homes. The fear is that this is temporary and not permanent. The worst thing is one does not know how long this might go on there is already some talk about calling in somebody from Japan or Hong Kong or something. I wish somebody was here to give us proper information."
While residents may have got some unexpected exercise post their morning walks, Nithij Arenja, director Qi healthcare, with the Qi gym in the Eros building says, "Power was intermittent all of Monday morning. It came and went at least five times. We decided to shut down the gym at 1 pm. Two of our air-conditioning units tripped because of the situation. Imagine the power suddenly going off when one is running on a treadmill, this can be very dangerous so we decided to shut down." Nithij too rues the fact that, 'There is nobody to speak to or get correct information from." A SoBo resident said he saw the staff of a jewellery store opposite the Ambassador hotel, "I think it was Tanishq," sitting outside the store in the morning, because it was cooler outside. 'I feel sorry for the losses they may have suffered and other commercial establishments too, as Diwali is around the corner. I saw them shut down early yesterday evening," he said.
Meanwhile Preeti Bedi, daughter of late photographer Mittar Bedi, whose photo studio is in Colaba says, "We have had power on Monday morning otherwise it would have been impossible to function in the office. Though on Sunday we did not have power at my home near Colaba post office. Certain perishables like meat and ice cream were spoilt in the fridge. I can imagine lots of homes having these kind of problems."
Preeti says with a laugh that they heard the generator on at the Bakhtavar building near her home, on Sunday, Ratan Tata lives in the building. She says, "With a problem of this magnitude, we must give credit that a lot of the power was restored on Sunday itself. That itself is commendable, in some other Indian city, people would not have come to work saying it was a Sunday. Yet, I think this is temporary, a safety pin job but they are working on it. We must show some compassion after all, (the BEST) are human beings."
Other residents also say they do not want to blame anybody for the disaster, but, "We wish there was a Public Relations (PR) person or somebody to talk to with reference to the problem." They claim in the absence of any information, they are left floundering, quite literally and metaphorically in the dark.
'Will tell them what I know'
Vinod Shekhar, area corporator says, "Ever since the power went off, we have been told it is going to come back in two hours, three hours, four hours � Now, Monday evening, I think a major part of the power has been restored, and we have been told everything should be okay by Monday late night. I have seen the top brass and the juniors on site working with their own hands. The personnel have told me this is a freak incident." Shekhar also said that he is available to give people answers, "If they wish to contact me, I will tell them what I know." Shekhar says that, "there is no use putting pressure on the officials and technicians, in fact, all those who are working to restore this. Many of them have not gone home since the problem began." When asked if it was true that Japanese technicians are coming in to remedy this, Shekhar said, "I have heard something to that effect. Yet, this may be for a long term solution to the problem."