Tuesday, June 9, 2009
The multi-functional mobile phone has almost usurped the role of many a household gadget – like the alarm clock and the radio. And the torch (we never called it ‘flashlight’).
When we were children, the sturdy steel torch was inevitably present on every bedside table or drawing room cabinet. There was a fixed place for the torch in every household and it was VERY IMPORTANT always to keep it in THAT PLACE ONLY.
The torch was our first line of defence against the near-daily power-cuts (or load-shedding, as we call them here). Whenever the power went off, somebody would move stealthily but sure-footedly in the dark to the place where the torch would usually be. By the saviour-light of the torch the matchbox would be found and lanterns would be lit to keep the darkness at bay and allow normal evening activities (cooking/eating/homework-ing) to be resumed.
Whenever we went out after dark, the torch would be our faithful companion. Not only was it helpful in lighting up dark narrow gallis (alleyways), its heavy sturdiness was a reassuring weapon against probable (and imaginary) pesky ever-teasers/pick-pockets/chain-snatchers.
Especially to people like me, who suffered from chronic haywire-imagination-dysfunctionality. My frugal Dadu (grandfather) had instructed us that it was more economical to switch the light of the torch off-and-on (rather than keeping it on constantly), as that would apparently save on batteries. Though I never questioned the logic behind this theory, I was too scared of the darkness outside to obey it fully. Whenever I switched off the light, the darkness (and all its attending monsters) seemed to rush in and swamp my courage. My heart would dislodge from my mouth and return to its rightful place only when I switched the torch back on and the comforting triangle of light would flickeringly light up the path in front of me. So I usually kept the torch switched on when the road was dark and the going was heavy.
With my courage bolstered thus by the torch, it was easier to be disobedient. Sometimes it was fun to raise the torch up to the sky and watch the frailer light from my hand be engulfed by the brighter light of the full moon.
The puny white light from the light-weight mobile phone cannot really, to put it metaphorically, hold a torch to those torches of yore.
DO YOU WANT TO KINDLE A TORCH-MEMORY?