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.



Priya said...

yaaay, another interesting and beautifully written post.

I also remember playing the role of a ghost while focusing the torch on the mirror and me standing in front...at times, holding the lighted torch just below the chin also gave a similar scary effect...

i also remember and feel proud of my father's torch collection... :D

ZiLliOnBiG said...

hey, how identical is our elders fascination with torch. my father still has a collection of torches, which would start from the days when he would have just started to earn. torch is still the gadget my grandpa is familiar with, out of all the present day gizmos. i still remember my father reminding me to carry a torch when it was taken that i would return late at night. and kerala with all its vegetation is one super dark monstrous place, and we too had the disfunctionality you have mentioned.i guess torch was the past generations biggest companion, and what mobile is to the present ones.Nice writeup again.

The Scatterbrain said...

The torch had a special place at my grandparents house too... until the summer holidays...when a bunch adventurous, "chronic haywire-imagination-dysfunctionality" affected cousins descended upon the house. The torch led us on many a treasure hunt through the attic and into old dust laden suitcases.

♥ Braja said...

Speaking of which...living in India, I know how much we need a torch. Now...where the HECK did I put that thing?

Aleta said...

"torch" ~ I've never heard of it called this, how sweet! I think just about every home in New Orleans has a flash light by the nightstand. It's on the "Prepare for Hurricane" list that we keep by the nightstand.

We didn't always use flashlights though. It seems antiquated, but my parents still have a "hurricane lamp" in their bedroom. It's beautiful and a little dangerous to use, but it will last a long time.

Kavi said...

Back home this was called the 'battery' !

years later i wondered why nobody called it a torch. In the rural plains, till date, this slender piece of white light,saves many from snakes, and the odd stone on the road.

It used to be fascinating.

Nona said...

Torch-bearer. It sounded "Lord of the Rings"!

With the incessant blackouts, the flashlights... ahem... torch... still lives in our homes. But the exotic long steel ones has been replaced with bland looking modern ones that can be plugged into the electrical socket. Steel ones are another relic from the past. :(

Aparna said...

My father sleeps with a small torch tucked under his pillow. He claims he can dream better as his eyesight is now poor. I think he suffers from "chronic haywire imagination dysfunctionality" too.
Seriously, there are so many torch memories I don't even know where to start.Awesome post.

Koel said...

Its amazing how you bring out such beautiful gems with such accurate details from good old days of our childhood!!!!
I am still forced to maintain a small torch (We still call it by that name!!!) in my handbag/luggage depending on where I am travelling......and yes it is still potentially very useful....in fact any light is welcome while staying alone on business trips, I am dead scared though I pretend to the world that I am not :-)

Rajesh said...

You have touched upon the beautiful memories of those days. It used to be fun with shadows created by torch and candle light.

Mampi said...

I still do that Sky-and-torch game play in the open. My daughter pretends that someone in the Moon can see our torch light.

Peter Rozovsky said...

Sorry for taking up your time and possible enriching Richard Dawkins, but I've tagged you for a meme. This one asks some interesting questions about travel and food, and it offers the latitude (as if you needed permission from me) to trim, expand or otherwise modify the questions.

You'll find my answers here. If you choose to take part, let me know, and I'll link to your post.

Detectives Beyond Borders
"Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"

sujata said...

I loved to put my palm over the torch light and see the red between the fingers and imagine blood...you do bring back a host of memories Sucharita.

Santanu Sinha Chaudhuri said...

Last year, I went to the US to visit my son. As I unpack my suitcase, what does tumble out? A torch.

My son had a hearty laugh and decided that a man who carried a torch to the US had to be a very old man. (And possibly senile, but he didn't say so explicitly.) But I was in good company, even Phelu-da often carried a torch!

In December, there was a big snowstorm and in some places in Connecticut, electrical lines were snapped by fallen trees. Although our area was spared of power-failure, we saw fire tenders rushing through the night.

As you can imagine, that night, my humble, much-derided torch was in high demand, and was kept at a central place in the living room.

Peter Rozovsky said...

"I loved to put my palm over the torch light and see the red between the fingers and imagine blood..."

Oh, my gosh, so did I, though my fantasy ran more to fluoroscopes and imagning I could see through my hand.
Detectives Beyond Borders
"Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"

Sucharita Sarkar said...

Thanks, everybody, for passing on a torch of memories.

Pradip Biswas said...

This is still used by us who stays in remote places where there is no electricty. Generators are putoff after 10.30 P.M and it is that torch that works.