By Taha S Siddiqui
Driving back from work through the city’s busy roads the other day, I was faced with a unique challenge. Trying my best to make it in time before the neighbourhood barber closed shop at 8pm, I was very disappointed when, upon my arrival, I saw the shutters were down and the shop was closed. With a sigh, I put the car in reverse, cursing the 8pm deadline for all markets, when I saw someone running towards my car. As he came closer, I recognised him as one of the boys from the barbershop. I rolled down my window, expecting to hear apologies, but to my surprise, he asked me to park and follow him. Not knowing what was going on, I followed him into the lane next to the barbershop. A few feet away, I saw him knocking on a rather shady-looking door. I asked him if this was safe. In return, he only smiled, and disappeared into the doorway entrance. I followed and before I knew it, I was inside the very shop, the glass front door covered with the shutters. But business went on as usual. If anyone feels that the recent improvement in the electricity distribution has to do anything with the energy conservation plan, to the best of my knowledge, there is no conservation. So have the masses totally ignored the steps recommended by the energy conference that took place a few weeks ago? As far as I know, there are a few reasons why the energy conference was useless. Firstly, the conference itself lacked seriousness. I remember seeing Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, the four chief ministers, the prime minister, and other prominent figures telling us that the way to get out of this energy crisis is to ‘conserve’. But even more clearly, I remember the jokes this high-profiled elected lot cracked in the middle of the conference. At one instance, when ‘Raja Jee’ was asked to give a deadline for ending load shedding, he broke into laughter along with his other (elected) team members. Later, a local news channel ran a report on this lack of soberness. It is alarming to see this lack of seriousness over a serious crisis, and that too in those very people who have been put in office to get us out of this mess. Maybe that is why we saw no serious change in the load-shedding pattern following the energy conference. To top it off, even where the government has a direct writ – public offices, there is no change. Just as we have shuttered-down shops with business as usual, the 11 am deadline for ACs in government offices is hardly being followed. A recent report aired by a private TV channel had a government employee claiming he had to switch on the AC by 9am since the officer in charge did not like to sit in a room that had not been chilled in advance. He added that the in charge did not come in until noon anyway, but the air-conditioners were to be switched on before his arrival. And when the reporter asked him about the violation of the government notification, he admitted that while he had heard about it on TV, the notification had never come through. For weeks now, waiting for the measures implemented by the government to bear fruit, I failed to see any improvement in my ‘candle-lit evenings’. Just as I was about to give up hope, a blessing in disguise came in the form of the mercury dropping. But just wait until the temperatures rise again! And they will. The decision to render Lahore dead after eight has done nothing but add to the miseries of the public, who have to rush back from work and (hopefully) make it back in time for a short trip to a shopping centre. And whenever I travel through this shuttered-down town, there is only darkness as far as the eye can see. The only lights on – a grim reminder of what the city used to be – are headlights.