Sunday morning the rain went from drizzle to constant stream followed by intermittent downpour. I rolled out of bed up to the open front door of the Akash Deep and was chilled like a banquet jello. I returned to my room, turned on the Chinese heater, jumped under the covers and flipped on one of the eight English TV channels.
HBO India was playing the Schwarzenegger Rambo counter, Collateral Damage. Watching TV in India is kind of like eating camping food. When you’re at home you rarely go digging around for white beans and rice or chocolate, graham cracker, marshmallow treats. But out on the mountain, it’s a feast. If I were in the States with TIVO and 200 channels to choose from, I never would have stopped the zapper at a Schwarzenegger flick. In India it was that or reruns of cancelled American sit coms (was David Spade in every sit com last decade?).
As it turns out, it’s not such a bad flick so I settled in to watch Arnold running around Columbia trying to catch the drug lords who killed his wife and kids. I got about an hour into the flick before I remembered the golden rule of TV watching in India: Never get attatched to what you’re watching; the power can go out at any moment. Which of course it did.
I should have known that a fresh downpour would lead to a power outage, but seeing as we’d had so few power breaks in the span of nice weather, I forgot that it could happen. I was told by the owner of the Akash Deep that the power grid in Dharamsala had improved over the past several years. Seeing as this was my first movie harshout of the trip, I was inclined to agree.
I assume Arnold got his killers, but it would have been nice to see. About two hours later, after I’d exhausted a long set of tunes on the guitar, the power popped back on and I settled in to a series of English Premier League Soccer Matches. Between the Indian and English channels there were three matches so I could randomly switch between them and not get really attached to any of them. I’d learned my lesson from Arnold. I caught three goals, but none of the finishes as again, the power went out.
As the day grew, the rain increased, the temperature dropped and my boredom level ramped up. This was my precious day off and I was wasting it like a slacker home on Christmas break. I went to the restaurant and pretended I was being social, although I didn’t speak to anyone but the waiter. I stretched out my egg-fried rice and newspaper for 90 minutes, when finally the cold from the open front door was too much and I returned to my cocoon.
After some BBC, CNN and Cricket highlights it was time for the Sunday movie of the week which was The Wrestler, a flick I’d missed on it’s original run. I watched the grotesquely disfigured, but excellent acting Mickey Rourke make a shambles of his life until again about 90 minutes into it: Power Failure.
Just then the lights, heater and TV flashed on and I saw the Wrestler at some sleazy strip bar hitting on Marissa Tomei. As I was putting together the missing plot pieces, a massive lightening strike shot through the valley, rocked the building and zapped out the power again. Outside my door I could hear a half-dozen Indian tourists yelling at the top of their voices for candles, blankets and anything else they hadn’t brought with them. Between the lightening strikes, thunder bangs, window shaking and Hindi yelling, I was fairly entertained. I managed to fall asleep just in time for the second power tease of the night. This one lasted less than a minute, but managed to jolt my adrenalin enough to keep me staring into dark space for the next two hours.
The power stayed off all night and I woke up shivering to the continuation of the downpour. For eight weeks I’d woken up to bright sunshine, but for the second day in a row I was afraid to get out from under my covers.
But it was a work day, so if I got up and brushed my teeth the reward would be a trip to the office with a back up generator and that propane heater. I bundled up and waited for my driver Suresh to scoop me up and haul me to the hospital to have the doctor redress my burn wound. Surely the hospital would be warmer than the Akash Deep.
Once I mounted up the infamously long and now slippery ramp, I realized for the first time the hospital didn’t have a door; only a sliding gate to close and lock at night. It was a cement ice chest just like my hotel and office. The doctor showed up in a dawn jacket and mittens. He replaced the mittens with sterile gloves, then redressed my wound taking breaks to blow into his freezing hands.
I made it to my office where the propane heater was cranking and the auxiliary generator was giving us not only light, but broadcasting capability and Internet connectivity. For seven hours I was relatively warm (still wore the sweatshirt, jacket and winter hat) and felt in control again. Outside, however the temperature was dropping and the rain was pounding even harder.
In preparing for my hourly news blast I looked at the Dharamsala weather site and, for the first time, saw snowflakes on the screen. It was going to get colder and in higher elevations (that’s Bhagsu!) it was going to snow. At quitting time the students lifted me down the 20 steps to my car and we sped away through the muck to the Akash Deep.
Luckily power had been restored so when I got to my room, I quickly turned on the Chinese heater, ordered room service and ducked into the covers. I caught a rerun of Conan then was psyched to see the Diane Lane film, Untraceable (filmed in good old Portland, Orygun), was playing in an hour. I whipped out the computer and started writing this very post until the flick started.
This time I got all the way until the final 10 minutes before a massive wind, lightening thunder blast blew everything silent. Almost instantly my room became an ice box. I realized the wind blast had blown open a window with a high latch that I could not shut. I hopped in my chair to get some help, but the desk was empty with the door of the Akash wide open, and snow coming in.
I shut the door then navigated the dark hallway back to my room and tried to seal the window by jamming a curtain in it. I crawled back under the covers bundled up only to get the next violent wind, snow, lightening, thunder blast blow my window and curtain wide open.
I refixed the curtain and leaned my guitar case up against it which held for the next three or four blasts until it too finally gave way. At this point I had to give in and take refuge under the blankets and pray for slumber.
At some point over the next eight hours I got some sleep, but I awoke to no power and a freezing room. I donned two sweatshirts and two pairs of sweat pants and wheeled out to the front door to check out my environment. The door, which of course, was wide open, revealed six inches of slush getting hammered by a 32.5 degree down pour.
I was hoping to be able to go to work and warm up, but my driver said if there was snow there’s no way we could get me up to the office. And he was right. Now it’s 12:30, it’s still ice-raining, there’s still no power and I am about to lose the remaining battery power on my computer. So bye for now!
Btw – if anyone knows how Collateral Dammage, The Wrestler or Untraceable end – cough it up now!