In Cold Blood

Fayes T Kantawala's inspired riff on perpetual gaslessness

In Cold Blood
“The winter is the best time to be in Lahore!” they say. “The romance of the fog and mist is like a morning dewdrop of love in the flower of possibilities,” they claim. “It’s so cozy, let’s just sit next to a roaring fire and some Deli dips,” they offer. “Join us in the winter wonderland!” they shout in leg warmers and designer polo necks.

They’re lying. It’s so cold here I’m shivering like a doughnut at a Weight Watchers meeting. Whenever I complained about the cold in Lahore to my non-desi friends, they mocked me extravagantly. ‘Pshaw!’ the Canadians roared from under 12 feet of snow, right after the New Yorkers rolled their eyes at what they considered non-icy tropical living. Londoners are so distracted by their own awful weather that they rarely judge others, but even my friends there don’t buy that Lahore is arctic when it wants to be.

Let’s just put that fantasy to rest once and for all. Last weekend temperatures in Lahore dropped to five degrees Celsius. Five! By comparison, London was a balmy 11, and New York a toasty 10. That said, all these other places that are frigid and grey and currently crammed with Christmas lights provide things like heat and electricity to their residents. The idea that governments actually supply their citizens with utilities like gas is a wonderful habit of non-failing states, and deserves to be recorded in our history. Like when the Arabs discovered integers, it is an event unlikely to repeat itself in the near future. I, like you, have no gas. Nobody does. McDonalds has stopped serving fries because they don’t have it; other restaurants have stopped serving things that can’t be microwaved. The gym I use closed its showers since they can’t heat the water (they don’t tell people this, waiting instead for members to discover the fact through stabs of showered ice). Even those big fancy government houses that always have gas are coldly bereft. Rumor has it that even the PM house is without gas! (I am sure, however, that the heat is being felt in that mansion in Raiwind.)
My UPS is currently performing her long drawn-out death scene

My house is dark. I haven’t had electricity for seven hours, which means my UPS is currently performing her long drawn-out death scene. That’s fine, since I don’t have any heaters and therefore am not going to leave my bed today unless someone pays me in flames or wifi. I feel like an extra from the March of the Penguins, wadding around aimlessly as I turn my back to the arctic judgments of Mother Nature. I honestly cannot remember the last time I had a hot shower, and yesterday I actually went into a nearby park to collect firewood. I discovered an outdoor metal drum for coal, and am using it to keep warm.

Firewood, people.

I am living so off the grid I might as well be hanging off a cliff in Yemen. It occurred to me the other day that short of occasional bursts of electricity, the state doesn’t actually provide me with anything (other than mortal fear and rampant intolerance, but they say the best things in life are free). I have gas canisters all around the house: one for the kitchen, one for a heater, one for the water geyser. That’s over 50 kg of inflammable gas just dotting my house. I have a UPS, which basically runs my Internet and a lamp that makes me happy, and I have small cans of petrol in the back just in case the pumps close down. Last night I actually dreamed about a heated toilet seat. Or maybe it was just  the concept of heat but I couldn’t tell because of all the pneumonia fever.


Long stretches away from modern living make one prone to deep thoughts and yesterday that thought was this: given how self-sufficient every house here has to be in order to survive at all, I could very well be in Chitral, or Dir, or N’Djamena, or Kampala. And I wouldn’t even have to be next to a city. Given a generator with few dinosaurs worth of petrol, I could be living at the edge of a forest near the bottom of a valley in mystical magical mountains. Or Sweden. There’s always Sweden.

I know part of me already believes itself to be elsewhere when I’m in my house. It’s a moot point, really, since so many of us have made sure that this is true. How else could we survive? The dissonance between the perceived safety of your lounge and the real danger of the country beyond it has been weighing on me of late, as it has on all of us. Living off the grid, in so many countries a sign of hermeticism, here is a matter of fact, a requirement of safety and self-preservation.

Enough people have written beautifully and thoughtfully on that recent event in Peshawar. (I refuse to call it a “tragedy”. It’s much worse than that.) I honestly don’t have anything left to say. Things are hard. They’ll probably get harder. I just want to take a moment to acknowledge that, despite the many differences between us, we should all imbibe the spirit of the season and agree on one thing:

No one has gas and that ****** sucks.

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