Earth Hour? It’s a cinch for Desis

Toronto Star
March 28, 2008

I’ve signed up for Earth Hour. Although I’m trying hard to do the composting thing and I do care for everything green, let me confess that it was more with a strong sense of nostalgia than my love for the environment.

My generation of South Asians (Indians, Pakistanis, Sri Lankans and Bangladeshis, fondly known as Desis) have more in common than our brown skin – most of us grew up at a time when it was totally normal to have the electricity fail.

In Pakistan, this phenomenon was called “load shedding.” Lights would go out without warning at any given time, lasting for hours. It could be in the middle of a meal. Thankfully, most of us were not cutting steak, but trying to pop curry and rice into our mouths while missing our nose. It was a way of life and we knew to keep candles and gas lanterns handy. I remember lying on the grass and counting stars, something I’ve never done in Canada.

Having travelled throughout South Asia, I don’t recall seeing people in a panic because the lights were going to be out. In fact, there are populated parts of our diaspora that still don’t have electricity, so they will be default partners in Earth Hour.

However, as Canada gears up for the Earth Hour Challenge tomorrow, we South Asian Canadians, who now number more than a million, should take the lead because it’s a cinch for us to be without lights.

Most of us aren’t going to coochie-coo in the dark. Remember, no sex please, we’re South Asian! Instead, let’s do some creative brainstorming.

There are large blocks of apartments (especially in Mississauga) inhabited by those South Asians who like to live close to each other as a community. Earth Hour would be a great time for them to spend quality time together because family is a high priority. They could gather on the rooftop with kids and grandkids (that’s one hour where kids won’t be diverted by TV) and tell them stories about when we lived without lights – a Desi-lite sort of event.

If it’s a clear night, pointing out the Big Dipper in the sky might lead to a chat about astronomy. Invariably someone will burst into song. Others will join in – most Desis share a love of Indian film songs and, regardless of tone or tune, will sing a bar or two.

For those of us living in houses, we could converge at the nearest park for one of our other nostalgic, back-home type events. It used to be called a one-dish party (I believe it’s called potluck in Canadian).

Everyone brings a dish and we share it over stories. Stories are important, usually being related from elders to youngsters. This should work well because many of us have aging parents living with us or are aging parents ourselves, having kids living with us.

Because of workloads, schoolwork and social life, it’s hard to find a time when everyone is together. For one hour, all that will be on hold and unless the kids beat a hasty retreat we might actually be able to pin them down to show them how we survived without electricity. This way, because we’re celebrating Earth Hour in 2008 in Canada, our kids won’t think we came from the “dark ages”!

Before I fall victim to an overdose of nostalgia, let’s say that Earth Hour 2008 will be easy on us Desis, but imagine the power of a million homes without light!
Raheel Raza is a freelance writer who will be thinking of back home during Earth Hour as she sings in the dark.