Commuters stranded @ Delhi Metro Rail station, pic. courtesy:The Hindu
Posted by PicasaEver since I've been back, the question I've most frequently encountered is: "Were you there when the Northern grid collapsed?"

Yes, indeed I was.  On July 30, 2012, most New Delhi residents were awakened from a deep sleep, when their fans and air-conditioners stopped working.  They came out in herds, out of their
over-heated cement homes into a night atmosphere that was like an oven.  Temperatures in the city were in the 90 degrees F, with 89% humidity.

The blackout, the worst to hit India since 2001, began at 2:30 a.m. when the grid covering 8 northern states crashed.  It affected roughly 670 million people, or 10% of the world population and half of India's population.  Officials in Uttar Pradesh, where the problem was believed to have begun, blame three states for overdrawing power from the northern grid, leading to its collapse.

The outage left millions sweltering in the summer heat.  Limited power cuts are extremely common across India; hospitals, major businesses and upscale homes have backup diesel generators that seamlessly kick in during power outages.  Nonetheless, small businesses were forced to close down for the day.  Buildings were without water because the pumps weren't working, and the much-glorified New Delhi Metro, with 1.8 million daily rides was paralyzed during the morning commute.

My cab driver arrived late to pick me up for my daily rounds because the traffic coming from the airport was "murder," he said.  Flights were delayed and the power failure put traffic signals on a blink, causing massive traffic jams across the capital.  My dress designer sent me a text to wait awhile before starting from home, to allow power to return, she said.  Unused to Indian inefficiency, I texted her back, "I'm already on my way."  It took 15 hours from the time it began, for power to be restored - needless to say, I did my dress fittings in the dark!

Media outlets reported an outcry, with heated editorials and blogs calling for government reform.  Furious local citizens asked that electricity supply be opened to the private sector - as it ostensibly is in Mumbai, which therefore, is not crippled by inadequate supply.  It was big news for a day or two in the Capital, and then, at least for the common man, it was 'chalta hai' or business as usual.  While, with the politicians, the finger pointing and name calling...continues.

Vegetable vendors waiting for customers; pic.courtesy: