The electricity stopped flowing into the neighborhood for awhile last night. The house was dark along with the other houses, buildings, and the streetlights. I could have grabbed one of my flashlights for illumination, but I didn’t.
I set aside the library book I’d been reading then leaned back into the easy-chair and relished the darkness for several minutes. Some people, like me, enjoy the darkness in order to mentally balance out the brilliance of daytime. Knowing that we can control the availability of light and its abundance aids in the enjoyment of the dark.
Perhaps half-an-hour or so had passed before I got tired of staring into the blackness. It was time to bring some light into the room. This was a perfect opportunity to light one of the large emergency candles that have been stored, untouched near the stairwell to the basement.
I struck a wooden match across the sandpaper strip on the matchbox and held the flame to the candle’s wick. I soon found an old plate to hold the candle. Then I rested the plate onto the top of the electric range for safety’s sake.
Due to the candlelight, the kitchen had taken on a romantic, old-timey appearance. My mind meandered into a fond memory of an evening at the spice farm in Karnataka State in South India that belongs to my friend Girish’s family.
Electrical power in that isolated area was portioned out for only a few hours. The farm’s nightly allotment expired; the electrical current winked out; and Girish’s mother lit candles. Meantime, my friend suggested that we should take a walk outdoors to enjoy the full Moon. He said that I needed to experience an Indian night.
Girish laughed and repeatedly announced that we were taking a Moonwalk. After we had walked beyond the clearing around the house, Girish became quiet and whispered that we should pay attention to the sounds of the forest all around us because an official Tiger Reserve was about a kilometre away from his parents’ farm. My friend reminded me that Karnataka State is home to about 20-percent of India’s tiger population.
I asked if there had been any tiger attacks recently. Girish claimed that there have been none, but we should be careful not to tempt fate. I didn’t voice a response to his answer because at that moment, primal fear began to sweep over my consciousness. I glanced at my friend and noticed that he had grown silent and looked more alert. Moments later, he suggested that it was time to end our Moonwalk and return to the house. Girish said he didn’t want his mother to worry about us.
The candlelit interior of the house seemed especially welcoming. My fearful thoughts subsided. In my imagination, I had escaped a dangerous encounter with a predatory cat. My friend’s father reassured me by saying that the tigers safely live within the reserve and that younger tigers rarely escape. The older cats’ territories remain well within the official park.
The bedrolls were brought out, then Girish’s mother announced that we should turn in for the night. After the last candle was extinguished, I laid awake much longer than usual, trying to chase away the fantasy of hungry, young tigers roaming just outside the walls of the house.
My mind’s attention returned to the emergency candle as it flickered like a strobe light on the kitchen range. I meditated upon the flame for a few minutes, then left the room to fetch my brightest flashlight. Coincidentally, shortly after pressing the flashlight switch, the neighborhood’s electricity returned.
I blew out the candle; grabbed a snack; then returned to the easy-chair to resume reading the library book.
The Blue Jay of Happiness ponders a saying from the 18th century German satirist and physicist, Georg C. Lichtenberg. “Man loves company–even if it is only that of a small, burning candle.”