Luxury of bulbs and a table lamp… lighting the life while growing up in Simla of the Sixties
Electric bulbs of 40 watts, sixty watts or a hundred watts…the choice was to be made! Perhaps this was the only choice we could have while growing up in the humble neighborhood of Lower Bazaar in Simla of the Sixties!. The exception was to have a fifteen watts bulb or even a zero watt bulb which we used, that too, covered with a cloth, hidden under the bed, when light was needed during curfew times….and Bittu, my young infant brother would howl if there was pitch dark. Though the choices were scarce, resources were scarce but the happiness was unlimited! Could a limited choice result in limited dreams or restrict our dream? No
Bulbs were prized household items. Sometimes when I would switch on the light…. and with a blurb and a flash the light would flicker for a fraction of second and would go off! Oh… the bulb would be fused! Amma would always ask, “Bulb kisne fuse kiya?” It was as if the culprit had fused the bulb out of shear pleasure….and the accusing fingers would be on the poor soul who had taken the finger to the brass up and down switch which was the real culprit! Else the current that flowed through the wires to the bulb. The best was not to announce that the bulb had fused but to pretend innocent and let some one else switch on the light and then shout…. “Amma isne bulb fuse kar diya!” Looking back I find it so amusing that breaking of a thermometer and fusing of a poor Sixty watt bulb or a much humbled china clay pyali would result in such a bedlam in the house….but this was how it was in our humble home in the Simla of the Sixties!
There was a loose electric cable with a holder on one end and we would put the fused bulb on that….look at the filament…and if there was any remote chance of joining the loose ends of filament…the bulb would be rotated at all possible direction till the filament joined and with a sudden sparkle the bulb would come back to life…. What a moment of happiness it would be…the mended bulb would be very cautiously unfixed from the cable and fixed on the place it was supposed to have been at! Ah…the movement had to be very precise and delicate as sometimes the poor filament would give way and the bulb would not light up! On some lucky days it would light up and there would be a cry of joy for saving an almost dead bulb! In bulbs we had a choice…the ordinary transparent bulbs and the milk-white bulbs emanating much brighter light just like a tube light! But you could not join the filaments in this milky white bulb as none could be seen so the choice would be to purchase simple bulbs!
The loose electric cable, a very ordinary red and yellow wire, was so handy. It would be used as a table lamp though there would be no table…it would be hung from a big nail in the wall and would act like our table lamp! We would cut a thick piece of paper from the old copies or magazines and cut that in conical form to give a semblance of a shade to the bulb! No one had heard of night-shades or other filmy style floor lamps to give a dim lighted romantic ambience to the small house…. But there was much romance though there was no night shade!! The humble little bulb hanging from a wire pegged to an iron nail was enough to provide floor lamp illumination! My elder sister had become conscious of growing teenager’s syndrome and would put the small mirror, surreptitiously, under the focused light of this bulb and critically check her face for the pimples! There was no dressing table or the washbasin with light to examine your face in the privacy of seclusion…she was lucky if she was not caught examining her countenance instead of studying for which the bulb was given to us! The wire would be neatly folded in the morning and would come out in the late evening when all other lights of the house would be switched off. We had it because we wanted to study when Amma Bauji would retire for the day!
How we wanted to have a table lamp… There were two that we had narrowed down our choice to….one that had a flexible metal under the shade… this could move at all possible directions because of its flexibility. The on-off switch at the rounded bottom would free us from getting up from the cozy warmth of the quilt and to switch off the humble bulb that worked for us so faithfully! The other was have a joint at two place….in the middle and at the top…giving freedom to move it at different angles! We wanted just one of these. The one with the flexible metal was cheaper so we decided for that! And how happy we were to acquire that table lamp though there was no table to put it on! It would sit proudly and gladly on heap of books or copies…balancing its rounded bottom on those, perfectly, during the night. And would be proudly displayed on the mantle along with other prized decorative pieces during the day!
Sometimes I would put a paper with holes cut on it before the rounded face of the shade and watch it emit patterns of light on the walls! The walls would come to life with this simple technique. Sometimes we would get a red or yellow transparent sheet and put it before the bulb of the lamp and light would become red or yellow! The dance of light would make us experiment with so many options and how we would come out with wonderful ideas! I wanted to make table lamps…to light up all the dark corners of the house! I would think of various materials which I could use to make a table lamp….my little fertile mind would be so full of ideas… The square wooden pieces lying outside the carpenter’s shop would give me so many ideas…though I could never put those to practice.
The story would not end here…The story has just started now or reliving another version of the story!!!I am surrounded, these days, with so much of material…electric wires, metal wires, adhesive liquids, the masking tapes, wooden pieces, concrete and wooden pieces in all shapes and sizes! And above all…so much of space where I can keep all the lampshades that I may make! The best is that all those ideas which I developed as a young girl growing up in the small humble home in the narrow lanes of Lower Bazaar Simla….are still fresh and bubbling…bursting up my young mind in an old body….making my wrinkled hands itch to make the lamps… the lamps that would illuminate and drive away all the darkness!! So when I experiment with so much of the waste material lying around me, the little girl inside me is till going back to those alleys of the lower Bazaar thinking of red, green transparent sheets, guddi paper, a wire, a bulb and the wooden pieces from the carpenter’s shop in alley number three…. I am reliving my past….my girlhood… the dreams of my girlhood !!!!