It was ok through out the month of Ramadan; we (in Islamabad) had no load shedding. But with Ramadan gone, we are back to long spells of load shedding. Luckily air conditions and fans are not needed now because the weather here has turned and we are creeping into the autumn. But power outage is back with a vengeance. What was life without power for six hours - now eight hours daily or more. In some sectors it is ten hours a day. And, what is extremely annoying, there seems no schedule for the outage. One day you are without electricity from, say nine to ten; the next it is 11 to 12. Post sunset, there is nothing certain. If you have guests for an evening meal, it is a hassle. Battery lights, kerosene lamps, lines of age looking longer and deeper on all faces, very boring for those whose faces are still unlined. One response to load shedding is to go for UPS, to at least have some lights going when there is no electricity. But this is not without its own problems. The vendors dictate the price and there is no guarantee of performance. You have to partially rewire the house and provide space for the bulky contraption, batteries and all. I know several people who are lumped with a non-performing-space wasting, bulky and ugly contraption, an eye sore in the house. Having sold it to you for thirty five thousand rupees or above, depending on capacity, he (the vendor) is gone. But on account of the persistent demand they continue to sell the sub-standard stuff: a rip off. Not only do they not guarantee the machine, they don' tell you the risks involved. For example, they do not tell you of the possible damages it causes to appliances because of fluctuating power. But in this country such practices flourish because of an absence of regulation. The capacity of the state diminished to a level where criminals have a run of the country, consumer protection seems a fancy concept. The popular excuse the vendors give is that the main supply is not long enough to charge the UPS batteries effectively. The other coping mechanism is to buy a generator, depending on how much you can afford. From small generators that the shopkeepers switch on adding significantly to noise pollution, you can install machines that can support lights, fans and air conditioners. But all generators are noisy. Our neighbours' next door is an additional strain on our coping capacity against load shedding. Hopefully, winter will diminish that nuisance, as we shall have the doors and windows shut. There are some other hazards too. The cost of running a generator is not small. The greater the capacity you wish to install the higher the cost, both the capital and running. A friend of mine, a man of means, could see the problem of load shedding coming. He bought a generator with capacity enough to run, in addition to the lights and household appliances, five air conditioners It is a large, bulky machine, about six by four by seven feet. It is so big and heavy that it needs a concrete base for installation which is done by the company engineers. He has had it for two years, but put it through the paces only last summer. Last night I heard him complain that the running cost of the damn thing, a veritable powerhouse, was Rs 400 an hour We do not have a generator or a UPS in our house. But we have an internet connection and also used to have a cable connection from the local service provider. Both became problematic, the cable service provider becoming impossible last summer because of load shedding. The process of complaining, getting some one at the other end who simply said, "load shedding" became tiring. We began to look for alternatives. Simultaneously, we hit snags with the ISP. Ever since the so-called privatisation of PTCL our telephone remains out of order ever so often. No land line, no internet. This, for people who use Internet, can be very annoying. The solution was provided by a wireless service provider that does away with the need of land line for connecting to the internet. They also provide cable TV. It did not come cheap with an initial cost of over thirty five thousand rupees, and a running cost of about one thousand five hundred per month. But load shedding affects the wireless router as well. No electricity, no internet, no cable. Initially, it came back on when the power was restored, but lately it doesn't: we have to make a complaint. Last week we had to telephone (from my mobile) more than three times in 24 hours. They told us we needed UPS connection for trouble free wireless service, something they did not specify in the contract We are back to square one. "Struggling through a day in this country," says a friend of mine, "your soul is badly bruised." The writer is former ambassador at large