viernes, 27 de noviembre de 2015

The light thief of Kanpur

The kites plying the sky of Kanpur (India; 3 millon of population) are almost the only ones that can escape from the electric web that constricts and gives life to this city. At the ground level, the population of this town, is condemned to live under a mutant tangle of electrical wires. All of them except one: Loma Singh, king of the Katiyabaaz (‘the thiefs of light’ in hindi) who steal the current from the rich to give it to the poor people.

 


Singh takes part in a pack of bizarre electricians crossing the skeleton of wires that binds and holds the city. He is the best among them. That’s why his story was chosen to be the plot of the documentary Powerless, a shoking story that explains the hard living conditions of this Robin Hoods of the amps in a city with blackouts that sometimes last for a day. 

The documentary is astonishing. There’s a bunch of moments that defies western logics; for example, when Singh begins to handle wires, he cuts  and divid them making a  branch of secundary wires that transfer all the electricity from the electrical KESCO until the local natives. All that, directly with her own hands and without any protection! That's why, Singh is a hero for the most disadvantaged of Kanpur; and very undesirable character for the Kanpur Electricity Supply Company (KESCO).



Loha Singh in his film version of Katiyabaaz.

The electrical wires roam the heights of the city as if they were its veins, giving life to the city in each beat of its electrical pulse. Kanpur is one of the main industrial poles of India, and hundreds of thousands of its inhabitants need the electrical power to forward their businesses. Blackouts mean losses (that sometimes can be really toff for the precarious economy of the major part of these people). 

It’s in this context, where characters as Loma appear; prepared to drain the electrical power to supply anyone ho needing it. For that, he climbs to the heigts, creates bizzare splices or meticulous joints between wires, from  the lines of the electrical corporations until the small homes without electriciy supply. “The people of the electrical companies are forcing  everyone to become thieves, says one citizen of Kanpur in the documentary. “The whole market knows him; our shops can work thanks to him”, goes another.


                           His techniques are effective , but they work.



In this city, wich is among the more polluted in the world,  the large majority only counts with their salary to survive. That's why, for them, a blackout means a lot more than a handicap. They're many who claim that workermen of the electrical companies demand bribes and charge extra; when they finally solve the shootings.That's the reason that give the Katiyabaaz to legitimize their work.

And, among them, Loma Singh is the best. Armed with his handhold stairs of bamboo and his rusty pliers, walks daily around Kanpur ripping the watts to every powerful wire that stands on his way. ''I am the wildest Katiyabaaz of the area. My splices can stand the stronger storms; they will never breakdown" says deeply cocerned Loha, who assurres that the city is divided among two groups: those who can pay the light (and have the chance to become wealthy); and those who can't (and stay poor).




     
     Loha, getting inside in one of the cable cutters that surround all the city.

Loha lives submerged in the poverty, like most people of Kanpur. He risks his life every day for little or nothing. “To improve the life quality of our people", says in the documentary; where he defends that there’s no other choice for the poor people than hack the wires of the rich. A practice that yes, provides them light; but also creates hundreds of arrests each year. And which has left a douzen of marks in his body. 

His fingers are plenty of burns and his tooth are partially broken as a result of his habit of cutting the wires with his mouth. Until the point that he jokes about that saying: “I could be the best electrician of Kanpur with only two fingers (which is more or less the number of fingers that remaining healthy in his hands). But the bussiness has risks above that: like stay hooked to the current (something that often happens to him). None of these seems to worry Loha, who walks easily for the streets of Kanpur with the cold blood of someone who puts his life on the line for something that work the cost



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