Sophomore shares chilling story of three days without power


Photo provided by Aniket Panicker

Sophomore Aniket Panicker sleeps on the couch as the mini-artic freeze reaches its peak. He is covered in three layers of blankets and is shivering as the room temperature hits a low of 52 degrees Fahrenheit.

Aniket Panicker, Opinions Editor

I was excited. On Feb.14, a cold chill swept through me as I sat on my gray couch watching an episode of “The Dragon Prince”. “Finally, it’s starting to get cold, I thought as my excitement had begun to fade. I expected this. Actually, I hoped for this.

A few minutes later I heard the soft pitter-pattering of cold sleet hitting against my apartment windows. A grin lit up on my face. It had been three years since I had last seen even a speck of snow, and counting that time, this would only be the second time I would see snow in my 15 years of living.

My mom immediately opened up the blinds to check for any snow falling from the sky. Unfortunately, there was none. I stood at the windowsill until about 10:30 p.m. until eventually giving up and going to bed; resolving myself that tomorrow morning I would be greeted by a sheet of pure white snow resting on top of the roadways and rooftops.

Sure enough, snow waited for me the next morning, but not the way I had hoped.

  I woke up to a blistering chill. It was cold. Freezing cold. The room felt like the inside of an igloo and the floor wasn’t any better. I rushed to the living room where I found my parents wrapped in three layers of blankets. When I asked them about what had happened, they said that the electricity cut out at 2 a.m. 

My mind went into a spiral.

“What about food? Water? Did we have any snacks? What about the wifi?” My mind relentlessly bombarded me with questions until a question more important than any other blurted its way out of my mouth.

“Is there snow?”

The blinds above the window lifted as my eyes adjusted to a thick white layer of unending snow. Rooftops with sleet sliding off of them, stairways with icicles forming under them and a garage entrance covered to the brim with a gentle white blanket. It was surreal.

The tension in my chest calmed as I took in the sight in front of me. I had never seen snow to this extent. I wanted to go out and play with it, I wanted to make a snowman, maybe even throw a few snowballs at my parents for being so overprotective of me. But I was hesitant.

The room temperature was already below 60 degrees Fahrenheit. I knew that if I went out now I would most definitely catch a cold, and if that happened, my parents would surely lose their minds. The tension about what we were going to do started to tear me up again, but my parents reassured me that the lights would be back up in some time as they were sure it was just a minor power outage.

It was not, but we decided to wait anyway.

10 a.m: Nothing

12 a.m: Nothing

2 a.m: Nothing, but I decided to use the restroom, so now we had full toilets.

4 p.m.:  Nothing

6 p.m.: Nothing

Panicker’s apartment is covered in thick snow when he wakes up at 7 a.m. His mother captures a photo of the building as a chill makes its way through the locked doors of their house. (Photo provided by Aniket Panicker)

By this point, the frustration on my parents’ faces was as bright as the golden rays of the sun on a mid-summer day. I felt helpless and hysterical at the same time. How ironic that the one day that seemed to be the most enjoyable at first, turned out to be the least enjoyable at last. 

As night arrived, our entire apartment went dark. If seeing the snowy view in the morning was surreal, then seeing this view at night was terrifying. An eerie silence coated the entire apartment. Not a speck of light from any corner of the building. It was like the moon itself didn’t exist anymore. I couldn’t hear the wind blowing down the trees, or the crickets ringing across the building. The two signs of life that would be present every night. Gone, replaced by an unending silence. Cold, simple, terrifying silence.

We didn’t have any food rations at home, and since the lights were out, we couldn’t cook. Luckily, there was an Indian restaurant named Mellow Manna that was still eligible for food delivery on UberEats. We ordered chicken biryani for the three of us. And when it arrived, as expected, it was already cold. We opened the container and served ourselves each a small portion of the red-colored rice. As we sat in that dark living room with a single flashlight pointed toward our food, I realized something: This rice was the warmest thing in our entire house.

The next day wasn’t any different. The same morning cold that grew sharper and sharper as the day went by, the same unclean toilets that made my inner hygiene freak wince in disgust, and the same silence that robbed the house of any signs of life.

As the day went on, we all agreed that we could not stay at home any longer or we would freeze to death. We had to move. The only problem with that plan was that there was nowhere to move to. All the hotels in a 100-meter radius were sold out. My dad even decided to go out and look for hotels in his car, hoping that some room somewhere had not been booked out. It was all for naught.

We were now stranded in a two BHK apartment with freezing temperatures, full toilets, no food, and worst of all, the guilt of ignorantly underestimating how serious a situation we were in.

As we started to resolve ourselves for another pitch-black night, my mother received a message on her phone. It was a friend of my parents’, Vinay. He asked us if we would like to stay at his place. He had not lost electricity throughout this whole ordeal, and his water was working just fine as well. This was a no-brainer. 

The mere thought of being able to enjoy the warm air of a heater for a few seconds alone was enough to make me rush out the door. My parents, on the other hand, aren’t so simple.

Questions about “Is it worth troubling him for our sake?” and “What if one of us catches covid?” started to be debated. And I started to get annoyed. We had gone through 36 hours of teeth-chattering cold, and now I was watching a debate unfold about personal health and moral integrity when neither of the two were even remotely relevant to the situation we were in. Vinay had already taken both of the covid shots, and accepting an offer of help isn’t the same as demanding assistance. As the arguments grew more intense, my patience grew thin. Until eventually, I snapped.

I yelled and I ranted and yelled a bit more. I yelled about how stupid their arguments were. I ranted about how cold I was, and how unhygienic I was feeling. And yelled a bit more about how one of them needs to make a decision instead of going around in circles. We’ll go or we won’t go.

All this shouting resulted in a brief moment of silence where both the adults in the room looked at each other and nodded their heads acknowledgingly. Was throwing a tantrum like this immature and childish of me? Yes. Was it effective? Also yes.

After about 15 minutes of driving on sleet-covered roads, we finally arrived at Vinay’s house. It wasn’t anything special, just a basic one-bedroom apartment with a kitchen and a restroom. But at that moment, I felt like I was living in luxury.

As soon as I took a step into the apartment, warm air covered my whole body in a gentle blanket. I felt so much better. Vinay offered us some tea as we sat on the couch, trying to absorb all the warmth the house could offer. We reluctantly accepted the tea as we didn’t have much energy to deny anything at this point. And I never thought I would say this, but tea has never tasted better than it did in that moment.

In a turn of ironic events, about 10 minutes after we reached Vinay’s home, my father received a message from our apartment’s maintenance staff that the lights had turned back on. I didn’t know if I should have been relieved that we made it through the cold or laugh at the absurdity of the situation. We stayed at Vinay’s house for about half an hour longer before we decided to head home.

The trip back home was relatively smooth. But the moment we arrived near our apartment, I felt a wave of relief wash over me. I could spot a tiny blotch of light at the roof of our garage, that made all my worries vanish. Our car drove past the several lights in our garage before reaching our floor and stopping to park. We didn’t talk to each other until we reached the front of our house, drained and relieved. As soon as the door opened I plopped down on my couch with all my energy from the previous day evaporating into thin air. The cold night was finally over.

Or at least that was what I thought.

My mom immediately headed over to the kitchen to cook some warm rice. My father focused on charging all of his devices as he had already missed a day worth of office work. It was usually how the day went by. My dad with his work, my mom doing basic house chores, and me procrastinating on the couch. It felt normal, as it always had.

But then I heard it.

A simple, loud ‘click’ that echoed throughout the house before dissipating. As the fan spinning at the top of the living room slowly came to a halt; the sinking feeling in my stomach rose up to my throat. A single thought poking the sides of my mind.

‘Not again’

The frustration of the situation refound itself in all three of us. I felt like laughing at myself, at the situation, at the absurdity and irony of it all. But laughing, crying or whining wouldn’t solve any of this. All we could do is continue doing what we had been doing so far. Be patient and wait.

Night descended once again like the silent wolf that it was. The three of us sat cuddled on the gray couch with somber expressions on our faces. Neither of us spoke to each other. We simply sat there in the stinging cold as our eyes slowly drifted us away to sleep, the flame of a small candlelight in the center of the roundtable as our only source of warmth.

The next morning was the same as the one before it. The same cold, the same atmosphere, and the same hope that neither of two would be present when I wake up. Mom and dad were still covered under their blankets. I was the first one up, and for once, I wished I wasn’t.

Although, there was a silver lining. About an hour after we all woke up, roughly around 9:30 a.m., My parents received a message from the apartment maintenance staff that everything would be back up and running by noon. This made us feel a little bit reassured. We crossed our fingers and waited for noon to come, hoping that this would be the final mile of this chilling predicament.

Sure enough, at about 11:45 a.m., the loud ‘click’ resounded through the house once more. Only this time, it signaled the lights coming back on instead of them turning off. But I didn’t seem to feel anything this time. No relief, no anxiousness, nothing. Maybe it was because I expected the lights to go out again. Or maybe it was just that I didn’t have it in me to react to anything anymore. I don’t know.

I simply sat there, on my grey couch, as the warm air entered the house through the air vents and the fan on the ceiling slowly began to turn clockwise. It all just felt like one tedious, blistering dream. 

And I was exhausted.