The palatial SEWA head office in Al Khan Image Credit: Xpress/Karen Dias

 Sharjah:  The contrast is as stark as it is pitiful. On Wednesday afternoon as Sharjah, hit by yet another round of power cuts, simmers in the blast-furnace desert heat, Sharjah Electricity and Water Authority's (SEWA) palatial head office in Al Khan powers on in cool comfort.

A gust of air-conditioned breeze hits you as you step inside the swanky two-storey building, housing offices of all those who you think might enlighten you on the "current" situation — Director General, Deputy Director General, Customer Service Directorate, Information and Technology Directorate etc. But you couldn't have been more mistaken.

No answers

First stop, Information Counter. "Good afternoon, there's no electricity in my neighbourhood since morning. Who shall I get in touch with?"

"No power? Did you pay your bills? Do you have a receipt of the payment?" the gentleman behind the desk enquires. After you've patiently explained that it's not your house alone but large swathes of the city that have been affected you are directed to room 202, the office of the Director General, a plush room with several trophies and certificates of achievement proudly displayed in a glass cupboard.

Unfortunately, the Director General can't meet you as he's in a meeting. "Director General busy in meeting, very busy, in fact he's not even here. Go to room 232," says his secretary.

Room 232 is the office of the Deputy Director General.

"Sir, could you tell us what's the reason behind these recurrent power cuts and what SEWA is doing about it?"

"I don't know, I really don't know," says the official, politely directing you to the Public Relations Office, which is locked because the officials there have decided to call it a day ahead of the scheduled 2.30pm office closing time.

"What's your problem," a SEWA official who wouldn't reveal his designation or name asks at the Customer Service Directorate office. You ought to have come here earlier, you say to yourself.

"I live in Al Majaz, there's no electricity in the area."

"No electricity in Majaz?" he asks almost incredulously, thinks for a while, then ruffles a few papers and says: "Maybe because there's no power in Majaz. Yes, it's because there's no power in Majaz."

It's 2.30pm now and SEWA staff is scampering back home.

Beneath a huge brightly-lit crystal chandelier hanging from the building's central dome, three harried SEWA consumers from Qassimiya area are taking turns calling SEWA's Emergency Contact Centre 991.

"An official told us to keep on trying," says one of them. Suddenly one of them connects. A smile flashes across the caller's face as he completes the conversation.

"They just told me there will be no power cuts from Thursday onwards, inshallah. Did you hear that? No more power cuts," he says before calling his wife and breaking the good news to her.

Outside the building's iron gate, two young women in abayas are involved in a heated exchange with the security guards who are not letting them in as the office is closed.

"I want to meet the authorities. I need to know when they will restore power in my house," says the elder of the two. The guards are adamant, the women defiant.

If only they knew.