Thursday, December 29, 2011

Life, Washing Machine and other tragedies

Forgive me folks if I tend to rave and rant more than usual in this post. A cataclysmic calamity of gargantuan proportion has descended on the Dey household. As the year comes to a close, a deep darkness engulfs us and threatens to disrupt our otherwise nonchalant lifestyle in the most irreparable manner. We are shells of our former selves, walking in a state of philosophical detachment from life itself. Our washing machine is down since past 12 days!!! 
Readers who are less adept at grasping the intricacies of life may say "So What?" or "Tschk, tschk" or something equally banal. These are the blokes who are either unmarried or are possibly brain-dead from being battered during the early days of marital life into a vegetative lifeform. Nevertheless, I will try to explain the enormity of the damage in excruciating details so that it is clear even to these guys. 
This washing machine, which is one of the pillars on which our delicately balanced marital life rests, is one of those fully automatic front loading stuffs from Siemens. We had bought this when I was still working in Siemens and this "loyalty towards the hand that feeds our household" stuff led to an impressive miscalculation on my part. The fact that this machine came with a three speed selection option (an option, which, ever since we bought the stuff, has never been used by us) also appealed to my technology driven inner self and therefore we displaying an abundance of nerve and blatant disregard for logic, chose to buy this machine. 
We should have realized what we are in for when the installation guy had come to install this machine. This guy spent a good one hour trying to align the machine exactly 90 degree with the floor. Not his fault of course, as the builder of our house, sadly, was not aware of the exacting standards demanded by the Siemens A10-16 and had, left some waviness on the floor, a slant towards one side (possible with the mundane reason that water should flow along the slope into the drain) and had used ceramic tiles, whose co-efficient of friction was not what the doctor (read Siemens) had ordered for. At some point of this installation process, it wasfurther revealed that the entire house is not "exactly" perpendicular to the ground but at an angle of 89.95 degree. The last revelation was a crushing blow to the delicate sensibility of the poor fellow and only our strong motivation to have the machine installed forced him to actually install it. The fellow did it but one could see that his heart was not into it. He spoke rather brokenly about how the centrifugal force of the rotating drum of the machine will clash with the cosine component of the gravitational force of earth and how this will permanently traumatize the emotional balance of the machine. While leaving, this broken man implored us not to move the machine, in fact, preferably not to touch it at all, as A10-16 is known to be as prudish about unwanted touches as a village nun of the Catholic church might be.
After moving to Gurgaon, the Siemens guy who had come to re-install the machine was not a supreme perfectionist like his predecessor. His idea of aligning was completely devoid of any tools whatsoever and based on "eye-judgement". Probably this mistreatment caused our otherwise quiet A10-16 to become vocal and demand attention of the service personnel quite often. And in the last of these visits, the service engineer informed us that the gasket of the machine has failed, rendering it to an unusable state. 
Before you, my dear reader, come up with the above mentioned banality of "So what?" once again, let me inform you that the state-of-the-art gasket of the piece-of-art machine in question is manufactured in Germany. And for some incredibly complex logistics issue far beyond the mental ability of mere mortals like us, the Delhi service centre has to place an order on Siemens Service centre in Mumbai, who, in turn, has to place an order on Germany. To make matters worse, Siemens has formed some kind of a JV/Collaboration with Bosch and as a result of this, the Bangalore office also has to be  "somehow" involved. And all this happening on 20th of December means that one can forget about this machine for next 3 weeks as any self-respecting German company does not work from 22nd December till 7th of January, officially or otherwise. 
This realization, of course, meant that this is an SOS situation. An immediate spot-check with the house maid as well as other maids in the society revealed that they have all but forgotten this skill set.  Almost all Gurgaon household have a washing machine and to find a maid in Gurgaon who still washes clothes would probably socially ostracize the said household as well as the maid. 
The next logical step was to look for a dhobi. One would have thought that after movies like Dhobi Ghat, these people would have gained a certain respectability and would be easily visible. On the contrary, this species also seemed to have disappeared from Gurgaon. I looked for laundry shops all around the place, only to discover that all these blokes have re-invented themselves into "dry-cleaners" and washed off their hands from the wet business. The people who press clothes (what are they called? Not Iron Man - I hope!!) also are specialized fellows and as one of them told me "Hum to sirf saaf kapde pe hi kaam karte hyay" (I only work on clean clothes). Finally one of them surreptitiously advised me to quietly pay a visit to the local market and look for shops which has two water tanks on top and a constant flow of water through their drains!!
Next morning found me roaming the recesses of the local Wazirabad market - looking for buildings with double tank on top and whitish soapy water gushing out of the nearby drain. This search led me to a small shop on the second floor, accessible only by a steep rung ladder. As I reached the second floor, I found a relatively large room with constantly flowing soap water, a huge dump of clothes on the floor and two young guys holding hands and jumping on it. To facilitate this, an FM radio was kept on, which, paradoxically, was playing "tu hi meri fantasy" at that very instant. After the initial awkwardness, these friendly blokes revealed that this, indeed, is a laundry and they would be happy to wash our clothes (which, by now, is enough to fill the entire dickey of my car) except..... Except? Excepting for the fact that due to some logistics issue, they are barred from taking orders directly and I need to go to their front office, which, as fate would have it, is approximately 10 km away from this spot. I left hurriedly to reach this alleged front office - only to discover that it is another of those dry cleaners who also runs an undercover business of washing clothes the regular way. 
Now we are driving down every second day to this dry (wet) cleaner with a bagful of clothes. Sentiments about my former company cannot be described as warm by any stretch of imagination and mean statements are being hurled at me for being associated with the said company for sixteen years. 

Saturday, December 3, 2011

A Winter's Tale : Delhi Winters

The first rays of sun had to stretch itself to pass through the thick "snowish" fog of the early hours in Delhi. After a great deal of refraction, diffusion, absorption and all that jazz, the filtered watered-down light could finally reach our balcony and illuminate the pink Petunias and Carnations. The morning breeze had a distinct edge as it took its first nick on my bristled cheek. The Kashmiri shawl, erstwhile kept as a fashion statement seemed to be an absolute necessity today. I peeped down from the balcony and noted that our rigorous bunch of health freaks (buggers whose early morning antiques cause guilt-pangs in my ever-increasing pot-belly) have all donned thick woolens, lending a very asexual snowman-like look to them. 

My coffee cup had gone cold and I wondered whether this weather justifies a second cup of caffeine so early in the day, when I felt a human presence behind me. I turned around to discover the missus of the house with some additional features ; a nose like Rudolf, a voice like Rani Mukherjee and a forlorn look like Meena Kumari. The diagnosis was simple; the Delhi winters have arrived. 

For the less informed ones - we don't use thermometers to detect temperature at our place. Fancy concepts like "wind chill factor" have little or no appeal to us. Instead, all three of us in the house are like thermal weather-cocks - having thermal sensitivity tuned to detect every degree C variation with  an alarming accuracy. 

Take my case. My nose is so famously tuned to dT/dt  (for people who are less mathematically inclined - rate of change of temperature w.r.t time) that every variation of temperature causes me to get into a bout of rapid-fire sneezing. This usually is followed by the outer cuticle of the nose becoming hard and brittle while the inner recesses of the nose, remaining moist. The overall effect is somewhat like a well-made cheese omlette - well cooked from outside but slightly running in the inside. Once the temperature stabilizes, all these bouts of machine-gun firing ceases and I just have a mild headache - the intensity of which determines the ambient temperature. Simple, isn't it? 

With my wife, things work rather differently. Despite having plenty of warm clothing, she refuses to wear them under the pretext of "what will I then wear when it becomes even more cold". Then her body temperature seem to follow some sort of a sharp saw-tooth waveform - suddenly becomes extremely warm and then drops down to shivering cold in a matter of minutes though the ambient temperature fluctuates in a much more regularized manner. This usually causes her to have influenza and renders her unfit for a few days. People who know her will find this strange as she is known to weather much more painful stuffs like migraine, gastritis and high fevers easily and continue working even under this situation. Influenza, apparently, attacks her like those guerrilla troops with an utter disregard to Geneva conventions and leads to a complete collapse. This seemed to be the present case.

As a dutiful husband, I made a logical recommendation : let's go to a doctor. This was met with utter contempt and complete disregard "Visit a doctor for common cold?" . Second step was to recommend some house-medications like vapour treatment which was also rejected under the clause "yesterday I tried it and see what is my state today". Instead, my wife posted her status in the facebook. And voila - a volley of suggestions landed into our doorsteps from the cyberspace. The suggestions ranged from simple ones like "wear a sock" and "take a hot compress" till more complicated ones like "use a nebulizer". We tried all of them with varied degree of results. I also added my two bits into it by making "Rum Toddy" and making my wife drink it. This seemed to temporarily ease her breathing troubles but had some serious side-effects like wanting to watch a movie called "Namaste London". People who have seen this flick will know what am talking about. For people who haven't seen it - preserve it for a cold desperate day. 

It is now 10 pm. Being a Saturday night, the cars have become infrequent and the outside road quiet. The street-side dogs have also become peaceful, probably after a hectic day of barking at the cars. And my wife read out the latest Facebook suggestion : "Go see a doctor tomorrow". 

We looked at each other and promptly fixed up an appointment with a doctor at 11 am tomorrow. 

The famed Delhi winter has really really arrived now.