Once upon a time people bought gadgets that lasted them a lifetime, well almost. Refrigerators, television sets, we almost grew up with them. They did retire, hurt, once in a while but after a brief hospitalisation would resume duty without a murmur of protest.
Our first family car was a second hand, sky blue, Premier Padmini. It was tantrumy, would start at will and stop without warning causing distress, embarrassment and traffic jams. We had many a good Samaritan coming to our rescue, helping us out of sticky situations. Those days Delhi still had some nice people. When we finally sold it off, my Maa actually mourned for it. She loves mourning, animate inanimate notwithstanding.
Our first colour television, a Sony, lasted almost 25 years. Its images had become blurry, the controls cranky, but my parents refused to let go of it. They now have a 53 inch monster which conks off with alarming regularity.
Now that I have a household of my own to run, the gadgets have multiplied, look fancier, have mind boggling functions and come in daring colours. I can remove lint in a jiffy, colour my whites a ghastly orange in the washing machine and place my cup of tea on the warmer lest it get cold. I get cooled, warmed, entertained at the click of a button. But the life time bond is a thing of the past.
The Ray household does not acquire gadgets in haste. We follow a specific order. It starts with a thought. Yes, we need to upgrade our music system. Once the thought has germinated we nurture it. Sometimes we mull over it for over a year. The husband researches, compares and researches some more. We finally settle down for a state of the art music system. But the pleasure doesn’t even last a season. Within months a sleeker model with never-before-seen features makes a glitzy splash in the market, making our existing one look redundant. We start pondering again.
And God forbid if any appliance conks off. I have been residing in Gurgaon for the last six years. And many errant appliances later, I can say with conviction that the millennium city has by far the worst technicians this side of the equator. But, the eternal optimist I am, I seldom learn from my past mistakes. I am always in the fond hope of an experience that will not be traumatic and have me close to a nervous breakdown. Every time it is the same sob story: a breakdown, frantic calls to the service centre, the reassurance that things will be taken care of in a jiffy (I wish they wouldn’t say that). It takes half a dozen trips by the technician, two dozen calls in varying decibel levels, threats, arguments, to finally get things back on track. By the end of it I have a hoarse throat and Rathore, Salim and Pandey jee in my speed dial list. Each ordeal later I sit and wonder, wouldn’t things have been much simpler if we had just dumped the damn thing and bought a newer model!
Ironically life is not meant to be simple, it gets insipid otherwise. We thrive on ordeals and challenges, we crib and we cope. The spice came from unexpected quarters this time. My otherwise well behaved washing machine conked off after managing eight years of glitch free service. One freezing wintry morning, it let out a series of alarms and the heating function stopped working. Since it didn’t appear to be a major fault I decided to call the service centre and made the stupidest mistake of my life. To be fair the service engineer arrived promptly for diagnosing the problem. The circuit board needs to be replaced he announced. It will be fixed in an hour or two. Seven hours and a lot of chaos later it was discovered that the thermostat needed to be changed as well. And when you need something desperately it is always located in a far off city. This time it was Pondicherry. The thermostat finally did arrive after a week of reminders. Thank God, I can finally warm wash my laundry again, I mused. Famous last thoughts. Like King Bruce the technician kept trying to fix the apparently minor problem, and I kept rekindling my hopes. I would switch on the machine, a few minutes later the circuit board would get all hot and sultry and go up in smoke. My teeth had become blunt with all that gritting, my hair sparse from all that pulling. A second opinion was sought. It was discovered that we now needed a new thermistor as well.
A lot of heartburn and a few thousand rupees later our washing machine is finally working. It has become noisy, the heating element is temperamental. And here I am pondering yet again, would it not had been simpler had we just dumped the damn thing!
Last week our geyser started leaking again. I did not call the service centre, instead the husband dismantled it and we sold it to our scrap dealer for a princely amount of Rs 60. We have finally learnt our lesson.