Following a spate of ill health, consequent surgery and convalescence, I, a retired man over 60, have been further reduced to a piece of furniture in the house. Of course furniture has more uses…but that lament we shall leave for another day. The wife fusses over me and lovingly admonishes me on this and that. I admit I like the attention… but she has never let go of her belief that retired, recovering or healthy, I must make myself useful around the house – earn my keep, in a manner of speaking.
I am not confined to bed…my nuisance potential in the house therefore remains the same. (For more details, interested readers may go through some of my earlier blogs). The wife was quick to realise this and had to find suitable errands for me… something(s) which would put me to no great physical or mental stress, but would keep me
occupied, while at the same time, contribute to domestic bliss and ensure that I stayed out of her hair. So Bingo!…she hit upon what she feels is a brilliant idea. I would ‘control’ all the household appliances which have virtually taken over the house, particularly since the time domestic helps were suspended due to Covid 19.
Some are remotely controlled, others manually…as in, you have to work the levers. As I had been pretty useless around the house for the last 35 years, I was not too well versed with what it takes to run a household, including, but not limited to the simplest of chores. So the wife hedged her bets… but in the end decided that surely a retired General would be able to handle some simple gadgets. The Army makes mistakes in their selection and promotion… but, hey, how much could a guy goof up? So she decided that while everybody else in the house would be doing more useful things, I would make sure the gizmos were doing their stuff right. Seemed simple enough to me…an easy way to earn some brownie points too!
The first in the list was the clothes washing machine. All I had to do was to take out the washed and spun dried clothes from the machine and hang them to dry fully. But I had to figure out the beeps and pings. There were too many…and I invariably opened the ‘door’ before I should… leading to, inter alia, a shriek from the wife…”you have ruined the whole cycle. The machine will have to be re-started”. There was admonishment from other quarters too, but milder. So I shut the damn flap again and waited for more beeps before…and this time with the lady’s consent…took the pile of clothes out. Spreading them out, particularly the six yard saris and bedsheets is never easy. Goes without saying that I hashed it up and earned baleful looks from the wife. I persevered, day after sodden day, but never got the ‘hang’ of it.
Next was the newly procured dish washer. I never fancied this gadget and to date wonder if it is a labour saving device. You had to first put the used dishes under running water, then arrange them neatly and meticulously in assigned slots in the machine, put the soap concoction in, set the machine on the chosen mode from one hour to three and then again wait for the beeps and pings before you manually opened it up and took out the scalding hot, washed utensils and arranged them yet again on the kitchen shelves. Too much work, I thought. Not worth the king’s ransom you paid in lockdown times to get the damn jigger home at a premium.
Similar was the case with the automatic flour kneader/ bread maker, microwave oven, OTG etc. Never could I fathom why someone would like to spend hours making bread, which in the end looks like a spongy, messy flour ball and has to be cut into slices with a special knife, when great, soft, ready-to-eat, sliced bread of all sorts is available for thirty bucks. There is the the air frier too… fortunately it is not much used. It mocks at the family from its cosy nook, knowing full well that these are not the guys who are going to give up on their kadhai, deep fried stuff anytime soon and use it. This was an impulse buy by the lady of the house when the average family BMI was well over 30. But someday, I fear, I may be explained how this works too.
Then there is the master of them all, the house cleaning and mopping robot. Because it moves and is literally all over the house and makes a noise, it seems to lord over the other contraptions. The circular, thick plate with wheels and a vacuum cleaner is overrated. It has a remote control too… but the damn thing could neither be controlled manually, nor through the remote by me. My instructions were to just sit and ‘turn’ the robot in the right direction to ensure it missed out nothing. But the thing seemed to have a life and will of its own. Not only did it not respond to commands, but I spent considerable time in contorted positions under beds and tables, trying to pull the damn thing out from where it was stuck. Besides, it had this uncanny penchant for going over the same tract of floor again and again, while the messier parts remained untraversed. Perhaps human company had taught it a few tricks on how to pretend to be busy without really doing much.
The only ‘controls’ I liked were the AC and TV remotes because these trusted widgets really gave me a feeling of control…and comfort, shall I say! But these would be quickly snatched away because they were apparently distracting me from controlling the other uncontrollables. Flawed logic… but whoever said life was fair?
So give me back my Ram Pyares and Kanta Bais. Nothing like the human touch. These worthies have been around much longer than the quick-fix gizmos and will be around long after the latest models get past their sell-by dates. Moreover, they will always ensure that a retired old man does his stuff… like golf and afternoon beer, even as they do theirs. You want change? Leave it to the millennials and their mojo. Let me be a status quoist, as I allow the Ramu Kakas and the Ram Dularis to earn a decent living, even as they ensure that I get mine in my sunset years. Shall we ping to that?
© Sharabh Pachory, 2021. All rights reserved.
This is a work of fiction.
Cartoons and pictures from sources as indicated against each.