Leave the old flush alone

“Can you imagine plumbers charge $50 for something as simple as replacing this lever? It takes five minutes to do!” proclaimed the husband holding up a black-ish looking object. I looked impressed. He was holding up a contraption that looked technical in a very plumbery fashion, not to mention that triumphant glow on his face. Having repaired the toilet flush when it acted up once before, I felt he was entirely justified in feeling competent in the general area of plumbing.

He started off at the end of a long, hot day after a refreshing shower. The flush in one of the bathrooms was having a minor hiccup. Once the water filled up, the water continued to leak without shutting off the water supply. This was because a lever that was supposed to tell the water knob to “Cheese it!” when the water filled up, wasn’t doing it’s job. I hovered around for a minute or two, and then loitered about the house doing the intangible, unnecessary things that I do. Then, I put the children to sleep; all the while listening to the water go on and off. By now, it was evident that it was no 5 minute affair the c.plumber was dealing with. I mean two children don’t go to bed in that span of time in our household. So, I went in to the bathroom – just to get a general status, you know – mutter the encouraging word and pat the tired back sort of thing.

What met my eyes shook me to the core. On the floor was the erstwhile dry, clean man that I love. He looked like the flush had whipped him a couple of times, while rapping his knuckles and making him kneel down in a pond of water. My heart bled for him, and I enquired. I must have sounded like a rattle to a baby, because I was given the situation in so many words. Pretty soon, I was kneeling down in the wet bathroom and oggling at a petulant knob with my neck corked at 22 degrees in the NW direction, with a cutting plier in my hands.

I’ve been meaning to talk to these architects about this. Why place these toilet flushes in a corner – why not in the center with a full view of all the knobs? While I struggled with the cutting plier and tried to angle the grip, I banged my head a couple of times against an inconveniently placed closet. The husband had replaced the lever just fine and while tightening the knob found that it was an obstinate one and refused to tighten all the way and stopped one turn short. Anywhere else, that would mean a creak, but with water it means an incessant drip, and could not be ignored. So, I tried my hand at it. “All I need is a small mirror to get a good view of the knob”, I said.

So, the husband handed me one. While calculating the length of the mirror and estimating the length of my hand, there was a difference of a couple of centimeters and the dratted thing fell with a resounding crash.

The children asleep in bed, the husband and I in the bathroom, the sound of a mirror breaking and the steady sound of ‘Drip Drip Drip’. All you had to do was turn off the lights, and I would have screamed. The experience had set us both on edge. I wonder how tightening corks and screws and things under the flush can frazzle one’s hair, but it did. We both looked like a ghost chased us down a scary lane in the middle of a cold wintry night.

Cleaning up broken glass in a pool of water has problems writ large all over it. To cut a long story short, we took out the new lever and put the old one back on to stop the drip. Then I cleaned up (without cutting myself on the shards of glass I might add), had a shower and came out to the welcoming cries of an infant demanding his midnight snack.

“I wonder why plumbers only charge $50 for this!” said the husband, and I agreed whole heartedly. The solution to the flush problem was a simple enough one – we just pulled the lever manually and made it do its duty forcefully.

“Leave the old flush alone”, is the new watchword in the house.

If Dear were dear

You know how you start to write a letter and automatically start to address the recipient as ‘Dear’? I’ve always pondered about that. Sometimes, I’ve written ‘Dear’ to folks I could not whole heartedly call as dears. In fact there have been a few where my imagination drew a blank at even trying to imagine anybody else doing so.

A case in point: There was once this man to whom I had to address a letter. He was a Deputy Sub Registrar of something in a government office in India. As is the practice, I had to use the opening “Dear Mr So and So”. But believe me, never have I found a man less dear to me in all my life. It may have been the fact that I witnessed the man at his bossy best. He was man-handling a sorry looking sallow faced peon without actually touching him. How is that possible you ask? Well, the man’s legs were squeaking under him and his knees were positively quivering with emotion, not to mention the stuttering and the silent unshed tears. He had a patchy pendulum like motion going. His body seemed to oscillate with the frequency of the deputy to the sub assistant head registrar’s tone of voice. If those aren’t symptoms of being manhandled, I don’t know what are. I asked somebody nearby what the row was about and he answered that “Saar” being an important person was entitled to get angry at peons like this. Apparently, the great power and responsibilities of being a sub deputy assistant registrar or whatever he was, was too much for the man to handle, and he was therefore entitled to behave in this appalling manner.

What I would have liked to do was address the fellow as an “Egotistic procrastinating shirker” (I had requested for something five times already, and had nothing to show for it other than carbon copies of my own letters.) The peon in question told me it is not a good idea to draw his attention to that fact – I had written a loving letter enclosing copies of all my previous letters and rounded off with polite sarcasm by asking him when he would be able to consider my repeated requests. Which was why my heart went out to the peon. He knew the man and his habits, and he had evidently saved my letter from being ripped apart in anger and the shredded peices joining the breeze on a hot day.

Dear Sub Assistant – my foot was my general feeling then.

So, it isn’t with too much regret that the practice when it comes to emails has shifted to the more informal ‘Hi’ – I don’t mind saying hi. with ‘Dear’, one had to use the superlative for folks one really considers dear. So one uses ‘Dearest’ for dear folks and ‘My dear dearest’ for dearest and it was all most confusing.

I would like to see the reaction of the s.a.d.registrar when the peon hollers a ‘Hi’ at him and asks for something to be done.

Our Achievement

Indians are good at patting themselves in the back.  If you have any doubts all you have to do is type out a mail listing all our achievements from the beginning of time and send it to your friends. (The number zero, Ayurveda, Yoga – you get the gist) Before you know it, not only will twenty different people have forwarded the list to you, but there will also be fervent appeals asking you to prove your patriotism by setting it as your Facebook status for an hour.

What is appealing to me about us as a race is our resilience. We wash down scams with gusto and reach for higher and higher levels with each subsequent scam. When the Bofors scandal came about, drawing room conversations erupted in fury about how this amount is unheard of and doomsday prophecies were made about how difficult it is for a country to bounce back from a financial blow like that.  Rs. 400 million is no joke.


Hardly less than 5 years later, we found that Harshad Mehta had swindled banks to the tune of Rs. 4000 crore. Crippling to the economy was the verdict.


Now, we are dealing with a staggering 2G scam that leaves me fumbling for the number of zeroes. (176K crore i.e. approximately $33 billion )


We even hold the honor of having a wiki page listing the scams by year.


For all the brainpower exerted in pulling off the scams and the bribes on a grand scale or as a matter of life, it is indeed sad that these same people do not even think of applying their mental faculties towards anything constructive.

I tried searching for “Scams in <Country name> “ and not one of the countries I searched for had an organized listing by year. There. Our achievement.

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