Dishwasher Chronicles Part 2

The gleaming stainless steel dishwasher made its way home after a 2 week waiting period. There was great rejoicing in the house when we switched it on for the first time, since we could not hear it. The previous dishwasher was an autocratic leader. When it spoke, no one else could. This was a problem because that meant we could only use the dishwasher between the sweet hours of 2 a.m. and 5 a.m. (we have a gamut of late-sleepers and early risers in the household who just don’t get the beauty of a long night’s sleep), and since there was no timer, the autocrat was ousted. But as with the end of every regime, there was euphoria initially followed by a period of wistful thinking and even yearning for the old dishwasher. If only ousted monarchs stayed to watch the wistful periods, they might have died happy deaths, but since most of them were taken in bloody coups, the chances of that were slim. So, it was with our dishwasher.

Every night, I washed the dishes almost clean and then placed them in the new dishwasher to completely clean, set the timer to start 4 hours later, smiled triumphantly at everyone in the room and went to bed. Things were marvelous the first few days, we ran the dishwasher right through our conversations and there was not even a beep and all the stake holders were happy. Things started to crumble toward the end of week 1. The grim period was about to begin.

You know how in the old dishwasher, we knew right away whether it was allowed to complete its job or not because the dials were so prominently placed – like bright large bindis on a broad forehead?

The Expressive Dishwasher (Not the primitive one!)
The Expressive Dishwasher (Not the primitive one!)

The new one, had the controls hidden, so there was no way to know whether it had done its job. Absolutely poker faced. Now, one was stuck with the joyful task of identifying the almost clean ones to wash again. The only possible way to know was by feeling the dishes. Looking at the dishes were a fat help because they looked almost clean. The first few times we figured the dishwasher had stopped midway through, we had already put away more than half the dishes. I don’t know about you, but none of us in our house have eidetic memories. In fact, it isn’t far from the truth to say that we give as much attention to the intensely-dull tasks such as putting away the dishes as a well-fed cat does to a caring otter. Given this, how was one to find the dishes that were almost clean and put away?

There were brilliant suggestions to ascertain the ones that were in the dishwasher when it decided to go belligerent and stop working on us. “Smell every cup” said one with a long nose, “Just look closely” said the one who forgot to wear spectacles, “Maybe we should try to pat every cup and examine the tissue paper we used to see whether it needs cleaning” said the environmentalist. So, we’d wash all the cups and plates again to make sure.

The Poker Faced Dishwasher
The Poker Faced Dishwasher

After the fifth time, the husband took command. He placated the dishwashing public. His spirited speech to remain calm was heard and he contacted the service desk. A repairman would be sent between 8 a.m. and 12 p.m. said the appointment. So, the house waited for the men of action to arrive.

The father-in-law is a man of practical talents. He has a way around fixing the odd things in somewhat odd-fashions, but they work. He also takes a keen interest in seeing how things are fixed. The mother-in-law knows her limits in this realm and prudently keeps away, but feels obliged to point out to her husband that he must fearlessly question and prod. Luckily, they don’t know English and the Spanish speaking repairmen did not know Tamil. One shudders to think of the outcome had they understood each other. I formed a loose sort of dam between the spate of questions from the household and them. “Why was it broken? Is the connection to the water-hose done properly? Do they really know how to fix it? They look young, they look like they eat chips a lot, do you think they will ask for juice? If they ask for coffee, we need to buy a can of milk in the evening. When you are at it, also buy tomatoes.” I have to marvel at the ability to fit a grocery list into the proceedings when one is questioning means and methods of dishwasher repair.

The sliding rack was the problem said the knowledgeable men and though question arrows were splicing my back (Are they sure the rack is the problem? What if the cup area was the problem? How did they know the rack was the problem?), I bore the arrows painfully on my back, asked them civilly to drink up a cup of orange juice and sent them on their way. There was talk about me being a softie and not being brave enough to ask them all the questions, but one cannot please everybody. You either pleased the folks who displayed something like brute strength when they lunged the rack out of the dishwasher, or you pleased the parents-in-law who shot grocery lists at you during dishwasher repair. Not both.

To save you all from the events of the next few painful days, I implore you to go back and read paragraphs 3,4 & 5 again. The husband, this time, was asked to take a firm stance and ask for a different set of repairmen, but really, what could you ask to see? Their poly-technic certification? What if their degree, if they did have one, was for repairing washing machines, but they picked up dishwashers along the way? You were fighting a losing battle with this and he knew it.

The second pair decided that the spine of the dishwasher was the problem. It pushed the rack out and that is why the dishwasher stopped working, they said. If it stops again, ask him if he will change the dishwasher for us, asked the parents.i.l. I tried telling them that these people had no clue whether the company would replace the dishwasher or not and that would be a different call to make. I could see my rationale was not being received well in their mind. With this, I seemed to have sunk even lower in the efficiency department. I went upstairs for a brief moment and I came back to see a thriving session of puppetry and dumb-charades flourishing between The Spanish and The Tamil. They managed to ask him their question and he was managing to smile at them and answer them something. I think he was saying, “Parrots also like green tea, have you tried giving them coffee? You should see their faces then!”

But everybody was happy and the second set departed. Before the third set came in, there was positive yearning for the old dishwasher. (At least, it just made a noise and if you did not have to watch TV or talk when it did its work, it did a marvelous job!) . Our dishwasher’s psyche was taking a beating and dishwashers from next door were ready to come and give the one in our house a hand.

To be continued: Dishwasher Chronicles Part 3 …..

The Dishwasher Chronicles – Part 1

Our dishwasher was an old one. I suppose it did its job, but its noise was inversely proportional to its efficiency. Speaking of noise and efficiency, I remember a maid we had once who treated the dishes with the same crashing nonchalance. There too, the noise and cleanliness were inversely proportional. The lady was a force to reckon with and neither the vessels nor the people stood up against her. She once scared the bejesus out of my sleeping brother causing him to leap like a salmon from the floor to the couch in an elegant upward arch at 6 o’clock in the morning. ( My father, a brave man, once mustered up the courage to tell her he could hear the dishes crashing even without his hearing aid. I gave him a bracing cup of coffee afterward and told him how proud I was to be his daughter and all that, but I don’t think it affected her or the dishes in any way.

On a related note, when you plot the state of wakefulness in the household, there are a bunch of continuous sinusoidal waves like this:

sinusoidal sleep waves
sinusoidal sleep waves

So, I suppose when you interlace them together, you get a pretty good picture. Between visiting maternal and paternal grandparents, 2 children (1 toddler), Molly & Sally the fishes, the husband and I, the state of wakefulness in the house in a somewhat hazy positive at all points in time. To further elucidate, If we were to have an owl as a pet, it would be hard put to find a time when it thinks it really is night. For there are late sleepers, early risers. And just to make things interesting, there are folks who sleep early, then get up at midnight and stay up for a few hours. I am telling you, we house all varieties of sleep monsters.

I know you think I am driveling (dishwashers, maids, sinusoidal waves, owls: what next?), but bear with me for a moment. Let’s back track to the d.washer model. The problem with the poor thing was that it did not have the option to let us program the time at which it was welcome to start crashing the dishes. The dishwasher was so loud, if we actually had a couple of bulls stampeding into the china cabinet looking for a cup of tea or some bears trying to nip food from the kitchen, they could have done so under the cloak of secrecy hiding well behind the dishwasher’s sounds. The dishwasher running in the kitchen meant that nobody could hope to get a word in to each other in terms of conversation and all thoughts of enjoying a quiet television show was out the window too. Basically, the only way one could get quiet time downstairs was to camp out in the backyard with the kitchen door firmly closed, but that can be hard when one is also looking to keep warm and comfortable. All in all, a hard spot, you’d agree.

So, then I hit upon the best solution available: I would load the dishwasher and make a general announcement that the last person to come upstairs must switch it on. Every person who went upstairs afterwards, scoured the area and passed the baton to the people remaining downstairs. Usually, that worked pretty well, unless the last person (no points for guessing the most frequent offender)  forgot to switch it on. Worse still, there were times when I would switch it on as I was the last to leave and still find the dishwasher hadn’t finished its job because the husband would have popped out of bed after that to get milk for the baby, and switched it off.


Every time something like this happened, there was mayhem the next day. Remember I told you it wasn’t a very efficient one? So, I’d wash the dishes almost clean before putting them in the dishwasher. I will not do them perfectly clean, because the dishwasher has to work no? As I write this, I realize I have been a priceless ass and that I could have just washed them all myself and be done with it. But I don’t get to write this blog if I was efficient like that. Anyway, the point is that, whether or not the dishwasher ran, the dishes looked pretty clean.

But the dishwasher being an old model was also primitive in it’s operations. There was a large dial on the control panel that slid all the way to ‘Off’ as the dishwasher worked its way through. If the dial was halfway through, you were warned it was not done properly. Then, you sounded like a hurt werewolf on full moon night, evacuated the residents out of the kitchen and switched on the dishwasher. If you got no talking done during the entire hour that it crashed about, that is punishment enough to make one remember to switch it on at night what? We had a few interesting moments when it was revealed the son as a baby had learnt how to rotate the switch and we had therefore let the dishwasher rewash dishes unnecessarily on a number of occasions.

After a series of these punishing days, we were goaded beyond tolerance. We complained sorely for a few years. And then, with the speed that it takes for lightning bolts to strike (just a few weeks), we went in for a new dishwasher.

The daughter and son said their goodbyes to the d.washer in a touching manner.

I shall continue the new dishwasher chronicles in my next blog. I suppose I don’t very much like the idea of leaving the readers hanging from the cliff like this: do the dishes get washed in her household or not?Hang Tight folks. Hang Tight.

Lead Kindly Light

Lead Kindly Light Amid the Encircling Gloom
The internet has been agog with the fact that sitting is killing us. We were meant to be standing up and we are changing something fundamental when we move towards sitting this long. Of course, I have been reading all this sitting smugly on my chair, sipping tea and resolve to fix it immediately. How, one may ask, but I could not answer for I do not know.

There is a very sensible article that seemed to tell me exactly how to repeal all the horrible effects of sitting. Apparently, if I gave myself 3 small walks for every 3 hours of sitting, I could reverse the appalling effects of sitting. Though how I can throw in a dozen small walks a day is beyond me. : 3 short walks required for every 3 hours of sitting.

On another note, the son has been accessorized with a pair of shoes that light up. The sister of his came up with ridiculous arguments for the shoes:

  • He needed the light-up shoes because when he walks at night, the lights from the shoes can light the way.
  • It saves electricity because when he wear those shoes, there is no need for any lights in the room: This coming from a child who leaves a light bulb trail wherever she goes in the house, and I yelp behind her switching off every single light on the way. I, to prove a point of course, switch off lights in rooms before I have made it to the door and bang up against something unceremoniously only to have a cackling I-told-you-so afterward from the daughter. but it is all in a day’s work and I bear my grievances with fortitude.
  • If he is walking in a forest and the sunlight does not come through, he can help us out with his shoes.

The last reason may have been the reason I caved in. One never knows when one can get stuck in a forest where the sunlight does not reach the floor right? It turns out that he got to walk in a forest within a week or two of his new shoes. To give the little one his due, he walked and ran for miles on end in the forest. The novelty of the light-up-shoes coupled with a serene forest atmosphere no doubt.  But he did seem to emanate the ‘Miles to go before I sleep’ aura about him.

Maybe, I too shall get myself a pair like that and then parade up and down throwing in a dozen walks or more a day. In search of the light.

Lead Kindly Light Amid the Encircling Gloom

Is it hot yet?

Given that I live in the Bay area, I have grown used to the fact that waiters at restaurants ask you whether you want ‘Water With No Ice’ a term that is so jarring in its construct, that the first few times I laughed every time I heard it. You ask for ‘water without ice’ or you ask for ‘water-@-room-temp’. How do you make water with no ice. Is ‘no-ice’ a thing that you plop into the water? But ‘no-ice’ is nice and like so many other lovable quirks in the USA, I have embraced this one over the years.

Water-with-no-ice however brings me to a question that I am sure has occupied the mind of every attentive waiter in the Bay area at least once. Why are folks who hail from a hot country like India not going in for a cold drink? I’ve wondered this quite often myself. Why are we this obsessed with hot food, hot tea and hot milk, not to mention the piping hot coffee? 

Given how much we enjoy the hot food, imagine my chagrin then when the microwave danced out on us.

On a side note, I wonder whether you notice a trend here. The dryer showed us what it is capable of, the oven hasn’t been on talking terms with us the past year and now, the microwave. (I don’t wish to offend the dishwasher by not dedicating a few blogs to it. It has been begging me to do so with its recent behavior and I have been holding firm thus far, but I may just have to write it up too) All very wearying and worrying and all that. Sigh! Where was I? Yes. The Microwave.

So, one hot evening I walked into the kitchen to make myself a hot cup of tea. The microwave started humming, rotating slowly and the dull lights inside showed me it was working on it. A full minute later, I picked up the cup gingerly expecting it to exude warmth, but it was stone cold. I mean porcelain-cold. It hadn’t done its duty. I gaped at it, and tried again. (Did you expect different behavior when you try the same thing? I see your censorious question and say, “Yes. “ Maybe the heating coil was taking a breather and the gentle nudge that I gave on the bottom of the microwave may have spurred it to act again) However, gentle nudge or ferocious roar, the microwave had retired. As unobtrusively as it seeped into our lives, it retired.

I have lived without a microwave in a very cold place for two decades and I can assure you it is possible. Yet, it is only when it isn’t there that you realize how kindly and painlessly this device helps you lead your life. You put in a cup of milk and a minute later, there you have it: a cup of hot milk for whatever use you have for it.  Every morning now, there was definite hungama over the coffee:

The milk took its time to boil.

The water took its time to boil

The coffee took it time to drip.

Then the coffee and milk together, was not hot enough.

Ask any proud South Indian coffee drinker and he will tell you that directly heating the coffee dilutes its flavor. (For the record, I see no difference.)


More than any of that, the microwave knew to stop heating the milk in 30 seconds. The stovetop didn’t. The entire three minutes that I  stood watching the milk, nothing happened and the moment I turned to pick a spoon, a loud sizzle told me that the milk had boiled over. Morning coffees were a milk-bath.  They were becoming long-drawn affairs in molly-cuddling the milk, comforting the coffee and  soothing the drinkers. One morning, the mother-in-law, a sturdy lady who has taken life by its horns, could be seen sitting with her hands on her head with the morning coffee routine. Needless to say, the milk boiled over at that very instant and all hands great and small gathered around to help clean the mess.

That was how the husband and I went shopping for a microwave without a penny on us, and still managed to bring a gleaming microwave into the house. (We both forgot our purses at home – coffee-less people do that apparently)

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