Friday, October 21, 2016

Of Shopping and Delusions

One afternoon late last week, Sanjiv and I decided to do Anna's grocery shopping at Savemax.  Dushera was over and Karva Chauth many days away, so it seemed a good time to head out, given Delhi's now legendary traffic jams. But we were mistaken. Grossly mistaken. The traffic jam was so bad that it took us an hour to take a chakkar and return to our house.

So I decided to just order everything that Anna needs from BigBasket.  I had never done a full month's grocery shopping online, so this was a first for me.  

The next morning, BigBasket delivered groceries 30 mins ahead of schedule. I asked Anna if he wanted to see how the online ordered grocery delivery happened. He immediately said, "Yes", tho' he normally napped after breakfast. He loves grocery shopping. Anna sat at the dining table as I crosschecked the delivery, one item at a time, over the next 20 mins.

Me (pointing to the heaps of grocery packets on the floor and coffee table): Anna, how did you like the grocery delivery?

Anna does not respond. He is frowning as he looks at the groceries.

Me: Anna, now we have all that you need for the next 30 days.

Photo: The Time Of India
Anna: I hope we are not spending more than we can afford.

Me: No Anna. I've only bought the things you need for a month.

Anna still has a frown on his face. He just starts to look sleepy.

Me: Anna, will you nap now? I'll put away the groceries.

We take Anna to his bedroom and he falls asleep as soon as his head hits the pillow.

That evening Anna is still looking worried.  The attendant and housekeeper tell me that he has been agitated all day. "It's going to be another one of those days", I think.

Me: Hi, Anna. How are you?

No answer.

Me: Anna, what did you do today?

Again no answer. We sit in silence for some time. I notice that Anna is looking at me with a piercing sideways glance.

Me: Anna, what is it? What are you thinking?

Anna (after a long pause): Sangeeta, you have to tell me the truth.

Me: Yes, of course, Anna.

Anna: I have been asking to see my accounts for months. You haven't shown it to me. What are you hiding?

Me: Anna, whenever you ask to see your passbooks, I show them to you. You have forgotten.

Anna: What are you hiding from me? Are you taking away money?

Me: No, Anna. I am not hiding anything from you. I will bring my laptop tomorrow and how you all your (bank) accounts.

Anna: How are you spending so much?

Me: I am not spending much, Anna. We are spending on only essentials.

Anna: You don't have an income. So where is the money coming from?

Me: Anna, we are spending only on what you need. And from your money.

Anna: If you are taking money from the company then it should be in proportion to your stake.

Me (confused): Anna, what company? What stake?

Anna: Show me that you are taking only the money that is in line with your stake. If you take too much, I will be destitute and on the streets.

This goes on for nearly an hour. I am unable to convince my father that I am not spending his money, not stealing from him.

This is the first time I have been a part of Anna's delusions. How frightening it must be for him to believe that his family is cheating him.

It just makes me sad.

Friday, October 14, 2016

The Whining Fans at Lawley Hall

Sanjiv tries to get the fan's 
blades to move with a bolster
Earlier this week, while working at home on a project with my friend Rosita, the ceiling fan started to make squeaking noises. Noises that sounded as if a distressed mouse was trapped in the well of the fan. After being disturbed by it for many minutes, the fan decided to bow to the power of our irritated looks and just stop.

Most of my life, I have been known to be a trouble-shooter and my troubleshooting skills came to fore that afternoon. I got up and went to the drawing room and called Sanjiv, my husband, to come fix the fan! His first question should give you an idea of his confidence in my common sense and problem solving skills - "Are you sure you switched on the fan?"

Once he saw for himself that the fan's blades were not rotating tho' the fan's switch was on, he did what any good electrician will do - lifted the bolster to push the fan's blades to restart the fan. And it did! In the same squeaking fashion. Finally, he had to get some machine oil to fix the thing.

The squeaking fan reminded me of  Anna's tale of the whining fans of Lawley Hall.

Lawley Hall as it looks today. Anna says it looked
"somewhat different" in his time.
Photo: St. Joseph's College, Trichy
Anna did his BSc Chemistry at St. Joseph's College, Tiruchirappalli, Tamil Nadu. Lawley Hall was their mess hall. When I showed Anna the picture of Lawley Hall on the right, he said that it was "somewhat different" in his time.  The high ceilings anchored fans at regular intervals.  There was more space between the warm-wooden tables and benches. There were fewer photographs hanging below the high windows.

The boys of St. Joseph's College flocked to Lawley Hall for their meals, where the sound of their chatting was completely out-of-tune with the whining of the ceiling fans! For some reason the fans at Lawley Hall whined all the time.  And even though St. Joseph's was famous for it's science degree programs, there seemed to be no one (not one student or teacher or priest) who could quieten the whining fans.

A young working boy.
Source unknown.
Even funnier was how the fans were actually made to work.

30  mins before any meal, all the tables and benches were moved to hug the walls of the hall. Then a young boy (8-12 years old) dressed in a white "divided" dhoti would walk into the hall with a 30-foot bamboo pole and lay it down in the  middle of the hall.

This boy would then go around the hall and switch in all the fans. Low hums would fill the empty hall, but the fans wouldn't move a millimetre. Then the young, bare-chested, "divided" dhoti clad boy would pick up the pole, lock one end on a fan blade and run in circles under the fan, pushing the blades. The faster he ran the faster the blades rotated! And when he felt the blades move on their own, he would quickly pull back the pole and walk to the next fan and repeat the lock-pole-on-blade-and-run-around-in circles routine! By the time he got all the fans running (and whining) the boy would be drenched in sweat!

This happened every day for every meal at Lawley Hall.

It's odd how seemingly mundane happenings can trigger a memory of a story heard years ago.

And it still brings a smile to my face.