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.

1 comment:

  1. Anna clearly embellished & exaggerated the story to make it more funny. My childhood memory of this story is not as sharp as it should be. So some facts are not correct. It seems that Lawley Hall was an examination hall that doubled the English Composition Class for 250 boys on Monday afternoons. I haven't made these changes to the story as I think the story works better as is. I am using storyteller's license!