Friday, May 27, 2011

On the verge of shifting base and getting mentally unhinged

Two days from now, we are throwing our reasonably organised lives into a gargantuan mess by moving to a partially complete and scarcely livable house. 

At this point, let me do it the "filmy" way by going for a flashback to update you on the recent events of my otherwise uninteresting life. This is probably unnecessary for the selected few who follow my life-cycle with considerable interest but since the head-count of these "selected few" is in single digit, it makes more sense to give a general update.

Three months back, on a cold winter morning, while sipping super-heated masala tea, we  suddenly came to the conclusion that we should buy a flat in Gurgaon. I don't recollect the exact rationale, if any, behind this decision but I do remember that it was taken in our usual Quick-Gun-Murugan style - decided before you could say Jack Robinson!! Subsequently, this proved to be a wise decision, as our landlord is coming back to Gurgaon and we anyway would have been forced to move to another flat. 

The next steps were, of course, somewhat more long drawn as it involved finding a suitable flat in Gurgaon, selling our Navi Mumbai flat, applying for loan, applying for NOC from the society and various other mundane stuffs. Arranging the finance was not easy and neither was completing these formalities which usually involves filling long complicated forms where they ask intimate questions like my grandmother's maiden name, colour of my first pet and the measurement of my left thigh. 

We finished these formalities with about 10 days to spare i.e ten days before our landlord is going to arrive and take possession of his lawful abode. The next step is, of course, shifting to  our new house. 

This house that we have bought is not a locked up "Khandahar" of some well meaning gentleman. It is a well lived in flat and people were actually staying there till last month. Theoretically, it is possible to move into this flat without any renovation. We, in the eternal folly that has hounded mankind ever since they started building houses, chose to do "a few things" before we move in. And this single step was the beginning of a nerve-wrecking Odyssey that is likely to hound us for another month or so.
"A few things", we soon came to realize, is a large basket of ideas and can put even the Buckingham palace to shame. After many hours of contemplation, most of it consisting of looking at our bank balances and feeling miserable about it, we decided that we will get the flat painted, put new tiles on the floors and the sanitary fittings replaced. Simple and basic, isn’t it ? Not quite. 

To replace the sanitary fittings, we had to break a few tiles of the bathroom. And by a deep rooted conspiracy of the tile manufacturers, any design of tile is available at best for 2 years. This automatically means, we have to replace the entire set of bathroom tiles. From there, the next logical step is also to replace the embedded pipes of the bathroom and then, of course, the electrical fittings also need to be changed get the drift. 

Long and short of it is that we now have the following set of people working simultaneously in our house :
- a plumber 
- a masonry fellow (who also does the tile job)
- an electrician
- a carpenter 
- a painter
- a welder 

What made matters worse is the fact that all these aforementioned gentlemen have some peculiar characteristics which, under the present time-critical situation, is quite a hindrance in completing the project on time. A quick summary of these characteristics are as below :

a) Mr. Rajkumar, the painter is a loner who cannot work when other people are in the same room as he is. He also has difficulty in communicating what he wants and expects that you will, somehow, read into his sub-conscious psychological abyss and extract the relevant information. He also refuses to give his own opinion and prefers to take the stand "Jaise aap kahiyega (As you wish, sir"). This, occasionally, can push you to a stage when you would wish that you had a loaded Kalashnikov or Uzi sub-machine gun handy. 

b) Mr. Nandan, the masonry worker feels that his work is not being appreciated and he is not getting the due respect for his job. For example, he resented bitterly when one of his precious tiles showed a slight scratch (less than 6 inch long). He complained in the most vociferous manner that this has happened due to the dastardly behavior of the carpenter, who, apparently is the miscreant. Other workers like the electrician et al tried to pacify him by stating that this sore spot will disappear if rubbed vigorously was met with contempt and disdain and fortified his belief that nobody appreciates his job. Left to himself, he would have broken up every tile of the floor and relaid them but alas, in these troubled times, nobody appreciates a true artist.

c) Mr. Prakash, the plumber, believes that it is his duty to forgive the follies of his fellow human beings in the true Christian spirit of "they know not what they do". This sentiment, unfortunately extends towards his employers as well and it is almost impossible to instruct him about how a job should be done. Forceful statements and high decibels does not work with him and the only way is to tentatively give a suggestion and then tip-toe around it in a delicate manner to craftily guide it towards the desired result. This is a time consuming process and also tests your diplomatic skills to their limits. 

d) Mr. Baidyanath, the electrician, does not believe in schedules, dates and deadlines. Time, in his opinion, is just an instantaneous point in the infinite space-time continuum of the universe and it is therefore stupid to argue about why something, which was to be done yesterday, is still pending. He dons has a beatific smile when he fails to meet a commitment (a situation which occurs with an alarming regularity) and remains unperturbed by any verbal missile that you might throw at him. 

So the D-day is alarmingly near and the progress is not what it should have been. For the past week, every dawn had been bringing in new hope for me and the dusk had been bringing back the broken fragments of this hope.  I suspect that our entry into the house will be almost an archeological expedition where we have to wade our way through broken pieces of tiles, marbles and conduits, empty and partially full paint cans and a team of workmen recruited from the mad hatter’s tea party who have no intention of leaving us ever. 

How I wish that I had the powers to say “Off with their heads” like the Red Queen in Alice in Wonderland!!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Yesterday, no more !!

There are bad days and there are bad days. And there are those days when everything goes wrong. Yesterday seemed to be one of those.
It began with an ominous sign. Involuntarily, I woke up at 6:30 in the morning on a Saturday. It was not provoked by one of those "some people laze around while I have to toil till my bones get pickled" stuff from my wife or my daughter deciding that my reclining enormous body mass is a good for practicing rock climbing. I woke up without any external stimulus and was in a pensive mood, not being able to figure out what was wring with me. 
I made some tea (was a disaster as I was in a contemplative mood and therefore the timing had gone for a toss), roamed listlessly and then tried to make some breakfast (boiled the living daylights out of the instant porridge for my daughter) without any spectacular success. 
I decided to spend some "quality" time with my daughter (for the less-informed ones : it is now considered fashionably metro-sexual to play some "kiddish" games with your daughter as long as you package it with some pithy advises like "your only competition is with yourself; keep trying" or "understand the hidden morality while you apply the crayons on your Barbie"). After several moments of careful pondering, I decided that golf would be a good bet. 
Let me explain this a bit, lest you start imagining that I stay in one of those sprawling bungalow with an attached mini-golf course. Sprawling bungalow, forsooth !! Golf, for me and my daughter, is played in our 12' X 8' drawing room with a plastic golf club which, in reality, is a container for selling jelly beans. The ball is a tennis ball which had appeared on our balcony courtesy some wannabe Sachin Tendulkar trying to hit a sixer. An empty blue can, which, at some point of time, housed an "Indigo" USB stick acts as the golf hole. This is, in fact, the only part of the Indigo USB stick package which is serving any purpose; the USB stick itself had decided to die a happy death within 72 hrs of purchasing the same from a lissome air hostess of Indigo airlines with a brilliant smile (Life's lesson # 32 : Never buy a USB memory stick just because the air hostess has a lovely pair of legs. The sex appeal of the air hostess has nothing to do with the effectiveness of the device in question). 
Coming back to the game of golf; my daughter beat me to it. There are several reasons to it like 
a) She plays in a unique style wherein she uses the golf club like a hockey stick and drags the ball with it till it is about 10 cm from the hole (or Indigo can, if you want to be technical about it).
b) The plastic golf club swaggers like swagging walking sticks which the Hollywood villains of 1940s used to flaunt
c) Playing golf forces you to bend down, a process which causes excruciating pain in the lumbar region. Also the substantial layers of near-permanent fat around the midriff also causes some trouble in breathing. 
After getting beaten thrice in a row, I decided to give it up. This "quality time" was getting on to my nerves and I decided that a return to the traditional tough father was in order. I decided that it is now study time for the kiddo.
Nowadays, there is something called EVS in their curriculum. The full form of EVS has been carefully concealed but from what I could gather, it is designed to teach general knowledge to children. I started with "sense organs" and tried to explain to my daughter that nose is for smell. She promptly pointed out that it is for making noises - the kind I make while I am sleeping. I let it pass, though made a careful note of it for taking up with the missus ("Where is she learning all these stuffs? No respect for parents...blah blah blah). Next were the eyes, wherein she commented that I keep them closed whenever I am at home as I am usually sleeping. She also masqueraded my alleged use of eyes and nose with an astonishing degree of accuracy. 
She seemed to have a more than necessary grip on "sense organs", I decided to switch to "My family". Here I explained her "Father", "Mother", "Parents" etc and the progress was generally peaceful till we reached "siblings". Things started hot at this stage as incisive questions like why she does not have any siblings, how are children born, why we cannot get a sibling next day morning etc were asked. Things really started getting out of hand when she started asking whether the "guard" is a "brother" of the "maid" and why they always hold hands and wink at each other. Enough education for the day, I concluded. Let the "idiot-box nanny" with her unending series of Tom and Jerry take over. 
It was nearing lunch time and nothing to eat in the house. I decided to drive down to a newly opened eatery and check it out. It is a joint called Big Mouth and has some very fancy stuffs like "Chammak Challo" (Lachcha Parantha with dal, curd, pickle), " Kuddi Panjaab Di" (Chawal with Rajma) and similar stuffs. The key offering seemed to be a dish called "Murgi Phansi Jaal Me" (which, simply put, is chicken curry and rice). I decided to play safe and bought a couple of kathi rolls. These were the weirdest rolls I had ever consumed - a thin semi-cooked roti wrapping mashed Chinese style non-veg stuffs and capsicums by the dozen. 
In the evening, I tried another round of golf with the daughter - this time with a hockey stick and in the garage. The results were not dramatically different except that since I was outdoor, I felt as parched as a blotting paper. A dash to the refrigerator revealed that we are in the midst of a severe urban crisis, namely, lack of soft drink / beer / fruit juice in the house. Oh darn! 
I was brave enough (and optimist enough) to think that I can salvage the situation by cooking dinner myself. I sometimes cook on holidays and I always find it to be relaxing. Today being today, I chose a safe dish - Pasta, something which I cook rather well on my normal days. Today, however, things were not quite the same. Despite adding mushrooms in copious quantities, spring onions, capsicum, origano, cheese, more cheese, more origano, can of tuna, boiled eggs, the result was a huge bowl of white bland tasty-as-cardboard pasta!! The dinner was as cheerful as a funeral dinner with daughter giving strange expressions while pushing the stuff down her esophagus and wife munching the stuff with a moody silence. I tried to make light of the situation with a great deal of small talk but this valiant effort on my side was met with Al Capone-ish looks from the feminine side of the family. 
Finally, the night quietly flowed it. The daughter dozed off to a deep slumber, the wife was still  busy on the net and I was feeling drained of all energy and wanted to have a quiet death. Just when I was closing my eyes, my wife spoke with a spine-chilling surety in her voice :
"Hope you have not used too many utensils and have not made the kitchen very dirty!! The maid might not come tomorrow". 
I rolled over to the other side, hiding my face from my wife and trying not to think what her reaction would be when she enters the kitchen the next day morning. Amen!!