Manjula Padmanabhan | Updated on December 27, 2019 Published on December 27, 2019

Barely had we returned to Delhi last week when things began to fall apart. Inside the house and out. In the case of the kitchen geyser, it literally leapt off the wall... oh okay! Not quite that! But close: There was a BOOM! When I got to the kitchen, smoke and steam were billowing out from the wall.

Bins was there ahead of me, of course. He sprang up the ladder that was already standing in the middle of the room and opened a valve, to let the water drain out. I say “of course” because the other thing that had failed was the water filter and he’d been working on it all morning. It’s the kind that is permanently hooked up and has its own storage container.

Without the water filter we have to go back to boiling water. Which is a major bore, because we’re no longer used to doing it.

Fortunately Bins is an Advanced Handyman (I tried HandyPerson but it sounds vaguely X-rated). He has done battle with the water filter many times before, including wrangling with the incompetent mechanics sent out by the company, ordering spare parts and all the rest of it. By the afternoon of the second day, the filter was spread out in the ex-TV room like a machine-age frog that has just been thoroughly dissected. I say “ex-TV room” because it’s where the TV used to be until it died many years ago and was never replaced.

Whenever I asked, “How’s it going?” he’d mutter about the impossibility of describing mechanical matters to peasants. The geyser had blown up while the filter was still attached to the wall, so Bins redirected his attention towards it. He spent half the day draining water, procuring a new thermostat and making fine adjustments. But in the evening he gave up and went back to fixing the filter. Pliers and screwdrivers were arranged as neatly as in a surgery. Screws of different lengths lay in shiny heaps. Small white plastic connectors like tiny ball-and-socket joints were organised in pairs. A flat wooden board had been drilled through in readiness to receive the reconstituted filter-parts.

All through the afternoon, faint sounds had been filtering in from the world outside the colony’s walls. Shouts and raised voices. Our once-a-week Jeeves claimed that it was a political rally. Then a little later, he came back from the market saying it was a protest march against the CAA and NRC. Now there were explosive sounds. BOOM! It sounded just like the geyser, but farther away. BOOM! A bus had been set afire. Two buses. “People are running through the colony to get away,” said Jeeves. “Their clothes are torn. The police are beating them.”

By night, the sounds outside had quietened down. The filter had been stitched back together in Frankenstein-mode: All its components exposed but properly connected. “It’s working again,” said Bins. “We have water.” Which, in these troubled times is wonderful news indeed.

Manjula Padmanabhan, author and artist, writes of her life in the fictional town of Elsewhere, US, in this weekly column

Published on December 27, 2019
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