Micro infernal

Manjula Padmanabhan | Updated on April 26, 2019 Published on April 26, 2019

It’s the morning of Bins’s birthday. As per normal, this fact must never be mentioned in his presence nor any effort made to mark the day. “It’s totally pagan,” he says, his French accent expressing itself with special force, “and my parents were proud, practising atheists. We did not believe in these superficial displays! We did not give gifts. We did not take gifts. We were pure and abstract.”

I, meanwhile, am wholly pagan in this respect: I love birthday celebrations. So every year, I manage to destroy Bins’s celebrated purity by doing something, however minor and meaningless, to sabotage the austerity of his ways. This year, my sisters enter the fray by conspiring to ordering a piece of kitchen hardware on Amazon. I am sworn to secrecy a couple of days in advance.

So on the morning of the sacred day, there’s a knock on the door. “It’s for you,” I say. “Why?” says Bins, his hackles rising. “Did you order something for my ... uhhh ... completely ordinary day?” “Of course not,” I say, “but I’m not expecting anything, so it must be for you.” He slouches off then, towards the door.

When he opens it, I hear him gasp. “Whaooo!” he says, making the sound that Asterix makes when he sees the Roman army advancing upon a Gaulish village that need defending. “For me? No! It cannot be — but — okay, I must sign here? You’re sure it is for me? Whaoo. Thank you. Goodbye.” The door slams. Scraping sounds. “She has sent me an elephant!” huffs Bins, as he pushes an enormous carton into the room. Deep within its styrofoam womb is a gleaming little microwave oven. Courtesy of my sisters.

Bins looks at it with poison darts coming out of his eyes. “Bah!” he snorts. “Microwave ovens are agents of the Devil!!” When I remind him that he’s an atheist he says, “Yah, but when I see the Devil, I believe in him!” Microwave ovens are unnatural, he says. “They cause abortions in mice.” “But we’re not pregnant mice!” I protest. “We’re just coffee drinkers and popcorn eaters who like to heat things up quickly!”

“Popcorn is bad for soon-to-be-diabetics like you,” he reminds me. “I can use it for heating up my quinoa sprouts,” I say, doggedly. “I can zap my zoodles in it and nuke my cauli-rice.” “See?” he says. “Microwave emissions are frying your brain — you’re talking gibberubbish — and we’ve not even plugged the thing in!!” I roll my eyes at him. “Zoodles are noodles made from zucchini and cauli-rice is made by whizzing cauliflower florets in a food processor!”

“Pure mumbo mixed with jumbo,” he says firmly. I try my last shot. “If you plug it in, I’ll make us some tea.” He gives me a withering look and plugs in The Beast. As the fragrant scent of fresh Darjeeling tea wafts across the room, peace descends upon the Gaulish village. “Ahh,” says Bins. “The Devil has his uses.”

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

Published on April 26, 2019
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