A Saga Of A Different Kind

Part 1

It all began quite innocuously on a Sunday morning when I answered the door-bell to find my neighbor, staying in the flat directly below ours, standing out. I did the civil thing, invited him in. He stood his ground not making a move accepting my invitation. That’s when I noticed his usually grim face now grimmer by several shades. I inquired solicitously if he was having problems parking his car because mine was parked out of line. Or if he wanted me to join him in the latest protest that he was about to lodge with my next-door neighbor whose servant had this strange habit of dumping the garbage just outside of the bin, though only half of it to be fair, give or take a few soiled baby-nappies and some vegetable peelings and splintered coconut shells. Before I could continue with my speculations, the amiable neighbor hastened put me to the right. He said it had to do with the matter that he had already brought to my notice on two previous occasions in the recent past.

Now I could connect it up. Let me recall the proceedings of the first instance. It was about water was dripping unchecked from the ceiling of his bedroom in the far corner. And at times he collected more water coming down from the ceiling than from the taps. I commiserated with him right off the bat – after all it is not easy to retire to the comfort of one’s bed after a hard day with the unceasing ‘tup-tup’ assaulting one’s senses begging for rest. I offered him all the help to mitigate his misery, though it wasn’t clear what could be done – this was nothing like what the legendary Dutch boy had on his hand. That’s when he pointed out in even tone his bedroom was located close under the toilet in my flat – a fact that could not be disputed nor could be altered easily. Was he hinting that water was seeping from the floor of my toilet? But then there had been no mention about any olfactory assault. He was entirely in the wrong – the corroboratory evidence was not presented. Now it was my turn to put him in the right. It was none other than the monsoon that was the culprit, I explained. The rains lashed against the side-walls and the water was seeping through the cracks in the walls. The side-walls required filling up of the cracks and re-plastering from outside – it was as simple as that. The evidence was there clear as day-light for all to see – the walls had large discolored patches all over and at places even sported moss growth in brilliant green as a precursor to supporting a richer variety of foliage. In the face of such strong evidence he withdrew muttering something about giving it a little more time.

The second encounter was a brief one when some weeks later we ran into each other on the staircase when he reported ‘tup-tup’ now turning into ‘tup-tup-tup’ and walked away with a show of exasperation without waiting for a response.

I have seen life throwing up two kinds of problems in my way. The first kind stands up, hurts you and that’s the end of it – makes no further demands. The second kind keeps coming back, worse than before, and gnawing at you bite-at-a-time, however skillfully you volley it away, until the final denouement. Now, there he was standing before me asking me firmly to follow him to his flat and his bedroom. It is never easy to be in someone else’s bedroom and be nonchalant about it – I kept my eyes mostly trained on the offending part of the ceiling. There it was, bad enough – the recently applied paint had bubbled up like boils on body, water dripping at two or three places though far from the bed, plastic buckets placed underneath to collect the water. The buckets had to be emptied every four hours, I was told. There was an alarming new development on the day before, he proceeded to update me in the manner of a TV news-reader announcing the break-out of small-pox somewhere in the country: The electrical wiring running in that part of the room burnt itself out after an awesome display of fireworks that had everyone running for the hills and beyond. The electric fan was rendered inoperative without the juice. The electrician had grandly declared no fix could be applied until the walls dried up. And, it had not rained for the last three or four weeks – not a wisp of a cloud in the sky. So my toilet was back in the cross-wires. The problem seemed to have assumed more serious proportions than I had imagined. I returned home with my tail between the legs promising him quick action.

The family plumber was urgently summoned from whatever plumbers did on a Sunday afternoon. You guessed it right – we had a family plumber, a family mason, and so with the electrician, the carpenter, the painter, the car mechanic, the repairmen for the PC, air-conditioner, the washing-machine and the TV, not counting the tailor, the chemist, the locksmith and a multitude of others needed to keep the house humming. Whoever said life is a breeze, you can be certain, hasn’t kept his house. I’m digressing. Back to the plumber, I took him to the neighbor’s flat to have a first-hand look at the errant ceiling. One glance and the expert made sure of his assignment by pronouncing my toilet guilty.

Back in my flat, the negotiation began on the scope of work and the charges. He made me two offers, one for ten years of leak-proof roof for my neighbor and another for twenty years. I was curious to know how he timed those years so precisely. My wife jumped in to say we must get brightly colored tiles that were are not too smooth to be slippery and not too rough to collect dirt. The tough spec was no problem at all, we were assured – there was just that kind of tiles brought out recently by a manufacturer, only marginally more expensive. My mother had always found the commode not very convenient to use – the seat was a little low causing her pain at the knees. There were larger commodes now available, we learnt, that gave at least an additional inch. If that were not enough he would fit it on a raised pedestal to give more inches. I dismissed visions of climbing a ladder of steps to get to the top of the commode. She also wanted rails on the sides to hold. I lauded his professional expertise when he suggested a space-saving valve-type flush instead of the traditional tank and lever type. Before you ask me for his card, I must tell you the said contraption assured him of a quarterly service call – of course, chargeable.

There was one last metaphorical ‘cloud in the sky’ – the real ones were gone long since, as reported earlier. What would one do if the only toilet in the flat went under repairs? That was not part of the toilet training we had taken. The professional had thought of it too – he would arrange it in a way that we would be discommoded for only four hours on the first day and for the night. It appeared to be manageable. The scope defined, bargain driven – he agreed to set off all of fifty rupees against the only salvageable item, the flush tank that was being replaced – the job started on the following Monday. To his credit, he finished it late evening on Tuesday as promised.

The debris was cleared away and the tools collected by his help. They changed from the workmen’s into regular civvies. I thanked him for his prompt attention and paid him off. He was ready to take leave when he suddenly remembered and brought up the subject of this post: We were in ‘potty’ luck. He was able to dismantle the commode intact – he wasn’t sure of it when he started out. He wanted to know what would we like to do with it.

(To be contd.)

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3 Responses to A Saga Of A Different Kind

  1. gopal says:

    Commode Commotion ! good one Raghu..A leaky Roof , Friendly neighborhood & disposal..What happened to the leaking roof finally…
    Gopal

    Like

  2. Kannan says:

    Life is such fun (as long as you are not the lead player)

    Like

  3. Trisha says:

    very well written.

    Like

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