He was lurking in the compounds, with, of all things, three emersion rods in his hands. What would a man be doing in someone else’s house flaunting devices to heat water in such a manner? We gave him a look and he just shuffled his feet somewhere else, looking around shiftily, like an amateur detective. He had grimy salt and pepper hair which was arranged in disarray on his thin long head. He wore something maroon I remember. Was it his sweater? Most likely. Can’t be his pants. Definitely. He didn’t have the look of a person who experimented with his clothes. So there he was, looking lost and trying to figure out whether this is where he wanted to be.
* * *
I hadn’t bathed in time frames that defy normalcy and so my haste to check whether there was hot water in the HUGE orange bucket (those tall HUGE fellows which don’t fit anywhere in the bathroom) was justified. I ran up the steps, turning back just once to look at the ridiculous guy with his ridiculous rods (no matter what they say, I think puns are always intended). I removed the emersion rod in the bucket and checked the temperature of the water. “The water is lukewarm, another 10 minutes and I’ll be having a luxurious bath.” My whole day had gone by in the hope of this one bath and thus, no matter what you believe, it was imperative for me to get this one thing done. As if I would accomplish all there was to accomplish, as if I would suddenly become the clean good person we are supposed to be. I smugly put the emersion rod back to heat the water. The bath day had come!
Suddenly, things began to happen very fast. Bhaiya (the landowner, self-confessed worshipper of all things electric and usually sloth-like person) was seen running at speeds of light to the bathroom where I stood. Within seconds, the emersion rod was unceremoniously yanked off its socket and pushed into the bucket. Fast on his heels, the unknown pseudo Holmes came, sniffed at the air and looked around the bathroom in this irritating self-important manner that was at total loggerheads with his persona. He looked at the orange bucket suspiciously.
(Imagine the conversation in Ladakhi)
“What is in this?”
“Nothing, only water”, stammered Bhaiya (poor acting if you’d ask me).
“Then let’s see...”
And of course the offending emersion rod was discovered, wet and guilty. The triumphant look in unknown pseudo Holmes’ eyes was a sight to behold. The guy got kicks from confiscating peoples’ emersion rods! In this freaking cold, where geysers are banned because of the scarcity of electricity and these rods are our only path to hot water! The guy must be a sadist. When he was a kid he must have been the boy who tattled to the teacher about who stuck chewing gum to her chair. I could’ve struck him then and there and got back the rod (just as well I didn’t, he turned out to be an “Assistant Linesman” which makes him a government employee and striking such a man for something like an emersion rod would not seem too convincing in court I think).
After that, unknown pseudo Holmes searched the entire house. Downstairs, another emersion was discovered and captured in unfettered delight. We groaned and pleaded with him. I even ran after him shrieking, “I want to bathe. Pleeeeeeeeease give us back at least one rod.” To which he looked back at me in such disdain, it’s a marvel I didn’t wither. Before leaving he said, “Sharam aani chahiye aapko, ek ghar mein do do rod lagate ho. Pandrah laakh ka transformer phuk
kal. Huh.” gaya
Right then and there I hated him SO much. Here was this goon, walking away with my only hope for a bath, and that too with such aplomb. Yes he was doing his job, but STILL. I heard Bhaiya mutter profanities under his breath. That made me smile. Then Bhabhi returned (she had gone shopping to get us some veggies...brinjal costs 160/- per kg here hoohaha!!!!! Lemons are an appalling 120/- per kg!!) and shrieked out profanities. That comforted me a great deal. I entered the kitchen, to rehash and laugh over the incident. In spite of the lost bath, the absurdity of the entire event had me in splits. Bhaiya was sitting there, in the middle of an impressive assortment of wires, screws, heating elements, screwdrivers and what nots. He was, of course, making another emersion rod. “Koi nahin Chandni, kal subah tak garam paani mil jayega nahane ko.”