Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Harry and the Magic Broom

Often it happens that me, aspiring Business Consultant in Bangalore turns into a very bumbling baby-sitter once I reach home in Cochin. My sister’s kids ensure that I keep myself fit chasing them and retrieve the myriad toys which lie around the house. A wailing two-something once forced me to hunt for the yellow tennis-ball in the space below the staircase…
I didn’t find the tennis ball ……………but instead there it sat; like Zidane after the World cup Finals match; the erstwhile star of the household. Our old Eureka Forbes vacuum cleaner

I still remember the day when it came home one day 15 odd years ago....
The door opened revealing the Eureka Forbes Man. White shirt, blue trousers and ..."A striped TIE"!! I hadn’t seen anyone in a tie except in movies!!!! And there was a snazzy motorbike parked behind him in the yard
I’m "Harry" ! he said; (Wow! "Not Hari, nor Harish; but Harry! Pure Hollywood!!!) And he would be demonstrating to us "the vacuum cleaner" a new wonder gizmo deemed to render housemaids obsolete.
He unzipped his black bag and revealed the long white-and-red contraption with a crumpled looking tube. Also out came a couple more of other futuristic looking tubes with weird shaped nozzles and brushes in the end. The entire family stood open-mouth in rapt-attention. With steely determination, the man began assembling the entire device as confidently as Rambo assembling his bazooka.
"Where can I plug this in" he asked.. Reverentially we showed him the plug point.
Rambo was ready now. He lifted a socks clad foot to switch on the machine… A deft click and a helicopter-like-whirring sound filled the room. Our man got to work. He ran the brush at the end of the tube on the mosaic floor; on the walls; the window-sill, behind the curtains and carefully shaved the chin of the Kathakali figure on the wall. We stayed quiet; and even my chatterbox-sister didn’t dare to breathe lest it disturbed his concentration. Then, at the end of around 5 minutes he once again lifted his sock-clad foot.. Another deft click and the whirring stopped.
We were all looking at him expectantly…..
Our man seemed satisfied by the effort and asked us to gather around. And we did. He clicked another button and head-section open and the top section of the contraption sprang open.
He held the now opened device by the sides and lifted it as if it was the Holy Grail itself. He invited us to take a look inside it. Each of us looked in and …GASPED!! Never had I seen such a repository of filth in the world. A strategically placed paper bag inside the device held a hell lot of dust, cobwebs, bangle pieces and even a 50 paise coin which had rolled under the book shelf months back.
Jeez ! Were we living in the midst of such dirt and never even knew about it? Dad remarked that we were paying the maid for nothing and Mom couldn’t agree more. (I pocketed the coin in between the confusion).
Harry now launched into a soliloquy. He talked of how we home-dwellers were ignorant of the dirt that pervaded the house. Entire "Hum Aap Ke Hain Kaun" size joint families of germs and bacteria were staying at our home and we did not even realize it!
Suddenly he turned to my little sis and asked "Don’t you often get attacks of cold and have sniffling all the time?"
"No!!!" She answered looking bewildered.
"NO??????????, don’t lie, I heard you sniffle a couple of times; don’t you often catch a cold??? Tell me the truth!! He demanded"
My sis wilted under the pressure. "Yes, sometimes; I catch a cold!"
"See??" He exclaimed once again triumphantly. "The kids are getting diseases because of the dust and dirt in the house. Bacteria, Viruses, Amoebas!! And look at that book-shelf there. Its got termites and …"Silver Fish"
"Silverfish??" Now that sounded cool. I always wanted a Goldfish ; but I never realized we already had Silverfish at home. "Silverfish??" I asked expectantly. Dad mentioned the Malayalam equivalent of the name and it didn’t sound so glamorous anymore....
(Disclaimer Silverfish is not related to Silverine in any way).
He continued" These pasts and micro-organisms really affect everything; it even affects the brain cells of little boys. …
For example…"
He turned to me "What was the rank you got in the last School Onam Examination?" Now, that was below the belt.
I kept my head low.."I was 17th…. I think"
"Aaha!! There you have it" he exclaimed turning to Mom. If the house is kept free of bacteria you can expect him to be at least First every time.
That was the clincher!!! Mom would now lobby with Dad to buy the Vacuum Cleaner. Her colleagues were somehow all uniformly blessed with extremely bright and gifted progeny. This awesome set of child prodigies invariably scored obscenely high marks in everything especially Math... And their mothers apparently had no lunch time topic but the awe-inspiring academic adventures of these enfant terribles. Obviously my Mom had an embarrassing time. But now, she had the answer. It was those miserable set of micro-organisms inhabiting the household which was playing havoc with my Maths marks!
Which parents would like to toy with the future of their kids? What is mere 4,000 bucks compared to that? Luckily Harry had a voucher we could sign and he casually mentioned that vacuum cleaner prices were going up after the budget. It was now or never. Dad signed the voucher and wrote a cheque. Harry promised to deliver the Vacuum cleaner in a couple of days
Harry’s entire performance had been magical, years before his magical namesake.
"How much do you get paid?" Dad asked him in jest. "Would like to send him (he nodded at me) to your company for a job". That moment I would have been more than glad. Wear a tie, zip around on a motorbike…Man, I’d love that!! (Unlike most boys of my age, my ambitions were decidedly Yuppy-ish; I was never inclined to be a pilot nor fire-fighter! )
They delivered the machine as promised. By virtue of the divine authority bestowed on him on being the Head of the Family" ; Dad was the unanimous choice for operating it. Under our watchful eyes, he assembled the device almost as confidently just as Harry did and plugged it in.
We held our breath as he switched it on. This was the moment of truth! And then….…the whirring started! Dad looked relieved. He vacuumed the Living Room and as was to become the ritual; we all gathered around to open the cover and look at the paper bag inside………And it never disappointed. There was the expected collection of dirt and dust; to which we said "uggghhhh" in unision.
I caught the "Vacuuming Bug" soon. From Disappear-from-home-at-the-mention-of-housework-boy; I metamorphosed into a Enthusiastic-Vacuumizer boy. I vacuumed my room with devotion. The shelf, under the bed and dirty sneakers. I even used the nozzle to give a nose job to the Michael Jackson poster (we didn’t have too many idolize-able icons those days, you see). I fought with my sis to vacuum the dining room. We’d gleefully scoop up broken bits of glass with the nozzle and sometimes even oops, knock down a glass so that we could suck it up with a vacuum cleaner!
"Hasta-la-vista baby" I 'd tell a spider scurrying from his erstwhile "webite" before it got sucked into the vacuum cleaner nozzle.
This device was just too awesome! We were debating whether to give the pink slip to the maid-servant but Mom was sensible enough to retain her and just alter her Job Description to cooking. Afterall; the vacuum cleaner could do almost anything but cook! We even once used its blower function and paint to create abstract paintings. We cut those up and sent them to people as Christmas cards
Despite all those ways in which the vacuum cleaner revolutionized our household, somewhere down the line; things changed. I noticed that my sister didn’t fight with me anymore to vacuum the dining room. She was becoming increasingly magnanimous in that aspect (which was quite unlike her). The lack of competition made the task of vacuuming rather unchallenging.
Sensing the shortage and lack of enthusiasm of volunteers, Mom now devised a routine where one of us vacuums the room and the maid wipes the floor later. Giving the maid the Vacuum cleaner for operation would have been unthinkable earlier; but later for want of volunteers- she was entrusted the device with detailed instructions for use. Well, she had however not been convinced about the benefits of technology as she had missed Harry’s spiel. Hence she still preferred her trustworthy broom (a Nimbus 2000 if I remember right; or was it a Firebolt? ;-) ) and used to leave the vacuum cleaner in the corridor.
After a couple of incidents where people tripped over the vacuum cleaner in the corridor ; mom took the contraption; zipped it up in the bag it came in & put it in the space below the stairs to be used only once a month.This became once in a couple of months soon and later - once in half an year.And there it sits -dusty dirty and forgotten.Guess it still works though. But you have to dust it with a broom first before touching it :-)