THE COOKER WALLAH
Out of all the vendors who frequent our street, the most annoying are the carpet sellers and the cooker repairman. They are annoying because who in the world needs a new carpet everyday or needs to get their pressure cookers repaired everyday like they buy the greens , vegetables or milk. (Yes, unlike in US, we buy fresh milk everyday from the dairy or the milkman). They are more irritating because they are audacious enough to ring the door bell and ask if you require their product or services. My standard answer to these is a loud, decisive, terse ‘No”.
But once when the cooker repair man rang the bell, before I could say ‘no’, Ramu told the fellow to wait and made me bring out all my pressure cookers. I do have quite a few you know.-the big 5 litre one, the small 2 litre ones in aluminium and stainless steel , either with handles missing or some misbehaving when the steam started coming. But the most accommodative wife that I was, I somehow carryied on with no desire to call the cooker man.
The man took a professional look of all my cookers. He enumerated all the repairs and replacements to be carried on to my husband. He explained how a weight that is worn off slips easily from the steam outlet and badly needs to be replaced. When we explained to him how we were not able to get spare handles for the stainless cooker as the company had closed down, he promised to fit it with handles from a similar brand. Being a perfectionist himself who was interested in seeing all the gadgets in top working order, Ramu ordered the repairman to do all the repairs and replacements.
The man ran a bill of Rs 700. More than his work, I was amazed at his correctly spelt English and pearly handwriting in the invoice. His advice regarding the cookers was no less than a doctor’s about the patient.
One year later, when I was busy getting some security additions to the house befitting that of a single woman, the pressure cooker man rang the bell again. I was in no mood to talk to one more person dealing as I was already with the workers. But then I did have certain problems to discuss with him. He solved them and said that the bill came to Rs 280. I paid him Rs 200 and was about get the rest.
He looked at the picture of my husband. It was plain as I did not believe in garlanding it or putting the kumkum on his forehead. I preferred to look at him as he was in real life. The cooker man hesitantly asked me, ”Ma’m , where is Sir?”. I told him that ‘Sir’ was no more. The man said, ”Oh, I am so sorry. How did it happen?” I told him about his brain hemorrhage and the terminal coma. The repairman was very concerned. “I cannot believe this ma’m. After seeing his photo I was hesitant to ask. He was so lively and fit looking last time I saw him. But then brain haemorrhage is a serious thing.’
I excused myself to get the rest of the payment due to him. The gentleman said, ‘Don’t bother yourself ma’m. Just make sure that all your cookers are in good order’ and walked out sadly.