Cat and Mouse Games

September 13, 2018

SleepyEyesSleepy Eyes climbed over the fence carrying a huge rat by the scruff of its neck. The rat wasn’t dead yet, but it would be soon, thought Sleepy Eyes happily. Such a big one – it would be food enough for her and her kittens. There they were: Piglet and Duffer. Stupid names, given by the humans; couldn’t they see he was a kitten, not a piglet? So he had a bit of a snub nose. That didn’t make him a piglet! After all, if he was a piglet, what did that make her? Stupid humans! Sleepy Eyes snorted as indignantly as she could without letting go of the rat. It wasn’t easy. Duffer was a slightly more accurate moniker, she had to admit. The small brown fellow was as cute as anything, but nobody could accuse him of being smart. Just the other day he’d been sitting outside the gate, a mere three feet away from a big brown dog. Of course the humans had seen that. One of them hurriedly picked him up and threw him inside the gate. Then they had also seen him the next day, scrambling for dear life as another big brown dog chased him across the street. He’d only just saved his hide by crawling under the gate. It was a close shave. Of course, all cats had such close shaves at some point – that was how you separated the wheat from the chaff, thought Sleepy Eyes with just a hint of smugness. Only, when Duffer got into those scrapes, you tended to pray for him; it was so apparent that he didn’t have a lot going on in his head. He was going to end up being chaff someday soon.

They’d seen her now. Duffer just watched lazily, but Piglet was off at a run, bounding over the grass toward her. In a trice, he had wrestled the rat from her jaws. Sleepy Eyes gave in reluctantly. He was her son, after all, her first born in fact. Having got hold of the rat, Piglet ran off to the middle of the lawn. Idiot. A sensible cat took his prey to a secret hiding place. And he was holding it all wrong, from the butt instead of the neck. Holding it from the neck, there was some chance of puncturing a vein and letting it bleed to death. But Piglet didn’t know that yet. The rat was almost as big as he was, and much older and much, much smarter. Piglet laid it down on the grass and didn’t know what to do next.

Ah, there was Mister Black. A big, strong, handsome tom, with glossy black fur, a long, thick tail, and menacing green eyes. The humans didn’t like him, but Sleepy Eyes didn’t mind him. True, he had killed at least one of her half-sister-from-another-litter’s kittens and had made a good attempt to kill the other four as well. But that was just him doing his best to pass on his genes like a good tom should. Kill the other toms’ kittens and mate with the mother as soon as she’s ready. That made sense. Sleepy Eyes, very sensibly, had mated with him and with all the other toms in the neighborhood. She only had two kittens but nobody knew whose they were, so everybody left them alone. That was the way to do it. Mister Black didn’t trouble her kittens at all.

The humans always chased Mister Black away. And there was a human watching them now. This one, the woman, wasn’t so inimical towards Mister Black, but Mister Black knew better than to trust any member of this race. He threw Piglet a disdainful look and strolled off majestically, ignoring the woman.

Piglet let go of the rat’s butt and the rat promptly limped away, heading, for some reason, towards Duffer, who had trotted along to see what all the excitement was about. Noticing this belligerent beast almost as big as him heading in his direction, Duffer promptly jumped a few feet back and looked around for protection. Piglet, rather nonplussed at this turn of events, followed carefully behind the rat. Sleepy Eyes sighed. It was going to be a long, hard battle now.

The rat found a nice leafy spot to hide in. Sleepy Eyes goaded him with a quick, careful paw. He jumped. They both waited a few minutes and then she tried again. He jumped again. He was big, he was evil, he wasn’t significantly wounded, and he sure as hell wasn’t going down without a fight. He had a tiny mouth full of sharp teeth and tiny beady black eyes that tracked her every move. He jumped, he growled, he did the rat version of snapping. Sleepy Eyes was not a big cat. Piglet was useless, Duffer was worse than useless and everyone, even the rat, knew that cats didn’t hunt in packs.

The action progressed sporadically from one bush to another. Once, for a few minutes, the rat maneuvered himself out of cover into a sandy patch and Sleepy Eyes thought she had him. But no. He jumped, snarled, and scurried around until he found a thick patch of Pentas to hide under. Try as she might, Sleepy Eyes could hardly get a paw through to whack him.

Then The Lil Girl turned up. She was Sleepy Eyes’ twin, but neither of them cared to remember that anymore. They tolerated each other, more or less (Sleepy Eyes more, The Lil Girl less), but The Lil Girl was a good hunter. She’d been known to catch squirrels, even pigeons on a lucky day. And plenty of rats, of course. The Lil Girl eyed the action in a desultory fashion. She didn’t seem to fancy the odds, so she sat down next to the Pentas and started to wash her face. The cheek of it, thought Sleepy Eyes. At least she could have shown some interest. After all, The Lil Girl had a brood to feed as well. Of course, they were still walnut sized, eyes still closed, nowhere near eating solids yet, but all the same. A lactating mother needs her protein.

Sleepy Eyes sighed as the rat, sensing her distraction, made a run for it. For a large, overweight rodent, he was surprisingly nimble and in a flash he had scrambled over the wall, up the fence, shimmied up a drain pipe and leapt into the first floor balcony of the next building. Sleepy Eyes gave chase, but her heart wasn’t in it. She couldn’t shimmy up the drain pipe, she knew that much for sure. And such a large and aggressive beast, was he even worth it? She’d already wasted a good 45 minutes playing cat and mouse games with him in the garden. She stared up at the balcony wistfully. There goes dinner, she thought sadly, as Piglet came bounding up to her and Duffer watched from below, trying to find a route that worked for him. Dinner would have to be cow’s milk from the stupid humans again. Cow’s milk! As if any self-respecting cat ever ate cow’s milk. And they had chicken tonight, she had smelled it. Humans were funny – the brought their catch home smelling nice and fresh, raw, bloody, just begging to be eaten. Then they made it cold. Then they mixed it with a lot of foul and toxic things like onions (sheer poison! Humans really didn’t know anything!) and garlic (seriously!? Garlic!?!) and then they made it really hot and then they ate it. Such a waste!

Oh, well, thought Sleepy Eyes sadly as she climbed down and ambled over to lie in the shade with Duffer and Piglet. There will be more rats to hunt. Tomorrow is another day.

Twirling Dervish

July 1, 2013

I thought this was hilarious. It’s written by my mother.
Why do people eat noodles? Why do people eat spaghetti? This is not a rhetorical question, like why do people eat food? I am trying to get to the bottom of what it is about noodles and spaghetti that makes them the preferred mode, for a number of people, of ingesting carbohydrates.

Appearance wise they do not have a lot going for them. They look like long worms suffering from anaemia and anorexia. The flat forms, in addition, appear to have been run over by a steamroller, not having sufficient energy due to the prevailing indispositions to get out of the way in time. In the raw state they look like very thin sticks, matchsticks if you will but very long ones. Once they have undergone the ordeal of boiling water they flop around, lifelessly if the exposure has been overlong, with a little spring if it has been too short. One can’t tell by looking at them, but applying a finger will establish that they are slimy. At this point there is no way of overcoming these drawbacks.

Noodles and their ilk have no taste unless they have been severely doctored. They are made with refined white flour (or rice flour), which has no taste. The flour is mixed with water, which also has no taste. Sometimes an egg or two is added, but eggs are not known for taste either, as witness a kiss without a mustache. The resulting mix, having been shaped, is put into boiling water which may or may not have been salted and which is thrown out anyway after the creatures are cooked.

However if one has got this far then it behoves one to improve the glaggy pile of gluten and starch with a sauce, with meats and veggies and herbs and seasonings. It is possible that it – the gluten and starch – functions as a base for the said sauce, meats and veggies, but it is less likely to complement the concoction and more likely, in fact, to require additional seasoning to counteract its essential tastelessness, see para above. Care has to be exercised to ensure that the meats and veggies are not robbed, not completely swindled, of their own flavours and textures. If sufficient precautions aren’t taken the meats and veggies will languish on the sidelines, humans will starve for lack of flavoursome nourishment, and noodles will overrun the planet.

To get back to my first question. See above. I can’t be bothered to type it out again. It’s not really a matter of why, but of how. I had seen it on tv, and when we went to Rome I saw it for real. There is a pile of long white things, which I am going to call noodles for the sake of brevity, in front of one, on a plate, maybe some sauce, some bits of veggie and some bits of meat. There is a fork. I will not even try to get into chopsticks. One picks up the fork, inserts it into the pile, collects a few noodles and twirls it around to make a tidy bundle, though some laggards fall by the wayside. When the fork is sufficiently loaded it is raised to mouth level. At this point, inevitably, there will be one or two strings of noodle hanging from it, unless one is well practised. The forkful is conveyed into one’s mouth and the hangers-on are sucked in afterwards.

At what point is it politic to stop twirling? When the fork has a reasonably tight mouthful. There is no other logical way of stopping the twirl. Theoretically if one were to go on twirling the whole plateful of noodles would wind themselves around the fork, barring a few recalcitrant numbers.

Etiquette says that if there are stragglers, the forkful must be dumped and one must start all over again. Etiquette says one should do the twirling against the sloping side of the plate. If a spoon is provided, one can twirl against the spoon, but that is not quite the done thing. Cutting noodles is also not done. Anyway it does not work because as soon as they are cut, the slimy little buggers slither off and you get a mouthful of nothing.

There is no reason to eat carbohydrates in this form.

A Cheap Screw?

July 4, 2011

I suppose 620 bucks is not particularly steep for a screw.

Especially if it’s gold.

Now if you’re wondering how “gold” connects with “screw”, think earrings (what were you thinking?).

Remember a year or so ago I mentioned that one of the girls had lost her earring in school? At that moment in time, I was mainly worried about the hole in the ear closing up in the absence of an earring. The earring was subsequently found in school and returned to us – minus the screw. As it happened, I had another pair of earrings for each kid, so I put the other earrings on them and forgot about the whole event.

Some months ago, Mrini said she wanted to wear the screw earrings. No problem – I dug out one pair and put it on her.

A few days ago, Tara said she wanted to wear the screw earrings too. Uh-oh. Big problem.

I dug out the other pair and stuffed it in my handbag. I put an item on my to-do list reminding me to go to Tanishq and get a replacement screw. I even dug out the Certificate of Authenticity for both pairs of earrings and put them in my bag too. Last week, I got as far as calling the nearest showroom and finding out if I could get a replacement screw, and whether they were open on Sundays. They were.

So on Sunday, armed with the screwless earring, both Certificates, and a truckload of determination, I set out for Tanishq.

To put things in context, I must explain that I have never before been into a jewellery shop. I did buy my wedding ring, and Amit’s – but that was thirteen years ago. Also, it must have been at a small jeweller’s, because nothing I saw that time prepared me for what awaited me on Sunday. I walked into Tanishq –at  4.15 on a Sunday afternoon – expecting it to be quiet and sleepy. To my astonishment, it was packed to capacity. What was even more amazing was that everyone was seated decorously at the showcases, being attended to by designated salesmen. It looked more like a bank or an elitist office of some kind than like a shop of any kind.

When you walk into a jewellery shop where ordinary transactions run into five digits and anything of note is in six digits, anyone can tell at a glance where in the scheme of things you stand. In my case, I stood in the middle of the shop, looking like a sore thumb. It was immediately clear to anyone that I was as much at home here as a fish in a palm tree. After standing around for five minutes and getting only vaguely distracted looks from a couple of salesmen who were busy with more serious customers, someone suggested that I head upstairs, to the workshop.

Good idea. I was much more comfortable at the workshop. There were a handful of employees, a couple of customers, and a very harassed “karigar” (workman). He was apparently expected to handle a dozen different requests simultaneously and immediately and he was not in the least bit pleased about it. He was even less amused to see that a customer had been sent directly upstairs without due process – apparently, I lacked a form of some kind. He did find the screw I needed, but he was unable to find something to write about it and the appropriate form to write it on. In the end, he weighed the earring, weighed the screw, guesstimated something and scribbled it on a scrap of paper. A lady sales rep, who happened to be there on some other task, took charge of me (the screw was on the earring and the earring was in my possession, so somebody had to take charge of me now) and took me back down to the “floor” and handed me over to the floor manager. This gentleman was extremely irate that somebody (I could not point out exactly who it was) had sent me directly upstairs in breach of shop etiquette. He fretted, fumed, and fulminated. Then he took my earrings, my Certificates of Authenticity, and the scribbled note, and disappeared upstairs with it. I imagine the poor karigar got a piece of his mind. Anyway, he came back ten minutes later and spoke to an even bigger manager who was parading around the shop with a proprietorial air. Then he brought my earrings and the scrap of paper over and handed them over to the cashier.

That’s when the fun began. The cashier, apparently, needed a product code for the screw in order to be able to bill it. The karigar had scribbled the weight of gold (0.238 grams!) on the scrap of paper, but that in itself was not sufficient. I pointed out that the product code for the earrings was mentioned in the Certificate of Authenticity, but that was entirely insufficient. What was needed was the product code of the screw. What’s more, nobody could tell which Certificate of Authenticity belonged to the earring in question. Since the two pairs of earrings were slightly different in weight, nobody wanted to hazard a guess. Mr Karigar, who had been so stressed when I was upstairs, was summoned by phone, but refused to put in an appearance. Apparently, what he had been scrabbling around for and unable to find while I was upstairs, was the product code for the screw – so, he had put some arbitrary code and some estimated weight of gold and he was in no hurry to come down from his sanctum sanctorum and own up. So I continued to wait at the cashier’s counter, watching all the other transactions going on and wondering, nervously what I would be charged for my solitary screw.

It was only when the cashier, in frustration, threatened to send the big boss up to fetch him, that the karigar finally appeared on the ground floor – with alacrity. It took him only a couple of minutes at the computer to track down the correct product code for the screw and another couple of minutes to complete the billing. At last, a price was put on the screw – 620 bucks. At last, I could breathe easy. I had been imagining all kinds of scenarios, including some that involved me stalking out of the door, with or without the precious screw in my possession.

But 620 bucks I could manage – and I paid up quickly before they could change their minds or the blasted product code. That must have been one of the cheapest transactions ever to be conducted in those hallowed premises – and possibly one of the quickest, at a little under an hour.

But still – 620 bucks for a screw might not be expensive, but it’s not exactly cheap either.

On the other hand, the thrill I got out of walking into Tanishq and telling the sales rep, with a straight face, “Oh, I don’t want to buy anything, I just want a screw,” was priceless. (And for everything else, there’s MasterCard.)

Shopping Blues (Again)

September 7, 2009

I’ve said it before but I’ve just got to say it again: There’s nothing more depressing, deflating, and demoralizing than going clothes shopping. There’s all these lovely shirts, blouses and tops all over the place, but nothing seems to fit!

I know I’ve put on a bit of weight, but it’s not like I’m really obese right now. It’s just the T-shirts I’m looking at, they don’t even need to be figure-hugging or anything. Any standard size should do – you should be able to tell by just holding it up and looking at it. But no… even when something looks ok, it turns out to be so ingeniously designed and cut that only a 16-year-old would look good in it. And a slim, sexy 16-year-old at that.

I’m convinced they’ve shrunk the sizes. Medium used to be a safe bet, but now even XL doesn’t always work. When I finally found something that fit, and it was a Medium size… in the Plus category! Plus!? I used to be called petite – when and how did I get from over there to over here?!

As if that weren’t bad enough, there’s the changing-room ordeal. Why do all change room mirrors make one look so much more wobbly and blubbery than the more familiar mirrors at home? You’d think the shops would fix the mirrors to work the other way – unless they want to frighten their customers away.

And this entire traumatic experience is just for the shirts. When it comes to jeans and trousers, it gets even worse. Everything that looks so stylish and glamorous on the racks looks so disastrous when you put them on – and that’s only the ones that you can actually squeeze in to. Most of them won’t even come all the way up, forget about the two-inch gap at the button hole.

In the end I came home with three really loose and baggy T-shirts in bright colours, and a good serving of profound depression. Is everybody else on the planet really that slim and trim these days? Really, it doesn’t look like it, if you just look around you. So where are the clothes for all the ‘normal’ women to be found? Or are we all doomed to wear salwar-kameez and saris for ever?

Central Locking, Power Windows, and All That Jazz

July 30, 2009

I never realised quite how important central locking and power windows are in a car, until I started driving the kids to and from school. Here’s how things go on a typical day.

First, there’s fresh poo on the roadside, bang next to where I park. There’s no point looking for another place to park – there’s fresh (human) poo all along the road. I guess it serves as a toilet for some nearby community.

Right next to the toilet strip is the drain. It is supposed to be a rain-water drain. As there hasn’t been any monsoon to speak of in Bangalore this year, it is usually clean and dry. I wish the folks who use the road as their toilet could drop their droppings in the drain, but, if they do in fact try to do this, they don’t seem to have very good aim.

So if you park next to the poo which is next to the drain, that side of the car is ruled out for exiting the kids from. If they don’t fall in one, they will likely fall in the other – and I’m not sure which would be worse.

On the other side, there’s traffic to deal with. Obviously, it is the lesser of all the evils. So, having parked, I get out, avoid the poo and the drain, and tackle (that means put shoes on, comb hair of, and un-strap) the girl on the driver’s side of the car. Then I close the door (which has child lock enabled, thank goodness), go around to the other side, and tackle the other girl. There’s traffic whizzing past inches from my bu… err… backside, but I figure the worst it could do would be to shave some inches off (and that might not be such a bad thing), so of course I ignore it.

Meanwhile, the first girl has unrolled the non-power windows and unlocked the door, even though she can’t actually open it. I go around to the other side to roll up the window, while both girls, now unstrapped, work on the window and door on the other side. Since they are two and I am only one, and since they are inside and I am outside dodging poo, drain, and traffic, the only way I can win this game is by shouting at them and threatening physical violence. Depending on their mood, this is of limited efficacy, but usually buys me enough time to roll up the window on the poo-and-drain side of the car and run around to the traffic-ward side and drag both the girls out before they can roll down either window again.

Now I get their bags out of the front passenger seat and get them (the bags) onto them (the girls). This, while ensuring that only my backside is in danger of getting shaved by traffic – the girls don’t have as much to spare. Then I close the door. Now comes the tricky part. The front passenger door cannot be used to central-lock all four doors. So if the driver’s side is on the poo-and-drain side of the road, I have to nip across to lock it, while either letting go of the girls and leaving them to the mercy of the traffic, or dragging them with me to step in their choice of either poo or drain. It’s a lose-lose situation.

If, however, the driver’s side is on the traffic-ward side, then, once I have the windows all rolled up and the kids out of the car on the traffic-ward side, I have to lean in and pull the bags out from the front passenger seat, without losing sight or control of the girls. Not easy.

So, what I need is a car whose windows can be rolled up and locked, and which can be centrally locked from either side, preferably without needing to use a key. I was assured that such is impossible. Power windows, of course, do exist. And front doors can be locked without a key if you lock them from the inside, then get out and hold the handle up while closing the door. But passenger side doors don’t do central locking, I was told.

Well, ha! I went and bought myself a bright red Hyundai i10 anyway and guess what? It does allow me to lock the front passenger door from the inside, then get out and close the door, without holding the handle up or anything, and it not only locks, it central-locks all the doors. Plus it has power windows, fantastic steering, a music system (how on earth did I survive in a car without that for so long) and it’s the perfect shade of bright red.

So, problems solved.

Of course, once I got the car, I also found a parking place at school which is almost always available, which doesn’t have either the drain or the poo. That makes life SO much easier.


July 17, 2009

Before the kids came, or more specifically, before the kids began to be toilet trained, I hardly ever used public restrooms.

As an aside, why on earth are they called rest rooms? The thought of actually resting there is hardly appealing. Relief rooms I could understand – if you find one when you urgently need one, it is certainly with a sense of overwhelming relief – but why rest rooms?

And, for that matter, the public ones are not even “bathrooms” – not unless you happen to be in, say, an international airport lounge or some such place.

As for “conveniences”… certainly finding a toilet when you need it is a lot more “convenient” than not finding one… but… can the toilet itself be considered “convenient”? I don’t think so!

Like I said, public toilets weren’t on my beat much in the “good” old days. If I absolutely had to use one, I preferred an Indian style one, where physical contact with any surface was restricted to shoes on the ground. (For the uninitiated, Indian style toilets, or squatty pots, consist of a hole in the ground, with a porcelain bowl sunk in it, and a sort of platform for placing the feet. They do usually have some kind of flush rigged up, but it’s anybody’s guess whether or not it will work. In this respect, though, they are no worse than any other toilet in a similar location.)

On those rare occasions when I had to use a western style toilet in a public place, I of course practised my patented technique of hovering six vertical inches above the toilet seat, so effectively actual physical contact remained limited to shoes on the ground.

In Indian style toilets, the ground is usually wet, and you never can tell what proportion of it is water and what is pee. So you assume the best, fear the worst, tell yourself it’s only the shoes, and only the soles at that, and get on with the job.

In western style toilets, the floor might be less wet and disgusting, but the toilet seat has all the potential to more than make up for it. Even the six-vertical-inch-hover tactic often doesn’t seem like enough.

Either way, limiting physical contact doesn’t do much to contain the stink.

Nor do I think that public toilets are better anywhere else around the globe. You might find halfway bearable occurrences in the more high-class establishments like star hotels; or, for instance, at a shopping mall you might get lucky and reach the restroom just after it’s been cleaned; but in general, the best option is to simply avoid toilets outside home whenever you can.

All that changed when I started toilet-training the kids. Suddenly, after all the luxurious safety of diapers, I needed to be able to rush one – or, more likely, two – kids with critical bladder situations to the bathroom – like, RIGHT NOW! In those days there was no time to look at the bathroom and consider its level of cleanliness or hygiene.

Things are better now – in a manner of speaking. I still have to take the kids to the toilet in public places way too often. But now their every toilet request is not a crisis in the making. They can wait a few minutes while we get to the toilet, wait for it to get freed up, wait for me to do some kind of sanitising of the toilet seat…

In all of which I get to see up close and OFTEN exactly how gross public toilets really are.

And then, they started school.

Their school has squatty pots in miniature, more convenient for kids than the adult-size ones. The bathrooms are common for small boys and girls. Cubicle doors can’t be locked and don’t extend right down to the floor. Not all kids have learnt to close the cubicle doors behind them when they go, so the anatomy lesson is thrown in gratis.

A few days after the kids started school, I had taken them to the toilet before leaving, something I still insist upon before every drive or outing.

Tara went in and squatted, and… She slipped. Eeeks! Her right foot landed in the bowl!

It could have been worse… (do you need me to draw a picture?)

Then Mrini went, and neglected to hold up her skirt properly.

One day, Mrini, influenced by seeing how little boys pee, decided to try doing it standing up. Naturally, it ran down her legs. Ugh! And I had to load her into the car and take her home. Ugh ugh ugh!

But worse was in store for me.

The flushes in these cubicles don’t always work. I think the flush tanks just run out of water, with so many small kids going so often. There are taps in each cubicle and small buckets. So often the floor is wet either due to water running from over-flowing buckets, or from the water being used by the helpers to wash the floor.

Why wash the floor?

I saw one of the older girls – maybe 4 or 5 years old – walk into the stall and pee on the ground. Not near the toilet, not even in the correct orientation to the toilet, just right there on the floor near the door.

And the next kid who comes in wouldn’t know! They might not even think about it.


So what can you do? Close your eyes; close your mind; get your kids home and give them a bath; ignore the worst and assume the best, and hope they get through it all somehow, without catching any horrible diseases…

Dirt Rules

April 3, 2009

It’s not easy to take a shower in five distinct, divergent jets of water, each half a drop in width, and separated by up to a foot in space before they reach the ground. The head gets one stream of water, by sticking an arm and a leg out in opposite directions like a ballerina, two limbs can be made mildly damp. And if you stand bent at the waist, with your butt sticking out to the maximum extent, one stream might be persuaded to land on your back (provided you have a broad back to start with; slim people will stay dry). The fifth jet heads off into outer space with great determination, only to find its way effectively barred by the bathroom ceiling.

Even if you positioned yourself strategically under several streams of water, it would take you up to half an hour to get sufficiently wet to be able to use soap. Then you only have to face the challenge of getting it off again.

And if you want to shampoo your hair, god (or some such higher power) will have to come to your rescue.

The problem is due to the extremely dirty borewell water that we get in our taps. No matter what type of showerhead we put, it gets blocked in weeks. Consequently, we get very few streams of water, which, due to the pressure of all the dirty water that’s trying to get out but can’t, comes spurting out with phenomenal force. If any five separate, half-drop-wide jets of water could blast you out of existence, these would be those five jets.

After many days of difficult showering, Amit took the initiative of removing the showerhead “for cleaning”. He threw it into a mug full of warm, soapy water, and left for work. Which left me ever more showerless than ever. Out of curiosity, I turned on the shower anyway, and a one-inch broad jet of water came shooting out with great force. Fantastic. That would do. It was a bit like bathing under a tap suspended very high on the wall, but, considering that Amit had recently suggested tying a bucket up on the shower rod and attaching a rope so that you could tug on it and get a bucket-full of water upended on you…

Not that the showerhead problem is the only problem caused by the dirty water. What is becoming of the insides of the hot water geysers and the washing machine, I shudder to think. But what it’s doing to our toilet flush tanks has become only too evident. The toilet in our bathroom has been showing great reluctance to fill in recent weeks, and now it has completely stopped. We can actually hear the water dripping into the tank one drop at a time. But even if we let it drip till eternity, the tank still wouldn’t fill sufficiently to actually be able to flush anything. The ball-and-cock arrangement (with a passing snigger to acknowledge the usual meaning of those words) is so gummed up with dirt that it closes long before the tank is full.

The result of all this is that the humble bucket, which had almost been rendered extinct in our lives, has now come in to its own. Several times a day, we bend before it, first to bathe, and now to throw water down the toilet. From being a nobody, it has gone straight to being the lord of the bathroom. Such is the power of dirt.

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