Every time my daughter visits, our house is cleaned and turned topsy-turvy in the process. This time around, it involved the thwarting of termites.
The wooden cupboards, which were the termites’ main target, had to be emptied as a result. And believe me, the sudden exposure of the vast amount of things stored therein made my mind stagger. What variety! Serving as landmarks of the different stages of life we had passed, each item, a treasure back then but surely worthless now, had acquired the status of an ‘antique’.
There were some skeletons in the cupboard too, giving rise to speculation and embarrassment. If only the termite-eradicating spray was endowed with the power of wiping away the white ants of one’s life!
I was more interested in safeguarding my literary wardrobe more than my sari wardrobe. I cajoled the workman into coating my books with spray. The workman warned me, “This spray is as effective as poison. Remember to wash your hand with Dettol after touching the books.”
“That means we have to construct a sink in her study,” my husband exclaimed. “Good god,” all of us echoed, as implications of the project undertaken sank in.
But what was to be done with the remaining spray? We were not ready to keep it, even if it meant a big loss.
“But you had made a condition that what was left over would be handed over to you since you had paid for it,” the workman pointed out.
“That was before we knew it was poison,” my daughter chipped in, adding, “You should have warned us before, instead of doing so now, at the end of the day!”
“Madam, you can read English. It was for you to read that they have printed it on the tin. As such, how can you blame me?” the workman coolly retorted.
“Yes, he is right — the mistake is yours! With old people in the house, you should have been more careful, but you have always been a hasty one. Now see where it has landed us,” I launched on a verbal-lashing.
“Why blame her when you are here, the Saraswati of the house? You are always reading, reading and reading! Even scraps from dust-bins! As such, could you not go through the four-line piece of information on the bottle and warn us?”my husband came to my daughter’s rescue.
“No, you being the man of the house, you should have...”
“No! You should have...”
“No, no! He should have...”
So the arguments went on and on, getting more and more heated, with each party trying to wriggle out of the predicament.
Meanwhile, quietly pocketing his hefty fee, the clever workman had taken his leave. Leaving the spray tin behind.