It’s 7 am on a Saturday morning when the doorbell rings, and I open the door, only to bite my tongue to stop myself from laughing out loud. The early birds on my doorstep are carrying identical worn out brown bags. With similar befuddled expressions on their faces and their shirts fraying at the edges, they look like two peas in a pod.
I assume that the one, who follows behind the other, is the younger sibling. He has a deferential attitude and keeps bobbing his head whenever big brother murmurs something to him. In the beginning, I believe he is trying to communicate to me, but it turns out to be the ambiguous Indian nod. The nod that means either a ‘yea’ or a ‘nay’, and puzzling for the person facing him, or the others in the room wondering who the lucky recipient is.
The Brothers Karamazov head straight to the bathroom and start tinkering with the pipes. Ten minutes pass by and the younger brother steps out. Before he opens his mouth, I hand him a dry cloth. I’m an old hand at the game, and always armed with all the required paraphernalia for such visits. I have a drawer stuffed with used towels, dusters, switches, batteries and anything that remotely resembles a handyman’s kit. The intrusion of a foreign object such as a pen or keys throws me in a tizzy, as my sacred space has been violated. My younger daughter once toyed with the idea of having a label stuck on the drawer that read ‘Opening this drawer can be injurious to your health!’
I hear frantic whispering and loud noises emanating from the smallest room in my house for the next 10 minutes. Big brother comes out with a harried expression on his face. “We need to break the floor tiles as the pipe is completely clogged up!” My heart stops for a few seconds, and I blink at him, unable to process the words. How much would it cost? Luckily, my husband still has his wits about him. After continuous mumbling and shuffling his feet, the plumber comes up with a figure. Fortunately, I am leaning against the wall, so that I don’t fall over at the outrageous sum. I have visions of being carted away in an ambulance, with my children weeping behind me. I wonder why movie screenwriters are not queuing up at my doorstep instead of plumbers. I’d trade one for the other any day.
Broken pipes, clogged drains, faulty light switches, loose drawers, I have seen them all. When my initial attempts at fixing them only aggravated the problem, my husband insisted that I call in the experts lest ‘my delicate hands’ get soiled in the process. When I was ready to nominate him for the ‘husband of the year’ award for his comment, his grimace was a dead giveaway. In his unique way, he was trying to fix the problem. While I lamented the frequency of their visits, the brothers gained immense experience by the sheer breadth of plumbing problems that plagued my apartment. I chipped in too, and short of rolling out the red carpet, did everything possible to make their work easier.
When my friends got wind of my new ‘hobby’ as they termed it, they pleaded with me to reveal the secret. “It is all in the upbringing, my dears!” My reply had them stumped. One of my strongest memories of childhood was that of my dad scuttling off to the mechanic’s garage at the drop of a hat. When my school classmates reported back to me after any such sightings during the holidays, I seethed with jealousy. They certainly got to see more of him than I did whenever school was out! My mother came a poor second to my dad’s car, which was his first love. Blame it on my darn DNA — how could I not turn out to be a chip off the old block?