My great grand father used to roam around the grass lands of Tamil Nadu with his 1000+ goats and sheep – exactly like the protagonist in Paulo Coelho`s book ‘The Alchemist`. I am not making this up.
The only difference between The Alchemist`s protagonist and my great grand father was that ….my old man traveled in a huge group of his family and relatives.
Times were good…back then the air was clean and sex was dirty (did George Burns say this?). Being a roamer, my great grand father and his family would sleep in a ‘Kudil`. In Tamil ‘Kudil` is the term given to a semi-circular contraption that you carry around to live in. Since there was no pollution and the biggest threat in the grass lands were snakes…life was a breeze for my great grand father and his family.
This is how a Kudil looks:
His son (that`s my grand father) didn`t like the traveling job and decided to settle down in a then prosperous village called ‘Maangudi`. ‘Maangudi` when broken up meant ‘an abode of deers`. Though, now the village is dry and its inhabitants are suffering due to lack of rains…back then it was a lush green village.
My grand father built a 300 square feet house first. It had mud walls, and low doors. Narrow wooden poles held up the thatched roof. Most of the time was spent outside the house – both the afternoon siesta and the night sleep was on the verandah. My guess is…the 300 square meters was used only for the intimate moments – which anyway lasted only 60 seconds. After all, men have been known to pull a fast one on the women for ages. If you know what I mean.
In effect, they enjoyed the benefits of nature and never felt the need for…what Rekha and I bought this weekend.
My father, who quit farming as a youngster, took wings in 1969. He joined the Indian Army and in the 32 years of his service (can you believe that he kept a single job for 32 years? I will have at least 20 jobs in that many years!) rraveled to different parts of the country. Just that he wasn`t herding goats & sheep as he traveled.
He was given huge houses to stay in. Since I was a kid back then……I would say the houses allotted to my father were at least 20,000 square feet big…it took me half a day to crawl from one wall to another.
There always would be a garden, and a few trees in each house allotted…which meant summers were spent in the shade. When we had to stay inside the house…the Engineer in my father would come up with an idea, which was left to us to implement.
Most Sundays were spent with the family of five bundled in one cot…with a thin, wet bed sheet on top of the mosquito net railings. This ensured a cool breeze from the fan. The only problem: Being the eldest, it was my job to wet the bed sheet every half hour in a bucket of water kept beside the cot…and then spread it on the railings again. In effect, I was my family`s air conditioner from 1985 to 1990.
After my father retired, and we moved back to Madurai…I was too old to be an air conditioner and too young to buy one for my room.
There were occasional air conditioner related disappointments – a visit to a friend`s place, an A/C advertisement, an old A/C in the junk shop….anything and everything related to A/Cs was disappointing. Probably because my father didn`t believe in A/Cs. He was of the opinion that if God wanted us to have A/Cs he would have attached one on our bums.
Which good son doesn`t have his father as a role model? I too grew up hating A/Cs and people who used A/Cs. It helped that A/Cs cost a lot and back then the disposable incomes weren`t huge either – the time when Dr Manmohan Singh hadn`t opened up the Indian Economy and five figure salaries were manna from heaven.
And then I got married. Every time Rekha suggested that we buy an A/C, I would say: “Why? My great grandfathers slept in the open…let us open the bedroom`s window. Maybe even leave the door open.”
After four years of marriage my wife Rekha decided not to take it anymore. So when I repeated the above statement, last Friday, she said: “Well, in that case…go sleep with your grand fathers.”
And on Sunday, we bought a cheap LG AC.
Moral of the story: When it is the right time to buy consumer durables, grand fathers can`t do a thing.