One of my favourite stories from my schooldays was 'Uncle Podger hangs a picture' from the 19th century classic 'Three Men in a Boat' by Jerome K. Jerome, one of my all-time favourites. And as circumstances turned out, I found myself in the midst of a very similar situation soon after we landed up in Ludhiana. Our room is the corner room on the top floor of the hospital facing west and hence is exposed directly to the sun for the greater part of the day. And coming from the cool climes of beautiful Meghalaya is not the best preparation for the searing heat of Ludhiana especially when your room has been baked solid for the whole afternoon. So, after much deliberation and consideration (and some gentle encouragement from Amy!), I abandoned my socialistic ideals and succumbed to the temptation of getting an air-conditioner. Fortunately, Ludhiana seems to be filled with many hot people who are also too poor to buy and AC and we found out that it was possible to hire an old AC at a very small cost. And so, after braving the heat for as long as we could, we hired ourselves a second-hand air-conditioner. And that was where our troubles began....
The first issue was the process of transporting the monstrosity that arrived, calling itself an AC up 5 floors and then to the end of the corridor. You see, by trying to save some (actually a lot!!) of money by hiring instead of buying an AC, we found ourselves saddled with a machine that looked like it had survived the Second World War! On the frontlines!! It's vintage was proven by the thick layer of rust that covered all its internal organs and also just by the freakish size of the thing. Everything has become smaller these days and as I type this on my laptop, it's easy to forget that the first generation computers were the size of a large room and had a memory of 4Kb!! In this case I hoped the same principle did not apply and the grotesque size of the thing would have a positive impact on its cooling effect. But I was not too sure about this!
As I inspected the thing as it sat precariously on the cycle-rickshaw that had transported it from the shop, I really wondered if I should just send it right back. But the drops of sweat dripping from my brow (as well as the extremely light purse in my pocket!) made my decision rather easy and I applied myself to the problem of transporting it up to the room. Now at this time I need to describe the gentlemen who accompanied this behemoth and were entrusted with setting it up in my room. Without being disrespectful to either pair, I must say that a closer real-life representation of Laurel and Hardy, I have hardly ever seen! On the one hand was the burly, blustering Sardar whose lumbering bulk and huge potbelly only added to the effect that his turban and thick black beard created. And on the other was the thin, quiet-as-a-mouse sidekick with an uneasy giggle, who jumped every time Mr Hardy said a word, or for that matter, even moved! (For ease of telling the story, I guess I'll just call them by the names of their more famous doppelgängers).
As we surveyed the scene together, Mr. Hardy took charge. Putting his hand on one end of the AC he instructed each of us where exactly to hold. When he realised there were only 3 of us, he ordered the reluctant rickshaw-walla to join us. Poor guy - he was already tired from carting the thing, but the scary bulk of Mr. Hardy brooked no disobedience! And then, it was 'One, two, three, LIFT!' Though unfortunately, Mr. Hardy did more work with his mouth than with his hands and the corner he was supposed to lift did not leave its resting place. On the other hand, Laurel, with strength that belied his thin frame had lifted his end high into the air and the AC began sliding off the rickshaw! Quick as a flash, the rickshaw-walla moved over and saved the situation while Hardy took a step back and began to belabour the hapless Laurel with full pomp and gusto. And this became the pattern for the rest of the morning.
With just 3 of us now carrying the leviathan, it was no longer such an easy task. Of course we received great help from Hardy who bounded around us calling out directions and generally getting in our way and tripping us up, nearly causing us to drop the dashed thing! When we finally reached the lift, I was painfully aware that my arm and back muscles were totally unused to this sort of thing and I would surely feel the repercussions over the next day or two. Fortunately, the lift was working. Had the electricity been off, I think I would have surely decided that sleeping in the heat was a much better alternative than torture of this kind!! After much advice and some abuse from Hardy, we manouvred the mammoth into the lift and managed to get it to the room without too much more trouble (except for some further insult to my already over-exerted muscles!).
(This got just too long, so I will continue tomorrow. Stay tuned!!)