Thursday, July 9, 2009

The Clean House Effect

(Published: The Sunday Midday - 5 July 2009

under the title: The Uncaped Crusader)

Superman reminds me of my Mum sometimes. Of course, neither does he wear an apron nor she a cape, but a few likenesses are uncanny. “The vile Lex Luthor tries to escape me…Ha! But I have spotted him with my super vision!” cries Superman and flies forth to rid the earth of Lex Luthor’s evil schemes. Mum says no such thing but she often appears to zoom across the room – her Lex Luthor is a dust ball, a coffee stain or an uncouth and unwelcome speck disrupting the serenity of her keep, her paradise, her house. With as much fury as Superman if not more, she does battle and restores the sanctity of her world. Triumphant, she stands with her hands on her hips.
“What’s for lunch?” Dad wants to know.
Who said being a superhero is always rewarding.

Dad and I are lower life forms. Tummy rumble rumble – Duh Zok hungry. We are not gifted with the powers that enable somebody to be able to spot a smudge on the living room wall at lunchtime. It’s not that we are beings that won’t appreciate its removal; simply beings that don’t seem to mind its existence if it were up to us to do the cleaning.
Some years ago, Mum was away for the weekend and Dad and I had the house to ourselves. It was cricket season – isn’t it always? – and India was engaged in a long series. Ideal conditions for lower life forms to throw caution to the winds and forget all about the things-to-do-list Mum had left us on the tack-board. We didn’t mind a little mess. We weren’t people afflicted with obsessive compulsive order the way Mum was! When the local policemen are on vacation, it’s time for the local goondas to run amok!

Trrrrnnnngggg- Good Morning Cricket!- Who’s batting?- click- “…high up in the air, it’s a SIX!!” – TING TONG – “Modak?” “Yes…” “Courier. Sign here.” – “Did you see that shot!?” “No I didn’t Dad!”- “WATCH it!” “What??” “You almost sat on my spectacles!”- “.Ohh a very close one for Tendulkar... - trrinngg trrinngg – “Hello?...Hi Mum…um…what?..- How was that, Mc’grath wants to know…”- “No what was that you said…?”- …he’s living dangerously…- “Yes Mum, yes Mum…okay bye!” click – “Dad Mum says hi and reminds us to change the pillow covers.”- - “WHAT??? - ..the umpire raises the finger…- THAT WAS NOT OUT!!” – “Tejas, what was that you were saying, by the way?” “You’re right Dad…that was NOT OUT!!” – ssssssss – “What’s that sound?” “SHIT!! Forgot the milk!!”- …Ganguly walks in…- “Where’s the remote?” “I don’t know Dad! Look for it on the couch” “The only thing on the couch is yesterday’s bloody packet of chips! How many times have I told you to not leave this--” “It’s NOT my mess okay! Chips are common property!”- …any youngsters watching, THAT is the way to play the cover drive…- ssssssssss- “What the-?? Forgot the milk again?” “No, I’m frying some eggs” – that is clever cricket; he just pushes it into the gap and takes a single…- “Oh shucks…I just remembered I left the bread in the car yesterday…Will you quickly- -” “No you get it. I’m bringing out the plates” – …in the air, fielder under it...- CRASH!!! - …DROP CATCH…- “You…dropped the plates?....Tejas….when’s Mum coming back?”

The local policemen were clearly being missed. When Mum got home, we rolled out the red carpet. She shrieked because on the red carpet were wilted plants, layers of dust, yesterday’s packet of chips, pieces of broken china, unwashed pillow covers…An army of Lex Luthor clones!! Clark Kent ran into the telephone booth and a second later there was a flash of red and blue. Even at super-speed, it took her a while but when she was done, no one could’ve guessed what the place had looked like not long ago. Or the way its two inhabitants had looked at each other- disgruntled frowns and knotty eyebrows. But suddenly now, the seasons had changed. There was a tranquil smile on Dad’s face, even when he chanced upon the chap who’d recently broken some of his china. He didn’t ‘hmmff’, didn’t yell for the remote…ample camaraderie in his ‘Hello son!’ The glow on his face matched the sheen on the centre table, the shine on the walls, the gleam on the flooring. Mum was back! Dad and I could now lean back comfortably on the cushions after a hard day’s work, without encountering yesterday’s packet of chips under our gluteus maximuses. We could stretch our hands out absent mindedly and find the remote. We could forget all about the milk without having it sssss over. We could watch our cricket without a care in the world, a list on the tack-board, or a speck on the wall.

“One of you guys, quickly bring me the broom, will you? I missed that cobweb in the corner!” Mum calls out. Dad and I sink lower into the cushions. – …lazy elegance from the Prince of Calcutta… – the commentator cackles.