Shifting to Pune, had brought a number of new experiences along with it – some pleasant, some not so. The not-so-pleasant list seems to include stuff like dealing and managing recalcitrant bais or keeping a JIT inventory of the groceries or stalking plumbers to fix one leaky tap (only for the other one to conk off on the next day – NEVER the same day mind you). By far the most harrowing rite of passage to domesticity is the Great Wait for the Gas Cylinder.
Now why so, all these living-happily-with-their-parents-or-eating-dabbawalas-food-supremely-unconcious-of-importance-of-gas-cylinders will wonder. All one needs to do, they think, is call those fellers and viola the gas will come gushing happily home.
Not so, says the living-stressfully-away-from-a-gas-cylinder-booking-parent-who-hankers-for-the-earlier-era will hasten to assure and disillusion the other type.
The gas booking exercise is a test of determination, iron will and unbreakable and unshakable resilience.
It starts innocuously enough – step one – BOOK IT.
In an ideal world, the protagonists would book the cylinder ON the day it runs out. But we are living in a less than ideal world isn’t it –( Mr. Murphy, might be smugly sitting in some warm climes down there, chortling away to glory about how smart he was. ).
So one can safely assume that the cylinder WILL get over on a Sunday or public holiday – a day which one unfortunately cannot book a refill.
So one, files away a small note in the job-lists area of the brain – stating “BOOK GAS CYLINDER NEXT WEEK”.
Subsequently there are a number of other post-its which get stuck on top of this particular one. So that poor little note goes and lurks in some poky corner of the mind. Until the day – a few weeks later, when one accidentally bangs into the cylinder and instead of hearing the warm, comfortingly deep sound of a satisfactorily full cylinder, one hears an ominously hollow clang.
Then starts the panic.
One tries the phone. Then tries it again. Then redials it in a staccato tattoo for the next fifteen minutes. Then tries to imitate the exact nasal cadence of the woman who says “Theees number is buzeee pleeeez try later”. Then one tries it from one’s cell phone and every other phone in the household (and some at the neighbours) – making mental bets with self on which particular phone which will strike gold. After a point, one starts reciting the phone number in the sleep – heck, one probably IS dialling the buttons in one’s sleep.
There are a couple of false alarms – where it rings rather than beeps busy. One’s heart leaps to the mouth in anticipation – usually, only to plummet down after the a) phone not being picked up at all or b) after a brusque “abhi lunch (or tea or snack or early morning or evening or any time of the day) time hai – baad mein phone karo”
On day 4 or so – one actually gets someone who doesn’t say its lunch time. The celebratory jig is hampered a bit by the less than friendly tone of a person, busily engaged in the serious pursuit of avoiding work, disturbed by annoying interlopers. Somehow, one manages to sneak in the consumer number and get a “Haan ajayega”
At this point, ye ladies and gentleman, don’t, EVER do the mistake of asking her/him “ki KAB mil jayega”. That is suicide. That carries the risk of them conveniently forgetting to note down one’s consumer number in the books that are all important.
The immediately following week is relatively stress-free. The lull before stormy days ahead so as to say. No self respecting cylinder delivering agency will tarnish their reputation by prompt performance of service. The only risk the current cylinder running out - so there is a tendency to extreme frugality with the scarce LPG resources (in fact maybe having a bunch of matchsticks under the vessel could have been more efficient)
Come Saturday the hyper activity begins.
Thus starts stage 2 – the wait
One calls up the people (repeat step 1 until you get through) and after nerving self, one tentatively whispers “my cylinder (rattle of consumer number) when will it come?”
She/he snaps back “ Aaaj aasakta hai , kal ho sakta hai – agle hafte ho sakta hai”
One, even more hesitantly (any overt aggressiveness can tilt the fragile balance of power) say “ Aaaj bhej do please? Hum dono office jaate hai – doosra khatam hone ko aya hai”
“Cylinder chahiye ya nahin? To phir? “
And one slinks back with ears and tails flattened and quietly hangs up.
The next week is agony. Does one take leave or not? If the cylinder chap comes and goes away full handed, one will be PRETTY much cooking on matchsticks of making fire out of twigs.
But the all important question is WHEN does one take leave? Besides mutters of “I have to stay home because the gaswala chap is coming” somehow have not gone down very well with the boss.
Is it on Monday or Wednesday? And to this complicated algorithm - add a job which involves extensive travel and a spouse’s job which involves late nights and if you are mathematically inclined do those probability thingummy and chances are the twain ( cylinder chaps + cylinder desiring folks) will never meet.
The week passes somehow in an agony of suspense. Next Saturday – again do step 1 and get a curt “aaj ayega”
And one waits. And prays. And runs to the window and peers down. And tries not call the place again. Even husbands and boyfriends have never evoked that much eager anticipation in the heart. Going out of the house of course is out of the question. What if he arrives?
After about six hours of frazzled waiting the doorbell will ring, just as one is dropping off from a heavy hearted, dejected siesta (“he wont come today either”) and one flies to the door.
The prodigal Gas Cylinder has come safely home!