A Case of Selective Expertise

THAT the husband was a graduate of IIT Kanpur went a long way in making him acceptable to my extended family. Explaining that he was a blue-blooded engineer wished away his double crime of being a North Indian and not a Syrian Christian. And the thought that an engineer retails for around Rs 10 lakh in the Syrian Christian marriage mart, and here I was getting one for absolutely free, undoubtedly helped.

Well, all my aunts who’d looked green-eyed at the husband when we got married, would feel contented if they saw him now. For, in all these years, Amma and I have struggled with an engineer, who, well, just doesn’t know how to engineer. When the electric bulb goes on the blink, he looks helplessly at me till I clamber up the nearest stool and put in a new bulb. And if, the lord help us, a fuse should blow, it’s the electrician and his whole caboodle of tools, no less!

This despite the fact that my home science teacher in school did teach me how to change a fuse wire. But if I venture towards the fuse box, the husband will shriek, ‘Do you realize you could get a shock?’ And somehow, always in all these years, the knowledge that he’s the family’s engineer wins over my certainty that I can change that fuse myself.

When the flush tank in our bathroom lost its connection, every time I reached for the phone to call the plumber, the husband stayed me, saying, ‘It’s a simple thing. Just needs a wire. I’ll do it.’ All that happened was that I broke my back shoving buckets of water into the loo.

We bought our first stereo system more years ago than I care to remember. Let’s just say that the iPod was merely a twinkle in Steve Jobs’ eye at the time. And rather proud we were too when we acquired that stereo. It had a radio, a tape deck and a CD player, never mind that we didn’t have a single CD to our collective names at the time. At least we’d be able to listen to FM, we thought. Not once in all the years that followed have I listened to one song on that radio. Tapes, yes, CDs, yes, for we acquired some since.

But the radio requires a bit of engineering. It has an aerial that needs to be put up and fixed somewhere that will ensure crackle-free listening. The husband has made the attempt on at least two separate occasions, only to retire hurt to the living room sofa and STAR Movies.

On a holiday with some friends, one power window of the car we were driving decided to go on holiday too. We had been warned it was having a bit of an identity crisis. But first the husband, and then the son, decided to give it the shrink act. ‘If you push it down a bit, it will go up completely,’ said the second offender to the first. Well, it did go down, and there it stayed, stubbornly resisting all efforts to make it go up again. There we were in the Shimla hills at Christmas time, with a window that remained resolutely firm in letting in the icy Shivalik winds.

All hell broke loose on the second offender. ‘Who the $#@*&%$@# asked you to tamper with it?’ The husband was magnificent in his fury. If it hadn’t been for the cringing little soul clinging to my side, I’d have taken a minute off to enjoy all that Leonine splendour.

An hour later, the husband and our friend, who, needless to say, was also from IIT Kanpur, were swearing openly, without benefit of profanitype, but still unable to admit they were little use as window shrinks. So we wives decided to take a hand. ‘Let’s find a mechanic,’ we said.

‘A mechanic? What you need for power windows is an electrician. And where’d you find one in these hills?’ they sneered.

Luck for once was on our side. As we rounded the next curve, there nestling on the hillside was a service station. An hour there acted as Viagra on the window, and we drove away with it firmly up and that icy breeze whistling outside as it should have been doing all this time. Both husbands were noticeably quiet for the next hour.

Thank god we never had a puncture on that trip. On second thoughts, Mr IIT Vice-Chancellor or whoever’s in charge out there, why don’t you make a six-month course in home maintenance and repairs compulsory for your little boy wonders? Little point in building the nation’s bridges, and setting up oil rigs if that fuse in the house goes a-begging to the diploma electrician, is there?

First published in The Financial Express in 2000. I am happy to say that since this post was first written, the husband has proved the worth of his engineering degree to great mutual satisfaction.

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7 thoughts on “A Case of Selective Expertise

  1. I have to sue you for making my stomach start gurgling with laughter. You are a weapon of mass mirth. 😀

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