Old Is Gold

  • 03 Feb - 09 Feb, 2018
  • Ayesha Adil
  • Fiction

Oh no! Not again…” I heard Saima cry out from the other room.

“What happened?” I rushed into the utility room with a worried look.

“It’s broken down again!” she complained, sniveling.

It was our dear, old washing machine which was always breaking down. Bad timing. I just did not have the patience or the stamina to have it fixed yet again.

“Look at it! It’s sputtering water and bouncing all over the place when it spins. It’s not a machine. It’s been possessed by a demon. Just watch.”

Saima had a knack for theatrics. Her descriptions were always larger than life. But if you have seen our washing machine you would say that she’s probably right.

And soon enough when she turned it on again, I saw what she meant. Among other things, its drain-pipe seemed dislodged since the water was oozing out from the wrong end and its hissing and other guttural sounds had gotten worse. Then came the best part: just when its motor started spinning, the entire machine itself came to life. It leaped about the place, vibrating uncontrollably, until Saima and I forced it into submission. It felt like exorcising the machine. Look who is exaggerating now!

Brushing off sweat from my forehead, I felt a sudden pang of panic hitting me. I was not exactly psyched about spending my only holiday of the week taming our wild washing machine.

Finding Saima an easy, and the only target, I chose to vent my frustration on her, “It could not have gotten to this point in one day, Saima.” I continued my observation, “I’ve told you not to ignore little glitches.”

Saima always believed that little problems in life would fix themselves and the bigger ones could be addressed later. Why was she such an optimist?

However in this case, the latter had resulted into a complete break down of our washing machine, which had allowed us to enjoy the luxury of clean clothes for years.

We knew what to do next: Saima collected the semi-washed clothes into a tub to wash them by hand later while I started calling our repairman. I had called the number so many times that it was at my finger tips now. I described the machine’s behavior to him. He guessed a few things that might have gone wrong with it and promised to come in a few minutes.

After I hung up, I began to draw some mental calculations, trying to come up with an estimated amount that would be charged from me this time. Let the money flow. Easy come, easy go.

I went back to the utility room to tell Saima.

“He’s in the vicinity so he would come in a bit.”

“So soon? Do you think the area has been hit by an epidemic of washing machines breaking down?”

“I guess.” I replied with a chuckle.

I knew both of us were in an awful mood but at least we were trying.

The next few days would be tough for Saima. She would have to wash our clothes manually and knowing how much she liked washing clothes, she was bound to get tired. That made me feel bad. As much as I hated the idea, I made a mental note to try re-wearing some of my clothing items so as to reduce washing for my wife.

While we waited for the guy, Saima and I fixed our surrounding a bit.

“I don’t want him to think us absolute sloths,” she said while removing some unmentionables from the floor. She never ceased to surprise me. A perfect home-maker even in times of crisis.

The repairman showed up a few minutes later and headed to the utility room himself. Well, even he knows his way to the machine by heart now.

Saima and I did the honors of showing him the ageing relic. It looked very proud under the utility room’s lights. Almost like a glass-encased, museum artefact. It looked regal, I had to admit. I realised that we did not give it enough attention. Just on times when it fell sick. We hardly appreciated it when it worked fine.

Anyways, no time for drama. He went about with his work, trying to be as gentle as possible. Any wrong hit would make it worse. The machine’s body was unscrewed and some of its parts taken out for examination. Saima couldn’t watch any longer and left the room. After subjecting our washing machine to a thorough scrutiny, the repairman broke the news that both me and my wife had already suspected and dreaded: our regal piece from the collection of Sotheby’s was a useless mass of nothingness beyond repair. He started putting its parts together so that we can still make some use of it until it breaths its last breath.

That hurt. How easy it was for a bystander to simply assess our objet d'art and comment upon its non-wellbeing. As for me, I didn’t have the heart to tell it to Saima.

She became concerned when she saw the man leave without the machine.

“What happened?” She asked with worry etched on her face. Her baby was sick and this man who could treat it was leaving without doing anything.

I had to break it to her. So I sat her down and explained her the situation. I tried putting it as lightly as possible but the grave reality could not be evaded. The truth was what it was: the machine was dying.

As I expected, she didn’t take it well.

“It can’t be fixed? Are you sure? Did you hear him right? Maybe he said he would come back for it later.”

Saima was not listening to me. She was too worried. Our routines depended on us having all the equations of our lives working in sync without any breaks or halts. We couldn’t afford a single glitch in the production line. What has life reduced us to, I wondered. Mere machines?

I told her that I had understood him well and that our machine was, in fact, beyond repair. He had also instructed us not to spend any more money on it since it was time to get a new one.

She really wasn’t paying attention. I could tell from the look on her face. Maybe the fact that she would have to part from this one made her sad or the fact that we would have to invest in a new machine occupied her thoughts.

Or she was probabably in a state of denial, which meant that nothing I said or did would bring her any consolation at the moment.

That’s when a thought dawned upon me.

“Isn’t it blessed Friday soon? All the online sites would be offering some crazy sales. We can find a good machine for us then and that too at an economical price. I suggested enthusiastically, trying hard to defuse the unexpected crisis which we had to confront on our day off.

Saima just mumbled an inaudible hmm. I had to try harder. She needed a good jolt.

“We can start having a look now.”

I could see that I had piqued her interest. The morning needed a lucky turn of events! And so began the arduous task of trying to buy a washing machine online. I was a novice at it but little did I know how untrained I essentially was. It wasn’t until now that I realised how technology-oriented everything had become.

I had expected some pages of different products with a few categories but as we opened the site, we were bombarded with thousands of items for selection. There were so many of them that we gradually forgot the reason of our quest and became entangled in the jungle of miscellaneous articles. I can’t vouch for Saima but I began to zone out pretty soon and even felt slightly dizzy. Why are people so full of online shopping? This is certainly not convenient!

A number of coworkers had shared with me a few days ago how they were planning to go online at 12pm on the big sale day and taking full advantage of it. While here I was with Saima, trying to make some sense out of myriads of options shoved before us but not one that caught our interest.

“Hey, look. There’s a chat window. Let’s give it a try,” she suggested.

Helper: How can I help you?

Me: We want to buy a washing machine.

Helper: Please enter the required item in the search bar. A number of options will emerge from which you can pick the object of your desire.

Me: Ok.

Helper: Glad to be of service. Please feel free to contact me further.

After this ridiculously brief and useless exchange, I felt like sending him a captcha to check if I had just spoken to a robot because that was the least helpful helper I had ever encountered.

Me: Just checking, are you even human?

Helper: Sir, I don’t follow your request.

Me: Never mind.

Then began the page-after-page surfing, viewing, discussing and comparing. Sometimes we did not like the price or the company, the other times its size. We were beginning to get really exhausted and the hours of surfing had gotten us nowhere. We were as empty handed and clueless as we had begun.

I kept wondering how the people endured online shopping. Were they made of cosmic dust while Saima and I were mere earthlings?

After about another hour of random searches and having tired ourselves extensively in the process, Saima got up with a sigh of defeat.

She walked into the utility room and stood before the machine in deep thought. I didn’t know exactly what she was thinking but I had a faint idea.

“I don’t want us to buy a new one,” she finally announced.

“We can go to the stores one of these days and find us something.” I suggested meekly.

I understand that it is not easy to let go of the things you already own. Besides finances, it’s also a question of effort and time among other things. How many of us are getting by with the broken drawer, a handle, a squeaky chair or a wobbly table. Things, like people, are not perfect and shouldn’t be put on that pedestal. In life, nothing is perfect and nor does anything remain brand new. Seasoned and peppered is not old and throwable, it is loyal and cherishable.

Long story short, we didn’t end up buying online or changing our washing machine at all. We just learned to ignore the sputtering water, its guttural sounds and the prancing about as best as we could. Saima didn’t seem to mind so I didn’t either.

Old is not old. Rather, it is a version of deep, dark gold. I knew that and so did she. We were on the same page. •