It was a house built between the world wars on the banks of Nila river not very far from the town. I was very lucky to inherit it from my father who built it with great care spending a little over ten thousand rupees those days. I had renovated it whenever I could avail loan from the provident fund.
My wife was thrilled to get a message from our son in USA that he would be visiting us this summer along with his family. I too was happy as he was coming to India for the first time after his marriage with a Mexican girl.
I did not waste any time to call Kuttirayan who was mason, plumber, carpenter and an all-in- one assistant for our house for decades, may be from the time the house was built. He took a pair of fresh green coconut husks and made them into a few brushes by cutting one end and releasing the fibres by hammering it on the stone. He took out a few old vessels from the car shed and washed them for mixing the lime. During my younger days I have watched him making the white mixture by adding water to the dry lime shells which converted itself into a powder form by giving out pungent fumes. Later he added a few packets of Robin blue powder and one or two measures of mixed gum. The white washing used to be done on moderately sunny days. It would be over in about a week's time. The wooden parts of the house like doors, frames , pillars etc were covered with varnish which came packed in bottles. For this purpose, pieces of old dhotis would be used. The varnish often left a nice smell within the house.Then some traditional markings would be made on the doors to ward away (?) evil spirits.
The next day Kuttirayan came with two Bengali assistants and started cleaning the compound wall with brooms made of coconut fronds. Mrs. Menon from the neighborhood came and made enquiries. During breakfast time my wife made a strong representation, or we can call it demand. " Look .....our son and family are coming after so many years. We should do up our house in the best possible manner...the conventional whitewash won't do ". See Mrs Menon got her bungalow done by the B company. They do a fantastic job...." Before I could react, she said .. " the professional from B company has already been asked to come to give us the plans and projections..."
And before noon, the market executive and the texture expert from B company landed in my house. They surveyed the area, took some photos and returned. By afternoon, my wife received pictures in her cell phone showing the present state of our house and the different projected views after their proposed work. The list of the specialised treatment they have prescribed for the long life of the house was also given. My wife was really impressed. She might have thought about the compliments she was likely get during next ladies meeting to be convened in our house. Ultimately I had to say yes as a member in the board like I had done for proposals moved by the CMD.
The work of the B company was interesting. It was done with the help of modern materials. The flashy containers carried the names like luxury emulsion, silk finish, weather coat, wall care special, anti algae, anti glare, matte finish and the like. The tools used to apply them were textured rollers with embossed finish, masking tape, spray guns etc. The team of painters, no I should call them professionals invaded the house and did a dream job in a week's time. The house really looked like it was never before.They got our opinion on their response cards and took some selfies and vanished. Two days later when the executive came for the real killing. The bill. It had cost us more than thirty times the original cost of the house spent by my father. I had no alternative but to pay. Moreover my wife knew that the balance in our joint account included the amounts sent by our son too. Let me confide that the care with which one moved within the house increased multifold. The shifting of chairs, the opening and closing of doors, etc were now done in slow motion. Even we stopped the children playing football outside the gate.
Then came the municipality with the repair of the road outside. The daily splash of dirt on the wall outside increased our blood pressure considerably. Ten days later, the temple festival started. On the seventh day the deity came in procession through our house. For offering of measure full of paddy, (പറ) the elephant came inside the compound of our house. I became more concerned about the new paint of the walls than the grace of the deity on the caparisoned elephant. Alas, the pachyderm did it. It released at least ten litres from it's bladder on the ground With folded hands I continued my prayers. I don't remember what exactly I prayed for. But it happened again. When there was a pool of liquid in the ground , the second calamity happened. The tail was lifted and there came, ten to fifteen bundles of hot elephant poop. Each landed with a thud each time splashing the greenish yellow colour on to the outer wall, pillars and inner walls of the verandah.
I almost collapsed and fainted. The onlookers might have described it as peak of devotion. Soon after the procession went past, I regained my senses. My wife suggested that the B company be called again.
Now I said a firm NO. No more fainting......