Away from home on his first job and living independently, my son was, somehow, able to manage food but laundry was a big hassle for him. Unable to cope, he decided to buy a fully automatic washing machine. There was a palpable excitement in Anshul’s voice when he exclaimed on the phone, “Washing machine is the best home appliance to have been invented.”
Unable to decide and comment, I kept quite but the remark became a trigger for me to reflect over umpteen gadgets and appliances that have made my life easy and comfortable. Going down the memory lane, I realize how much my mother toiled from morning to evening. While she did all the household chores manually, I have a battery of gadgets to assist me.
I recall the messy and smelly kerosene stove in the kitchen when I was a kid. I wonder how mother managed to cook on a single burner for the entire family and also for the whole lot of guests pouring in from time to time. Today I have the convenience of a multi-burner cook-top attached to an odourless, hassle-free LPG. Counting my blessings, microwave oven is another instant solution at my disposal, if not suitable to Indian -style cooking, nevertheless, marvellous for re-heating.
I remember how laborious and time-consuming the tasks of grinding chutney and churning butter used to be in my childhood. Loved the green chutney and the home-made white butter but resented when I was roped in by mother to assist her in these tedious tasks. Now we have the mixer-grinder and the food processor to do the job in a jiffy.
How I should rank the gadgets in terms of their utility, I am unable to decide, but definitely refrigerator is a wonderful appliance which has replaced the matkas and surahis (earthen water vessels) of yesteryears. Today, fridge is an absolute essential, not just for storing the perishables in summers but also it doubles up as a cabinet for stacking food items even in winters.
Unlike most middle class homes today that have attached bathrooms equipped with geysers, in my growing up days we had a single common bathroom shared by the entire family. I remember angithi exclusively for heating water in winters. Hot water would be mixed in cold water to make it tolerable for bathing. Obviously water was rationed, having one full bucket for bathing a luxury!
AC is another ultimate luxury that has made unbearable summers cool and comfortable. In my early childhood we had to be content with the fans that would keep circulating hot air in warm weather. Coolers came much later but didn’t provide relief in humid conditions. Today, there are air conditioners capable of creating semblance of winters in peak summers.
Undoubtedly, our life is much more comfortable than the previous generation but, whether or not we are happier than our forefathers is a matter of debate. In fact, we have so much to be thankful for, but if we don’t count our blessings and keep grumbling we can never be happy.
(Published in HT Chandigarh ( Sunday Read ) on April 7, 2019)