Sunday, April 5, 2015

A Carpenter Comes Home

One of the nice things about living in India is the number of different kinds of workers who are able to make house calls, some at very short notice and at an affordable cost.  Not all may be equally competent but we are fortunate in knowing a few who always manage to solve our problems (and of course some who manage to make a mess of things! - but those we obviously stay far away from).

One such person is our carpenter, Farooq, who has been visiting us for over a decade.  He rolls up (not always very punctually, but at some moment of the day!), carrying his little kit of nails, a measuring tape and a small drill, with which he is able to take care of a large number of our troubles.  He has a little pencil stuck behind his right ear and he borrows a small scrap of paper when he comes, to write down dimensions.  We ask for his help not just with woodwork but all kinds of things in the house and he provides very simple, practical solutions.  He works quietly and efficiently and is always concerned that I should not be inconvenienced in any way while he is working.

He has helped baby proof our house by fitting some gates which had to be assembled but came without any instruction manuals.  Our doors, which have a tendency to slam shut with the breeze, were stabilized by means of little hooks which attached them to the walls (they have steel frames so nothing can be hammered into them).  He has made an endless array of shelves to suit alcoves of varied shapes and dimensions, sliding doors for lofts which stood gathering dust, stools that neatly slid under our kitchen counter and so on.

Yesterday he trundled in to cockroach-proof our kitchen shelves.  This is an ancient set of shelves that are so porous that I believed cockroaches might be dwelling within.  I thought we might need a new set.  But he just cleaned them up and said he would seal all gaps between the shelves and the wall, which was where the cockroaches lived.

The next thing I wanted was a new lock for the front door.  Our old one would keep getting stuck.  This was tricky because of those wondrous steel frames on our doors, which require locks to be welded on and therefore new locks to be of the same size as the old ones.  He looked at the door and said the lock was fine, it was the door which was misaligned as some of the hinges had come off!

So finally nothing new had to be bought; he sat down and assembled a small baby bassinet which we were going to give away (again without an instruction manual).  My baby (who has an inordinate fondness for all things mechanical) crawled around, watching him and playing with some pieces of wood.

The carpenter worked for an hour or so - drilling, fitting, cleaning, nailing, hammering and so on.  Then had his customary snack and drink (which I always like to serve, this time it was lychee juice and cashewnuts) and said goodbye.  For all this he charged five hundred rupees (less than ten dollars), despite the fact that he had come on a weekend, at short notice and that he doesn't really earn a huge amount each month.  After this he got onto his scooter, tool kit and all, and headed out for his next job of the day, in good cheer.

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