The word ‘Exhibitionist' may have some doubtful connotations, but I think I could be named as one.
Off I go, to every lifestyle exhibition and sale in town, jostling with a thousand other eager householders like me, to see what new and exciting kitchen paraphernalia I can bring back home.
As a wide-eyed crowd watches along with me, a deft gentleman will demonstrate the 7-in-1 Kitchen Wonder. It can slice tomatoes into blade-like thinness, dice apples and splice cucumbers; fleece cheese, shred bread and julienne onion, and with a quick flip and adjustment of screws, cut carrots into pretty orange flowerettes.
However, once you bring it home, all it will cut is your finger.
And yet, our kitchen drawers continue to jangle noisily every time we open them, with three types of egg-beaters (we use a fork for this everyday) two carrot peelers (we use the knife; it's somehow faster ), two multi-lever can openers (we reach for that good ole knife and hammer again) and a fancy suction bottle opener. (We prefer to give it to our watchman who always twists it open so easily.) However, this knowledge fails to visit our brains when we see that ad in the papers, and yet again we rush fascinated to exhibitions so that we may amass complicated gadgetry just to simplify our lives.
And then we proudly also hang up the garlic smasher, the ginger crusher, the cardamom powderer, and the pepper grinder. Our friends are so impressed with the neat, organised way things are run in this kitchen…until they see us use the all-in-one handy chappati-rolling pin being used to smash, crush, powder and grind everything in sight.
As if these Consumer Fairs were not enough, we crave for fancy implements from abroad, and eagerly rush into the home-needs sections in gigantic supermarkets on every holiday. And buy an extra suitcase to fit in all those baking accessories which every all-American home is equipped with. But the icing on the cake is the amazing squeezy cone that makes delicate rose petals almost as perfectly as God makes them. But when our beloved child's next birthday comes around, what do we do? Order a Spiderman cake from the bakery of course; now which kid of today wants to eat roses?
If you feel pangs of guilt and kinship with me, you also no doubt have secretly hidden somewhere in your home, like me, a wonder roti-making machine that was all the craze about 10 years ago. Admit it! You stared at several mildly flattened lumps of stubborn dough, and experienced an urge to cry, even though the wonder salesman turned out light-as-air phulkas right before your eyes during the demo. Right?
And now that you are coming out of the closet and admitting that you too are a failed household gizmo collector, confess about that Thing sitting untouched for six years in the closet. The Vacuum Cleaner! Oh how proudly you once used to clean your curtains, your furniture, and even your floor just like Archie Andrew's mother in all those comics…till you wondered why on earth you spent three precious Sunday hours doing this, when your Nagamma was paid good money to dust, sweep and swab every day…
However, inventors of new householder wonders should be pleased that there are people like Shalini on this planet, who has an eye for spotting labour-saving devices, and never fails to exploit them.
I dropped in on her the other day to see both her hands attached to a strangely lit plastic dome-shaped object, with a wire plugged to the wall. Whatever was that!
“You mean you don't have one of these? Can't do without it!” she told me. I moved closer, fascinated. And read “Nail Polish Dryer” on that wonder machine. No flailing of fingers about in the air or blowing over them to dry, for my organised friend Shalini. Apparently you just have to place freshly painted nails into the spaces provided, and tiny blowers dry your nails to uniform perfection in seconds. Well!
And surely, on the other end of the spectrum are my pals Rema and Shyam. I was a guest at their house recently during a visit to Bangalore. Realising I hadn't brought along my nail cutter, I wondered if I may borrow theirs to cut an irritating nail.
“Nail cutters? Oh, we never keep those” replied Rema.
Weren't scissors a bit clumsy for the purpose? I wondered to myself…But I needn't have worried.
Rema's husband Shyam said cheerfully, “We always bite our nails”.
Ah. There's a gadget-free, simple living, sensible householder that I too would like to be.
Indu Balachandran is a travel and humour columnist for leading magazines. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org