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The Finance Minister recently announced cash vouchers in lieu of LTC, apart from festival advance, to government staff to encourage them to buy white goods and spur festive demand. No such luck when I was in service, at least during my early career. But then there was no pandemic either.

I didn’t possess anything worthwhile, except a boxful of books, when I landed for training in a district of what is now the State of Telangana. The first of the white goods I owned came as a gift from my sister abroad in the shape of a cute little transistor radio. The timing was perfect. It arrived just a few days before the landing of man on the moon on July 16, 1969. I was all “tuned up” to listen to the radio commentary on that momentous event, but the blessed beauty refused to catch any of the waves. Perforce, I cut my nose to spite my face and went and bought a large transistor radio at the cost of my one month’s salary.

I am painfully aware that my white goods gallery, even after four years of employment, compared very poorly with the current generation’s head over heels pursuit of everything — TV, fridge, washing machine, AC and car — as soon as they get their first pay packet.

Modest beginnings

I got married and got a table fan as a gift, which proved to be very useful. Then came a second-hand car, bought with a government loan, of course; a 1956 model Standard Super 10, at a cost of ₹7,000. My next acquisition was a locally made refrigerator acquired with the sudden cash flowing from the first royalty on a book I had written when I was teaching seven years before and forgotten after having not heard from the publisher.

It was followed by a used tape recorder from my wife’s sister who, along with her husband, landed up in the backwaters of another Telangana district after having done a long stint in an Indian embassy. Next came a gift from my brother, who had gone to France for a short assignment sometime in the early 1970s. It came in the shape of a very useful electrical hand mixer.

Upon reaching Delhi in the mid-1975, caught in the fast pace of life, we acquired a second-hand mixie for ₹75 from an acquaintance who was on a selling spree as he was going on a posting abroad. Having stayed for a fairly long time in a southern region where, in those days, the summer was not very hot, we had forgotten the rigours of northern summers. One day towards the end of May 1976, I, along with a south Indian friend, on an impulse, went to Daryaganj and bought air coolers, much to the delight of our family members.

Then I was selected for a short stint of training in the U.K. The Super 10 car had been giving trouble then. I sold it for a princely sum of ₹2,500, added another ₹1,500 from my savings and bought a black-and-white TV for the entertainment of my family members who could not accompany me. I returned with a mixer and a cassette player and, with still some savings in hand, we bought a washing machine which didn’t quite wash. It only made an attempt to clean the clothes; rinsing and drying had to be done manually.

As we have aged, one of the hot topics of heated discussion has been disposal of old white goods accumulated over the years. After disposing of a dysfunctional mobile phone and a three-in-one, now we are stuck with a DVD player acquired almost 10 years ago but not used even once.

But retained, and still vigorously used, is the electric hand mixer gifted by my brother in the early 1970s, a tribute to French technology.

(The writer is a former

Secretary-General of the Rajya Sabha)

vkagnihotri25@gmail.com

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Printable version | Nov 29, 2020 6:53:55 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/consumer-capers/article32935973.ece

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