The motor car, or just car to those who think the ‘motor’ prefix is old fashioned, is on the top of my list on the battery brigade.
We live in an age of charging. Everything must be charged, and I do not refer to being billed for buying and consuming all manner of everyday bare necessities - petrol, provisions, eating out, Amazon, Flipkart and so on. Those are the quotidian pains we must endure to merely exist, GST notwithstanding. Well, perhaps not the eating out bit so much, but you get my drift. I, on the other hand, am talking of the various kinds of battery operated gadgets we cannot evidently live without, which must be charged periodically, else life as we know and understand it, comes to a grinding halt. The list comprises a handful of vital essentials and it is a matter of some wonderment that we never consciously think about them. Until we run into a problem. So here’s a basic guide to all things battery operated, which we become acutely aware of only when the damn things start malfunctioning, or dying out on you.
The motor car, or just car to those who think the ‘motor’ prefix is old fashioned, is on the top of my list on the battery brigade. We never worry about the car battery, do we? Of course not. In fact with the present generation vehicles, we are advised by the manufacturers not to even open the bonnet. No periodic topping up of distilled water, checking the carburettors and the oil filter, and generally burying your face under the bonnet till you surface with grease spots on your nose and cheeks, and all over your hands. That used to make you feel really good, like you have achieved something worthwhile. Now, if your car sputters and breathes its last in the middle of a traffic jam on a rainy day, you somehow push the car to one side, to the hostile accompaniment of blaring horns and dirty looks. As if you are to be held personally responsible for your car breaking down. You then call up the service blokes. And you wait. And pray.
In the fullness of time a uniformed help arrives, opens the bonnet, gives a cursory dekko and peers at you suspiciously (like you’ve deliberately yanked out the spark plugs) and finally asks, 'When did you last check your battery?' Clearly a rhetorical question this, to which I have no adequate response. The rest falls into a predictable pattern. The car is towed away, winched up on its hind legs to a service centre 20 kms outside the city limits, while I clamber into an auto, feeling bereft. Three days later I am informed that a new battery will be installed, clutch plates to be replaced, oil filters changed, and the brake linings are shot to pieces. Damage? Rs 46,000/- plus GST. What choice do I have, but to bleat out a weak ‘Ok, go ahead?’ I could have countered by asking, ‘But my dear old mechanic, you serviced the car just three weeks ago and charged me a prince’s ransom. Didn’t any of these defects show up?’ That's the problem I have in dealing with service mechanics. I come over all… what’s the word I am groping for? I know cats come into it somewhere. Got it! Pusillanimous.
Let’s move on to the Uninterrupted Power Supply (UPS) system in our apartment, inconspicuously tucked away in a corner on the terrace, providing us with instant switch over during power cuts. Which happens all through the day, such that we are not sure if the lights are on courtesy the inverter or the electric supply. To be sure, I have to trudge all the way to the kitchen to check if the refrigerator, which runs on the mains, is purring. On opening the fridge door, if darkness welcomes me then I know we are powerless - in more ways than one. Warm beer, for a start. It’s only a matter of time before the batteries conk out, and I am back to the service rigmarole once again. To be fair, my UPS mechanic is courteous, takes care of the servicing and stuff, and does not treat me like I was something the cat brought in. Again with the cats!
We move on to our mobile phones. Most people I know keep their mobiles perennially plugged in. I was told this is not healthy for the instrument, and that you should place it on charge only when the battery reading descends below 25%. This, I now understand, is old hat. The present day smartphones can stay on charge forever and anon. Although we are instructed not to talk on the mobile without removing the charger plug from the power socket, this salutary piece of advice is rarely taken seriously. Hardly surprising that we learn of people whose ears have been singed beyond repair, and they need an audio equivalent of Braille to follow their callers. Serves them right, I say. While on the subject, if your prime suspect for your smartphone going on the blink is the battery itself, and in a thoughtless moment, you remove the battery in order to clean it, be warned. All your data can be wiped out. If you know how to avoid this, please call me.
The modern day cordless landline phones require charging as well, but they keep self- charging as long as they remain in their base units over long periods. We don’t pay much attention to them because most of us are glued to our mobiles, and only family elders, the customer service centre at our banks, the post office reminding you to renew your Public Provident Fund, the carpet cleaning service for contract renewal and some mystery 4-year-old girl at 3am IST, rolling her ‘R’s, wanting to speak with her Rukku Paati or Jaggu Thatha. As I am loath to disappoint this child on a wrong number, I try to engage her in some Tamil baby talk, before her dad snatches the instrument away, mouths an abrupt ‘Sorry bro’ in a Yankee / Palakkad accent, and cuts the line. Long distance, I am guessing. Probably New Jersey.
Finally, I have this battery operated tennis racket contraption for electrocuting mosquitoes. Either a backhand or forehand swish will do. A crackle, a spark and the mosquito is history. Chinese made, naturally. Needs to be charged every three hours, else you may as well be serving underarm!