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  Opinion   Columnists  26 Dec 2020  Farrukh Dhondy | Of creativity in a plague year… gadget fixing & dosa repair!

Farrukh Dhondy | Of creativity in a plague year… gadget fixing & dosa repair!

In his words: "I am just a professional writer, which means I don't do blogs and try and get money for whatever I write."
Published : Dec 26, 2020, 12:54 pm IST
Updated : Dec 26, 2020, 12:54 pm IST

I have myself been exploring the idea that enforced idleness may be the chief begetter of creative genius


Sing a song of six pice

A sauce pan full of Dhanya

Your mother was an Estonian

Your father was a Banya.


When the curry was sizzling

The mirch began to bite

Wasn’t that a dainty dish

To serve on Holi night?”

From Song Of The Sindhi Sopranos (Duet Aria by Thanni Ravani and Getthy Minoani)

Translated from the Canadian by Bachchoo

No surprise that this has been the year of plague reportage, of hospital admissions, fatality statistics, government bulletins restricting this and that and dissenters who want this unrestricted or that enforced. This Christmas periodicals have taken to offering us Covid-era stories and columns with annals of this plague year.

I have myself been exploring the idea that enforced idleness may be the chief begetter of creative genius. A recent TV satire had Shakespeare, stuck in an Elizabethan dwelling during London’s plague year, writing Macbeth. I thought it was King Lear, but perhaps it was both.

A writer friend in Mumbai boasts of writing two books over the period with a couple more to complete. You see? It could become a Latin proverb -- “Idlo Ergo Creato” -- or some such.

In support of which, gentle reader, I can add my own experiences.

Fed up of the repeated American video jokes and musical clips endlessly, tediously posted on WhatsApp groups I have haplessly become part of, I have taken to switching on my phone only when I wish to call out. It is nobler to call than to receive (hah! another proverb gestating! -fd. Get the f---on with it. We don’t pay you to fill space! - Ed.)

Well, in the main, I have perfected my Parsi-fusion recipes, leading with Cleopatra ni machchi, an Egypto-Parsi concoction, and then Lagan noo Last Stand Custher, an invention for Zoroastrian Thanksgiving.

Apart from these inventions, I have been attending to eternally recurring emergencies. As everyone knows, fate has decreed that you wake up with the most excruciating toothache on the night before a bank holiday shuts down every dentist’s dookaan. Just so, domestic appliances break down just when the Christmas or Diwali holidays are being observed by plumbers, electricians, washing-machine repair-wallas and the experts we rely on when fate deals us these irritating hands.

In this Covid period every emergency seems to occur on that bank holiday or Christmas, which it now is. Let’s say, as did happen, that the box that directs signals from the cable to your TV set is suddenly no longer operative. You call, just for example, Virgin Media, who has supplied your cable network after searching for the right number through your very haphazard filing system. The Internet has, in tandem, stopped working with your smart-TV box so you can’t ask it for the connection. You use your mobile to call.

After attempting to remember the password you gave them three years ago and failing, the voice tells you that you can fill in a new password in a link they will send you on your phone. All done and back on the call, you are told to go to the website because the call centre is flooded and it will take upto an hour or more to get an operator. You’ve already tried the website and got nowhere, so you try the phone line again. You resolve to hang on and they play you music while you hold which has the single purpose of making you terminate the call.

In one of my books, a character says that if he is on death row and is given a last wish, he would want to be played Ravi Shankar for six hours -- at the end of which he would have lost the will to live. For me, substitute poor genius Ravi Shankar with Robindro Shongeeth or call centre musak. You may have guessed by now that the call was never answered, and the problem left for yours truly to solve.

Reinforced call centres should be provided in these trying times to deal with such technicalities. But what about other little problems?

In attempting to cook dosas from a packet mix the other day, I diligently followed the instructions. Yet the first dosa -- and the next and the next one -- cracked in the pan, resembling the old W.H. Auden’s canalled features. I poured more mixture on the cracks and the dosas, refusing to obey, as the perfect pancakes I cook do, began developing large holes.  I gave up.

It occurred to me that the international India-packet-food company may have a helpline. I could call it. But could the masala potatoes I had separately cooked wait? And anyway. I’d probably get some Australian call centre with the respondent Barry pretending his name was Vardarajan or something and telling me to use moose fat instead of ghee.

I know, I know, he would know all about dosa repair. I was once researching a film on Indian call centres when the instructor was telling a class of trainee operators about British culture and chit chat. He asked the class if they knew what a pie was. A lad answered saying it was 22 over 7, or 3.142. No, no, protested the instructor, he meant the comestible. A young lady put her hand up and said: “Pie is meat concealed under biskoat”.

Yes, the Australian would possibly know how to repair dosas!

Tags: creativity, lockdown year, plague year