Autobiography of a neglected Vacuum Cleaner
Mrs. Sharma brought me home with great fanfare. I was to be the panacea of all her cleaning woes. I remember how I was the star attraction at her kitty party. Mrs. Sharma read out my list of features with pride, as others assembled my parts. As my motor purred to life for the first time, the ladies clapped in enthusiasm as I sucked a strand of hair or a ball of dust from a hard to reach, corner. Adoring fans fawned attention on me and prophesized the end of the ‘Bai’ raj.
I look back at those days with a great sense of nostalgia. Mrs. Sharma and her kids would playfully fight over the chore to clean the house while their maid, Shanti would eye me with suspicion. It was as if I was out to steal her job! But, slowly and steadily novelty gave way to the mundane. My usage declined and I was relegated to being just another ‘home appliance’. After some deep contemplation , I have prepared a list of reasons of why I fell into disuse.
Space: There was barely any space in Sharma’s apartment to walk, let alone wheel an appliance like me around. I also came to realize how the furniture in Indian homes is also a tad bit heavier than the Ikea-like furniture in their Wester counterparts.
Storage: Unlike a broom that could be hidden in a sofa or a mop put out to dry in the balcony, I occupied too much storage space. I was never really able to find a home. I spent some evenings behind the sofa, some in the Guest room, the washroom, till I was eventually relegated to the store room.
Cumbersome: Initially, Mrs. Sharma was most excited about the array of accessories and attachments that I came with. Later, this idea of assembling/ disassembling me, became the very bane of my existence.
Volume of Dust: I was designed for a context in which cleaning is a weekly affair. In India, where people live in a perpetual dust cloud, cleaning has to be done every single day. I simply represented too much effort for the benefit I provided in return.
Lack of carpets: I am most effective on surfaces like carpets, where brooms and mops falter. Unfortunately, most Indians floor their homes with tiles and stone. Even though, I also function on them, but my core competency was never really utilized.
Importance of water: Cleaning with water is both a functional and emotional need. Only once a surface glistens after wet mopping, does it satiate the hearts of the cleaner. Even though, such a feature like exists in some premium models, I was not blessed with it.
Domestic Servant: I am a potent symbol of self-reliant and DIY culture of the West. In India, where labour cost is so cheap, I was the solution to a seldom occurring pain-point. Even though Mrs. Sharma allowed Shanti Bai to use me sometimes, she was always hovering over the latter’s shoulder to make sure I was taken care of. Eventually, they grew tired of me and decided that their broom, mop and duster work just fine.
In my immodest defence, I still claim to be a fantastic product. Unfortunately, I just don’t connect to the Indian cultural context. So in the end, I remain relegated to the corner of a store room, patiently waiting for the annual Diwali cleaning. I am also taken out on other special occasions, like when Mrs. Sharma’s Mother-in law comes to visit. Last week, Mrs. Sharma took me out for a photoshoot. She neatly placed all my accessories on the floor and took our photographs with a grave, grim expression. Ever since, I have a lurking suspicion that she has made my profile on the matrimonial website for old products, OLX.com. I remain uncertain of what the future holds for me…