Thursday, July 12, 2012

A Gadget? A Legend!

If I have to name the most user-friendly, most efficient, easiest to maintain, longest serving, most trouble-free appliance in our household, it is undoubtedly our good old refrigerator. Soon, we will complete 28 years of association with it...and what a pleasure it has been to have it at our home. It stands silently in its designated place, demanding least attention while performing at its best. Its body has weakened and deteriorated being unable to withstand the ravages of time, but its soul is intact, ever willing to give...and give it does to its fullest.

We brought it home at a time when small fridges were ruling the roost in the market. It was considered to be too big for a small family like ours. But having gotten used to the convenience of a large refrigerator during our stint in the US, we went in for this one, much against the norm in those days. We were in the process of setting up our first home in India, in Delhi. Delhi was incredibly hot and humid in late August-early September. Buying a fridge was naturally the top priority.

Just back from the US and unfamiliar with how things worked in Delhi, we walked into a store. When we found that a large model of Kelvinator was suiting our needs the best, we paid the full amount in cash and went home happily, looking forward to having the refrigerator delivered soon. After waiting for a couple of days, when there were no signs of any delivery, we went back to the store to check what the problem was. The salesman--who could as well have been the owner--welcomed us cordially, as if he had known us for a very long time. Not paying heed to his overwhelming hospitality, we came directly to the point and asked him why the fridge was not yet delivered at our place. He informed us with a straight face that the model of our choice was out of stock, and would be available after a week or so. Exasperated, we demanded to know why he hadn't told us the same in the first place. He said plainly: Had I told you, you would have gone to another shop!

We learnt our lesson and soon became adept at dealing with such situations. However, the fridge which gave us many anxious moments before delivery, is working flawlessly even after almost three decades and two major moves. We have needed to call a mechanic only once or twice, that too in the early years. I remember, once it was for refilling some gas. After that, it hasn't been serviced in the last two decades or more. It does not make any noise, cools perfectly and works non-stop. I used to hear from others that they could not store ice cream properly because it would turn to slush in their relatively newer and more modern fridge. I buy huge family packs and deposit them in the freezer without any worry. It doesn't let me down ever.

What is a letdown is the body of the refrigerator. The metallic shelves are sturdy, but the plastic components like the trays, the freezer door and the little storage spaces on the inside of the fridge door are falling apart. We have simply accepted them as they are. The external appearance of the machine is bad enough to make anyone wonder if this indeed works, or is ready to be taken to a scrap dealer. Friends and family have subtly and sometimes not-so-subtly suggested that it was time we looked for another fridge, but considering the unfailing loyalty with which it has been working, we haven't had the heart to do so. Okay, a spray painting job would have made it look nicer and cleaner, but that would have meant sending it over to the workshop for a couple of days at least. We didn't want its old body to be subjected to that hardship. We have moved it only when it was unavoidable. It undertook two torturous road trips only because we were moving cities. Each time after unpacking, we plugged it in with some trepidation. It purred to life instantly, reassuring us about its wellbeing.

While it continues to enjoy a place of pride at our home, I can't help but feel that if they could make such a long-lasting and trustworthy product 30 years ago, why cannot they make it today? The technology was and is certainly in place, but market forces, consumerism and "use and throw" culture have ensured that the era of long-lasting gadgets is over. Sleeker and newer models are introduced in the market, each loaded with features promising the moon to the customers, luring them into acquiring the latest and supposedly the best. But promises are soon forgotten and gadgets stop performing to the users' satisfaction. Replacement becomes necessary and then begins the hunt for another gizmo...

In this scenario, our fridge may soon attain the status of a legend. Here's wishing it a long and healthy life!

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