Where There's A Will

Smita Jain posted under Short Stories Will on 2021-06-29

"We will buy this house," I gushed at my husband.  We were admiring the evening view from the vantage position of the sixth-floor balcony. The golden hues of the sun kissed the brown sands of the fields and showered their blessings on hardworking peasants completing their work for the day. The vast open space in front was punctuated with brown, green, and yellow colours of varying heights. I could feel the gentle morning breeze stroking my body. The sounds from the peacocks were an aural delight.  "Do we need a 2800 sq ft. house?" my husband quipped. "The adjoining apartment of 1800 sq ft should be adequate for the two of us." "How can you even compare the two residences?" I was incredulous. "Look at the balcony sizes of this one! While we will be able to feast our eyes on the fields daily from this terrace, the one on the other side gives such a stunning view of the pool. The servant room here is also more spacious than that of the other apartment. Moreover, the master bathroom here has a bathtub." I concluded my arguments and looked at him. "You want to shell out extra rupees for a tub in the bathroom? I don't recall you ever use the bathtub in the hotels where we stay during our vacations." His surprise was genuine. "I can see the envy in the eyes of our guests when they spot the tub in our bathroom," I said and hastily added, "I will use, use the bathtub when it would stare me in the eye daily. "Come to think of it, I also like the layout of this apartment better," he admitted. "But it will stretch our finances." "We can shell out the extra 5-6 lakhs rupees for our dream home," I implored. "Where there's a will, you will have your way, Sonali." My husband uttered his favourite catchphrase, which never failed to irritate me. "Fine, let us go to the sales office and negotiate for this one. But do remember, I will keep a tab on how many times you use the bathtub," he said with a poker face. I punched his arm in mock anger.  *** "Fully loaded homes come with their own share of problems," I lamented to my husband after a hard day's work. We had shifted to our new address earlier that morning, a full three months after stepping foot in the raw flat for the first time. Like most others in the pandemic, our real estate builder had offered the apartment with a built-in modular kitchen and installed ACs. We had negotiated further to add lighting fixtures and cupboards to the mix. As a result, we could take the handover in quick time. Nevertheless, all the glamour of a modern, well-ventilated and completely built-in flat had evaporated within the first hour of settling in when we discovered faults galore with the house. Not a single of the five installed ACs worked. The electric hob took double the time to boil the same quantity of water. The kitchen floor got flooded when I used the sink. With the intercom not yet plugged in, I had run, shouted, cajoled and coerced my way through a long list of maintenance activities throughout the day. All this was in addition to unpacking the crates and organising the cabinets. Finally, I was ready to throw in the towel for the day. My spouse gave me a tight hug. "You always try to do too much in too little time and make life difficult for yourself. Why don't you take a nice hot bath in the bathtub? I just discovered that it also has a Jacuzzi. So, you can relax and rejuvenate yourself." "What's a Jacuzzi?" I was not sure though the term seemed glamorous.  "The kind of tub that they use at the spas, the ones with powerful jets for massages purposes," he elucidated. "What are you saying, Sahil? We can have a whirlpool bath right at our home?" I felt more energetic all of a sudden. "Do show me how it works." He laughed. "There goes your tiredness down the drain. How many times have you gone to a spa, by the way? You still prefer the old-fashioned neighbourhood parlour, don't you?" I made a face, which made him say, "Come on, I will show you." We entered the bathroom. Sahil opened the shower tap to fill the tub. "The water needs to fill to the brim of the tub for the jets to sprinkle out," he explained. "The six circular outlets that you see in the tub are for the water to rush out. You will feel the pressure release as they collide with your body." I looked up from the fast-filling tub to the animated face of my husband and then back at the tub again. "You see the air button here, at the top edge of the tub?" he continued, "You will need to press it once for the jet to come out. Then press it again for the water to stop. The mechanism is straightforward." With my heart full of anticipation, once the tub filled up, I pressed the air button with all the might that the palm of my right hand could muster.  Nothing came out of the openings. The water in the tub was still. I looked at my husband. He gamely came forward and pressed the air button. But, unfortunately, the Jacuzzi didn't oblige. "The Jacuzzi doesn't seem to be working properly," he shrugged. "However, the tub is functional, and so you can have your hot bath." "Not another problem with the house," I groaned. "Please empty the water from the tub. I don't want to take a bath."  "What is wrong with you, Sonali? You didn't even know what a Jacuzzi was until a few minutes back, and now you won't use the bathtub without it? That is when we purchased the house because of this tub in the first place." "I will not use the bathtub till the Jacuzzi gets repaired," I declared. "Where there's a will..," I walked away before my husband could complete the catchphrase. *** "The motor is not working," the technician who had come to check the Jacuzzi announced. "Since how long have you been using this?" It had taken multiple phone calls for the person whose number the condominium's helpdesk had provided us to get a technician to inspect and solve the matter. He had been in the bathroom for the last hour and a half. He first pried open the right side of the bathtub and then flirted with various devices beneath to find the fault. Finally, with no result to show for his valiant efforts, he had given his verdict. "We have moved into this house less than two weeks back. Haven't had the pleasure to use the bathtub yet." That was true.  "We had installed our motors and supplied the finished tubs to the builder more than two years back. Now the product is out of warranty," the person on the other line had pompously said. "Nevertheless, since you are facing issues, we will send our technician. You need to pay for his visit and the subsequent rectification of any fault." Despite my reluctant agreement to his terms of service, it had taken him an additional five days to send someone. Meanwhile, we had settled down in our new home. Many of the previous issues with the house had got sorted, and new ones had taken their place.  Neither my husband nor I had used the bathtub all this while.  "It is a peculiar problem. There have also been issues with the other homes, but nothing that I could not fix in a single visit. However, in your case, the Jacuzzi's motor will have to be replaced. It is similar to replacing the AC compressor. A new motor will come in the range of 12-15k." "We are not paying anything of that sort," I barked at the poor fellow. "We haven't purchased the Jacuzzi separately; it came as part of the package in our home. Furthermore, we have got a six-month warranty from the builder to replace any faulty fixtures. I don't care when you delivered this product to the realtor, but as far as I am concerned, this product comes under warranty period and accordingly, you need to fix this." "That arrangement is between the builder and you. It would be best if you talk to him about it," he shrugged. "Let me know once you are ready to pay the money. I will bring the replacement motor." My husband squeezed my soldiers to stop me from entering into a war of words with the fellow. "He was just doing his job," he told me once the technician had left. "And he was right. We will need to speak to the builder on this." "I am tired of multiple follow-ups with the maintenance team, the builder and all sorts of strange people regarding the issues at home," I complained. "How do I focus on my office work amidst all these?" "Is this issue worth your time and efforts, Sonali? After all, how many times have we used the fully functional bathtub until now? So why spend another 15k for the Jacuzzi, which we will not use at all?" "We are not going to spend anything. I am going to ask our builder to replace this." "The opportunity cost of getting this problem resolved will be higher than the solution's utility." My husband sounded more like an economist than the engineer that he was.  "We have paid an enormous amount of our hard-earned money for this house and all its contents. I am going to make sure that we get our money's worth," I said in a determined manner. "Did we pay all that amount only for the Jacuzzi? Do the three huge bedrooms, the modular kitchen connected with the servant room, the terraces with their stunning views, the spacious living and dining room, the five split ACs, the cupboards and the lighting fixtures count for nothing? And don't forget the bathtub, which is functional."  My better half was trying to reason it out with me. But in matters of emotions, reasons do not hold sway.   "I will not let the builder take us for a ride," I vowed.  My husband sighed. "Well, where there's a will, you will have your way." *** "Ma'am, the Jacuzzi vendor was to come for a meeting with us for a discussion of all the outstanding issues. Your complaint was at the top," the hapless voice at the other end of the intercom assured me before continuing, "But now this statewide lockdown owing to the Covid second wave has been announced. As you are aware, no labour is allowed to enter our society during this period. Therefore, the replacement will take time." It had been slightly more than two weeks since the technician had visited our home. During this period, I had written a long email to all the authorities in the builder's office elaborating the challenges we are facing at our new home. I had posted the same long message in the Builder-Resident WhatsApp group in addition. Getting no response on either of the mediums, I had gone to the sales office and resolutely sat put there till someone assured me that the builder would repair the Jacuzzi at his cost.  Now, a staff from the builder's maintenance office had called me proactively, lest I  again pay a visit to their sales office and become a bad advertisement for prospective buyers of their unsold inventory. "I understand that there are other priorities now. The bathtub issue is the last thing on my mind," I earnestly said. Several close friends and relatives were down with Covid. A few of my colleagues struggled to get hospital beds. The morning newspapers were full of horror stories of oxygen shortage. We were not getting vaccine slots through the app meant to be used to book the inoculation doses. Like lockdown 1.0 during the first wave of Covid, both housework and office work had increased during this one too. I had more pressing problems to worry about than the functioning of the tub in our bathroom. "Please do not take the issue off your radar and sort this out once the situation improves," I warned the caller. "Sure, ma'am," said the much-relieved voice.   "Sonali, come here." My husband called out excitedly from our bedroom, which served as his office during weekdays. "What is it?" I rushed, half expecting some bad news. Instead, he was in the bathroom, soaked with water from top to toe. "What happened to you?" I asked. Was taking a fully-clad bath in the middle of a working day the new trend on social media to cope with stress? "I accidentally pressed the air button in the tub, and powerful jets of water flowed out. The setting must be at a maximum with openings pointed in an upward direction," he gritted his teeth. "But the air button isn't working, right? So have you managed to repair it when the technician could not?"  "I didn't do anything," he said. We looked at each other, then at the bath apparatus, trying to fathom the reason. After a few seconds, he spoke first. "Look, the electrical switch is in 'Off' position. However, that day it was in the 'On' position, and the technician mentioned that the motor wasn't taking any electricity supply. So could it be that the switch works oppositely than how it is supposed to be working?" he deduced. "One way to find out," I said and pressed the air button. A whirlpool of cold water rushed out with a loud noise and sprinkled themselves leisurely all over the bathroom, engulfing us on their way. Both of us were dripping with water by the time I could push the air button again to stop the flow.  "What were you doing?" my husband asked angrily. "Testing your hypothesis," I said and triumphantly announced, "I am going to take a long hot bath in the tub today evening." My husband started to utter his 'Where there's a will' catchphrase but stopped when I threatened to press the Jacuzzi's air button again. *** "Please answer the doorbell and intercom if they happen to buzz in the next hour," I told Sahil after yet another long day. "I am going to take my time in the bathtub.  My husband's eyes widened. Then he went back to his laptop, his day yet to end. I entered the bathroom and closed the door. I opened the water tap. The water seemed to take its own sweet time to fill the tub, but I was in no hurry. I generously poured the body gel into the water and was delighted to see the bubbles spring up. I then undressed and put my right foot gingerly into the half-filled tub. The warm water comforted me enough to bring forward my other foot. I slowly sat down in the tub. I lay down and rested my head on the edge of the tub and felt my body relax in the running water. The tap beside my head was still running. I closed my eyes and waited for the tub to fill up. After some time, I heard Sahil call out my name. I tried to reply, but no words came out. The water had entered my nostrils and mouth. I gasped for air with all the water around me. I tried to pull my head above the liquid, but the water's force was too great and the bathtub too deep. Just then, the jet from the Jacuzzi rushed out in full steam, submerging me further into the depths of the tub. Oh my God. I was going to die in the bathtub. "Noooo," I screamed at the top of my voice. "Sonali, what happened?" My husband rushed inside the unlocked bathroom. I opened my eyes. "Are you ok?" Sahil asked with concern written all over his face. I looked around. The tap was still running even though the bathtub was packed to the brim. Except for the parts above the neck onwards, my body was covered in bubbles. My head was well above water. I had slept off and had a nightmare. "Are you fine?" Sahil reiterated.  "No. I mean yes," I said even as I hastily stood up in the tub, much to the surprise and subsequent delight of my husband. "At least have a complete bath," he said as he gave me a hand to step out into the solid ground again. "I am never going to use a bathtub in my life," I declared. "I will call the realtor tomorrow and ask him to remove this horrible apparatus from our flat. He can install it in some other unit or do whatever he wants with it. If required, I will pay him some money to remove this." My better half gaped at me, trying to read my mind's thoughts. Then he gently pulled me into his arms. "Be careful. You will get soaked with all the soap in my body," I warned as Sahil kissed me on the forehead. "Where there's a will, you will have your way," he said and proceeded to seal my protesting mouth with a most passionate kiss.  Penmancy gets a small share of every purchase you make through these links, and every little helps us continue bringing you the reads you love!