Death, etc.

Of late I’ve been smelling a lot of Ethyl Mercaptan in the kitchen. Especially in the fridge. I must point out that the architeture of my kitchen is such that the gas cylinder is placed right next to the fridge. But then, there is a thick wall and a door in between, so I fail to understand why theĀ  mercaptan smell emanates from the fridge.

I’ve never been good at the business of connecting the regulator to the gas stove. In over fifteen years of gas usage (prior to that we didn’t have gas stove at home – parents worked for the electricity board and hence we had free electricity; so we used electric stove) I’ve somehow managed to avoid any sort of mishaps. Of course for the first half of those fifteen years I wasn’t really allowed close to the cylinder.

Sometimes I go mad, and think I must apply for the Darwin award. Yes, this is connected to what I’ve written in the earlier part of this essay. My normal reaction when I smell Ethyl Mercaptan in the kitchen is to pick up the lighter and strike it. That is my normal way of convincing myself that there is indeed no gas leak, and the smell is due to some internal demons in my head. Of course, if it indeed turns out that there was a gas leak, then I’ll surely get a posthumous Darwin awards, right? (as far as I know I haven’t impregnated anyone, so my genes will become extinct)

The downside of this process is that if I indeed die this way, and thus stake my claim at the Darwin awards, I will be classified as a “stove burst” case and get reported on the page three of all newspapers in the “crime beat” section. The story will be preceded by that of a man dying in a motorcycle accident, and will be succeeded by that of a woman filing a dowry harassment case against her in-laws. The problem with “stove burst” (despite the Darwin award) is that it’s such a womanly way to die. Have you ever read in the paper, either on Page 3 or otherwise, that a man died in a stove-burst?

It’s only women who die in stove bursts. And typically it is very weak women. Women trapped in bad marriages, with in-laws demanding tonnes of dowry. “Stove burst” is a convenient excuse for the woman’s death – it would in most cases be murder or suicide. Stove burst is definitely not a manly way to die. There are several other honourable bursts from which men die. Sher Shah Suri, they say, died when a gun burst in his face (during the siege of Kalinjar in 1545, if my JNU-authored NCERT textbook is to be believed). Tycho Brahe, on the other hand, died when his own bladder burst (he was at a royal dinner and felt it wasn’t done to excuse himself). Those are manly ways to die, not stove bursts. So maybe I should give up on the Darwin award, after all.

While on the topic, I’ve been kicking buckets quite often nowadays. I have lots of buckets at home, like any good Indian should. But unlike most good Indians, I don’t take good care of my buckets and leave them lying around in the pathways. Now that I don’t have any relatives in any electricity board, I try to conserve electricity, and so leave most of the lights off. And hence keep kicking the bucket. Each time I kick a bucket, I just lift it up (it would’ve usually toppled) and keep it to the side, unmindful that there is a very good chance that my next random walk will encounter it. And I kick the bucket again. And again.



Today is Shivarathri. It is a holiday for the National Stock Exchange, which has made it an optional holiday for us (there are 10 such days of which we can choose 3). And I’ve chosen to exercise this option today. Sitting at home and battling internal demons. And saying goodbye to winter.

My mother says that the fact that it has become considerably hotter today points to the greatness of God. “It is ordained that on the day of Shivarathri, winter will cry ‘shiva shiva’ and run away, and that it has suddenly become hot today is an indication that God still makes nature obey ‘the laws’ “.

I agree with her argument but not with her conclusion. I say that the fact that winter seems to be on its way out today, on the day of Shivarathri, points to the greatness of the people who made our calendar. That they managed to study the stars accurately, and came up with a sustainable forecast regarding the closing date for winter that is valid even thousands of years hence is a good indication of how brilliant they were.

Like that coffee bite argument used to say, the argument continues.

Today being Shivarathri also means that it should be a night dedicated to the lingam – the most commonly worshipped form of Shiva. I wonder how many people are currently looking at their hands and thinking of a form of Vishnu that is worshipped in Puri.

This morning, my neighbour went to a nearby Shiva temple, to take part in something like “linga abhishekam”. She took along a mixture of milk, ganga jal (water from the Ganga; not H2SO4 of Bhagalpur) and sugar to do the pooja. Later on, my mother was on the phone with her sister, and after a long philosophical discussion they concluded that women doing the “linga abhishekam” is not part of South Indian Brahmin culture.