Painting on the wallA few weeks back, I had a particularly ‘Indian’ day; a lot of noise, a lot of people and a job partially done…

Let me explain. I was working from home – which is wonderful – and the building manager waltzed in for a chat. He likes me now, as I sent him a Christmas text wishing him all the best, unlike everyone else in the compound who was whinging at him for not fixing things. So, we’re pals.

He used to never answer my calls as my landlord doesn’t pay the building maintenance on time. I couldn’t even get drinking water – and that’s included in my rent.

However, now he knows I pay the landlord, it’s just that the landlord’s not paying the building co-op, he comes round to hear all the things that could be fixed if the landlord was paying the maintenance, but aren’t being fixed because of, as they say here, ‘a shortfall in funds’. He does all this so that I can gasp for his delight ‘but that’s outrageous. Why hasn’t he paid you? I’ve paid him, that’s just theft!’ And then he stands there beaming at me saying, ‘yes, it should be fixed’. Which seeing as he’s the man who should organise such things, is just plain odd.

Anyway, after he’d had one of his minions do something about the dripping in one of the bathrooms – no charge, Madam – he continued to wander about saying ‘anything else need fixing, or you need help with?’ Which is of course lovely. Doesn’t for a second mean they’ll be fixed, but always nice to be asked. So I pipe up with, ‘well actually, see this enormous painting on wood that’s as big as a barn door? Well, I’d like it on the wall.’

And nice man that he is, he said, of course. And so a comedy of errors ensued. Three of his finest employees (which really isn’t saying much), the same brave chaps who wired up the air con with a fine combination of gaffer tape and bare cables… came round and proceeded to drill endless holes in the wall. Randomly, as far as I could gather.

For three hours.

It’s a heavy bit of wood. As you can see in the picture, that’s a large and weighty object. It takes at least two people to lift it. It ripped many bolts out of the wall before they decided to try something of a supporting baton to take some of the weight… obvious really, but there you go. No one here ever seems to want to do the obvious thing without first proving why it’s the obvious thing three or four times. It’s best to show it screwed up and only then do the sensible thing.

The picture rests vertically but sadly not hungSo, eventually I’m called downstairs – Madam, please come – and am confronted with the whole thing hung rather precariously on a very battered wall at roughly speaking a 60 degree angle. Much shifting about and a ‘Madam, it’s not straight, ok?’ – well, er, could it be? – hmm, novel idea – much glancing between the workers, then finally – ok.

So they pick up a corner of the picture and move it about mostly still attached and still on the wall, ‘how about this, this straight?’ and ‘how about this?’ Scraping the wall yet further and as it’s very heavy requiring two of them to haul it about to something vaguely similar to straight.

Eventually I can’t stand it anymore and go and get a spirit level. I used to be a silversmith, I have tools. Though you don’t need to be a silversmith to have a spirit level where I’m from – anyone who hangs a picture will probably have one. Not so here, the arrival of the spirit level causes much consternation or, I think, professional envy. I could hear a great deal of Kannada spoken of which the only words I understood were, ‘spirit level’ and ‘Madam’ – I can only assume along the lines of ‘where the hell did that come from?’ Madam. ‘No!’

So with the aid of my spirit level we all agreed what straight was, and they pulled the thing off the wall, drilled another bunch of dubious holes – there’s about 7 back there that I’ve seen, possibly more, and big chunks of plaster fallen off the walls, so I’ll have to live here forever as I’ll never get my deposit back now – and eventually I was called back downstairs to look at it again.

It is, of course, not actually now straight. Much, much straighter, but perhaps 86 degrees not 90. Which on something that size is really going to show.

So of course, I said ‘it’s not straight’ and we all looked at its lack of straightness and the carnage around it and the scuff marks all over the walls and the three people who have been hauling the thing on and off the wall look very tired. And frankly, I’m not known for my tipping since the electrics and gaffer tape incident. So everyone was tired and covered in bits of wall and they all looked sideways at me…

…and I said…

‘Oh leave it, it’ll do’

And that’s pretty much how India works. Things are often done so badly the first time, that you’re relieved to have anything even remotely like how you expected it the second time. So you accept a job that would have been appalling if you’d seen it like that to begin with.

More annoyingly, I then had to tip. I didn’t once as I said – that’s when they gaffer taped exposed wiring from the air-con running directly behind a metal curtain rail… When I complained, they thought I didn’t like the colour of the tape. No, no, that’s not the problem, it’s the potentially electrified curtain rail.

It was hellish after I’d not tipped, I couldn’t get anything done around here after that. Well that and my landlords non-payment of maintenance charges. So even after rubbish work, one must tip – particularly if you’ve had three of them heaving an enormous bit of wood about for three hours. And let’s face it, hanging a picture is not exactly essential work. I gave them a handsome 100 rupees. that’s more than a days’ work in Kerala, and not bad here for their level of competence… it’s about £1.20.

They probably ruined more than that in bolts.

And I’m now stuck with a painting at 86 degrees.

Good job I’m not detail obsessed or used to working with mathematical precision with a computer… oh wait.


This post is one of my favourites – and is on the best of the blog page. Why not hop over and check out some more foolishness there?

Or go straight to the good stuff here:

For internal use, madam

She’s actually faking dusting

And please do add your own tales of maintenance mayhem in the comments below. I love to know I’m not alone…