Sunday afternoon, an electrician comes to the house to figure out why my air conditioner is not working. It’s not the squirrels' fault this time; it seems to be an electrical problem. He spends several hours working on it, and also fixes several other electrical problems I’ve had. When he leaves, the A/C is humming along nicely.
Somewhere in the middle of the night, it sputters and dies. Again. Along with it goes the power to half of the house. No A/C, no lights, no ceiling fans, no refrigerator.
In the morning, the caretaker says she will call the electrician and ask him to come back.
When I return from work late that night, I am looking forward to retiring to the coolness of my bedroom. But it turns out the electrician has not shown up. The driver who drops me off from work is concerned about me spending the night in a dark, hot house, so he walks inside and proceeds to see what he can do to remedy the situation. Soon, he is joined by the caretaker, then the caretaker’s daughter-in-law, then her husband. The driver has discovered that one of the outlets in the kitchen is still working, so he is moving my refrigerator and hoisting it onto the kitchen counter in an effort to reach the only working plug. The daughter-in-law returns with a window fan, and is looking for another working outlet to plug it into. With her comes her sister and her child, both of whom stand at the door, peeking curiously into my house. Two other guys emerge from the caretaker’s hut. (Ok, so maybe there are more than five of them living in that hut!) One of them is carrying a tool of indeterminate function with which he proceeds to pry open the electrical box outside. (I hear an "ow!" as he quickly jerks his hand out of the electrical box, and I'm relieved that I now know that the Indian equivalent of 911 is 102!) The other guy heads towards the fuse box in the kitchen. Someone else is lighting some of my candles. A lizard emerges from a window, no doubt wondering what all the commotion is in a usually-quiet house. At the lizard’s appearance, several people glance in my direction (they know my lizard-phobia) and, for my benefit, one of them grabs a whisk broom and proceeds to coax the lizard out the door.
In the middle of this chaos, a toddler runs around chanting palli, palli. (He has latched onto the word after I tried to explain to him that lizards (palli) scare me.) Surveying this scene, I collapse onto my couch and start to laugh. There is a whole village-full of people in my house. Since none of them speak much English and I don’t speak much Tamil, they’re not really bothering to tell me everything they’re doing, they’re just focused on their little tasks, hustling about, trying to figure out the best solution to this problem. It reminds me of some sort of communal barnraising, where everyone does their part towards some mutually agreed-upon outcome!
They never do get the a/c up and running that night, but at least I know we tried, and the food in my refrigerator is safe for the night.
I may be 10,000 miles from home, but there is a whole village of strangers looking after my welfare!