At first there were 2 men. They came and looked at the window, the wall and the kitchen platform, muttered to each other, shook their heads and went away.

Then there was Teja, who always wants to do things the difficult way. He said that what the 2 men had suggested would spoil the window and the wall. He was going to think about it some more.

I moaned. Teja thinking about it some more, means Teja thinking about it a lot, lot more than I have patience for.

Then Teja called over his assistant. Teja and his assistant looked at the window, and the wall, muttered to each other and shook their heads, and Teja’s assistant went away.

Teja’s assistant came with a contractor. Teja, his assistant and the contractor leaned out of the window, took measurements, drilled, sawed, hammered. Every time I went to look at them, they shook their heads and did not look at me, they only muttered to themselves, even if I asked them whether they wanted some tea.

Then 2 men came, and fitted the meter and some pipes. Teja leaned out of the study room window to look at how they were working outside the kitchen window. Every time I went to look at them, they shook their heads and did not look at me.

When the 2 men went away, I said, “But the pipes are not connected to anything.”

Teja said, “The 2 men will come again to fix some more pipes.”

The 2 men did that. The pipes still didn’t connect to the stove.

Teja said, “Someone else will come to do that.”

I said, “Another man?”

He said, “Yes.”

Another man came. But he was not there for the stove. He was there to offer a plastic cover for the meter. It was hideous. We refused it.

Another man came with the rubber pipe to fit to the stove. He disconnected our gas cylinder and went away to fetch something else.

Another man came in and looked at our meter. He muttered to himself and shook his head.

Then another man came in. They muttered to each other and shook their heads.

I asked Teja, “What happened?”

Teja said, “The gas meter is not working.”

I asked, “Then?”

Teja said, “Someone is coming with a new one.”

I asked, “Another man?”

He said, “Yes.”

Meanwhile, the rubber pipe man came back and looked at the meter men. They all muttered to each other and shook their heads.

Another man came with the meter. 1 meter man changed it. The other 2 looked at him and muttered to each other, shaking their heads. The rubber pipe man looked on. I went in to look at them, but all the muttering drove me away.

I asked Teja, “When can we make some tea on the stove?”

Teja shrugged, “I don’t know. Someone else is coming with another meter. This one is not working too.”

I said, “Another man?”

He said, “Yes.”

It’s taken over 5 years for the society complex to negotiate a good deal with the gas company. I don’t know how many men, how much muttering, and how much head shaking was involved.

But I was very pleased when all the men had left my kitchen, and the yellow pipe was connected, and I could have my cup of tea.

I am going to miss Sajan, my gas cylinder man though. He is the only man who did not mutter to himself and shake his head, but actually talked to me. Once, he spent 15 minutes making me practice how to change the cylinders, reassuring me that it was easy, and I was not going to blow the house up. I never learned to do it properly though, and I guess I don’t need to anymore.

The rubber pipe man did show me how to switch off the gas at night, and the main connection when the house is shut for several days. He muttered, but at least he was muttering to me.