The room is filled with hysterical laughter, fast chitchat and meandering commentary. We’re at a social ‘catch up’ gathering hosted by a family friend, where we hear: “It’s been a long time since we’ve seen you.” Over and over again, like a scratched record.

There’s good housekeeping… then there’s blade mania. One father takes things a little too far…

– The Indian Trumpet’s Fan Special Edition

I make my way from one conversation, to a giggle, to picking up a samosa from a platter being passed around. I turn to ask my dad if he’d care to take one and catch him staring at the ceiling fan. Some might think he’s bored, or simply mesmerised. But if you knew dad well you could tell by his peculiar half pensive, half-annoyed expression that he was thinking only one thing: “I want to clean that fan. I want to fetch a ladder with a wet cloth and clean that fan. Yes, that fan will be gleaming by next weekend’s we-need-to-catch-up again type gathering”.

Sigh. That’s my dad and his fan obsession. Dad has a favourite saying: “Always judge a house by its fans”. That’s how he evaluates a household’s standards. So it’s no surprise that every weekend he’d spend an hour or two religiously cleaning our own ceiling fans. A mundane job, but dad had it mastered and took pride in the whole routine, involving a bucket of water, two cloths, and a ladder. The ascent looked perilous, but in a Rajinikanth move, he’d flick his dhoti, tuck it in, grab a dry cloth, and climb one step at a time till he had a close-up view of the accumulated dust. “Hmm, you should see the dust here! Why doesn’t anyone clean the fans? No one’s interested in the fans!”

Having assessed the levels of dust and grime he’d begin to swipe the fan blades, slowly and steadily. Once satisfied, he’d go down the ladder, wet the second cloth and climb the steps again. Then, almost in stealth mode and with utmost care, he’d swipe each blade like a samurai polishing his sword. It didn’t end there.

The moment he entered a neighbour’s home, dad would start checking out their ceiling fans and forming instant opinions. They could be the top of your game but if their fans were dusty… ouch! Bless them for what was about to come up.

“How often do you clean your fans? They’re quite dirty”, he’d say with a confident smile. “Why don’t I come over and clean your fans some day? In fact, why don’t we do it now?” Oh, those were priceless moments: when someone kindly invited us over for a cup of chai and in return received a Ramu-kaka favour but in a more dignified, English-speaking style.

“No problem, don’t feel shy! I do it for everyone: you’re not the first. Do you have a bucket, two cloths and a ladder?” So what had been intended as a friendly family gettogether would turn into a community housework session. Along the way, there’d be free tips on fan cleaning, homilies on the connection between clean fans and health, and even recommendations for cleaning products. What’s more, if dad liked the family, they might even receive another day of fan cleaning if they were too stumped to absorb what was happening in their home the first time round.

That was dad’s obsession in full effect. So when we moved apartments after 17 years, we secretly chose one with no ceiling fans. No more weekend routines; we hoped dad would move on to more meaningful activities.

Months later I walked into my bedroom to find dad gazing at my floor fan. “When did you buy this fan?” he asks. “Two days back, it gets pretty stuffy in my room and I needed some air circulation. Plus I got it on a deal, dad.”

“Hmmmm, it’s so dusty. Go get a cloth and a bucket of water. Let’s get this thing cleaned…”

I’m tempted to ask my dad why he’s obsessed with fans, but in my mind I can only imagine him responding with the famous line from Shah Rukh Khan’s latest movie ‘Fan’: “Tu Nahin Samjhega!”

Keep blowing the Trumpet! This & many more stories await in the pages!