Repair rituals

Electric and water supplies have become an essential part of contemporary urban life; bright lights, heat, air conditioning, cooking appliances, televisions, computers, and central water supplies are modern conveniences. Of the many kinds of repairs and maintenances required at homes, electrical and plumbing ones tend to intimidate people the most. 

Problem is that most residents cannot handle the troubles. Wiring seems confusing and the specter of electrical shock is scary. Most people do not know that doing certain jobs like replacing fuzzed bulb can be easy and safe, provided basic safety precautions are followed. Similarly, many homeowners can not (or do not) tackle minor plumbing problems, like dripping faucets and clogged drains what to talk of repairing leaky water-supply lines or fixing those messy plumbing problems in kitchens and bathrooms. 

What you do when an electrician or a plumber is needed in a hurry? This question was asked to some residents of posh localities of Lahore – Defence Housing Authority (DHA), Gulberg, Model Town and Cantonment – generally considered modern face of ancient Lahore. Answers revealed that home repairs rituals are not easy for many. 

“Generally speaking repairmen are not qualified to do the job. Most have learnt to handle home repair and maintenance while ‘on job training’ instead of from vocational schools, says Civil Engineer Shahid Mirza, second, houses even in posh localities start having repair problems due to poor quality of material used.” 

In the absence of any central maintenance system and or services, residents have to find repairmen for trouble shooting as and when they arise. Mostly electricians and plumbers are found with the electric and or sanitary stores. Some of them also have working arrangements with the shopkeepers. Call comes to the shopkeeper and he in turn informs the workman to go to the given address. It is mutually beneficial for both of them; workman gets the assignment and shopkeeper sells the parts required. The prices vary and are bargained. 

One of the situations is this: “Give whatever you like Sahib Ji,” says a handyman. After the work is done and Sahib gives what he thinks is appropriate, the workmen finds it less and says, “you can keep this also, I will do it for free putting Sahib in a very embarrassing situation,” narrated Dr. Munir Ghazanfar of Gulberg III. “The worst is that you have an electric outage at home at an odd timing and you don’t find any one to repair,” adds Dr. Ghazanfar. 

Although metropolitan has so many posh localities, the DHA excels them all. It is the first ISO certified housing scheme in the country. It provides the best facilities to its residents and (offers excellent investment opportunities for a variety of projects). But even DHA does not have dedicated maintenance and repair service where one can ring and get the job done in a jiffy. 

“We get maintenance staff from our factory when we need to install, maintain, repair, or operate any electric equipment or have a problem with house circuitry or any other,” says Mian Muhammad Karim who lives in DHA and owns a business concern at Kasur Road. 

But every body does not have such an arrangement where they can get tradesmen at telephone’s call. Rahila Anab, a housewife who lives in DHA with her children while her husband is working abroad says, “It was easy during early phases of development when we used to get hold of people working in houses under construction nearby but now we have to go to the market to find requisite person from shops where they usually hang around. They charge for coming and fault finding and along with the work performed. My elder son is a handyman at home but I do not encourage him to take on anything to do with electricity.” 

It has become difficult to differentiate between commercial and residential districts in Gulberg. Dr. Munir Ghazanfar who is an old resident of Gulberg III says that repair and maintenance problems are tackled by my wife. She has telephone numbers of every one (from plumber to car mechanic) and gives a call when needed. They charge more but problems are solved pretty quickly. Mrs Ghazanfar explained, “Telephone numbers have not come easy way to me. I had personally gone after each one of them in the past when I made it a point to have their telephone numbers handy for future. Every one has one; most have mobile phones.” 

A satellite colony in Cantonment area has a best system working. One small concern provides house repair and cleaning services to the residents of the 800 households in the colony. Repair business offers membership to the residents for a fee and do not charge any thing for minor repairs or fault finding. “We only pay rupees 250/- per month and that solves most of our problems. Call and next moment the repairmen will be on the door. And they will carry our repair so that they don’t need to come again and again where as repairmen from market will invariably leave the job so that he may be needed for repeat visit,” say Sajida Javed, a housewife. Non members have to pay rupees 50/- per trip plus the cost of fixtures. 

“Repair and maintenance in the house is easy. We can always get the repairmen from the market on cost. It becomes difficult when the problem is to be solved by WAPDA, WASA or any of the city development agencies,” says Inam Karim who lives in Model Town, one of the best planned habitat of its time. 

Civil Engineer Shahid Mirza says every one should be able to do certain basic tasks required from time to time: Familiarize yourself with electrical service panel in the house and it is easy to learn to reset a tripped circuit breaker (must use professional help instead of taking risk when required particularly in case of electric problems) or how to shutoff water at the water main or locally at the plumbing fixture when some leakage is flooding the home. Every one should have repair tools and necessary know how in the first place. 

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