Shashi Warrior | Hobgoblin in the house

Until the first Covid lockdown two years ago, my wife Prita refused to believe in the supernatural. The car, her main means of transportation, behaved perfectly fine when she was in it, no matter who was driving. Just like the various household gadgets, the washing machine, the dishwasher, the vacuum cleaner, the television set… In short, no device behaved badly in its presence.

The only exception was my bike. The brakes faded inconsistently, the engine refused to start in wet weather, metal bits rusted all over, and the rear tire, although its treads were in good condition, slipped when I braked hard in the turns. I blamed the misbehavior of the gremlins but she thought it was because I couldn’t ride a horse.

Then came confinement, with little things that made life difficult. The lady who came in every other day to help with household chores disappeared. She lived far away and couldn’t get to work without the bus service, which had stopped. We found a replacement who lived only a hundred meters away, but she only lasted a few months because she had to return to her native village when her husband became unemployed.

At this point we debated whether to use a robot to sweep and wash the floors, but I advised against it. As an older person with limited learning abilities, I find it difficult to cope with anything new or high-tech. So we found another lady to help us from time to time, but it only lasted a few weeks: she found a job somewhere in the Middle East. Having no choice, we swallowed our mistrust and ordered a Chinese-made robot designed to sweep, vacuum and mop the floor.

Four days later, a large, colorful cardboard box arrived at our doorstep. From there emerged an object about six inches high and fifteen inches in diameter, white on the sides and most of the top, with a single switch on one edge and what appeared to be a Cyclopean eye on the side just below the ‘light switch. Additions included a kind of three-legged brush, a mop like piece of velcro, and a box containing a small water reservoir and a small bin in which he swept the dust he picked up on the floor. Prita had it all figured out in about ten minutes, with a little help from the helpline, and by the time the robot was fully charged a few hours later, the required app was installed on her cell phone and ready. to get it. clean the house.

This was the beginning of our discovery of the robot’s eccentricities, which our cat seemed to understand better than us, because she ran away from the house as soon as the robot started. We found that there were places where her fifteen inch body was blocked by furniture and other household objects. After his first run, we found large stretches of dusty ground where he had been prevented from going. Over the next few hours we rearranged the furniture – this involved moving some furniture outside and putting a stool on a cupboard – and restarting the robot, and found it needed wi-fi everywhere it was working. Our internet connection works intermittently and is weak in some parts of the house. The robot, which had run out of charge, was unable to find the charger and instead circled around until the battery drained. So we have a signal amplifier.

Over the weeks, we have discovered many more of its other particularities. He likes to eat headphones, for example. Mine disappeared a few weeks after the robot arrived, and we then retrieved the headphones from the robot’s trash can, minus the foam covers for the tips that go into the ear.

He likes to attack carpets, getting stuck there and buzzing like a loud, malevolent bumblebee until one of us saves him. He pushes the slippers and other objects under the beds, in dark places inaccessible to the elderly. It rolls up doormats and pushes them where you never thought to look for them.

Every once in a while – seemingly at random intervals, as it sometimes goes an hour without charging and other times only a few minutes – it discharges, announces it’s about to recharge, and wanders off to find the charger.

Most troubling of all is that it determines the order in which it operates. You never know where it will start. He makes three passes through each room: one for edging, a second for sweeping, and a third for mopping, but he does them in a sequence that seemed random at first, but I found out it was just malicious.
Settle down to meditate, for example, and he’ll drop whatever he’s doing and find his way to the next room, shackling himself and making emergency-type grunts until you’re completely disturbed. Experiment with an exotic dish that requires constant attention and it will invade the kitchen and endlessly snap under your toes. Try napping in the bedroom and he’ll come to wake you up, buzzing and thumping angrily against the legs of the bed.

We named it Kuttichathan, Malayalam for hobgoblin. Prita, now a devout believer, fears to call him that because she might do something particularly mean if he heard her. Our lives are now built around Kuttichathan: how we organize our furniture, when we cook, what TV programs we watch, when we go out… When we go out, the first thing we do when we get home is to check what damage Kuttichathan has done in our absence. And now that I’ve told you all that, if we’re found murdered in our beds, you know whodunnit.

End of

Comments are closed.