Andrew Buncombe: If it's broke, let a handyman fix it

Delhi Notebook
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The Independent Online

All power, I say, to Bijender Singh; all power to India. When a fire wrecked our apartment, one of the things that appeared destined for the dustbin was the DVD player, the front of which had melted. You can't fix that, I assumed, and was going to throw it out until I noticed a young man I had hired to help clean up was showing particular interest in it. One phone call to the manufacturer later and Mr Singh arrived on his motorbike to inspect the melted piece of hardware.

He looked shocked when I asked if I would have to throw it away. "We can replace this part easily," he said. By contrast, we in the West have become throw-away consumers; when was the last time you even saw an electronics repair shop? If it breaks, throw it away and buy a new one. If the battery on your iPod runs out, buy a new iPod. Better still, buy a more expensive model. If the element in your toaster burns out, get a new machine. We are always told it's cheaper and easier to replace than to repair.

However, in India – a society that for generations has had to make do – the skills of the fixing industry are still in every day demand. The shoe-mender will fix your broken heels; someone at the dry cleaner's will repair a tear so finely that the torn shirt will look splendid; the carpenter will fix your broken shelf – and all for a modest fee, even by Indian standards.

When Mr Singh came back with a replacement part, it took him less than 10 minutes to have the DVD machine as good as new. The total cost was 385 rupees, or £5.30. On a hot morning, Mr Singh wanted no more than thanks than a glass of cold water.

A diplomatic approach

It has been murderously hot in Delhi (more than 4C, or 108F on Tuesday) and the city has been rocked by power blackouts and water shortages. A lifeline arrives from a diplomat friend in the form of an invitation to dine at her house in the embassy grounds (blessed with back-up power), preceeded by a swim in the pool. I arrive too late for a swim but just in time for a glass of chilled chardonnday. Safe in the comfort zone, I want to stay all night but eventually we tumble out into the hot, singed night. When we get home there is a power cut. How quickly that sense of comfort disappears.

Bluesman turns up the heat

To a hot and sweaty Delhi bar to see the north-east Indian blues legend Lou Majaw. He holds the record for organising the largest ever mass strum (1,730 guitarists doing a Dylan number). The air- conditioning was useless. Lou rocked.