Published:
01 Apr 2016
Duration:
7 min read
Words:
814 words
“When you have a doctor in your own home, why would you go looking for medical assistance elsewhere”
“When you have a doctor in your own home, why would you go looking for medical assistance elsewhere”

Today, Binod dai is the go-to handyman for all the residents in the more than 50 houses in Chauni Housing, where he himself has been living for 11 years. They come to him for any electricity-related work that needs to be done: From wiring the whole house to fixing something as simple as a heater, Binod Dai does it all. No one in the colony dares to get an outside repairman, because here, the onus on maintaining handyman-client relation falls on the client. They never know when they might need him. Binod dai has a more nuanced take on the relationship: “When you have a doctor in your own home, why would you go looking for medical assistance elsewhere,” he says. 

"I realised that if I believed enough, I could repair anything"
The practitioner has not received any formal training; he picked up the tools of the trade by getting his hands greasy. He did go to school—to learn the usual things—but by the time he was an inquisitive seven-year-old, he had already formed a strong opinion about education: that it was useless, at least for him. 

So he started spending less time attending classes, and more and more time wandering around his village in Saptari, looking for something, anything, to fix. He started by repairing lead acid batteries for the villagers. Initially, he used to just sit and watch other mechanics at work, while he absorbed everything they did, like a sponge. But he could only watch for so long. The first chance he got, he dove in and thought his way through the problem. “I realised that if I believed enough, I could repair anything.

"Except a watch, I don’t have the patience to repair something that intricate with so many small parts.” As a kid, he had tried repairing a Seiko 5. But the screws kept slipping through his fingers, and he got so frustrated he reached for the hammer in his toolbox and smashed it to pieces. Today, 35, he knows to stay away from watches. 
“You can’t fix anything without first breaking it yourself a few times”

But anything else the villagers brought to him—broken radios, televisions, telephones, heaters, pumps—the Phuchhe Mistiri, as he was called, had no problem fixing. Some people would even carry him on their dokos to the villages in Halesi, so that he could fix their rice-milling machines. There was a simple engineering principle that he depended on: “I’d pull the thing apart; tweak a few things here and there; put it back together; that would either work, or not;  if it didn’t, then I’d pull the machine apart again,” he says. “You can’t fix anything without first breaking it yourself a few times.”

Over the two decades that he has been working, he has built a vast repository in his head of the methods that worked, and those that didn’t. He has also developed a method to crack the most complex of schematics. “Be it a TV, AC, telephone, cellphone, anything, there are only four major parts, or variants thereof, in all electric equipment—the diode, transistor, capacitor and integrated circuit,” he says. “I use a multimeter to figure out which one of these  components is faulty. And once I have done that, I just focus on the problem area.” 

For Binod dai, it has always been as easy as that, and today, with his wife—and coworker—by his side, things have gotten even easier. If she is not busy repairing a water pump, or a TV, she can be found beside Binod dai’s ladder, while he fiddles around with a light bulb or checks the ducts in an AC. She’ll be working on a peripheral part while he tackles the mother unit. “She is so good that I don’t have to hire an outsider. We are a family team,” he says. 

It’s a team that might soon get bigger. Every day, when his three kids return from school, they sit around him as he repairs stuff. “Instead of doing their homework, they’ll fiddle with things—the way I used to as a kid.”