The Broken Pull String

By Sandya Madhavan

What happened when a pampered child met a broken ceiling fan.

Photo by Hanna Benavides.

Photo by Hanna Benavides.

It was half past midnight in the wee hours of the day when I tripped over the book.


I had broken my room’s fan’s pull-string.

After a long day of assignments and classes, I had been craving some good sleep. I hadn’t noticed the book lying on my room’s floor as I sleepwalked towards my bed. The book tripped me up and I had no other option but to catch the fan’s pull string to prevent myself from falling down. And that effectively broke the pull string.


I took the ladder from the storeroom, got on it and tried fixing the fan, but all my efforts were in vain. I had never done anything even remotely close to fixing household appliances before.

Being the pampered child in my family back home in India, I often had people at my disposal to do things for my sake. Right from packing lunches for college and work to cleaning my room and pressing clothes — the list of chores was endless, and I did almost none.

Usually, my mother used to clean up my messy room when it crossed the threshold of her tolerance. The one time I did end up cleaning it was when my mother was tied up elsewhere.

My dad even used to call me “supremely lethargic and indifferent.” I won’t deny that he was right!

But after flying to the United States, there was no one to wash my clothes or clean my room or pack my daily lunches. I now have to do everything, all by myself — my first stab at almost complete independence.

It was a difficult call for my parents to send me here for my graduate degree because of several reasons. I had never lived away from my family neither did I ever do things on my own. They, of all people, knew very well my erratic organization of things and the general chaos of my life.

Initially, my mother was a complete “no” but my dad slowly progressed to a “yes” when it came to the question of sending me so far away. He was of the opinion that I would shed down my laziness, become organized and do things on my own only if I left the comfort of home and only if they were not easily at my every beck and call.

My dad was right. I wash my clothes, I cook food, I clean my room; I do things all by myself. Though it was a difficult start, I got used to it, since self-help is the only help I have here. It was this realization that spurred me to give fixing the fan a real try. Further, I did not want to spend my hard-earned dining job’s wages on fixing this fan. Here’s where I knew the new Sandya had come in — the old Sandya would have informed her parents to take charge of the situation and forgotten about it.

Sometimes staying away from your comfort zone gives you not just a novel experience, but also a life’s worth of lessons. A person’s ability to grow is proportional to their ability to adjust to the unfamiliar and make the best of it. I see myself evolving in my attitude, behavior, managing situations like a broken fan and more such endless responsibilities. Life begins only at the end of your comfort zone.

And the fan? Turns out I couldn’t become a household expert overnight. The next day, I informed my landlord and asked him to fix it, which he did within a minute. Perhaps he wasn’t as pampered a child as a certain graduate student.

Sandya Madhavan is a graduate student studying information studies at Syracuse University.