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It all started rather innocuously, when my better half and I noticed that many of the light bulbs in our house were fused, and we were often fumbling in semi-darkness.

“Just buy the bulbs in the hypermarket, and we’ll call the electrician to come and fix them,” said my ever-practical husband.

“It’s not as simple as that,” I shot back. “Some of these light bulbs aren’t available in the hypermarket. We have to go to X___ store.” I named a rather expensive store that sold all manner of lights and fittings.

I should have stopped here, but went on, suggesting we visit a well-known sprawling outlet mall on the outskirts of the city that sold anything and everything at rock-bottom prices.

Now, if you live in the UAE, you will know that not just the streets, but most houses too are ablaze with lights. Like most other residents, we have lights galore, all of different shapes and sizes. For example, the kitchen lights are round, flat LED ones, while those that twinkle on the false ceiling of our living room are little conical ones. Then of course, there are the “normal” shaped bulbs that fit into the sockets of the bedrooms and bathroom, and the candle-shaped ones that have to go into the faux-crystal chandelier. (This said chandelier, which I had insisted on buying when the shop was shutting down, seemed to always be needing replacements, so a trip to this wholesale market was as good an excuse as any to stock up on these lights).

Since it was miles away in the middle of nowhere, my brave hero of a husband volunteered to take me on a Saturday morning, that being the weekend with not much to do for a semi-retired couple. So off we went, punching in the directions on WAZE so that we wouldn’t take the wrong turn and land up in the middle of nowhere. It seemed everybody had the same idea, to come here on a Saturday. Parking was a nightmare, and the crowds seemed to be in a festive mood, with entire families, including kids and nannies, also being dragged along.

Shades of white

The shopping was done, and we left for home with our booty, congratulating ourselves for a job well accomplished.

Little did we realise that this would not be the last visit. To my utter consternation, the electrician informed us that some of the lights did not match our requirements.

Instead of round kitchen lights, we’d got square ones, and instead of a small pin base, we’d had bought large ones, mistakes for which I wholly took the blame as I hadn’t bothered to open the packaging and check that it was all OK, despite being warned to do so by well-meaning friends.

The following week saw us again visiting the outlet. “Don’t worry, this time. I’ll check each pack,” I told my rather grumpy husband.

Dear reader, what can I say? As a novice, did I ever know that, apart from size, shape and base, there are different shades of white to a light bulb?

“These are cool white or daylight, and all your lights are warm white. Do you still want me to install them?”

The electrician was as helpful as ever — he’d increased my knowledge of light bulbs manifold. I didn’t have an option, as the ‘bitter’ half growled and said he would not be going anywhere near that mall in this lifetime, and I could go and exchange the bulbs myself if I was so particular.

“No problem, put them up,” I said resignedly.

Now our house is a strange amalgamation of light and colour with all the different shades of white. But I am not defeated. If I catch any guest looking askance at the ceiling, I just tell them that this is the latest avant-garde look in lighting.

Padmini B. Sankar is a Dubai-based freelance writer.