Hamam, Geyser and Beyond: Oyeyeyeyeye Paniiiiiiiii Thandaaaaaaa Heyyyyyyy

Posted on December 9, 2006
Filed Under >Deeda-e-Beena, Economy & Development, Environment, Science and Technology
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Guest Post by Deeda-i-Beena

For most people in the past, the winter bath would be of cold water, Langotie-clad and preferably in plentiful sunshine. The weaker of the skin would boil water in a pot, mix it with cold in a bucket and do the job. The well-off possessed a Hamam – an oversized Samovar, right in their bathrooms and enjoyed its luxurious warmth and privacy right in their homes. There were also the neighbourhood Garam Hamam where, for a small charge one could bathe with host water.

The discovery of Sui Gas some four decades ago has materially changed it all, albeit only in some ways (here and here).

It was then stated the Sui Gas fields were so vast that Pakistan’s fuel needs were taken care of for the next two-hundred years. Wrong. Us red-blooded Pakistanis have wiped them out in some forty years. We are now looking to import natural gas from Central Asia and Iran. Prior to the discovery of Sui Gas, we had practically consumed forests for cooking-wood and the ever-present Taals are becoming a thing of the past. The Charcoal and Pathar ka Koila was becoming rare. For a while then we enjoyed the blue-glow of the Kerosene stoves. But, with the world price of oil soaring, the imported Kerosene oil bill was also becoming prohibitive.

For a while we thought Pakistanis will revert to stone-age and survive on semi-cooked or raw food. Miracle of miracles, there came the Sui Gas on our door-steps. Alhamdolillah.

So good. So wonderful. And so cheap, that all people-Milkshops, Halwaies, Restaurants included – would keep their stove’s aflame (and many still do) all the time rather than light up a match whenever it was needed. A matchbox one has to buy all the time, while the Gas Bill just comes once in a while and may be paid (by someone). The larger cities benefited from the Pipelines, as well as from leaks and explosions. The creative, popular genius discovered the gas-cylinder transported to their remote areas and homes complete with leaks and explosions. Combating winter cold weather with indoor gas-burning heaters – particularly the imported RINNAIS add prestige and comfort as well as deaths due to Carbon monoxide poisoning. But that is a separate story.

Back to the water heaters. The Geyser, of which unknown millions are scattered all over Pakistan, conceptually is no different from the centuries-old Hamam. It has the round, sealed water tank surrounding the middle tube at the bottom of which there is a magnum-sized Sui-Gas burner which has replaced the Charcoal.

The modern technologies used in this contraption comprise a Thermostat, Gas and, Cold/Hot water plumbing and the fact that it is placed outside the bathrooms to avoid Carbon-monoxide poisoning. In the USA a very similar water heater is still placed inside the home to avoid heat loss, with proper ventilation installed under strict safety-codes. In the USA also, even when the similar water heaters are kept indoors, they are constructed with ample insulation around the inside water tank as well as the outer periphery of the water heater in order to doubly ensure Insulation, minimize heat loss and Save both Gas for the Country and expense by the Consumer.

Let us look at the Geysers of Pakistan – the modern day Hamams. Usually, the larger ones have a 50-Gallon capacity and serve two, three, sometimes four bathrooms in a home. Its emerging hot-water pipe meandering towards the bathrooms served can be tens of yards long. So by the time the hot-water arrives at its destination, for you the bather (or more than one simultaneous users) it is at best tepid, or at its worst Cold, expelling the well-known scream Oyeyeyeyey Thandaaaa Paniiiiiiii Heyyyyyyyyy.

It is a pretty site that no one (I hope) except the bather can see. You, the bather all soaped-up and screaming!!!!!!Let us take an average household of five persons in which each person takes a bath every day, needing 10 minutes of continuous running hot water. This comes to say one hour of hot water. Let us add to that another hour of continuous running water needed for the kitchen etc. That makes it a liberal two hours of continuous running water a-day. To provide for these two hours we have the Geyser Thermostat working for 24 hours.

I have called this “Use to Waste Ratio� which comes to 1:12. In other words we are wasting 12 hours of Sui Gas to obtain 1 hour of hot water. Multiply this waste-factor with countless millions of Geysers in the country and there is no wonder that the Gas which was estimated to last two-hundred years is flaming out in forty.

This is just a mathematical calculation. Add to that the fact that this un-insulated contraption, placed outside the house is fighting nature and elements. The Thermostat is continuously ON – OFF adding further to the “Use to Waste Ratio.� New, better-looking and more expensive models are being advertised and people are commended: Kitna khoobsurat hay tumhara Geyser. All praise is for the unimportant looks. No effort is made to improve its efficiency and cost-effectiveness.

All is not lost. There are other kinds of alternatives known for heating water. Imported models and also there is a struggling manufacturer in Lahore who is producing “Instant⠀� Water Heaters. You open the Tap and the Gas burner lights-up, producing instant hot water. Close the Tap and the flame goes Off. That simple. It is located outside the house and since there is no storage tank involved which is fighting the elements, there is no Gas wastage. I understand the cost of this unit is comparable to the present day Geyser so it is arguable that the investment in one of these can pay for itself in one winter season, by making savings in the Gas Bill.

I have myself switched over to these. The photographs accompanying this article show the old Hamam type as well as the new Instant kind. I have hot running water for as long as I keep the Tap open and, have the cold water and Gas running.

And no more hearing the scream in my house: Oyeyeyeyeye Paniiiiiiiii Thandaaaaaaa Heyyyyyyy.

Deeda-i-Beena is a former graduate teacher, has international experience and background in social, environmental and human developement issues.

14 responses to “Hamam, Geyser and Beyond: Oyeyeyeyeye Paniiiiiiiii Thandaaaaaaa Heyyyyyyy

  1. Asma says:

    Wonderful post … somehow … it really is a shout of every household … that paani thanda hay geaser taiza karein :D

  2. Daktar says:

    Very interesting and entertaining also.
    People did take up CNG in large numbers once they understood the economics of conservation. I hope people will also take these up.
    By the way, what is the cost difference between teh old geysers and the Instant water heaters?

  3. MQ says:

    Nice post. Useful and instructive. I can identify with the shout “Oye, thanda paani aya keh nahin aya!”

  4. Samdani says:

    Loved the headline and enjoyed the post.
    I think that given the harshness of the weather in the North of Pakistan specially we really need to think of conversation. I have not tried these heaters but if they really are cost-competitive then people shoudl take them up…. less money, less use of energy, even less danger. So, why are more people not using it.

    By the way, thanks for enjoyably written post.

  5. Actually your post reminded me the famous Mahwara which I would like to use for Pakistani politics


    Is Hammam[Siyasat] mey sab Nangay Putangay Hain.

    I altered the orignal one because these politicians have crossed all the limits of lust and greediness to stay in power.

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