mother turned around and whispered into my ears, "is he
always like this?”
"Like what, mom?"
"Like…you know what I mean. I see him take a shower once
every hour, fiddle around with his bicycle on the terrace, and
then go in for a shower again. And yesterday I saw he was in
splits while reading Sophie's World. Sophie's World? What is
there to laugh in that book? Is everything all right with him?
Are things…hmmm, fine between you two?", she hesitated
at this last bit.
come-on Mom, relax. You are reading too much into his actions.
Maybe, because dad is so different from him, you find it odd.
No two men are alike, Ma, don't you think?"
But I had
to secretly agree with her observation. The Hubby was behaving
abnormal these days. Ever since he had heard of my parents impending
visit to Dhaka, he had started acting silly. And now that they
were here, he had become uncontrollable. But of course, I couldn't
have said that to my mom. I couldn't have told her that he may
have had a joke book hidden behind that mega-treatise on philosophy,
that the novel was just a façade. I couldn't have mentioned
the truth about the bike--that for the past two years, it was
rusting in a dark corner of the loft. She would start again
with her "I told you to think twice before tying the knot
happens to most normal men when they are in the presence of
their in-laws. Something happens to most normal women too, in
the company of their in-laws. But the behavioural aberration
is not necessarily identical. That the man in question be The
Hubby, you can imagine how much more skewed that eccentricity
time he met them, before we got married, he insisted on wearing
blood red t-shirts, with a galvanised zinc zipper running right
through, before them.
upon seeing it, more so because I had known him to be a conservative
dresser. And I also knew that these Ts were not his. He had
borrowed it from some Romeo friend of his.
something decent please. You don't dress up like this"
"You obviously haven't noticed my gelled hair. Just you
wait and see dear. I'll impress them with my ways". He
hasn't stopped trying to do so since!
I have to
admit that I am never fully at ease when The Hubby and my parents
are together. And here's why. The Hubby, being a first time
son-in-law, lacks practice and finesse at dealing with his wife
when her parents are around. It's like the discomfort of not
knowing what to do with your hands and fingers in an interview.
He doesn't know which image to play along with- the traditional
role of the supreme lord and master of the house, or this eternally
sweet mushy hopelessly-in-love dove, -- either of which is as
false as his professed passion for coffee! In the former charade,
he wants my parents to comment on how well he has been able
to 'tame' me, but someone please tell him that no set of parents
like to see their child bullied. I tried this same pretence
when my in-laws were around, but I could see that I was unduly
flopping deeper into their bad-books, so I know a bit about
the muddled parent psychology. In the latter charade (the Devdas
avatar), he unwittingly gets into an unannounced competition
with my dad for who can be a bigger hit at the romance game.
My Dad, being a first time pop-in-law, is equally ignorant at
where to draw a line between a healthy competition with his
jamaai, and an absurd one. As you can see, the only person embarrassed
in either situation is my humble self (okay, also my Mother
in the second case), so the only plausible solution is to not
give them a chance to come together at all.
not always be possible. The relationship being such, they are
bound to bump into one another more often than my comfort-threshold
level permits. The discomfiture arises from the woman being
eternally torn between filial obligations and tricky marital
traps. Theoretically, the two are mutually exclusive, but not
so when you are all sitting around in flesh and blood in the
same room. Things like, should she look at the husband while
talking to her Mother (the husband will invariably turn into
a nag when your parents are around saying you are 'ignoring'
him); or should her eyes be on her parents while the husband
is also around (the parents have their own discreet ways of
letting us know that they wish we girls learnt to give some
more time to them when they come visiting us, rather than sticking
around with the husbands as if the parents didn't exist!). Sounds
complicated? Imagine how much more difficult it is for the daughter!
there are his quirks, which if for a moment I accept are more
than mere quirks, surface only when my parents come visiting.
So he will suddenly decide to go rock-climbing one day, and
the other day he'll say he's going river rafting! I am glad
neither of these was available to The Hubby as an option in
Dhaka, which has made this particular in-law visit somewhat
restrained, if a tad unadventurous, for him. The only adrenaline
spilling thing he did this time, apart from the million moronic
things suggested at the start of the piece, was going for a
swim in a frozen outdoor pool at the peak of the cold wave,
followed by a bike hike up to Kaliganj, while we picniced at
Ashulia. At least, the oiling and polishing of the bike had
been for real.