<%-- Page Title--%> Slice of Life <%-- End Page Title--%>

<%-- Volume Number --%> Vol 1 Num 140 <%-- End Volume Number --%>

January 30, 2004

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Look Who's Here

Richa Jha

My 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.

"Oh, 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 with him".

Something 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 will be.

The first 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.

I freaked 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.

"Wear 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.

That may 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!

And then 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.





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