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     Volume 5 Issue 115 | October 6, 2006 |

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Common Cold

Battleground Home!

Neeraj Sinha

Week before last, by the time I woke up in the morning, the Missus was already done with the suitcases and just one of the handbags remained unattended. Rows upon rows of the built-in cupboards in our flat, which had so sportingly borne the weight of her massive collection of outfits enough to clothe at least a company of women soldiers at full strength, looked empty and desolate. So did the shoe (sandal) rack and the cosmetics storage dump in the bathroom…!

I had barely had time to make myself presentable before the front door rang. It was the gateman announcing the arrival of a cab from the neighbourhood stand. That's the trouble with living with or being married to, the modern woman, they take care of everything. No clumsy slips anywhere. While men in a similar situation can be trusted to overlook a few vital ingredients on which the success or otherwise of the plan would depend, the modern woman knows her mind and once it is made up, goof-ups are a mathematical impossibility. Everything is thought through, including transportation and alternative plans. And the Missus, believe me, even has plans to deal with hartals, should one come in her way.

The 'Handing over-Taking over' ceremony solemnised in the kitchen area remained short, crisp and grim in keeping with the overall mood. The maids stood witness as the Missus handed me a pair of worn mittens that I had lovingly bought a few seasons ago and walked out on me through the front door, a dozen suitcases and the lone kid in tow. Lest you misconstrue, let me clarify that the mittens now had a worn look only because they were, as I mentioned, a few season old. They remained otherwise untouched by human hands except by the salesperson who had sold them to me.

Two things happened in quick succession the moment the news of the 'departure' became public. My maids, perhaps out of solidarity for a fellow woman 'wronged', or may be because they thought the house was no longer safe to work in, gave me the notice. An eager neighbour who had on many occasions savoured the delicacies prepared at my house on weekend parties was already negotiating with them with offers for 'relocation'.

Having been born in an age when even though text books said men and women were equal, nobody, least of all the students themselves believed in them and therefore my cooking skills remained at their primitive most. Parents, way back then were yet to see the writing on the wall and no one had anticipated that the new age woman would arrive this soon…! Translated in plain English this meant that I didn't know what to do next after the gas burners had been lit nice and proper…!

The other development following the departure of the Missus came as a bit of a surprise. I suddenly seemed to develop a fan following among the men folk, especially those who publicly claimed to be 'happily' married. While the others maintained a studied silence, my neighbour, who did not believe in diplomatic niceties, opined that people were flocking over in the hope of picking up a 'trick' or two!

But this bliss like all the others, remained short lived. The Missus and I soon realised that we had got far too used to each other to stay away for long. And once the realisation of inseparability dawned on either side, things developed rather fast. I mean one can have one's daily meals all by oneself and even watch the movies in the aforementioned manner. But there comes a time in every man's (and every woman's am sure) life when you feel like saying mean things aloud. And who will ever tolerate the nastiness that remains hidden within us all, lurking just below the surface of cultivated etiquette and social behaviour, but the companion for life?

Those years of staying together and saying one mean thing after another is something that only someone who is 'happily married' will ever know. Outsiders can't even begin to comprehend adequately the precise context of the barbs that the couples of the world throw at each other. Meanwhile, one long distance sms led to another and before you could say 'cease fire', the Missus was back home.

A tangible good of the emerging scenario is that the maids have been saved from being poached and I can now afford to return back a book which claims to tell men everything they always ever wanted to know about cooking, to where it belongs, namely the shelf of the library I borrowed it from! For the moment, life has returned to normal and we are settling back into the routine of yesteryears. I am happy to report that that most unstable of elements ever discovered by human beings, 'love', is back in the air interspersed with mandatory doses of marital meanness!

On the other hand though, my stock in the circle of male friends has hit an all time low. Which happily married man after all wants to ever take inspiration from another one similarly placed…?



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