25 January 2008

A simple life

“Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show….”
——From David Copperfield (Charles Dickens)
For the better part of my academic years, I didn’t have clue about my future. I had seen kids saying: “I want to become an engineer,” or a scientist at the early age. But I don’t recollect saying anything like that.
Many thought, I would become a doctor because of my illegible handwriting. (Some of the skeptics predicted the future of a bus conductor!). My handwriting was so pathetic, many a times, I myself could not read it. During exams, I used to read notes of my colleagues!
Whenever asked about my future, I used to say that I will become a priest! This was a perfect answer, since no God fearing religious person could counter it! This continued till seventh standard.
Forbidden fruit
For 8th standard, I joined a co-educated school: mine was the first batch of boys. Earlier, it was predominantly a girl’s school. Till then, I had never seen so many girls at one place. We were outnumbered by a landslide. I was extremely vulnerable! There was too much attention from the girls and wild distractions.
In this colorful environment, first time in my life, I realized what I am going to miss, if I continued pursuing the life of a priest! Sadly it dawned on me, that I was not the chosen one——for Gods work. God had other plans for me. After that, I never thought of becoming a priest!
Future Wife
While engineering, I met this girl in the local church youth-circles; we spoke this and that, "What do you do?" she asked.
"I study."
"Student! What else do you do?"
"I write sometimes," I said.
"Anything published?"
"Not yet, but I am sure someday, someone will publish my articles."
"You have the highly unlikely profile of a candidate for a woman to be interested in."
I knew that; but if you have followed history closely, women have fallen in love for some of the most bizarre reasons. And men have started their courtship with some of the worst possible questions.
Mine was, "Have you seen DDLJ?"
DDLJ was a mile stone movie. It is also a mile stone movie in my life. For it is the first movie I watched with a girl (later married her), on a big screen, bunking the class. It is also the first movie, where my Mom caught me! That is when I realized, Mom had a powerful network than Mossad.
Suppose you are John Doe, planning to do something mischievous in Israel, the moment you arrive at Tel Aviv airport , the first thing you hear on the microphone will be - "Attention Mr., John Doe your wife and kids are safe with us; waiting for you at Gate 6."

A regular tourist would appreciate such hospitality of the airport staff. But if you are a veteran cold-war-fiction-reader like me, you will immediately realize that it is a signal for John Doe to quietly surrender at gate 6, else his family will be brutally obliterated.

Mossad can sniff any unwanted activity months ahead—they have the world’s strongest espionage network. Mom had a stronger network! The money I borrowed from her for study books and actual cost of the books, the marks I reported in each subject and the ones I really scored, the classes I bunked——all this information she had on her finger tips!
I saw DDLJ in Mangalore 35 KM from my home, even though it was running in near by theatres——just to avoid Mom’s spies. After the movie, I went straight to home as a good student. Mom stopped me at the door.
"How’s the movie?" she asked.
"It was good." Shocked!
"Who’s the girl?"
“Kajol,” I said.
“Not the one in the Movie!”
That started a long interrogation session——just like Mossad!
That was long time back.
Hard talk
Years later, Mom had asked: "Are you going to marry the same girl?" "Yes,” I had said.
"What if I say - No?"
"Then I will wait till you say - Yes"
"You have already waited for almost a decade!"
"I will wait some more, I am used to it now…"
"OK," she had resigned, finally. "You are stubborn,” she sighed. “The only negative quality I have. Unfortunately, the only quality you inherited from me!"
DDLJ is also the first movie I watched after my wedding. But this time at home with two ladies! Wife on one side and Mom on other side!
Wedding course
Interestingly, till the last moment I didn’t know that a MARRIAGE COURSE is mandatory for a Christian wedding. Come to think of it, no other religion forces it! Being superior in animal kingdom, I don’t know why human beings need a course, when other animals simply follow their basic instincts!

I joined a course conducted by a Goan priest. I was simply amazed by his comprehensive knowledge on sex. How is it possible for a celibate to have so much theoretical knowledge, without practicals? It is unbelievable!
Before time
Just one week before marriage, I was invited for a friend’s wedding. I attended it, with my fiancĂ©e (Same DDLJ girl). The party went up to late evening; we took the last bus home. When we reached the bus stop, it was empty; there were no autos or taxis to go home.
My home is at 1 Km distance; hers is at 3 km.
"What do we do now?"
"We need to walk," I said. "If we walk to your home, it would mean a 6 KM walk for me plus 1 KM to my home. Instead of that let’s go to my home."
"What? Before marriage? What will people think?"
"This is an emergency. There are no rules in war and——"
“Ok, let’s go,” she said.
Mom opened the door. She got surprised by seeing both of us. "Why the big hurry?" she said, "any how you two are marrying in a week!"
Seeing the soon-to-be-bride, the atmosphere charged up. Sleeping guests were woken up. People were needed to be relocated to make room for the bride. Some ran around in night gowns. “There’s only a single bed,” someone shouted from a corner room, “The couple might need to share the bed.” Everyone laughed. Of course, they were joking.
D - Day
My marriage was no different from other marriages; as usual there was tremendous leg pulling between my side and wife’s side. Long discussions and arguments on simple things like whether to have mango pickle or mixed-vegetables pickle for the menu!
Complete strangers took a few major decisions! There was a moron on the center-stage, from wife’s side, asking people to do this and that; where to stand, when to click the snaps, where to sit etc. I was sick of this bully.
"Don't you think your uncle was acting too much on the stage," I told my wife after the wedding.
"My uncle," she got surprised, “I thought he was your uncle!"
First Night
One of the prominent people of our town was celebrating his anniversary on my wedding day eve. I had an invitation. He was such an important person, I could not simply reject his invitation——though it was my first night!
I went to the function with my wife, thinking it was a half hour hi-hello-bye affair. God, how wrong I was! The function dragged till midnight with speakers after speakers giving lengthy speeches on successful marriages! The last thing you want to hear on your first night is speeches on successful marriage life!
Good news
Everybody was fast asleep, when we reached home. This time there was no commotion, like the last time. My wife could not sleep; she had hundreds of hair-pins and flowers, on head; till early next morning I was removing the hair-pins!

In the morning, when I came out of the bedroom, first person I met was my Grandma, who promptly asked: “When is the good news?” Since I was hearing it first time, I could not make sense out of it. But after that, over the period, thousands of people (some perfectly strangers) have asked me that question without shame or privacy!
Life after marriage
First thing we learned in our married life was cooking! It is a shame, being very good cooks, our parents didn't teach us anything! I knew only one thing: Maggi.
I came to know that Chapatis come in many interesting shapes other than the regular circular ones! I was a bit tired of Mother’s perfectly circular shaped Chapatis. My wife makes Chapatis in all possible shapes: square, diamond, parabola, and my favorite Amoeba shape! Mother could not make all these shapes; I think she was lacking creativity!
50 – 50
Modern days are not like that of our Grandfathers, where women used to spend their entire life in the kitchen. Time has changed. Early in our marriage, I and my wife had decided that one will cook and the other will clean the dishes. I have taken the onus of cleaning and realized to my horror that cleaning is much more difficult than cooking! The complexity of cleaning increases day by day, as you postpone it!
Lessons from Marriage
Found practically that soft drink cans kept in deep freezer explode! This is because all liquids increase their volume at a low temperature. Though I had read this during my schooling, never gave a serious thought about it, till I practically experienced it.

Before marriage, I was a hardcore fan of Baywatch and FTV. Now all my favorite serials start with the letter – K. The challenges of modern day husbands are multiplied by never-ending Ekta Kapoor soaps. Most women get their state-of-the-art tips from these serials.
I hate Ekta Kapoor more than Hitler, who was directly responsible for killing 6 million Jews during World War II. She can expect physical harm if I ever meet her. I have a feeling that an Amoeba has more IQ than Ekta Kapoor!

In the golden-olden days, my grandfathers didn’t have the challenges of Ekta Kapoor. They were happy men. My maternal grandpa has 6 kids and paternal has 9 kids. Obviously they didn’t believe in contraceptives!
A simple life
If you ignore the near fatal food poisoning incidents in the earlier days of our marriage, I feel my wife has become a super cook! She can now, not only participate in all India Konkani speaking women’s cooking competition, but also can give some valuable tips to Sanjeev Kapoor! Of late, I have noticed that her chapatis are becoming more and more circular——I think she is losing creativity, like Mom!

Young couples ask me all the time about the interesting moments of my married life. Incidentally, they are aware that I knew my wife long before our wedding. They expect a romantic and filmy answer. I try to escape these questions because they will not believe my answer.

Most romantic things of my married life are, cutting vegetables, going to the market with wife, drinking tea together etc. Most of the beautiful things in life are simple day to day things. They don’t cost much. You just need to have an eye for them.

Note: If you liked this memoir, you might like the others in the series as well. Click Here. 

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------A Note:

God Father, received much more success beyond any limits set by Mario Puzo. Puzo himself said later that if he ever had a clue about the success of the book, he would have written it more beautifully.

Nevertheless he tried his best in subsequent books, but could not reproduce the success of God Father.
A simple life, was not published for almost 2 months. I thought it had been rejected. One day while casually browsing, my wife saw it published. It got the most number of comments compared to any of my earlier articles. It was the highly rated article on Daiji at the time of its publication. You can read it on Daiji here.
This article also got a third prize at one the TOI affiliated sites. Click here for more.
I would have written it even better, if only I had a clue about its success. I doubt I would ever be able to write something so simple and engaging.