Rumour has it….

PendingThis happened a few years ago.

K, a friend, called me at work. She wasted no time in niceties… She got to the point directly.

“Did you hear about M’s dad?” She asked.

“No.” I replied. We had lost touch with M years ago after she changed jobs & relocated from the city. I have met her dad briefly when I had to drop her home late one night after work. Now she’s married with a kid in another city and her parents live here.  Her sister lives a few kilometers away. M & me had shared a lovely rapport at work and she had been a great friend.

“Oh, you have to listen to this! I wish I could’ve been there to see your face when you hear this!”

“Why?!” I asked her, not sure I was going to like what she was going to say..

“Did you know M’s parents are now separated?”

“What????!! ” I was truly shocked. While separation amongst younger couples are far too common these days, I just couldn’t understand why people in their 70s would want to separate. If they could stay together for 40 plus years, what can make them go their separate ways when they need a companion the most?

“Her mom has moved in with her sister, and get this… Her dad is living with a much younger woman now…”

“No way!” I said vehemently. At the one brief encounter I had with him, he had come across as a typical, seedha-saadha, god-fearing tambrahm man.. In fact, M has told us so much about his strict adherence to morals & ethics.

“Who told you all this rubbish?” I asked my friend.

“Someone very reliable.. You know my aunt just moved in to the apartment bang opposite M’s parents ‘. She says her maid told her that an elderly gentleman stays there with a younger woman & that his wife has moved away…”

It totally left me disoriented for the rest of the day. I just couldn’t get my head around this. How could he? I kept thinking. I guess the male species are really a selfish, evil lot…

K & me spoke again that afternoon while she was frothing in the mouth about the male mentality, infidelity  and whether we should try & trace M to talk to her.. But we decided against it… It’s not exactly a pleasant subject and it’s totally not our business. If at all she wants to touch base with us, there’s always Facebook..

So we left it at that and like all other earth-shattering scandals, it got easily forgotten after a few weeks.

A few months later, I got a call from M herself. The hot gossip I’d heard about her dad came flooding back to me. And M was not sounding her usual chirpy self.

“Hi… ” She said in a small voice.

“Hi, M!” I greeted her enthusiastically. “So lovely to hear your voice after so many years… How have you been?” I gushed.

“Okay.. ” she replied. “I’m in the city for 2 weeks  & thought I’ll touch base with you.”

“Great! ” I said. “Shall we do lunch? Or do you want to meet up at home? I’d love to see your son!” I rambled on…

“No yaar, not this time…” She said. “I’m here because I lost my mother. I’m staying at my sister’s place and there are lot of pujas & stuff till next week. Then it’ll be time for me to go back home..”

“Oh, I’m so sorry!” I felt so terrible. I knew she was very close to her mom. “What happened?”

“She was diagnosed with terminal cancer two years ago. Around the same time, my father had a stroke and was partially paralysed…”

“Oh, my god!” Poor things, I thought.

“I had just delivered my son and I was not in any shape to come and help out. So my sister took my mother into her place. She  was really weak after her chemo sessions. And we appointed a live-in nurse to take care of my father at his place.”

“My sister used to look him up everyday. It really helped that she was staying pretty close.”

“Oh I’m so sorry..” I said, feeling terrible. “If only I’d known… It wouldn’t have been easy for your sister…”

“Yeah, she’s lost a lot of weight… I feel so guilty..” said my friend.

“Don’t beat yourself up.. Both of you did your best… Please call me whenever you want to talk. If it’s ok with you, K & me will drop in to see you at your sister’s at your convenience”.

After chatting for a bit more we hung up, promising each other to be in touch.

Now I have to call K to restore her faith in men…

**********

Though this really happened, I’ve changed minor details to protect privacies.

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A toast – to good health!

A while ago, my father complained of numbness on his right side. I took him for a check-up. The doctor panicked after checking his blood pressure. Said it was too high and he needed immediate admission and a CT scan of the brain to check for clots.

“He’ll need to be here for about two days” He told us.

My father, at 73, is a very active man, who’s never suffered from anything more than a fever over the years. So when they sent us off in an ambulance for the scan, he refused to lie down. So we sped around sitting side by side in the long bench reserved for the attendant, while the patient’s bed was empty.

We got back an hour later and he was whisked away to intensive care. While my brother and I sat in the reception, biting our nails, my father was having a roaring time inside. He’d expected the doctor to check him, prescribe some tablets and send him home. It was a rude shock to find himself in the ICU, with beepers attached to him and glimpses of other patients in various stages of sedation all around him. Plus he was hungrier than ever since it was well past his lunch time and he had been advised to report on an empty stomach that morning.

We were allowed ten minutes to see him that evening. We went in very nervously only to find him sitting upright on his bed with a scowl on his face. “The food here is terrible!” he griped to us. “I couldn’t even eat half of it! Now I’m so hungry!  Can you ask them to get me something?”

I spoke to a nurse.

She peeped in after a few minutes. “Sir, your coffee & bread on the way!” She announced cheerfully.

“Bread?” My father barked. ” Can’t you get me something like a bajji or bonda?”

“Do you know your cholestrol levels?” She countered. “The doctor will sack me if I give you anything deep-fried”.

My father’s scowl intensified. We made our way out quickly before his famous temper erupted.

The next day’s visit was worse. He was even fiercer and nurses and ward-boys gaped at him, open-mouthed as he sat there and cursed everyone in the hospital and their families.

To placate him, I told him to be patient till evening. “They’ll shift you to a room.” I soothed. “They’re just waiting to finish another course of intravenous medicines ..”

“A room, my foot!” he spat out. “I’ve had enough of this. I’m going home!”

“Where’s my wallet & glasses?” He asked my brother.

“I have it.” He replied. ” You’re not allowed to have those inside the ICU” He informed my father sternly.

“Well, I need them. And what happened to my clothes?”

“I have them.” I told him.

Before he flew off the handle, I spoke to a nurse and got permission to hand him his reading glasses and the day’s newspaper.

When we were ready to leave, he instructed me to have a word with the doctor.

“Tell him I’ll really end up a patient if I stay here any longer. I just need to go home”

But sadly he got shifted to a room only the next evening. But thankfully by then he’d resigned himself to his fate and was a bit more cooperative.

First day in the room was restive. He looked a bit weak, thanks to all the semi-starvation and the sedation he’d received. But the next day he was back to his restless ways.

He tried walking around his bed while the intravenous drug was still attached to his hand. Had a big argument with the junior doctor on the rounds.

After a while, I gave up getting worked up and just sat back and enjoyed the ride.

During a lull between the nurses fussing over him with either medicines or taking his blood sample, a young woman in a doctors coat came in and introduced herself as a physiotherapist.

“Take a deep breath.” She told my father. He complied. “Now wiggle your toes…” He wiggled. She noted something in her book.

“Thank you sir’ She said and went away.

Five minutes later a young man in a doctor’s coat walked in. Introduced himself as a physiotherapist. Asked my father the same set of questions. Noted something in his book and went away.

Fifteen minutes passed in silence with me going back to my book and my father dozing off.

Another knock. Another young thing in a white coat. Introduced herself as a physio.

“There were 2 physios who just examined him in the last half hour,” I informed her pleasantly.

“Oh! ” She stuttered a bit. “They’ve covered this room?”

“Yes!” my father & me chorused.

She beat a hasty retreat.

Then it was time for the evening rounds.

A pleasant young man came in with a retinue of nurses who briefed him on my father’s parameters. He nodded sagely and looked at the patient.

“Sir! how are you today?” He boomed.

“I’m perfectly okay.” replied my father. “And I’ll be even better, if I can go home now.”

“But sir, You still need  another four days of intravenous medication. Just bear with us.” He said placatingly.

“What??” erupted my father. “Four more days? No way! You people promised me only 2 days of admission. This is already day 3! You cannot go back on your word!”

The doctor was now sweating a little. “But sir..” he began.

“No but!” interrupted my father. Then went on to extol the virtues of a calm mind to heal oneself. On how he’ll be instantly better the minute he’s home in a familiar surrounding and with his dogs.

Whenever the doctor tried to get a word edgeways, he started full throttle on something else.

‘Just give it up! Agree to whatever he says & just go!’ I told the doctor in my mind.

After about twenty minutes the doctor did just that. With a promise to speak to his superiors about his discharge, the doctor took off, wiping his sweaty brow.

“Che!” my father cursed after he left. “Kallulimangan! My throat is parched after all the talking, but he didn’t buy any of my stories!” he muttered under his breath.

Another two eventful days passed by, filled with my father’s theories of insurance scams and the underhandedness of doctors and a very scary ambulance ride for another CT scan. SInce there was no emergency, we just drove around  normally, till we reached a signal. When the driver saw it was still red, he turned on the siren and stepped on the accelerator with so much gusto, I was having palpitations with all the near-death experiences by the time we reached the scanning centre!

When we got back, we were  finally informed that he’ll be discharged the next day.

The young doc who had made himself scarce for the past two days, surfaced again.

“Good evening sir!” he boomed. “How are you?’

“Perfect” replied my father.

“Happy? I just saw your release papers being signed.”

“They could have easily discharged me four days ago.” said his father.

The doctor had not learn his lesson. He actually disagreed with my father. “Sir, I’d already explained to you,” he began.

“This was all with your best interest in mind. And once you go home, please stick to the prescribed diet, have your medicines on time and surely, no smoking!”

Now this was one thing the doctor didn’t know about my dad. He’s from a generation which thinks smoking is disrespectful & has to be done only behind closed doors. To this day, he never smokes in front of his mother or his siblings. (But smoking in front of his wife & kids are not disrespectful, I really don’t understand why!) And will never admit to smoking to anyone who’s not immediate family.

Here he had to admit not only to the doctors, but also to the nurses, ayahs & the ward boys standing around his bed!

He now looked the doctor squarely in the eye. ‘Oh my god! Why are you such a glutton for punishment?’ I sent another telepathic message to the doctor.

“You say smoking is harmful to me”

“Yes, sir. It is a well-known fact.”

“But doctor, smoking will kill me in about ten or twenty years. But have you heard of carbon monoxide poisoning?”

“Of course,” said the good doctor not knowing where this was going.

“If I walk on this busy road outside, the carbon monoxide from the exhaust of about hundred cars will kill me in half an hour. So, do I stop walking on the road?” he demanded.

Stony silence from the doctor.

“If  I take your advice, have all the pills, eat horrible food without salt, avoid sugar and quit smoking, how many more years will it add to my life? ten, twenty?”

The doctor shrugged.

“But if I continue living like always – eat tasty food, smoke and live happily I’ll probably live for another two years?

The doctor started to say something.

But again my father’s voice drowned his.

“I’d rather live for two years enjoying my life rather than live for twenty years like a sanyasi!”

After a teeny tiny pause, the doctor found his voice again. “But sir, I agree with you. But what if you get another clot and end up with paralytic stroke? Then you’ll not have a life at all! You’ll be bed-ridden & lose all your independence!”

‘Don’t you ever learn? Just agree with him & get going! He’s just using you to amuse himself!’ I wanted to scream.

My father glared at him. “Courage.. is what I have. If you think you can scare me with such stories, you’re mistaken. You’re looking at a man at one time had lost so much money in his business and never even gave it another thought and went on with his life the next day” He announced. “And I’m not going to sit in a corner in fear what will happen next.”

“But sir, I maybe too young to give you philosophical advice but Shree Krishna has told in Bhagavad Gita….”

‘OH MY GOD!’ I screamed inwardly. ‘WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU???’

But as soon as he began he caught himself on time and said, “You know what’s best for you sir! All the very best to you!” WIth that he shook hands with my father and left.

Finally!

The next day after waiting anxiously for his release, my father paced the corridor, sat in the chair for a while, fidgetted with all the gadgets in the room and finally when he couldn’t take it anymore, started tormenting the accounts department about his discharge.

Then, while I was lying down in the attendant’s bed and reading a book, he went down to the second floor, paid up, collected the paperwork, came back to the fifth, handed it to the nurses, came into the room, picked up his bags and we were ready to go.

I felt like I was the patient and he was the attendant!

On the brighter side, now he’s so terrified of getting admitted again, he’s very regular with his medicines!

But to quote my husband, we don’t really have to worry about that. Because if there’s a next time, the hospital staff by now will definitely have standing instructions to stop all other cases to check him up as fast as possible and send him home with prescription at the earliest!

We’re like that only

I had to walk past a busy narrow lane to college from the bustop. Invariably I would pass a quarrelling couple and a small crowd around them. Giving them a wide berth I literally used to run to my college, with my heart thudding.

The scene would haunt me for the whole day.

A part of me would feel guilty for running away. Maybe I should have stopped and given a piece of my mind to that man. Or called the police. But when the next time I saw a similar scene, I used to get terrified of the drunken man and my legs would automatically carry me as fast as they could away from the scene.

I used to berate myself for being a coward.

Anyway, this was years and years ago.

*****************

We were having dinner the other night. Our relative peace was shattered by some yelling and screaming. I peeped out of the kitchen window.

The backyards of my building and the house behind us share the same wall. The new live-in watchman of that house was standing in his kitchen and screaming his head off at his wife.

I rushed back to the dining room. “Do something!” I told my husband. “What?” He asked in annoyance. “I don’t want to interfere in his family business.”

By now the screaming was louder and it totally unnerved me. I climbed on to my kitchen counter and opened the window wider. My son who was super excited with all this, scrambled to climb up beside me. I could distinctly hear some thuds. He was beating her up! That did it. I wanted to make up for all the time I had run away from similar scenes.

“Helloooo!!!’ I screamed. My voice was not loud enough. Clearing my throat, I tried again. “Who’s making all this noise?? Don’t you have any sense beating up a woman like that?” By now my voice had become a pathetic squeak. My son literally fell off the counter laughing.

Suddenly a strong pair of hand lifted him off the counter. “HEY!!!” roared a booming voice, right next to my ear, almost making me deaf. My husband! He couldn’t bear to watch me squeaking and making a fool of myself, so he had decided to help. My God!!! All these years, I had no clue my husband had swallowed a loud speaker when he was a baby!

His booming voice bounced off the walls around and reverberated everywhere. “Who are all you people? If I hear one more word from you, I swear I’ll call the police!” He thundered.

The startled watchman looked up. “Sorry, sir…” he mumbled and slunk away. I flashed a grateful smile at my husband, though my insides were quaking. Both of us went back to the dining table, a bit shaken by the incident.

My son was huddled in his chair like a mouse. His face was pinched and was trying hard not to cry. “What happened?” I asked him. He looked at my husband. “Appa… ” He  began with a quavering voice. “You scared me when you screamed like that…  don’t ever do that again…”

After a bit of consoling and cajoling, he was his normal self again.

My husband glared at me. ‘All because of you’ He mouthed.

Later, I got a lecture on how I should not go around yelling at people from my window. “Did anyone else bother? Who are they to you? You had to climb on that counter like a monkey and make a fool of yourself!’

I was so mad. “I just can’t watch a man beating up his wife in front of me!”

“Then shut your window. Meet the owner of the house and complain about this. There is absolutely no need for you to deal with a drunken watchman!”

I sulked for a bit and thought that was the end of the story.

A few nights later, I was frantically getting my son to sleep when the same noises came from outside. Since my husband was traveling, I decided to ignore it. Soon my son was fast asleep and I went back to the book I was reading. The noise got too loud for me to concentrate and the language he was using was so terrible. He seems to be getting worse by the minute.

Throwing caution to the wind, I opened my curtains and screamed my squeakiest best. “Can’t you see people are trying to sleep? We’ve already warned you once. Shall I call the cops?” This time the wife looked up. “Please do Madam. I cannot take this torture!” She then turned to her husband and screamed in full volume about how uncouth he was, disturbing the peace in decent people’s neighborhood and so on.

She looked up at my window again and yelled at my direction, “Call the police Madam! I don’t care if they arrest my husband!”

I so didn’t want to get sucked into their brawl. So I went back to bed and switched off the lights, signaling the end of my participation.

The next morning I asked my friend who lives in my building if she gets disturbed by the nightly fighting. She seemed clueless since her flat was on the front side of the building.

She promised to send her driver to warn the offender. If that does not work, she promised to accompany me to meet the owner of that house.

Later my maid told me that she went over with my friend’s driver and issued a stern warning to the watchman. She assured me that he’d behave himself.

Later that evening I got another earful from my husband when he called. “Keep all the doors locked, just in case,” he warned me. “I really wish you had some good sense to keep out of such things…” He added wearily.

The next few days were peaceful… I had almost forgotten the watchman.

It started again last night. His high-pitch voice came floating up the window. Followed by his wife’s loud retorts.

I thought for a minute. Then did the sensible thing. Opened the curtains and shut the window.

But at least I tried this time.

The revenge of the ladle…

I’ve had this grouse against most Indian men for a while.  They behave like invalids in their own homes.

They are probably ten times stronger than their mothers, sisters or wives. They  lift tons of weight in the gym. Yet they cannot lift their plates from the dining table to the sink.

They run in the treadmill for hours. Yet they will not stand for fifteen minutes with their wives to do the dishes when the maid is absent.

They’re so agile in sports. But cannot bend down to pick up their own wet towels from the floor.

They drive for hours together non-stop in their powerful cars. Yet will not drive to the corner of the road to pick up some groceries.

I’ve been mulling over this for years. And I’m slowly seeing the light.

Rewind to hundreds of years ago, when the women were so oppressed.

Those women did not have a life. Education, knowledge, freedom of speech were all denied to them and their sole purpose of existence was to serve the men. Be it a father, brother, husband or a son, the man in her life at any point was her lord and master. They were literally imprisoned in the kitchens and made to cook & clean for the men of the house.

Now, we all know what a woman is made of. Where she lacks in brute strength, she makes up with a strong will and a cunning mind.

How did all those women get the better of their oppressors? Fighting will just not work. If they try any other methods like ahimsa or satyagraha, it will not work either. They can easily be replaced and they’ll have to spend the rest of their lives in the thinnais of their homes…

So they went along, played the dutiful wives & mothers. They did not step outside of their homes, cooked, washed, cleaned, laundered, brought up babies and kept house.

But oh so subtly they made the men dependent on them without them realising it.

They did pretty much everything for their men, so the men just cannot survive inside their homes without their women. Call it a survival act if you want, but the women chained their men to them by making them believe that they’re not capable of taking care of themselves. In short, they were invalids inside their own homes without their women.

And some aggressive women came along and made rules that no man can enter the kitchens or try to do anythig that remotely resembled housework.

But over centuries, we women have worked our way out to free ourselves. We can educate ourselves, go for jobs, excel in sports, run governments and have proved to men we’re their equals in everything but brute strength.

But these poor, poor men still are rooted strongly in their age old beliefs that they’re invalids and cannot even make their own coffees at home.

Power to women!

 

The man-child

I had a particularly harrowing evening with my son. Right from when I picked him up from school, it was rebellion, blame-games & tantrums till bed time.

First I was ‘bad’ because I didn’t bring him a treat to eat on the way home. Then it was open rebellion to eat the snack I gave him at home.  Then it was a battle to get him to drink his milk…

Every half hour he’d break down, sobbing or screaming, sorry,  screeching at me for the smallest of reasons.

I had a bit of peace when the TV was on. But when I switched it off at dinner time, it was full-fledged war again.

I held on to my patience with gritted teeth all the time. But now my pent-up temper threatened to erupt in all its glory.

“I have to watch my program!” He screamed.

“You have to heat your dinner.” I insisted.

“No!” He burst into tears.

“Yes!” I raised my voice.

“I hate you!” He screeched and ran to his room and banged the door shut.

I was so close to losing my cool, but held on.

Seething inside, I  took his dinner to his room.

I sat next to him and fed him while he watched his program.

It took him a good ten minutes to realise that I was extremely angry…

He tried making small talk during the commercial breaks. But I was stern.

Later when I was getting him to sleep, he asked for a story.

“No story today.” I told him. “I just want you to lie down quietly and think about what you did today. From when I picked you up from school till now. I want you think about how you’ve treated your mother and whether it is right on your part.”

With that I switched off the light and lay down next to him.

There was total silence for about fifteen minutes. I was sure he had slept, when he spoke in a quivering voice.

“I thought about it Amma… I am so sorry. I will never hurt you again…” His voice broke …

My resolve melted and I gathered him in my arms. Wiping his tears gently, I said, “Its ok, kanna.. don’t cry now…”

The same quivering voice (desperately trying to stop the quivers) said “You think I’m crying, Amma? Oh no.. I just have some water in my eyes…” And then briskly, “Now can you please tell me a story?”

My little baby is showing signs off growing into a man! And I don’t like it one bit!

Smile!

I had all my four wisdom teeth removed before I turned 20. ( Don’t know if I had too much wisdom or I’ve lost all of it after that!)

But it was rather a quick and painless procedure, by a kind & young dentist, who was referred to me by my friend K, after he did away with a tooth of her own. But it had not been not so easy for her…

“He’s so cute & charming!” she’d gushed.

When I did meet him for the first time, I was impressed with his soft-spoken demeanor, which put me at ease immediately and made me forget the usual dread associated with dental dramas.

In the next five years, I had two root-canals, of course, the afore mentioned 4 wisdom teeth removals and some fillings. (which doesn’t talk much of my oral health!)

K too had had her own share of fillings and such.

He  watched us both growing from gawky college students to young professionals.

K had some trouble with a wisdom tooth, but the drama queen that she was, totally resisted pulling it out. The kind dentist tried his level best to convince her. But her painful experience with the removal of the first one prevented her from even thinking about it.

After a few years, she couldn’t take the pain and agreed to it.

I got a call from her late one night. I could barely hear her.

“I finally did it.” she said in a  hoarse voice.

“Did what?” I asked.

“Pulled my wisdom tooth out!”

“Wow! Congrats!” I said. “But how did it go? Were you ok? Why didn’t you call me?”

“I was so stupid. Thought I could handle it alone. But you have no idea how painful it was!”

“Oh, you poor thing!” I sympathised.

“I started crying and became totally hysterical…”

“God! ” I said, picturing the Dentist’s horrified face. He was such a gentle & kind young man. He must have been totally traumatised. “What did the dentist do?” I asked.

“He kept saying, ‘Its alright, Don’t cry’ over and over. And when I didn’t stop, he leaned over and kissed my forehead. I was so shocked that I shut up immediately.”

“What??????!!!!!” I shrieked. “He kissed you???!!”

“On my forehead! Don’t make a big issue out of it. ” she hissed. “He was so flustered, he didn’t know what he was doing. We know him for too long to jump into any conclusions. And if you dare breathe a word of this to anyone, you’re dead meat, okay?” She warned.

“Okay,” I said and hung up. But I was brimming with mirth when my fiance who was also a colleague, called me five minutes later. “Guess what?” I asked him. “K got kissed by her dentist, when she was crying! But its top secret and don’t tell anyone!”

I thought we’d put it all behind after a few weeks of ragging poor K.

Not to be. I  got a call from K at work one morning.

“How dare you?!” She spat at me. “I am coming there right now and giving it off to you !” She screamed.

Apparently she’d gone for this ooh-la-la office party and was thoroughly enjoying herself, when the Vice-Presiden’s wife spotted her. After a cheerful greeting and some air-kissing, she asked K, “So, how’s your Dentist?” and gave her a knowing wink!

“I’ve told only you!! How did the wife of my Vice President get to know of the dentist episode?!”

I guiltily confessed that I’d told my fiance.

After grilling him, he confessed he had shared this with a senior colleague. Who happens to be K’s Vice President’s wife!

********

We soon lost touch with the dentist after both of us moved out after marriage.

After years, a visiting cousin wanted to consult a dentist.

Imagine my shock, when I suggested my old friend, she immediately said, “The Kissing Dentist? No way!”

I was gobsmacked.

I could have (maybe, by a teeny weeny  mistake) told my sis-in-law years ago….

Or my then-fiance and now-husband may have told more than one person…

I really don’t know how the word had spread and I cringe each time I pass by the poor guy’s clinic.

He’s really excellent and efficient in his chosen profession, people. Take it from me…