Everything passes. It has to.
The doorbell rings and I wake up with a start, swearing “SHIT..!!”. Not unusual for me, considering I always have a hard time getting out of bed in the mornings. So when the maid comes in sharp at 7:00 AM, I always wake up with an expletive beginning my day. This really annoys my husband no end.
“Why do you always have to start your day with meaningless profanity!?” he asks as he climbs out of bed to open the front door and let the maid in.
“I dunno…..rtrersjflksahfihyfrhdj…” I grumble a bunch of sleep induced garbled words.
I try holding on to the wisps of sleep, now getting tantalizingly out of reach, without much success. In the background I hear the maid going about her usual chores. I can hear her clearing the dish tray of the dried dishes to make place for the ones that she will shortly go on to clean. The clanging of the dishes ensures sleep has slipped far, far away, into a distant, unreachable land.
I sigh and roll out of bed, fishing for the rubber band now at the end of my askew hair. I tie my hair, straighten my clothes like a soldier preparing to go into battle. The day has officially begun.
It suddenly strikes me that today is the day when my husband’s relatives had planned to visit us – for a whole WEEK…!! Oh no…I groan inwardly and almost dive for the bed again, looking for any refuge that will help me escape the situation. I definitely did not plan on spending the whole week catering to the whims and fancies of long distance relatives who wouldn’t step up for us if the world were ending and they were the only ones who could save us.
Ever since my husband had told me of their impending visit, I was somehow hoping they would change their minds about visiting us – his folks are famous for making spur of the moment plans or dropping out at the end moment. By that logic, I didn’t believe they would actually go through with it. The entire weekend, I had been morosely optimistic, dreading the week ahead. Not that they are bad people, mind you. Only selfish, opportunistic and cracked lame jokes all day long. I for one hate phonies and they happened to be prize-winning ones! Had it not been for my father-in-law insisting we play host and entertain them, and my husband not wanting to hurt his feelings by declining, I swear I wouldn’t have agreed in the first place.
It isn’t enough that every time we visit our folks in our hometown, no matter how short a time we spend owing to our limited number of leaves from work, my father-in-law ensures we ‘drop in’ at his sister’s place for a ‘quick chat’ to catch up on ‘stuff’. Needless to say, the casual visits would stretch into unbearable hours with his brother-in-law cracking the lamest jokes that make no sense whatsoever and repeating them multiple times for all and sundry to hear and applaud. Let alone offering us refreshments when we visit them, they go on and on about their daughter’s achievements in mimicking the latest Katrina Kaif sleazy item number. She’s six, mind you, old enough to go to school. But hey, what achievement can match her gyrating to cheap Bollywood scores..? As if that wasn’t torture enough, now they would be staying with us for an entire week!!!
Ever since my marriage, we have had visitors dropping in on us every month – no fibbing, I swear! His folks, my folks, his friends, relatives of relatives, casual acquaintances…the whole wide world wanting to sample our hospitality. My husband has a really annoying habit that drives me nuts most times – he just can’t say ‘NO’. So we always end up bearing other peoples’ troubles. He has another even more annoying habit – he cannot for the life of him, ask for a favour from anyone. So, you can imagine my surliness.
But now, with the date of their visit a looming reality, I had no way but to keep mum and cross not just my fingers but all that is crossable, in the hope that the ordeal would be over soon. I have been literally counting the minutes that suddenly refuse to budge.
This morning, my sweet, do-gooder husband was up and about, already making lunch for the guests. Their train would be reaching the station around noon – delayed by three hours. He was supposed to pick them up and drive them home. He had taken half a day’s leave from work, solely for this exercise. I wanted to ask him if all this was really worth it, but I already knew the answer “It is important to maintain relationships, sweetheart. People matter more than some everyday mundane job…” And my retort would invariably be “Oh yeah??. Will those relatives help you when you are out of your job..?”. We had played out this conversation so many times in the past that sometimes reality and fantasy merged incomprehensibly.
I stared at his busy back accusingly, dragging my feet along, unconsciously picking stuff up and setting them right. I swore inwardly that I would not play chef for the visiting couple and their naughty six-year old, smile and act like all was okay. Like I was not at all miffed at their dropping in on us so suddenly and inconveniencing us. I would NOT! But seeing my husband go about his tasks with a smile on his face somehow broke my resolve, and I found myself helping him cook.
I realized I would get late to office while I was stuck cooking. I immediately texted my boss that I would be a little late. Thankfully she has enough humanity in her to sympathize with my situation. She being a wife and mother, is no stranger to unwelcome, bothersome guests. Somewhere along the way, I toyed with the thought of taking a day off to cope with the guests and their needs lest they turn my house upside down, but promptly shoved that idea away to the remotest recesses of my mind. I shuddered having to smile placidly at all the dumb jokes they cracked all day. Or worse still, having to bear the telugu TV serials they would watch in succession. Office seemed so much more inviting…sigh!
And so, here I am in office, working – or trying to work – while I find myself constantly fretting about what might be going on at home in my absence. Will they have capped the lids of the jars after having pickle with their lunch? Would they be rummaging through my bookshelves and sketchbooks and not replaced them in their spot? What if they don’t lock the front door properly or switch off the lights in case they plan to go out somewhere? What if the geyser is on the whole day? What if the kid breaks glassware? And so on and on, like a headless chicken going round and round in futile circles…
Come lunch time and I am flooded with different points of view from my team mates…
“You simply must assert yourself…Say enough is enough!” Says ‘A’ vehemently. A real kindred soul, this one.
“What does it matter? They are just people. How much of a headache can they be, really? Aren’t you just OCDing a bit?” Say ‘B’ unfazed by the daggered look I throw him. He is a guy and an unmarried one at that, I fume silently, what the heck does he know about the woes of married folk? Let him get married and then we will see…
“Oh God! What if they don’t flush properly after they have done the job..!!” Says ‘C’, and I am on the verge of throwing up when I hear this.
“Guys!” I glare at them collectively “You are supposed to help me deal with this… This is not ‘helping’!”
And then comes the Gyani solution from ‘B’ “Well, you know what they say, don’t you? Que Sera Sera..what will be will be..!” I am all set to throw him my second, stronger stare of derision when he holds up his hand to explain.
“Think about it…You love your husband. You obviously care about his happiness, or else you wouldn’t have put up with this for this long. It’s not the first time and I can bet my arse this won’t be the last either.”
“So, you are saying I just put up with it…feel shitty and still take it…All because I love my husband who chooses not to see my side of things?” I ask with unmasked sarcasm.
“Yes” He says. “I bet he also doesn’t like being inconvenienced. I mean come on, who does? But he is doing it because he loves his parents and obviously cares about their wishes. And that matters to him.”
“And what about MY wishes?” I ask, obviously hurt. “Does that not count? Does it mean I do not mean anything to him? It’s okay if I am inconvenienced as long as his folks are happy..?”
“No I did not mean that. I am sure he loves you. But every couple has their own dynamics. There must be a lot about you that he puts up with too. Maybe he just does a better job of coping with it. Ask him…”
“Yeah right!!” I roll my eyes sarcastically. “He sure does have problems with a wife who does his bidding nine times out of ten. I can see where that is a problem.”
A, C and the rest of them nodded sagely, in agreement.
B went on oblivious to the animosity “Look, all I am saying is, a). You can choose to sit your husband down and let him know it bugs you big time. Or b). You can go on this way for his sake. In the end, what matters is you have some peace of mind…and let us have some too!” he added, winking sheepishly.
“There is another option, you know, a middle ground” said ‘D’, for the first time. “You can have a pact, kind of a ‘Quid Pro Quo‘ policy…An agreement that lays down the nitty-gritties of married life negotiations. About how far you will go to keep him happy. And what he must do to keep you happy. And abide by it, no matter what. It will probably seem like a baniya company but what the heck, as long as peace prevails, right?”
“Uh huh” I said.
I was not entirely convinced, but the discussion had taken the edge off the matter, somewhat. The others continued to rationalize, debate over the issue of marriages being an unequal bargain, the uselessness of marriages, the importance of familial obligations and commitments, etc, etc…But, me, I was now in the ‘Go with the flow’ zone. It was no solution, but it was a welcome respite. The numbness of not caring for a while. Not thinking about useless things and fretting away your life, your youth, your happiness for matters out of your hands. That way you can snatch a little bit of peace – transient, inconclusive, may be – but peace nonetheless…
And so, while this illusionary tranquility pervades my senses, I will advocate the potency of the “serenity prayer”. The importance of letting go and all that nonsense. Until, the bell rings and this insanity called ‘reality’ takes over…Until its time to go home and slip on my mask of a smile…