JournalismPakistan.com April 29, 2018
So we are sitting at home, my wife and I, and convincing each other thank goodness we haven't been invited to that big dinner. So much better sitting at home but a bit surprising missing us out seeing how they invited the Munduls and they don't even like them, aaah, well, nothing like a quiet evening at home.
It all wears a bit thin though when this is the 17th quiet evening at home on the trot, and the Munduls are partying it up. When you are newlywed, you have an interest in each other's activities, and you say lovey-dovey things and exchange little glances of affection and giggle and ruffle one's hair and be happily fatuous. You also watch the same movies and discuss them. After 38 years of marriage, none of this comes into play. The conversation is more in the form of grunts, hmms and other sundry sounds usually ending in an 'I am talking to you' argument or one half of the couple seeking the sanctuary of video games, WhatsApp or the TV to block the other out. Five more minutes with you will drive me nuts if you get the drift. It is known as being happily married and compatible.
Such togetherness is also potentially dangerous for the husbands because they are more inclined to fill in the long, treacly silences with some off-the-cuff remark that will trigger the opening of the floodgates and drench them. Since we never learn.
I say, I was reading an article the other day about choices, how people regret at leisure because they leap without looking and wishing they had done things differently; if you had to do it all over again what would you change about me if anything?
She looks at me witheringly like only wives who have given up can look.
You serious, you want to know, all of it, she says, warming to her task.
See, most unnecessary, be quiet, absorb the silence and if you have to open your mouth, talk about the Munduls and how are they managing or share some other happy slice of gossip, one of those 'has she really?' or 'did he truly?' inside stories. But men are funny, even as the voice within tells them to watch it, man, they are driving straight into quicksand, they do not know how to stop. So they continue to barrel into the marshy trap because the wife who has much better brakes says, now that you ask, I wish you were better dressed, that is a big disappointment.
What's wrong with my dress sense?
And she says, it's not only shabby, but you also have no color coordination, no sartorial awareness; last week, you wore white socks with brown shoes and grey trousers; look at Ashok, how he is so elegantly dressed all the time, he would never wear the wrong socks.
So, that is embarrassing.
Now I am, thinking really, embarrassing for whom, I mean who came to that dinner to check out my socks? Do people actually go, migoodness, he is wearing white socks, pass the word, with brown shoes? Imagine, if you will, people out there who are interested in your socks. If this is the way they add zest to their lives, looking at people's socks, I say, they must be having very sad lives, their whole existence centred around staring ground level, assessing other people's socks, do they get in the car and say, hmmmm, let's see what the sock scene is tonight? It is flattering, I guess, that my socks would be of such vital importance to their lives but.
My wife says, see, you are not only boorish and insensitive you also babble on endlessly, like you are doing now, habits that I failed to change, I thought I would be able to but every time there was an improvement, you would return to type.
I do not babble; I am riveting, I say, but there is no traction, and now that I have opened the door, she is well on her way to tearing down my walls.
You do not show enough interest in people, you don't remember names, you look bored, you have no idea how to network, and you are predictable.
I am now cut to the quick. I remind her of how I jumped fully clothed into the swimming pool on Anita's birthday, now was that predictable?
She says that was humiliating; I did not know where to look, no wonder you walk out of jobs as people walk out of shops, I wish I had married someone who was more career-minded and had some money.
I found a Dh100 note in my old jeans, I say, you can have that. Levity and Vohra, old buddies.
No tinkling laughter follows. That is another thing. Wives are not fond of their husbands' sense of humour. You think you are funny, she says to me now and then, but you are not, and I know you promised me an exciting life but if I had known you meant rocky and always on the backfoot (she likes cricket) well, never mind, it's too late now.
Maybe not, maybe the Munduls are still at the party, and we can gatecrash.
(The writer is a Senior Editorial Advisor of Khaleej Times and the paper’s former Editor. He has also been the Editor of Gulf News, Gulf Today, Emirates Today and Bahrain Tribune)
The Nation, December 3, 2017