The Chivalrous Chauvinist

Earlier this week, I had to travel to Baltimore from Washington, D.C. (about an hour’s drive), where the missus would pick me up later and we would drive back home together. The original plan was for me to take the car, because I had to make it in time for an early appointment. She would reach later via public transportation: a bus, 4 trains and a couple of medium-distance walks.

I vehemently refused and insisted she take the car instead. And I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it, and about the kind of person that made me.

The missus lived in this country three years longer than I did. She came here on her own, with nobody to give advice, or even directions to the university. She found her way to the bus stop, classrooms, local train stations, her evening workplace, apartment for rent and grocery stores. She figured out how to get a social security number, apply for a telephone line, pay bills, write her thesis and go to the laundromat. She found her first job, bought a car to commute and then learned to drive it. All by herself.

At least three people I know came into the country after she did, but we all had her to show us around and teach us the ways of the new world. She taught all of us to drive, open a bank account, and look up the bus schedule online. I came here on a dependent visa because she was the breadwinner with a job.

And now, four years later, I drive us everywhere, but she still knows the best routes to avoid traffic. I fish out my wallet every time we eat or buy, but she is the one who does the taxes and knows the outstanding balance on each credit card. I pick the restaurant, and she’s the one who knows how much sodium goes into each ingredient. (Answer: too much).

I stay home sick, and she juggles work, daycare, feeding-bathing-diapering the little one, laundry, cooking and cleaning – all in a single day.

And yet I find it hard to let her take a bus at 8:30am, switch a few trains, and walk a few blocks in downtown Baltimore in broad daylight. I still can’t figure out if I’m treating her like a Lady, or as a Woman.

There’s a world of difference between the two, and that’s the problem.

Satisfaction Index

Satisfaction IndexHere’s a valuable life lesson: print the graphic you see here and put it up on your desk or fridge or the wall facing your toilet. This is what your future looks like. Here’s how it works:

Do you see the cute little ‘O’ standing at the corner of Satisfaction and Time? That’s when you will start something new in your life – something small, most likely. As with everything new, your satisfaction levels will jump up like a kitten on a trampoline until you get used to this new adventure. That’s when you reach A. Here the satisfaction levels are pretty much constant. Maybe they even drop a little before they flat-line for a couple of years. Your new stuff no longer occupies all of your waking thoughts, but it does make your life a bit more comfortable than you were used to.

Meet the turning point, X. This is where you see something better come along. While this ‘better’ something occupies your mind and turns it into an obsessive freak, your satisfaction levels slowly fade away to nothing until you finally acquire the ‘better’ something. Let’s call it an upgrade, B. The story repeats now: satisfaction skyrockets and then stays constant (C). And all is well for a few years.

One fine day you will arrive at another turning point. I call it the Point of No Return. By upgrading, you pretty much neutered your chances of ever getting something even better, because you blew your money (or your last chance) by going for B. So after point Y, you will kick yourself in the buns, screaming “Why? Why couldn’t I have waited a little while longer?” Needless to say, satisfaction crumbles dramatically until you find yourself in despair until the end of time.

Feel free to apply this proven and tested, doctor-recommended, NASA-certified formula to any part of your life. Apple devices, digital cameras, cars, career choices, tattoos and hairstyles are some examples I would suggest. Girlfriends and kids are not. Imaginary girlfriends: acceptable. Here are some of my own examples.

Satisfaction Index - HomeSatisfaction Index - TVSatisfaction Index - Gadgets

Note to aspiring thieves: All electronic devices, expensive equipment, property values mentioned in this article are fictitious and bear no resemblance to any real-life possessions whatsoever. Any chance encounter where you may witness me in possession of any of the aforementioned objects is purely coincidental. Also please note that as of last week, I have moved to Tokyo with all of my imaginary, expensive belongings.

Her Sense of Humor

Female singer on the CD: “When you sneak up and give me a surprise hug… it’s poetry. When you step out of the shower, and dry your hair with the end of my sari… oh, that’s poetry!

Me: What a load of misleading crap!

Missus: What?

Me: Remember how you loved this song 10 years ago? (imitating) Oh, what beautiful lyrics! This is what dreams and love are all about!

Missus: So what’s wrong with that?

Me: Everything. This is the kind of stuff girls love, but only in movies. If I did sneak up on you today, you would scream the rooftop off. And if I actually tried to use your sari like a towel, you would go bat-shit insane and shave my head!

Missus: (laughs uncontrollably)

Me: I’m being serious! What’s so funny? This is a genuine issue. I’m telling you what actually bothers me!

Missus: It’s hilarious! You should write about this.

Not-so-SUPER-stitions

There are some superstitions that were born out of sensible advice. “Don’t go out during a solar eclipse or else you’ll go blind.” Translation: I know the whole phenomenon is beautiful and everything, but I don’t trust your capacity to resist staring at it until you’re blind as a bat. And since we won’t have pinhole cameras, dark goggles or white canes for a few centuries to come, park your butt indoors until this thing blows over.

Cover your mouth with your hand when you yawn, otherwise the Devil will get inside“. I’m going to venture a guess that ‘Devil’ was the name of the family’s pet mosquito. Apt, when you consider the notorious blood-sucking habit and how common it is for families to have a million pet mosquitoes without even knowing it.

And then there are a few that make no sense whatsoever.

  • Don’t let the baby look into the mirror. He will grow up with buck teeth.” Huh?
  • Don’t pass the salt with your hands, or else you’ll end up fighting with that person.” Honey, I love you and that’s the only reason I’m seasoning your food using my toes.
  • Don’t get your picture taken at sunset. It will shorten your lifespan.” George Clooney should be dead by now, from all those Oscars red carpet photos taken at dusk.

There’s yet another category: those superstitions that started out with meaningful purpose, but somewhere along the way, lost… um, their way. Nomadic tribes shared the day’s kill with the entire group because (1) you needed a group offensive to kill something bigger than a rabbit and (2) there were no freezers to keep your woolly mammoth leftovers. Later among settlers, everyone knew everyone in their village, even without Facebook. So it’s logical that you invite the entire community if you’re hosting a decent lunch. It was an excuse to meet and greet, and frankly no one wanted to be uninvited from the next big dinner.

Flash forward to the 21st century: what’s the deal with inviting a thousand strangers to your wedding?
Me: “Why can’t I have a teeny-tiny wedding with just friends and relatives?”
Parents: “OMG! OMG! OMG! OMG! OMG! OMG!”

So there we were, my new missus and I, receiving obligatory, not-really-whole-hearted blessings from a gazillion people we haven’t met and will never meet ever again, while they snapped up the wedding feast (which we’ve been told later, was “OH, SO DELICIOSO!“). Thanks for sharing that. Now please excuse us while we stuff our starving bellies from empty plates filled with blessings. Now there’s a wedding memory that would last a lifetime.

The next time someone goes boo-hoo over a broken mirror, I will personally deliver their 7 years of bad luck.

My Jealous Missus

I think I can still vaguely remember the first time I laid eyes on her. I told myself that a day will come when she shall be mine. Nearly eight years later it seemed like the dream would finally come true. But as always, real life wasn’t a bed of roses. ‘Happily ever after’ happens only in fairy tales and movies. And yet if I knew of the long difficult road ahead, I don’t think my feelings for her would have been any different. This is our true story.

Before we could be together, we endured an agonizingly long struggle; against her folks (who were idiots of the top order), and my family (adamant in its disapproval of her), some financial troubles, some legal complications and everything else that fate seemed capable of throwing at us. After what seemed like the proverbial eternity, things were finally looking up. My family gave in – reluctantly at first and then nearly as enthusiastic as I was – thank God. As for her folks, well, let’s just say they didn’t matter anymore to either of us. On a pleasant sunny winter day, she finally became mine and I hers.

Our first time together; it was literally a dark, stormy night. Yet we couldn’t have been more comfortable and at ease with each other. I now really believe those studies which say first-time encounters in dangerous circumstances stay memorable for a lifetime. Up close, she was more beautiful than ever. She was everything I had ever dreamed of. We spent three beautiful days together. Friends and well-wishers showered praise for the prize that she is and for the good fortune that was mine.

Three incredible days. And then she met with an accident. Multiple fractures, head injuries and a broken back. I teetered on the edge of heartbreak for the next few days. My family had the tolerance to put up with the sulking, irritable monster I had become. After a month-long series of treatments, when they wheeled her out for the first time, I noticed I no longer felt the rush I used to whenever I saw her. I was allowed to bring her home, but it’s like she was completely different on the inside. Looking back on all of it, I couldn’t blame myself completely for feeling the way I did. After all, I had watched the one before her die in near-identical circumstances just ten months earlier.

The first time she was ready to go out, I laid my hand on her gently but with much indifference. I could feel familiar senses rekindle. But then life happened. Two days after she came home, she was hit by a jerk backing his car up. While I was holding her. Though she only suffered a few bruises, the incident left me badly shaken.

I know she’ll be well. And she’s physically much more capable than me at regaining all her original strength. Surprisingly I felt less terrible for her this time. Maybe it’s the magnitude of her injuries. In any case, I wished my family shared my optimism. Because I know that when she gets back home this time – whenever that is – she will be taken away from me. I do still want her but my wife has declared she needs her more. Maybe she’s jealous. Or maybe it’s for the best. Either way, I wish them both a happy and comfortable life together.

My dear wife, keep her happy. My dear Prius, keep my precious missus comfy and safe.

Evening

17:30 – “OMG it’s so sunny and beautiful outside! It’s been ages since the weather was this nice. Let’s go biking!”

17:31 – “You NEVER do ANYTHING I ask you to. But I have to put up with every lousy TV show that you want to watch.”

17:40 – “Okay, fine! If you come I promise I won’t put on the Food channel today. Good enough?”

17:43 – “Get the helmets!”

17:45 – “Do the tires have enough air in them?”

17:58 – “You’re tying shoelaces, not performing a surgery. Move faster!”

18:01 – “Now? You have to go the bathroom RIGHT NOW??”

18:03 – “Are you coming? I’m leaving!”

18:08 – “GOD, you and your shoelaces!!!”

18:15 – “Did you get the house key?”

18:17 – “Finally… Okay, now where the HELL did that SUN go?”

The Sore Butt Story

Colleague: “So what plans for the weekend?”

Me: “Well I bought a bike yesterday, so…”

Colleague: “Wow! That’s so great! Congratulations!!”

Me: “umm… bicycle”

Colleague: “Huh. Okay…”

Me: “But when they say ‘bike’ here in the US, they usually mean bicycle.  Only in India we generally say that for motorcycles”

Colleague: “Well you see I’m not an American. So I’ll just call it like they do in India”

Me: (@$$#0!%)

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In case you were wondering, the weekend plan was to go biking… uh, cycling with the missus around a lovely park next to the airport. It sits on the river at one end of the runway, so it’s a great spot to watch planes land and take-off right over people’s heads. And best of all, it’s within biking cycling distance from all the DC monuments. Oh, think of all the fun we’ll have!

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It took me at least ten minutes to figure it out how to ride a geared bicycle. Ten LONG minutes of looking like a Bugs Bunny cartoon: pedaling like crazy but going nowhere. And by the way, who’s the genius who thought it would be a great idea to put hard seats on bikes? With every push of the pedals I could almost hear my butt go “Ow! Ow! Ow!” When it looked like I finally got the hang of the gear thingies, the wife asks if I’m ready to go. It took every ounce of willpower to stop myself from suggesting a half-hour break.

She sped off like a marathon champ on her squeaky, rusty, ancient bike. And here I was, tagging along a couple of light years behind her, wheezing, gasping and pedaling for dear life. They say the brain has two halves.

theishu

I like the second half.

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A million years and a billion absolutely clueless gearshifts later, the missus comes to a stop at a fork in the biking trail. “Which way do you want to go?” she asks as I pull up next to her. I want to decide but somehow I have lost the ability to think!

This sudden stop after the vigorous workout has completely messed up my insides. Slight nausea from all the panting, which reminds me of all those godforsaken attempts to go to the gym. What memories! Now the nausea is worse. A weird silence fills my ears, drowning out all the noise – the traffic, planes, my darling wife’s blah-blah-blah about the biking trail, etc. etc.

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“Okay, so that’s where all my blood has been. Why is the earth spinning in the opposite direction? Is this how someone passes out? Shit, this feels AWESOME! Somebody should make a movie about this. Hey! WHOA! Don’t do it, man! Don’t throw up in public. They’ll ask you to pick it up like dog poop. All those tourists are staring. You’ll become the poster-boy of losers all over the world. Shake it off! Shake it off! NO WAIT! Bad idea…”

You know how they distort audio and video in movies to show the point-of-view of a person on the edge of consciousness? Well, I did see my wife say something but all I heard was “Aaaaaaarrr Yoooooouuuuu Oooookaaayyyyyy?”

“Me? I’m fine! Cool! Relax, don’t worry” And then… letting go of the bike. Staggering onto the grass wearing a stupid grin, pretending to admire the surroundings. Sitting down slowly… ah, forget it! Lying on my back, arms folded behind my head and tapping my feet on the grass. Trying to look like I stopped to admire the stars. These stars. You can’t see these stars? Oh, they’re great. Spinning and everything!

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“See, THIS IS WHY I tell you to exercise daily! We have barely biked for 2 miles and you look like you’re ready to drop dead!” There’s no situation so bad that you can’t make it worse by adding a little guilt. Words of wisdom spoken by a true… WHAT? TWO MILES?? THAT’S ALL???

Oh…

My…

God!!!

That’s when I realized: I am going to die here. Either that or the missus is going to lend a helping hand in speeding up the process. Lord, why didn’t I marry a girl my parents chose for me? IDIOT! MORON!!

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A few less dramatic rest stops later Mrs. Champ asks, “Do you want to keep going all the way to Rosslyn?”

“Hmm… you know what? I have my sunglasses on and it’s going to be dark soon. What do you say,  we go back to the park?”

Great. Now I’m going up on the Pathetic Excuses Wall of Fame.

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Later that night in the comfort of the indoors (and a soft pillow under me) I hear the wife talking to her mom. You know, the usual stuff – “Today I cooked A, B, C and we did X, Y, Z… blah, blah, blah…”

Mother-in-law: “You cycled for SIX MILES? That’s almost TEN KILOMETERS! Are you both fine? Weren’t you exhausted?”

Me: (Please don’t tell her. Please don’t tell her)

Wife: “I’m fine, Ma. I exercise every day. But you should’ve seen…”

Me: (Kill me. Kill me now)

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Before we go to bed she says, “Your legs are going to hurt really bad in the morning”

Me (reaching for the extra pillow): “Ever heard of pain relocation therapy?”

Wife: “No. And why two pillows?”

Me: “Let’s just say my legs are the last thing I’m worried about”

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