I don’t know exactly how many times I have started this column with: ‘When you are living alone…’ Quite a few times, I’m sure. So, with apologies to my readers, here goes — once more, with feeling.
When you are living alone, the prospect of a houseguest throws you into a deep blue funk. The last time around, the houseguest happened to be my father, who, at most unbecoming times — like while watching a high-voltage action thriller on DVD — used to start snoring. I would have to cut short my cinematic experience (the TV is in the bedroom), and turn in for the night. It would be around 8.30 at night, I don’t sleep before well past midnight, so I’d toss and turn for the next few hours.
Before him, it was my mother. We would have bitter fights — even in bed. She would insist I wasn’t eating enough fruits; I’d tell her I couldn’t take discussing apples and oranges late in the night. That would be the flashpoint.
This time, my aunt threatened to come and stay with me for three days. She and her husband (my uncle) — along with my parents — are coming to Delhi on Sunday.
On Wednesday night, all four will proceed to Indira Gandhi International Airport and catch a flight to vilayat. The Calcutta party is most excited about the Hum Saath Saath Hain-type vacation, and everyone’s been talking ceaselessly about it for the last four months now (ever since the trip was finalised — right after New Year). My father even lapses into saying beelet jachchi (the equivalent of ‘I/We are going to vilayat’) whenever there are Bengali-speaking people around him.
For the three days that they will be in transit, my parents will be putting up with my brother and sister-in-law in Gurgaon. My uncle and aunt have a son living in Delhi, a Black Sheep type of character who never bothers to be in touch with the rest of us. “I have two women living with me: you two want to come and stay with the three of us, feel free,” Black Sheep had offered hospitably.
Actually, it’s not as decadent as it sounds: he has two flatmates, and both happen to be women.
But it was enough to put off his parents. “Orrey baba, na,” was how my aunt had, reportedly, shot down the invitation.
So, my uncle turned to his brother (not my father, my other uncle), and my aunt to me — for hospitality. “You have to take all three days off, else I’ll get bored,” she ordered.
“Puhleez, not three days,” I pleaded. I’ll take off one day, I promised. “Besides, your husband will be staying really close to where I stay (the same colony in fact), so if you’re feeling bored you could just hop across.”
“No, no,” she sulked. “I see enough of him in any case. I want to spend time with you.”
Oh dear, I thought, my boss is not going to like this one bit.
But first, I had to get down to brass tacks. Starting last Sunday, I launched a massive clean-up drive at home. I proudly chucked a two-month-old shrivelled papaya out of the fridge, stacked my clothes into orderly piles, rearranged my books/DVDs/CDs, organised spanking new linen, washed the curtains, etc etc.
On Thursday evening, I learnt my aunt wouldn’t be staying with me. Black Sheep has installed an A/C in his room in honour of his parents, my uncle informed me, sounding extremely unconvinced. So they now have to take their chances and accept their son’s hospitality — and put up with the two women in his life.
I won’t have to take leave for three days now. Plus, I have a sorted out flat I can come back home to. It’s a double whammy.