Like any other chauvinistic male always finding faults with his dutiful wife, I don’t miss an opportunity to throw my tantrums on her, reason or no reason.
She tries her best to meet everybody’s demand in the family. She is first to wake up in the morning and last to retire, after serving milk to the children and medicine with lukewarm water to her aged, asthmatic mother-in-law. Sometimes, I ask her to soak fenugreek (methi) seeds for my morning consumption, being a diabetic. She never ever skips serving me a hot cuppa before going to bed.
Her day starts at 5. She rustles up breakfast for the elder daughters, a teacher, who leaves for her school at 7. A tea breather and then she gets back to work, packing lunch for the younger one, who leaves at 8 and being a health freak, wants only dry parantha for breakfast and sauté or shallow-fried vegetable for lunch. All day, my wife continues receiving desperate calls from them to retrieve their matching ‘dupatta’ or some other garment buried under the pile of freshly-laundered clothes.
My journo son is last to leave. He prefers stuffed parantha with ‘patti’ (tea leaves boiled in milk) or grilled sandwich with cold coffee. Unlike many others of her clan, my wife gets little time to read newspaper, socialise, or do gossip. The neighborhood women while away their quality time chattering about rising prices and passing on spicy grapevine. My spouse, though, has no time to grouse or grumble. When others go shopping in the evening, she is checking if a broken shirt stud needs replacing or a torn cuff requires repair.
She has no time for afternoon siesta and two prime-time soap operas on television are her only entertainment of the day. She enjoys every bit of what she does, instead of killing her time in woolgathering. It was a real test for me to run the household when she went on a short trip to her native place. The day she left, I listed out priorities of the more demanding kids.
Donning my spouse’s hat, as I entered the kitchen like a celebrity chef. My elder daughter enquired: “Is the breakfast ready, dad?” I rustled out three “designer” chapattis, burnt partially from the ends. “What have you made, dad?” She wrapped them in aluminium foil and left off, shooting a cold stare.
It was now the younger daughter’s turn to leave for her academy where she teaches mathematics. She asked me coyly: “Stuffed parantha bana loge, papa?” I said: “Yeah,” and served her two onion paranthas with dollops of butter. She guffawed as she took the first bite. “It has no salt!” I heaved a sigh of relief when my son offered to prepare himself grilled sandwich and coffee.
Evening was hectic, too. The children asked me to fetch vegetables for the next day. Normally, my wife and I go to the vegetable market. I admonish her for haggling with vendors over small change. I made it to the haberdasher and handed down the list to him. He packed the vegetables accordingly, with a few strands of fresh coriander and some free chilli. As my elder daughter ran a quick eye over the vegetables, she was furious. “Dad, you have been fleeced. Worse, some of the tomatoes are rotten and the bottle gourd overripe, and…” she continued.
A trifle flummoxed, she rang up her mother, asking her to return by the next available bus.
(The writer is a Chandigarh-based freelance contributor)