Disclaimer: It is a long post- more than 1300 words. Those who have the endurance of a Marathon Man can venture in. It is humour, but there are many who don’t have a stomach for humour and end up in tears. So, check for such allergies and other contraindicated medical conditions!
After a great deal of thought and weighing all the pros and cons I have decided to join a Facebook friend James Joyce on his next expedition to the Pamirs, exploring the origin of Oxus or with someone out hunting the elusive Yeti in the Himalayas.
But let me tell you it is not for the thrill of it; I am not a convert to the new ecumenical faith of adventure tourism. I remain as devoutly and as defiantly lazy as ever. I hate adventure from the same core of my heart that I have always hated. But I am left with no choice. Either I go to the Pamirs or search for the Loch Ness Monster in distant locations or find plausible reasons to escape more hazardous adventures in the familiar setting of my home.
I will tell you what! After I have undertaken my mandatory walk or stint on the treadmill etc. I do not undertake any wasteful expeditions. My wife is no "mechanical bride", she is as complete a human being as ever there was and inordinately humane at that, but she is tidying up this, minding that apart from the regular chores all the time. Like planets she is in a state of perpetual motion. Her living room is her pride, her bedroom her work of art. If I had to do that kind of movement I would demand a pair of roller-skates - motorised one at that - and three robotic assistants. Having done my quota of physical activity why should I waste man-power on frivolous movements? Parked in front of my desk top or sprawled on the bed, it gives me the vertigo to watch my wife indulging her pleasure of doing such pointless work. But women I guess, do not understand much about man power!
I had told my wife very early during our marriage that it takes many to solve a problem and there are various steps to solving it. My job was to reflect on the nature of the problem, she could do the solving. That is division of labour. My wife gave me that look which she perfected in a short time living with me. The translation would run in volumes but I get it in an instant. Ever since she has gone about doing her things; I have learnt to cope with my vertigo reasonably well. But now that domestic helps are becoming a little unpredictable, she expects me to join her in these mad pursuits. No one else to divide the labour with except the poor husband who is already dead tired of watching her at work!
I have some rule of thumb excuses to dodge the draft. "Is it necessary, we will be leaving in a couple of days, anyway?" "Is it legal?" I escaped the edict to locate the source of a leak (my version of investigating the source of Oxus) from somewhere behind the geyser. I said the municipality will have to be notified, the power supply company will have to be informed.
"So, the government has now entered our bathroom? And in the next move they will be sprawled right in our bedroom?" she said facetiously. But she let it pass; she was just testing me. She knew that my intervention would have resulted in flooding the bathroom any way and a call to National Disaster Management Authority.
During the course of the same week I was asked to go up to the terrace to see whether the help was malingering or tending to the many plants and pots. I pleaded that I had lost my cap and standing in the sun for long made me feel giddy and nauseated. My Ray-Ban aviator glasses were missing. May be this was also just a dry run and she let me get away with this one as well. Now I know why; she was laying a perfect ambush, she trapped me on an S- bend!
My books - or rather poor me in my untidy environment of books - are her greatest eyesore. in the brutal struggle for existence my books have lost out to the many shelves and almirahs which according to my wife contain objects of absolute necessity. If I could show you how I and my books have been squeezed into an alcove with some shelves of one corner of the bedroom, you would be moved to tears.
The rest of my books have been dispatched to a room on the first floor. I argued with my wife that I and my books had co-evolved; it is like my environment for me, you can’t destroy my habitat. "Don’t you have any concern for the sole member of that rare species called husband?"
My wife said that "you could survive with your thousand books and the rest of it is an indulgence." I said these are not a thousand but only six hundred. She threatened to count each one of them so I climbed down and it was agreed that if I imported some books from upstairs an equal number would have to be deported.
Now my wife has a suspicion that some illegal immigrants from the first floor are hiding in the pile. Of course, my children have sent me a few hundred in the last few years but they are all legal.
I told her, "I have papers from Amazon, even for the imported ones. Don’t husbands have human rights?" "So long as they don’t create pig stys in bedroom,", she said. The clutter and the pile are intruding into alien territory of her nicely curated corner. "Don’t you quote all the time. I would rather be an unsatisfied Socrates than a satisfied pig’. So, Mr. Socrates of the slums, don’t be a pig."
My wife has served me notice that either I do the needful or she will take things in her own hand. And in matters like these she is an extremist. Either I find a way to somehow accommodate these books on the uppermost shelves by weeding out some for extinction or see them deported en masse. I am a human being; not an uncaring cruel natural agency like Evolution!
I have avoided the task so far by pointing out that the aluminium ladder has become a little unstable and by generally playing on her insecurity that her aging sixty-six plus husband might take a bump. This has worked so far, but for how long? Aluminium ladders can be mended! Our departure from Patna has earned me a reprieve but how long can I be an exile?
I had asked my wife to buy me a pair of walking shoes and a couple of track pants. Normally I am pressurised into accompanying her on these missions because of size issues but over the years I have managed to find comprehensive strategies to evade the demand. But this time she did not say a word. I got my pair of shoes and track pants from Decathlon but the inventory included unintended trekking back pack, a pair of mountain trekking shoes, a rucksack, trekking gloves, trek zip off pants, a solid looking harness, and waterproof all-weather multilayer peel off jacket.
She sat down triumphantly. "When we get back to Patna you are going to go on your climbing expedition and plant the books in proper order, tidy up the clutter on the lower reaches and leave no waste on the top. You are equipped for every season and every eventuality; the activity is perfectly legal and does not violate any of your human rights. I checked up with our family lawyer."
It has steeled my resolution. I shall arise and go now and go to the Arctic tundra, report triumphantly for the Facebook, wearing all that gear, petting a caribou or riding a sled. Chase the lions chasing antelopes and gazelles for lunch in the Serengeti Savannahs in the darkest Africa. At least I would earn some admiring oohs and aahs from known and unknown women friends!
India Today magazine once referred to Manoje Nath, a 1973-batch IPS officer, as being fiercely independent, honest, and upright. Besides his numerous official reports on various issues exposing corruption in the bureaucracy in Bihar, Nath is also a writer extraordinaire expressing his thoughts on subjects ranging from science fiction to the effects of globalization. His sense of humor was evident through his extremely popular series named "Gulliver in Pataliputra" and "Modest Proposals" that were published in the local newspapers.