Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Life in a Retro (Part II)

I know what you did last summer!

Did I mention anywhere that we completed one full year of marital hiss, oopsies, Marital BLISS? Yes. Infact, today (12th June) is the day when the Pandit added ghee in the fire, people smeared all kinds of paste mixtures on our faces and my wife and I took turns leading each other around fire and promised in our hearts not to leave the other alone ever. In short, all hell broke loose.

Why did we not have an inkling of doubt from these small indicators, that life will be hot and burning like fire, we would become different faces once married and we will have no one to lead us to happiness!! Huh, does everyone go through this feeling?

It feels just like yesterday that we met for the first time. We spent three years meandering and wandering around looking for love of our lives. We shared all we were living and all we aspired for. We always wanted the other to be happy and have a great life. Never realizing, the one we are sharing these moments, should be the ideal person with whom the aspirations can come true! Thankfully, we finally managed to convince ourselves that there is no one better than self to make the other happy. So, we obliged each other.

Once we decided to ruin our lives for sure, the next set of people to set on fire was our parents. Coming from different castes, it would be a mighty task to convince them. But when luck is not on your side, nothing can go wrong. They agreed readily! There was no resistance!!! No filmy dialogues, no ugly ego hassles, no caste allegations, nothing at all. Huh, such a boring start to our would-be-exciting life together. We must be dreaming, we thought. Life can never be so smooth. Sure, it was not. Once the parties agreed, it took us 2 more years to finally get married. These 700 and some more days from the day our parents said ‘yes’ to ‘yours truly’ finally ‘kissing the bride’, were special. I can never forget them. We opened joint accounts for future purchases for our dream home. We queried for home loans. We started saving for our first car. We enquired about special honeymoon packages. All activities and decisions became ‘our’ decisions rather than ‘my’ decisions. We did everything in perfect harmony. We started doing so much together that we almost forgot to fight until the final topic of when do we get married came up? Finalizing the D-day took eternity. We had to keep shifting the wedding date for some reason or the other. Reasons were galore, what followed was singular, world war! All dreams came shattering down, all savings and deposits stopped, honeymoon neither had honey and moon went behind war clouds. The cold war would last for a couple of days strengthening our thoughts a little more and transforming our cherished dream into a new color of aspiration.

As 12th June was being finalized, a new debate erupted. Why June, why summers and why not pre/postpone a little to suit all. But then, having shifted and moved the dates 500 times in the last 500 days, nobody wanted to take a chance. By now people had actually started fearing if at all we will get married! But as they say, nothing fails like prayers. So, all prayers from either sides got nullified and we exchanged garlands this day last summer. Since that day last year till today, I have been wondering the times we spent together. And I must say it has been horrifying. Infact, it has been dreadful. I fear many moments as described by many friends, citing situations, when things get rocky and shaky post marriage. I was even prepared with a few alternatives mentally to try out if one of the so many ‘common situations’ as blubbered by my dear friends happened to us, post wedding. Frighteningly, none of them happened to us yet! And I live in awful suspense everyday. I still await some shocking and revealing truths of life after marriage. And the only person to blame for all this mental tension and ubiquitous pressure is my wife. I just cannot believe anyone changing someone’s life like this! Thank you dear for making my life a living hell. Hell, where I boil and fry in the fire of passion, I twist and twirl in your true love and only you lead me to perfect happiness.

So, now you know what I did last summer. I apologize, what we did last summer.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

A healthy marriage

From limited interactions with friends and acquaintances, I have come to believe that most men shirk getting married not just to avoid responsibility but also obesity. Personally too I have seen so many of them suddenly bloating like a pig within 2 months of their respective wedding dates. I agree, the first couple of months after a wedding is very hectic. It takes a toll on the health of most couples. Most couples most certainly fall ill. They should be totally down and out. On the contrary, most gain weight!! And why not. A couple has three paternal aunts and two uncles of the groom and two maternal aunts and three uncles of the bride to visit for dinner or lunch. There are two more aunts who are cousins by relations but are closer than the real ones. Then, there are relatives to be visited from the bride’s side. On week ends there are the neighbors with whom the groom’s family has been staying for more than a decade. Needless to say all these meals are very delicious, very rich and highly fattening. If families are non-vegetarians, the couples become dead meat themselves after some invitations! Some say the worst is the desserts course of these meals. I agree. One has to have all on her/his plate and then some more which is served and finally some more thrust on them as blessing from elders. If there are no invitations to go to, there are invitations sent to call relatives and friends home to relish delicacies made by the new bride in the house! One good thing ofcourse is that couples get to know each other’s likings and disliking just watching each other eat.

But during all these uneventful yet ritual socializing, the bride and groom actually don’t get to spend much time together. The newly wedded couples want to do so much for each other. Once all these compulsory invitations have been attended, the couples now get to actually live with each other. Till then they were only staying in the same house. The couple has got fed up of the mention of a lunch or dinner invitation. By now men have started getting irritated of the whole thing. People had been thrusting item after item down their throats. To make matters worse with the reducing number of invitations, the mushy bullying of the new wife starts on the breakfast table. The only meal they can eat at peace is breakfast. Not because it is light but because it has minimum number of items on the table. And only now the wife can start bestowing her stocked up love. Not her fault at all. But hen neither is the husband’s, I say. There is a limit to everything. Most of the trousers, old, bought and gifted don’t fit on the waist anymore. He has poked a new hole in the belt. A kurta is the best attire nowadays. Huh, something which was worn only by men past their prime most thought! And on top of that, instead of understanding, this wife of mine is making life even more miserable by shoving some more of that ghee laden parantha with the super oily paneer curry. Things like these may be running across some “now conscious” healthy-in-the-mind men. I hope am going right.

I got married this time last year (June 2006). I live in the same city as my in-laws. There are a decent number of relatives from my wife’s side in the city too. I did have my share of invitations. Being Bengalis we are strict non-vegetarians. So, are these the reasons why am writing this piece? Hmmm, well yes and no. Yes, because I could have been among the so many couples cribbing about the post marriage binge sessions. No, because although I had most of the ingredients of a (un)healthy beginning to our wedding, I was rescued. I married into a Tamilian Brahmin family. All invitations were strictly vegetarian, light and very delicious. It certainly helped that I had developed a taste for most south Indian dishes during my 4 yrs stint down south. When all outings were over, even the unending love, affection and mushiness which my wife would shower on me during breakfast and dinner were restricted to a vegetarian diet. It helped me to keep fit, look fit and feel fit. I remain a non-vegetarian with most week ends with my wife and friends being strict non-vegetarian binging. A little alcohol surely helps cleaning the biological system too!! (Wink)

In all sanity I can say that I had a very healthy beginning to my married life, remain healthy all through this past one year and continue having a very healthy married life. And sure, it includes the meals we eat.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Life in a Retro (Part I)

As far as I can remember, I always wanted to join the Armed Forces. Growing up in a residential school in Mussoorie only kept fuelling my aspiration. On every trip to town every second Saturday of the month, watching the Gentlemen Cadets from Indian Military Academy (IMA), Dehradun made the decision stronger and determined. I have never liked green as a color, courtesy our neighboring country. Hence, most shades of green never got my attention. The olive green Army Uniform was one shade I could never take off my mind.

The Combined Defense Services (CDS) which I took in my final year of Graduation gave me a chance to get to IMA. I knew there were many avenues to apply and join the Forces. What was not known until I went for my Service Selection Board (SSB) was the meaning of dreaming to wear the Army Uniform. It dawned on me only when I started interacting with other aspiring candidates. I was rejected in my first attempt by an earlier SSB. I was attending my second SSB. There were boys who were attending their eleventh!! Yes, eleventh. One can apply for NDA atleast once and sometimes twice after Class XII and atleast twice through CDS. Some lucky few with birthdays below the eligible dates, can apply thrice. Then there is an entry for NCC ‘C’ Certificate holders, an entry for Engineering Graduates, a University entry scheme and a Short Service Commission entry. There were boys who had applied for most of these, if not all, and the highest count was indeed, eleventh attempt. It was inspiring to be among them and sometimes felt embarrassing too. Inspiring, as even after being rejected ten times, these boys keep coming back, just for the love of the Uniform. Embarrassing, because if one was rejected ten times, how can he even pronounce it! I could never do that. But it felt great to be among them.

It has been a long time since then. But the days spent at SSB stay clear in my memories. The first day being received at the station and taken to the SSB Campus in an Army Bus was a high in itself. We were issued a Chest Number to wear which would be our identity for the number of hours / days we would be at the SSB Campus as the first day itself, out of 96 boys only 46 stayed back. After a battery of written tests and group discussions, a short list was announced and more than half were rejected. Poor souls could not even open the luggage they had brought, prepared for the whole SSB stint. The real fun time was at the barracks. More than 100 boys in the barracks, as there were parallel batches of candidates attending SSB, reminded me of my hostel days. Only that I knew no one in this crowd. But that was the first night. All inhibitions were gone by the next morning. On the first day, a Colonel in his Welcome Address gave instructions on the format of selection process, the schedules and general information. His one sentence still remains ringing in my mind. He said, “The gates would close at 2130 hours. 2129 hours is early, 2130 is on time and 2131 hours is late”. It gave me goose pimples then. We used to visit the city market in the evening. But no one ever came in late. Some words never fade. May be, those words had become a daily ritual for him. For us, it was religion.

Our day started at 0430 hours with a Malayali voice shouting ‘Chaaya le lo’ for ‘chai’, serving tea early morning at the barracks where all candidates were put up. Rushing to the loo, freshening up and being at the breakfast table by 0730 hours was the priority as everyone felt there were eyes keeping a watch on us for discipline and time keeping. The written test grill and then the physical drill took up the rest of the first half of the day. Once back at the barracks, boys became boys. There were non-veg jokes being shared at the peak of voices, some boys played antakshari, others played cards. Cigarette smoke was all over. Among all this, some managed their siesta too! The barrack revelry continued till late in the evening.

After 4 days of rigorous intelligence tests, high emotional stability exercises and tough physical endurance drills, the D-day arrived. All 46 candidates in my group were made to sit in a hall and a general motivational speech was rendered by a senior Rank Officer. I don’t think anyone even listened to what he said. All eyes and brains were on the piece of paper in his hand which had the Chest Numbers of people whose names would be called out after this never ending talk. The ordeal was not over though. The names which would be called out would be undergoing 3 days of medical check up and examination by the SSB Medical Board. I had heard people discovered there was some medical problem in their bodies for the first time from the Medical Board examination. To a lay man, some of those medical issues would sound ridiculous and a non-issue. When you have to entrust a Nation’s security in the hands of a soldier, he has to be the best and the fittest, mentally and physically. The parameters of ‘a fit body and mind’ were very different in the Armed Forces. The ones who would be short-listed would be given a fresh set of Green Cross Chest to wear to identify them as Medical candidates.

The senior Ranking Officer finally finished his talk. There was pin drop silence in the hall. I could hear heart beats. I was not sure if they were mine or a chorus of all 46 hearts. The Officer said, the result is not very encouraging. “The number of people who have been short-listed is low as compared to what was expected” is what he said. All hearts skipped a beat and sank, simultaneously. The hall did not have an air-conditioner. But I suddenly felt cold for a moment.

I had called back home when I was short-listed the first day after the initial written tests and group discussions. My mother told me 7 is a lucky number for me. So, did my Chest Number being 34 help me on the first day? I don’t know. After 6 days at this SSB, among all these competitors, I surely needed the number 7 to help me. I did not believe in numerology. I still have my doubts. But on the 7th day at the SSB, the number 7 could not fail me. I also found myself praying, probably for the first time, consciously. I needed the numerological powers to help me, the Gods in Heaven to bless me and The Devil to grant me that one last wish to hear my Chest Number, even in return of my soul.

Only 5 boys were short-listed of the 46 in the group. I don’t know if 2 more names, making it 7 in total would have assured my confidence in numerology. But I thanked the Gods and The Devil. Chest Number 34 was announced.

There is a reason behind all decisions. There is a decision behind all reasoning. I had reasons. I had a decision to make. I did make one. Do I regret it now? No.

Or may be, I do. Or else, I would not be writing this column.

(Why am I not in the Armed Forces? Well, that’s a brand new story. Let me assure all readers, though, I am mentally and physically fit. No issues with my body and mind).