Husband: But why are they so unhappy with their lives? Me: Why is anyone unhappy with their life? Aren't we all unhappy in our own individual w
I was grappling with what a very close friend said about me to another friend, when this piece of writing came to me. It is a piece by Jean Garnett, titled There I almost am. On envy and twinship. The article which is published in The Yale Review, is a searingly honest piece of writing by Garnett in which she introspects and confronts her own sense of envy - most of which is directed towards her twin (sister). In a detailed manner, she writes about her own experiences and quotes Aristotle among many other philosophers - all of whom, had something to say on why people experience envy. When I read the piece, I wondered to myself - did my two decade-long friend said what she said or deeper still, thinks what she thinks about me and my spouse, from a place of envy?
On one hand, I understand the concept of equality. Of being equal partners in a marriage, of being responsible for your own happiness, and that you can get yourself a bouquet if you feel like it, and do not need anyone to get or send you one. And lately, even the sheer expense of these bouquets and the economics or the commercial undertone behind the celebration of a lot of 'days' and what one is expected to do on these days as a mark of love or respect. However having said that, I love receiving and gifting flowers.
However when we reached the enclosure that housed the goats, the husband got so excited that he forgot all about us and started feeding the goats with the enthusiasm of a child. I had to go back to the entrance to buy another packet of goat feed (I am not sure if that's the right term for it, but can't remember now what it was called) because the husband wanted to feed the goats some more! I remember the friend and I standing at a distance, with smiles taking over us faces as we watched the husband getting absolutely thrilled with the goats eating out of his hand.
While the list of mother-in-law problems is varied, sometimes whimsical and bordering on weird, and at other times full of annoying issues arising from deeply rooted problematic attitudes towards what a daughter-in-law's place in the family is all about, one theme seems to come up almost always. And that is, a large majority of Indian women experience some form of unpleasantness from their husband's mother. The degree, of course is varying, and I do not know whether it says something about the nature of mother-in-law and daughter-in-law relationships in general or is something peculiar to Indian culture and society. Now that unpleasantness could stem from a sense of not being liked or welcomed into their new families or it could go deeper with sensing a hostility from their mother-in-law, or the pressure to conform to their mother-in-law's way of life and beliefs.
The thing is, travelling or vacationing together is like a marriage. You have to give up on some things, and your spouse will give up some, there can hardly be ever a perfect 50-50 in that give and take, and both of you have to adjust. Yes, that great Indian word that is said to solve every problem in a marriage - 'adjustment' - also applies to vacationing together.
Growing up, food was often shared between neighbours. That way, I experienced food from different regions of India. Thalipeeth (a savoury multi-grain flatbread) by the Maharashtrian aunty, rajma chawal (kidney beans curry and rice) from the Punjabi neighbour, savoury as well as sweet appams (pancake dish, made with fermented rice batter and coconut milk) from the South Indian family, a khichyu (savoury snack) that was special to the Patel community sent by the Patel aunty whose family owned the day-and-night pharmacy store in the old city. This was also the aunty I would go to when I felt like sipping on an aerated drink, especially Gold Spot, since my father did not allow us to stock or consume aerated drinks at home. (She used to have a crate with a mix of different aerated drinks and would always offer me one when I visited with my mother. And I would jump at the opportunity and say yes to her offer!)
I mean, if you are eating, delving into that piece of konkani masala marinated fish or mutton biryani, or peanut stuffed aubergines and someone asks, 'What do you think of the politics of caste?' or 'What do you think of the book you are reading?', how do you possibly answer that? I cannot answer questions like these without pausing, without letting the food go cold. If it were a question like - "What do you think of Trump?", I could have answered in a word, and we could have gone on with our meal.
We managed without a car for about two years here in Ireland and during this time, my husband would often complain that he missed being behind the steering wheel and I often thought I missed the man he becomes when he is behind the steering wheel. As the husband starts driving again, I am looking forward to some conversations. The kind of ones we only have when we are on the road and he's driving and has shed off his shyness and his reticence to talk, and is in a happy, meditative, reflective kind of space. I am also looking forward to the music he introduces me to when we are in a car. This past week, he introduced me to The Salmon Dance by The Chemical Brothers and even after listening to the track twice, I missed out on all the swear words that are a part of the song, and kept bobbing my head to the music until my husband laughed out so loud that I was a little startled.
I cannot remember when was the last time I had this magical little hour of tearing through a package, of letting my eyes feast on the multi-coloured wrapping paper, of opening each gift, heart throbbing with anticipation and excitement and curiosity, of discovering and revelling in all the gifts that my friend and her husband had chosen for me and my husband, of reading the letters, of eyes feasting on the familiar curve of the cursive writing of a dear one.