Nana, a character in Khaled Hosseini’s path-breaking novel A Thousand Splendid Suns, mouths this line: “Like a compass needle that points north, a man’s accusing finger always finds a woman.” That story took place thirty years ago in a remote Afghan village.
In twenty-first century (circa 2000, to be precise) Mumbai, the needle took a 180° pyrotechnic turn — in my case. That was the ‘famous’ year my soul was decapitated at the altar of matrimony; a chronic misanthropist, an undisciplined, self-destructing guy from the south of the Vindhyas met and married (for no physiological or psychological reason) a regimented, career-ambitious and perennially chirpy, short girl from the lap of the Himalayas.
The comedy of tragedies didn’t take much time to turn into a tragedy of comedies. Four years of bonded marriage followed, and I was thrown out of the house by my exasperated partner in crime. I am now celebrating three years of
(Nevertheless, my sincere request to all bachelors is, you should [at least once] get married to an urban girl [the more horrible, the better] and then get divorced [never have kids; never pay alimony] in order to enjoy the true pleasures of bachelordom.)
1) If you are an entrepreneur you can start or finish your work whenever you want. Bunk work. Or overwork. No questions asked, unless you have another niggling incarnate: your mom. Even if you are a pen-pusher reporting to a snooty boss, it is much better than that nagging feeling home.
2) After a day’s long (pretentious) work, it is time for a much-deserved drink with your old chums. Wow! What a feeling; no threatening calls on the cell phone (who invented this?); no surprise raids at the favourite neighbourhood bar by a seething wife with a panting pup on a leash; and if you are back from an office party there are no scowls by the wife if she discovers a bindi on the sleeves or a faint smell of girl’s perfume on the collar, and if she finds a long hair stuck anywhere on your cloth, it’s advisable to take the next train to Thrissur.
3) Pre- or post-matrimony, the greatest advantage of living single is that, to borrow Khushwant Singh’s line, fart without getting embarrassed. Why just fart? You can burp, pick your nose or tooth, groom a stubbled beard, fearlessly drop the cigarette ash on the floor, have magazines and Sunday glossies, along with empty beer bottles, strewn around, allow dust to gather on unread novels meant for reviews, shop, cook or eat when your hangover subsides, bring friends (of both sexes) home without eyebrows rising… the list is endless.
4) Then the real pleasures. You do not have to make yearly, yawn, visits to your in-laws and touch their feet every time you step into the house after puffing on a local bidi. And, you do not have to listen to silly talk such as: “Since you are a journalist, please introduce me to Amitabh Bachchan and also some underworld elements when we are in Bombay next”; “Please speak to the Union petroleum minister and help allot my son a petrol pump”; “You should be knowing Trilokji at Dainik Kesari; he is a reporter in Hoshiarpur and a friend of mine.”
5) Then the true pleasures. The wife will not force you to sign a form while you are pretending sleeping (transferring your money into her account or changing the LIC nominee’s name from your mother to the wife). Neither will the wife complain that your mother consumes lots of pickles, that your brother does nothing but watch Asianet on the telly, that your cousin sister is demanding some bit of money for her kids’ education, that you no longer can sponsor a girl child, that you cannot feed pariah dogs as it costs money (Rs 2 for a small packet of Tiger biscuits).
All the above might work if you get out of the marriage unscarred. Which is, often, not the case. Several of my brethren are destined to remain eternal bachelors for sheer lack of social skills coupled with misogamy. And they think that matrimony is merely a ‘matter-o-money’. “It’s high time,” they plead, “we should demand ‘patri-money’.”
For the time being, folks, there is no confusion, when I wake up slit-eyed, that I am not using the wife’s toothbrush.