My troubles began soon after I retired from service. I had signed off on Friday, the last working day in the month and the next working day was as usual on Monday in the following month. I swear I forgot I had retired. Having a routine schedule for the last 35 years I woke up as usual early on Monday morning and without much thought started my preparations to leave for office. I shaved, had my bath, put on fresh clothes and tied my shoes. I packed my briefcase and pocketed the purse along with the other stuff that I usually carried in my pocket. Coming into the dining room I voiced my preparedness to my wife and asked that I be served breakfast with no further delay. She was nowhere to be seen till I found out she was in the Prayer Room with all her gods surrounding her as if to protect her from the onslaught of an angry husband who was getting late for office and needed to be fed. After a great persuasion she finally emerged out from her trance and looked kind of quizzically at me. What is wrong with you, she asked?
Ever since, believe me, I have had nightmares I was getting late for office and many a time I assumed there were strange glances from unknown people who kind of wondered what was really wrong with me. Well it is been many years now that I got over with that problem and life has been kind of stable on that score. But it is another kind of malady that hit me and hit me hard. Passing time in the house with no work in hand and no schedules to keep became quite unnerving. With all other alternatives that I tried and tested I discovered the best way to keep myself busy was to drink several cups of tea. So much so my wife kept on lecturing me about all the ill affects the potion had upon my health, which was not too bad. My son kept up the pace and a string of advices poured forth from all sides engulfing me into a vicious circle of unsolicited advice that more or less yanked my brain into a tizzy. Soon there was an addition in the family and my daughter-in-law bestowed upon me a pleasing little apple-red-cheeked fellow who, everyone presumed, would take me away from my bad habit of consuming too much tea. But that little guy had other things on his mind and he came into this world with a set program that no one could undo. Within two months he left the shores of his birth into the land beyond across the seven seas and carried his parents with him, leaving me stranded with my umpteen cups of tea that my wife had to make all the time. She soon got fed up.
I had to have a solution and one fine morning I got up early and strayed into the kitchen, lighted up the stove and made my first cup of tea. My wife got up later and after her clean up program she made me a cup as usual and handed over the same with a kind of a puzzled look on her face and declared she had perhaps forgotten to clean the tea kettle last night. I kept quiet lest I betray own my secret that it was in fact me who had already used it up a while ago. Once the morning paper was delivered I got up again and made myself another cup of tea before the events of the previous day would engulf me into the emerging world of today. After an hour or so I repeated my performance and got busy again till my dear wife realized I was not asking for more tea as usual. She came in to investigate and found another empty teacup besides me. In a thoughtful mood she asked if I had not ventured into the kitchen and fiddled with her things. I kept my face as steely as possible and did not respond for fear she may react. What followed was a diatribe I will not forget for the rest of my life. As a gist of her invectives it followed that she was not inclined there should be an intrusion in her domain and anyone disturb her setting. Where is the space for the two of us in this small kitchen, she asked? I soon got comparisons with my ancestors who never ventured into the kitchen like I do now, including my own father. And who else in the neighborhood stood as an example of such indulgence? I had no defense to this argument knowing fully well that my father was even fearful to light up a gas stove, leave aside make tea or for that matter boil milk or an egg. I withdrew in my own shell and kept away from the kitchen, well for sometime, of course. I have learned to never give up and would not do so for a petty cup of tea.
When my son got to know about the incident, he took the side of his mom and forbade me to further up my agenda in making the kitchen as my second line of retreat in absence of anything more practical to do at home. But that was on the phone line from the USA and he had no physical control over my actions, so why get scared. I continued to practice my pastime of tea making and enhanced my skills as time plodded on. I in fact added a few more recipes to my list. Now when I hand over a hot cup of tea to my wife every morning, she likes it so much that she fails to realize what she could do without me being by her side through the thick and thin of Lipton’s. But that is where the line is drawn and no further inroads into her kitchen affairs. Well that is my wife’s kitchen and I have to stay out after the morning tea is made, no matter what the emergency is.
And talking about the emergencies I am reminded about possible instances when the lady of the kitchen may get sick, visit relatives, or for that matter decide to go on a pilgrimage. At that time what other option is open but to let this poor husband be allowed to take over the control of the kitchen affairs. Not that I would be happy to allow that occasion to come up but a second line of defense has to be kept ready. Remember there is always a PlanB that holds good at these times, even James Bond has had that option available. It is after all a strategy that has to be activated in order to keep the body machinery oiled. Nevertheless the very fact that I can handle the kitchen has become a sore point with me now. The lady of the kitchen finds an easy excuse for accepting invitation at the drop of a hat and I find myself invariably losing myself in the labyrinths of the kitchen. She says, with mirth, you can do it. When my son calls to ask how it is going I quietly complain to him about the advantages the lady of the kitchen takes with me. He is amused and says I asked for it. It is at this time that I remember my father who faced this sort of discrimination when left alone to fend for self, as mother got busy while the children were elsewhere earning their livelihood. But father’s ordeal was more difficult for lack of his cooking talent and he made sure he got invited to dinner tables at other locations in the vicinity. He had in fact warned me to take ample measures to ward off any possibility of being left unattended. I had not given much thought to it until this time when I face similar setbacks. I decided it was time to warn my son to be kitchen friendly for the likelihood of such a probability arising with him. He simply rubbished it saying I was crazy. I immediately recollected the sane words of Charles Wadsworth who has said:
“By the time a man realizes that maybe his father was right, he usually has a son who thinks he is wrong”.
Shri BL Dhar was born and brought up at Srinagar. After completing his Master’s Degree in Mathematics he ventured out of the state and found a job in the Civil Aviation Department joining as a Gazetted Officer. His area of activity was at Delhi and Mumbai International airports. He was selected to undergo training at the school of aviation; Luxembourg under the UNDP program and later posted at the Corporate Headquarters in New Delhi. He had in the meantime joined the newly formed PSU, Airports Authority of India, from where he retired as a General Manager in 2000. He has written innumerable articles about aviation that was published in the house magazine. He is now settled in Delhi and keeps his interest alive in writing..
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