In her very first edition, the worst agony aunt in the world, Mai tackles sincere questions about a wife’s evening constitutional, a husband’s shelf-life, the dating-daughter-doting-parent conflict, and those three little words that make life better.
The world has become too new for me. Long long ago, when my husband was placed in Dubai for a transfer of three years, we wrote each other letters. Once in two weeks, we would do ISD call for 10 minutes. Even though he could not see me, I would wear my best shalwar-kameez and all jewellery. Letters would reach sometimes in a few days, sometimes in couple of weeks. We never minded. Nowadays there is too much tension. Children and grandchildren are in Canada, US, Dubai. Always Zoom call, Whatsapp call, this call, that call. How can a respectable lady and gent take calls at all hours, when he is wearing banyan-dhoti and I am in nightdress with my hair dancing? Earlier, we used to wait to not miss a loved one. Now, we don’t get opportunity to even miss them properly. What to do in this situation?
Behind the irritation it is plain to see how closely bonded your family is. Isn’t it grand? This great big family spread across the world, having so many new ways to keep in touch? Now that I’m done gushing, let me share with you three little words that have saved me time and again: WiFi not working. You’re welcome.
I am 67 years old, and since my youth, I have collected many hundreds of books. I am a voracious reader and all my tomes are in excellent condition. Every month, I take the books out of the shelves, dust them and arrange them, making sure to follow last-name alphabetic accuracy. My wife, in a fit of aesthetic compulsion, has rearranged all the books in height order. I cannot bear to think of Kuvempu next to Dumas, Alexander. When I brought this up, she purposely mispronounced Dumas and said, “aesthetic is everything”. Try as I might, I cannot think of a valid argument to stop her from destroying my bookshelves. I write to you hoping you can help out.
Dear Mr. Rajarathnam,
A place for everything and everything in its place. You and your wife have understood this differently. Just like my daughter’s cat, which thinks the top of the microwave oven is its bed, when she has gone and bought it a 300-dollar bed. Your wife clearly has a wicked sense of humour. While I cannot help you counter that, I have another idea. Mnemonics. As children, we are taught to remember the order of the planets through a clever mnemonic – My Very Educated Mother Just Showed Us Nine Planets. The world has now changed enough for Pluto to have no home in this list, and the mnemonic to leave an entire generation of children in suspense. But it is a great idea and an additional hobby for you. Why don’t you devise a mnemonic for every shelf in every bookcase? With a veiled request to your wife. For instance, if Kuvempu, Dumas, Nabokov, Marlowe, Thiruvalluvar, Bukowski, and Achebe were sitting on a shelf in height order, your mnemonic for remembering them would be, “Kindly Do Not Move The Books Again”. A simple label on each shelf, a hobby for you, a helpful hint for the missus.
Our daughter is 39 years old. She is successful in her career and independent, but only problem is she is a very opinionated child. Sometimes she moves around with some boys and has boyfriends, but is not thinking to settle down. It might already be too late, she might not find anybody to settle down with. We are very worried about her future. Both of us, husband and wife, decided to write and ask for advice. We are old and are afraid that when we go, she will be alone.
Mrs. and Mr. Anand
I think we’ve had similar lives. We belong to a time where there was little scope for exploration and adventure in the ways in which we led our lives. Someone else decided when we had to get married, and often, to whom. That we had to have children, conventional jobs, and retire at 60 from our 9-5 life was a foregone conclusion, a decision made by others before we were born, and taught to us through our lives.
As a parent, I share some of your concerns, but I’m learning to unlearn them. So I only have sincere advice for you. Stop calling your daughter a child. If she is 39 years old, successful, and happy as you point out, she probably knows what she wants and is well on her way to getting those things. Success to her might not be acquiring a husband for whom she makes vaangibaath on weekends, and children whose noses and rooms she cleans till they leave the house. If she’s dating, as an adult, she’s free to make those choices. Moving around makes her sound like a slow cow looking for grass. It sounds to me like your daughter’s greener pastures are different, though. Learn to respect another adult for their choices. I’m learning too. And the more I see, the more I wish I was your daughter.
Of late, almost every evening, my wife goes out with her friends for 1-2 hours. She says ‘evening walk’, but this is now becoming ‘evening party’. How can any man tolerate? It is always during my coffee time and I cannot wait for so long to drink coffee.
Haldiram Haridas Manrao
Dear HH Manrao,
Grow up. Stop whining. Learn how to make coffee. Give me your wife’s number. I want to join her party.