A lot of times my husband and I look at each other and wonder afresh what a sterling person like him/me is doing with a strange person like me/him. Let me simplify this. I am sterling and he is strange and this is exactly what he believes too. Not that he is strange and I am sterling, he believes the opposite, but if you look at it in a certain way, we both believe exactly the same thing. That the other has got a much better deal than the self.
So we are on the same page most of the time. Except for the very rare times when he thinks about me and feels an overwhelming urge to thank god for his amazing luck. Not god’s luck, his own luck. But this is rare. It is so rare that it rarely happens.
They used to try to convince us that marriage is something that happens between families, it is not something individuals like the bride and groom are supposed to take too personally. Of course we rebelled, and then we learnt that they weren’t that off the mark either.
In so many ways, we find that most conflicts between us are really about the differences between the boy his parents have raised and the girl my parents have raised.
Every time we reach the point where we just can’t believe how the other can be so daft/insensitive/hurtful, all we have to do is back off and remember how different the idea of “everyday normal” is in the families we grew up in. Consciously or not, we feel compelled to recreate the same “normal” in our new family as adults and his normal and my normal look at each other as if the other is really very abnormal indeed.
I’m here to admit today that even though my husband, like most husbands, is a well-loved spoilt brat, I have secretly been taking notes all the time and this is my very first list of things that I have learnt from watching him surreptitiously while he thought I was immersed in work or my daily social media duties.
1) Learn to fight: In the beginning I used to believe that my role in a conflict was to be the quiet, wise one, the one whose precious tears would roll silently down her pretty face and the one who would be consoled later with hugs and an apology. This idea got me into a lot of trouble with my beloved because he is no good at interpreting silence and the sight of tears sets off all the wrong triggers in him. But, hahaha, now I have caught on to the real fun in a fight. I have learnt from my husband to enter headlong into arguments, raise my voice and say what comes to my mind in long-winded sentences…and stop only when I need to catch my breath. This is fun. And most of the time it works!
2) Learn to feel at home: My husband is a vagabond just like me but unlike me, who can feel like an outsider even in my own skin, he seems to find home everywhere. I used to look at him and feel sorry about how deluded he was being till I calmed down and realized that it is okay to calm down. It is okay to belong. Fitting in once in a while really doesn’t hurt at all. Often you get nice things to eat.
3) Learn not to be offended: I really don’t know what kind of cauldron this man fell into as a child. Perhaps it is because he spends extraordinarily little time on the Internet, my husband has very little idea about the things one is supposed to be offended or outraged by. He often mistakes insults and offence for genuine interest.
“Why don’t you go to Pakistan,” someone will yell at him in the middle of an argument over the last parking spot in the peak of Delhi’s summer.
Of course the person is reacting to the information he has gained from my having addressed my husband by his name, Afzal.
“I would gladly go to Pakistan,” Afzal will reply, “but I really want to go to Mohenjo Daro and they never approve my visa for that. Who wants to be stuck in Karachi having late night dinners with relatives, you know what I mean?”
4) Learn to be a gracious host: He is always inviting people over and making place for unexpected invaders, I mean guests, without ever worrying about what we will feed them or where they will sleep. When I begin to look like I have been struck by lightning, he will say, “Natasha, they have come to meet us! Stop being silly about food and beds, be good company.”
Over the years, I have finally stopped believing that people drop in to judge me or be served by me. I present mashed spinach and chopped cabbage on the table as happily as he does and when they ask if someone is ill in our family, I smile sweetly at them as Afzal takes over and lectures them on healthy eating habits for their age group.
5) Drink tea and do nothing: In the beginning it is very hard. It is very difficult not to participate in urgent global crisis by reading the news and updating one’s Facebook status. It is hard not to do things like sort laundry and re-arrange shoe racks in the house. Then you get better at it.
There is nothing like having a role model at hand to learn life skills from and if you are as sterling as I am and have fallen in love with a strange person (this is the only way love works, actually), I hope you are using every opportunity you get to beat the strange person at his own game by learning his repertoire of tricks while he is busy drinking tea and doing nothing.
This was first published in Mint Lounge here: