The Fidelity Test

What do you give a man who gives you everything? You give him a ‘fidelity test’.

That is the latest gem of wisdom I have gleaned from a dear girlfriend who says the boyfriend is simply too good to be true. And since neither of us keeps a lie detector handy, a devious plan of dangling a sexy woman as bait was devised.

Most of us have been guilty of putting people through the smaller variants.

“He will call me tonight, if he really loves me”

“If she turns to look back, she’s falling for me”

“If he really cares, he won’t forget my birthday”

In desperate times you might even do a two out of three.

“Okay he didn’t call and he forgot my birthday, but there’s no way he’ll leave town without saying good-bye.”

Once, after a particularly non-emotional evening, I made my then best friend call my then boy friend and say I had not reached home, was not in college, not with any other friends and did he notice anything amiss when he met me earlier? He was suitably distraught and happy with his reaction, we went back to our Barbies, until he called back one hour later, after being out in the rain, looking for me. The ‘er-ing’ and ‘hemming’ on my part made the happenings of the evening rather transparent, at which point, in no uncertain terms he let me know that was the most immature way to test a man’s feelings. Any sense of ‘being loved’ I was feeling, quickly evaporated and I never dared to pull that stunt ever again, with anyone.

But I have never let that get in the way of helping my friends test their loved ones. What?? One can’t always find an out-of-body experience or near death experience to tickle one’s mind!!!

So here we were, bait placed successfully and rejected, I might add. My friend grabbed my hand in joy and said “You are a true friend!”

And just like that, the boyfriend and I, had both passed tests that we did not even know were being conducted.

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The Vinca killer

The world is full  of amazing, impossible occurrences. There’s the height of the mountains and the depth of the oceans and then there’s a mother’s love, and some other stuff to do with karma, that I cannot go into fully right now.

In short, we are surrounded by phenomenon that cannot, rationally at least, be explained. And its the daily stuff that amazes me the most.

Yeah, yeah, there’s the rising and setting of the sun and all that. However, there is equal wonder in the  phenomenon of the bathroom light that never switches off.  That switch, which no matter how many times you flip off, is always flipped back into the ‘on’ position, by some ghostly hand that belongs to no member of the house, for the minute you ask who left it on, there will be a chorus of ‘not me!’.

And who amongst us, has not experienced the wonder of the no-space-refrigerator or closet. It doesn’t matter if there is a total of three carrots and two steaks in the 730 ltr capacity refrigerator, nobody, absolutely nobody, will be able to make space for the left overs from dinner. Same with the closet. It may look like a phone booth from outside and be like Doctor Who’s Tardis on the inside, but there is no way it can accommodate another shirt or trouser, and they must, absolutely must, remain hanging on the back  of a door or slumped on your favorite rocking chair.

What can be said of the phenomenon of the wise-dumb house help, who knows enough to get on a plane, cross a few continents, check her contract for minimum wage salary and yet not know that the right way to dry a pair of jeans is to leave them on the clothes line longer instead of leaving the iron on them while she has a siesta?

Those of you that have had to deal with a garden in the Middle East must be familiar with the Vinca-killer phenomenon. The two plants that you can trust to keep your garden from looking like wasteland here, are the Bougainvillea and the Vinca. These are the saviors of the home owner who works a regular job, which is not with ‘Ideal Home’ magazine and actually has a budget as opposed to a trust fund for the garden. You imagine that once you have invested in those silly little white, pink, red flower plants you are home free. That, no more will you spend every September moaning about the Hibiscus Rosa, not rosing. Or the Rangoon Creeper not creeping. Or the green grass being a shade of yellow. But you did not account for the Vinca killer. The one that strikes dread into the heart of ever garden owner. The gardener. He can cause the Cactus to get a fungal infection by over watering or he can make your Evergreen, Nevergreen by forgetting to water it. And slowly, but surely, he will get to your Vinca. He will blame the yellowing on the lack of fertilizer and the sudden wilting on too much fertilizer. He will blame the weak stems on the dogs and the lack of flowers on the maid. And when all your pots and flower beds lie there, barren like the head of 50 year old insurance salesman, he will shrug and tell you, you need a truck load of new soil. That’s his professional advice, as the official gardener, take it or leave it.

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Lovingly yours, forever.

“They were true soul mates,” says the grandson of his close to 100 years old, recently deceased, grandparents. They had been married for nearly 70 years and when the grim reaper came calling, it apparently did it to them together; the grandmother getting a heart attack within 10 minutes of the grandfather getting a heart attack.

Warm, fuzzy stories like this always make me feel similar to the way I feel when in the exalted company of a warm chocolate brownie with ice cream, a sprinkling of nuts and some good, old chocolate sauce.

However – and there is always a ‘however’ after a brownie – the next thought that interjects is – married for 70 years?! WOW!

Dying together is easy, but living together for 70 years?! WOW!

Living together through dish washing and laundry, clashing bio-clocks,  unmatched temperature thermostats, school and college admissions, household budgets, family holidays, demanding jobs and shamancy (yes, its a word, fancy+sham = shamancy) social expectations, and still wanting to die together?

Killing the other, I understand. I would even go so far as to condescend that any man married to me for so long, however long, would plot to murder me at some point. In fact, I am sure that at certain times of the month, which may clash with the full moon, the lovely spouse does secretly tuck a baseball bat under his pillow, you know, for self defense, just in case…

But in an age where love stories die premature deaths at the hands of internet, career, ambition, opportunity and materialism, to live a love story through all that life throws at us and to come out shining at the other end of the tunnel – would it still be a love story?

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Observation on an incurable illness

Death, I imagine, will be a lot like having the common cold. The body will have varying temperatures from head to toe, with the toe being as cold as a cucumber and the head being as hot as a jalapeno pepper. The senses, all compromised. Sense of taste refusing to commit whether that is a cucumber or a jalapeno pepper. Sense of hearing converted into one long whooshing sound past the ear – I pretend it’s the sea – and speech, that would be a hoarse stumble over the alphabets ‘el’ and ‘ess’.

Buried under a mountain of fluffy sheets that feel like lead sheets on the body and surrounded by an avalanche of used tissues, the soul with common cold, like the soul about to leave a dead body, will scoff at the chicken soup. The whooshy silence beating out a whooshy message ” Let go…let go…let go. There is nothing to be done here. Let go… let go…let go”

Of course a common cold is not as permanent as death and even though you may feel like you have been back from brink, it teaches you a valuable lesson.

The next time a friend suggests that you try out his newly installed steam room, just after you have tried out his newly installed temperature controlled swimming pool, do not bob your head up and down in glee. Do not do a ‘yay’ and venture in without so much as a modest towel. Because unlike steam, you cannot wipe off a common cold. There is no cure. And its lurking out there, for just such a victim – the one who is on holiday and enjoying it a wee bit too much!

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Indecision at 6:30 am

It was 6:30 am. He was there,  standing outside the door but not sure if he should knock.

She had called him last evening and asked him to come. He had hesitated. Not long.

Yet, long enough for her to quickly add “if you can, otherwise…”. And giving no other details, she had disconnected the phone in that infuriating way women behaved when they did not hear an immediate, enthusiastic ‘yes!’

It was 6:30 am and there was a bunch of red roses lying on the floor, next to the garbage. They looked fresh, but not fresh enough to have come in the morning. And the half empty bottle of champagne…certainly not a breakfast item.

It was 6:30 am. Maybe her husband had returned earlier than she had expected. Maybe she was not even in there. Maybe she was in there with someone else?

Why, why, why had he taken that one moment longer to reply?

It was 6:30 am. How long could he stand there, indecisive, before somebody saw him, just standing there, looking suspicious?

Well, there would be no point in him crying over spoilt milk, yes spoilt, not spilled.

So, without knocking, he left two packets of fresh milk at the door, slipped the bill under the door and the milkman walked away.

This happens only in India.

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66 year old man discovers he is a woman

Once you are past the fact that this is news and a national paper feels the need to carry it as a front page story, ’66 year old man discovers he is a woman’ arouses some mixed feelings.

While this poor man’s condition is the result of two genetic disorders and hardly a dilemma, one has to acknowledge there are those that have to actually make these daunting choices.

Anees who became Anisa, pops to mind almost instantly and while I never thought college was supposed to teach me this, like most lessons in life, this one, too, came without being included in the syllabus.

It started innocently enough with Anees wanting to try on some low-necked sweaters with tights. He looked strangely pretty in them. When he started using mascara and a bit of lip gloss, for those close to him, it wasn’t as funny as the sweaters had been. Then an innocent prank, calling the college stud, pretending to be a shy girl with a slightly husky voice, led to Anees realizing he was strangely excited.

After two years of struggling with a dual sexuality and being the only son of high profile industrialist parents, Anees finally had an operation that made him Anisa.

For most people, this story held much amusement.

However, to see at close quarters the anguish that Anees went through, the emotional wreck that he became, his rejection by close friends and reluctant acceptance by few others, and his gratitude for those…the courage that it took for him to break the news to his parents and then for his parents to accept that their only son was now their only daughter, was no laughing matter.

For the longest time after, Anees, now Anisa, was considered a freak show.

In the last year of college, when a rather handsome, new student joined the batch, all the girls in class waited with bated breath to see who would be the first to steer him away to that quiet spot at the back of the college lawns.

Anisa, naturally tall and slim, superbly groomed, cultured and well read, effortlessly staked her claim within the first week, when he asked her to the college social.

Without the baggage of who she had been in her past, Anisa was a winner.

Then somebody whispered  to this boy what we had all known for the last three years. Almost instantly, Anisa went back to that place where all the mis-fits of society go.

However, St Xaviers’ was the kind of college where there was always more tolerance rather than rejection of new ideas and this time there were many more that held her hand through this painful journey.

Because heartbreak, whether you are male or female, feels the same.

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To tell or not to tell?

My blonde friend is in love again. Not very different from the last time either, its once again a married man. The glow on her face, the ready smile and the detailed conversation about what they did the last weekend and what they will do on the coming weekend, all made it so much more difficult – to tell or not to tell?

True, I introduced the two of them. And when I was doing that, all I was thinking was how small the British expat community was and, really? You two don’t know each other?

The last one she had found on her own and he had conveniently ‘not mentioned’ he was married until she was well on her way to love, lust and longing.

This one had admitted being married, but how he had convinced her that with three kids and two dogs he was ‘not happy’ was beyond my imagination.

She went on about how they were so similar and how they had so many things in common, while I kept thinking about the biggest difference between them – married and single.

Blondie continued about how this was the right man as I tried to convince her the only thing wrong with her was her self-esteem.

She went on about how he wined and dined her, took her dancing and to the movies, weekend breaks to exotic locations and said the most wonderful things and how great the sex was, while I kept asking her ‘and then?’

Knowing how this would end and the mess that would be left behind, I suggested she look at him from his wife’s point of view. Her wonderful, pedestal-deserving boyfriend was somebody else’s lying, cheating husband. Did she really want to take the place of this wife?

And then she said, “Marriage? I don’t want marriage! Why would I want to marry him. he’s not exactly marriage material!”

The penny dropped then, and now I’m wondering – to tell him or not to tell him?

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