I have a very irritating habit when it comes to books and clothes. First of all, I am a hoarder. Second of all, I get mighty interested in properties of others. A book that a friend is currently reading will pique my interest more than the one I just bought. Or I will covet a slightly faded shirt of a cousin even though I have a brand new one waiting to be worn.
When I moved to Delhi, I brought along most of my unread or half-read novels from Mumbai. There’s ‘Grimus’ and ‘Midnight’s Children’ - my essential Rushdie components, Fitzgerald’s ‘Tender is the Night’, Virginia Wolf’s ‘To the lighthouse’, John Updike’s ‘Poorhouse’, Oscar Wilde’s collection (I must try and commit to memory ‘Ballad of the reading gaol’ - my favorite, favorite poem), Gladwell’s ‘Blink’, Clarissa Pinkola’s ‘Women who run with the wolves’, ‘The Jane Austen book club’ by Karen Joy Fowler, ‘Franny and Zooey’ by Salinger, a few volumes of poems by Tagore, Darlymple’s ‘City of Djinns’ and ‘Age of Kali’, etc.
Added to this list are the various gifts I have received thus far - ‘Namesake’, ‘Shantaram’, a biography of Sonia Gandhi, ‘Last Temptation of Christ’, 'A suitable boy', a version of the bible if Judas had written it (co-authored by Jeffrey Archer), etc. Yet, one evening, I felt as if I had ‘nothing to read’. (akin to the ‘nothing to wear’ syndrome.) Everything I had was either too breezy or too grave. Nothing was just right.
So, I started scrounging for ‘something to read’ in a rusty, dusty steel almirah. Here, I came across some gems. There were books of poems that belonged to my mom-in-law when she was studying literature. I also found ‘Magnificent Obsession’ by Lloyd C. Douglas. This one comes highly recommended by mom-in-law, so will pick it up soon.
There was also a delightful book, ‘Couplehood’ by Paul Reiser. (He was Helent Hunt’s husband in ‘Mad About You’.) It started off as being a regular okey-dokey affair by a celebrity author, but then I found myself chuckling through a few pages. A few paras later, I guffawed loudly, and woke A up to read stuff out to him. A couple of pages more and A asked me to read aloud some more anecdotes.
This book is about the song-and-dance routine that all couples go through in a marriage. The reason this book is such a hoot is because it is so spot on about the native quirks of the matrimonial province.
Like when Reiser describes how, when you sleep with someone for the first time, you suddenly realize that there are too many limbs on the bed. Where do the hands go and what about the legs and if you are cuddling up to someone, what if your nose is getting squished on someone’s chest and you risk getting smothered?
Then there is an absolutely brilliant bit about couples going to the movies. First, Reiser poses the very incisive question: ‘Why don’t you see a whole lot of single people inside movie halls? Because they can’t manage to get tickets.’ Then he goes on to explain how couples have a distinct advantage. (And this is very much what A and I do when we go to Saket for a flick.) One person drops the other off at the ticket counter and glides forward into the parking lot. The other one dashes to the counter, scans for the timing, knows whether 5 seats from the screen are okay or not, understands that aisle seats are a must because the partner has to take at least two smoking breaks (all these details have been discussed on the way to the hall). No time is wasted on deliberation.
Here’s what a single person is thinking:
do I really want to sit 5 seats from the screen? Maybe I can go for a nice coffee and a read to Barista? Or wait, there’s Bennigan for a superb apple crumble.
This is what’s going on between a dating couple:
What would you like to watch?
Anything, what would you like to watch?
Would you prefer going for a play?
No, movie is okay.
Is 10:30 too late?
Because, if it is...
A scenario for married couple:
One person parks. One person gets tickets. Both have voices in their heads pounding: go, Go, GO!
There are other hilarious snippets. (I am giggling just thinking about them.) One day, Reiser’s wife mentions that they need a tea cosy. He turns the two words in his head, and in his own admission, cannot fathom what possible relation they may have with each other. So he asks his wife what it’s all about and she says it’s a sort of a coverlet for a kettle.
‘Why?’, Reiser asks.
‘It keeps the tea...’
There you go.
Reiser also discusses some clichés at great length. Upon reading, one realizes why they are not really clichés but some sort of anthropological truth. Like why most men cannot dress to the satisfaction of their wives. And one reason, a big reason, is because they refuse to grow up.
My husband is a reasonable man with good taste in clothes. But he has a pair of shoes that drives me crazy.
It makes an annoying tock-tock-tock sound which A is in love with. Every time I tell him that he must change into something less ear-grating, he looks hurt. More than that - he is hurt. Apparently, there is some cult-classic movie of Amitabh Bacchan where the depiction of childhood into adulthood is testeronically rousing. Only a child’s feet are shown as he walks, and in the same continuum, these feet change into the feet of a man; an angry young man. (I guess it’s Shakti or Deewar or Kalia or Khuddar or Sharaabi or Mr. Natwarlal or Coolie or Kaala Patthar - is AB versatile or what!) And as an adult, those feet go tock, tock, tock, tock.
In respectful memory of that frigging scene, my husband will walk on all hard surfaces wearing those shoes. Our bedroom has marble flooring and often A wears these infernal shoes in the middle of the night and goes tock-tocking around the bed.
In any case, getting back to ‘Couplehood’, Reiser raises some interesting points about how deviant from normalcy marriage is.
But what makes this bumpy ride worthwhile?
To use the limbs-on-bed scene as a metaphor - initially, it’s all awkward. It’s all bones and elbows and tangled hair. But with time, with love, and with loads and loads of good humor, you find that perfect spot on his chest or her shoulder - and it’s a spot you can count on for life.
Ironically, this lofty longing is echoed in another brilliant bit that I read - a bit about loving and losing - a bit in the end of the script of ‘Annie Hall’:
Woody Allen as Alvy:
After that it got pretty late. And we both hadda go, but it was great
seeing Annie again, right? I realized
what a terrific person she was and-
and how much fun it was just knowing
her and I-I thought of that old joke,
you know, this- this-this guy goes
to a psychiatrist and says, "Doc,
uh, my brother's crazy. He thinks
he's a chicken." And, uh, the doctor
says, "Well, why don't you turn him
in?" And the guy says, "I would, but
I need the eggs."
Well, I guess that's pretty much how how I feel about
relationships. You know, they're
totally irrational and crazy and
absurd and... but, uh, I guess we
keep goin' through it because, uh,
most of us need the eggs.