by Dr Abitha Seshadri
It was the night before their wedding anniversary. As usual he had forgotten about it. There had been a lot going on. He was one of the kind who loved to stay busy…had almost made a habit of it. It is not to say that too much came out of it but he was the kind who would do a thing because he wanted to do it and not because of someone telling him to do it. Therefore, it really was not a surprise that in his passion to complete other unimportant things, he had forgotten their anniversary.
‘I am getting used to this..' she thought with surprise, "His forgetfulness about all that I tell him, about what is important to me…"
Sounds of a wail came from the bedroom. “The baby must have woken up", she thought and went to tuck him in.
She had planned well this time. This anniversary she had decided to remind him of the new addition in their lives. After all, once your baby is born, nothing really stays the same, is it not? He was too scared to pick up the kid and after two months of being scared, she had a feeling that he was acting scared.
He was not the typical male chauvinist type and as a matter of fact you could not closet him into any definite type. Caring in his own way, you had to find him in his space, tell him things in his language, the language of mathematical precision and crisp exactness. ‘Wish I were Hemingway or Feynman. Perhaps then I would have got through to him.'
A woman is always a step ahead of her man. It is a rule that every man knows and is scared of admitting and every woman knows, but is too polite to remind (generally).
As they turned in, he turned towards her and confessed, 'I could not get you a gift. I just did not remember. You know, I have been too busy. I will get you something before the day ends tomorrow.' He turned to her , took her hands in his hands, looked into her eyes and dozed off.
'Now that is romantic!' she thought.
Smiling, she waited till the day began and in the first minute of the new day, she took out his gift from under the bed, woke him up carefully and waited for him to get up. He was a dangerous one when being roused from sleep. Once in the middle of the night he had roused her from sleep and asked her who she was and gone back to sleep before she could grasp what he had just said. Needless to say it had become a part of their folklore tales! A woman always has her own ways of getting even with her man, after all.
He woke up, alert, for a change. Turning on the light, he surveyed the elaborate gift wrapped package. Past experiences had taught him the etiquette of unpacking the gift and the importance of preserving the wrapping paper and the label of the gift more importantly than the gift itself.
'Too many dangerous sticking tapes’ He thought in his heightened state of alertness, knowing well what a little bit of sticking tape can start! The prey always gets alert when the tiger is around. The Zen word for it is Satori. He was in a veritable state of Satori. It was inevitable really, as any man who has forgotten his wife's birthday, his marriage anniversary etc, can vouch for. It was all about giving the right expression, making the right utterances, sounds of delight and the right tone of gurgling pleasure.… As he unwrapped it, the two month old baby gave a yawn and a tiny sound. She did not turn towards the baby but his concentration was broken. The package was unwrapped and what lay in his hands was enough to mortify him. Nothing could have prepared him for it. 'SNUGLI'…it was a baby harness, overpriced at three thousand, but it was not the price that caught him off his guard.. It was the vision (read spectacle) of wearing it and accompanying her that was frightening. Post pregnancy, she had gained a few kilos around the midriff and he had nagged her quite a bit asking her to accompany him for his evening walks. 'I will walk slowly for you' He had coaxed.
The woman had got even!(I repeat, they always do.)
The vision of him walking with the baby in the harness, strapped on to his chest, with his wife sashaying along gracefully (the lazy grace of an elephant) was slightly injurious to his male ego, he realised. He had learnt something new… a new item on his list of factors injurious to his male ego. It was this surprise that shook him out of his satori and betrayed his emotions. The hunter was quick to notice the look of panic in his eyes. 'Strange', she thought,' I felt that he would love it. Just the kind of thing that he loves, hands free, he could do his cycling, walk along with me, not really have to worry about how he is holding the baby and all that… I guess I really don’t know him even now after three years of marriage! And they say we women are hard to understand!'
Composing himself, he looked at her and tried to fake it and said 'I love it'. She translated it easily with the ease of an expert into 'What have you done?'
Not really sure of anything else, she said, 'You did not like it, though I don’t know why. I am sorry.'
Blinking back her tears, she turned towards the baby's crib, away from him and went to sleep. He sat up, decided against trying to pacify her and looked carefully at the thing that lay in his hands.
It was scary…panic started to rise in his chest. It is best to catch some sleep when panic begins to build up. So he went to sleep.
Never sleep on an argument, the wise say. If you do, then never start arguing about it the first thing in the morning, the married ones say. Not being very wise, but certainly married, the couple got up early in the morning, wished each other and carefully evaded the topic of Snugli.
It was a diplomatic silence that was maintained. I have a theory that all international conflicts are just petty offshoots of domestic conflicts that could not be resolved and consequently were transformed into easier irresolvable international issues. Take the factors of the common Human Psyche, the Collective Consciousness. Throw in the elements of String theory for good measure and solve the same in the fifth dimension in a fairly straightforward Kaluza Klein matrix and you might just about prove the theory. I will leave that for some other time. Mind you, the theory might just be proved!
The day dragged on as usual and he came back early from office at 1500h. His boss, a man of vast experience and consequently infinite wisdom in such matters, understood and advised him to face it squarely and sent him home. His boss knew him well and knowing that he would try to wriggle out of going home early ensured that he reached home on time. 'Boss sent me home early because I requested him' he said and leapt into the bathroom before she could catch his lie. She knew the truth because his Boss had called after he had left, congratulated her and passed on his enquiries. He was a decent man, his Boss. I have a second theory called the Boss theory which postulates that as long as a man is your Boss and if he does his job properly, he is going to be your nemesis, the cause for your mysterious headache and many other ailments, (almost giving stiff competition to the wife) and the moment he is no longer your boss, he will become the most dependable friend you will ever have. (I am not too sure I can say the same about the better half. I confess that I do not have the guts to test this part of the theory). Hence theory is yet to be proven. More about that some other day...
Coming out of the bathroom, he spied Snugli lying in the corner. He picked it up gingerly, and held it in his hands and turned it over. It was breathtakingly well constructed, he realized. Compact, with a Prussian blue exterior, it had clasps which could be undone. It opened up into a single piece fabric. The pamphlet was well written instructing as to how to make the adjustments and evidently someone had put their hearts into designing it. Made of a mix of Polyurethane foam and Polyester fibre the harness part was stitched with firm foam cushion lining. It could be washed, in a machine, he realised. The clasps were of strong plastic and the adjustment was such that its length could be increased at two places to position the head of the baby depending on whether the baby was at the front or the back of the wearer! The light blue inner part was smartly positioned so that if the baby's nappy was wet, it could be easily made out.
The engineer that he was, he couldn’t but appreciate the beauty of the harness and the intelligence of the designing. He caressed it lovingly, studied the directions, digested them instantly, hooked up the harness and looked askance towards the door.
His wife was preparing tea. He had some time at hand. Sitting down at his laptop, he thumbed through one of his favourite spiritual books on the importance of quality in everyday life, 'Zen And the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance' and wrote out an article on the design of Snugli, the baby harness.
Half an hour later, he got up having finished his article entitled 'Snugli..', picked up his baby, lovingly, strapped on the harness and not bothering to check himself in the mirror, and called out to his wife, 'Dear, Let us go for a walk'. His anniversary gift for her was ready. End