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     Volume 4 Issue 8 | August 13, 2004 |

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Slice of Life

Man Enough
Richa Jha

Something has been up Hubby's mind these days. Last night, he came up to me and said, "Do you think I am man enough?" His sullen face with drooping jaws somehow loaded this simple query with the ammunition of an existential morass.

I said, "Yes, yes, of course, you have fathered a child. You are man enough."
If he found my words reassuring, it didn't show on his face. Clearly, he hadn't yet found the answer he was looking for.
"No no, that much I know. I mean man in the broader sense."
"Okay, I get it now. Yes, yes, you belch, you scratch, you pick your nose in public. Yes, you are like any other man," I offered helpfully.
A disgruntled man takes long to satisfy. He stood there unmoved. "You won't understand it Wifey. It's not that simple." He hesitated a little and then said, "When was the last time you saw me do anything with passion?"
"Oh, passion. Never, I'd say."
"What do you mean never? You have forgetten those days when I serenaded you, and wrote you letters, rode the mobike the other way around to impress you, and climbed boundary walls for you?"
"You were a boy then. You're a middle aged man now. Please don't tell me you want to do such buffoonery again. This time, I'll have to siphon off money from my household budget to fix the broken panes, not my dad, so you'd better know that I'll be far from impressed this time."
"You see? That is the problem with you. You are the one to have killed the man in me, and with it, all the passion there was to this man."
"No, no, you're quite all right. I like it this way. There is scope for fewer complications."
"You think you are best when you deflate me thus? No, I will be MAN again," thus raised The Hubby his big head and roared.

The situation seemed trickier than I'd calculated it to be at the outset. These were dangerous stirrings inside my man ready to rebel, and they would certainly rock, even if gently, the foundations of a relationship that has just come to rest in a state of equilibrium. We have finally reached that point, and every relationship eases into this kind of habitual constant, where his dirty shoes on a clean carpet in my lounge doesn't make my blood boil, or my dozing off at night without having turned out the reading lights doesn't disturb his peace of mind. Several years into our marriage, I am now comfortable with the innumerable avenues of status quo we have slipped into, and any change is unwelcome, if only because it would entail a fresh set of adjustments, re-adjustments. Naturally, being loathe to the idea of having to rework that equilibrium (and it is a painfully long and slow process, as you all know), I had to nip this dissent in its bud. Selfish me, O selfish me! I had to give it one final try.

"But trust me. Contrary to what my artless words make you feel, you are my hero."
"Really?". From the sudden sparkle in his eyes, I knew it had worked. Honestly, I hadn't expected it to be that easy.
"Okay, so tell me. How do you wish to see me?"
"Like what you are now dear," I persisted.
"No, no, like more of a man, you understand?" Thud! We were back where "Okay. So what do you have in mind?"
"Wifey," he said snuggling up to me. "Maybe I should start getting passionate about something."
"As long as this something doesn't become a someone, it's fine by me. Tell me, what have you thought?" It is important to lay the rules of the game at the outset.
"Say, about Western Classical music." I cringed at the thought of crescendos and cadences ruling my life.
"Have you made up your mind on it, or are you open to reconsidering your options?" You fight harder in a losing battle.
"Ah yes. I am perfectly open to more ideas. Like last night I saw this hunk on AXN riding a Harley Davidson. Macho. You know, something like that…"
"Oh no, no, no, no" This was turning out to be a living nightmare. "It will not go so well on these Dhaka roads. You see how few motorbikes there are on the road here? And besides, you are a father now. You are no longer in college out there to woo girls." I was desperately hoping for his reverie to break, and for this conversation to end.
"Hmmn," The Hubby pondered over it for a while and said, "You know what Wifey? I think you have a point there. Yeah, that would look quite juvenile on me now. Okay, then a Humvee with an 18-CD changer?"
"O dear! That would be a big disservice to the already choked Dhaka roads. No, no, you have to be more sensitive to the inconveniences to others when you choose your passion. I'm sure there's more you can think of. Manliness is not only about cars. Think about what other men do and desire, besides women, that is." I would have made a good shrink.
"What about the most mind blowing home theatre set up at home? With Bose, the most smashing music and all. No one will have a problem with that."
"And you forget our neighbours," I was loving playing the devil's advocate.
"I didn't think of that. You tell me? What else does a real man do?"
"Let's see…Maybe, sip coffee. How about that? Anyone can sip wine. You make coffee a fashion statement. Let people turn around, swoon and say, 'ooooh! What a man!'"
"Wifey, you're brilliant! Why didn't I think of it before…?"
There's no crisis a woman can't tide over. You just saw.


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