Saturday, May 13, 2017
From the Unfinished 'Still Married, Thank You'
I had originally written out a sequel to my first book 'Just Married, Please Excuse' called 'Still Married, Thank You.' I never finished it though, and now, we're publishing 'The Farmer's Wife' which is the story continued, many years later. But there are some fun moments from the unfinished manuscript. Sharing Chapter 6. And who knows, it may be abandoned for now, but maybe some day I'll finish this one too!
Chapter 6: Healthy Living in Garden Greens
When I announced to Vijay the next day that the plan was to hire a new driver, he thought about it for just a moment before saying ‘Okay.’
I looked at him suspiciously. I had expected some resistance to this idea, as an automatic reaction on Vijay’s part - since he believed his role was to play devil’s advocate in every situation. I repeated ‘Okay? Is that it?’
‘Yes. Why not, I say? I have this long drive…Mummyji-Papaji have also been saying that it would be a good idea for me to have a driver.’
I relaxed. He always listened to Mummyji-Papaji, treating their opinion on every matter with the greatest reverence. This made sense.
I looked up from the newspaper headlines again. ‘What?’
‘Yesterday,’ he said slowly, clearly embarrassed by this ‘I was driving home, and on the way, I stopped at a red light and this guy who had been sticking his thumb out for a lift came rushing up to me and asked where I was going – I told him that I wasn’t going to give him a lift, but he kept insisting…’
‘So?’ This didn’t sound particularly outlandish to me. ‘What’s the big deal about that?’
Vijay finished in a rush, it seemed as if he really wanted this over with. ‘He put his hand on my arm and said ‘Bhai…main bhi toh driver hoon…hume ek doosre ki help karni chahiye.’
It took a moment for it to sink in but I burst into hoots of laughter ‘He thought you were a driver? Hahahahahahaha.’
‘It was that battered old Maruti Esteem of Mama’s…I’m telling you, we need a new car.’
I said sadistically. ‘But see, I think it’s also the fact that you’re just so skinny. Most drivers are skinny…’
He thought about this and agreed that this observation was true, although as far I was concerned, it had actually been based on the sample size of one, our Vinod.
‘You know what?’ Vijay was thoughtful ‘I think maybe you’re right. We really should start getting some more exercise. My games with Nachhu are barely once a week. We need to make it more regular.’
‘Okay.’ I jumped at the opportunity with alacrity. ‘The pool is opening this Saturday, and we should also sign up at the gym. They give a couple discount.’ I added cleverly. ‘Okay?’
‘Okay.’ said Vijay and gave the puny muscles on his arms an appraising look. With renewed determination, he added ‘Let’s do it!’
I exulted silently behind my paper, which I wasn’t really reading. I thanked the random fellow who had mistaken my husband for a driver. So many good things had resulted from that statement. God really did work in mysterious ways.
Over the next few weeks, we actually managed to make good use of the facilities in Garden Green. We started with the Pool.
The swimming pool was open for business till about 9 p.m. every night, and children were allowed in it only till 7 p.m. We had bought Peanut a cute little flowery blue costume, and she always had a good time in the pool although she could not do anything more than splash around at the shallow end and possibly pee in it.
I told Vijay once while swimming with him that at least on weekends, we should change our swimming time to before kiddie time instead of always swimming after kiddie time since I was certain the pool was full of pee. I was explaining to him that I knew this because as a kid, I always peed in the pool when Mum took us swimming, but he just swam away from me mid-conversation saying ‘Beep Beep –Too much intimacy! Too much intimacy!’
Vijay and I began to enjoy our swim time so much that we tried to make it every evening. Even when we got home late for any reason, we still went for a dip since it was so invigorating, and even a few minutes were always worth it.
One Sunday night, it had become really late as we returned to Gurgaon from my mother’s place in Delhi. We both really wanted a swim as it was a particularly hot day, but traffic ensured that we made it back only at 8.45 p.m. We decided that Something was better than Nothing and that we would go for it even though it would be just about ten minutes of swim time.
We went up to our flat and deposited Peanut there to look after Kajal, calling to both of them that they might amuse themselves with some television until we came back, and quickly changed into our swimming costumes and bolted out the door in a race towards the swimming pool. I giggled at the thought of the two of us running around like kids in a perfectly respectable colony.
When we got to the pool, there were exactly ten minutes left to swim. We rushed to our respective changing rooms. I couldn’t get mine to open, and started banging and calling out indignantly to the ladies inside. How inconsiderate it was of them to lock it when I had only a few moments swimming pleasure to look forward to. Just as I heaved my shoulder against the door, a bemused lady opened it from inside, causing me to stumble into the changing room in a clumsy manner. ‘It was open all the time’ she informed me. Whatever.
Vijay had no trouble with the changing room and was out the door again in a flash. I watched as he majestically dove into the deep end of the pool, his long frame glinting in the moonlight. He was a much better swimmer than me, of course, and he had already traversed half the pool before he felt the need to come up for air.
Of course, the effect would possibly have been even more majestic had he remembered to actually tie the nada of his swimming costume and consequently not parted ways with it due to the impact of the water as he dove in.
I was watching him closely and figured out what had happened in a flash – I started laughing and nearly fell into the deep end myself as a result. He floundered around in embarrassment and retrieved his floating black swimming costume quickly, glad that it was dark and that there were only a few people around. No one else seemed to have noticed, and that was a good thing.
Yes, even just a few minutes in the pool were always worth it.
In the very first week that we started the swimming, we made an acquaintance with the man who we came to refer to as Friendly Pool Uncle.
He was a very nice man. The problem was that he apparently came to the pool with the sole purpose of socializing and chatting, and was always asking questions. We could not avoid him because he appeared to live in the pool – he was there when we got in, and still going strong when we got out.
Vijay started to get busy at work, but I was making it a point to be regular with my swimming. Friendly Pool Uncle and his incessant chatter bothered me, but I could hardly be openly rude with him, and so was forced into daily conversations with him.
‘How are you, dear Yashodhara?’ he would say in his gentle, sing-song voice and I would reply that I was fine.
‘And dear Anoushka?’ he would enquire and I would assure him that she too was in the pink of health.
‘And dear Vijay?’ he could never forget Vijay who appeared to be a favorite, as with so many people.
I would answer that everybody was fine, and would prepare to swim off for another lap when he would continue ‘And why isn’t he here today?’
I would say that he was late at work and attempt to push off again, only to be stopped mid-push by his well meaning questioning of ‘And where is it that he works?’.
He would rattle off another series of related questions including Did Vijay Work Weekends as well, Did he at least enjoy his job, Had he considered coming in for a swim in the mornings instead of evenings and move on to only loosely related ones such as What was Vijay’s Hometown, How long had he lived away from it, When did we move to Delhi. When he started to enquire about the health of our parents, I answered cursorily and would quickly swim away, making my way to the other end of the pool as fast I could swim.
I would emerge breathless but triumphant at the other end of the pool, gasping because I had not paused for a single breath on the way. I would be quietly celebrating my newfound freedom when Friendly Pool Uncle’s voice would chime in my ear saying ‘And what about you, dear? Do you work Saturdays too?’ I would whip my head around with a start to see that despite being twice my age, he had already swum up behind me with his slow and steady strokes, which apparently conserved his energy and left him able to carry out another few hours of conversation while treading water.
You would think that Friendly Pool Uncle would eventually run out of questions but it never happened. Firstly he had an impressively large store of questions including those regarding everyone’s health, habits, education and work. Secondly, it turned out that he vaguely knew my mother; my Bua and grandfather who lived in the complex; and possibly even some relatives I never knew that I had, and so he was always enquiring after them and asking me to give them his regards. Finally, he had a failing memory and would ask me the same questions over and over, day after day, week after week such as ‘Your Bua also lives here, right?’ which he asked me four times in one week alone.
Friendly Pool Uncle was such a fixture in the pool now that it was really hot that I began to vaguely suspect that he was a in fact, a merman. Thankfully, we had another alternative to our exercise regimen, and I began to use that more regularly – the good ol’ Gym.
The gym was a fairly nice one, with decent equipment which looked rather unused. The residents of this colony didn’t appear to be the gymming type, but still, there it was. A fellow called Aman was the trainer in the gym – he was a short, stout fellow who looked like he had never actually worked out a day in his life himself. However, he was clearly determined to earn his pay and gave me and Vijay all forms of invaluable advice about how to work out properly, which we had the good sense to ignore since he really didn’t sound like he knew what he was talking about, despite the confidence with which he delivered his rather nasal instructions. He also perceived his major responsibility as pressing the ‘On’ button of any machine that I chose to approach. If I ever made the mistake of switching the button on myself, he would take great offense and punish me by increasing the time limits that I had set for myself.
He had asked me the first time I came to the gym with Vijay about whether I had ever worked out before. I told him that I climbed eleven flights of stairs almost every day and he looked clearly disbelieving of me. He didn’t actually say ‘Lagta toh nahin hai, Motu.’ But that was the gist of his look. I decided I didn’t like him very much.
We spent about an hour in the gym, about three days in the week. At least, I did – Vijay, as always was far less serious about this. It was typical – on the very first day, I had seen him start to admire his muscles after just ten minutes of working out- he appeared convinced that the weights that he had done were having an immediate impact and he would soon have a body like Salman Khan, only much taller. But with his typical inability to finish anything he started, he soon began to slack off.
The instructor Aman however, had already become a big fan of Vijay’s – the strange charm that Vijay had on people had worked its magic on him too. Every time I landed up, he would annoyingly ask me ‘Where’s Vijay?’, sounding exactly like all the members of my family. I didn’t feel like explaining anything about Vijay’s whereabouts to Aman, so I took to just shrugging and smiling helplessly.
Aman answered himself one day though ‘Oh, he must go to office na…must be difficult for him.’
I tartly retorted that I also worked and we both left for work at the same time each day. Aman expressed shock at this statement too. He didn’t quite say ‘Aap bhi kaam karti hai? Lagta toh nahin hai, Motu.’ But that was my takeout anyway. I decided I hated him, actually.
Vijay’s visits became more and more infrequent and more and more comical. I often caught him just admiring himself and his non-existent muscles in the mirror. When he did deign to work out for a few minutes, he followed it up with much longer bouts of ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ and ‘budhaapa aa gaya’s. He decided that he would pass his time by fooling around. I would be running on the treadmill, only to find him running alongside me mockingly, and then slowly overtaking me, passing me with a gleeful grin. I would be furiously pedaling on the exercycle and would look up to find him leaning on the handlebar, gazing into my face. He would ask with an interested expression ‘Kahan pahunche, bhai?’
At other times, when Aman wasn’t looking, he would position himself behind me so that only I could see him in the mirror while working out, and he would start dancing to the music playing in the gym, his long limbs flailing in a strange rhythmic manner. It was very distracting.
I decided to get back at him one day when he was on the exercycle – I went up to him and used his own silly line on him. I leaned on the handlebar and said ‘Kahan pahunche, Bhai.’ But he just smoothly replied, without batting an eyelid ‘Ajmeri Gate.’ I stood there blinking, trying to come up with a smart response, but unable to think of what to say. In the meantime, Aman came up to me and in a rather annoyed manner, asked me to get back onto the treadmill, telling me that three minutes was not enough and that I really needed to get more serious if I wanted my time here to have any effect. I sputtered at him indignantly – he never said that to Vijay. I muttered malevolently and went back to the treadmill.
Aman’s lack of appreciation of our clowning around didn’t really stop us, though. I was on the exercycle one day when Vijay came and sat on a much lower cycling machine next to me. Because Sholay happened to be Vijay’s favorite movie and therefore he had ensured that I had seen it several times over the last few years, we were of one mind. As Aman watched in bemused annoyance, Vijay and I looked at each other, and raised our hands up in the air, and started singing 'Yehhh dosti.....hum nahiiii chhodenge...'
Okay, I reasoned to myself. So maybe all of this working out wasn’t exactly having the desired impact on Vijay’s health. However, it certainly had its moments. Laughter, they said, was the best medicine. At the very least, we were getting us some of that, and much needed respite it was in the middle of our rather busy lives.