Rakesh Maggon, Special to Gulf News
Air travel restrictions in Dubai were eased significantly a fortnight ago and my wife, who had not travelled home for nearly 6 months, decided to avail of the opportunity. Exercising wifely caution (read authority), she decided that it would not be advisable if both of us travelled together in these uncertain times, and I was abandoned from the enterprise without much choice in the matter.
Seasoned husbands do not betray strong emotion in such situations and accede gracefully. After all, it was a matter of only a week and why allow the lady to wallow in her indispensability. I saw her off at the airport in my usual cheer and came home to sink in my bed with a serene air. I slept well and long, with no anxiety of having to leave the bed neat on waking.
And then the adventure began.
Breakfasts are easy to conceptualise and consume but can sometimes be difficult to create. As I cracked the eggs in the Teflon pan and added other ingredients, the only available wooden spatula made itself scarce. While the egg started to burble and steam, the spatula showed no signs of manifesting. Ladies of the homes have this knack of keeping spatulas at places where no average husband can ever reach. And suddenly, there was panic as the egg acquired a brownish hue and a burnt odour even as my quest remained fruitless. Finally, I found it buried in a tall mound of nearly forty spoons (Tea/Table/Serving/Stirring/Soup/Dessert) and put it to use. Burnt browned eggs are not the best start to a busy day but men of fortitude can take them in their stride.
Later in the week I discovered that washing machines are a category of appliances that have been burdened with unnecessary complexity. Why must there be seventeen different modes based on type of garment (cotton/wool/polyester/mixed), duration (quick/medium/long), temperature (cold/warm/hot), colour (dark/light/white) and desired mode (wash/rinse/spin/rinse-spin) when all one had to do was to wash a few shirts, trousers and other minor pieces? Then there is an irksome acoustic complexity where different beeps warn you of different mistakes. Add to all this, seven different kinds of LED lights that blink whimsically and one can see my predicament in washing my dirty ‘linen’ mechanically.
I am convinced that household helps do it to lone husbands deliberately. The very first day our ‘help’ arrived and asked for ‘the’ specific floor-mop that my wife had instructed him to use exclusively in the bathrooms. I was not privy to this confidential information and gentle persuasion that using the available mop would suffice, failed to cut ice with him. Matters got worse when he revealed that there was a special floor cleaning solution too, without which it would be impossible for him to undertake cleaning. Even as I was reeling under these two requirements, he declared that he could not locate the vacuum cleaning attachment.
Now, no husband can make good such stringent demands in the absence of the Lady. However, there is no challenge that cannot be overcome with ingenuity and improvisation.
Home delivery of food has made the world of temporarily abandoned husbands easier. One can ask for anything of one’s choice without having to go through the ‘rough and tumble’ of preparing meals in kitchens where spatulas are elusive. I have found manual washing of clothes an extremely useful activity that not only softens the guilt of missing morning exercise but also forces you exercise economy in using clothes. Men, through the aeons, have set for themselves very high standards of cleanliness at home and an occasional abstention from rigorous cleaning is unlikely to make any visible difference. I also discovered the virtues of ‘intermittent fasting’ and am now a staunch supporter of missing an odd meal in long-term interest of weight management. Readers will agree that my wife’s absence had brought about a transformative change in me in less than a week.
When she left, we had agreed that she would hire a taxi to return home. However, I had a change of heart, as most husbands would, and reached the airport to receive her two hours in advance.
Had never missed her more.
Dr Rakesh Maggon is a specialist ophthalmologist with an interest in literature