We travelled abroad recently. It was an arduous exercise considering the insidious threat of the COVID Delta variant, complicated RT-PCR regulations, a bewildering variety of vaccines and their variable acceptability, and the troubling apprehension that once offshore one might get stuck in the country under one’s feet.
We still travelled.
In all such enterprises the lady of the house unilaterally decides the fine details of packing the travel party’s ‘stuff’. After all the suitcases have been exhausted of their premium space by ‘her’ stuff does ‘his’ turn come. Husbands are forced to make do with the space available and readers will easily visualise the scatter and scarcity consequent to this unfair arrangement.
Add to this the natural inability of men to organise themselves, and one can envisage an uncertain situation. Then there are leave applications, permissions, visas, tickets, foreign currency, vaccination certificates, insurances and PCR tests to take care of. All these hurdles cleared; we boarded our flight.
The landing and hotel occupation went smoothly and the first evening was spent in a tired jet-lagged daze. The first thing both of us did on recovering was to acquire a new SIM card for local communication. Life is never easy. It is all very easy to buy a SIM card but to insert it for usage requires a pin to open the card slot.
A pack of pins
As I sheepishly went about pleading with the concierge staff for a pin, our lady promptly pulled out a neat plastic packet and drew out one from the 6 that emerged. Then with the look of a school Principal admonishing an errant backbencher she handed me the precise pin for my phone.
The next day began with feverish morning activity. She laid her things up with geometrical precision and her top, matching bottom wear, socks, earrings, necklace with a matching pendant, shoes and belt lay displayed. I, meanwhile, flitted from suitcase to suitcase to find one of my three available shirts that would match my grey trousers.
All dressed in minutes, she directed her attention to facial enhancement. While she went about the task with the finesse of a renaissance artist I, to my horror, realised that I had forgotten to carry my belt. To my relief, she opened a bag and pulled out a belt that could wrap around me without making gender mismatch conspicuous.
Men have to swallow pride in awkward situations, and I was equal to the task. On the street, I scrupulously avoided contact with some amused inquisitive eyes that spotted the incongruity of a ‘ladies’ belt around an ample masculine waist.
Following morning was equally humbling with her matching clothes and accessories, and my struggle to locate something to match anything. This time it was my socks that played truant. Male socks are of three broad shades: black, blue and brown.
I am not a great proponent of needless eclecticism and have limited myself to black or blue. I just could not locate a matching pair but fortunately, a ‘very dark blue’ nearly matched a ‘not so Black’ and I was good. On the breakfast table, as I dug into the lavish English fare, I detected a hint of a smirk on the face of a lady passing by.
I ignored it and went about doing justice to buttered buns and sausages. My wife does not miss such subtleties even when strong distractors like fine French croissants and walnuts in pure Georgian maple-honey lay on her plate.
She instantly read our neighbour’s mind and sternly disallowed me the sixth sausage till I went back, matched my socks and saved us the blushes. “Black suitcase, top half, left upper quadrant, 3 inches from the middle”, I heard faintly as I took the elevator. Sure enough, the ghastly black piece was right there.
The remaining holiday was largely uneventful. A few hiccups did occur but do not deserve a special mention.
Husbands, as a species, learn from adversity quickly. I conscientiously observed her pack her stuff and managed to emulate her to a substantial degree as we packed to return.
Back home, I have started an online course on the ‘Art of packing’. It has been a runaway success and has amassed 17 subscribers over mere three months. Guess who these 17 are?
Dr Rakesh Maggon is a specialist ophthalmologist with an interest in literature