ON a recent Friday morning, while the better part of the country lay in the tight embrace of warm blanket covers and delving deep into the blissful arms of sleep on a chilly winter weekend morning or enjoying the rush of endorphins while the body sweats against the cool morning breeze, I was spending mine staring at the husband who was pretending to comb tufts of stubborn hair into supposedly a new style, putting me in a dilemma of helping him decide which one suited him best. Careful not to mention the receding hairline that my eyes took note of — other than every ‘different’ style that appeared exactly like the first to me — I thought it best to take the diplomatic route to save the beautiful weekend morning and blurted out something about every style having its own charm.

Research has it that marriage may test one’s sanity, but living into old age with a partner also lowers the risk of dementia. The part about marriage testing one’s sanity had not occurred to us during the starry-eyed days of courtship and the dreamy eyes refused to acknowledge the bumpy road ahead during the beautiful moments that we took the leap and solemnised our matrimony.

Since the institution of marriage does not come with a handy instruction booklet, after the hazy cloud of blind love faded into reality, we realised that ‘happily-ever-after’ included smoke alarms that cheered on my cooking expeditions, gifts that were meant to surprise became shocks due to misunderstandings of tastes and choices, weird habits that our rose-tinted vision had refused to take note of and normal conversations that snowballed into disagreements and very soon grew into full-blown arguments. But the bumpy, sometimes steep and otherwise uphill road that we encountered helped strengthen our bond as did my culinary expeditions that strengthened the husband’s digestive system.

When I chanced upon a folded piece of paper that contained a hastily scribbled recipe of a dish that had once — by some strange stroke of luck — turned out as expected without any incidence of accidental burning or charring or meeting friendly neighbours after the smoke alarm raised pandemonium, I decided to surprise my family by pushing my luck yet again. Luck was once again on my side as the dish turned out to be perfect in taste and appearance. I could almost hear the fanfare music as I placed the garnished masterpiece that was expected to be the highlight of the dinner.

Unfortunately, the music was only audible to my ears as the husband failed to notice amid discussing worldly matters that oscillated between the world of sports and the current state of world affairs with Sid intently listening to his father’s words as he mindlessly chewed on the contents of his plate more than the recommended 32 times and forcefully swallowed them when he wished to throw in a question or two about the topic under discussion.

Little Princess was the only one who noticed and screamed her disapproval.

Half way through the meal and between the orations of worldly affairs, the husband took note of the screaming silence emanating from my side of the table and was quick to understand that something was amiss. He looked about for cues from the curtain to my hair. Since it was obvious that I was bound to show no interest in playing a game of 20 questions or throw in clues, he settled for something safer and went on to throw a few compliments about everything except the dish that had been painstakingly cooked and served with love.

Considering that this was an incident that took place more than a year back and that its details are vivid in my mind’s eye to be revived over the table every time I make the lucky dish that had once gone unnoticed, the husband is absolutely sure that living into old age with his partner is definitely going to keep dementia at bay. He explains that the trick is in rightfully dividing the task equally between the two of us. I could fill up every brain cell with important events (like the one mentioned above) that have taken place since the first time we met to be brought up as and when the occasion (read argument) demands, while he will keep track of the state of our finances and other less important factors of our life.

As of now, he only worries about keeping his sanity.

Pranitha Menon is a freelance writer based in Dubai.