“Perhaps you should write something about ‘the husband’ and send it to our paper” my husband’s close friend S said humorously, in assuaging my feeling of being overwhelmed and overpowered by three men, including my husband and his actor friend A.
It was a Friday evening at home in Chennai, of the year 2007. We were all sitting cosily in my husband B’s den – with low seating, dim lighting, plenty of cushions, books and a music player, where he entertains his close friends who belong to the media, other creative walks of life or those who have a passion for his kind of music. I was coming in and out carrying short-eats to accompany our drinks. Dinner was ready and served on the dining table outside in the hall, waiting to be heated and devoured, perhaps in the wee hours of the morning or who knows shortly if the mood arose.
Walking in with a plate of chicken sausages, I heard B reading out aloud from his laptop, “I called the wife from work and she promptly asked if I wanted cabbage or cauliflower for dinner…..”
I’m not sure whether these were his actual words then, but I definitely recall the use of ‘The Wife’ in the line to appear in his next Sunday column of a reputed newspaper that he worked for at the time. I was irritated to say the least, but I waited till he had finished reading the rest of the piece. The wait after setting the plate in my hand on a low table, accompanied by the approval and laughter of his friends S and A, catapulted my vexation to bursting heights.
“The Wife is not correct usage” I interjected sharply, then looking at B menacingly I added “and I never ask you whether you want cabbage or cauliflower curry.”
The three men were pretty amused at my temper as B retorted, “it is grammatically right, and why are you taking this personally – people know columns are not confessions, they are just written in humour and people do enjoy the humour about the wife.”
“It may be grammatically right, but it is not aesthetically so” I argued, “would you refer to your own mother or father as The Mother or The Father, then how and why – The Wife.”
“Ok, call your sister (she lives in Bangalore) and ask her if she finds anything wrong with it” B replied as A added, “do that and even she will agree that The Wife is acceptable.”
“I don’t care what anyone thinks I shot back, I don’t like being referred to as The Wife and you will jolly well not refer to me as The Wife ever again. I work and meet clients or associates who read your columns and I don’t like the reference they draw. Don’t you remember the gentleman at your boss’s new year party who spontaneously appraised me as soon as we were introduced and concluded I didn’t look like The Wife of your columns?”
At this point, S perhaps realizing I was being outnumbered decided to get on my side and make the suggestion of sending a write up to his newspaper. I shirked his suggestion outright, saying “I’m not interested in making any greater fool of myself or making a mockery of my husband in public.”
The next morning B left for his hometown – Kanpur, clubbing it with a business assignment in Delhi. I did not have to go to work, it being Saturday, so I leisurely stretched myself on our bed with a cup of tea and the three newspapers we subscribed to then (now we get 4). I had not forgotten the previous evening’s discussions in spite of the three men making every attempt to assuage me over the sumptuous Bengali dinner of mutton and fish curry, I had cooked.
Flipping through the large number of news pages, my mind still nursing the perceived humiliation of the evening before and searching for appropriate means to dismiss my irritation, I suddenly came across the line, which somewhat amounted to : If you want to see your writing published, write an article of not more than…words about Chennai. Post it on sulekha.com and win yourself the chance to get published in this newspaper.
It seemed like the answer to my prayers and I spent the day writing the article on Chennai – my first post on Sulekha – and thereby started my writing sojourn. I firmly decided that day, that I would not disclose this endeavour to B or any of his self proclaimed intellectual, creative, journalist friends. But I knew I had taken up a tough mental challenge to compete with them at their own game, and someday, somehow win – however long it took.
B shortly discovered my blog and propelled me to read and write more, to improve myself, shoving into my hand one book after another as benchmark, insisting I was not ready to write seriously yet. Any self-respecting person might have given up, considering B was a professional writer/journalist, and knew what he was talking about, but not me!
I grew more and more determined to prove my worth, that too opting for literary fiction instead of chik-lit. The vivid memory of my own senior bosses – in the over 15 years of varied corporate experience I had, but more so my English teachers at school, always recognizing my writing skills, complimenting it too, further enhanced my determination not to be run down by a bunch of condescending guys.
Yet in all of this, I’ve never fallen short of my duties as ‘the wife’ – as over the last many years and 3 of my husband’s book releases, I have been his rock of support, publicist, promoter, whatever was in my capacity…As is recorded in the numerous pictures of his multi-city book launches in the case of each book.
I’ve recently completed my debut novel Across Borders. It is now in the printing stage, to be launched by end of February.
This is just a milestone in my crusade. 🙂 I look forward to your support!
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