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|by Gargi Chaudhuri|
We shall call him T.Rex for convenience, as men of his kind are already extinct. How I chanced upon this living relic is another story and I'll save that for another time. It may be safely said that turning thirty is no laughing matter, specially if your hair line is receding rapidly and you are soon to be father for the first time ever. The stories of the glorious paternal mane (as last seen in the high school graduation day picture) would be the stuff of myth and fable and that is not a very happy thought. Running his fingers through what remained of the it, he had trouble believing that he was once generously endowed in that area. A clean pate loomed menacingly from the bathroom mirror.
Our friend was also going through a period of painful withdrawal symptoms after being forced to get rid of the only love of his life - namely the cable TV thanks to the incessant badgering of an unfeeling and uncaring spouse who thought it was ridiculous and way too expensive for the kind of trash it churned. The nights would be so empty and alone. Some times he thought that the choice between wife and cable TV was wholly inequitable. Wife just didn't measure up unless she was deaf and mute. A man without a TV remote in his hand is not a man at all. He loses control over his life - just what Wife would want. The institution of marriage is cruel and crippling to the male of the species. The fridge which in the days of yore was chock full of half eaten pizzas, burgers, coke , tubs of ice cream, beer and such like was now home to veggies and veggies and fruit, fat free milk - you get the idea. The pleasure of a midnight snack was memory. Wife was a health and fitness maniac. Needless to say she was a despotic tyrant who would have her primitive and perverse tastes in food imposed upon our more evolved friend.
Clearly, he was in a thoughtful mood on the eve of his thirtieth birthday. Trying to take stock of life thus far had not been an uplifting experience. The cable TV and the hair on his head stood out as the biggest losses by far. He'd have probably kept both had he not succumbed to marriage. Mothers have a way of making it sound like the magic gateway to paradise. Now that he thought about it, fathers didn't go over the top about the whole thing. If only he had clued on two years ago ! A casual victim of a vast feminine conspiracy , that is what he had been. T.Rex let out a deep sigh and logged on the internet - waiting to turn thirty.
Around midnight he cheered up unaccountably. T.Rex, birthday blues notwithstanding, has a very sunny disposition. In fact I have never seen anyone with such a buoyant spirit in all my life. His childlike smile can light up the darkest day and all his clouds have an engraved silver lining. So what if Wife was fast asleep and has deprived him of his life's greatest pleasure - channel surfing at 3:00 a.m. over a dozen buffalo wings and chilled beer. What if she did nor appreciate his need to sleep all of the weekends away. What if she arbitrarily decided what would stay in wardrobe and what would go into the trash bin. It amazed him that she had no idea that he might feel emotionally attached to the 'torn to shreds' jeans that she used as a floor mop. His heart winced in pain - the ever faithful companion of his youth and years of independence groveling thus on the kitchen floor. The list would never end - in fact it was depressing to catalog his woes. Another deep sigh later, he decided to have fun all the same. After all one does not turn thirty every day.
The last couple of days he had been toying with the idea of a having little birthday bash. But no matter how hard he thought, he could not think of one person to invite. Years ago he had heard a story of a fifteen year old guy who had been the butt of unkind jokes by his friends he had invited to his 'Happy Birthday' party. Being ridiculed at fifteen is one thing and quite another when one is thirty and rapidly balding. Altering his plans a little bit, he decided that he could do without the company. He would bake a huge cake, light thirty candles on it (hopefully the cake would not be completely perforated in the process) and blow them out all at once.
When wife was not watching he checked out how hard he could blow (there would be thirty candles to contend with). His doctor had once performed some bizarre tests on him and said that he could blow one and a half times as strong as the average person. He had felt ecstatic at this serendipitous discovery and had thought it was worth every cent of the $215 she had charged the medical insurance company to divulge this great secret. Wife had not been all that impressed when she heard the good news.
As the midnight hour neared, T.Rex was full of hope and happiness. Any minute now he would hear the magic words 'You have mail' and his mailbox would be jammed with birthday wishes from all over. The words were however not quite forthcoming. No e-mail up to 12:30 a.m. He could not help feeling a twinge of disappointment, but told himself that he still had the cake to look forward to and the candles to blow. All was not lost yet. And the all at once the 'words' were heard ! He had received an e-mail from his kid sister wishing him 'Happy Birthday'. He replied to her at once, telling her how happy he had felt. She replied promptly, this time admonishing him for not being in bed at this unearthly hour. Greatly encouraged by one birthday wish, for the next half hour he checked e-mail and voice-mail several dozen times without any luck.
At 1:00 a.m. bleary eyed Wife shuffled out the bedroom and wished him 'Happy Birthday'. Even before he could thank her properly she had gone back to bed and was fast asleep. He felt ashamed for the uncharitable thoughts he had had about her not so long ago. Despotic and whimsical though she might be, Wife was not as evil as he made her out to be. If could not be denied that marriage had changed him for the better in more ways than one. If only she were a little more tuned to his emotional needs. Was it too much to ask to stay up all night watching TV and guzzling beer ? It was a man thing just like there are woman things. Didn't she buy a dozen dresses on the Thanksgiving sales and twenty pairs of shoes the day after Christmas ? It had been mere curiosity when he had asked ' What are you going to do with five shoes the same shade of brown ?' and Wife had been so greatly upset. It was like the question had imperiled her entire existence, struck it at the very roots. Women are profoundly crazy, he had no doubt about that. Wife was just a case in example.
The next morning T.Rex was in a jaunty mood. He actually managed to shave and shower before leaving for work. He could usually manage only one of the two if he hoped to show up in his office before 10 :00 a.m. His boss he thought ought to get a life. The guy got in before 8:00 a.m. and stayed long after everyone else had left. At fifty something he really needed to slow down.
Today there was music in the air. He reached so early and walked so briskly that everyone gave him concerned looks.( On a typical day he tip-toed into work and crept softly into the cube lest he draw anyone's attention to the hour of his arrival.) Any moment now he thought settling down in his cube, bells will start to chime, confetti and chocolate will be showered and every one will sing in unison -'Happy Birthday ..' This was the most important day of the year and folks just could not forget all about it. It was lunch hour by the time he realized that it was business as usual for everyone else. No one had noticed that his birthday had come and was now on the verge of going too!
He felt a little hurt at the turn of events. It did not help that no birthday wishes were forthcoming through e-mail or phone. He called home to seek solace in his mother's voice. Half the way across the globe she had fallen asleep but was very happy that when he called. She blessed and wished him well and said even at thirty he was still really a baby. That was something that made him feel good. What greater achievement in life that to be able to keep the child inside alive as the pate grows shinier by the day? He chided himself and firmly resolved not to dwell in the depressing thoughts of inevitable baldness. Today was his day and he would be absolutely happy. After all, his cousin had discovered some magic oil that could reverse baldness.
Fleeing from work is not as easy as many would believe. You can take T.Rex's word for it as he is the habitual absconder. His little repertoire of tricks have stood him in good stead all these years. To begin with he will appear to be very busy and go around the place with a look of grim determination on his face. When he started his career eight years ago, his supervisor had given him some pearls of wisdom on his very first day at work. 'If you don't have anything to do at work, don't sit idle. Take a sheet of paper and roll it. Holding it in your hand stride from one corner of the office to another, preferably with a deep frown on your face. Repeat until everyone takes note of your activity'. T.Rex has faithfully followed this advise ever since and with satisfactory results.
The earliest he could flee was at 3:00 p.m. which was still two hours away. He stopped by at the secretary's desk and informed her that it was his birthday today and she thus needed to do something about it. It took hours of persuasion before she relented to get him a cookie the next day. His day being made, he was now all set to go home. Being a pro at fleeing from work unnoticed he was rather taken aback when he ran straight into his boss on the way out that day. But he was by then at a point of no return being half way down the elevator which only led outside the building. No trickery would be convincing now. By the time he got home he had braced up with the sense of failure at having been caught in the act. His birthday was not over yet and the cake and candles could still happen.
Most of T.Rex's evening was spent laughing at the antics of Sienfeld and Co. Wife laughed too. This was one thing they had in common in the entire universe of TV programs. Life after dinner in the T.Rex household is typical. Wife retires soon so she can get enough rest before the long work day ahead. T.Rex feels perky after a hearty meal and is in no mood to sleep for the next several hours. He logged on to the internet like everyday, but his hopes were high today as he opened his mailbox. Surely some long lost friends and secret admirers would remember his birthday. But alas ! And then all at once - a short mail from a cousin sister. 'Isn't it your birthday today ? Well, Happy Birthday !' He thanked her at once for the kind remembrance. Finally his day was made. The long and sometimes agonizing wait had paid off at last ! Who would have thought that she of all people would remember.
Thus, came the end of the thirtieth birthday. A photograph would be in order to commemorate the landmark occasion, but as he went into the bathroom to straighten his hair the all conquering baldness made him think again. It would not be such a great idea. Maybe, by next year he would sprout forth a mane with that oil and there could be a picture then. He retired for the day a few hours before sunrise contemplating that it had not been such a bad birthday after all. The glory of blowing thirty one candles at one go at the ripe old age of thirty and one could only be so much greater.
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