The perfect marriage, they say, is between a blind wife and a deaf husband. That would imply that husbands do things that wives shouldn’t have to see, and women say things that their menfolk shouldn’t hear. I’d like to protect my tribe and staunchly deny the second but, the fact is, both sexes say and do things they shouldn’t. (It may be wrong to sweep everyone into the generalization but a significant number of people do fit into the box.)
The politics of marriage is rather complex. It is also very entertaining—to the outsider. There’s a pattern that plays out regularly in the capital and, perhaps, in other cities too, that deserves comment. During the wedding season, with festivities and parties galore, the ambience is heady. The men are in sharp suits and the ladies at their resplendent best in sarees and lehengas and teeny-weenie cholis (which is what Indian women look best in, with no apologies to tight black dresses). The latest hit songs blast the dance floor and inhibitions are dowsed by generous helpings of champagne.
Most couples start out dancing with each other. But as the tempo builds, the pairings begin to change. The women start shimmying with other each, secure in the knowledge that even their most outrageous jhatka will not be misinterpreted. The men dance halfheartedly on the outskirts for a bit and then head off to the bar. There, glass in hand, they look around the scene, taking in the arrangements, mentally calculating what the host is likely to have spent. While they’re about it, they check out the other guests. They’re not fussy; they’re just looking for someone to drink and chat with—about cricket and the effect of demonetization on the elections in UP and Punjab.
But then they spot—standing alone—the hottie, the one who’s always made their heart beat a tad bit faster. Potential buddies forgotten, they square their shoulders, brush off some imaginary lint from their jacket and faux-nonchalantly wend their way to the lady in question. Intense conversation ensues, followed by drinks at the bar and maybe a round on the dance floor. Others throw glances their way but soon lose interest. Everyone knows there’s flirting underway, but they deem it innocuous. Everyone, except the wife. Totally disinterested in the husband till then, her antenna has now reached Everest base camp. Her feet are locked onto the floor, her eyes on the husband.
The man doesn’t notice initially. He’s enjoying himself too much for that. Plus, he believes he’s doing nothing wrong. But then, he remembers Rule No 1 of matrimony: ‘A husband can have fun or, at least, be seen to be having fun only with the wife’.
He considers the matter for an instance longer. There’ll be hell to pay when they get home; and the sulks could go on for a week. But then he shrugs it off and turns back to the hottie. Tomorrow’s another day. And he’s already ordered a new credit card for the wife.