[Contributed Short Story] A Politician’s Wife

[Contributed by Angelic Devil after several hundred requests.]

Years ago, I saw “Rang de Basanti“. I felt awed, felt the blood rush to my face and wanted to go all out and do something for my country. It was in 2006, a time when my generation felt crippled and angry that they weren’t born in pre-independence days, when one could serve their country; free their motherland. What is it that we are running after now? MNC’s, fat salaries, cute partners, skimpy clothes, fancy mobile sets? My generation felt wasted and disillusioned. Debates ensued, candle marches and punish Jessica Lal’s murderers text messages overflowed. Everybody did what they felt was their duty. The movie awakened a kind of a raw passion that one had to channel. And we did. We were all united in the thought that unless we speak up, the democracy will fail. And so everybody spoke up and I… well, me too.

♦♦♦♦♦

Why can’t I join politics? Do you not trust me?” his eyes searched my face for an answer. His face betrayed the disbelief and frustration he felt but his voice was calm. His eyes bore into mine and all I could do was bury my face in his chest. Fear caught hold of me as I struggled to find my voice and a way to phrase my fears.

Fighting my tears all I could squeak was, “I am afraid for you.

As I felt his body relax, I relaxed too. But the fear remained; Dark and ugly, scary and unnerving. How could I tell him that I agreed with him in principle? Yes, someone has to make the beginning. But why did it have to be him? What if somebody snuffs his life out? What if somebody gets him framed? How would it matter to anybody else in the country except me? After the initial brouhaha fades, it will be I who would be struggling to live, not them. What was I to tell him? That I am the armchair activist that he and I despise so badly?

Look at me. Do you want me to spend the rest of my life like an ordinary guy? I’ll go to work, come back; wonder about next month’s EMIs or why my kids are scoring so poorly. Isn’t that what the whole world does? You married me because I was not your ordinary guy, do you want me to become what I never was? Weren’t you the one who told me that one needs to be in the system to change it?

My heart screamed, “Hell yes!” and my mind numb. All I could think of was that he may have the strength to fight the whole world but I don’t. I don’t even have the strength to stand next to him. In those 5 minutes, all my desires to fight for my rights and to make the country better flew out of the window. All I could imagine was me running from pillar to post, trying to get “justice”. All I could envisage was a lifetime of regret that I didn’t stop him.

Can’t we reason it out? Have a healthy debate like we used to?” he asked. His pleading made my heart melt and tighten at the same time. Why can’t he go have an affair or something? Why can’t he be normal? Why is this fight not about some girl he stared at when we were out for dinner? “No! I am not open to any sort of discussion on this issue.” I was startled at my sharpness. So was he.

♦♦♦♦♦

If you ask me what made me give in, my love for him or my love for the country, I would not know. Was that the beginning or the end — I don’t know. Nor do I wish to know. For the time being, I’ve brushed my fears aside and am standing next to him. Or trying to. He wanted me to come and meet these women who have been trying to set up an embroidery unit. I look at him and he catches my eye, the smile on his face lights up his face. I try hard to concentrate on what the woman in-charge is explaining. All I can taste is bile. All I remember is darkness. The water drops feel cool on my face. As I gain consciousness, I hear some talk about the young MLA’s wife being a fragile doll. Were they tittering too? I slump back. Darkness. Again.

I wake up in the cool comfort of the AC in my bedroom, my husband missing in action. All I have is a message on BBM from him saying, “Sunstroke. Rest. Will see you in the evening.” As I work on the plot-line for my new novel–a politico drama, I wonder if I really am a fragile doll. I read his message again. Do I sense regret in his message? I read it again. The message gives away nothing. He took me there because he knew I am all for women emancipation. I wonder if let him down by fainting? I am not sure.

♦♦♦♦♦

Years have gone by; I’ve seen him grow more as a politician. Oh well, the houses we’ve moved into have only grown with time. So I assume he is doing well. The more he got involved with the country, the more sceptical I’ve become. I often find myself questioning if he is corrupt too. I never asked and he’s never said anything. After the incident, my involvement with his work became less. Slowly, it stopped. Perhaps, it damaged his image. My fears like my involvement too vanished with time.

I no longer sit up and wait for him to come home. I no longer scan the news for his name or his death. He is no longer mine. He is doing what he always wanted whereas I still wonder what I really want from life. I get no answers. I am as confused as I was in 11th standard, when I had to choose one among the three streams. I struggle to find my identity as he continues to firmly establish his. Am I jealous? I would think not. I struggle to reconcile my identity as a minister’s wife. I see other minister’s wives living up to their roles to perfection. I wonder about their disenchantment. I wonder if they share my feeling on the issue. I am afraid. Whether of asking questions or their answers, I do not know.

Desperate for an answer, I dig my life. I sense that my vivacity has been replaced by a dull ache. A friend suggests that I talk it over. Going as far as to tell me that maybe I am craving for attention from him. I know it to be untrue. I know that I shunned him the day he chose to walk on his path. Perhaps that was my defence mechanism. Perhaps I was trying to protect myself from my fears. I drown myself in more work. The pain, however, continues to haunt me.

♦♦♦♦♦

Alpha Male, Beta Male, Male Stable

I have not watched this movie, but I have watched this one. After this review, I feel I’ll do my wallet and myself a huge favor not watching रब ने बना दी जोड़ी (Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi). With the help of Wikipedia and him, let me go through the plot of the movie — at least the one I think it would be. But before I do that, let me warn you that this is not, by any stretch of imagination, a movie review. This rather is a geek’s reflection of his own frustration while he, in the oblivion of his dark, shady room with three computers, a few thousand books and a chess board, listens to his neighbor banging some girl three times a day. You’ll get a lot of hints of innuendo in this “frustlog”.

So, the plot…

End User: Tania [Taani] Gupta (Anushka Sharma) is an extrovert, flamboyant and vivacious girl, set to get married to the guy she loves.

Anushka Sharma
Anushka Sharma

Male Stable: Surinder [Suri] Sahni (Shahrukh Khan) is an introvert, responsible and sincere cubicle worker for Punjab Power corporation.

Beta Male: Raj. Surinder, with the help of his childhood friend Balwinder “Bobby” Khosla (Vinay Pathak), a hair-saloon owner, metamorphoses into an alter ego he calls Raj. Raj is a loud, rude, outspoken and fun-loving person.

Alpha Male: Sameer (Salman Khan), a boy of Indo-Italian parentage who wants to learn Indian classical music.

Sameer?! “Where does he come into the picture,” you would ask. The problem is that Raj cannot be the Alpha Male, for he is an alter-ego of a Male Stable. He has to be somewhere in between a totally unpredictable jerk –as an Alpha release of a software is– and somewhat predictable stable release. So to complete the evolutionary process of a male –on the lines of a software product– I have to bring Sameer in. Not surprisingly, when it comes to the mental disorders like love, every end user wants to “use” the alpha or beta release of the product, and male wants to be in alpha release phase. Thankfully, ‘Rab Ne…’ is only about the latter process of development including only beta and stable product. If you’re a software giant, you already know that an end user can be fooled to go in for more featureful, less stable release.

Coming back to the plot:

A suggestion worthy of a lot of praise for the experienced consultant brings the stable male and the end user together into a marriage. The End user finds herself in a routine and loveless alliance. Unbeknownst to her, however, the stable male had fallen in love with her at first sight, for the good user habits, though he remains too shy to tell her.

Male stable, with the help of a novice hacker, metamorphoses himself into an alter ego with more useless features, e.g., dancing, and less stability, he calls Raj and we call the beta male. This development process seems so much like Firefox and Adobe Acrobat Reader. Likewise, Raj is a loud, rude, outspoken and fun-loving product.

Due to some “divine intervention“, the end user gets to try her hand on the beta version and eventually starts feeling that beta’s attributes are more in tune with her user habits. Beta eventually declares his love for her. A torn user resists but finally capitulates. Beta offers to elope, but during the “climax”, user believes she sees a sign of sexual pleasure, as in numerous porno flicks (“Oh, God!” See The Devil’s Dictionary for more on this connotation of the word ‘God’.) telling her that the stable male is still the one for her. [I know how you wish to hear “her climax”, but the movie never openly admits that the user reached a climax. I can say that for sure as I know how the Censor Board in India works.]

Finally, seeing the success of a feature rich beta product, the stable version decides to acquire a few useless traits — dancing in this case.

I thank Aditya Chopra and whoever is the director for giving us this movie, thereby raising the question, “Why do the females (want to) fuck jerks and get married to nice guys,” and giving me an opportunity to “explain”.

Well, Darwin’s “sexual selection” theory has the best explanation. In The Descent of Man‘ (1871), Charles Darwin wrote that natural selection failed to explain human evolution. Instead, he proposed an alternative theory. Species evolve when males and females select each other for certain qualities. He called this sexual selection.

Female mammals, in general, are more selective than males. Females, in most mammal species, do most of the work of producing and raising children. In contrast, fathering offspring is less work, so males aren’t so choosy.

The exertion of some choice on the part of the female seems almost as general a law as the eagerness of the male.”  — Charles Darwin

Females choose males with features that make the males less able to survive. E.g., a peacock’s bright colors make him visible to predators, and his huge tail slows his escapes. His beautiful tail communicates to peahens that he’s an especially fit individual, i.e., he’s so fast that he can escape predators despite his heavy tail. Sexual selection is, in general, the opposite of natural selection.

A peacocks mating call
A peacock's mating call

Natural selection advances via slow environmental change. Natural selection advances evolution only in harsh environments (e.g., predation, climate change). Natural selection produces animals better able to survive-usually smaller, more efficient, and less conspicuous.

In contrast, sexual selection advances with each generation. It produces rapid evolutionary changes and advances evolution in stable environments. Sexual selection produces animals (especially males) less able to survive, with bigger, brighter, or exaggerated features.

Human evolution may have begun when fathers helped raise mothers’ children, giving the children a survival advantage. Among hunter-gatherers today, children without fathers are more than twice as likely to die during childhood. A woman could have sex with a “desirable man” (a.k.a. jerk in most cases), and risk competing women taking him from her. Or she could choose a stable, monogamous relationship with a less-desirable man whom no one other woman wanted. Should you even guess who she’d choose?

Now you know why Taani preferred Suri over Raj when it came down to her own or her offsprings’ survival, or why Nandini chose Vanraj over Sameer.

Sameer and Nandini
Sameer and Nandini

After all these speculations, some of the readers might ask what kind of male I am. To put all your vivid imaginations to rest, I would like to think of myself as an alpha or at most a beta male, for I have a keen interest, not practice, to “put things at their designated places,” and that I know the end user always prefers the beta –more feature rich versions. Whether I’m that or a stable one is not I’m to answer, it is you, the females, who, if at all, which after reading this you don’t, want to try and test me out. 😉

Embarrassment

Traveling from Kanpur to Delhi, in the 3 tier AC coach of Shramshakti Express.

My train of thoughts runs wild, and it goes wilder if my eyes happen to catch a damsel in distress. It is at its extreme if that happens when I find such a dame on a train or a flight. I’m not a very helpful person, but helping (beautiful — to the eyes of the beholder) girls comes to me naturally. So, it was a dream come true when I found one such on my way to Delhi. It was not an accident I met her — accept the fact, you geek! You look for all those 18-36 years old females on the reservation chart of your compartment. So did I. Just that my odds were better that day than yours have ever been. Why not? After all I paid Rs. 300/- extra for a tatkaal (emergency) reservation. I looked up the chart and right above, the side-lower berth that I was alloted, was she. My eyes widened with the glee of a possible “make out” that night.

I had a problem that maddened me and all the way on my 1 hour journey from my institute to the railway station it kept me busy. “She would be a good break from my problems,” I thought.

I boarded the train first. Shramshakti Express leaves Kanpur around midnight, and most of the passengers had already started snoring in their deep slumber. So the lights of the compartment were switched off making it harder to see in the darkness of the night — “darkness of the night” is added just to make the anecdote more gripping, it was a moonlit night otherwise. 😉

There she came — alone as expected, carrying something like double the weight of the luggage than her own. Boarding the coach, she tripped. I rushed to her to lift her cursing myself for why I was not standing at the door to catch her. Helped her with her luggage — if the same happened to a guy, I, most certainly, would have left him to die there itself. I wish I could have helped her in her arduous climb to reach the side-upper berth; you know why! Just then, somebody woke up and lit the compartment. I caught her first glimpse. Let us start at the top: her hair was flowing brown — probably dyed, her eyes big bright, behind those three-piece all-glass spectacles, sharp facial attributes with a little cute nose and silken skin. Let us not go describing below the neck, let us just say that she had “a perfect figure”, and she flaunted it proudly in that figure-hugging “salwaar-kameez”. Call it the tenderness of the moment, when I had a serious doubt on the “myth” part of the mythical stories, for she seemed like an angel. Suddenly the urge of embracing a religion took over my own self. Nothing serious! The urge was just a temporary thing.

And I was back in business: I was in love… again!

I could not sleep. Not for her, rather for my problems. I hope she did not either, although I heard hushed noises of snores and moans time and again. Lying there, somewhere around 4:00 AM, I started thinking about her and me together in a train with nobody else around. I tried my best to shrug those thoughts off, but… I already told you about my wild thoughts. Following is the story of that imagined “encounter”.

Picture this: a local train.

Having troubles? Let me make it easy for you. Imagine Delhi metro rail, although it’d be impossible to find just one person in the metro rail.

I am sitting there reading the newspaper. It is that time of the day when you just want to rest or read or both. Train stops at a station, and there comes a girl. She finds, of all places, the seat right opposite me. Doors get locked. I watch her curiously pretending I am busy reading whatever it is I’m reading. She gently places her belongings down and grabs a book: “Love Story” by Erich Segal. Yes, sometimes I think too cheesy or corny or cheesy corn, but that — or some Austen novel — is what I’ve seen majority of girls reading. I suddenly realize that she’s looking at me. It is in the wide open now, the flirting. The occasional looks change into long stares. Who will break the ice? Who will talk first? Me!

“I don’t know you, do I?” I ask hoping for a conversation.
“No, you don’t,” is her plain reply.
Me: Yeah, right!

[I can’t keep my eyes on her anymore, as I pretend to look at the other side of the empty train. She, probably understands how awkward I’m feeling after that question, and continues…]

“Are we going to say anything else?” is her question.
“Well, I was weighing up the relative merits of embarrassed silence against opening the flood-gates and drowning you in a wave of verbiage,” I say smiling.

[She: stunned!]

“What?!” I ask rhetorically.
“Verbiage?” is her question in a dismay of sorts.
“Well… What can I say? I’m caught in a torrid relationship with the English language.”

[She takes her shoes off and brings her legs together in a position that seems more of Yoga than relaxed.]

“By the sound of it, an abusive relationship,” she retorts.

[Both of us leave subtle smiles for each other to cherish for our lives to come.]

“Ah! My stop,” I say and start walking. With another wide smile, I pun, “It was nice embarrassing myself.”
“It was nice mocking you,” she throws back at me.

I go down to the gate, take a step down thinking, “the girl is beautiful and has a sense of humor …and I felt a spark.” I suddenly turn back and go sit where I was before.

“Wasn’t that your stop?!” [More of a surprise in her voice.]
“Yeah. But I realized it was far too early in the day to go home. Plenty of time to embarrass myself in front of strangers first.” Yet another rhetorical comment comes from me.

[She laughs. I like her laughing. Dimples in cheeks. Reminds me of my first FOSLA (Frustrated One-Sided Love Affair) Priety Zinta. I have a question in mind. I hesitate asking, but finally give in.]

“So… Hey, would you like to go and get a coffee or something, sometime,” comes from me — a question that has been asked over and over by guys around the world to the girls around the world ever since the discovery of coffee as a drink.
With a smiling “Yes, I’d like that,” she approves.

“Okay. G… g… good.”

[I can’t believe her. The joy makes me stammer.]

“I’m glad,” I say in a relaxed hushed voice.
“I’m glad too!” Another approval from her.

I looked outside. Sun was about to rise. Dawn has its own beauty, all blue! “Why can’t my life has the glorifying beauty of the dawn,” I thought. Train started slowing down gradually, coming to a halt at New Delhi Railway Station. I thought of waking her up, but restrained myself. I came down to the platform looking for a good cup of tea. Too bad, you can’t smoke on railway stations these days. As the “chai-waalah” poured the hot tea, I saw through the steam of it, she leaving with a guy with their arms wrapped around each-other’s waist, displaying to the entire world — to my misery — the “love” for each other.

I felt embarrassed again, but then, all great love stories have tragic ends. I took out the phone to call Swap…