Tuesday, July 8, 2008

On being alone, and more!

Those ten days came and went- WHOOOOOSH.........

The SRE left on the Saturday night with the requisite, expected dramatics- a very important document was not in his laptop bag. He remembered taking all the extra stuff out of the bag before leaving his office, and had obviously left that document in the office. The car had been called a little early, so after having dinner he left, went to the office, picked up the document and proceeded to the airport. Calls up, confirms that the document is now with him, and then has the cheek to tell me that I wouldn't have packed his cell-phone charger, would I?

(Nasty man, casting aspersions upon his highly organised full-time assistant, moi). It is in the side pocket of the laptop bag. Check and make sure. I haven't taken it out, so it's there if you haven't dumped it somewhere.

It was.

After all this khit pit, we bade each other a fond farewell, with instructions issued to the SRE to call me from Milan.

He had left a copy of his itinerary with me, just so that I'd know where he was, and when. I am rather challenged when it comes to time zones, but I gratefully accepted the document and put it away carefully. (There had been this one distressing episode some years ago- the SRE was away in Mumbai, and I tried calling him in the morning. In my house, we can even do international wake-up calls if required- this was a very routine, national one. The cell phone kept ringing. And ringing. Several times. At a respectable wake-up time. Scratch me and I'm as neurotic and anxious about my husband as any other Bhartiya nari. I was worried, seriously worried. All kinds of unpleasant thoughts were having a field day. I knew which hotel he was in , but didn't have a number.
Called up the older son, who advised me to use Googleji. Who gave me a number, which I dialled.
And they had never heard of the man, and no, he wasn't staying with them. But they had another branch, of which they kindly gave me the number, and a sleepy SRE was thankfully located. His damn phone was in his blazer pocket in the wardrobe. Bah. After this we do try to have alternate numbers for the man. For the sake of my sanity).

Well, Sunday passed by happily enough. I could hog all the Sunday papers, for a start.
And didn't have to rescue random sections of various papers, usually from underneath my significant other! It was only in the evening, when I expected him to call, that I got a little perturbed. When I tried his phone, it was switched off. Tried a few times, told myself not to worry, and slept somewhat restlessly. Decided to check his itinerary and call the hotel in the morning. Looked around, couldn't find it in the junk on the computer table and our dressing table, decided to look properly in the morning.

Mornings have a sameness- the milk man will come and wake you up whensoever he chooses, or ring the bell when you are busy in the bathroom. Tough if you are the only person on the premises! Mornings mean doorbells: car-cleaner, maid, press-wallah, the boy who scrubs the bathrooms to a shine, the driver! That's a lot of part-time assistance. (And the house can still be a mess- but I digress). Mornings mean baths, bed-making, breakfast, not necessarily in that order. Mornings mean no time to worry about non-phoning husbands. Well, not much- just a dash of worry to temper the long standing family policy of no news being good news.

It had rained all night on Sunday. Which meant that our lane was flooded. I called up the driver, and told him not to come- I would call him if I needed him to come. (Yes, the driver had inherited my old mobile phone- such a blessing).

All morning I search for the itinerary. Properly. Worry about it. Hunt seriously, with full attention, thinking it may have dematerialised in the way most documents pretend to do in our house. I can't find it. Neither does the man call. I even write a note to my husband's secretary, asking her to send me another copy. I'm about to send it off, when I finally find the damn itinerary, in, of all places, my handbag. To my chagrin, I find that there is only one city with the hotel number on it, in Pittsburgh, where he is reaching a few days later. The rest is merely flight details. Bah.

The SRE finally called on Monday afternoon- the much maligned cell-phone charger had taken umbrage or got damaged somehow and refused to work, and so he was incommunicado. His colleagues apparently had the latest cell phones, the chargers of which are not compatible with his older model. The spouse was alive and well, and now I could get on with my life with a free mind!

My entire household was in a strange kind of mode- the maid has been needing to get her roof repaired for a long time. Three days of leave were sanctioned during the week. Since I'm still eating very light food, basically a pressure cooker and a bowl or two were all that needed to be washed every day! And I could exercise the option of being as clean or messy as I chose to be.
I was expecting my aunt and uncle over the weekend, and so I managed to clear out some cupboard space for them. I also planned a minor colour scheme change for the sitting room, which I tackled slowly while the maid was away! I'm admittedly sneaky- she would have protested if she'd seen me fight with the bolster covers. From being cream and beige and maroon, the room became cream and blue. But the old blue curtains looked very dull and faded, so I decided not to put them up. The cream and blue room would just have to have a few maroon highlights to match the curtains that were already there.

There were also books, blogs and mails to read, and of course phone calls to make- to American hotels in Pittsburgh and Amarillo where the staff and I could barely comprehend each other's accents over the phone. The SRE finally bought a charger for the horrendous sounding sum of thirty dollars. Phew. (I digress- it is such a joy to be able to make international calls sitting at home, and not going broke either. When we were just married and the SRE was away in the US for some months, it was blue aerogrammes that I would wait for so eagerly. And each call he made from the States cost a small fortune).

Evenings I caught up on films that I'd been meaning to watch for a long time. I saw and loved "Khuda Kay Liye". I also saw "No Smoking", which Chandni recommended very highly. It was not an easy movie to watch, and yet was interesting and disturbing and quite Kafka-esque! I'd also seen "Anwar", which has the haunting song "Maula mere Maula", and disturbs with its vision of modern Indian life, its politics and human frailty. (One jarring note was the cop whose wife was dying. Surely a guy is able to take compassionate leave, and/ or arrange for someone to be with his wife and daughter in his absence).

Unexpected bonuses. A call from a dear outstation family member who was unable to proceed beyond Kolkata due to the railway lines being flooded, and who was staying elsewhere, but with whom I could spend a day full of fun. That was lovely, A. After some shopping in Gariahat, we went to Kewpie's for lunch, my very first meal out since I fell ill, where I somewhat nervously partook of daal and rice, while A most appreciatively relished Bengali cuisine in a charming old world ambience. A visit to Crossword, and I was able to pick up Gouri Dange's excellent book, 3 Zakia Mansion, which the Mad Momma has blogged about here.

This was already Thursday, the third maidless day! And though I was pleasantly exhausted after the day out with A, I had to read Gouri's book late into the night since I could not put it down before finishing it. And then picked it up in the morning and started re-reading it, slowly.
The driver had asked for Friday off, which was fine, since I needed him around on Sunday, the day my aunt and uncle were coming to town. So I had a nice, peaceful Friday with the maid clearing up the mess and neither need or facility to go anywhere.

On Saturday I thought it would be prudent to buy some vegetables and fruit which can be consumed by people not on a low-fibre diet i.e my aunt and uncle. Also picked up a chocolate fudge cake and some groceries for the guests to come. Some of us Kolkata bloggers are hoping that our favourite mommy blogger and her family will be able to meet us on Sunday- so quite a few fingers are crossed. Sue calls, says that she and Vicky will come over for a while anyway.
The phone signal isn't very clear, so I assume that they are bringing The Bhablet, and I baby-proof the drawing room and locate the toys I keep for visiting infants. However, the young Bhablet has a heavily booked social calendar of his own, so Sue, Vicky and I enjoy a pleasant conversational evening without the young charmer. I decide to leave the room baby-proofed in anticipation of the next day's visitors.
Sunday morning dawns bright and clear. The Mad Momma and family will be coming over in the evening. I convey the good news to Sue and Eve's Lungs (EL). The day is running away at breakneck speed! I arrange for some tea-time snacks. Post lunch, I send the driver to the airport to receive my uncle and aunt.
Sue, Vicky and the delightful Bhablet come first, and while Vicky has a comfortable snooze on the sofa, the Bhablet and I have an enjoyable game with some wooden napkin rings and a basket, chatting all the while with Sue. EL and her daughter are next, and then, voila, the Mad family arrives. The Bhablet shows a distinct territorial streak, since he is the child most familiar with my house. He and the Brat potter around the house, while the Bean, in a glamorous ghaghra-choli, prefers to be near her parents. At one point toys rain down from my bedroom balcony, and the driver is phoned to rescue them.
There is utter and delightful chaos when my uncle and aunt arrive after a very long journey from the interiors of Assam, so they relax in their room with hot cups of tea and some munchies.
The Mad family are on a tight schedule, so I reluctantly remind them of the time, and we all bid them a fond farewell. Sue and Vicky and EL and her teenager clear up the mess, while I sit and recuperate. The Bhablet wanders around rather triumphantly, basking in our undivided attention once more. I've had a grand time, but my body knows that it's still convalescent.
More farewells, and then I'm sitting with my feet up.
My aunt and uncle have rested, bathed and changed, and are looking forward to home style cooking after a fortnight's travel across several kinds of terrain and weather conditions. Since they stayed here with my parents while we were travelling abroad last year, they are very much at home. My aunt quickly makes some spicy khichdi, while I have some bland potato stew.

I have a wonderful time with them till they leave on Tuesday evening. I help my uncle start a blog. We watch Jab We Met on Monday night, and they both enjoy it so much that we pick up another CD for them to take home. Let me tell you that my uncle will be seventy-five years old this October, my aunt is a few years younger, and they are both really young at heart and fun to be with, as well as being wise and eminently sensible. Terrific role models to have.

The SRE returned late on Tuesday night. The ten days had flown past, barring the initial hiccups till he had called. God was very kind to me in giving me so much bonus companionship during those few days. None of the out-of-town visitors had planned to come while he was away, it just so happened. Being alone at home was not bad at all, but that's only because it was for a limited period. But I'd rather have a messy bathroom, wet towels on the bed and shoes and newspapers all over the place, and have the man around! Any day.......

And there's been another big bonus- our youngest child is now in college in Kolkata!
Although he stays in the hostel, we look forward to weekends with a youngster at home. I am so thankful for this, especially as he is the child who had to stay in the school hostel since he was fourteen, thanks to the SRE's frequent changes of location.

Ah, I subsequently had a week, an entire week of Internet withdrawal, as the underground cable was damaged some where. And that was painful: I experienced major withdrawal symptoms, fruitlessly nagged the service provider. I am only thankful that it didn't happen while I was supposedly "Home Alone!"


Unknown said...

Oh we really did enjoy ourselves that Sunday Dipali . And what a bonus to have your son with you - where is he studying ? BTW - what did the SRE bring back for you ??

dipali said...

He's at NUJS.
The SRE was under very strict instructions not to buy anything at all for me, and I'm pleased to say that he was, for once, very obedient:)!I'm avoiding chocolates and have a good collection of perfume already.

Anonymous said...

Good luck to your son ..My brother was at NUJS too just graduated last year & he had a ball :) !

Choxbox said...

sounds like you had a busy yet relaxing time!

Anonymous said...

What would husbands do without their packing assistants? My theory is that,left to themselves, they would forget even their razors..

dipali said...

@anonymous: Thanks. I don't know about having a ball, but he certainly has been playing football:)
@choxbox: It was fun!
@lekhni: Razors! Mine would probably forget to take himself if that was possible:)

Anonymous said...

Glad to see you're better. That sounded absolutely hectic.

dipali said...

@mumbaigirl: There was lots of quiet time and rest time and dozing off whenever I needed to, apart from the last three days. A lack of schedule even for a few days was most liberating!

Savani said...

alone but hardly lonely :) you have a packed social calender too :) BG and I are in the same phone situation. I worry a LOT. So we have a deal - he calle when he wakes up and before he goes to bed. no matter where he is or I am. otherwise he gets in trouble :)

Vrijilesh Rai said...

Seems u had a good time, esp after ur illness n all.. its always good to have people around oneself.. cheers!

Preeti Aghalayam aka kbpm said...

this was such a fun read! glad to hear your days were so fun-filled and manageable. i erratically have random fears when the husband is travelling (which is pretty much every other day). but last night i surprised myself by falling asleep before he called from wherever-he-was. thankfully i am not obliged to pack his bags, since he knows i would really crib that he uses too many beauty products :-) :-).

Banno said...

totally agree. better to have wet towels and scattered newspapers, if it means the man is around. but you had a great time when home alone. good for you.

Anonymous said...

see? dint we tell ya? it wont be that bad!looks like u were a real busy bee... must have been exhausting and fun at the same time

dipali said...

@dottie: My guy has a huge health history which makes not worrying totally abnormal:) I most sincerely believe that with all our connectivity etc., there will be situations where one cannot communicate, and we therefore revert to the 'worry like mad' default setting!
@vrij: yes, it was lovely having people around, but it was also lovely not having to deal with any other resident's needs/expectations for a few days!
@kbpm: Oh, this time I hadn't packed at all- the charger had been there from a trip to Durgapur, and I hadn't unpacked it. But, and this is a good one, two evenings prior to departure he examines his wardrobe and most mournfully decides that he needs new shirts.
Which I promise to buy the next day, and I do. Then on Friday evening we realise that he will be meeting his sister, his niece, and an old friend and his family, so gifts are required. So on Saturday I exhaust myself doing all this- but of course I didn't pack for him!( I never know what clothes he wants- practically all his shirts are light blue- how on earth do I know which particular light blue shirt he will want to wear?)
He doesn't use any beauty products so packing shaving gear isn't a problem.
I tell myself that I'm no longer fearful- when I was younger I was far more anxious about everything,
but being out of touch for too long isn't comfortable for me.

dipali said...

@banno:Home together is great, though in our house it is often physical presence and mental absence! But home alone was fun, too. And with all that time on my hands I didn't do very much of what I'd planned to do. Next time:)

Preeti Aghalayam aka kbpm said...

exactly on the blue shirts. and he is picky about them.. how? why? durgapur is another of a million places i long and ache to visit. :(

dipali said...

@churningthewordmill: I know, you were all most encouraging. It wouldn't have been such fun if the broadband had conked out then, though!
@kbpm: My younger son was busy sniggering at his father's wardrobe, and keeps threatening to reform it entirely. Why do you want to visit Durgapur? I'm most intrigued.

Unknown said...

We had already spoken about this, but was a different joy to read about it. Glad you had fun. And now a new post is overdue.

Preeti Aghalayam aka kbpm said...

dipali, some friends of mine were from durgapur. in college. whenever it rained, one of them would start sighing melodramatically and say, oh in durgapur its so beautiful in the rains. i have always kept that picture in my head about it. of course it should be of interest to me because of the steel plant and the engg college (but it is not!)

Rohini said...

That sounds like a really fun time... and your uncle is pretty rocking for getting started on blogging at the age of 75!

Anonymous said...

LOL, Dipali, this is like reading what would happen if my Mom and I merged into one person! Also, you're totally sweet on that man you married - awww! :D

Neera said...

was so looking forward to read about what your home alone days were like ..a delightful read :) as dottie said ..alone but not at all lonely.
Good to know that you felt energetic enough to attend to all the visiting friends and family. Hope you are getting better by the day.

And I am delighted that your youngest son is going to be so close to you now ..Congratulations!! :)

Itchingtowrite said...

ideal!! u make m want to send the hubby & kids away for a few days
post pics of the new rooms

dipali said...

@karmickids: Yes, it was fun, and a new post is finally up:)
@kbpm: Rural Bengal is beautiful- truly Sonar Bangla- golden Bengal- very verdant, fertile, lots of lakes and rivulets and rivers. Durgapur per se I don't love all that much as the spouse keeps disappearing there.It has, like most other cities, also grown a few shopping malls(:
@rohini: Though Chacha wanted to start a blog, he was wondering if he'd have the time to post:)
@amrita: Thanks. He is a poppet:)
@itchingtowrite: great idea! Home alone is fun. Will try and be less lazy about pics:)

Anonymous said...

how nice!!!!

I want to be in cal too :(

dipali said...

@chandu: You are always welcome!

Mampi said...

One hell of a great post. Loved that you enjoyed. The style, the choice of words, the humour, all was simply amazing.
I keep returning again and again. Such is the addiction of your writing.

dipali said...

@mampi: You are too kind, Mampi. I'm glad you enjoy my posts.

Sue said...

You do live. :)