“He is going to live like a pig”, said my mother. One would have thought that I actually liked to wallow in filth. I like living in neat surroundings just as much as any other person. The problem was my mother expected me to actually do something to keep my surroundings clean! I defy anyone to say that they honestly enjoyed the process of cleaning up their surroundings. Why, if my mother had actually enjoyed the process, she should have been grateful to me for the opportunity to clean up my room rather than sniping at me about it! The current occasion for sniping arose because I was going to Delhi for my first job and would, perforce, be living alone.
“All bachelors live like pigs”, said my aunt in my support. One of those things that I want to understand is why is it that aunts are more understanding than mothers? My own mother is equally as indulgent with her nephews and nieces. Mom says that it is because aunts don’t have to live with the results of their nephews’ or nieces’ misdoings and can afford to be indulgent. (In her own tart words, “She doesn’t have to clean up after you, does she?”) I think that it is quite likely that they set standards too high for their own children. The truth may well be somewhere in-between.
‘Well! He will probably set a record in it”, said my mom. Meaning that pigs could take my correspondence course in rendering their sties filthy, I suppose!
“About the only thing he will ever set a record in”, chimed in my sister.
I have a personal theory about sisters. They are probably sent to the world in order to ensure that their brothers have nothing further to fear from Hell. Unless, during your sojourn in Hell, while you are pleasantly frying in a vat of boiling oil and looking forward to comfortably curling up in your bed of red-hot nails, you find your sister taking up lodgings in the adjoining vat of boiling oil. Then, indeed, may you throw up your deep-fried hands and say, like Cain, “My punishment is more than I can bear!” Actually, I suppose that she did love me and, if I ever fell sick, she would have been as nurturing as you would want her to be but, if you think that I was inclined to falling sick merely to see this nurturing side of her, you must consider turning in your brain for a better model.
Where was I? Ah! Just proceeding towards Delhi, right! I might as well pass over the initial days of settling in, finding a place to stay and all that. Fascinating though I am, it is maybe too early in our acquaintance for you to be interested in my complete unabridged autobiography. Since we are passing over a lot many days let us pass on to one month after I had settled in my house.
Whether I had settled in can be debated but a lot of things had settled quite nicely in. An inch-thick layer of dust had settled in on the floors, a huge colony of spiders had settled in cosily in their webs and my clothing had settled in all over the place. You could not walk around in the house without leaving footprints in the sands (of Time, I am tempted to say!), could not sit anywhere without having to excavate the seat from a pile of dirty clothing and could hardly look at a wall without seeing cobwebs hanging down like curtains! Pigs would have turned their noses up at my room and galloped away to their clean sties!
Nor could I take refuge in the lazy man’s excuse of being able to find anything, when I wanted it, only because of the disorder. The least little requirement turned into a huge treasure hunt and, as in the treasure hunt, the last place searched is the one that yielded the treasure. With the periodic rearrangement that such searches caused, I daresay a chess grandmaster could not undertake to remember where every single thing could be found at any point in time. After all, those chaps merely have to remember and project the positions of 32 pieces in a neat geometric grid of 64 and where you are not even allowed to stack one piece over the other in a single square! Dead Easy!
If there is one thing I hate above all else, it is proving my mother correct in one of her caustic comments. Nothing else could have motivated me to set upon the sort of whirlwind activity that I put in for the next four hours. Who is that hobbling, stooped and pathetic figure stumbling towards his bed in a presentable room? Who else but yours truly feeling aches and pains in muscles that he didn’t know that God had given him? With regard to those muscles my only ardent wish was that they would just go away and come back after they had healed.
I never truly realized what a problem this cleaning up could turn out to be. The dratted thing just doesn’t stay done! You think you have finished it and, within the week, you see you have it to do all over again! I kept all the windows closed and suffocated inside in order to keep the dust out for longer. The damn thing simply seemed to materialize inside by telekinesis. I tried wearing out one set of clothes before shifting to the other, despite the marked repulsive effect I created on other people. I developed rashes in mentionable and unmentionable places putting that idea to death.
My worst wrath was reserved for the spiders. The dratted things just would not stop spinning. Here they were in a land full of people who were a sterling example of ‘If at first you don’t succeed, just give up’ and they would just not cease spinning the example that they were spinning for Robert Bruce.
One day my wrath broke all bounds and I decided on a slaughter to put World War II to shame. What was that wonderful phrase of Saddam’s – ‘Mother of all battles’? Well, it was to be the mother of all battles between me and the spiders. Arming myself with a pairs of slippers, I started chasing the spiders. One thing was conclusively proved that day. A spider on eight legs can scuttle faster, more nimbly and to more inaccessible places than a mere human could hope to cope with. After a couple of hours of incessant war, I stopped to count the score.
1. A pair of slippers in tatters
2. A broken mirror
3. One leg off a stool
4. A barked knee
5. Two scratched fore-arms
6. A bump on the back of the head, while chasing a spider under the dining table.
7. Not one single solitary spider-head to mount on my trophy-wall (On second thoughts, I would have spider heads on all my walls in no time, so not much of a loss!)
I sat back and reassessed my priorities.
Come right in! Never mind the dust carpet! Delivered by the one courier boy who operates everywhere – Land or Sea! Oh! Those grey-black wall-hangings and curtains? Spun by the best spinners in the world – the Arachnidae! Throw those jeans and tees to one side and sit down! Ah! That is the book that I had half-finished last week and have been hunting for ever since! What? Cigarette butts! So that is where Ritesh dumped the ash-tray! You would prefer going to the nearest bar? Let me see..where was the wallet, last I saw it? Your treat! Great! Always knew laziness would pay off one day!!
Disclaimer: This is not entirely autobiographical. I leave it to you to decide on which parts are and which are not. But you better agree that I am fascinating!!