“through the act of living, the discovery of oneself is made concurrently with the discovery of the world around us. . ."

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Eleventh Hour Syndrome

“Are you listening?” The question purportedly directed at P bounced off the front door. “The train leaves in half an hour”. “Told you, I am ready”, replied P, somewhere from the depths of the house. Five minutes of nail biting and wristwatch twisting later, I go in search of her. She is scurrying swiftly from one room to another like a mouse, with a mouthful of hairclips, a dress in one arm, mobile phone in the other, hair at some indefinable stage of coiffure; noticing me, came the cool pronouncement – “All I have to do is to drape on this sari and pack the bag” .

Scenes like this are quite common in our household. I have an obsession, a neurotic fixation, about catching trains and buses. If it is due at say, 1000 hrs, I will be at the station by 0900 hrs. If reserved, I will check the list, walk straight to the compartment, settle down and then, contentedly step down and ogle at people or the racks of periodicals and stroll up and down the platform, shaking my head and clucking tongue at the last minute train catchers, huffing and puffing, suit cases and children trailing at the end of their arms, the corpulent corpora h-e-a-v-i-n-g and groaning. If unreserved, I will be one among the first who vaults into the as the train pulls in. I can’t help it.

Um, you may not know, but Trivandrum Railway station and the main bus stand are about 4 minutes easy walking from where I live. But I make it a point to get ready and be there at the station comfortably early. It has other advantages. For instance, it gives you ample margin of time, in case you’ve forgotten to take/do something.

Now, when it comes to packing for a trip – if it is a long, planned trip to the mountains, I would have packed and repacked at least 5 times before heaving the haversack up on my shoulders. I like it that way. It gives me immense satisfaction to pour over the maps, chalk out the route, establish camping sites, book accommodation, and read up every available fact about the routes and destinations. That I might end up going somewhere else altogether is another matter.

P and I are poles apart in this matter. Whether it is to Alaska or Acapulco that she is going – oh, yes, she will surely reach there intact – by the time she catches her transport, my BP would have shot up a few – whatever is the measure for BP. Like the coming weekend. 2 days holidays, so I decided to visit Attapadi, where the NGO I am part of has an ongoing medicinal plants garden project. I planned the itinerary, booked tickets up and down, all confirmed, pucca. Two days back P exclaimed while at the PC – “Ah, this is a course I would like to attend!”. I went over and saw that the 1-week programme is on Climate change and Carbon Mitigation at – well!, Dehra Dun, up there somewhere below the Himalayas. “Aha, but see, the last date of application was one MONTH ago!” I sympathize. “And the date of commencement is October 4th, next week.” “So what? I will apply anyway”. She immediately sends off an email. Yesterday night a Fax comes – WELCOME! And the show began. Scanning travel agencies for air tickets, discussing trains from New Delhi to Dehra Dun, cheapest flight, this train that train – along with the scare of Ayodhya verdict and its aftermath.

I know. My humble trip to the wild is shelved. I grumble. P takes up the old weapon. “Oh, well, then I won’t go. But it is a very good programme….” I know she has good friends in Dehra Dun. As ever, I relent. I always do. I say – “Yes, it’s a good programme, I can always go to Attappadi some other day…

In spite of our differences on the embarking on journeys, we have always managed to board the ship together. Finally that’s what matters. My deliberateness and her whimsicality – somehow, we strike a balance and hop over.

Compatibility in a relationship is not necessarily based on compatible interests. Like the love for dogs and nature that we share. It depends on how flexible, how accommodative both are. I would not call it sacrifice (I hate that word and its connotations) but giving priority, shifting one’s butt to give the other a little space of their own. It depends on not being selfish, on loving each other, on holding on to each other in the times of cholera. Because nothing is as important as letting the other breathe, live.

P still catches her train by diving in at the last moment. If we are traveling together, we reach reasonably, safely earlier. By myself? Well, I have many things to do if I reach the station one hour before the train starts. Like watching the sparrows’ nests, the mangy dogs, the oh-so-important looking people leaning out of the AC coaches, the tearful parting rituals, drinking apple juice, … just sitting, looking around, happily…


‘What life is this full of care, if we have no time to stand and stare?’

*************** Balachandran V, Trivandrum 29.09.2010


  1. I think i am very much like P . I have had many adventures of jumping into and off trains...

    Hope you have good fun in dehradun.

  2. Interesting post. Well, opposites attract! :)

  3. Living together getting along is least about compatibility but of necessity , isn't that so ?
    Well thought well and good post.

  4. Bals, I forgot to add, " pretty nice picture of the station front

  5. I guess my hubby is lucky that way. I take very little time to dress up. He just has to say let's go, and I pull on my jeans, grab the kids and we hit the road (once I find my breath, I ask "where to?")!

    You're right, compatibility in a relationship is not necessarily based on compatible interests. Marriage is about giving each other room to be themselves and loving them for what they are, not what you expect them to be!

  6. My wife came yesterday for a two weeks stay. At the airport, I couldn't lift and carry her baggage to the car.I told her,at this age,I cant do this,my back is already gone.And what would you do when you go back? I have been telling her the same thing for the last 15 years.

    Whenever we are all set to make the trip and I start the car,already late, she would go back, again open all rooms,look around,take a sip of water,as if that was the purpose of going in, and then come back..say ..sorry.
    When I get that rare opportunity of taking an afternoon nap, I would tell her, I am not on call today, so,no telephone calls.At the first ring,she would pick up the phone and come and shake me up awake..Chetta..this is..

    I have been telling her for the last 15 years to get rid of one of the house maids,because it has become so expensive..No way.

    I tell her not to call her mother on the phone just after she has gone back to her home,and then chat for hours..the telephone bills are soaring.. no effect.
    I have been telling her not to buy any more of those useless Saree, because there is no more space in the cup board,and it is hard earned money..

    We celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary last year.

  7. @Gymnast: There are times when I suspect there is some truth in astrology. You are a Virgo, aren't you? P too! :D

    @Bindu: Opposites attract,yes. But by the time you realise the oppositeness, it would be too late!;)

    @Anil: You hit the truth. Necessity necessitates compatibility! Yes, that looks like some European city. Just behind the photographer,the potholes,the filth, the crowds and the lawless vehicles!

    @Doc: Ha Ha Ha! Oops, hope she is not within hearing! My marriage is only 20 years old - thank God I didn't meet P earlier!

  8. :-) I got reminded of all the do-undo things of me and my husband.

    I am punctual, he is not. I am extra careful, rather obsessively compulsive. He is lax.

    I am finicky with food, he isnt. I am a stickler on every damn thing, he adjusts. I am adventurous, he is a home bird. Yet we get along all the time!!

    Thank you for the post. Beautiful it was.

  9. ah. the good old institution of matrimony... i am still a beginner here.. 5 years seem like ages. and its good to know we are not the only ones with conflicting interests... i remember reading smething like, there shud be enough things in common to share and enough differences to add variety... and guess what i am rading right now/ love and marriage by bill cosby. a hilarious account from his personal life.
    ure post inspires.

  10. @Insignia: Thanks! I was sure it'd strike a chord in a - million homes! :)

    @K: Of course, there is an anticlimax to all this- like Dr Antony said, you will resign to your fate!

  11. Bals,

    I guess it is some 2500 th anniversary of Confuscious's birth,
    to acknowledge his thoughts here is one( I m sure u d know this),

    " If you cannot avoid rape lie back and enjoy it".
    All of us are enjoying in our own way are nt we?


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