Age is no cage

Our family is very regular when it comes to taking our annual vacation. It’s well-earned, and an absolutely essential break. From each other.
We took it last month. It turned out to be the most beautiful one we’ve had in years. My kids holidayed with their friends. My wife, with hers. And I, with mine.
Sometimes, the best way to bond is not by being with each other, but by being away from each other. Everyone knows that. There’s even a line for that: Familiarity breeds contempt.
But not many know that Contempt has an older and more evil sibling. It’s Familiarity’s lesser known first-born. It’s called Taken-For-Granted. This one is deaf, blind and dangerous. Definitely not mute. It’s a smooth operator and can wreck even the strongest relationships. Take the husband-wife one for example.
Taken-For-Granted is what makes husbands assume that wives want to be treated like women, while wives hope that husbands treat them like girls.
It makes wives assume that men want to be treated like boys, while husbands wonder why wives can’t treat them like mature men.

Husbands assume that what is told to them is what is meant. Wives assume that what they don’t tell is what would be done.
Complicated, I tell you.
Which is why when a wife cuts her finger in the kitchen and yells for help, husbands rush them to the doctor. Whereas what the wife wants is her husband to hold her, comfort her and talk to her about when it happened and how it happened. (Never ask why it happened.) She expects her husband to ask her what she felt when it happened and how she feels now. (Don’t expect words like silly, stupid and foolish in her answers.)

Taken-For-Granted makes husbands assume that wives think like men, and wives to assume that husbands think like women. We forget that we are opposites that have come together.

See how enlightening a break from family can be?

There’s more:

My kids’ get-together
For 36 hours they never took their earphones off. Not even for a bath, because they didn’t have one. They talked with each other through SMSes, shared via Bluetooth and exchanged Apps. They were constantly tweeting and updating on Facebook about how much fun they were having on that trip. 34 updates in 36 hours, like this one: “Hey guess what, I’m at this rocking do. There’s so much happening out here! I’m having a blast!!’

How rocking and happening can it be, if all you are doing is keying in such messages, dude?

Surely, when it comes to pure, uncomplicated fun, I think 2G is better than 1G and 3G. 1G being my dad’s generation, 2G being mine and 3G being my son’s. For 1G, fun was an embarrassment. For 3G, fun is about letting the world know they are having fun. It’s only for the 2G that fun means just that- Fun.

My wife’s get-together
For the first 6 hours, they spoke about their husbands. For the next 30 hours they spoke about other women, including moms-in-law, sisters-in-law, husbands’ friends, colleagues and anyone in their group who dared to take a toilet-break during the get-together.

I’ve noticed one thing. Men talk mostly about women. Women, too, talk mostly about women. The only men women talk about are their husbands. The only women husbands don’t talk about are their wives. In my 50 years’ experience as a man, the only occasions I’ve heard men discuss their wives were when they were building a case for their brewing extra-marital affair or impending divorce.

My get-together
33 years since school is a very very long time to catch up in 36 hours. But we tried. We, a group of 50-year-old classmates, ran into each other at the station and at the resort, yelled, squealed, jumped, hugged, laughed as we recognised one another. During the rest of the stay we did everything we ask our kids not to do.

Truth is, people change very little after school. The bright remain bright. Just that the stupid have caught up now, thanks to Google.
The good-looking remain good-looking…well, almost…okay, let’s say relatively speaking.
The good singers remain good singers. Just that the songs they sing are still from that era. Ours must be the only campfire where they sang old patriotic numbers. Soul stirring. But I’m told that even at Kargil, they don’t sing these anymore.
Clearly, music is where the generation gap is most evident. 1G sings bhajans. 2G sings Subhash Chandra Bose’s songs. 3G sings Bose DK.
Similarly, the organised among us have remained organised. Just a wee bit forgetful now. The whole trip was planned to the last detail by one of them. Travel tickets, resort reservation letters and payment receipts were all meticulously arranged, punched and filed. Just that the file was left behind on the train.
“No problem, we’ll manage!” we said in unison, true to the spirit of friendship.
Had his wife been around, it would have been, “How irresponsible can you be? Can’t take care of a simple file?”

That’s the problem with our families and this society. They expect us to always be responsible and correct. I wonder why we need to be so burdened. Why should the old always be mature, wise, knowledgeable, serious and boring? Age is no cage. Neither are responsibilities handcuffs.
At least, we believe so. And behaved so.

In the chair-car that we travelled in, a balding 50-year-old male classmate of ours yelled to another 50-year-old greying female classmate at the other end of the compartment, “Nagai ellam konduvanthiya? Odi pollama?”
(Translated: Have you brought along all your Gold? Shall we elope?)
You must have seen the look on the other passengers’ faces!
I’ve never understood why people appreciate precocious kids behaving like adults, but can’t tolerate jolly adults behaving like kids.

Not that we cared.

We went trekking too. They said it would take two hours uphill. After an hour, one of us said, “The rest of the hill looks pretty much the same. So why bother?”
Made sense. So we turned around. On our way down we saw a group of teenagers going all the way up. Stupid teens! Their gizmos can be no substitute to our wisdom.

While I say that, don’t take us to be a bunch of technologically challenged oldies. Far from it.
When we divided ourselves into two batches and decided to meet at a picturesque location, we didn’t bother to discuss routes. After all, we had smart phones, Google Maps and location’s co-ordinates.
40 minutes later, when we lost each other and were going around in circles, we didn’t panic. Age teaches you what to do. We asked a shepherd boy the way to the location. He pointed to the right. So we went left. In 2 minutes, we found the others. They were waiting there. At the wrong location.

Back with family, at home
My kids took 40 seconds to tell their story. My wife took an hour. I took 2 days. And still had so much more to say that I wrote this post.
At the end of the marathon narration, my wife asked me, “But I didn’t understand why Radha took the cow to the loo.”
That’s the problem with school nicknames. Like school jokes, anecdotes, secrets and tales, these too don’t make sense to the outside world.
“Oh no!” I explained, “That’s Radha taking Kausalya to meet Srinivasalu!”

“Ah!” she said, “Poor Radha. She seems to have done so much on this trip! No?”
She waited to see if I would correct her.
I smiled, and let it pass.
I wasn’t going to tell her that Radha was Radhakrishna Murthy. A he, not a she.

It’s good to bring alive a new childhood infatuation into our marriage. Even if it’s an imagined one. It helps to keep Familiarity’s evil first-born, Taken-for-Granted, out of our marriage.

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4 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by leon on July 4, 2011 at 6:43 pm

    As a member of the school zone friends who made that trip, i just enjoyed it as much i enjoyed readingthe post on it. It can be amazing – just not to bother when you falter – much easier than with wives or own kids.

    Growing up was easy and now living up that is double the pleasure.

    I am eagerly awaiting your next post.

    Reply

    • Childhood is no fun for children. It gets appreciated only when we become adults. Must say, thanks to you all I felt like a school kid all over again. Especially because you guys gave me this homework of writing this post. Like in school, I’ve been late in submitting it 🙂

      Reply

  2. Posted by kumar ganesan on July 15, 2011 at 2:20 pm

    Hey Ramesh,

    I caught up with my classmates after a good 15 years last month. A 3G wonder called Facebook got us face-to-face finally. At the end of the 3rd round of drinks we were all behaving like 2Gs, discussing all the pranks, the brags.
    No one bothered sweating on small stuff like who’s making how-much or what position they hold. Can completely relate to your vacation.

    BTW welcome back after a long wait. You need to post more often.

    Kumar

    Reply

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