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Short Story: Mother, Father and the Child
Mother, Father and the Child
Father has just arrived. He sits on the patio and says – its hot – giving emphasis to the word hot.
"Hey dad! I don't see any hotties around. Damn I’m in a village."
He laughs – a craze burst of laughter – very similar to mine, or should I say I inherited his drawing-other-insane-laughter. "Hey did you listen," dad raises his voice, "what your son says."
Mother has always been erratic. Dad can't predict her temperament how could I. We, father-son, wait for her words. "I don't have ears, only hands.” Her tempo is not undecipherable to the men outside. The voice is laden with anger, but when she joins us in the courtyard, she is smiling. "Had you been a diligent son, by this time I'd have had a daughter-in-law."
"So, what do we do now?" I blurt out.
"Pull up your socks, boy. I'm fed up with men."
Father, me and I smile. We all know she's lying, because she had always said she didn't care about women, not even her mother, but however, craved to be with men. I missed men as a child, as a teenager, and as a young woman – this was her exact statement. She was raised by a single mother, she did not have brothers, and I’m sure she did not have any boyfriends. She was married shortly after being hormonally charged.
If everything had gone according to my parents plans, I would not have remained a bachelor. My father said, "You've completed your university, are working for a reputed firm, already pushing 28, so it is the right time for you to tie a knot." I dilly–dallied, but I'm 30 and can no longer put him off. Only that something is missing in my unique selling proposition. No excuse that I cook up can deter him from his vision of his son getting married.
"I have little money left to pay the cost for a wife's hair perming or mascara or skin toner or stiletto...," I utter as one feeble excuse after another.
"Do you think twenty first century wife is like your mother who depends on her tight-fist hubby for everything?" Mother looks straight into father’s eyes.
"Count yourself lucky, woman! I never thought of abandoning you despite you being uneducated and ill informed and semi skilled and..."
Mother cuts him. "It was you who made my life miserable. I had always wanted to pursue university programs."
I laugh and laugh and laugh. And they are quiet, looking at me serenely. "How could you tout marriage when all you do is nagging?"
Father smiles. "It will never happen to you, son. You both will be educated and understand the other well."
I know mother will surely object, and she does. "You'll be more callous to each other, because you both will have something to give airs. Your education, your earnings, your positions...." Mother is not erudite like father, but when it comes to give opinion or make decision she proves better than her confused hubby.
"Do you want a daughter-in-law for yourself or a wife for your son?" I don't say but I want the answer from mother.
And tactfully her comeback is, “I’ll try to find a daughter-in-law in your spouse." She's right, he is right, but this is not the way I had envisioned welcoming matrimony. However, like a dutiful son, I prepare myself mentally for my upcoming nuptial. They are looking for a girl with caste, nobility and social status, ability for household affairs, behavior, and looks. What am I looking for – aptitude, attitude, education, beauty? And I'm waiting, waiting for wife. But before that I have to have a job. This waiting has now become hectic.
"If you're looking for happily ever after, Australian researchers have a suggestion: Find a partner who shares smoking habits," father says.
"Where on earth did you find that?" Mother seems more interested than me.
“Religion, education levels and alcohol consumption have no effect on marital stability," father continues.
"It’s all here, in The Kathmandu Post." I laugh. Father joins. And mother is lost. "Listen," he starts reading. "The study titled – What's Love Got to Do With it? – found that relationship in which the man was at least 25 at the time the couples got together were likely to last. So were the ones where both partners shared desire to have or not to have children. Couples in which the man was one year younger or up to three years older than woman had less than half the separation risk of couples where the man was nine or more years older." He looks up and winks at me.
I snatch the newspaper and read. "Couples with low household incomes were more likely to split than those with moderate or high incomes. Men who were unemployed had less stable relationships." I wink at him.
"Rubbish," mother asserts.
"Keep your opinion to yourself," father snaps.
"This attitude doesn't work for perfect relationship."
"A VOW woman, father." VOW is her favorite magazine, published 250 miles away in Kathmandu.
Father laughs, but I don't. Mother can endure father but not me.
Men take more risks when stressed – father had been uttering this line all his life - the major risk being the decision to start a family. But he also reiterates taking risky chances will make you somewhat successful. The other day he read newspaper article based on a study conducted in the US. Evolutionarily speaking, it is more beneficial for men to be aggressive in stressful, high-arousal situations when risks and reward are involved. Contrarily, stressed women moderate their behavior and are less likely to make risky choices.
"People living without a partner at midlife have around twice the risk of developing cognitive impairment in later life compared with married people," father says. As a journalist he had always sneaked-peaked into others privacy. You are a kind of voyeur, I said of him, and he always refuted my chagrin saying he was being diligent to his job.
As I wait for my perfect match I say to myself – life is compromise. Looking at my parents' lives, I find, at every turn they had reached a kind of compromise. My Father wanted to marry university graduate, however, bowed to his father's wishes and married my mother, who on the other hand had wanted to study and have a career of her own, but was married when she was still a high school girl. Raised by single mother, my mother did not want to cause her mother headache. In the traditional set-up of rural Nepal, growing daughters always pose a threat to the family reputation.
Even my conception was a compromise on my mother's part – she was 18, trying to carry on with her education privately, and I was conceived to appease her mother and father-in-law on death bead. They had insisted playing with a grandchild was their last wish. Thirty years and two children my parents are moving on. After they married off their daughter they want their first born to walk that road.
I know life is a compromise, but I am sure I will be pleased with whoever my wife will be, because I know she will be a perfect match.