All the consultants of our hospital gather every afternoon in the doctor’s lounge and eat lunch together in a convivial atmosphere, without – incredible though it may sound – trying to stab or strangulate each other. We have many fruitful discussions on many important matters such as Kejriwal’s latest U-turn, Modi’s latest speech on the coming achche din, the likelihood of Preity Zinta being able to land a husband for herself, and so on.
An important fact to emerge from these daily discussions is that every single male consultant in our hospital is absolutely petrified of his wife. For instance, our spinal surgeon who has 32 sweet teeth once consumed a kilo of laddoos on the occasion of someone’s birthday, and afterwards literally pleaded with tears in his eyes with the rest of us to help him finish his tiffin. His terror of the stony look his wife would give him on taking home an uneaten tiffin was so great, that we took pity on him and helped him dump his tiffin into the garbage bin.
Whether a consultant’s wife is a doctor, a non-medico professional or a homemaker does not seem to make any difference to the amount of terror she inspires in her husband’s breast (some studies have claimed that men married to gynaecologists are more terrified than the rest of men, but these results are yet to be confirmed by rigorous case-control studies). Each man of us agrees that none of us is man enough to buy even a shoelace without his wife’s approval.
One day though, I was feeling particularly suicidal, and I declared that henceforth I would buy my own stuff for myself. It took 10 minutes for the uproarious laughter to settle down. I remained firm however, and swore a mighty oath that the same day I was going to go to the nearby mall and buy a shirt for myself – without being supervised by my wife. The neurosurgeon said that he hoped that my life insurance premiums had been paid for this year.
Straight after work, I drove to that mall. I’ve always fancied myself in an orange shirt, but my wife believes that I look like a particularly dumb fruit in such a shirt. Committed to be brave, I strode full of purpose to the Arrow store and brought an orange shirt for myself and drove home with it.
About the time we were preparing to retire for the night, I casually said to my wife:
“Uh, I went to the mall today.”
“Oh?” She said, her eyes on her laptop.
“Yeah. And I bought a shirt for myself.” Casually, like it was what an adult man was supposed to do – buy his own stuff.
“Oh?” Her eyes were still on the laptop, but her voice was laced with an ominous tinge.
“Yeah. I thought why bother you for these petty things. It’s foolish of me to drag you around to buy stuff for me. After all, it’s no big deal for an adult man to buy stuff for himself, ain’t it?”
Another ominous “Oh?”, followed by an ominous silence.
Now that I was standing right at the edge of the precipice, I decided to take the plunge.
“Shall I show you the shirt?”
A sweet smile this time. “Of course. My husband’s badge of independence.”
I unpacked the shirt and put it on
“What do you think?”
“Ah! Orange!” The same sweet smile.
“You like it?”
“The important thing is that you like it.” She put away the laptop and lay down in bed.
“You don’t like it?”
“Oh it’s fine.”
“Should I wear it to work tomorrow?”
“Of course. These days patients like their doctors to be attired a little cheerfully”
My heart sank. From the time of the Cro-Magnon man, patients have never liked their doctors to dress cheerfully. People want their doctors to be dignified, dull, grumpy and dressed as conservatively as possible.
“You think it’s a little too bright?” I asked
“No, no. It’s quite okay for you to experiment with your dress.”
“So you approve of the shirt, eh?”
“I thought you had decided to be independent in buying your stuff from now on? Adult men shouldn’t need their wives’ approval.”
The upshot of the whole thing was that I accompanied my wife to the mall the next evening and exchanged that damned orange shirt for a sober white one. And we also bought two suits for her. Needless to say, I was the butt of jokes in our doctors’ lounge for the next week. What the hell. Maybe I should start with the small things first – like starting with buying my underwear for myself