Our humourist tells us about two married couples in a train journey, in the weekly column, exclusively for Different Truths.
I was on a Calcutta-bound Rajdhani when a fascinating family drama unfolded across the passage. I was occupying a berth on the passage side of the coach. Opposite me, the four berths were taken by two couples – a pair of young billing-and-cooing newly-weds and a comfortably chattering and graying pair.
I could gather that the senior pair of partners were on their way back home after visiting their son in Delhi, while the junior ones were going to their hometown on a vacation.
Lulled by the soothing chatter and contemplating the blissful state of matrimony – I was single then – I was dozing off when a disruption in the flow caught my attention. All was not well with the young love-birds. He had ceased billing and was scowling into a newspaper, occasionally snapping at her in gruff growls. She had stopped cooing and was staring fixedly out of the window, occasionally snapping back in shrill retorts. There was less of the turtle dove and more of snapping turtles in their demeanour.
Why this dramatic transformation? The mystery had to be solved. A bit of judicious eavesdropping made easier by the rising decibels of their snaps and counter-snaps threw light. The issue at stake was their destination.
On their first holiday home after marriage with both sets of parents being in Calcutta or thereabouts, whom should the children visit first? The bride was all for going straight to her place from the station. She argued convenience, sentiment, and agony of long separation. He differed and argued prestige, tradition, and precedent in favour of his own folk in the suburbs.
Her arguments soon gave way to sniffles tending towards sobs thus trumping his arguments. He now suggested that they appeal to the superior experience and wisdom of the couple opposite for a solution to the impasse. She demurred slightly and agreed.
The senior duo, in contrast, seemed all this, while an advertisement for domestic bliss. The perfect contentment, the absolute relaxation in each other’s company – in short, a picture of comfortable matrimony that made me wistfully re-examine my riotous single state.
The question was put to the gentleman and he eagerly took the mantle of the judge and ascertained all details by close questioning. He gave his verdict. “You must visit the place that is closer to the station first” The sweet young thing clapped in victory, but our he-man objected, “Just a minute. Measured with a tap, Konnagar in the suburbs is just as far as Salt Lake. It is the psychological distance that is more,” he quipped. The judge agreed.
The verdict was revised – they should first visit whoever came to receive them at the station. The young lady squealed in a victory. It was her parents who were to receive their darling. Our young man seemed to accept defeat with bad grace, grumbling under his breath. “If my parents had a car and a chauffeur…”
The elder wife, meanwhile, was taking it all in silently but her expression had undergone a change. Her smile grew fixed and then disappeared, a grimace replacing it. Now she stepped in or rather burst out.
“Oh yes, Fine chap; you are to give advice. Remember 30 years back when we were coming to Calcutta for the first time after marriage? Whose house was closer – Ballygunge or your stinking Bandel? Whose parents had come to receive us, mine or yours? Who sent the car? And where did we go?”
The dam had burst. The flood swept all. For the rest of the journey, not a single word was exchanged between our senior citizens. Surprisingly, the juniors appeared to have made their peace but things could not have been worse across the aisle.
Years later, when I married, my parents and in-laws were separated by an ocean…
Photos from the Internet
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Soumya Mukherjee is an alumnus of St Stephens College and Delhi School of Economics. He earns his daily bread by working for a PSU Insurance company, and lectures for peanuts. His other passions, family, friends, films, travel, food, trekking, wildlife, music, theater, and occasionally, writing. He has been published in many national newspapers of repute. He has published his first novel, Memories, a novella, hopefully, the first of his many books. He blogs as well.