Jan 3rd was the third day in January for most people. Of course if you were heavily drunk on the second day of January, this point could be challenged. For me, it was a challenging day. Bear in mind that I had a legitimate excuse. When you hear it, you will be maha ‘impressed’. You may even salute me. 3rd of Jan was my anniversary. Okay, that’s wrong, it should read ‘our anniversary’. That is, me and the wife, who must remain nameless, as Ayesha says she doesn’t like seeing her name in anything written by me. 17 years. Maybe 18 years. Actually I'm quite sure it's 19 years. Whatever they number may be, it is less than 20 years and quite a landmark! After all the initial congratulations mostly aimed only at Ayesha, for reasons that escape me, I started thinking these many years together is quite an achievement, both in govt. and in marriage. So what’s the secret to (let’s put it honestly) surviving marriage? Under pressure from young males from across the country, none over the age of eleven, I've put together my two cents worth (140 paisa), of what makes a marriage sort of succeed. That is to say, not fail completely.
- Dinner twice a week. Since 2001, we have gone out for dinners twice a week. We may have missed the odd one here or there, but as a general rule, we have averaged two dinners a week, outside the home. Just to be clear, I would target Tuesday & Thursday. She would target Monday & Wednesday. Don’t misunderstand. It's not dinner with you and the wife. It's you having dinner outside separately with friends, and her doing the same, on separate days. In fact ‘Together, but separate' is the mantra for marital success.
- Sorry, Please and Thank you. Spouses tend to ask a lot of unnecessary questions. For some, one has the answer, like what is 7 + 15 – 3? Some no one can ever answer, such as, “What was my mother telling you?” The safe bet is to cultivate three running answers for all questions big and small. The magic words are sorry, please and thank you. For instance:
Wife: Did you pay our mobile bills today?
W: Are you gonna pay them later? Do you deserve another chance?
W: This is your last chance, don’t mess up, moron.
Y: Thank you.
Sorry, Please and Thank you. These three friends of yours can bail you out of any situation. And if one is the wrong answer you just go on to the next one.
W: Why are you home so late?
W: Is that alcohol I smell?
W: If this goes on every night, I’ll pack up my bags and leave.
Y: Thank you.
W: What did you say?
- Common interest. Spouses have to find some common interests. The best example ideally would be making fun of relatives. Sadly, one of the things you are required to give up when you enter into a marriage is a sense of humour. This word ‘common interest’ is from the Latin ‘common interest’ which roughly translates into whatever she finds interesting, whether you bloody well like it or not. I’ll cite a personal example. My wife likes carpets. Till I married her in 2001, I had never ever thought about a carpet in my life. Not one thought. Animals? Yes. Women? Plenty. Cricket? All the time. But, carpets? Not once for a single second. I mean, I've crossed them, walked on them, even dropped every conceivable liquid on them, but not for a second I have actually thought about a carpet. All that has changed.
Now when it comes to carpets, I frankly compete with Google.
- The ‘truth’ is subjective. The so called ‘truth’ has to be flexible. Flexibility in honesty is the very cornerstone of marriage. In fact, the ancient Druids of Britain had the phrase embalmed on their bare backs. ‘Flexibility in honesty’. 100% honesty can destroy a marriage. For instance, if the wife asks you ‘Have I put on weight?’ Or ‘How do I look in these jeans?’ You have to tread with caution. You have to lie. Lying is the only option. However, you can’t lie overtly. She can’t know it's a lie, she’s not a fool. The only recorded foolish act she’s done is marrying you. So, the answer to ‘Have I put on weight?’ can’t be ‘No. In fact, you have lost 5 kilos’. But it can be Only in the right places’. And the answer to ‘How do I look in these Jeans?’ should never be ‘Like Alia Bhatt’. For one, Alia Bhatt never wore those jeans. Secondly, you don’t know Alia Bhatt. Also if you were so close to Alia Bhatt (that you have her jeans), would you have married your spouse in the first place? Never mind, don’t answer that.
- Separate toilets. I can’t stress this enough. If there’s one thing a husband and wife can’t share, it is body hair. Oh, and a toilet. Don’t even try to test this theory. It's never happened, and it never will happen. Anthony and Cleopatra broke up over a toilet. Romeo and Juliet’s entire clans went to war over a toilet. As for the Indian epics, er, okay, let’s leave the Indian epics alone for a while. But please invest in separate toilets. If I had to choose one definite top-ranked point in marital success, it would be, unflinchingly, separate toilets. Right from the time Mr. and Mrs. Neanderthal man tried to pee over the same stone, toilet sharing has been an issue. Please don’t tell me you guys are different. Seat up, seat down. Wet toilets, dry ones. Towels, clothes, toothpaste, tooth brush, shaving kit, make up cleanser, powders, gels, the list is endless. The levels of hygiene are and always will be (shall we say) different? If you can’t afford separate toilets, then the option is utilising your shared toilets at different times. With long buffer times between one another.
Friends, Indian countrymen (with or without CAA), this is my gift to you. Marriage is an alliance, much like the BJP and Shiv Sena’s was in Maharashtra. It may or may not work. I may be wrong, but the Shiv Sena-BJP perhaps did not use separate toilets. Just putting this thought out there. Anniversaries don’t just happen automatically. You need to strategise, plan and invest in the theory that less is more. The less time you spend together, the more time the marriage will last. Happy New Year, and wherever it applies, Happy Anniversary.
The writer is a comedian, TV anchor, theatre personality, satirist, podcaster and an author.