My husband came whistling down the stairs, taking them two at a time.
“Isn’t it nice to look and feel young again,dear?” he remarked.
I said ‘yes’ indifferently, without lifting my head from the best seller I was absorbed in.
“Why don’t you also try?” he asked in the same happy vein.
“Try what?” I asked quite disinterestedly as I raced to finish the novel.
“Then why did you say ‘yes’ without listening to me?” He sounded accusing.
Sensing that the poor man was upset, I forced myself to look up and see what he wanted me to try. For a minute I thought it wasn’t my husband standing before me; there was a total stranger with a weird sense of fashion and a peculiar sartorial taste.
His receding salt-and-pepper hairline, which gave him a distinguished look, was now replaced by a jet black wig accentuating the wrinkle or two on his fair face. The striped orange and white T-shirt was tucked in baggy pants of a lighter shade of the same colour, bringing his ‘centre forward’ into greater prominence than the loose bush shirt he normally wore. His white shoes were meant to team with the trendy clothes.
“Have you finished your scrutiny?” he asked eagerly, expecting me to compliment him on the transformation. But noticing that I still looked aghast, he asked plaintively, “Don’t you think your husband looks more handsome and much younger?”
“You look atrocious and that’s an understatement,” I answered bluntly.
Thinking that I was joking, he asked me again, “You mean I really don’t look handsome and young in these clothes?” and pulled in his ‘centre forward’, as he stretched to his full height of five feel eight.
You can’t go about with your tummy tucked in like that! People would think something is wrong with you,” I said trying to suppress my laughter.
“You women are all the same, always critical of whatever we say or do,” he muttered under his breath.
“By the way,” I went on, “what is all this talk suddenly about looking young and handsome? What’s got into you? I hope you are in your right senses.”
“That I am, only all wives are averse to change. What’s wrong in trying to look modern and fashionable? Why don’t you do something about your greying hair and stop wearing all those old fashioned saris which make you look years older,” he spluttered angrily.
I thought his behaviour too was undergoing a transformation along with his appearance. Which further puzzled me.
“What’s come over you. dear? I always thought it would be nice to age gracefully when one reached senior citizenhood,” I explained, trying to put some sense into the man.
“You women always talk of ageing, true to the saying, ‘A woman counts her years when there is nothing else to count’.”
“Not ‘a woman counts’, The proverb is, ‘You count your years when there is nothing else to count’,” I corrected him.
That only made him angrier. “She has better taste than you do,” he snorted, emphasising the ‘she’.
“Who did you say had better taste than I?” I demanded, quite shocked at his words.
“Try to guess,” he smirked softly.
Just then our college-going son breezed in with a friend in tow, I did not know whether to laugh or admonish him when he exclaimed, “Dad, I thought you told me you bought those clothes for me at the new showroom the other day.”
His father laughed in embarrassment. “My boy. I just wanted to surprise you all. I don’t think they look too bad on me, do you?” he said, looking querulously at the three of us.
‘Yes, Dad, but your ‘centre forward’…” my son’s voice trailed away.
“Just you wait and see,” his father snapped back. And the next day. he announced, “I’m on a diet from today”.
I’m still trying to work out a menu drastic enough.
N Meera Raghavendra Rao