Monday, October 22, 2018

The Complaint

That day, five huge hundred-year-old trees fell in different parts of the city; incidentally, the same parts were flooded the previous night after a light shower; the Mayor assured the people that the filth and garbage blocking canals had nothing to do with the flood or the trees; the price of fuel and onions touched new highs; health services were put on red alert to deal with a viral disease that’s killed scores; an uncle (age 40) raped his niece (age 4); a lady killed her parents and two kids to have more time with her lover, the lover and the lady’s husband absconded from the city; a song’s video featuring the seductive pout of a starlet went viral with a million hits; and, the media protested about the State not allowing some news to be news.
An incident in this category of news happened close to the city-centre, in a congested but quiet middle-class ghetto. In a narrow by-lane, with three houses in that cul-de-sac, the action took place in the house on the left. The two-storeyed house on the seven-cent plot with a jackfruit tree and two coconut trees in front had seen better days. The compound wall and the interlocking tiles in front were green with algae, the courtyard strewn with leaves of the jackfruit tree. Only the gate had received fresh paint in recent years and even that was rusty. It was not neglect or penury to be blamed. Its main occupants, a man in his late eighties who has been in intensive care half a dozen times in half that many years and his wife a decade younger barely managing to keep everything from falling apart, had only that much time and energy.
Around half past ten that morning, they had visitors. Mrs Das and two colleagues opened the gate and walked up to the open front door. The old man, seated in an armchair in the drawing room, remained immersed in a magazine.
Mrs Das pressed the house-bell thrice before shouting at the old man, “Can’t you hear me?”
The wife came from the kitchen, looking flustered, wiping her hands on her old saree. “I am sorry. He does not hear well,” she apologized.
“I am from the Women’s Initiative.” Mrs Das ‘looked official’; a stout lady with a big belly, about fifty-five, her cotton saree crisp and all perfect lines, serious eyes stared over big-frame spectacles, hair pulled back in a bun, not a strand out of place. She waved a sheet of paper and asked, “Did you send this to our Director?” They entered without invitation and sat on a sofa.
The old man realized there were visitors. He turned towards the ladies and smiled.
He was a handsome man once, a quick-tempered one too, now more frustrated with his deafness than with his failing health. His breathing was laboured; hands and legs trembled with early Parkinson’s; needed a hand when he stepped out but otherwise quite independent. His wife was short and slim, pleasant, soft-spoken and preferred to be busy. “That’s congenital, my family is like that, always walking around,” she used to say. He might seem the dominant one but it was a well-balanced relationship.
“What is it? Who are they?” the old man asked his wife.
She ignored him. “What is it?” she asked Mrs Das.
“A complaint against one of our workers,” Mrs Das said.
“We have not complained.”
“Then, how did the Director get this e-mail? It is from your husband’s e-mail account, if I am not mistaken.”
“He has not sent it.”
Mrs Das turned towards the old man. “Did you write this?”
“What?” he asked.
“We write what we want to say to him,” the wife suggested.
Mrs Das frowned, picked up a newspaper lying on a coffee-table and scribbled her question on the margin. She handed that and the printout of the e-mail to the man.
He took time to study both and then said, “Yes.”
“But you told me you had not sent it,” his wife said. The old man looked at her confused. She took the newspaper, borrowed the pen from Mrs Das and scribbled.
“I did not send it,” he said after reading his wife’s statement.
“What?” Mrs Das protested.
He seemed to understand her. “I wrote it and saved the file in the computer. I did not send it. What use?”
“Then, who sent it? Is there someone else using your computer?” Mrs Das asked.
“It’s actually our son’s computer,” the elderly lady said.
“Is he here?”
“He is upstairs.”
“Please call him.”
“He is working.”
“What does he do?”
“I don’t know. He is working.”
“Please call him.”
The elderly lady reluctantly went to the stairs and pressed a switch. A bell rang on the second floor and a door opened.
“What, Ma?”
“There’s someone here. Can you come downstairs?” the mother said.
A middle-aged man, unshaven, a little overweight, freshly-bathed and already sweating, came to the drawing room. He wore an old t-shirt and track pants. In his case, it was neglect. The crow’s-feet by his weary eyes seemed to be a leftover of the genial nature that face was accustomed to before swapping places with quiet anger or desperation. He used to say, “I am all grey, with a memory of sweetness and a sharp tang of something squeezed till death”.
Mrs Das gave the earlier introduction before asking, “Did you send your father’s complaint?”
“Why would I?”
“Then, who did?”
“How would I know?”
Mrs Das sighed, shrugged as if to say she was washing her hands off the case and stared at the three.
“Let me explain the case. Then, you might co-operate,” she said. “This e-mail says that one of our workers Sudha, an area community leader, was your domestic help and that she, what’s the word you use, scooted, yes, scooted with fifty thousand. Did she steal it from you? No. You gave it to her as zero-interest loan in good faith, yes, in good faith indeed. Let me ask you. Do you have proof? Some receipt…any record of bank transfer…no?  I didn’t think so. On top of it, you claim that she feigned a suicide attempt to scoot…suicide to scoot.”
“Are you calling us liars?” the son asked.
“You don’t have to raise your voice. I can hear,” Mrs Das said. “We took your complaint very seriously. We talked to Sudha. After a lot of coaxing, she managed to tell us that all she got from this family was abuse.”
“Abuse…? Oh yes, we should have given her that.”
“Mind your words, sir. Yes, abuse, that too physical abuse,” Mrs Das paused, “sexual abuse! It was because of that she…scooted.”
“Just out of curiosity…when was she abused?” he asked.
“Before she left,” she replied.
“Is she accusing him…this frail old man…of sexually abusing her…?”
“We have heard of worse about frail old men,” Mrs Das said. “What about you?” She paused. “Do you whistle, sir?”
“What’s that got to do with this? Of course I whistle.”
“She said that it started with someone harassing her constantly with whistling and such.”
“I whistle at birds.”
“Birds…birds, indeed!” Mrs Das snorted.
“Look…I want that report of her…accusations!”
“We can get all the details you want. She is still terribly traumatised.”
“I have been out of town, traveling, the last three months. Got back and found them struggling without a maid, and robbed of fifty thousand. In any other place, that…she would have been in jail by now.”
“In any other place, she would not have been abused,” Mrs Das snapped. “As I said, we still have to get all the details from her. We can check if the abuse happened when you were out of town or when you were in town.”
The father looked intently at one speaker and the next, trying hard to make out what was going on. The mother sat down, her head in her hands. The son leaned against the wall. He took out his mobile, searched for a number in the contacts list, cursed, then went to a cupboard and took out an old diary. He flipped through the pages, found what he was looking for and dialled a number. He moved to a bedroom on the ground floor and spoke softly. Mrs Das signalled to her colleagues and they stepped out. Standing in the courtyard, she too made a phone-call. All of them returned to the drawing room after the calls.
“Who did you call?” Mrs Das asked.
“Police,” the son replied. “My cousin…he is a Deputy Superintendent.”
“Do you really want to take this down that route?” she asked.
That was around eleven. Mrs Das asked for something to drink. The mother made tea for the visitors, and served that along with digestive biscuits. They did not speak.
A police jeep arrived around quarter to twelve. The son and Mrs Das, along with her colleagues, met the big burly man in uniform in the courtyard. He introduced himself as Sub-Inspector Ramesh.
“DySp told me to check on the situation,” he said.
“He told me he would come,” the son said.
“He is tied up with more important stuff. What’s happening here?”
Mrs Das smiled. She briefed the policeman about the complaint.
The policeman placed a hand on the son’s shoulder and said, “Let’s talk.” They moved towards the jeep.
“You should settle this,” SI Ramesh said.
“Give them something and make them go.”
“No way….”
“Even the DySp suggested that.”
A brown van came to the spot then, parked behind the police jeep. There were five men in that. It was followed by two on a motorbike. One of them told the men in the van to stay put. He, medium height early forties wearing well-ironed white shirt and white dhoti, approached SI Ramesh.
“I am Councillor Santosh,” he said.
“Sir, what was the need for you to come? You could have called me,” the policeman said.
“Ah! These men…” the Councillor tilted his head towards the men in the van. “They came to me slightly agitated.”
“Who are they?”
“They belong to the Drivers Collective.”
“What did these people do to drivers?” the policeman asked.
“One of them is the husband of the poor lady involved in this sad case,” the politician explained.
The policeman sighed, looked at the son.
“Mrs Das called me to…control the husband and his friends,” the politician continued.
“Is he close to you?” the policeman asked.
“Everyone is close to me, no?” the politician said with a smile.
“Sir, I was telling them to settle,” SI Ramesh said, pointing at the son.
“I too would advise that,” Councillor Santosh said. He turned to the son. “Are you the one who sent that complaint?”
“No,” the son said.
“Then, who did?”
“We don’t know.”
“Doesn’t matter…very stupid thing to do,” the politician said.
The policeman nodded.
By that time, around twelve, people had gathered in the street and in every compound. They stood at a safe distance. A car came slowly through the crowd and stopped behind the bike and the van. The by-lane was totally blocked. The five men in the van got out. Three men stepped out of the car and one approached the house. He too wore white like Councillor Santosh but with a brightly coloured shawl draped on his shoulder to differentiate. They could have been brothers, the same height, build and moustache, even the same look of authority, that of generals with minions to sacrifice.
“Who called you here?” Councillor Santosh asked the new arrival.
“Did you think we wouldn’t be here to defend our own?” the other retorted. He turned towards the son, smiled, gave a reassuring slow nod, and then addressed the policeman, “I am Kadalil Rajappan, the Association’s area secretary.
“Of course, sir, I know,” the policeman said.
“This family is part of the Association.”
“Excuse me, I have to call my superior,” SI Ramesh said and slipped away towards the jeep. He spoke to the DySp. His message was, “Sir, it’s getting political. The Association has also landed.”
“Bloody hell, haven’t you settled it yet?” came the response. “Just diffuse the situation and get out of there.”
“How do I do that?”
“Get my cousin on the phone.”
SI Ramesh flicked his fingers at the son. The latter hurried towards him. “DySp wants to talk to you.” He handed over his mobile.
“When did you get involved with the Association?” the DySp barked at his cousin.
“I am not involved with them,” the son replied. “The first time I have seen these guys, I swear.”
“Your parents…?”
“They must have been tricked into joining. You know my father. He is dead against them.”
They paused for a while as if the last utterance summed up the situation.
“Who informed them? Why are they there?” the DySp asked.
“I really don’t know. First the complaint and now this,” the son said. “Someone’s hacking into our lives.”
 “That is the least of your troubles,” the DySp said. “Look, settle this quickly.”
“Money, what else…?”
“How much…?”
“One might do, I think…given all those groups.”
“One what…?”
“Hundred thousand, what else…?”
“One…one…” the son kept on muttering.
“Don’t act dumb…you’ve put me in a big mess. Get it from somewhere and give it to the SI. He will do the needful.”
“Should I give him something too?”
“That’s up to you. What’s that commotion out there? Give the phone to the SI.”
The SI received the phone and said, “Sir, it’s started.”
“Bloody hell…” He barked some orders to his subordinate who wondered how he would follow any order in that situation.
Within that courtyard, two groups faced each other. Councillor Santhosh and Kadilil Rajappan did not raise their voice but they spoke clearly and forcefully. When they paused, their supporters raised a chorus of slogans in support. One side spoke of class prejudice and abuse against the vulnerable. The other talked about years of injustice and step-motherly treatment their group suffered from the ones in power. Both claimed to be patriots, the only ones defending the borders, the true keepers of freedom and heritage. Both touched on history, from the earliest invaders to more recent riots, from betrayals to acts of oppression. There were no open threats. They avoided any mention of religion and caste. It seemed like they had some tacit understanding of how to conduct the turf war.
The policemen stood near the jeep. The son stood alone. His parents leaned against the front door, the mother in tears, the father dazed. The SI tried to talk to the politicians but he was shooed away. Around half past one, they must have felt hungry.
It took a while for the vehicles to reverse and get out of that by-lane.
The son asked the SI, “Sir, will they be back?”
The policeman shrugged. The jeep hurried away from the scene.
A few neighbours dropped in to get the details they had not managed to fathom. They retreated to their houses, locked their gates and doors as if to guard themselves against some rampaging mob or plague.
The son tried to make his parents eat something. The father lay on his bed. The mother kept fidgeting in the kitchen. The son retreated to his room upstairs and sat in front of his computer but did not switch it on.
Around eight that night, they sat to have a dinner of rice gruel.
There was a loud bang and the sound of sparks. Something had tripped the power line. The lights went out. The son went to the front and opened the door. The whole area was in darkness. Just for a while.
A Molotov cocktail exploded on the courtyard a few meters from the son. Inside, the mother shrieked with fright. The father, with his head down, slurped and continued with his dinner. At the door, the son fell back stunned. Three men raced towards him. He was hacked 37 times. They used what is called ‘country-made swords’, machetes modified with protrusions and jagged edges to pulverize and damage flesh and bones. Post-mortem investigations discovered that he had no defensive wounds, the first blow had killed him or he saw no point in complaining. Another group arrived at the scene. They threw ‘country-bombs’ at the first group. A few hit the house. The two groups left after a brief skirmish, dragging their injured away into the night.
A dark shroud and an eerie silence settled over that battlefield. The police turned up at the scene after half an hour, along with an ambulance. The tally that day, in that quiet neighbourhood: one dead, one unconscious, one clueless.

Friday, October 12, 2018

Twice Bitten Once Shy

Last things first---yes, we fell in love and hope to live happily ever after; no, there are no tricks or twists in the tale[1]. With the end out of the way, let me start at the beginning.
My cousin Paul is responsible for my current predicament[2]. We were rather depressed viewing the Brazil vs. Belgium World Cup match[3].
“I think you will get married soon,” Paul said, between mouthfuls of crisps.
“How so…?” I asked, accepting anything to get my mind off the game.
“The family curse,” he grunted.
That curse has followed every generation of my family: men leading carefree lives suddenly messed it up in middle-age succumbing to matrimony[4].
Paul’s wife, a Belgium supporter, joined in cheerfully, “Do you remember Anita, my cousin…the beautiful one…no? Well, she’s in the market…and she has agreed to meet you…”
“You fixed it up without asking me…?” I complained weakly.
Chetta, it’s time you settled down,” she said. “By the way, she wants to meet you on neutral territory.”
“She doesn’t want parents to be involved till the trade’s settled.”
“Sounds like she knows what she wants.”
“Oh yes, she is terrific.”
I did not cheer when Brazil scored a late-goal.
Paul’s wife decided that she would introduce us at a party at the Club[5]. “That should keep her in good cheer to meet Chetta.
I got there a bit early. A message from Paul’s wife informed me that ‘trfuck sucks’. I guessed that the offender must be traffic. It also said ‘she shud be thr’.
I scanned the crowd. It was mostly well-settled, relaxed families. The few odd ones, like me looked too eager/loud/reserved; observed people too keenly; and, seemed to give every encounter too much meaning. I decided to try a different tack. I took a few deep breaths and urged myself to relax. It had been a while since I tried to be a single ready to mingle.
I spotted a suitable lady seated alone at a table. I went around the target, focused on the food stalls, grabbed a glass of fresh juice and filled a plate with the best of the appetizers. I approached her table and asked if I could sit. Sure, she said. I cracked some weak joke about the food, she laughed politely. She accepted my offer to share the snacks. She had a good appetite. She told me her name. It was not Anita and I assumed that Paul’s wife must have used a pet-name. The lady talked about her family. The details seemed familiar. She then talked about her kids. I tried to remember if Paul or his wife had shared such information[6]. Unnerved but undefeated, I must have gone on with my jokes. Or it must have seemed obvious that I was hitting on her. A man appeared at our table. She introduced him as her husband. Even Paul and his wife would consider that as pertinent information, I thought. I choked on an appetizer, made my excuses and beat retreat leaving an amused couple. Later, I got to know that that lady is a distant cousin. I felt relieved to have kept my folly in the family.
Paul’s wife turned up half an hour later, looking disturbed but determined.
I tried to tell her about my mishit.
Chetta she is not coming,” she interrupted without a smile.
I had expected that punch. “Why?” I asked.
“She has found a guy,” she said.
“She says she wasn’t sure till today.”
“He’s a Bengali in Romania.” She made it sound as if that was a league beyond me.
“I have another one for you, Chetta,” she continued.
“Oh no, you don’t,” I protested.
She brushed that aside and guided me to another lady seated alone at a table.
My first impression of her was that she reminded me of Damien’s nanny in the movie ‘The Omen’, the second nanny, of course, the interesting Mrs Baylock[7].
The second impression was the mutual realization that we were disinterested in each other, almost instantly, quite instinctively[8].
Paul’s wife was not privy to that. She paired us up and left our company to enjoy the party.
We remained together the whole party, discussed movies (including ‘The Omen’) and books (we agreed that Russian literature was best avoided) and travel (she likes hiking and I resting), and a friendship was born[9].
We corresponded frequently, sat together at every party at the Club. We confided in each other about our malignant mid-life crisis---the insecurity and the loneliness that was breaching every barricade built to preserve sanity and happiness. We sought each other’s assistance in finding company. Together, we compiled the checklist for a suitable match. We were excited to be back in the hunt. We soon realized that it was almost like our first attempts (so long back). Almost being the operative word there[10].
The camaraderie forged in the heat of a hunt must be the strongest. I introduced her to my best friend Isaac and she brought her bosom buddy Nikki (actual name Saraswathi) into my life. The four of us met at the Club on double dates. I was surprised to see love (and Isaac) transform Mrs Baylock into an undeniably sexy female[11]. Something and Nikki transformed me too[12].
We were being readied for a bigger surprise which should not have caught us unawares. The excitement and the hectic planning involved in matchmaking must have left our foundation wobbly. The scaffolding around our lives collapsed like a house of cards. We had forgotten the fundamental rule in life: when one gets something one has longed for, never share it. One double date too many had resulted in the pairing of Isaac and Nikki. They not only fell in love, they thought they should share that ‘secret’ with us (and a few others, we learned later). They even admitted having wonderful sex.
We could have taken it on the chin, like kids, and moved on. Instead, we decided to be mature adults, and retaliated. Separately and differently, we attacked on social media.
In my group (which includes Isaac), someone had already started a boy-chat about Isaac’s latest conquest. Every gory detail got pasted on the wall. Even Isaac took part, rather willingly. I did not have to do much. I just kept it alive and kicking rather than let it slip off the guys’ limited attention-span.
Meanwhile, Mrs Baylock contributed to a whisper-campaign in her group (which included Nikki) about supporting Nikki in such distressing times. There was outrage of various types: how could a lady with kids (Nikki) do something like that; a woman owns her sexuality but…; why are guys abusing women. Mrs Baylock defended her bosom buddy and even started some hashtag.
We were feeding stereotypes but it worked. The men kept the issue alive stroking their envious libido and the women refused to let go of another issue of abuse or rights.
There was a bit of overlap between the two groups. The exchange overheated and erupted. Finally, Nikki removed her profile from social media. Isaac did not. We thought that that signalled the end of the matter of the heart. Instead, that trial by fire somehow resulted in the two declaring their love for each other (off social media at first and later on it). They got married.
Our relationship could have ended then. She returned to her old self as Mrs Baylock and I to my-whatever state. We could have carried on with our old lives. But, we were not back to square one.
We had to read the writing on our wall. Even in our fantasies, we weren’t meeting lovely strangers. As for the few acquaintances and friends that remained, it is best not to rock that middle-aged boat. We have only each other[13]. We decided to call it love[14].

[1] No doppelgangers or play on names or multiple personalities/points-of-view, no non-linear timelines, not even madness. If only every story had on its first page a summary. For example, how about crime fiction with the summary:
·         Murdered: the mistress;
·         Murderer: the driver; and,
·         Motive: love and greed (and, to spice it up, an incestuous relationship)?
That would free the writer. The creative exercise could continue without any need to keep the reader happy or eagerly flipping from one cliff-hanger to the next. Is it not sickening when everything in life is done for the benefit of others---even the most selfish acts?

[2] How Paul got his name somehow seems relevant to this three-act play or story or whatever. Paul’s father started his professional life in a factory up North. He lived in a rented room on the terrace of his foreman’s house. He fell in love with that foreman’s daughter. Whether that love was reciprocated or unrequited has remained unclear through the ages. Despite that, it is an irrefutable fact that Paul’s father was chased from that place by a mob incited by the girl’s father. It is also a fact that Paul’s father was nearly castrated as a result of that. History brings in its characteristic murkiness then. In our family’s version, the mob is blamed for that. In a neutral much-whispered version, the blame if any is placed on Paul’s father. How he recovered in the nick of time, from self-castration and from the depression brought on by that and the heartbreak, remains unclear. But, he recovered quickly, that we know. It is usually so in reality even though that goes against the demands of love-lit. He married a girl from his community, found love again and put his much-abused member to good use. Paul’s father wanted to remember his first love through his first child. Since it turned out to be a son, he suggested his old foreman’s name which was Tejpal or Satyapal or some-pal. His wife wisely demurred, softly explained to her thick-headed better-half that that might be misconstrued by the son at a later stage as an act of spite rather than of love. They compromised and agreed on the name Paul. Given such a history, it is hardly surprising that that child would grow up to inflict upon me this play in which the main actor has to endure spite dressed up as love or vice versa.

[3] Fifty six minutes after midnight, sixty seven minutes and twenty one seconds into the game, Belgium was leading 2-0 and the cameraman focused his attention on the forlorn expression of a Brazilian fan.  Paul and I must have looked at each other and seen the same.

[4] For the sake of completeness, let me give a brief history of that curse. A grand-uncle who used to be generous and a darling of the family became the black sheep at the age of forty seven when he married a maid in his employ. A great grand uncle thought he had successfully escaped from the grip of matrimony at the age of nineteen when he ran away from the girl his family had found for him only to be tied down to the same many decades later. For some of the other cursed ones, it was not their first entanglement in marriage or love. Their earlier affairs had had mixed success. Some seemed married to the one they married, some to the one they did not marry. An uncle married for a third time at fifty. His first had died early, the second was neglected and discarded, the third had started as an affair after the first one’s demise and solemnized soon after the second was divorced. All the last late affairs were doubly-cursed with fidelity and virility. All were rewarded with success and stability till death. That was part of the curse’s package deal.

[5] It was either that or the Hanuman Temple. The Club seemed more appropriate for seniors. And, the Temple had its past, or rather, I had a past: former trysts arranged there had not turned out blessed.

[6] In the matrimony business, information deemed significantly relevant changes with age and circumstances. As one approaches middle-age, the only detail that might remain on that list could be marital status.

[7] These ‘associated thoughts’ can be weird. The person might not resemble the famous personality in any way but, subconsciously or not, that aura is created. Every guy would love to have their own Mrs Robinson but rarely meets one outside fantasies. But, they do come across their own Alex of ‘Fatal Attraction’ if they even entertain such fatal dreams. Mrs Baylock must be quite rare, Regan of ‘The Exorcist’ more common. I wonder if I triggered some such thought. Who did she think of when she met me—Peter Sellers’ delightful Bakshi in ‘The Party’ or Mickey Rooney’s awful Mr Yunioshi in ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’? 

[8] “The opposite of love is disinterest not hate.” That is from ‘Goliath’, an absurd B-grade TV-show.

[9] Just as physical (and financial and, to a lesser extent, mental) attraction is important in a love affair, disinterest must be the prerequisite for a beautiful friendship. That disinterest keeps it alive. It took me more than two and a half decades to realize that one of my best friends has another best friend who I despise. It takes just a night together for lovers to know all the important if not relevant stuff. Of course, years might bring out trivial details that could be made important, say, an affair or some simply human but dastardly act.

[10] ’Almost’ is almost an understatement here. While compiling the checklist, we were startled to discover how it was a different ball-game altogether. In fact, we could have picked up the checklist we had the first time we tried love or matrimony and changed every point in that list to its exact opposite. Since the compilation is one of the highlights of our affair, here it is in its full glory, ad nauseum et al.
·         We realized that one’s own pluses and minuses were more important than the prospective target’s. Quite the opposite of how it was the first time. Gone were the bravado and overconfidence. There was willingness to compromise but there was also a deep understanding of one’s own failings. Separate bathrooms (if not bedrooms) were a must, sharing would be a disaster.
·         We found that maturity had greatly reduced the types we rejected. Since we were close to retirement, profession hardly mattered. Even lawyers seemed fine. I was still dead against ladies with pets. I did not want to compete for attention (without any chance of winning). Mrs Baylock thought long and hard. Clean-shaven men, please, she insisted. She did not give reasons.
·         In the looks department, there was a topsy-turvy change: we should think of how the other would have looked in the distant past rather than think of how the other would look in the distant future.
·         The only point that did not need change was: start the new love-life by putting the right foot forward...with proper lies. Tell her she looks lovely. She will tell you she does not mind your profuse sweating.
·         A new point was a danger connected with the middle-age problem of comparing everything with the past. If only we were young and virgin and with nothing to compare. But then, there is old age ahead when there would be only the past.
·         Talking of virgin and such, we touched delicately on the issue of sex. Was it really an issue the second time around? Should we expect any action? What if the guy turned out to be a virgin? We decided to temper enthusiasm with experience. “Yes we can!”---is catchy; “Well we might…”---is better policy. We took the opportunity to remind each other of the basics. It is definitely great fun but it is the after-effect that brings so many ardent practitioners. When it goes well, the day seems so much better; people so less irritable; even mountains seem like mole-hills. And hence the converse: there is no fury worse than that when it does not go well. Of course, most people mature and come to grip with it after oft-repeated instances.  It is not so great when one tends to forget the last due to extended and unintended break. Other instances when it is not so great are when it comes along with: suggestion (‘You could try the gym.”); or humour (“You looked so funny.”); or observation (“Yupp, size matters.”); or confusion (“Are you done, love?”).
·         We found good points too. Especially the one about relatives being a non-issue the second time around. Gone were the illusions and expectations. In that way, it felt almost like a love affair. The two people involved had only themselves to blame.
·         Friends matter even less. The first time, one was made to realize almost immediately the unsuitability of one’s friends. The first arguments of newly-weds are usually of my-friends-are-better type. Both sides tend to forget that most friends were kept for variety’s sake and not with any great deal of thought about loftier matters regarding character and opportunity. The second time, it is easier. The best friends tend to be virtual friends.
·         We were frank with each other. She told me to stop dreaming about romancing a nubile nymphet two generations younger.

[11] A Mrs Baylock turning into an Alex can be quite unsettling even though the female protagonist remains in the genre of femme fatale.

[12] At that point, I had no clue I was trying to be sexy too. Alarm bells would have rung somewhere.

[13] That brought along an ‘associated thought’---the movie ‘The Blue Lagoon’. It could have been worse if the movie had been ‘Titanic’—who Leo who Kate? That would have troubled us.

[14] Literature rarely stresses on this point: love is relative. Now, now, don’t call it a twist in the tale.