I didn’t know it thirteen-odd years ago when I contemplated getting married to Amit and decided It wouldn’t be all that bad a thing to do, but apparently marriage involves coming to grips with all sorts of things, not the least of which is various bouts of temporary insanity in one’s better half.
There have already been several such episodes to contend with that I can recall offhand. There was the conviction that the two of us could manage our careers and still do ALL the household work between us without needing any domestic help of any sort. We started busting that myth five years ago and have gone from strength to strength in that area. There was the insistence that all the cooking for two people could be done in less than half a litre of oil per month, and that a kilo of salt should last us for the rest of our natural lives. (Yeah, I was laughing out loud at the time, too.) There was the philosophy that we should eat two non-vegetarian meals every day, followed by the philosophy that we should convert to vegetarianism (and teetotaler-ism to boot!). There was the uncontrollable urge to buy a huge, gleaming, spanking new, sexy car, only to keep it parked in the garage day after day because Bangalore roads are too broken and messed up for a beauty like that (and it’s not even an Audi, only a Honda Civic). There was the extramarital affair with the plumber, which I’ve complained about at great length earlier and which my darling husband has often threatened to repeat. There was the adamant refusal to shave or go for a haircut for months on end, which resulted in thick, free-flowing locks that made my better half look like some kind of sham holy-man. (How big a sham that would be – he’s a confirmed atheist!)
And others, which are now lost in the sands of time.
Needless to say, though I’ve necessarily had to endure most of these episodes with my customary fortitude, I have done my utmost to distance myself from both the implementation as well as the underlying philosophy. Imagine – me, avoid alcohol and turn vegetarian!? I’ve only managed to endure one month of such unnecessary and traumatic abstinence once in my entire adult life and then I was quite starved by the end of that month. And as for cars – I bought the biggest one I could in my budget, I’ve driven it mercilessly and ruthlessly for a little over a year, and I’ve acquired enough battle scars to show for it. Keep it parked at home covered in six inches of dust and take a bus to work? Are you crazy???
My no longer “better” half’s latest manifestation of mental imbalance is to do with garbage. He has been avidly collecting all our food scraps for the past two-and-a-half months and storing them in a large, three-tiered compost pot in a veranda just next to our living room. We keep the door firmly closed, so mostly the wonderful aromas don’t make it into the house, but that doesn’t hold for the maggots. If I find less than half a dozen of them crawling around next to our shoe rack (we don’t actually have a shoe rack, but I mean the place where the shoe rack would be if we had one) then I can count myself lucky. At their worst, we’ve had infestations that must have numbered over a hundred individuals in a period of 24 hours. And if you’re thinking that maggots give birth to maggots, so killing off (or at least sterilizing) some of them will stem the tide, let me disillusion you. Black soldier flies lay eggs that turn into maggots. And black soldier flies love decomposing garbage. (it’s amazing the variety of useless information you can get from 30 seconds spent on the Internet.)
To add to the décor of the veranda, we also have a nice little brown bat that likes to hang itself out to dry under the tiles of that veranda’s ceiling. Its droppings make a nice little mosaic pattern on the veranda’s floor, much to our landlord’s alarm. I did another 30 seconds of research on the Net and found that bats can be expected to live for anything from 10-30 years (depending on the species; I couldn’t determine the species of our bat in those 30 seconds). Charming – so there’s no hope of it dying in the next couple of weeks. And it doesn’t seem to eat black soldier flies. Or maggots. Useless.
Anyhow, after collecting garbage and sweeping up maggots for a little over two months, my darling husband spent the weekend making love to his compost pot. He thinks it’s a blooming miracle; I think it’s just one of many natural processes and it’s fairly gross, and why must it be given pride of place right outside my living room? On Saturday, this poor, besotted man sat down on the guano-covered veranda floor to spend a few hours with his latest passion. He sieved the garbage, separating whole chicken bones out of the coffee-powder-ish compost, and then sat for an hour or two just letting the powdery compost run through his fingers, a goofy smile on his face and a strange, dreamy look in his eyes. When the kids came to see what he was up to, he made them fondle the compost as well! (Supriya, are you reading this???) What’s worse, when we went for our friend V’s birthday party on Saturday, he took him a sample of compost rolled up in a newspaper as a birthday gift! (Other people brought flowers…)
This compost mess didn’t stop with the compost, however. Amit also managed to spot a “natural” clothes-washing soap at the compost-pot shop. It was a bag of what looked like dried and very crumbly apricots, but which was actually a seed of a tree and is commonly known as soap nut. A friend identified it for us as what is known as “Ritha” in Hindi (or something like it). Instead of using this to just wash clothes, as instructed, Amit removed all other forms of cleaning solutions and bars from the house and replaced it with the solution made from boiling this nut – for washing clothes, dishes, hands, face, body, and hair. And anything else you’d want to wash.
Although not much convinced about this solution to dirt and germs, I agreed to try. The most disconcerting thing about this “soap” is that it doesn’t lather. On dishes it doesn’t remove the oil and grease. On hands it has no discernible effect. Likewise on clothes. I refused to use it while bathing and dug out an old bar of bath soap for me and the kids; but I did try to shampoo with it and found that it left my hair looking dank and feeling stiff, as though it hadn’t been washed for a couple of weeks. I persisted for more than ten days, but when I found my hair falling out in handfuls, I quickly discontinued and returned to the cocktail of chemicals that my hair is used to.
Despite all my protests, however, Amit insisted on using this soap-substitute to shampoo the kids’ hair yesterday. Yesterday, after a long time, I’d oiled their hair nicely with coconut oil. Obviously, coconut oil + soap nut = more coconut oil. The girls have gone off to school with oily hair plastered to their skulls and pulled into two tight pigtails apiece – looking like traditional Indian “good girls”. Ugh. I’ll have to shampoo them with Johnson’s baby shampoo tonight to fix this. Sigh.
My litany of complaints does not end here, though. I’ve not started on the fruit flies yet. Fruit flies, in case you haven’t met them personally, are these tiny flying things that look like infant mosquitoes. They don’t buzz and I don’t think they bite, but they irritate the hell out of me. I equate them with dirty and unhygienic places, probably because they love squishy and rotting fruit. Ugh. Over the years, I’ve learned to keep fruit flies at bay by putting all raw fruit and veg into the fridge – and that includes onions, potatoes, bananas, and other improbable stuff. I also try not to keep dirty dishes in the kitchen unwashed for more than half an hour.
I’ve been largely successful at not harbouring too many fruit flies, but when Amit’s father visited us in September, we had vast quantities of vegetables lying around on the kitchen counter all day long attracting all the fruit flies in the neighbourhood. I’ve not managed to completely eradicate them since. In the past few days, though, the fruit fly population has really exploded and I was becoming really rattled by them. Another 30 seconds on the Net disclosed the reason – they like fruit juice. Our new soap-substitute – saponin, soap nut, Ritha, or whatever you like to call it – is essentially fruit juice. Using it in the kitchen and all the bathrooms is like setting out a buffet for all the fruit flies in the neighbourhood and their extended family. The fruit juice appears to be here to stay (not that I’m a fan, but who’s asking me) so yesterday morning, I took out the cockroach-killer spray and – after removing the dishes – sprayed the kitchen sink, which seems to be the most popular hangout for the blasted fruit flies. An hour later, Amit woke up, smelt the insecticide and went ballistic. Apparently, the sight of all those poor little fruit flies lying dead in the sink was really tragic. Seriously? I mean, come on – they’re fruit flies! Do they even have a central nervous system. (Besides, isn’t this some kind of hypocrisy coming from a confirmed carnivore?)
Anyway, given the fruit fly situation and my life partner’s sensitivity to the sanctity of all life, no matter how repellent, I dare not even think along the lines of trying to get rid of that brown bat that isn’t doing anything about eating the black soldier flies that lay the eggs that turn into maggots that crawl all over our shoe rack and give me nightmares on a daily basis (waking nightmares, if you know what I mean).
Yes, I agreed to stand by him through thick and thin and all that, but isn’t this just a little too thick???