“Hum saale bas ek hygiene factor hain, inki lives mein! (We fools, we are just a hygiene factor in their lives!)“ Rohan griped, brushing his hand over the balding patch on his head for the umpteenth time, making me wonder if his constant attention to that patch was making it grow faster.
Rohan is a close friend of mine. We’ve known each other for near about twenty years now. When we had first met, we were two gawky teenagers…or at least I was. He was my senior by three years, and he was studying management, I had just started B. Tech. As we both were away from home, and our homes were in the NCR, we became friends. And then he did something that none of my friends or family had done ever before. He joined the Police Force as a DSP (Deputy Superintendent of Police.) The news took us all by a storm. Who would’ve thought that the reedy boy who’d spend his days gawking at girls, hoping that one day he’d find that evasive dollop of courage and say hello to one of them, would become a police officer, and even get married. But he had, and we had learned to accept him in his new avatar.
It was that very same Rohan Dahiya who was driving his Scorpio that night and griping. His lean tall frame and his tanned face made me a bit envious of him, but then I looked at that balding patch and smirked. I still had a fuller head of hair – no matter if I were about 4 inches shorter and going a little flabby in the middle.
“Kyon, sahi baat hai na, yaar? (What do you say? Don’t you agree with me, Pal?)” he asked, and I was jettisoned out of my unhealthy contemplation of our differences.
“Hygiene factor? But why? Is everything fine at home?” I ventured to ask. It was unusual for Rohan to get philosophical…
“Haan yaar! When we are at home, we might as well be a vase or a piece of furniture – we seldom get any attention; and when we are late in returning from work or have to work on weekends, they complain, they whine, they gripe, they pine and repine, they snivel, sob, whimper, howl and yowl!”
It was heartening to discover that he had finally been spending some time away from criminals and other police officers, and was keeping the company of a thesaurus – and yet, I wanted to get to the root of the issue.
“Isn’t it good that your wife leaves you alone when you are at home?” I asked.
He turned and gave me the eye.
“Well. At least I don’t think that she treats me like I were a hygiene factor,” I tried my hand at circumlocution.
“You don’t get ignored,” he asked.
“Bhabhi ji doesn’t send you to the couch, when you come in late?”
“No…take left from here.” I told him. We were going to dine at my house that night. Surreptitiously, I checked my watch. It was 10:00 PM, already. The last I had spoken to wifey was at 8:30, and I had told her that we’d be home at 9:00 and that she should lay out the dinner.
We climbed the steps, and rang the bell.
I rang the bell again.
I did what the delivery boys do (Read “The Dumb Cell Packs the Doorbell off!” on Page 17). I called her cellphone.
She picked up after a few rings. Her voice sounds sleepy. I must’ve woken her up. Definitely not a nice thing to do.
“I’m sorry…” I began.
“Use your spare key to get in. Dinner is on the table. If anything has gone cold, please heat it up.” she said, and the line went dead.
I followed her instructions. We had dinner, talked for a while, then Rohan left.
We didn’t talk about the hygiene factor this whole week, and I have a feeling that we won’t talk about it again for a very long time.
Bhabhi Ji: Technically, a brother’s wife. In our relationship-oriented society, it’s also a respectful way of addressing a friend’s wife.
Food for thought: Women always call everyone, the electrician, the plumber, the rickshaw walla, the shop-keeper, the cobbler…Bhayya (brother.) Why don’t men extend the same love to other men, and call them bhayya? What’s sauce for the goose should be sauce for the gander…kyon ji?