This has nothing to do with penis envy.
Oh well, there is an occasional twinge when I spot men enter the pool in tiny swimming trunks despite paunches that stick out a mile long and without any notion of how ridiculous they look. Or, when I see a man bark orders to a plumber who will heed it no questions asked, because all men believe that all men have a plumbing gene right next to the one that makes them leave toilet seats up and allows them to walk past a kitchen sink full of dishes without a twitch. For most parts, I do not suffer for the fact that women lack penises. Except when I think that this is the only organ that allows them a wife.
The other day someone pointed out to me a newspaper edit column where a young man waxed eloquent about why it didn’t bother him one bit that his wife didn’t make hot phulkas for him. They had paid help to do that. So he didn’t think he needed his wife with a full and rewarding career to make him his hot phulkas. Good for you, old chap, I thought.
But has anyone asked him, the generous husband who so doesn’t need hot phulkas, and other such new age men who don’t need wives to merely slave over them, about what is it wives like that really want? Paid help is all very well but you know wives whether they sell bus tickets or are head honchitas of MNCs must know a qualm or two when they get home and have to slip into a role of wifey.
Paid help will make hot phulkas but will not gauge if that evening your soul cries for bhaturas instead or a quick stir fry and a glass of white wine. Wives know that almost instinctively. Paid help would have made your beds and left a dry bathroom floor but only a wife will light a candle smelling of oranges so you feel all your frazzled nerve endings calm….
One evening, a male friend texted me that he had ‘chaka ada’* for tea. Another friend tells me of the grooming kit his wife keeps replenished for him after every trip. Little bits of information keep rolling in. Of good wives and their good doings accomplished without a second thought. There are no flourishes but a quiet reining in of life, home and small comforts that make a difference.
In most cases, and as many wives with fulfilling careers will tell you, one so longs for these things to be dealt with. Instead of which we do it ourselves. For most of us have a wifey gene right next to the one that makes us pick dirty towels off the floor, cringe at the sight of dead flowers in a vase and instinctively let us know when our lords and husbands would rather eat a quiche instead of a hot phulka.
So when I come home after days of travel, and despite the fact all is in place and hot phulkas are on the table, for a moment, I yearn for a wife. Who will allow me a transition period to kick-start my slumbering wife gene.
And I wouldn’t, of course, protest if she unpacked my bag, stocked up my grooming kit, poured me a drink or even a cup of tea and filled me in on goings on – the avocados that were ready to be plucked have been harvested, the maid’s demand for a hike quashed, the gas cylinders booked, the son’s erratic comings and goings addressed, and my blouses picked from the tailor’s.
The thing about wives (or most wives)
is that they do all of these naturally and without rancor. Husbands and their needs become top priority. To paid help you are always an employer. And that make a difference.
Nope, I never feel any penis envy especially when I see men spray walls like skunks but when it comes to being able to have a wife, I suffer. How I suffer….
*Chaka Ada – traditional Kerala tea time snack made of rice flour, jaggery, coconut and steamed in a banana leaf. Chaka or jackfruit preserve is an embellishment, for the preparation of which in this time and age, you either need an industrious mother or a stay at home wife to ensure that the paid help cook it to the right consistency
Anita Nair is the bestselling author of The Better Man, Ladies Coupe, Mistress and Lessons in Forgetting. Her books have been translated into over 30 languages around the world. Her new novel Cut Like Wound will be published in September 2012.