Do taller girls dominate? Are they the ones who call the shots in a family? What happens to a man who happens to be a shortie?
So three times, when I was 8, 12 and 15, I had to call myself back from proposing to my girl at the last minute, as I found to my horror that, I was still growing, and she fully grown, unfurled, expressed. And she had this nasty habit of looking down on me (Back then, I remember, high-heels were not around for boys, and they were useless, I was told, as it would not add to your total height when lying in a bed with a taller wife) while talking. I tried to pay back in the same coin looking down on her but could see her only from knee down. Her eyes belonged to a different league and level.
So it was with much trepidation, I tried one more time. I was then 19. If she still had got that edge over me, I decided to call it a day. Shorter girls were dime a dozen those days.
Once again, I reached my father’s village, checked into the neighbourhood on the pretext of getting a glass of water, gave a slip to her mother who first brought me water, somehow edged up to her, and checked myself against her. Yippee! Taller than my girl by two centimeters! I was trending now! I proposed there and then, and before she understood what that was, got her sign the deal. Happily married a few years later.
So far the picture – woman and her taller husband – looked fine.
As a wife, Divya was considerate: she never grew up further to upset the balance. Still, deep within me there was always an eerie stillness, the same I feel whenever I watch a Spielberg movie like ‘Jaws.’ All this placidity on the surface could be deceiving and deep under something might be emerging (I didn’t know what stopped growing outward could turn inward to flesh itself out into some Herculean strength).
Well, the newlyweds were ardent movie buffs.
One evening as Divya was hanging around in the privacy of our hall, glued to a Kamal Haasan film, she found to her shock, her husband who was standing near her collapsing on to his knees. Had he not thrown his arms around her legs in time he would have fallen on the floor hitting his head, she still shudder thinking about it. Alarmed at the sudden turn of events, poor Divya cried and tried to collect her husband from the ground but for his tight grip around her legs, she couldn’t quite lift him up.
“Ayyo Manu chetta… what’s wrong? What happened?”
No answer from the floor, I was still holding her tightly by her legs.
“Ayyo…Ammaa…Achaa…” Divya screamed, summoning my parents from the ground floor and by the time my folks flew up the stairs I managed to crawl away from the feet of the bride to a nearby dewan. Now panting like hell.
“Mone…what happened?” Amma asked rushing in and throwing a flame of a look in my wife’s direction. Those days my parents living in the ground floor of our home considered me only as a little boy who hadn’t yet grown out of Super Mario, Tintin and Balarama, too young to marry. Perhaps my mother could have imagined the unimaginable seeing me rubbing my heaving chest.
“Kochu cherukkana avan,” she turned to poor Divya.
It happened a couple of times more and just when my family conspired to take me to a doctor, it stopped altogether.
You still wonder what that was, don’t you Divya?
Don’t be angry when I tell you the truth. Don’t be upset. Promise me you won’t look down on me after hearing me out.
Well, if you recall it well, you may pick a pattern from all those events.
Something was happening on the television just before I collapsed down every time, you remember? Yeah. Songs! Dances! I still remember how you used to blush and smile when you saw the hero quite amorously picking his lover off the ground as if she were a little pot of flower and then pirouetting with her. You remember all that?
Honey, what else do you think I was trying to do with you? Only you never knew. You never acknowledged it as your husband’s effort to pick you up and dance around the room carrying you. Just the way Kamal Haasan and Mohanlal were doing with those airy girls.
But you never rose! Not even a millimeter! You stuck to the ground firmly! You could at least have jumped a bit! You didn’t.
Instead you took your husband’s sincerity and romance for bouts of heart attack or seizure, screamed and alerted my parents and almost coerced me to consult a doctor. All for trying to get romantic!
Wasn’t that insult! Was that fair!
I know what you are thinking now Divya. About that arm wrestling on the day after our marriage, eh? Well, you are right, that was also not epilepsy. I was not sick either, sorry.
Freshly married, I thought so foolishly that a woman should be told at the initial stage of marriage itself how strong her man really is, put against her. So in one fateful moment I challenged her for a round of arm wrestling.
“I won’t use much force, I promise you,” I said.
There we were, I lying on the bed, she sitting by me. It all started just the way a breeze wafts from the east. Slowly. Softly. Innocently. Promising a bright and peaceful evening. I was in a playful macho mood, sneering inwardly at the poor woman who had dared to lock horns with a man. I decided not to get too rough on her feminine arm.
“I am so weak. You will win easily,” she cooed like the heroines of soaps I was fond of watching those days.
We began. The slow, soft, innocent breeze I mentioned, swelled into typhoonic proportion before my very eyes (I don’t know why she must suddenly get serious with an innocent game like arm wrestling. I didn’t provoke her. After all I was the man of the house, and she forgot even that). Lying relaxed on the bed until then, I slowly rose and sat straight up. “He he he…” a painful laugh escaped my throat. Then I rose further and sat straight up on my knees in order to rally my whole upper body and threw them all over her arm. Nothing happened. Then I stirred up again to rise on to my legs. I was now pushing Divya’s hand down with all the strength and body parts I could muster. My smile had stopped long ago. Beads of sweat dripped from my chin. The veins on my neck and face now stood like Chinese alphabets in Braille form. O boy, O boy! O boy! What would be my life like as a husband if she wins in the wretched match! My whole body threw itself against a bulwark of an arm, and still couldn’t bend it an inch. This is death to patriarchy! And it starts from my home! O boy!
There is a moment in every man’s life when he could see it coming. I saw it clearly. It was coming straight for me. And you can’t blame a man when he takes extreme measures to evade such destiny catching up with him, can you?
So I told Divya calmly, I was a patient of epilepsy and it was Wednesday and it was due. It worked. While I was celebrating my victory in my own way Divya was busy screaming and summoning my parents up to deal with her husband writhing with fits on the floor.
You think I never had that wish in my life?
But I will never.
NB: All those measurements assure me I am still the stronger. I am plumper and definitely taller than the woman, but still… As they say there could always be an x factor. Maybe my amma was right. I never ate leafy vegetables as a child, and never thought Popeye could be serious with that spinach. Vegetables could have given her the edge. Now I hate vegetables for a different reason.
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