Sanyam- the one who tolerates

He was born almost 18 years ago. A bundle of joy for the young parents. At a small nursing home in Kolkata. A nursing home that was ill equipped to handle complications.

Sleeping baby
Sleeping baby

The parents were married just 7 months previously. They had never heard about birth control. Like a lot of families in the conservative community she was married as soon as she completed graduation, where her parents only worried about a good ख़ानदान  for the daughter, she was married into a भरा- पूरा business family. She was 22, naive and had a big joint family around her. Sounds like bliss. She had a mom in law, a ज़ेठानी and other family members to look after her through the phase of pregnancy. It did not matter that she did not get enough rest, she had high blood pressure, she had no voice to ask for any special treatment just because she was carrying, and she did not even have a room to call her own. All the family babies were born in the neighborhood nursing home. What was good enough for others was good for her too.

Coming back to the present. Sanyam is almost an adult today. He is a fun-loving boy who is always super excited. Life has given him so much. He loves to talk and how he talks! He has to be literally shut up as he starts getting on your nerves. He has a great sense of humor, a quick repartee for anything you say. He needs company, anyone will do, my mom, who barely speaks also works for him, he is still not sure why she doesn’t communicate though and keeps trying. Her assistant will also do, currently he is learning Marathi from her. Already fluent in Hindi and Bangla, Has a Facebook account and regularly posts pictures and likes what his friends post. Loves celebrating all festivals, wearing new clothes, travelling. Of course he hates studies, like everyone else his age. Idyllic life.

But he is different from other boys his age. He does not go to a school, he does not play and run or read books or watch TV. At a very early age, his parents knew something was wrong. He did not move on his own, he did not turn, he did not crawl. When he was a year and a half, he was diagnosed with cerebral palsy. The lack of oxygen at the nursing home turned out to be a curse for him. Delivery in 7 months, complications and lack of oxygen, need to rush to a bigger hospital with a life support system, which took almost an hour in Kolkata traffic. It was enough to damage a lot of his nerves and change his life and that of others around him forever.

Growing up with the pain
Growing up with the pain

Life is all about physiotherapists for this young man. From a toddler to a teenager, he has been rushed from one doctor to another, from one temple to another, with hope and prayers, from Mumbai to Hyderabad to Delhi. His mother is a fighter. She has found the money and the guts, to take him, carry him wherever needed, up and down 4 floors in Mumbai, whenever she thought there was some hope. From the quack in Delhi who pulled his legs till he screamed, to the biggest surgeon in India, she took him everywhere, in the hope that he would walk one day. That he would be able to do his basic tasks on his own.

Enjoying the simple gifts
Enjoying the simple gifts
life from a wheelchair
enjoying life from the wheelchair

His optic nerves are damaged beyond repair, he can barely see with a -11 power. His eyeballs are not stable but twinkle behind the heavy glasses. If he stands up, the floor swims before him. His legs are too weak to carry his weight. His back is curved. But his mind is alive. After multiple surgeries, he is able to walk aided with a walker. He can eat on his own. He has a mobile which he uses to listen to the radio. And you should hear him laugh. He always laughs the loudest in the house, unashamedly drooling away, always super excited about the smallest pleasures of life. His ears and nose work overtime to cover up for the weakness of his other organs. He hears you before he sees you and recognizes you by your voice. Every time the doorbell or the phone rings, he pipes up- will someone answer that? He loves to listen to music and sings loudly in his harsh broken voice along with the singers. His favorite TV show is Tarak Mehta which he mostly listens to.

with casts and bed sores
with casts and bed sores

He is also a foodie. Loves to eat Maggi and pizza and all kinds of spicy and tasty food, and his mom indulges him. His favorite pastime is tearing up paper into small bits and pieces which is a good exercise for him as well. His facebook world is a gift from his mother who wants for him for every mother wants for her child. In real life, Cerebral palsy is not as glamorous as Kalki would make you believe. Not when you need to clean him, bathe him and tend to all his basic necessities in life, deal with bed sores and pull his pants down when needed. Not when you don’t know how long you can continue that, he is growing taller and heavier, and you are growing older and frailer. Not when you wanted a life too, and your life turned out to be all about him. With just financial support from family, this gutsy female and her beautiful son duo struggle every day of their lives, with physical and emotional crutches.

learning to walk
learning to walk

The social stigma never goes away. She is still asked- why did you spend so much money on him, he still can’t walk. क्या फ़ायदा हुआ? And she looks away. They never understand or even try to.  She gets sympathetic looks but the world needs her to be the normal wife and बहू to cook and look after her spouse and family as is expected of any well-bred married female in India. She continues to do that and she fights for him and somewhere in the journey, she has lost her youth and naivety.

This is his life
making the best of life

But Sanyam is her strength. His vocal energy and enthusiasm for life is so infectious, he puts ‘Anand’ to shame. Every time she calls out his name, she knows she has to be tolerant, the way he is. Patience is a virtue she has learnt dealing with the struggles. I often wonder what goes on in his mind, behind the happy-go-lucky facade, in that active brain of his. He prays every day, thanking God for the blessings showered on him and is every bit as normal as you and me. Sometimes more so, we worry about a small cut and a headache, I have never heard him complain about his disability or the fact that he is dependent. His mom never made him feel that, just made him feel loved. Sanyam is special.

Celebrating life
Celebrating life

How to tame your darling

This blog is a dummy’s guide to taming the spouse. Three kind of people must read it

1) those who are yet to walk the aisle. Trust me, you can’t do without this Dr. Spock’s tried and tested recipes.

2) those who have been there, done it. You are welcome to add your experiences which I have missed.

3) those who have tried and failed. With this cookbook, you have a much better chance of success.

Disclaimer: not meant for the intolerant ones. Aha, gotcha!

Following is the list of home-grown procedures, tried and having proven successful, which can be utilized at opportune moments and that can really help in the undertaken task of taming the beast. You may imagine that you have a domesticated animal, but that too may lift its hind leg and …What you are actually looking for is a pet with two legs, who can earn, yearn and cook for you.

The most useful method ever tried in the history of lasting marriages are the opening of the tear glands. The bravest of the brave also fear the flash floods and this can be used to advantage at the appropriate moments. E.g., you want your husband to apologize for a mistake he did not commit, or you are losing the fight, open the gate and he will fall all over himself to ask for forgiveness. Another scenario where this is useful is when you have broken his favorite toy, which could be the TV or his mobile or his X-box. And it is not relevant that you did it deliberately because he spends more time with them than with you. Once you bring those innocent tears to your eyes, he will not be in shape to say anything even though he is seething in anger. To err is human, but to not err and say sorry is a husband.

Talking in monosyllables, or absolute silence can be a tactic used when you need something desperately and you know a routine request will be ineffective. Specially if it is pocket-heavy like a diamond bracelet or a all-girls-vacation in the Alps. When a woman does not use words to fight, husbands become wary. Like the hunted, they are aware of something lurking in the shadows, and are unable to deal with the suspense. Uhms and ok, and fine, if said in the right tone can win kingdoms. How do you think the Draupadi’s and Kaikeyi’s of the Mahabharata fame managed to topple empires and twist their spouses around their fingers? Once he is ready to say yes to just about anything, tell him you want the bracelet your arch rival has, and he will buy you a more expensive one. A precautionary note, this needs planning for weeks. A few hours of silence can appear to be golden, only once stretched to limits, does this plan work. Right amount of pressure has to build up for दाल गलाने के लिये।

Mothers are very important in the life of spouses. This specie called man is pre-trained to asking permission before stepping out of the house, before buying anything and generally as they have been taught since their birth; which is a great habit, except with the wrong person. Now weaning that off and taking its place is a tough assignment for the simple creatures called wives and needs strategy. You cannot do it in one shot, be patient, bide your time and prove to him that you can do a better job giving permissions than she does. You can use the monosyllables method or tear gun, but slowly and surely, you have to persuade your spouse to realize he is now a grown up guy and the right thing to do for an adult is to ask your wife whether he can buy a gadget, whether he should mow the lawn or clean the garage. Notice that whether he can watch the T20 finale is not a valid option. Unlearning a mama’s boy to become a जोरू का ग़ुलाम  is a training that spans across years till the day comes when he says- Honey, shall I get the veggies first or vacuum, and you know you have achieved the almost impossible.

Man is an animal that believes that once he had earned the daily bread and butter, he has done his job and can peacefully relax over the weekend. It is critical to make him understand that you need a dish to keep the bread in, a refrigerator to keep the dish in, a matching dishwasher, a 3 bedroom house to keep the refrigerator and dishwasher in and of course the furniture for the bedrooms and hall and accessories to decorate the house and you. So where is the time to relax? And once he has done all this, and sits in the armchair and takes the remote, you need to remind him of the importance of maintenance, so now he need to clean, do the dishes, fix the plumbing and repair the lighting. The way to do it is to play up to his ego where he feels only the man of the house can do these chores and the other mere mortals would botch it up. Keep a list of chores handy for the Saturday’s and Sunday’s and make sure the “meeting the old college friends”  is nowhere on the list. Trust me, husbands can fix every nut, except themselves, which is where we bolt.

The man also has the illusion that he can sometimes take a vacation with his friends alone, or go for that office getaway at the resort. Now the trick here is to make him believe till the last-minute that he can do that, let him book the tickets and dream about it. On the morning of his travel, you have to fall sick. It is up to you whether you have zee headache or simulate fever, or the ladies cramps, but you need to appear very vulnerable and needy and clingy. Never say on the face, that he can’t go. Let him take that decision for himself, that way he has only himself to blame later. Once he has phoned his friends or colleagues to say he can not make it. You have to have a teary face and recite the three magic words. Next day, you should recover from your malady miraculously and normal day should resume. The leash should be just as long as you want it to be. Once this has happened a couple of times, he will automatically learn not to ask for the moon.

One piece of advice. Keep a log book. It is important to keep an account of when he said something he should not have, done something wrong from your perspective or disobeyed you. This logbook will serve you well as leverage at crucial moments in your life when he wants to sleep and you want him to do the kids homework, or when he wants to buy something for himself but you need to persuade him to buy something for you instead. It may also help to record moments when you were proved right and keep a count, because it is normally a huge number. The count can really wear down any thought of resistance that may surface. As soon as you say “the last nine hundred and fifty-seven times when you were wrong”, the battle is won. If you keep forgetting the past like me, understand that the logbook holds the key to the marital future and should you choose to ignore when he doth wrong, forget having a tamed hubby.