Midlife And Other Assorted Crises
It has been almost two hours since Ajay Palvayanteeswaran and the other two potatoes in his apartment had seen David Letterman. In fact, he even called his friend long distance and discussed the latest Top Ten list. But he still could not sleep. He was tossing around like bhujiya in a frying pan. The sad truth is, finally, even Ajay has been bitten by Midlife crisis.
Ajay Palvayanteeswaran is in the seventh or perhaps the eighth year of his young graduate student career. With every passing year, the tunnel seems to get longer and he has no idea if there is that proverbial light at the end of it. He seems hopelessly trapped. In these years, he has seen the IIT vs Others, Love marriage vs Arranged marriage, Hindu mothers are better than Muslim mothers debates occur on SCI about twenty six times already. SCI always made him think. But those thinkings were nothing compared to the present intense brooding he was subjecting himself to. He tried to smoke himself to sleep. But the topics kept coming at him - life, midlife, marriage, Ph. D, superbowl, you name it.
It all started with his dad's phone call from India the previous day. The call started innocuously with the usual inquiries about Munna, Pappu, Pinky and Lovely. Then he told his dad about the prevailing weather, at which point, the dad incongruously called him a bumbling idiot. If he didn't wrap up his thesis and do something useful to the society, his dad threatened to cut him out of his Will and send Uncle Venkat to visit him in the USA. His dad was always patient and kind. Why did he lose his patience ?
Those were the days when calls from home used to be so tearful his ears used to get wet. He remembered the time when his father asked him to bring five kilos of gold with him the next time he showed up in India, instead of the usual plastic junk. Ajay remembered telling his dad that with his savings, he could barely afford to buy five kilos of potatoes. However, if his dad was willing to pay, he would buy the gold, but at the airport he would look his dad in his eyes and tell him, 'Boss, maaal laayaa hoon'. In fact, following this exchange, they also exchanged several other forgettable PJs and had a great time. Is this the same dad or what ?
Ajay's father turned quite illogical, heaping verbal abuse on Ajay. "Look at your other classmates. They are your age and they have each had three midlife crises by now and you still haven't gotten over the euphoria of getting into IIT. Do you remember Parvati ? The girl who was in the adjacent crib in the hospital when you were born, she is now a mother of five. Have you even thought about your marriage ?"
That hit a raw nerve in Ajay, for he had thought that only others got married. When the hormones did their job, even Ajay had occassionally tried to acquaint himself with some women. But none of the women cared to fathom the most interesting personality that is hiding inside Ajay. Occassionally, egged on by the SCI, he would try to intellectualize marriage and see if arranged marriages are beneficial to the ecosystem. "Abortion is immoral" he wrote on SCI "Personally I won't have one. But if women want it, it is their choice."
His dad also lowered his voice and told him "Listen son. You have to produce a son and I have to live to see it". That was the closest the father and the son came to discussing sex. Children ? Yikes ! He could never visualize himself being a father. In fact, if he ever got twins, he would name them both 'Minnesota' and intentionally lose them in Kumbh Mela after teaching them a reunion song. He would monitor them closely and see if they reunite after twenty years and if one of them is 'bad' and the other one is a police officer.
Marriage ? Is he marriable ? His dad had given Ajay's horoscope to the family Punditji, whose ancestors have been Ajay's family Pundits since the days when everyone's ancestors were just dinosaurs. His dad even placed classified ads in 'India Abroad' and got replies from several innocent divorcees.
Ajay stopped pondering and started thinking. He compared himself with his other classmates. He has always been too slow, too late, too short of money. When he was a mere child still eating toothpaste, his friends were already flying kites. While he is still a closet 'Sound of Music' fan, watching the reruns every Thanksgiving, his friends were discussing Kurosowa's Japanese version of Sholay. While he is still as virgin as some Amazonian rain forest, many of his friends had already fulfilled their American dream and owned a suburban home and produced 2.2 kids. And while Ajay rode his brakeless bike to do grocery and had Anthakshari party each weekend, his friends drove their Honda Accords and had Anthakshari party each weekend. Maybe he too will get a job someday, he too may marry someone. And maybe he too will buy a house with a nice carpet instead of his present mousetrap, with a carpet which looks like somebody just dropped several very large three item pizzas on the floor.
But first he will have to finish the thesis. He decided to dedicate his thesis to 'Amma and Appa' despite his dad's harsh words. He will also thank his grandmother Abigail for teaching him about computers without which he would be plucking future Tandoori chickens in the Star of India restaurant. Did his grandmother ever have a midlife crisis, he wondered. His grandmother is like the mother of all grandmothers. She got married when she was five. She became a football widow at the age of twenty two and a real widow at the age of seventy five after mothering approximately thirteen kids. (In fact, Microsoft Corporation is going to introduce a software in her honor called MS Widows) Even she was beseeching him to get married and threatened to die if not. The next opportune time he gets, he was going to talk to his adviser about wrapping up and maybe leaving out the 'Results' part of his dissertation. And he vowed never to crack the 'Adviser, Budweiser, Apartment, Department' joke ever again, unless forced at gunpoint.
He was still tossing and turning. He cursed and then smoked another cigarette. Suddenly, on an impulse he logged in. There was an email from Ranga from Ganga ! Ajay's day was immediately 'made'. Ranga had written about the summer time in Ohio State and all the women and their skimpy bikinis and what he, Srini and Bala thought about the 'Dream Team's Olympics performance. Ajay immediately darted off a reply, discussing the women of his town and their bikinis, David Letterman's Top Ten list for that day etc. He felt lighter and sleepy. Midlife crisis ? What Midlife crisis ?