“Good morning, Preeti, here’s your newspaper,” my FIL handed me the newspaper with a jolly smile.
“Oh, thank you so much, Papa. Come on in, have a seat,” I pulled a dining chair out for him.
“We ran out of milk today. No tea in the morning,” FIL said with a droopy face.
“Here, you can have Satya’s,” I had brewed four cups of tea just then.
My parents-in-law live right across the street, in fact so nearby that sometimes I feel my MIL is always around. It’s a blessing at times, not so much all the time though. A walk from one house to another amounted to almost nothing but turns, from toe to heel and back again.
“There’s a vibe over here that gives me…I can’t describe it… searing abdominal cramps,” my FIL’s lips pursed in frenzy.
“How’s the tea, Papa?”
“Mmm…tea is good,” he gave me a broad smile after a sip of tea. “But when you…when you…factor in the vibes here, the…the whole package is not good,” he was upfront with me.
While we were talking, my husband Satya walked into the dining hall, dressed up to go to work. After a formal greeting with his father, he walked to the refrigerator, flung open the refrigerator’s door, peeked inside, and got the milk carton out. He shook the carton vigorously.
“Out of milk,” Satya said in a squeaky but angry voice and slammed the empty carton on the dining table. Satya and I exchanged a fuming glare, while I was still sipping my tea with my FIL.
I got up from the chair, with my head tilted to one side, my brows met in the middle and I muttered in anger. My FIL awkwardly watched the whole ordeal of the anger-competition between Satya and me. I loomed over the refrigerator, pulled out a full milk carton, and handed it to Satya. Somehow, the cap spun off in a spiral and some milk splashed all over Satya’s shirt. He got startled and immediately wiped off the milk with a paper towel.
“You did that on purpose,” he seemingly yelled at me.
“You wanted milk,” I taunted with a sarcastic expression.
Satya slammed the milk carton on the kitchen counter-top and walked out to his mother’s house. My FIL stayed back in our house, sipping his tea peacefully.
“So…trouble in paradise?” my FIL asked without lifting his chin and fiddled with his tea cup.
“Oh, no. It’s just that…you know, but why would you want to hear me complain about Satya? It’s just that sometimes he is such a jerk!” I said in irritation, moved my head from right to left, and tried to duck the question.
“That’s given!” My FIL smirked. “Details please!”
He wanted to hear the juicy story of our last night’s fight with every little detail.
“Last night, okay! The kids were a mess and I was trying to hold everything together,” I said with a sob. My FIL put his hand on my shoulder and tried to empathize with me.
“You are the glue, Preeti, everyone knows that.”
I began my version of the story to FIL, with every detail of what had happened last night.
Satya came home from work and kept his tote by the door. Children were shouting and running around. They had made a big mess with food all around the floor. One glimpse of Satya got the kids all excited. Satya came inside with a grumpy face, as if he had lost a big bet with someone.
“How was your day, Preeti?” Satya’s voice was very flat and grumpy.
“Oh, gosh! Well, actually, it was—”
Satya cut me off. “Great, what’s for dinner, Preeti?”
“I haven’t had time to make you anything yet, Satya. If you could just wait,” I was apologetic and showed my frustration. “I was very tired today.”
“Fine, I’ll make my own dinner. AGAIN!” Satya said with an angry, asymmetric smile.
Having hung his jacket on the coat rack, he proceeded towards the kitchen, opened the refrigerator, and took out a frozen pizza. After transferring it onto a plate, he microwaved the pizza. He was stomping all over the kitchen, with big heavy feet as if there was a big crisis in the kitchen and frantically started opening one drawer after another looking for the pizza cutter. Meanwhile, I kept watching him and waited for the hurricane to land in our kitchen any moment.
“Thank goodness…well, where is the pizza cutter, Preeti?”
“Uh, it’s in the knife drawer, Satya, right there.”
He walked over to the knife drawer and started rattling off everything in there. I sprung up from the chair and ran to help him. The pizza cutter was right in that drawer, but apparently it had become invisible to Satya.
“Here!” I said and handed him the cutter. “See, Satya, I bought a new pizza cutter. Isn’t it so nice?”
“Did we need a new pizza cutter?” Satya flipped it all around with a condescending sneer.
“Yes! It’s better, because it cuts the slices with a smooth edge and has a good grip too,” I tried to convince him.
“Mmm. Huh? Great. A better pizza cutter,” Satya said in a patronizing tone.
He took the pizza plate to the dining table and sliced it. As he swung to the other side of the table to get an empty plate, his elbow hit the pizza plate. With a thump, all the slices fell on the floor. My heart skipped a beat, but I didn’t utter a peep.
“Oh, great! Would you look at this Preeti? Was there something wrong with the old pizza cutter?” Satya deliberately spewed angry words.
“Oh, no, honey, nothing was wrong with the old pizza cutter,” I was trying hard to pacify him with my apologetic gesture.
“I mean, I would have preferred to have a slice for dinner, but it’s just as delicious right off the floor.” Satya tried to take all his anger out on me, rolling his eyes. He picked up a slice from the floor, as if to eat it, but tossed it right in the trash-bin.
I had a lump in my throat as tears welled in my eyes. “No, Satya, I bought this pizza cutter because…it was better. I mean, it’s not stupid, and…I’m not stupid.”
“What did I say?” Satya shrugged.
I kept the pizza cutter back on the table and went to my bedroom.
Satya and his mother are having a conversation in MIL’s house.
“Hi Maa,” with a long face, Satya entered the kitchen and sat on the dining chair. My MIL was reading the newspaper.
“Hi, Satya! Look at you!” MIL greeted him with motherly inquiries and a quirky smile. “What? Satya, you’ve got milk spots on your shirt!”
“How can you tell it’s milk from over there, Maa?”
“It’s what I do. What…did one of the children get you, Satya?”
“No Maa, Preeti did it.” He sat down in the dining chair while stroking his own hair.
“Well, of course,” and my MIL started wiping Satya’s shirt with a wet towel. “If you don’t know your way around a kitchen, these things are bound to happen. Oh! Sit down and eat breakfast.” MIL brought a plate and served ‘Aloo Paratha’ on his plate.
“You are going to have to give me your shirt. I’ll give it a quick wash. Well, I don’t know how Preeti can let you go to work like that,” MIL passed a snarky remark.
“She doesn’t care, Maa.”
“What’s that dear?”
“No, nothing! Nothing, Maa.”
“What? You can talk to me; I am your mother,” MIL pulled her chair close to Satya and gleefully wanted to know every single detail about our fight last night. “Satya, please talk to me.”
“Nothing! Nothing! It’s just nothing, Maa.” Satya kept eating his aloo-paratha, and shrugging. He was reluctant to open up to his mother, but she kept pestering him.
She rested her chin on her hand and elbow on the dining table, deliberately gave a gleeful smile and asked, “what did Preeti do?”
“Nothing Maa, she just…she went all nuts over a pizza cutter last night.”
“Pizza cutter? Oh, poor Satya, nothing good comes from a pizza cutter,” her lips pouted in disappointment. “Go on! Go ahead! Tell me,” she kept on pestering Satya with a smirk.
Satya kept working his way through his breakfast. “I don’t know what I did wrong. I mean, I came home in a good mood, as usual.”
“Well of course dear, you were always a happy child,” MIL said with a lot of pride.
“Yeah, I know Maa,” Satya and MIL nodded their heads in unison. After a few seconds of awkward silence Satya started telling his version of the story to his mother.
So I walked through the door from work, and Preeti was sitting on the dining chair with her feet up on another chair, reading a magazine while munching on a snack. I kept my tote bag by the door. Preeti gave me a look over her shoulder and went back to reading
her magazine without saying a word to me. I walked to her with a big smile and I started stroking her hair, massaging her shoulder and neck and asked how her day was.
“Everything is fine,” she said with a forced smile.
“Great! What’s for dinner Preeti?”
Preeti tossed her magazine on the dining table with anger. “I have not made you anything for dinner yet, Satya. Can you wait?”
“Fine, I’ll make my own dinner tonight,” I said calmly and hung my coat on the coat rack and walked towards the kitchen while rolling up my sleeves. I was very excited to cook dinner. I got a frozen pizza out and put it in the microwave and set the timer for ten minutes. I was all set with the plate and started looking for the pizza cutter. I opened the knife drawer but it wasn’t there. I became very restless, as I was famishing. I opened every cabinet and drawer one by one, but couldn’t find the pizza cutter.
“Where’s the pizza cutter, Preeti?”
“It’s in the knife drawer, don’t you know that, Satya?”
“Oh, rightie! I looked but it’s not there, Preeti.”
“Yeah, I bought a new one.”
“Did we need a new pizza cutter, Preeti?”
“It’s better, okay!” Preeti said in a very rude and sarcastic tone.
“But honey! How does this thing work?” I asked innocently.
“You hold…the handle and roll it across the pizza cutting it into slices and that’s it!” Preeti demonstrated, her words were more patronizing than an ill-mannered boss, but I ignored them.
I kept struggling with the pizza cutter handle as it kept slipping off my hand.
“A better pizza cutter, Preeti!” I laughed out loudly and tried to be funny while still fiddling with the cutter.
“What’s so funny, Satya?” Preeti’s anger was shooting smoke out of her eyes, ears, nose and mouth.
I was finally able to cut the slices, but the sides looked torn and frayed, as if someone had ripped off the slices. Suddenly the long handle of the pizza cutter hit the pizza plate and everything just fell on the dirty floor. Preeti looked down at the messy floor and got madder than a wet hen.
“Preeti, was…was there something wrong with the old pizza cutter?” I asked in frustration.
“No Satya, but there’s nothing wrong with the new pizza cutter, either,” her eyes glared at me until they became round.
“No, nothing is wrong, honey! I mean…I would have been eating my dinner by now, but you know, it’s…it’s just as delicious right out of the floor too!” I bent down to pick up a slice and started eating.
“This is the pizza cutter I bought, okay, Satya! Because it’s better,” Preeti held up the cutter in front of my eyes and waved it.
I kept standing there like a scared mouse and watched Preeti yell and shout. A few seconds later, she stomped out of the dinning hall and went to the bedroom.
“What did I say?” Satya was perplexed and startled at the same time. “And I am not exaggerating. I don’t know! One little thing about the pizza cutter and Preeti freaked out. Okay Maa, I’m getting late for work. I’m leaving.”
“We were having such a nice conversation about Preeti! Please don’t go.”
“Yeah. I know Maa, but I’ve to go to work.”
In a few minutes Satya came back from his mother’s house. I was still sobbing and my FIL was trying to talk to me. He looked up at Satya, hoping that Satya would say something.
“I have to go to work, Papa,” Satya poured a cup of tea from the kettle and started walking upstairs, while unbuttoning his shirt. He came back down in a few minutes after changing his shirt. I was still sitting with my FIL and talking.
“What are you doing, Satya?” I asked.
“Changing my shirt.”
“Sorry, I spilled milk on your shirt, Satya.”
“Oh, it’s okay. I am sorry about, you know…”
“It’s okay. Forget it, Satya. I just want you to really understand why I was upset about the pizza cutter.”
“I understand, Preeti. I know why…I really do, okay. So…I’ll see you later then,” Satya smiled. “So, should I bring home some takeout food, or something tonight?”
“Yeah, sure Satya; if that’s what you want, that would be great.”
Satya walked to the door to leave for work. I walked towards him and we gave each other a goodbye hug.
My MIL was standing outside on the threshold of the door. Just when Satya was about to leave, she entered. Satya followed her back into the house.
“I am glad you are still here, Satya,” MIL stopped Satya from leaving. “I have something that might just fix everything,” and she proffered me a pizza cutter.
I fidgeted bewilderedly with it. I looked at my MIL, all confused, with an unblinking stare, and asked, “what is it Maa?”
“It’s one of my old pizza cutters. It’s the kind that really works, Preeti.”
“Satya?!” I took the cutter from MIL’s hand and nodded my head with a sly smile.
“It’s alright Preeti! We all make mistakes,” and she held my both hands in her hands, lifted up my chin with a loving smile. Satya got scared of getting exposed and started pacing from left to right, looking at his mother angrily.
“So Satya, maybe you didn’t really understand why I was upset.” I wanted to prowl and swallow up Satya. WHOLE.
“I have got nothing to do with this! I don’t know why Maa brought this pizza cutter over here.” Satya looked at me with puzzled raised eyebrows.
“So, Satya, what did you say to Maa? You ran across the street and told her what a horrible woman you are married to,” I said.
“I never said ‘horrible’. I just said it’s not your fault, Preeti. It’s hormones!” my MIL started defending Satya.
Now my FIL pitched in. “Satya, stop being a jerk! One little piece of advice I’m going to give you; the secret to marital bliss…” FIL trailed off in the middle.
“After you give it to him, why don’t you let me in on it, too?” my MIL snarled.
“All right, hold it. Now, you two listen to me. We happen to have an opportunity here for some real personal growth opportunity through active dialogue. Both of you have to just come out and say what’s really bothering you underneath and get it out in the open and deal with it, because if there is one thing that I have learnt in my many past years of experience with domestic disputes—it is this…it’s never just about the pizza cutter,” FIL said calmly.
“Oh, you never appreciated me! I would work my fingers to the bone and then you would waltz in with your list of demands,” MIL said, staring at FIL.
“You wanted a thank you? Where was my thank you? I waltzed in, huh? I dragged my ass home everyday after ten hours of being stuck in a suit, in the office, in the car… and I don’t care what you say! It’s your job,” FIL said triumphantly.
There was an awkward silence. Both Satya and I realized the grave danger of different versions of stories about to collide and explode, so we decided—without spoken words, to compromise. QUICKLY. Our sharp voices softened to a laugh.
“I am sorry Preeti,” Satya said.
“Yeah! Yeah! Me too,” I said and we hugged each other. Satya left for work.
Later that evening Satya came back from work, all happy and giggly.
“Hey, Preeti! How was your day? You know what’s great about an argument? We get closer to each other,” Satya chuckled.
“Can I ask you something, Satya? You don’t think it’s my job just to cook and clean for you, do you?”
“You don’t understand Preeti, we already had the argument. This is the making-up part,” Satya winked at me.
“No, no! What your father said to your mother, that’s what was bothering me, not the whole pizza cutter thing. I mean, I just feel like everything I have to do around here— sometimes you kind of take me for granted,” I said morosely.
“I don’t Preeti! I appreciate everything that you do. I do, and you know, I just hope that you don’t take me for granted.”
We embraced each other with a smile. I put my finger on Satya’s lips, “you should stop talking.”
“Okay, I mean, it’s nice to be acknowledged.”
We laughed and a pleasant atmosphere of home peace pervaded with a new day, a new life, and a new perception.
Author’s Note: We tend to ignore how different versions of stories that we fabricate in our everyday life, create havoc at times. This story is my attempt to express our flaw in communication; the simplicity of life, even the barest, is not a misery.
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