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‘Oho! If Your Wife Is Sick Who’s Taking Care Of You Now?’

Devi has started feeling like a mother to her husband, who was always,... immature, or as Indians put it, “boyish”, and is only getting younger post his half-century.

Devi has started feeling like a mother to her husband, who was always,… immature, or as Indians put it, “boyish”, and is only getting younger post his half-century.

Yes, Devi is very angry today.

Devi tested COVID positive early this week, and she sincerely wishes that her husband Bechara and not she were sick.

No no no! Wait! Before you start thinking in a completely different direction that why is Devi wishing illness on her husband, let me tell you this – the fact is that Devi knows that her isolation will be devastating for Bechara. Already he is Mr. Bechara, now what? Mr. Double Bechara?

Devi has been isolated for the past four days and was craving a hot cup of mid-morning tea today. Her throat feels worse this morning, and coincidence! Just as she was thinking this, Bechara peeps in and asks if she wants anything?

Devi can’t believe her ears and is touched by his gesture, and immediately asks for one cup of tea. To this, Bechara makes a face, and says, “I cannot make tea for you at this time. Wait till evening. I can give you that spicy snack which I am going to eat right now because I am hungry. I really wish I could shift the kitchen to your room…”

Devi immediately feels stupid, ‘How could I not foresee this? How very stupid of me!’

Call Devi emotional or whatever, but now she is looking back. This is the first time that she is actually dependent specifically on him for her day-to-day survival. She went through childbirth after which she has been very ill and had to be hospitalized multiple times for it…, yes, Devi has been very sick for years! Her mother was of course always here to take care of her, but she went back when Devi was better, saying, “Once you take hold of your kitchen, you will heal faster.”

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This is the first time that he is actually cooking for his wife – breakfast at 8 comprises a cup of tea and bread slices. Lunch is between 2 and 4 pm – leftover daal with rice. Dinner is post 9 pm, which Devi’s dear friend cooks and sends. And and and… filling water bottles for her once or twice a day. Sometimes Bechara has to go the extra mile to fill hot water for her; after all, he is a caring husband.

Can’t believe it? Ask any of his female colleagues in the office, they will vouch for him! Only Devi will never get to hear this because Bechara ensures the two never meet.

Do men ever really grow up?

Very early in her adult life, Devi had learned that no one, literally no one, really wants to take care of a woman. Women are taught to take care of men but not to take care of themselves or other women (unless of course they’re the mother or daughter). Women, especially Indian women, like her very name, are each born a Devi Maa, adorned with a kavach, a boon to go on endlessly for others, till one day others consume them. And then they attain immortality! Jeevan safal ho gaya! (They’ve reached heaven!)

Coming back to her own life, Devi has started feeling like a mother to her husband, who was always, immature, or as Indians put it, “boyish” and is only getting younger post his half-century. There are several out there who keep repeating the lesson of “how Bechara a man is, especially if the wife is someone who is mostly unwell.” All a man has to do is play his Mr. Bechara card and feel powerful… or should I say ‘manly’. Sounds straight out of ‘Pati, Patni aur Wo’ from the 70s! Isn’t it?

Pray, tell Devi that you haven’t met a single man of this sort.

So, let’s take the story of Mr. Bechara ahead… waise bhi top grosser movie aaj bhi Hero se hi chalti hai! Hai na? (As it is, top grosser movies do well only because of a hero, isn’t it?!)

Devi’s husband, Mr. Bechara is a typical ‘parasitic mard’ who lives off his wife, her dreams, her aspirations, her career… off her wellness and happiness. And no he doesn’t even like spending money on her. Her father sends her money. Now, tell me does Mr. Bechara sound familiar?

Why Bechara should be ill and not Devi

Cut back to last year, when Bechara had COVID and was isolated. He had mild symptoms and the quarantine lasted a little over 3 weeks. So now? It was party time for Bechara! Binge-watching movies and shows, and opening the door every now and then and telling Devi that he was hungry!

Devi was being bombarded with calls from their parents who were constantly telling her to take care of ‘Bechara’. Her mother was constantly calling Bechara and boosting his ‘morale’. Her mother in law was asking him what was Devi cooking for him? A mother in law who had not spoken to her in years was calling her and telling her that he needed all the rest in this world, so she should take proper care of him.

Devi, who had recently taken up a small job, would excuse herself out of her work meetings and cook fresh for Bechara. After all, food for a sick person should be always light and fresh.

All Devi remembers from that time was that she hardly rested. Work from home, lockdown house chores, two kids, their online classes, on-demand dishes for Bechara, and taking care of own her health… of course that came last; was that even a priority for any of her family? She felt that she went on only because of the care and compassion she received from outsiders.

Sometimes it would get so tiring that she would want to scream at the top of her lungs, “Why me?”

But now, with her, sick, things were worse! She couldn’t rest, couldn’t get anything, and couldn’t do anything… she was not really ‘allowed’ to rest! She was constantly reminded by her own mother and so-called ‘friends’ that it was difficult for Bechara to live with a wife who was always sick!

It actually would have been better for her and her family if her husband were the one who was ‘sick’ and not she. Even though difficult, it would have been comparatively easier – she would have had more energy to take care of him, her job, her children, and fit into the role of a superwoman with so much more ease. Right now, it was killing her!

The history of Devi and Bechara’s marriage

Bechara had earned his name early in their marriage when he did not allow her to work after they got married. Her in-laws and their friends would often tell her, “Bechara! He is earning and all you do is sit and eat out of his money! You are equally qualified, why don’t you take up a job?”

Before she could say something, Bechara would man up and say, “I am the proud breadwinner of this family, let her rest if she wants to! She likes to take care of the kids.”

Little did they realize that if only they had bothered to talk to her would they have heard her stifled screams, arising out of her buried aspirations, dreams, and happiness which were laid to rest by the ‘ever caring’ Bechara. Only she knew. These unheard screams had eventually destroyed her health.

Bechara had never acknowledged this. He was busy scaling his own ‘self-made success!’ After all, what was Devi doing? She could at the very least take care of the house and kids. How much does it take to do that? His mother did that all her life and was doing that till today. And all the women in the neighborhood were doing the same even if they had a job. Devi didn’t even have a job! So? Big deal!

While Devi is caught up in a whirlpool of thoughts and trying to finish off some office work, which she thinks she will do at ease since it will keep her mind occupied, the door opens and peeps in Bechara again, “How are you feeling now?”

She has not got that cup of tea till 6 pm in the evening!

He lingers on and vanishes after saying, “I have a movie to complete, let me do that before I get busy heating the dinner which your friend will be sending. Could you tell her to send something more interesting tomorrow? Btw, I forgot to tell you, your mother had called and she says that once you are out of your quarantine, I deserve a long break from all the household duties! Get well soon…”

And yes, should this be added, that they are ‘living happily ever after’?

Image source: a still from the film English Vinglish

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