Thursday, October 01, 2009

Cleanliness, Thy Name is - -

My husband is a stickler for cleanliness. Sometimes he carries it to an extent that makes me want to tear my hair out!

His tidiness (you know that obsession with everything-in-its-place-a place-for everything – and- no-littering-and-scattering-and-and) sometimes upset me during my crazy multitasking younger days – like that day when I had an urgent submission to make. My guide had threatened to withhold my attendance certificate if I failed to honour the deadline. Without that certificate, my salary would be withheld at the parent institution which deputed me. If my salary was withheld, my substitute’s salary too would be stalled – and she’d go ballistic if that happened. It’d affect my credibility in my parent institute. Now I suppose you appreciate the chain reaction that’d be triggered off if I failed to make the submission that day. I simply had to complete the assignment before the whole family set out to our various destinations – before which I had to make and serve breakfast, and get four lunch packets ready.

The arrangement was, I take care of the kitchen - everybody else stays out, ‘cos them messing around would irritate me and delay me too. My husband would take care of tidying up (which he loved doing!! I guess?) and get my nursery going son ready; my slightly older daughter will take care of herself. Things usually worked out smoothly, except on the days I had to submit my monthly assignment. On those days, I’d be like a human possessed by a spirit whose specialty was an inhumanly elevated decibel limit. My family was sensible enough to keep a safe distance from me when that decibel demon took possession of me.

To get back to my story – I sat with my A4 sheets in which I had written out my assignment (those were days when computer hadn’t become the research scholar’s constant companion). The foot notes had to be done. I hated doing that. I ‘ve always hated and still hate documentation. I am bad at it. So always kept it for the last, made plenty of mistakes. Wonder what I’d have done without the white ink in those days!

I spent more than an hour hunting for the cited pages in the various books and in the several sets of Xeroxed papers, keeping them opened at the right pages, systematically arranging the bibliography cards with details to be documented and taking care to place makeshift paper weights on them. That done, I started entering the footnotes. Just then the pressure cooker whistled. Cursing, I got up. Looked at the table to make sure there were weights on all the cards and slips of paper, and rushed to the kitchen. In less than half an hour I was done and rushed back to the dining table where I’d been working – and found the table neatly tidied up! Biblio cards stacked with a polished stone on it, all the papers arranged according to size, and all the books closed and neatly arranged.

I sat down and wept.

After that, my husband has no dared to come anywhere near my work site.

But I had my sweet revenge.

The rubber chappal that he used – one with a weird parrot green strap which someone gifted him – was looked after by him as though it were a premature baby to be reared in a super sterilized condition. Three years after he got it, there was not any discolouration on it. Only slight wearing off at the outer edges of both. Every morning, after his bath, we saw him carry it and keep in standing up against the wall in the work area to drain the water! He’d have scrubbed it with an old toothbrush which was in a better condition than the tooth brush I used to brush my teeth with. He never trusted me with the task of taking his weird parrot green chappal to its usual daytime position against the wall of the work area. If it was not kept at a certain angle, the water would not drain well. And, my using it in an emergency was completely out of question. My children and I kept a sacrosanct distance from it. When my husband came in the evening, he’d slip his feet into the weird parrot green rubber chappal and comment on the small puddle of water still around the chappal, and look at me suspiciously.

One day, I returned home at noon as there was some meeting to be held in the room where the research scholars worked. Glad to get a day off, I slept the whole of the afternoon and was woken up by the sound of Savithri, my help, cleaning the compound. I thought I’d surprise her and went out. And there I found her cleaning the compound with that weird parrot green rubber chappal on her feet!! I stared at her feet with my jaws open.

“Nice of you chechi to keep this chappal for me in the work area. I use it every day”, she said. As I stood there watching her, she finished with the compound, held the chappal under the tap outside the work-area, scrubbed it with coconut fibre, took it inside the work area (she was given a key to the work area), kept it leaning against the wall at exactly the same angle she found it !


  1. So did you report this to your husband? Not telling him would have been the ultimate revenge.

    I do not know why, sticklers for punctuality, cleanliness etc irritate me to the core.

  2. Hahahahahaha...not as bad as I expected...u knw I thought somebody was going to use the toothbrush ;-D

    So, how did ur husband react;-D?????

  3. That was a fun post. But I have two questions - how did he react when you told him the mystery of the puddle, and did you submit your assignment on time?

  4. The chappal incident is rib-ticklingly funny!

  5. inhumanly elevated decibel limit!! decibel demon!!can't get the grin of my face.just can't stop laughing.after a hard day,this was manna for my spirit!

  6. @ all
    how did the husband react? well, his sense of humour came to his rescue. he had a good laugh. so did all four of us.

  7. rotfl! love reading these stories of sunnymammen n you... almost like i'm hearing you telling it!

  8. haha good one:) i used to be a stickler too once upon a time, but I soon realized that I should not interfere with the entropy of the universe.

  9. Boy I should ask your husband to join our group !
    We are a clean-up awareness group but err all of us somehow are owners of the messiest rooms in Trivandrum. :D

  10. HA HA HA! Is he as anal now as 30 years ago? I have deliberately tried to break the anal habit because one can become a bit neurotic about it. But I must say, one night four years ago, when I walked into my studio apartment at night, I realized immediately that it had been burgled. And how did I know that right at the door without walking into the room? Because when I turned on the light, I saw that a nearby closet door was about one centimetre ajar. And I said to myself, I never leave closet doors even a crack open. And sure enough when I peered into the apt I saw other closet doors ajar. I felt really creeped out. And then in the far corner of the room unmistakable proof: I saw books removed from the bookshelf and placed on the floor. I turned around and ran for my life to get the building superintendent,who called the cops!

  11. @ anita
    looks like burglers in the US dont do their homework before identifying a target house:-)
    @ cris
    brilliant idea:-). nice to see you once again here
    @nithin rajan
    good that you get wiser with age -

  12. ROFL.. poor your husband.. btw did u submit ur papers on time?

  13. beautiful....a sweet revenge, indeed................!!


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