The Marriage Kitty: A Short Story

A stainless steel tumbler, a painted ceramic coffee mug, a white melamine plate with pale blue floral motif on the rim. A spoon and a fork. A single set of bedsheet and pillowcase that seem to match the plate. A woollen blanket. A floral print towel. Wrapped in several layers of polythene bags are two bottles of pickles.

He smiled at the care package his mother put together with much love and thought, as her newly-wed son moved towns to richer pastures.

It was a new beginning, the first day of the rest of his life.

In a week his wife would join him, before which he would go shopping for essentials.

Tucked under the care package is a thick folder containing brochures to holiday destinations. A bucket list the two had put together over the last six years of courtship. Destinations that now seem affordable with this new job. He is a content man.


It’s 10.30 pm, but she insists on unpacking before bathing and hitting the sack. She removes the dinner set and keeps it aside; that can wait for later.

She takes out fresh sheets and towels for her new home, and heads to the bedroom. Two single mismatched sheets cover the double bed. Two mismatched pillows sit next to a woolen blanket and a new fleece. She smiles at the gawkiness of her husband’s housekeeping skills. She makes the bed anew with carefully selected handwoven linen.

Walking into the kitchen for the promised hot cup of coffee, she sees not the bareness of the shelves, but the forced pairs of utensils that gaze back at her.

He recounts his shopping expedition, his attempt at making a home from ones to twos. The childish excitement that would have in a different environment become enthusiastic intimacies was now met with muted hurt.

She says nothing.

But as the years roll on, fresh bruises will open old wounds. Unexpressed emotions will battle with cruel words.

What could be ripped and broken, will be. The idea of the single tumbler and bedsheet will be both attacked and defended with equal ferocity. The demons will follow them even to the destinations they manage to cover.

That’s in the future.

For now they stand in the brightly-lit kitchen, disconnected.

Her expectations of a marriage, his lack of it; His ability to see his mother’s love separate from his marital role; Her inability to do so… As tears sting her eyes, she turns away.

With that the two have opened their kitty of blame, hurt and unmet expectations.

A GIFT FOR MY BROTHER: A short story. Too short.

I know what I should gift my brother on our 30th birthday, but I don’t know if I will pull it off. Half wit or not, and whichever end of the spectrum he might fall into, a man can’t live by his hands alone.

I hate the environment I grew up in. The very first memory I can recollect is smuggling my knickers and a vest into my nursery school bag, with a wish to escape the stifling cheeriness of my home. Apart from pretending Vedant and I were equals—which we were not, the family then was dealing with another obsession.

A fat, dimpled and forever gurgling nuisance who lulled my parents, grandparents and brother into believing our family couldn’t get more perfect. Even the cries induced by my sneaky pinches faded away within seconds of Vedant cooing into her ears.

The perennially upbeat attitude of my odd family drove me crazy. Stray dogs were fed, the evil cat always had a ready saucer of milk, relatives wandered in demanding food and bode, friends dropped in to spend hours discussing politics and academia.

So, from the instant I could make a choice, I chose friends with a more realistic view of the world. We stoned strays, flattened tyres, plagiarised school projects (a supreme sin in my parents’ eyes), and at 12, started jerking-off during recess . We smoked pot and travelled ticketless. And as far as possible I included Vedant in my growing-up.

Why should my brother suffer the unbearable impracticality of my family?

Tyres, strays, and pot didn’t appeal to Vedant. Public transport was a no-no. But jerking-off he embraced wholeheartedly.

It sickens me that 18 years later, that’s all the opportunity he gets, still. My blighted family! They have stretched their middleclass incomes to pamper him: got him an iPad to read books, a large screen PC to run his transcription jig, and even fly him business class. But sex, which would have come for much less, they have rudely blocked from their sight.

In case you wonder, my twin falls somewhere in the autistic spectrum. I really don’t care for the details. He is what used to be called simply as mentally retarded some years ago. The lexicon has been cleaned up since, but little practical development has been made in understanding his (or his like) needs. That’s far more insulting than the various labels we pick and reject.

Vedant is lucky. He has a slightly droopy mouth, eyes that don’t stay focussed for too long, and a rather deep, infectious laugh. With that combination, when he blatantly ogles women, especially those with big boobs (our fetish), it does not come across as creepy as when I do.

I sit planning our 30th birthday, as my menopausal girlfriend—between hot flashes and mood swings—is planning life without contraceptives and fear of pregnancy. There is a bipolar reason why I chose to hook up with an older woman. The chances of her getting pregnant or wanting to are low—which thrills me; and if she does, the chances of a child with a disability is high, which depresses me to suicidal depths.

Back to THE gift. I don’t trust Delhi women. I have to look outside of our hometown. Bombay girls are too commercial, and scouting Calcutta for a gift for a 30-year-old virgin doesn’t seem practical.

If I go south my mother’s jingoist feelings might be hurt (Malayalam film history notwithstanding). I have for long had the suspicion that my mother blames my father’s dubious Parsi gene pool for the soup one of her twins landed in. My father truly believes that it is about being different not abnormal.

Vidi, the sister, has been secondhand pot smoking (thank you, you are welcome!) for too long to know the difference.

I don’t have a particular feeling towards or about my brother.

I am my brother.

I know what Vedant needs.

On the big 3-0 my brother and parents will be visiting the still fat, dimpled and forever gurgling sister of mine in the US of A. She is now out of diapers and doing her doctorate in—save me from my family—autism and theatre. They have all made a living and a virtue out of my brother’s disability.

At 25, she has already graduated into a sex goddess thanks to a horny Punju (uh, Haryanvi, she never fails to correct me) boyfriend. Maybe she could find a suitable GIFT in Louisiana.

For all their equality play, my professorial parents played ostrich. When I turned 15, they gave me a couple of books on sex and puberty… two years too late. That was also the first time they got something for me alone. It made me feel both strangely special and indignant for Vedant. When we were 15, in their head at least, my parents neutered my brother.

Some years ago I tried raising the subject of Vedant, autism and sex, and how all three will have to co-exist harmoniously.

My grandmother, otherwise quite open-minded (she even greets my girlfriend on her birthday), had a bout of pretend palpitations. I know she was thinking, unfavourably, of the rather convincing play by Radhika and Prathap Pothen in Meendum Oru Kaadal Kathai.

But what I had in mind for Vedant was more Kamal Hassan in Chippikul Muthu, except it should be Vidya Balan not Vijaya Shanthi. As a professional film critic, I find both my reference and my solace in films. I also find my realism in it. Which is why, what I really want (for him as well) is Mickey Rourke meets Kim Bassinger moments.

My brother is a composite of interesting sparks—photographic memory, ability to identify the make of a car from its key, superb medical transcription ability, no regard for social mores, and what’s on his mind will be expressed no matter what the occasion or location. At 29, he will still throw a tantrum if his Sprite is too cold, and fling the bowl of sambhar across the table if his dosai is not crisp enough. He will scratch his balls to relieve an itch, no matter whose company he is in.

But masturbation he pretends he neither indulges in nor knows of.  The porn on his computer is skilfully hidden. Secrets only I know.

I see longing when he smiles at the many ‘happy’ couples—students, alumni—who wander in and out of my parents’ home, arm-in-arm with barely hidden lust. I see him hurry to his room after watching the young bai on all fours, mopping the drawing-room floor.

I also understand the violent tantrums that neither my grandmother’s music nor my father’s soothing voice can control.

I can feel the physical pain of his celibacy.

Which is why I have decided that I will gift him a hooker.