Old habits that just don’t die : The Tribune India

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Old habits that just don’t die

Old habits that  just don’t die

Photo for representational purpose only. File photo

Priya S Tandon

OLD people have a way of creating a little world in their bedroom. I recently visited an elderly couple and noticed the assortment of boxes, books, cards, calendars and medicines occupying every nook and cranny of their room. One table was crammed with jars of all shapes and sizes. There was chooran, gur, shakkar, peppermint, Isabgol, roasted phulmakhana, biscuits, mithai, rusk, dried fruit, etc.

While having tea, aunty said she had a tummy ache and asked the servant for Isabgol. He said there seemed to be some red-coloured susri (flour beetles) in the jar of Isabgol in the kitchen and that it would be better to discard it and get a fresh pack. She said: ‘The other half of the pack is lying on our bedroom table. Bring it and let me check if that too has susri.’

The husband looked up from above his reading glasses and said unassumingly: ‘I did notice some in it a few days ago, so I didn’t have it.’

That was it! ‘You saw susri in it a few days ago? Every night, I have the Isabgol in front of you. Why haven’t you stopped me?’ she asked.

He most conveniently switched to the ‘I can’t hear anything’ mode and buried himself in his newspaper with an innocent face. His hearing aid worked well when he wanted it to. Most of the time, he played ‘deaf’.

She fumed and ranted over all the sacrifices she had made for him. Turning an ear her way, he said casually: ‘Did you say something?’

‘Yes, I did! Shouldn’t you have cautioned me about the susri in the Isabgol?’

‘Hmm…’ He merely proceeded to help himself to more pakoras. Aunty shouted: ‘What am I saying? For all you care, I could have died eating these susri. If you had seen them, why didn’t you warn me?’

He put on his ‘holier than thou’ face and said: ‘These pakoras are delicious. Can I have some more?’

By now, I was in splits. Selective hearing was an art that he had mastered to perfection. They argued at every meal. Her eagerness to overfeed him and his failing appetite never found common ground. He conveniently heard her when he wanted to; otherwise, well, just blame the lousy old hearing aid.

Neither of them would change. Old habits die hard, if ever. As they say in Punjabi: ‘Panchaan di gall sir matthe; par parnala othhe da othhe (The wisdom of the elders is appreciated, but the gutter shall stay its course).’

She has continued with her unending endeavour of 60 years to reform him… and the panacea, as always, is the newspaper that provided cover to his face and ears!

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