(Updated, from the Archives)
‘Who keeps pushing the bed to this side of the room? I remember shifting it back last night and today it is back here. It’s so stuffy with the fan on the other side of the room!’ screamed my first-born.
‘I didn’t, for sure. I’ve more than enough on my plate to keep shifting gigantic beds,” I screamed back from the kitchen.
Then there must be a poltergeist in the house!” he shouted in exasperation, shoving the bed back to its original position.
The L&M arrived at that juncture. ‘What’s all the commotion about?’ he asked. As both of us started screaming in unison, he held up his hand.
‘I shifted the bed,’ he said calmly.
‘But, why? I asked incredulously. Now, L&M is the kind of guy who would not do anything around the house that did not involve eating or sleeping or watching TV. So my question was legitimate. His answer threw me.
‘So that the boys sleep with their head away from the fan,’ he said.
‘What?’ asked the boy, pausing in his effort of relocating the bed, unable to make head or tail of his father’s reasoning.
‘If you slept with the fan over your legs, at least you’ll live. Can you live without a head?’ asked his father, as if it were the most logical question in the world.
So how many fans had he seen fall on people’s heads and kill them?
‘Not any that I’ve heard of, but why risk it?’ he replied.
His son rolled his eyes.
The other thing that drives the kids up the wall is the L&M’s rule that forbade them from locking their doors at night.
‘What if there were to be a short circuit or fire?’ he asked hotly when I took the boys’ side in their demand for privacy.
He woke up several times during the night with the express purpose of checking that the said door is indeed unlocked. Once when in a burst of defiance they had locked the door, he had pounded on it, accompanied by frenzied yelling of their names till an assortment of neighbours had come to investigate as to what emergency had provoked his fit of nocturnal insanity.
And the boys had blissfully slept through it all! Had it not been for the younger one who had woken up thinking that the monster under his bed was calling out to kill him, his father would surely have knocked down the door or would have at least provoked a couple of quarrelsome neighbours to file litigation against his night-time capers.
Now, the monster under the bed: It was afraid of lights. So he slept with light on – the tubelight, that is, to drive away the various demons that threatened his existence every night. The resident monster under the bed had the nasty habit of sliding its hand horizontally to grab him. He slept in the middle of the bed as its arm was not long enough to reach him there!
You see, he was not afraid of any old monster that came in through the windows to scare him – those he could dispose of with a well-aimed left hook or a right jab. But the one under his bed was another matter altogether. It was sneaky and didn’t pounce upon him like any other decent monster but slid its arm to grab him! He was able to slay them all as he entered his teens and now had become a daredevil – on a motorbike!
The older boy is not far behind with his share of idiosyncrasies. He’d wear a particular pair of jeans for months hiding them to prevent me from washing them — all because he deemed them ‘lucky’. How filth can bring him luck has eluded my simple brain, though. He would wear them till they were so stiff with dirt that they stood all by themselves when he took them off.
He would never go to the loo without arming himself with some reading material, preferably something sufficiently amusing.
‘Isn’t there something in the house to read?’ he would ask in disgust, dancing and hopping.
‘Are you looking for some Norse literature maybe?’ I would ask testily. ‘And why are you hopping so?’
‘Because I’m bursting, that’s why!’ he shouts back.
‘So go already.’
‘How can I? I’ve read these a zillion times and want something new.’
He dances some more, before grabbing a magazine and running.
As the said boy was hop-skip-jumping his awkward way to the loo, I shout,
‘Wait! Use the Indian toilet and don’t keep the tap running…’ He didn’t stop to hear the rest of my don’ts, so I continued for the benefit of the rest of my family, ‘….and don’t waste a drop of water, do you hear me?’
‘Appa, it is time to book a room in the hotel. It is one of those days,’ called out the younger one.
What had provoked such emergency measures, you ask? Has the reservoir burst and there’s going to be no more water supply for the rest of the month? Well, it could be worse. The water level in the overhead tank had reduced by a couple of inches and there were a couple of empty buckets as well. What if there were to be no water supply this evening or tomorrow?
And if there is really no water tomorrow, well then the water rationing would start — half a bucket per head for bathing. the brats preferred having a dry-clean on such days. ‘Who can bathe in half a bucket of water?’ they would sneer.
Tell me folks, if I am careful about conserving water am I eccentric or what? There are enough of those in the family without my joining their ranks, thank you.
Can you blame me too if I keep grocery containers full all through the month? I don’t like half empty (ok, half-full!) jars staring at me, so I have containers in several sizes and keep shifting the contents, so that they are full all through the month. If my family rolls its collective eyes at this, you can’t blame me, can you, for it only shows them up for being short on understanding!
Just as his older brother’s reading habit of in the loo, the younger one has a quirk of his own. He wears slippers when he takes a bath. He had developed this habit fairly early – when he had been sever or eight.
The other day when they were all here, he wouldn’t go for his bath because he couldn’t find his slippers.
‘But why do you need slippers to have a bath?’ asked the elder daughter. She had not been enlightened about this habit of his.
We told her the reason: to avoid stepping on any stray bit of hair! Even if I cleaned the bathrooms meticulously, his eagle eyes would spot a small strand somewhere and he would scream blue murder.
Once when he was younger, I teased him about his growing up to have a dozen kids — who shed hair all over his house.
‘I might have TWO dozen kids, but they will all be bald!’ he had replied hotly much to our amusement. What an ingenious way to prevent the eventuality of having to step on hair!
By the way, can someone tell me if eccentricity is hereditary? I have undoubtedly inherited the paranoia about running out of water, from my father. He would wake up at 4 AM in the morning and draw water from the well in the backyard in our village home and fill up all the tubs and buckets! The moment one bucket would be empty, he would fill it up. When one or more of us was visiting, he would fill up every container he could find, much to the exasperation of mother. Oh appa, I wish you had not given that gene to me!
I have more reasons to believe it is. The L&M never leaves home for work in one go. He has to come back for something he has forgotten. Sometimes he makes several trips. I tried putting up a checklist on the door so that he would remember to take everything. It didn’t work because he would forget something ELSE altogether and come back anyway. I have learnt never to lock the front door when he says he is leaving. I wait for all those trips back and forth to end before finally securing the bolts.
The daughter complained that her husband, the older brat did the same thing. apparently he sometimes goes as far as the tube station before retracing his steps! He has clearly inherited his father’s habit, wouldn’t you say?
So here is one for the researchers: eccentricity is hereditary. I welcome anyone wanting to take this one up, to start with my family.
Do you have any quirks or quirky habits? How about sharing them?