Tuesday, Aug 16, 2022

Remember When You Were Happiest?

This is perhaps what middle age truly is—the future we dreamed about is a place that we now firmly inhabit


8.30 a.m.: Goa. The minute you land, you feel free. It’s the wonderful bracing air, and with all the leftover wafts of weed in circulation, a sense of well-being is pretty much guaranteed I reckon.

1 p.m.: We are at this little café called Orange Boom. I am stuffing my mouth with avocado–mushroom toast, and sprawled beside me are my dear friend (who we shall call Miss D) and the four boys that form our group.

Isn’t it strange that there will always be one moment you will recall when someone asks you when were you the happiest? For me, it has always been this day. Somewhere this tiny, seemingly unimportant day wedged itself so firmly into my heart that decades later, I will find myself bringing the man of the house and my children to this café again and again.

I will buy a blue house just around the corner and I will get a yellow scooter of my own, almost identical to the one I am just about learning to ride now.

But at this point, I don’t know any of this and the only thing on my mind is learning to ride this bloody scooter. Relying on the boys for rides to parties is a risky proposition. We always want to leave early and they sometimes want to stay back till the sun comes up and sets all over again.

2.30 p.m.: The boys have gone ahead and we have taken a tiny detour to pick up our beach essentials before joining them. Zipping along on scooter with Miss D sitting behind me, I suddenly realize that my silver ring is slipping out of my finger. I look down to quickly push it back on and my scooty hits a pothole, and Miss D and me are now flying through the air, only to land in a straw-filled ditch on the side of the road.

2.35 p.m.: We are hanging out in a ditch at the side of the road, strangely in the same position as we were sitting on the scooter, though the bike is bent in a weird way. We enlist the help of passing ravers and druggies (very kind people when they are not going through any manic withdrawal symptoms) to get us out of our shallow hole and set us on our way.

3.35 p.m.: We have finally reached the beach shack. Our friends are looking suspiciously at us and the first question is, ‘Did you fall somewhere?’ We firmly deny such outrageous accusations; then they say, ‘Why is there straw in your hair? And the scooter also looks crooked.’ They finally buy all our denials and leave us alone. We are now surreptitiously putting cold beer cans on our bruises and only limping when the boys are preoccupied with the volleyball-playing bikiniclad bombshells on the beach.

6.30 p.m.: Riding my yellow scooter back to our rented cottage, with the wind blowing through my hair and an orange and purple sunset setting the sky ablaze, my perfect day is almost over; only to do everything again the next day and the next, for as many days as the whim strikes us.


Miss D and I are now grown women. We have amassed four children, two husbands and three dogs between the two of us, and over coffee we start talking about our old group, reminiscing about our past escapades and adventures with the boys and then we realize that none of these boys (now middle-aged men) are married.

Just for the record, these are all straight, financially solvent men; so to unravel their mysterious bachelorhood and to thoroughly entertain ourselves in the bargain, we decide to don our Sherlock and Dr Watson hats and investigate the matter.

Whipping out our phones and putting them on speaker mode, we start our unrehearsed phone questionnaires, which go a bit like this . . .

Me: ‘Hey, what’s up? A quick question and then you can go back to dealing with the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai: Why are you not married?’

Bachelor No. 1: ‘Are you nuts? You forgot I am divorced? None of you liked my wife, kept complaining that she smells of methi.’

I hastily disconnect the phone and call the next candidate on our list.

Me: ‘Hi! Quick question, why have you never been married?’

Bachelor: ‘Oh God! I think you have pressed redial because I have already given you that answer, now can I go back to earning a living?’

Oops . . .

We eat a few more chocolate biscuits, and my willing accomplice calls the next candidate.

She: ‘Hey, buddy! Wanted to ask, why are you still single?’

Bachelor No. 2: ‘Baby, suddenly fancy me after all these years?’

She: ‘Shut up! I am doing a survey, dude.’

Bachelor No. 2: ‘Gussa ho gai! Your fault for asking such questions at this hour.’

She: ‘It’s 11 a.m., you idiot!’

Bachelor No. 2: ‘Oh! I am at a three-day rave in Goa, baby, lost track of time.’

Phone disconnected.

My turn again, and from the other end, a raspy voice answers, ‘I have already got a message about the daft survey you psychos are doing and I don’t want to be part of it . . .’ And he continues in his peculiarly self-important manner, ‘By the way, mummy forgot to send tandoori chicken today and my fund manager is coming over, so it’s good you girls called. Can you send a tiffin over please and send some gulab jamuns; my girlfriend is also coming, so send food for three–four people.’ As he pauses, I quickly interject, ‘Oh, your relationship with the seventeen-year-old must be going really well since . . .’ He screeches, ‘I am sick of telling you she is twenty-four!’ And hangs up.

The last man standing is now on the phone . . .

Me: ‘We are conducting an investigation. Can you please tell us, why haven’t you ever been married?’

Bachelor No. 4: ‘Has my mother put you guys up to this? I don’t want to talk about it.’

We persist till he finally tells us his story.

He was dating a Gujarati girl and one day in the grip of passion and wanting to emulate the West in this act, along with everything else, started spanking his girlfriend on the bottom, while saying, ‘Who’s your daddy? Who’s your daddy?’

The Gujarati girl, who I assume had never played this particular game before, called out shrilly, ‘Hasmukh Patel! Hasmukh Patel is my daddy!’

Unfortunately, my friend’s name is not Hasmukh Patel.

After that, each time he saw her in the buff, he would visualize her father: the pudgy, bespectacled Mr Hasmukh Patel and, in despair, had no recourse but to terminate their alliance. He has never been able to find the right girl since.

He sorrowfully recounts this story, and we commiserate with him till he bursts out laughing, and we realize that we have just been bamboozled.

These men have no tragic stories about losing the one that mattered, but are incredibly happy without what they see as the shackles of matrimony. While we feel sorry for them and worry about what they will do as they get older, they, in fact, feel sorry for us, as they see our lives as endless piles of diapers and suffocating predictability. Case closed, Dr Watson.

We put the phone down and though our lives are filled with all sorts of fulfilling things, talking to our old group again leads to a certain kind of wistfulness.

This is perhaps what middle age truly is—the future we dreamed about is a place that we now firmly inhabit, so we spend a little more time looking over our shoulder at the beguiling sepia-coloured postcards from our past where we once stood before an esoteric world of myriad prospects and were mesmerized at the possibilities it held . . .

This excerpt from Mrs Funnybones by Twinkle Khanna is reprinted with the permission of Penguin Random House India.