Honeymooning was over. Time had come to accept marriage for what it really was. I realised this when one fine morning my mother-in-law handed the proverbial "chaabi-ka-guchcha" over to me in the presence of her husband and my husband. She said quite Nirupa-Roy-like:
"Its all yours now. The house. The Khandaan-ki-izzat. And of course the kitchen!!!"
I thought she had been rehearsing her lines and planning this "ceremony" for quite sometime. She had chosen an auspicious day, ensured that the two men of the house be present...and had prepared the Bollywoodish kheer too herself.
The Chaabi-ka-guchcha was quite an ornament in fact. Made from silver it had intricate minaakari made out very beautifully all over it. It hung proudly on my ma-in-law's waist tucked into her sari. This little piece of female adornment was actually a symbol of authority and signified the high position of the woman who possessed it.
I remember my hesitation. It was not perfunctory. I felt it was still her right being my husband's mother and having run the house efficiently for so long. I would learn from her gradually, make myself worthy of taking charge and only then would I think of steping into her shoes. But her mind was made up. She wanted her freedom. She needed to relax. Oh! Yes, she would be there to guide me, but from now on I would be "in-charge".
The Chaabi-ka-guchcha perhaps marks the biggest turning point in a woman's married life.
I now had the authority. I had the keys.
But I also had immense responsibilities and duties.
The first few months went off rather smoothly. Then...
I didn't know how it happened, but every time I was broke by the third week of the month. Whatever I tried, seemed to be of no help in improving the situation. Husband Ji was perturbed. His mother had never asked him for more money in the middle of the month. In fact she even seemed to often save a bit...!!!
I had studied Economics and a little commerce too. But surely Ghalib, the renowned Urdu poet had also been a student of Economics. How else could he write "hazaron khwahishein" and then also confess, "bahot niklay mere armaan lekin phir bhi kam niklay"
My husband suggested that I should make a note of all that I spend.
I thought I would now have some peace of mind. But that was not to be. In fact I was more confused as my balance sheet never seemed to balance. For a long while I sat trying sincerely until my head ached and I felt giddy.
Milkman, Dhobi, Bai, Mali, cook, Newspaper, Electricity bill, telephone bill, petrol pump bill, vegetables, grocery, friend's daughter's birthday gift...I had calculated all...but still something was missing...
And then...God gave me wisdom...!!!
Husband satisfied. Me at ease. All fine.
One morning some months later he asked:
"What is GAK? You seem to be spending every month on it, yet I don't seem to see or understand what it is..."
I told him.
That of course did not change my pattern of living or the expenditure incurred every month.
And YESSSS... my husband gave me a raise too...but not before giving up every little hope of seeing me ever balance the Profit & Loss Account and pronouncing me as a potential threat to budding economists!
For "GAK" in my books of account stood for "God Alone Knows"...!!!!!!!!!
Ever since I have stopped writing any accounts.
God gives me...and I spend... :))