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Srishti-2022   >>  Short Story - English   >>  I, Me, Myself

Reshmi Nair


I, Me, Myself

In a small town far away from here, was the home where I grew up with my many brothers and sisters, so many that it resembled a school dormitory rather than a respectable family turf. Being the youngest in a large-in-number but low-in-income family, life was far from what you’d expect someone like ME to have. My parents and I were like chalk and cheese. Having had no access to education, they blamed it for every lack in their life. It would have been easy to ignore their repeated rants or even sympathize with their perceived huge loss, had they not thrust upon us the compensatory obligation of being scholarly and doing something big with our life. In principle, I agreed it was the only hope for ordinary, run-of-the-mill people, like my siblings for example, but definitely not so for me, the one showered with ravishing, good looks and freakish charm!

 Consequently, memories of school days are a giant blur of buzzing conversations around exams, grades and adulations for my supposedly intellectual and hardworking brothers and sisters. Not once was a passing remark ever made about my looks and personality. Sometimes I accusingly questioned them about it and only heard mumbles about already doing a good job of it myself! Which is kind of true and why not? That was my only solace in that dull and monotonous existence then.

 After we completed school, the rest of them, conveniently escaped the drudgery at home, finding some cool job for themselves. I was the only one left behind and heartlessly bullied into doing all the housework, the official reason quoted as me having the most free time! As if it was my fault that school grades were the main yardstick for all the jobs I was interested in! The system needed a total overhaul in my opinion, for it was clearly inadequate in distilling class from mass and unearthing rare gems like myself! In the interviews I attended, it was easy to tell from the indulgent smiles I often received, the incredible impression I was creating. Probably it wasn’t every day that they met someone with my calibre and talent. I guess something terrible happened to them afterwards, for there was no way to explain why I never heard from them ever again! Poor souls, may they rest in peace. 

After a while, I gave up on my job search. Some people and some ideas are ahead of their times I had heard. I was obviously one of them. I was sure the day would come when people would come begging to me offering me ridiculous sums of money to get me to grace their workplace. Wonder how disappointed they’d be when I rejected them one after another. Anyway, until then, I’d rather allow only the deserving, privileged few to enjoy my company and to shine in my reflected glory. It was so gratifying those days, to have the luxury of time and quietude to admire my striking handsomeness in the full-length mirror in my parent’s bedroom!

 It took me a great deal of mental strength and perseverance every day, to wean myself from that delightful hobby of mine and get some cooking and cleaning done at home. Of course, I did only the bare minimum, just enough to avoid having to endure long drawn lectures on my apparent laziness or their exaggerated tales of tiredness after work! I heard my mom mutter once in a while, how I ever came to be her son! Sure, I never understood that either. In fact, truth be told, even my dad was not so great looking either!

 Since the jealous lot had no appreciation of finer things in life, I made it a point to make them aware that I was doing them a huge favor, dishing out delicacies’ day after day! My family lapped up the food every evening, polishing the pan clean and constantly complaining that I cooked so little. Since early dinner was key to good health, I obviously ate much before they all came in, but not without first ensuring that there was more than half of the food still left for them. In spite of such generosity on my part, they grumbled & whined and made fun of what they called, my growing potbelly! By the way, I will let you in on a little secret. I understood very soon that I could use my fine cooking skills and control over the kitchen to my advantage. I tried to create a divide between them by intentionally serving larger portions of food to those, who could serve my purpose in some way, buy me a new shirt for instance or maybe those tempting snacks from the newly opened bakery! 

However, most of the time, the nasty gang always teamed up and made me the butt of their jokes, targeting my supposed sloppiness and ignorance. If the microwave didn’t agree with the metal spoons, they should put LARGE stickers on it as a reminder, I say! On the other hand, if you care to look at the positive side, it did give us a good opportunity to renovate the old dull & dowdy kitchen we had! You’d expect at least one of them to have the sense to drop their ego and thank me for it explicitly but no, nothing! Being gifted with the art of reading human emotions, words were really not necessary for me. I did understand their unsaid words, when they all kept nodding their heads and looking at me, eyes wet with gratitude, I assume?

 What they called jokes always felt like insults to me and I kept them safely tucked inside my heart to make them regret every single word, one day. Those days, it was my favorite pastime to plot and plan ways to get back at them. Randomly, I feigned sickness and had a relaxing day in bed and got them to do their rightful share of work at home. They really struggled with it since half their time went in searching for stuff in the kitchen. Apparently, my kitchen practices & methods were too unconventional and disorganized for them! Anyway, I found such days immensely joyful and once in a while, just for some added fun, prodded them in the wrong direction, causing them to lose more time and create a much larger mess! That should deter them from laughing at me next time!

 Eventually, the time came for me to say goodbye to this life. It was, understandably, an immense internal struggle for my family to see me go, but they put up a brave front, smiling through all their pain. I decided to get married and move out with my wife into her house in the city. That was a much more respectable address for a person of my stature. My wife was rather plain looking, and I could understand why people looked so appalled during our wedding. But being born a fair person, I believed in uniform distribution of beauty among all families of the world, instead of selfish hoarding in one family. With me present, the scale was already tipped too heavily in our favor. Personally, I also think most people cannot handle beauty gracefully. Generally, I find them extremely snooty and full of themselves. I wasn’t up for leading my life with that sort of a person. With a well-paying job and university grades that the job market scurried behind, my wife was a wise practical choice to live a life of comfort. In fact, I realized my potential as a marriage adviser. I see so many halfwits marrying for the sake of love, whatever that means! If they had half my brain, they could easily realize that these petty romantic ideas were of absolutely no practical use.

 Things worked out as per plan and finally I had some respite from the hard life I had endured so far. Perfectionist that I am, I was pretty annoyed with myself, when I discovered my wife’s cooking skills were so horrid! I benevolently agreed to give her some time to come up to the mark when she begged me to. She was desperate to make up for it so every day before she left for work, she cleaned the house and did the easy preparatory job of cleaning and cutting the vegetables and keeping things ready for me.

Soon we had a few kids. Kids got my good looks to a large extent thankfully. Not as much, but good enough. Though cute and sweet, they really meant more work. My wife wanted to take a break and stop working to take care of them! How ridiculous!! What use is university education when you can’t understand simple things in life such as knowing that having a job is a prerequisite to having money to feed the kids! It took a lot of my persuasion skills and tactics to keep her on track. Seriously, life can be so difficult at times. During this period, I noticed some changes in her. Her looks deteriorated by the day, as if it was even possible! You could hardly find her eyes, which seemed to be continuously disappearing into a sinkhole in her face and her scarecrow-like appearance in the clothes she wore. Not to mention how she always went around in the house, looking tired and unhappy. People can be so focused on negatives all the time!!

As my kids grew, they were mine to shape and shape I did. Since I got to spend a lot of time with them at home, I got the opportunity to ease my painful childhood memories by telling them all about it, as much as I pleased. They were eager listeners, and their young minds were easy to extract sympathy from and manipulate. Oh wait, did I say ‘manipulate’, I meant ‘shape’ of course. They loved me more than anyone else and were gradually full of hatred towards anyone who insulted me. It was so satisfying to see their intense desire to protect me from the harsh outside world, which now was getting increasingly mean to me for reasons beyond me. The children sometimes even took on their mother who obviously didn’t care about them as much as I did, for I was the one who was the unconventional stay-at-home father. I didn’t care what the world thought. All I cared for was to be at home with my kids. My kids got to know that very well. They loved me dearly for it. My wife did try to bring up some story on how she wanted to stay at home post the kids etc etc and I had to endlessly remind her not to bring up old stories from the past, which no one can judge if they are true.

As my kids grew, life went on getting better and better. They learnt much of the work at home and I could start delegating some of my work to them. At last, the opportunity to rest my tired, overworked bones! Sometimes I caught the kids wondering out loud why I couldn’t do some of the things that their mom or someone else could. I made sure I clarified their doubts immediately, with an in-depth explanation of how my work and talents were in a totally different league compared to others. Wrong notions need to be corrected, before they grow into opinions. I used a good balance of tactics to solidify my position in the family. Most of the time I tearfully reminded them of the pitiful childhood I had and that they must be ashamed to cause me more misery with their hurtful comments. If not for my supreme sacrifice and decision to stay at home, despite having multiple job offers in hand, they would have been at the mercy of a terrible nanny, as babies. At other times, when I had no patience for long explanations, I unleashed my fury, successfully scaring them into never daring to bring up such a topic ever again. On few occasions, when it was possible, I saved my face, from what could appear like a stupid mistake, by blaming my youngest one for it. She was too young to defend herself or prove it otherwise, anyway. It wasn’t always easy as you can imagine, but things were in control.

That’s when Tom walked into our life. He was my daughter’s boyfriend and was to stay with us. Guess all that education was putting fancy ideas in my daughter’s head. I wonder what she saw in him. Despite my early influence, she had allowed him to capture her imagination, floored by his apparent smartness and intellect. Any new person was grossly unwelcome in my family. I had easily warded off everyone else before, preventing any trouble in my paradise. But this time, I couldn’t be too direct in my attacks and had to make calculated moves.

Tom was obviously extremely delighted by his luck in getting the opportunity to be a part of my family. He went around happy and cheerful, eager to take on large portions of the housework and even give up his share of dessert, if I wanted a second helping. You could call him a little too needy perhaps, trying to do all that to create an impression. My daughter’s love for him seemed to rise with every such incident and it enraged me when she tried to help him with the work or ate less to accommodate him. I did drop hints about my displeasure, which surely upset Tom, for I could see his face drop from time to time. Contrary to expectation, he continued complimenting me in front of others very generously, obviously to get my approval. That did soften me a bit at times, I must admit.

But obviously I always felt threatened by his presence. He was after all, an outsider who had not been moulded the way the rest of my family had been and as long as they had been. I could use his apparent kindness and good will for a while, but I needed a good strategy to gain an upper hand over his free spirit.

Tom was poles apart from my nature. He was crazy and stupid to poke his nose into each and every work, trying to do stuff, he had never previously done. I had a very good idea of what I could do and could not do. I wasn’t stupidly overconfident like him. It served him well when others poked fun at his mistakes. I made sure I highlighted these situations to everyone in the family and sniggered at him the most, making sure to drag the discussion on it, as long as I could. So much arrogance and know-it-all attitude wasn’t good for anyone. For most part, Tom acted to laugh with others at himself, seemingly unaffected by my jibes. But I was hoping that if I continue with this, I will succeed in breaking him down one day.

I kept a hawk’s eye on Tom. With persistence, I knew I was getting on his nerves by my constant nagging and fault finding. I was waiting for him to lose his control and react angrily to me. I seized those opportunities to remind my family of how innocent and docile I was and how, like everyone else in my life so far, Tom too, had begun to be mean to me. My family, of course, easily swayed.

Gradually I could see the change in Tom. My methods were working. He was no longer the carefree, cheerful man he earlier was, always cautious and full of self-doubt around me. It was such fun to see him work harder to make up for his slack and apologize far more times than he would have thought possible before. At times, I was pleased to note that he let me win arguments and had sudden inexplicable episodes of dumbness. Appeasement techniques, you see. The more he tried, the more I scavenged for problems in his attitude, his words, the work he did, the way he spent money and so on and so forth. Tom doubled his efforts to keep me happy, but I wasn’t going to allow him a breather.

I was beginning to feel in control all over again and enjoying my dominance until it abruptly ended one day, when Tom left my daughter to go live in another city. Didn't even bid me goodbye. Thankless man. I had already planned many interesting mind games to play with him, so his sudden exit annoyed me. Since I had the momentum going, I continued them with my wife or my kids, as I pleased. My wife had noticeably gone very quiet and unresponsive. As our kids left town for their jobs, her face kept growing sterner and sterner by the day.

The other day, she told me she had quit her job, which outraged me initially, until I heard she had found a better paying one, albeit in a far-off city. I told her in no uncertain terms how annoyed I was of being intimated so late. She quickly accepted her mistake and said she’d compensate for it by going there alone to begin with and manage all the initial settling down by herself, to spare me the discomfort at this age. I don’t have her new address or phone number yet, as she had absentmindedly misplaced them somewhere! She told me she’d come and pick me up later since I haven’t ever traveled all by myself. That’s always been just too much stress for me. It’s been a few weeks now and she hasn’t called yet. Kids had come to help her pack, when she was leaving, and I haven’t heard from them either.


Don’t know why but I have this strange fluttering in my stomach. I haven’t been alone in a long time but for a smart person like me, it shouldn’t be a problem, should it? 

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