'Having failed for years to get him to move out of the house to set up an independent establishment of his own, it came as a surprise when he asked if it was all right if he moved out for a year "to live a bachelor's life",' says Kishore Singh.
Illustration: Uttam Ghosh/Rediff.com
Finally, I suspect, my son may have a girlfriend.
Having failed for years to get him to move out of the house to set up an independent establishment of his own, it came as a surprise when he asked if it was all right if he moved out for a year "to live a bachelor's life."
"What's her name?" his mother wanted to know.
"It's okay," I assured him, "if you like her, we'll be happy to meet her."
Whether he didn't want the pressure, or because he was being defensive, he denied a relationship, though if the whispered conversations over his mobile, when he keeps moving out of hearing range, is any indication, he seems to have been baited hook, line and sinker.
"Moving out" -- still under discussion -- comes with a caveat. He will continue to exercise rights over his room at home, where he will not hand over claims to his cupboards, bed, the contents of the room or its usage.
He will continue to come home for sleepovers, meals, gym protein mixes and shakes.
Nor will we see too little of him, as he'd like the following as part of his non-negotiable rights as a non-resident occupant of the house: A weekly laundry turnaround service; home-cooked lunch that he will pick up en route to work; the right to have the dinner of his choice cooked when he doesn't feel like ordering from takeaways ("Of course I won't cook," he declared); housekeeping services for when he is too tired, or lazy, to let in his own help; the staff to buy and stock his kitchen with groceries and his bathroom with toiletries.
If that wasn't enough, he's provided us a list of things he wants us to finance, because what's the point of moving out if he can't spend his money on the things of his choice rather than the 'basics of life.'
Our list of spends on his lifestyle, therefore, includes a wall-to-wall sized television, a refrigerator, an air-conditioner (he won't agree to shift the one currently installed in his bedroom), all kitchen appliances and accompanying crockery and cutlery (no, he won't settle for the excess of plates and spoons we've been storing at home for just such exigencies), bedroom and living room furniture, the necessary linen, carpets and upholstery -- basically, a trousseau that his mother has been saving for his sister but on which he's laying a claim by moving out first.
Nor is that all.
As behooving of a lawyer, he's "agreed" to split the bar between himself and me, putting his name on my fastidiously collected single malts that I've been saving for special occasions, leaving the run-of-the-mill scotches for me, purloining cases of wine, and indicating his preference for the rarer spirits collected from around the world.
Along with the alcohol he's apportioned for himself are the accessories, the cut glass decanters and glasses, the wine carafes and coolers -- all the accouterments to keep him in good cheer.
"Don't you want your son to enjoy the good things of life?" he asked. It's tough to argue with that.
But the whole idea of moving out seems premature.
For someone who can't sleep in an unmade bed but has never learned to make his own, the perils of housekeeping loom ominously.
"Let's test his resolve," I told my wife, "by letting him survive sans house help right here."
We'll know soon enough whether the nest is emptying, or filling up, with a currently phantom partner.
The new lord of the manor
Our son isn't going to be moving out of home, after all, more's the pity.
When he shared the news of his departure, it didn't foment the rebellion he had probably anticipated.
As a lawyer, he should have read the signs better.
For years, his mother and I had been encouraging him to become less dependent on his parents (even our club had refused to acknowledge him as one), offering to assist him in buying or leasing property suitable for a young man about town.
But either because he was too lazy, or too comfortable, he had deplored the idea.
When his turnaround failed to provoke hand-wringing at home, he must have rethought his plans.
It's true, we didn't try very hard to hide our glee.
After all, his departure would have opened up more real estate for us in the house.
Plans to utilise his share of the space were more avidly discussed than might have been warranted in his presence.
That loss of decorum probably lost us the space and our freedom from the burdens of daily parenting.
His announcement had come with a heavy calendar of travelling for me.
My log of outgoing calls reveals that I called him from Chennai to ask whether he'd found a place for himself yet; from Bengaluru to ask whether he'd at least be gone by the end of the month; from Hyderabad to ask if he needed help finding a broker; from Pune to suggest the name of a moving company; and from Mumbai to ask why he was taking such a long time about it.
"I'm not leaving," he said, when I finally came back from my exhaustive travels, making me feel a little bit peeved.
Bad news should not be broken suddenly, it needs to be announced gently.
"It's all right if you want to take a little longer," I assured him, "Let's increase our budget for your property search."
"I can't just leave you and go," my son responded straight-faced, "you're not getting any younger and need looking after."
For his benefit, I counted the staff we had to take care of us, but he was unmoved.
"They aren't family," he argued, "At your age you need me."
At least it resolved the fights at home about who would lay claim to his room.
My daughter had plans to convert it into a boudoir complete with walk-in wardrobes and a personal gym.
My parents had hinted about a permanent guest room they might use.
My wife, who is a woman of action, had already begun shifting in suitcases of her excess stuff, and was most annoyed about being unceremoniously thwarted.
"Do you know," she said to me, "I can't think of anyone whose grown-up children stay at home. What must people say of me behind my back?"
We now stare at a long winter where, my wife tells me, we will soon be put to task taking care of our son's progeny, and before you know it, their heirs.
"It's our house," I pointed out to her, but she waved the statement away with a weak wave of her hand.
Just how right she was became clear that evening when the cook, who had ignored my request for a cup of tea, served him, first, a chilled cold coffee concoction, then a home-made pizza, and, finally, a single malt on the rocks purloined from my secret stash, while I made do with humbler spirits.
The lord of the manor, clearly, isn't.