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November 09, 2015

Wedding Diaries #17: Anuvab Pal on The Death of The Bachelor Pad

Illustration by Rahul Das

Ironic posters, quirky souvenirs and obscure books – a bachelor’s pad is often full of carefully ‘curated’ things. Comedian Anuvab Pal looks at how a wife transforms a man’s domain

I was asked to write about what happens to a man’s space after marriage. The answer is simple. It ceases to exist. A man’s space before marriage isn’t much of a space to begin with — it is a decrepit, post-war, industrial waste land resembling interior war-torn Afghanistan, and this is after the maid has cleaned it.

The single man will not admit this of course. He will say the ‘home’ (a 650-square-foot bachelor pad really but we’ll allow him his delusion) has carefully arranged ‘curated’ things — a guitar here (never played but that won’t be admitted — everyone in the world always says I’m learning the guitar, it is a national anthem for single men doubling up as a lie that never gets old. Women have long known this). An ironic poster from a holiday in Barcelona is there (to show cool travel choice). An alcoholic motif souvenir from Morocco (ok, shot glasses) placed strategically by the fridge to display quirk. An obscure book made to look like it was being read, on the bed, specifically to start a conversation about it (‘Yes, Vikram Seth’s poetry is my thing, not his novels no’ and such). A CD rack arranged so that the Pink Floyd CD (that the single man never listens to) is placed in a way to suggest to the lady that it is all he listens to. And the Baba Sehgal CD was a joke present. The truth, of course, is the opposite.

A single man thinks of this space as cool. He thinks it tells the world he is well-travelled, musically inclined, well-read and a cosmopolitan drinker. A single woman comes in with just one reaction. ‘Ugh’.

She isn’t essentially looking for all those clues of taste and intellect he thinks he’s strategically placed. She thinks this place is a mess. “Who keeps a guitar and CD rack on the floor, and shot glasses in a row on the fridge like this was some illegal gambling den? And, just see how careless he is — throwing a book like that on the bed. Yes, I love him but where is that maid? I love her more right now.”

Once the two people move in, as lovers, as husband and wife, whatever is popular in that era, she’s already found out that he’s a fraud. She knows he listens to Baba Sehgal, drinks Tropicana juice from the shot glass, hasn’t read anything by Vikram Seth and uses the guitar as a paperweight. Okay, the Barcelona poster is genuine (he went with his parents). She therefore transforms the apartment into a shocking new reality no one was ready for — clean, so that (gasp) people may visit, and they may even have people over for dinner. The single man is not used to that reality — the only visitors he’s had are drunken men friends too incapable to go home and drunken women friends complaining about the lack of interesting men in their city, and by extension, the planet.

Suddenly, his home is transformed from Afghanistan into Norway. Spotlessly clean. Organised. Norah Jones CDs play, the bathroom has a lime scent, there’s salt and pepper in separate things (the single man did not know that was even possible), and little fridge magnets. There are bath mats, plates are washed after dinner (why?), books get a bookshelf; there is hand soap. Hand soap! (The single man did not know about the existence of such a product).

The maid is in shock and often apologises because she thinks she’s come to clean the wrong flat — no longer that of the baboon that lived here where she found shoes in the microwave once.

A proper dining set is ordered from Fab India, which will have a demarcated separate area from the sofas which are just for sitting and chatting, and both of these are wholly separate from a third entity, the TV room. This demarcation is the first sign of adulthood. Why one can’t just lie in bed and watch TV while throwing bread crumbs on the bed in which he will sleep later, he wonders, reflecting on how he’s lived this far. Demarcated areas for each thing are not a world view the single man has been exposed to. He realises perhaps that this demarcation is the first sign of adulthood, and proceeds to pick up his socks and underpants thrown across the flat.

Naturally, none of these things happened to me. I speak only of what I have heard. Being a comedian, I naturally also happen to be a liar.

Please note: I was single about 15 years ago, so these games may have changed. Nowadays, a single man welcomes a lady into a flat and all there is, is an Apple laptop, a phone and a bed. His range of interests to impress her is just on his computer — on his Torrents or iTunes. I have no idea what space she begins to change — oh, I think I can guess — his Facebook and Twitter profile. Those are our new homes now.

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