Some Things I Simply Don't UnderstandT. SHER SINGH
Friday, October 19, 2012
The other day, while a friend was visiting me, I had to step out for a few minutes to go to the corner store to fetch a carton of milk for chai.
I left her behind, sitting on the stool in the kitchen, surrounded by a maypole of turbans I had hung up to dry that morning after the fortnightly wash.
When I returned, a mere ten minutes later, the kitchen looked strange. I stood there, trying to figure out why, and then it hit me: the turbans were gone! All six of them. I looked around and there they were, sitting on the buffet outside the door, folded and stacked.
Even though I was grateful for my friend’s unsolicited and unexpected help, that is not what piqued my interest.
The stack of turbans was - I kid you not - P-U-R-R-F-E-C-T-L-Y folded, into neat 12-ich squares, and lined up in impeccable precision, one atop the other.
The last time I had seen them this neat, it was in the store in Ludhiana when they were sitting on the shelf, freshly brought in from the factory, machine-folded and wrapped in millimetre-precise measurements.
How did she do it? She simply shrugged her shoulders, genuinely puzzled at my puzzlement.
Each of them, those turbans, is 18 feet long, one yard wide. There were six of them. And I had been gone a few minutes.
When I do it, it’s a bloody chore that takes up a whole lot of manouvering that sends Nahla, the dog, into epileptic fits, thinking it is “The War of the Worlds” all over again. As I struggle with the yards of muslin, it take a few minutes with each.
And then, the outcome is a remote resemblance to any geometric figure. Well, a rhombus, maybe. Each is lop-sided. Each has different dimensions. Each of uneven thickness. And half-a-dozen of them simply defy any attempt to stack them up straight. They lean and fall over.
So, how is it that when a woman does it, she manages to do it effortlessly, in half the time, while playing with the dog and keeping an eye on the stove, and the final product looking like it was machine-made.
I know I am inept, but I also know that the rest of my species -- the human male -- may or may not be better, but not by much.
Sure, there are exceptions. Manjit, my friend in Montreal, for example, is one. He’s a glaring -- and annoying -- exception. He can do anything his wife Lorraine can do, only better. Fold. Clean. Cook. She doesn’t mind it because it allows her a life of luxury. All she does all-day long is crossword puzzles.
Manjit is a walking miracle. But I am talking here about ordinary mortals.
It’s been one of the great mysteries of life: how women can do certain things so easily, with so much finesse and class and style, and we males can’t.
I can understand life and death, even marriage and divorce, but I can’t unravel this gordion knot.
And it’s not just turbans.
I’ve given up on doing my bed every morning. Why? Because, it appears, when I do it, the sheets are not perfect rectangles, as they are meant to be. Each side is a different length, I swear. But when the cleaning lady does it once a week, she always manages to find the good sheets.
When I make rotis, why do they always turn out to be maps of India? If I try really, really hard, they look like continental America, a penile, dangling Florida and all.
When my daughter does it -- she has had no training whatsoever, and she has been brought up by me, exclusively! -- it’s a perfect circle every time, even when she isn’t looking.
Why are my socks -- all sixty of them -- lonesome bachelors, with not a single recognizable pair amongst them?
But when my mother visits me -- she is 82, I should add -- I find a score of sock-pairs in my drawer the next time I open it, all coupled and cuddled together and happy.
I have tried to organize my daily haul of coins for years, and tried every technique they tell you on the internet. I put my quarters in one bowl, the dimes in a separate one, the nickels in another, and the measly pennies in a jar.
They still clutter up the place.
When Manjit and Lorraine visited me once and Manjit and I went out, leaving Lorraine and my daughter alone home for the afternoon, we returned to a coffee table covered with a stack of coin-rolls, and a balance sheet next to it.
“It’s $348.00 dollars, Dad,” announced the little one. “Can we buy my bike now?”
All of this, and Manjit wasn’t even there. The two women did it!
I’ve noticed other things.
I’ve had female friends complain why I put the toilet roll on the hook all wrong. They always tell me that it needs to come out from above and fall forward. Why is it that when I do it, it always goes the wrong way?
Then there was the heated discussion I had with a girl friend once over the art and science of putting on socks and shoes.
Why do you wait until you put on BOTH socks before you start putting on the shoes, she wanted to know. Apparently, what I should’ve been doing was putting a sock on, then the shoe, then switching to the other foot, putting on the second sock, then the second shoe.
She told me why: what if there is a fire and you have to drop everything and run? Wouldn’t you rather have at least one shoe on, so that you can hop through cinders, instead of having to run through with only socks on, and burn yourself?
I must confess I’d never given it much thought. It does make perfect sense, what she said, doesn’t it?
She left me, not long thereafter.
It’s been a life long struggle for me, things like this.
Yes, I’ve found some solutions.
I’ve discovered bed-covers, for example; if you throw them over the bed with reasonable accuracy, you don’t need to make the bed at all.
And, ah yes, the socks! Here’s something you may want to emulate. I’ve bought 20 pairs of black socks, all the same brand, all the same length. So, I simply put my hand in the drawer and pull out any two! The entire bunch in the drawer are now as happy as a room full of singles on a speed-date!
Rotis? I buy them pre-rounded, from the store now. It appears there are a bunch of women somewhere who are making a bundle of dough through their sheer ability to make perfect circles.
But I still wonder.
I’m beginning to think that my daughter is right. Women are indeed better. In everything.
All I can say, meekly, is: vive la difference!
Conversation about this article
1: Rosalia (Baltimore, Maryland, USA), October 19, 2012, 1:13 PM.
Hahahahaha! This made me laugh out loud because it is misguided in attributing to all women such stellar skills that belong to a few! I, too, would be in awe of perfectly folded anything. Your inability to fold turbans perfectly mirrors my inability to fold towels, sheets or anything perfectly. I also put on both socks first and then both shoes. It strikes me as a bit ridiculous to put on first one sock and then one shoe. In the case of a fire, I'd rather have two socks rather than one sock and one shoe. Who's going to provide only one shoe to a fire survivor? In terms of toilet paper, who cares? Better to have it hanging incorrectly than not at all! I can pair socks -- my sole skill -- and my family considers me comic relief in the kitchen where the majority of the family's women strive to raise cooking to a high art. I'd rather clean up. And I am a woman. I guess this is what my father means when he says I am not "domesticated" and therefore am "unmarriagble." To which I always respond: why on earth would I want to be married to a man who requires a wife to be "domesticated" like a cat or a dog? I don't think the ability to fold and pair and to organize is strictly a feminine quality. Just relegated to people -- men and women -- who have better command of such skills!
2: Sangat Singh (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia), October 19, 2012, 4:30 PM.
Welcome to the club. 'Said I to my good wife, "You cleaned my desk?" "No, I did not." "You did. I had written a telephone number on the dusty top, and now it is gone". There is order in disorder and it works perfectly every time. Of socks: I was pondering over which pair for the feet to go in, and paused at the slightly different colours. "Oh! you have the wrong pair" said the wife. "No, I don't think so; I have another pair here of the same combination!" More stories to come. Just was in hurry to mark myself present.
3: Simran Grewal (Dunedin, New Zealand), October 19, 2012, 7:29 PM.
Haha, this story made me laugh. As I'd love to take credit on the female species, there are some men out there who are just as, if not more capable, than us females. I live in a student town and we are all a long way from home, it's amazing how much you learn when you are chucked in the deep end. I found that making daal and adding the right amount of water is a skill. The boys next door seem to pull out all sorts of exciting dishes and their rooms are a lot cleaner. So I guess times are changing. The boys have lifted up their games while the females are mellowing down. Equalities in place? I'd like to think so :)
4: Baldev Singh (Bradford, United Kingdom), October 20, 2012, 2:34 PM.
Aa-a-h! The woman's touch! Every facet of life -- even the most hardened misogynists and patriarchs would have to agree! -- cannot function without the better half.
5: Jaspreet (Surrey, British Columbia, Canada), October 21, 2012, 4:14 AM.
T. Sher Singh ji: I am a woman afflicted with the same thing as you. I took a first aid course and when my instructor inspected my work with cloth bandages, he said he had never seen such an ugly looking presentation but he passed it and failed someone's really neat looking bandage work. One time a boss at work called me and said I did an excellent job fundraising but I had the ugliest looking pledge forms he had ever seen and made me rewrite everything. It is not just men but women too. When I make my bed my cat comes and thinks it is a game and tries catching the sheets and stuff (my dog used to, as well). My rotis were ugly looking too the few times I made them in my childhood.
6: Jaspreet (Surrey, British Columbia, Canada), October 21, 2012, 4:18 AM.
At least your socks are of the same colour. Mine hardly ever match. My mother gets so mad, worried that company might notice the mismatch. Today I had to write a test for work and she came down and gave me a matching pair of socks. Then there was the day I really wanted to look nice. I had these ugly glasses I thought would look better black. So I painted them black, with acrylic paint. However, I had a dentist's appointment, I remembered, and this lady pulled my glasses off and was shocked to see black paint all over her hand. When I explained in a very embarrassed way, she laughed and laughed and told me to apply for this job opening at their office. I guess she wanted to laugh more often.
7: Sangat Singh (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia), October 21, 2012, 2:49 PM.
It appears from the feedback that the talents that have evaded you are gender neutral.