Working in a PR agency is a tough ask; you have to listen to the clients’ ranting and the journalists’ scoffing almost on a daily basis, and are still expected to work with a smile. It is a female-dominated industry (one of the reasons I joined); women excel at socialising, organising andcategorising (whereas men excel at belching, particularly after a few drinks). No wonder you won’t find many men here; given the amount of pressure PR executives are subject to, most men would either take up drinking or take up a gun (or in some rare cases both) to relieve the tension.It’s a man’s world, goes the cliché; however, the rules of the outer world do not apply in the PR industry, as I came to know unfortunately one fine afternoon.
“Men!” said Sonal. Recently married, she had been patiently advising all her unmarried soul-sisters of the pros and cons of marriage (which was at that point heavily tilted in favour of the latter) during the lunch break. “It is impossible to live with them.”
Being a member of the above mentioned, much-maligned breed, I quietly ate my lunch, wishing to avoid undue attention.
“This line on the bed-sheet is supposed to be aligned exactly with the edge,”Parul said, mimicking her husband, “but ask them to take their shoes off at the doorstep? They’ll walk right into the bedroom muttering apologies.”
“My husband wants the bathrooms to be clean all the time; we have three.” Deepali, another agonised soul, complained. “And never forgets to drop the wet towel on the bed.”
“They want everything just so.” Parul continued. “But if we want them to do something, suddenly we are dominating them and cramping their space.”
I munched upon a cucumber in response.
“Men!” Sonal repeated, this time with feeling.
“Men.” Eight voices echoed her; eight heads nodded solemnly in agreement.
Male members of humankind might object that I did not raise a voice in favour of men; they need to put themselves in my shoes. Bitter experience had taught me the wisdom of the old adage you never win an argument with a woman, and hopelessly outnumbered eight-to-one wasn’t going to improve the odds. Instead, as they went on listing the endless deficiencies of their spouses and partners, I thought about something both God and Google do not have a reliable answer for – what do you do to please women, after all?
This question has vexed men over the centuries, since time immemorial. We have tried, retried and untried many things to win a woman’s favour – knocking them on their heads and dragging them to the cave, composing ditties comparing their beauty to the moon, launching a thousand ships and waging bloody war for a woman’s love, bringing them chocolates and bouquets on their birthdays – to find out that absolutely nothing could really satisfy them; bonking them on the head is now considered violent assault, poets and poems went out of fashion with Wordsworth, and Menelaus won the war, but lost his wife. Even chocolates and flowers can only get you so far; they’ll give a wan smile and say “but this is what you did the last time darling” as they munch on that chocolate (don’t even think to ask them to share!) while youarrange the flowers in the vase. There is nothing you could do to stand up to the high standards they hold their fathers and brothers in, but short of actually bringing down the stars on earth for your lady love, there is nothing you could do to please her. I believe if Mumtaj had lived long enough to see the completion of Taj Mahal, “could have been better” would have been her first remark (and this after twenty-one years of hard labour during which Shahjahaan had nearly bankrupted the entire coffers of India).
And then,by some cosmic insight, it struck me; women want what they can’t have.They’ll adore hunks with perfect abs and taunt their partners about getting in shape, stare through windows longingly at that dress, earring or handbag just out of their budget, dream about the vacation they can’t afford; they are in love with the idea of having something elusive (once they do have it, they would no longer want it). Love, care and commitment are all essential, mundane requirements; what they want in addition is something unpredictable, something unexpected that will keep them guessing and on their toes. A man who could find that balance could just about manage to hold the interest of his betrothed (they might still crib, but at least they will do so happily).
“But Rajnish does not let me clean the bathrooms at all; he cleans them all himself.” Deepalisaid with a faraway look in her eyes. “He does care a lot.”
“Same here. Devendra always helps me clean up the house and the dishes.” Parul commented. “Plus, he takes me out to dinner almost twice every week.” A chorus of aww! indicated the erstwhile villain was now the man of every girls’ dream.
“Big deal.” Sonal scoffed. “Mine actually cooks the food and arranges a romantic dinner at home,all by his own self.”
“No matter what you say,” Deepali interjected, “we have found good husbands.”
“Indeed.” Parul nodded in agreement.
“Men.”Sonal sighed happily. “You just can’t live without them.”
“Men.” Eight sighs echoed her.
Men, I thought as I got up from my seat, sure could do with a few more of them around.
Disclaimer: This narrative is based on real-life characters. Any resemblance to anyone fictional is purely coincidental. If you can guess who all the people in the narrative are, you will get an Alpenliebe and a pat on your back (it isn’t that much of a challenge after all!).