MY FAMILY AND OTHER ANIMALS
It is ridiculous how the American media brainwashes young men and women into believing about vampires, werewolves, about extraterrestrials, about shape shifters and what not. Many of them are not even aware of geography and about nations outside America. There is a stupendous lack of awareness about customs and traditions of other nations and societies. The tabloids seemed to feed a lot of geeks with stories that are simply not true. What a waste, I thought.
I looked out of the window. My neighbor stood outside training his telescope towards the heavens looking for an unidentified flying object. It is his belief that the earth is already overrun by aliens. According to him, the US government is busy hiding the truth about them. What a conspiracy! His wife Joanna is a practicing Catholic and she believes that she is the reincarnation of the saint Joan of Arc. I don’t know how she has arrived to such a conclusion but there is no dearth of nuts in the country. Her younger sister, Cathy, is part of a witch’s coven and claims that she can call spirits and converse with them. Joanna also has a younger brother named Steve who is about twenty five years. On the few occasions I have run into him, he seems to be fascinated with taking acid trips using LSD. With long brown curly hair, green eyes, a sharp aquiline nose, pointed ears, wearing long robes and sandals with an awful stench emanating from him, I have often found him wandering about lost in his thoughts. After dropping out of college, he is supposedly trying to discover himself and what he wants in life.
Farther down our lane, there is an old man living with his daughter. He is half mad and the few times I have met him, he introduced himself as Hitler, President Roosevelt and the actor James Dean. And let me tell you he played their roles to perfection. However what would I know about them? Though he is polite but it is obvious that he has lost his marbles. He is eighty five years old. Kudos to his daughter and son in law who put up with him and his delusional thoughts.
Living right next door to them is a young couple who are extremely amoral. The time, I and my wife visited them, they wondered if we would like to have sex with them. It was a thought that I couldn’t possibly have entertained even if I was drunk but here they were candidly offering us sex. According to them they have already hooked up with young couples having a similar perspective of sexual freedom and fun. Mrs. Johnson, a young woman of not more than twenty four or twenty five for that matter was attired in thongs and a brazier with her assets clearly visible. And Mr. Johnson was wearing a pair of jeans and a t-shirt. That was the first and last time we visited them shocked at the kind of people living in our vicinity.
My wife Jessica often invites over her kith and kin to our house. Amongst them is her younger sister named Margaret who hasn’t married as yet. At twenty two she is five years younger than my wife. She suffers from a compulsion to switch boyfriends quite often. And on inquiry, I have learnt that she was addicted to sex with different men but not interested in establishing relationships.
I have often tried to tell her that it is not a healthy or safe practice but it has not had any impact on her. Infact once whilst Jessica was away shopping for grocery, she appeared naked in my room thinking I would perhaps be attracted to her but I was not. I had been quite repulsed by her act. And I had it a point to make myself scarce whenever she was about. What’s happened to our morals I often think.
Jessica has another sister named Melissa who has married thrice already. She is a bad luck charm for any mortal man. Her first husband died in a road accident a week after his marriage to her. The second one succumbed to an overdose of Viagra. And the third one had committed suicide due to financial problems. Melissa was committed to a mental institution for treating her severe depression and now she lives with her parents who are my in-laws. I feel rather sad for her.
My wife has an elder brother named Robin who served in NAM. However when he came back, he found out that the treatment meted out to war veterans was appalling. He was jobless for a while. And he suffered from various mental ailments as well for which he had to be treated and confined to psychiatric care. It took him three years to recover from the psychological and mental trauma of warfare. However a year after being declared mentally fit, he had shot himself in his head and died.
I am also in contact with several friends whom I had at the University. One of them is a young gentleman from Pakistan about whom I would like to tell you.
After his marriage to a young woman in his country, he had bought her to California only to find that she had a boyfriend waiting for her. She had seeked a divorce and my friend, Ali, had been in deep mental anguish for quite a while before he was remarried to someone in his family. Though he was a practicing psychologist, he had to seek help from a psychiatrist for some time.
I have another friend from West Indies. His name is Bob and his apartment seems to be a shrine dedicated to the late Bob Marley, the famous reggae singer. When you enter his apartment, you will find various pictures of Bob Marley set in frames hanging from the bedroom walls. The only music that you get to hear is of course reggae. Even his Dutch girlfriend seems to enjoy the reggae music a lot. And thirty minutes with him seems to be a lifetime because the only thing he likes is drinking beer and talking about reggae and the life and times of Bob Marley and his music.
Then there is an Indian man named Raju and his wife Sri Devi. Raju, one of my class fellows at UCI (University of California, Irvine) has six children, five daughters and one son. In India, the female child is not looked upon as a positive omen. Therefore Raju and his wife had tried unsuccessfully to have a male child on five occasions which had not deterred them both from trying. One of their bedrooms has been converted to a shrine for worshipping their Gods.
And Raju had promised them that if they bless him with a male child, he would donate a thousand dollars to a charity in India. However Raju went back on his promise. It was only when his young son fell very ill that he relented and contributed the money to a charitable organisation back home.
Then there is my friend Paul back from the days when we were at college. Though he is a successful banker but he did no through with marriage for in his eyes it was a responsibility that he could do without. His favorite phrase is “Why marry when I can date so many beautiful girls?”. But that is his perspective and I respect that. However I was recently quite surprised that the rooms in his Malibu home were filled with barely clad beauties roaming about. There were four of them. I was shocked for a while. Noticing my amazement, he told me that one of them was his girlfriend and the others were her friends who had come to spend the weekend. “You seem to be doing fine” I said. And Paul broke out laughing. “This is the life I tell you” he said. Not that I agreed with him but I was for a moment quite envious.
Then there are my in laws, Mr. George Klein and his wife Mrs. Samantha Klein. My father in law has made his millions as a corporate lawyer. As an individual he is shrewd and yet extremely arrogant and blunt. I have often found it hard conversing with him for he is extremely quiet and quite an introvert. He has a horrid stare that unnerves you. It is as if an X ray machine is trying to read your thoughts and mind. His standard questions always seem to commence with how much I was making and they drifted onto my rank in the bank and whether there were any chances of my being promoted and whether I had had an increment in my salary or not and if so how much. From there our conversation would drift to his youth and how hard he had worked to be what he was. Quite often I would wish to God that there would be some form of divine intervention to spare me of his company. However that rarely occurred.
My mother in law on the other hand was more concerned about finding how I was treating her daughter. Did I care for her? Was she alright? Had I raised my voice at her? Did I take her out anywhere? Did I buy her anything? When did I come back home from the office? These were just some of the many questions she would be asking her daughter. But her emphasis was always on us having our baby as soon as possible. And George would also join in saying that he wanted grandchildren. The worst thing that they tried to scrutinize about was our sex life. And at such moments I made it a point to disappear. It was a crude subject, a rather private matter, which I would never like to discuss with anyone. From my wife, I learnt that my father in law had suggested that she take me to have my sperm levels tested.
What a pathetic suggestion I thought. It was something could only be expected of George and no one else. And ever since that I have always made it a point to make myself unavailable when they come over. Though it may seem rude but what’s the point of entertaining someone so brash and overtly nosey.
Even neighbors can be so nosey. A newly married couple moved in the house across ours. And they showed up to introduce themselves. They seemed to be a pleasant lot making good conversation. However, with the passage of time, I realized that whenever we had a guest, they would show up as well demanding us to introduce them to who they were. And after two or three such incidents, both I and my wife were deeply perturbed. It was an issue that had to be resolved. So I made it a point to visit them both at their house and to tell them that I didn’t like their visiting us when we had guests. For a while they astounded by what I had said. However they politely apologized and thereafter they did not bother us again.
In another instance, one of the couples living down our road showed up. Mr. Stewart Bock was an architect and her beautiful wife Elsa was a fashion designer. Stewart was a rather short and stout man with a balding head and beady eyes and big flabby lips with years protruding outwards. Dressed in a flowing loose flowing white gown with a piece of cloth, he looked like one of those Egyptian Pharoahs except that he was Jewish and of Israeli descent. His wife on the other hand was dressed in a loose silk gown. They noticed the shock visible within our eyes and laughed out.
We always get that response from people. However as the conversation rolled on, I noticed that Stewart was the type of man who didn’t like others to dominate a conversation. He could not stand people conflicting with his opinions and perspectives. And I noticed his plump face screwed into a scowl whenever I differed with his opinions on sex, religion or politics. However things really soured when I made a view point that Jews were treating the Palestinians the same ways like the Nazis did treat the Jews. And at that point Stewart told me to “shut up” or I’d be sorry. His wife did excuse for his misbehavior but that was the last that I ever saw of them.
There are so many different types of men and women out in this world today with their varying thoughts, opinions, lifestyles, mental makeup, characteristics, complexion, cultures, languages and value system. Should we judge them according to our value system, belief and cultural values? Would that be appropriate? I saw that it would be extremely narrow minded to do so. The only way one human can be better than another is through his good morals or character.