Balachandran. S. Palakkod was old.
Or was he? Forty years back, they said fifty is old; now they say only seventy five is old. Some say never say “old’. It is politically bloody incorrect.
Is the word “bloody’ politically correct? No. Because there were women all around. Bala’s wife Yamini was there; and his daughter Yamuna. Then there was Suresh, ten years old, Yamuna’a son. There – I have given you a clue regarding Balachandran’s age. Old enough to have a school- going grandson.
They were all reeling from the diagnosis. Did anyone actually reel? That is a moot question. The Doctor had just revealed that there were secondaries. In the liver. No- none in the brain. Brain, as such, the Urologist said; was normal. Extremely normal.
Balachandran looked down at his crotch. Beneath the plain brown trousers, beneath the off-white underwear (both selected for him by his wife) was his penis. Buried, and near the base of this organ, was a gland known as the Prostate gland. Inside it was the cancer, and it was not creating any trouble there. The only problem was that it had opened a branch office in his liver, and that was not good news.
Adjacent to his penis, were the balls, which produced sperms, and also testosterone. The testosterone helped the tumour grow, and cutting off his balls (politely referred to as the testes by the politically correct Urologist) may slow the progression of the cancer. That may extend his life. Can that be done?
“Oh, that is no problem. Of course.” His wife said, a little too quickly. The Urologist ignored her, and looked steadily at Balachandran. Yamini felt irritated. Why- these doctors take women rather lightly- Part of the ubiquitous discrimination against women everywhere.
Balachandran felt nothing much at all. Only a surprising numbness. He looked at Pappachan, his friend. He was also there. He looked concerned.
Balachandran felt a whiff of camaraderie for Pappachan, and it escaped like a puff of perfume from some corner of his heart.
He and Pappachan were old school friends, but only Balachandran was liberated. Bala pitied Pappachan. Pappachan could not rise above his animal nature. The animal nature flourished inside Pappachan, like a poisonous tree that dwarfed a beautiful garden.
Pappachan was successful- enormously successful. He had two profitable companies, now run by his elder son. He had enough money to buy half of the District. He was handsome and even at this age as muscular as Salman Khan. No- that would be an exaggeration- as well built as Irfan Khan, then. He went to the gym twice a week. His wife was dead, but he had a younger woman employed to do all the housework and who fussed over him like the mother in Hindi television serials.
But then, why did Balachandran think that Pappachan was inferior to him?
That was simple. You see- Pappachan could not rise above himself. He gave a free run for his testosterone. He took full advantage of his male privilege, and naturally, he became successful in the traditional sense of the term. This, Balachandran knew, was easy.
Testosterone, was a small molecule secreted by the testes. By some measures, it increases ambition. The maleness of males. Balachandran had majored in Psychology for his degree. He had moved on to management, so that his job prospects would be better. But he read quite a lot, and that made him see perspective. Perspective, made him superior.
“ha-“ Thought Balachandran. “This is the advantage I have over Pappachan.”
Pappachan saw his own father go out every day, and come back late at night. Weekends and holidays, he spent in business meetings, or out drinking with friends. His mother kept house, cooked, and looked after the children. Everyone said that Pappachan’s father was successful.
Pappachan went out and built the business further. He came back late at night. He had sex almost every day. He drank and went out with his friends alone for trips and conferences. His wife stayed at home and brought up the children. She had aches and pains everywhere for her entire life, and her doctor said all of it was ‘psycho-somatic’. That is why the bone pains due to her terminal cancer was diagnosed late. She died.
But you see, for the world, Pappachan was a complete success.
Now look at Balachandran. He was well built and was in the school basketball team, just like Pappachan. Balachandran’s father also went out for work in the early mornings, came back late at night etc, Drank on weekends as expected of those times and…..
Well, you get the idea. It is the same formula over and over again. Balachandran’s mother always gave the best piece of fish to his father and generally behaved like his servant, and so on and so forth.
In short, Both Balachandran and Pappachan saw the same blueprint for life and Pappachan followed it blindly and replicated the same result. The only difference was that Pappachan’s wife had vague aches and pains, complained continuously and everyone around proclaimed her a bore and a nag.
But Pappachan remained successful. That was the beauty of it.
But Balachandran, had perspective. He read, he reflected. He realised that the world did not have the same rules all the time, and one had to change with it. He understood. He could rise above himself, and see what others wanted; for example, his wife and daughter.
Balachandran got married because he had to. Everyone had to. Even In those heady opening years of the twenty first century, in India, one simply had to get married when the time comes, unless one was a major rebel; or an outcast.
He did. Yamini had studied communicative English in college. Like most people, Balachandran assumed that she preferred to be a stay-at-home mum, as most people would assume about girls that had degrees in languages.
“ How nice it would be if I could start an English coaching centre?” Said Yamini, once, during the early years of the marriage.
See – the first years go in a whirlwind of events. Children, early career demands. Yamini started her Institute. The loan was in Balachandran’s name of course. It was the correct thing to do.
Slowly, as Yamini’s career took off, Balachandran found that she became increasingly irritable. She would be. Balancing everything is damn difficult.
Balachandran got up early most days to prepare breakfast. He became good at it. He had a knack for cooking. Dinner too.
In fact, he found, to his amazement, that he had a knack for most things. Take washing clothes for example. It was quite easy to put the dirty clothes in the washing machine four times a week. Then one could quickly put it out to dry, and then send it to the ironing person who came twice a week. The spin-dry is a marvel of technology!
He knew that, certain things had to be done by the man of the house. Driving, for instance. Dropping off children to places. Heavy work around the house. Shopping. The man had to do the financial work. In fact, even if Yamini had a separate Bank account, most of the expenses and the EMI for the house and the Institute had to go from his account. This was a man’s responsibility. He couldn’t resent that. Obviously not.
Whenever there were serious negotiations to do regarding his or her work, he was the person to do it. Serious negotiations were heavy work.
The point is, society expected a man to do certain things. Being enlightened doesn’t mean making excuses for not doing them.
“Oh no- a conference? Isn’t that an excuse for drinking and exchanging dirty jokes with friends?” Yamini would ask.
Obviously. Being once a student of Psychology, he could see that she would resent it. Bonding with friends is a competing pleasurable activity. So is drinking, even when occasional. Women would resent that. Quite normal.
On the other hand, testosterone, will make men gang up, an atavistic throw back to the age of mammoth hunting. Primitive. We don’t hunt mammoths now. The trick is to rise above the natural. That is why Bala slowly quit going to parties.
There are other things to keep in mind when practising being the modern man. Whatever the standard social science model says, men do have a bit of difference in their hormonal imperatives. Take visual pornography for instance. Men are almost exclusively the consumers of this vile product.
After going without sex for weeks, (he hated giving more than a hint), Bala was once watching a porn movie when he was caught red handed (er..his hand was busy down there) by Yamini.
“Just look at you- don’t forget you have a daughter.”
This was a massive blow, from which he took weeks to recover. He felt like vomiting, whenever he thought about a blue film, after that.
“You are a caretaker with a dick and a bank account.” Pappachan told him once, drunk to the tonsils. Bala wanted to hit him, but he controlled himself. Virtue was in control. Losing control was failure. But Bala forgave this, and they remained friends.
Come to think of it, caretaker with a bank account would have sufficed, because the dick as far as he could see it, was optional. He couldn’t resent that of course. It was the testosterone that was responsible for his increased sex drive. It was his problem, not hers.
Bala wanted to go into an academic career, but because of financial pressures, he had gone into sales after completing his degree in Human resources and Organizational Psychology.
His manager often said:
“Bala- you are a perpetual so-so. Look at Sumesh. See Aron. The hours they put into work is phenomenal. They are always there, you know. How will you compete? The company is keeping you at subsistence level out of pity.”
Balachandran knew that he was not joining the drinking sessions and company trips either. And that was worse than underperforming.
That day he came back rather dejected. Yamini said:
“Do the dinner, dear. Any way you are not busy at work. They tell me the company is just keeping you. Can you take leave tomorrow? Yamuna has a dance class.”
Pappachan visited often, and that Balachandran liked. Yamini was all praise for Pappachan:
“Oh – he completed a marathon yesterday- what an achievement! And they bought another villa near the station. I wonder what Seline is always moaning and groaning about.”
Only once did he get into a really big argument with his wife. Wife and daughter- with both of them, actually. Yamuna had became a chartered accountant and wanted to open a firm. She was highly ambitious. Time had come to look for a suitable boy as her husband.
Balachandran was practical.
“See-, we do need to have someone not as educated, and probably ready to look after the house when she goes to work. If we make these demands clear, we may get a good boy.”
Yamini flew into a rage. “Do you want our daughter to marry a good-for-nothing?” she shouted.
“Dad, What the hell are you saying?” Said Yamuna.
That silenced him.
“Hey- Orchidectomy wont be necessary, Mr. Balachandran,” The urologist said.
“What, what?” Balachandran woke up from his reverie. He had almost forgotten that he was in the doctor’s room. He remembered the good doc telling him that he had to have his balls cut off. Ballsectomy. Or whatever. Now he was saying that may not be needed.
“There is hardly any testosterone in your blood. Your testes have stopped secreting it. A little early, maybe. We sometimes see it in older people. That is good news. There is no need for any treatment now.”
Everyone smiled. There was great rejoicing all around about his apparent lack of the ballsiness. The whole world, it seemed, approved of it.
“Very good, Son,” Said the world.
“Way to go, Buddy”- Facebook said.
“No balls. Thumbs up” Said twitter.
A hundred whatsapp messages flew hither and thither, shouting, “Bala’s balls are too shrivelled for ballsectomy, hip, hip, horray!”
The next day Bala wanted to see his old school. He wanted to have a last look at the place where he played football in short trousers with no underwear on, the balls dangling free and full of juice.
He entered the bus, and there was no seat. It lurched forward and he groped wildly to prevent falling, and his hand brushed against the breast of a young girl. She hit him on the face. He fell onto the wall and hit his head. The bus stopped. Many started hitting him.
“Hey- just dump the old man. We have to move on. He says it is an accident.”
Balachandran slowly walked back to his house. The door was open. He entered. He heard noises in the bedroom and peeped in. Pappachan was kissing Yamini on the lips.
He took an auto and went straight for the hospital. He ran into the urologist’s OP and took off all his clothes. The shrivelled bags hung free.
“Cut them off. Please. Get rid off them before I die.” He shouted.
The urologist had sprang to his feet, open mouthed.
Still, somewhere in the recesses of one of his testes, a solitary sperm was produced, and it matured at this very moment. It wriggled its tail and got ready. A few remaining molecules of testosterone coated it and spurred it into action. It swam about, getting ready.
It did not know that it had no hope whatsoever.
No hope at all. (Jimmy Mathew)