I got the wife to put away whatever she was doing and said, I have something serious to discuss with you. A bit intrigued, she put aside the work she had brought from office and waited for me to begin. After giving a suitable pause to emphasise the importance of what I was about to utter, I declared, I am 62.
Despite all the build-up I had engineered to drive home the enormity of what I wanted to convey, my statement failed to create a ripple. She waited for me to continue and when she found that I was not forthcoming any more, she said, well go on, so what? I know your age and since you have already retired, you have no interest in fiddling your school leaving certificate.
A put down like that would be enough to put off any ordinary mortal but I was not in an ordinary state of mind. There comes a stage in a man’s life when he will bear with the most inhuman dismissiveness and still go on to make his point. Do you realise, I went on, so is DSK, as the French call him. I thought that would do the job, make her sit up, but no.
Who on earth is DSK, she asked, leaving me no option but to fully spell out the three dreadful words, Dominique Strauss-Kahn. Then the penny or the centime dropped and she said, you mean the fellow who is charged with raping a hotel maid? Yes, I nodded and added with all the gravity that came to me so naturally, do you appreciate the danger I am in?
You are not an accomplice, are you, she asked incredulously, in a tone that actually enquired if I had gone out of my mind. Unable to establish the connection, I went on to my next point: Do you know how old Rajat Gupta is? This floored her even more as she was totally clueless about the headlines in the business papers. I could do little but go into a long winded explanation of what insider trading was, what McKinsey was and how incredible it was that a former MD of the hallowed consultancy would be accused of insider trading. Not satisfied with being a millionaire, he wanted to become a billionaire.
Then, after this long detour, I tried one last time to bring back the drama in what I wanted to convey by pointing out that DSK and Rajat Gupta and I were all in acute and imminent danger as we were all 62. But the relief from getting it off my chest was shortlived. She pondered for a bit and replied, but you don’t have one person’s libido or the other person’s greed. So what if you are all of the same age.
By now exasperation was getting the better of me but I still kept my cool and urged, try not to be so literal; try and understand the existential issue at stake. They are no criminals, not yet at least. They are actually in the vice like grip of all the forces that possess men when they are in that incredibly dangerous territory of being 62 or thereabouts.
Having gone that far, I warmed up to my philosophical exposition and continued. Let’s not get literal about 62; it could be a bit more or less. The point is, there used to be something called the mid-life crisis in the last century which used to hit men when they crossed 40. Today, with medical science and the carefully controlled lifestyle of the successful, the most important among men are hitting that danger zone as they cross 60.
They still have huge energy, in mind and body, and desperately want to end their show as achievers with one last go that will produce a climax. They want to do the one biggest thing before they start pushing 70 and begin to unwind. This combination of energy and realisation that there is not much time left creates an explosive situation. Some are able to let off steam safely, like opting for early retirement, then taking up a new hobby and maybe write a book. But others are not so lucky.
Particularly when they are confronted with a good looking hotel maid, snapped the wife. Try not to be judgemental, I pleated, but was slapped with the sharp retort: if I am not going to be upset about this kind of thing then what shall I get upset about. Then, after cooling down a little she asked, so now that you have found out what danger you are in, what are you going to do about it?
Much relieved that she was getting practical about my dilemma, I said, that is what I wanted to discuss with you. What do I do? Do I go for analysis (that’s what people usually do in books and movies at that point) or… She did not let me finish my sentence and interjected, or I break your head if you do anything silly.
Violence will not put an end to the existential dilemma that I am trying to make you appreciate, I pleaded. After a few years the crisis will pass. I will be too old to be able to be up to anything. But right now I am in this critical slot as so many important men are. Like them I am 62. But instead of offering some help, she lost all interest and went back to her work, saying, go see an analyst if you like, but do not so much as look the way of hotel maids half your age.