Monday, February 4, 2008
A Dutiful Wife
So we just returned from India. We were gone only ten days which is short considering it takes about two and a half days to get there. Wes taught for four days at a science conference held at the Indian School of Business in Hyderabad. As a Dutiful Wife I was forced to go along with him and spent most of my time swimming and reading, "A Suitable Boy" by Vikram Seth. It was only 1, 474 pages. The title of my next book will be, "A Dutiful Wife" and it will be 1,475 pages.
We secretly ate in the student cafeteria whenever we could. It was fun being with the students and I liked being able to refill my own coffee. The Faculty Dining Hall had white table clothes and I was forever trying to remember if my bread plate was the one on my left or my right. Plus there were all these waiters whisking things away. I was acutely aware of the beggar children just a few miles from campus, so I was very uncomfortable with all this formal dining. In fact, I was uncomfortable dining at all. (More on that later.)
And here is the amazing Taj Mahal at sunrise. I thought it was a palace, but it's really a mausoleum. Yes, that's right. When you finally get inside, the actual room is the size of a large McDonald's restroom and there is the tomb of Mumtaz Mahal ("Chosen One of the Palace") and her husband Shah Jahan ("He Who Builds A Really Amazing Mausoleum For His Wife").
It turns out that Mumtaz was the love of his life, soul mate, friend, lover, first wife. And yeah, sure he had a harem but I'm assuming they were for when Mumtaz was hugely pregnant or having her period. She bore him fourteen children in seventeen years.
So she dies giving birth to their fourteenth child and he is bereft. Despairing. Since Porshes weren't yet invented, he decides to build--big time. But here's my question: Shah, why did you wait until after she was dead to build her this breathtaking place?
Why wait to say, "I love you"?
I saw a patient last week who when her husband left the room told me, "My husband has been so attentive and concerned. He insists on coming to every chemo with me. I know he loves me, but he's never been so out there with it."
He's scared witless, I thought. And sure enough, when we prayed together at the end of my visit, he was holding my hand so tightly my fingers had indents from my rings. He whispered, "Amen" after me and tears rolled down his cheeks.
As Wes and I walked back from the Taj Mahal to our hotel, he asked me, "Well, what did you think?"
"Don't wait until I'm dead," I answered.