“Dinesh built a really good shed. The shed looks beautiful.” The first words my wife, Kavita, voiced as I turned on my car ignition to return home after Memorial Day cookout at Dinesh’s house.
“Yes. He is good at it. Hey Amy can you play some new songs from IPod. It is a long drive.” Not ready to encounter the inevitable, I looked for an escape.
“Sure dad. Do you have any preference?” Fond of Hindi songs, my fourteen years old daughter Amy quickly replied.
But Kavita interjected, “Dinesh has adapted good aspects of the American society. He mows yard, tiles, paints, changes carpet and maintains the whole house like all other American men.”
“Yes he does. Hey Amy, when are your EOG tests?”
“Dad, are you trying to change the topic?” Amy giggled.
“Yes. He is. He always changes difficult subjects,” Kavita replied before I could say anything.
“EOGs are more important Amy,” I kept trying.
“Why don't we talk about shed now and EOGs at home?” Kavita held her choice in stern tone.
“What is there to talk about?” I replied
“Why don't you admit Dinesh works a lot at home?”
“Did you notice the windows and remarkable woodwork on the shed?”
“It took him three years to build it.” I stated a fact.
“You don't even start,” Kavita snapped back.
“Dinesh likes doing it.”
“What do you like? You do not lift a finger. We pay someone to mow the small yard we have,” Kavita said
“You know I cannot mow lawn because of allergies,” I made a feeble attempt.
“When is the last time you did a project at home?” Kavita became serious.
“I put shelves in all bedrooms and in the garage,” I reminded her something concrete.
“That was three years back.”
“Well, we don't need any more shelves. We have in all rooms now.”
“You can do something else,” Not willing to give up Kavita continued.
“Like what? We don't need to change anything in the house.”
“How about a shed just like Dinesh’s?” Kavita circled back to the shed.
Dinesh’s shed almost made me shed tears.
“What will we do with a shed?” I asked.
“We can store yard equipment and other tools,” Expert in home organization Kavita had an answer.
“But I have already sold my lawn mower and yard tools.” It was a true statement.
She thought for few moments.
“We should paint our plain master bathroom in two colors. It will look beautiful.”
Her ‘we’ meant ‘you’. Spending several weekends running around to hardware stores, buying brushes, rollers, tape, ladder, and painting four walls of a room that we use for shower and bath did not interest me.
“Let us call Jose. He is a very good painter. It will take me weeks and he can do in hours. I don't want to take away time from Amy’s activities,” I made my case.
“I can drive Amy around. You have plenty of spare time,” She replied.
Knowing she is a perfectionist and cannot stand mess, I made a stronger base, “I cannot make the edges straight. Bathroom will be a mess for several weeks.”
“We WILL paint the bathroom ourselves. We will use a sponge to make a creative design,” Her tone implied end of the discussion.
Ending the discussion was a good idea hoping she might forget all about it. Nevertheless, next visit to Dinesh would bring it all back. There was only one-way out and that was ‘diverge her attention and stay away from Dinesh’. To divert her attention I planned a trip to her brother’s house in Ohio for next weekend. However, we cannot be in Ohio every weekend.
On Dinesh’s next call for dinner, I had an excuse ready for him. I had planned movie, bowling and a visit to the art museum. After few weeks, oblivious to my crooked mind, Dinesh invited again.
I made an ill-prepared excuse, “Rajesh and Seema invited us today.”
With diverted attention and Dinesh not on horizon, I was happy with my triumphant effort of eliminating shed and painting discussions from my otherwise happily married life. My happiness was short lived.
Monday 11AM, Dinesh called on my cell phone. Surprised by an unexpected call on a weekday, I answered instantly, “What’s up Dinesh? Is everything OK?”
“Do you want to meet for lunch today?” Dinesh continued, “It is going to be like university days.”
Feeling happy meeting my school friend without the baggage of household project, I accepted the offer.
At lunch, always honest and frank Dinesh came to the point, “Why are you avoiding me?”
His first statement explained the lunch but how could he find out.
Concealing my discomfort, I replied, “What are you talking? We are at lunch together.”
“Rajesh and Seema were with us on Friday. They can’t be on two places.”
I was like a thief caught red handed. My face went white.
Looking at my blank face, Dinesh started laughing. When Dinesh laughs, his eyes and his entire facial muscles laugh. With his infectious laughter, Dinesh makes everyone around him laugh. Always using his laughter to put people at ease, he alleviated my embarrassment.
“Hey. We are friends for twenty years. So tell me honestly. What is wrong?” Dinesh asked sincerely.
“Visit to your house makes us fight,” It was best to be direct with Dinesh.
“I cannot keep up with you on household projects and Kavita expects me to.”
“Did you guys fight over a project?” Dinesh asked.
“We had a little tiff after Memorial Day cookout over your shed.”
“I got it. Sorry. But we cannot stop partying. We have to find a solution.”
“Like what?” I asked
“I got a plan. Just come for the next gathering and we will resolve your problem,” Dinesh said with confidence and started laughing again.
I accepted Dinesh’s next dinner invitation. As usual very quickly, the conversation focused on Dinesh’s projects and this time it was his tile work at kitchen.
“Dinesh really did a great job with tiles. My kitchen looks awesome now,” Dinesh’s wife Geeta started.“Who picked up the colors?” Common friend Seema asked.
“Dinesh did. He has good sense of colors too. He also picked up the style and the size of tiles,” Geeta proudly replied.
“The back splash looks beautiful,” Rajesh joined.“Of course, it looks beautiful. Dinesh spent several days matching the back splash with the kitchen cabinets,” Geeta continued.
“Back splash was not easy. I had to move the gas stove,” Dinesh clarified.
“The color combination is great and the finish is professional,” Kavita admired Dinesh’s work genuinely.
“He especially went to Wake Forest to get the right filling material for a smooth finish,” Geeta added, moving her hand on the back splash feeling the smoothness.This discussion was worrisome but I could not do anything to stop it. Hiding my annoyance, different thoughts came to my mind “Is Dinesh helping or hurting me? Is he setting up my divorce to completely remove projects from my life?”
Suddenly I had a sigh of relief.
“How long did it take you to finish it?” Rajesh asked.
“Three weeks. But I may have to redo the sink area,” Dinesh replied.
“Town of Cary did not pass the building code as I missed the plumbing inspection. Plumbing pipe is not set right,” Dinesh stated matter-of-factly.
“So what are doing to do? Rajesh asked.
“Well. I have to remove all the tiles from the sink area. Change the direction of plumbing pipe. Call for inspection and put the tiles back after approval,” Dinesh replied.“Can you remove the tiles easily?” Kavita asked.
“Usually tiles break when you remove them,” Dinesh replied.
“But that is a very small area. You can handle it,” Seema said.
“It is a small area but matching the color can be a problem. If the supplier has the same batch, the color will match. If the batch is sold out, I will have to use a slightly different color,” Dinesh became too technical.
“How much it is going to cost you?” Rajesh asked.
“It will probably cost me additional 3000$. Sometimes it happens but I love working around the house,” Dinesh said without any emotions in his voice like relaying his address to an Interactive Voice Response machine.
“Dinesh does not care about money. It gives him sense of achievement and he is good at it,” Geeta continued “But my kitchen will be a mess again for another six weeks.”I looked at Kavita’s face. Dinesh’s plan was working. She looked puzzled and lost in her own thoughts. Inspections, mess for six weeks and additional 3000$ seemed to concern her.
Driving back home, Kavita was unusually silent.
“Sometimes it is best to hire a professional. Dinesh is good but how could Geeta stand the mess in the kitchen for six weeks,” Kavita’s silence broke after sometime.
“Yes. I agree,” I replied without any emotions.
Dinesh’s plan worked. No more nagging to work around the house. Life was good but overlooked inspection did not seem right and I had to speak with Dinesh about it.
I called Dinesh and began with thanking, “Thanks dude. It is peace at home. I am glad you shared your negative experience. We are not really trained to do this kind of work.”“Yes. I knew it was going to work,” Dinesh said.
“But one thing is bothering me. How can you miss inspection? How can you make such a blunder?”Dinesh burst into laughter. People around me also could hear his loud laughter from the tiny speaker of my Blackberry. I had to move my Blackberry away from ear to keep my eardrum.
“Why are you laughing?” I asked“Are you the only one who can write fiction?” I could imagine glee on his face.
“Oh man! So you fabricated a story to bring peace in my house,” I started laughing with him.
“And at Rajesh’s house,” Dinesh replied.
“What if Geeta tells Kavita?” I asked.
“Geeta thinks I have to redo,” Dinesh replied with confidence.
“Yes,” He confirmed.“Geeta and Kavita will find out one day,” I pointed out a flaw in his plan.
“They might. But that is not important,” Dinesh replied“Why do you think it is not important?” I was confused.
“The thought of mess and losing money has profound impact,” Dinesh continued, “As long as they keep thinking about losses, you are good. We have done enough to engrave the notion of committing serious errors if we perform the work ourselves.”
Dinesh kept laughing.Convinced with his reasoning, I thought about logistics, “What are you going to say next time we meet?”
“I will say I hired a professional,” Dinesh had thought about that possibility.
“Smart but what if it does not work,” It was a statement without any substance.
“We will make up something new then. We are good at it,” Dinesh concluded.
I agreed with Dinesh but expressed my fears, “Kavita will be furious if she finds out that I lied.”Dinesh had perfect answer, “Saying sorry always works with soft hearted wives.”
Simply speaking Dinesh’s sneaky scheme outsmarted me and I kept thinking, “With friends like Dinesh, I don’t need…” I will let reader fill in the blanks.
Author’s note: -
At one stage in my life, I tried to view human character in black or white. With experience in life, now I know that our makeup is complex with different shades and this story attempts to depict the same. We compete, compare and make excuses in several aspects of our lives. On the same time, the family and friends always look beyond trivial aspects and come together at difficult times to support and help each other. See my earlier story, ‘The Best Medicine’ that shows our actions at a difficult time.
Some of my readers guessed possible outcomes that appeared ideal, but I remained honest and published the initially conceived idea.