Or Forever Hold Your Peace


When I joined work here at the start of May as a post-doc researcher on one year assignment (with a possibility of extension for one more year), perhaps on the first day, or may be the second, as we were standing in a queue for lunch, one colleague asked me something (I don’t remember what), to which another replied (to her), “He is married and has two kids in India”. When asked by the first, I said not as far as I know and that you are likely to hear many things like this about me, and most of them you shouldn’t believe. But he insisted that I was married and had two kids in India.

I didn’t know either of them, of course. Till that time I didn’t even know their names. But I wasn’t surprised by the claim. I have heard such (and many other kinds of) whispers about me within my hearing range and have indirectly found out about many others.

Still, the insistence of the claim made me wonder. May be I was being confused to be someone else. On my trip to Paris, on the Air India flight, they had shown the movie Peepli Live!, which I had seen in the plane for the first time. May be I was being mistaken for the central character in that movie?

I had heard another person telling my previous landlord that I was a ‘psycho’. Twice. No mistake. Needless to say, I didn’t know that person and had only arrived in Paris a day ago.

Part of the attraction of this job was that it included social security and health insurance. Social security does not exist in India. When I mention to people that this could be done for the good of the country and its people, they react as if I am making a crazy proposal. Nor is there any mandatory health care program. I never had proper health insurance. None of my medical expenses ever (a very modest sum for my age, counting every single expense) were paid through medical insurance (or any other insurance). This is something I have in common with the overwhelming majority of Indians. Nothing special.

Now, the chance that I will actually make use of social security in my temporary job was pretty small. Similarly for health insurance, but about that you can never be sure. Still, I have been to a doctor only a handful of times in the last ten years or so and was last hospitalized (for a day) more than one and a half decades ago.

The reason it was an attraction was that I wanted to know how it feels to have social security and health care. After all, I have been reading so much about the attacks on it in the US and in Europe and have even commented on it. Wouldn’t it be good to experience the real thing, even if for a little while.

Talking of little while, it is already almost five months into my contract and my application for social security was just rejected on the grounds that I had not submitted a Certificate of Marital status (d’etat civil). This document, as far as I know, and according to what I have been told by those who should know, is not required for this purpose.

The matter will, hopefully, be resolved, but this document is one that I have been asked about for the first time and it seems I might have to think about getting it.

I don’t remembering getting married, of course. I don’t remember of this happening even in a dream. But then you don’t always remember your dreams, do you? It is a scientific fact that we forget most of the dreams that we have, soon after we wake up.

So what if this did happen in a dream, one that I have forgotten about? Perhaps that counts. You never know. The laws and rules and regulations are changing so fast these days (not to mention their being re-interpreted) that anything is possible.

Or perhaps I had a memory lapse? Who knows?

So, as I hit quarante quatre today (is it the ceiling?), I am planning to try to get this single status certificate. If any person has reason to say that I shouldn’t, and can provide the evidence for it (I may have to submit it, you know), speak now or forever hold your peace.

Why mention the age here? What does it matter. This year, I have unprecedented ten or so greetings on this date. All from social networking websites (almost all of which I never use, I had just created an account on them out of curiosity or whatever). Not from individuals on those networks, but from the websites themselves. Websites are also people, may be?

The point is, the personal data is spread out so far and wide and is accessible to so many people, what does age count for in so much of minute details.

A lot of it probably of the kind that I don’t even know myself. People seem to know much more about me than I do.

I have even heard whispers, for example, that I am a drunk. So, thinking, why let the rumours go to waste, I bought today my first ever bottle of wine, though I have no plans of drinking it today.

(As I saved this post, WordPress showed me a quotation, before adding this and the previous paragraphs into the post, saying “I am a drinker with writing problems”. I didn’t catch the name of the wise man who said that.).

As a matter of fact, I am a drinker. A heavy drinker. Of water. Perhaps there is water with alcohol problems these days. Who knows?

So reiterating the already said, could someone tell me if I am married (with two kids or none, or more, who knows?), and if yes, please provide some evidence for the same?

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