I’ll begin with a confession: I don’t have a hearth. In fact, I’m not too sure what exactly a hearth is. In my mind, it`s something that carries warmth and fuzziness at times, and a touch of Roop tera mastana at other times… or am I confusing it with a blazing fireplace? In any case, what I do have is an argumentative marriage. In all (other) respects, it’s a normal, working, happy marriage — but we argue a lot. There is absolutely nothing we cannot argue over, and we put our hearts into it. Through the years, we have refined the art of arguing, and have raised it to both erudite and base levels simultaneously. After years of nondiscriminatory wrangles, we now pick our verbal battles, and we have established boundaries of pertinence, courtesy and a time-limit too. Also, we only argue inside our house, because we are not your average squabbling- in-public couple.

We started off on a far-from-level playing field. One half of us was instinctively argumentative (no disclosures here), and the other stuck to telling silences and even more telling “Hmmms.” However, the former has successfully lured the other into the rumble pit, and now either half would be lost without the daily welter of words.

Now, this probably gives you the impression of a brawling couple, a Mr and Mrs Woolf (her first name being Virginia) going at each other while dismayed friends and relations look on. This is far from the truth where we are concerned. We argue like others play Scrabble. Give us a name, a concept and we immediately fall to parsing it, one saying it’s great, the other saying it’s bakwaas. After an intense debate, we then shelve the topic, sometimes achieving closure, but most times not.

Back in our past, it was all about the personal, and the canvas was a large one. One playing endless rubbers of bridge, neglecting the other; one needing to sleep with the soothing background music of Arnab’s haranguing, the other with Carlos Santana; one trying to wean the other off red meat; why one led the other to believe the kitchen would look better painted a light mauve.

Then we turned it up, and matters turned philosophical. Do we secure a safety net for the kid, or do we let her fly on her own? Do we buy ourselves a home for the future or get ourselves a car for next week’s road trip? Do we carpe diem relentlessly or live prudently, with an eye for the rainy morrow? Was boycotting Salman Khan’s films an act of high principle or cinematic deprivation?

When it came to economic matters, we were pretty much on the same page, so there was no scope for argument. On the political playing field, though, we argued our heads off. AFSPA, the comparative foe-potential (I just made that phrase up) of Pakistan vs China, the role of the Lok Ayukta — all of it was grist to our argumentative mill. By this time, we were quite enjoying these arguments, though we were pretending not to. Occasionally, we’d let the odd jeer or juvenile crowing slip through, though that was actually against the rules. If arguing was an adult’s pastime, then we had to argue like adults — and we did. Mostly.

But it all went down to the wire only up to a certain point. The moment the arguments looked set to cross the Rubicon, one or the other of us stepped in. We were on a road trip and the anti-bhakt was mouthing off. Midspate, the other made an offer: if you promise to not badmouth this lot for a period of six months, I promise to underwrite the expenses of your next trip abroad. There was a period of fraught silence in the vehicle, as Principle fought with Temptation. The latter won. But did relative peace prevail in the homestead and beside the aforementioned hearth? Are you kidding? We had a host of other topics to argue over. Like whether risotto is only cheese pulao in Italian couture. Why Kapil Sharma? Whether Brexit was going to resurrect ye olde British humour. Why one of us insisted on leaving the toilet seat up. And other such not-so- mundane matters. In conclusion, what can I say? Our arguments are the very breath of our lives together.

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