I’ve always suffered from some form of commitment deficit disorder (CDD). Even as a kid, I wanted to exchange my mother with a classmate’s because his mom never forced him to drink milk. I never gave the same answer twice to the question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”
By the time I was 15 or 16, which was when people stopped asking me, I think I must have used up all the professions that had been invented. But it was in school that my CDD bloomed and got hard-wired into my personality.
I’ve probably slept in more schools than Tiger Woods has slept with women. And whatever time I spent in any given school saw me shuttling between different sections.
I remember this school I went to in Chennai when I was in class four: I began in class 4A, was then shifted to 4B after three days, moved to 4D after three months, spent most of the term in 4C, before returning to 4A for my last few weeks in that school. It was not a big school and so had only four sections.
I hear some schools have sections starting from A and going all the way to U, V or W. But I never got to study in one of those. It would have been so much more fun — walking into a new class every week.
My dad won’t like to hear this but I believe my commitmentphobia, or ‘the inability to form lasting relationships’, as my first shrink put it, stems from his transferable job. He worked for a company that specialised in producing transfer letters for employees. So every time it I looked like I was making friends and settling down in a new place, say, Delhi, he would come home with a transfer order for Kolkata or Chennai or Pune or wherever. I would then have to break off with my old buddies and/or romances and start from scratch all over again.
This kept happening from the time I was a baby all the way till I got my first job in a small newspaper in Chennai. A job I quit on my second day, naturally. I remember how, when I asked for an experience certificate stating I had worked in the paper for one day, the editor rudely asked me to ‘buzz off’. So I was thrilled when I heard six months later that his paper had shut down and he was looking for a job himself.
I couldn’t break out of the cycle though. I kept changing cities, changing jobs, breaking old relationships, forming new ones. As you can imagine, this caused me a lot of trouble — especially with a section of the human race famous for its commitmentphilia.
But this aspect of my CDD got automatically cured when I ran into my future wife. She is one smart cookie, my wife. She realised right away that time-tested lines like ‘where is this relationship going’ or the more drastic ‘mein tumhare bachche ki maa banne wali hoon’ won’t work with me.
So she bypassed the usual crocodile tears and pseudo-break-ups and married me in a sort of a sting operation. “Just come over to the building near Asiatic Library tomorrow, will ya?” she said to me one day. Once there, she kept me distracted by obsessing about how other people were breaking the queue. Before I knew it, I was standing before a clerk who spoke to me rapidly in Marathi.
“What is he saying?” I asked her.
“He’s asking if you’re a fan of Shakira,” said my not-yet-wife.
“Oh yes,” I nodded at the man. “I love her.”
“Okay,” he replied in English. “Come and collect the marriage certificate after a month.” And that was that.
Apart from this singular exception, my commitment has steadily dwindled in every other sphere of life. And that includes even this column. To be able to write a column — you need commitment — to the subject of the column. But my CDD makes it impossible for me to remain committed to a single idea long enough for me to finish a column on it.
The longest I can remain committed to any given column idea is 15 minutes. On the 16th minute, my right brain tells my left brain: ‘We’ll take a short break now. But don’t go anywhere. I’ll give you fresh ideas on how to add sex and violence to your column — magar break ke baad! Stick around!’ But my left brain, as always, responds to such messages by changing the channel.
Even now, for example, fifteen minutes are over and I am no longer thinking about CCD but about the CWG. I am thinking how deeply I have fallen in love with Suresh Kalmadi. For some reason, his face hovers in front of my third eye constantly.
That manly beard, those honest yes, the oily skin — the way he has worked so hard to make the Commonwealth Games a success, and yet received so little appreciation for his heroic efforts. Thanks to him, with so many star athletes pulling out, India is set to reap its biggest medal haul ever in an international sporting meet other than the Indo-Nepal Games. Now, isn’t that what you call commitment?