It was not "someone" who called me a bachelor the first time. It was "something". The white official-looking envelope I received by registered post that day had my degree certificate in it. 'Bachelor of...', it announced in somewhat gaudy letters as I stood smiling. Bachelor!
"Sure, I am," I said, almost adding, "and now I have proof of that, if you need."
Till then I was a boy, a brother, a student and whatnot -- but not a bachelor. All of a sudden, that important piece of paper had given me a new identity. I know you are dying to tell me things like 'this bachelor is not that bachelor', but believe me, the very next day my phone rang. It was my real-estate agent, an uneasy reminder to the approaching expiration of the initial company accommodation. "Sir, you are a bachelor, are you not?"
"Sorry sir. The owner is not willing to give the house to bachelors. But don't worry, sir, I have many other houses. You see..."
So that's how it is. No country for the people of Palestine. No food for starving Somalis.No trees for migrating birds. And yes, no houses for poor bachelors. They are not welcome in residential areas. Bachelors party and make noise round the clock. They go after the neighborhood girls. They don't respect the norms of the colony. They come in groups...
Anyway, I learnt my lesson: Bachelors don't have all the civil rights that 'normal' citizens enjoy. But then, what do we have that makes many a married guy cherish the memories of his long-lost bachelorhood? Palestinians have to cling to their land. Migrating birds are bound by directions. But a bachelor has few restrictions. Except for renting an apartment and walking into one those stupid 'couples only' clubs, he can have everything else.
He gets up at any time and sneaks into the office unnoticed when others get ready for lunch. He sits to almost any time in front of the computer without worrying about anxious where-are-you calls. He stays away from the house for days and no questions are asked. He does whatever he wants on the weekend, in the company of his friends...
Yes. Friends are the most important aspect of any bachelor's life. Without them he practically has no existence, especially if he's staying away from home.
But then one day, over the thundering music and the first round of cold beer in a dimly lit pub, he announces his plans to get married to this cute girl that someone else had found for him. Over the double cheers, the naughty comments and laughter, I become aware of something that hurts me somewhere.
My friend's getting married. Of course it's something to celebrate. But then, that also means he's leaving the gang!
We attend his wedding, the most colorful function of his life, in full spirits. All of us. We give him gifts, wish him good luck and retreat to our good old world, one member less. It does not take much time before we find him reduced to much-delayed replies to our bunch of mails -- and as for phone calls, that comes only once in a blue moon.
For my part, I watch the pile of wedding invitations in the corner of my desk grow at an amazing, alarming pace. Before I know it, most of my cool buddies are gone. And the rest of us soon realize that we are not always welcome to the new circle the married men have formed. So we seek solace behind those office doors where the sun never sets.
I do meet my married friends occasionally. In the office, on a casual walk, or in a busy restaurant. They are my friends still. And they are still friendly as much as their new lifestyle and added responsibilities permit.
Oh heck, there's my telephone. I think it is my real-estate agent again.