The Humor of Melvin Durai

Humor columns, satire and other funny stuff

Grown men aren’t supposed to cry, but sometimes I can’t help it, especially when I’m watching sports on TV. If I’m watching my favorite football team and the power suddenly goes out, I might start crying. But I’m more likely to cry when an athlete celebrates a victory with unrestrained joy. That’s what happened when Tiger Woods won the Masters Tournament recently: the tears just started flowing. His tears, my tears, even his opponents’ tears. The 43-year-old Tiger made them cry for different reasons than the young Tiger did.

It was Tiger’s 15th major golf championship, but his first in 11 years. Eleven years is a long time. Most Hollywood marriages do not last 11 years. Some do not last 11 months. A few do not last 11 days.

Tiger won his first major championship in 1997 at the age of 21. He won it by 12 strokes, an amazing margin of victory that he surpassed in 2000 when he won the U.S. Open by 15 strokes. Can you imagine winning a golf tournament by 15 strokes? When you get to the 18th hole, you can start playing blindfolded. You can tap the ball into the air and bounce it off your head a few times. You can make the hole last as long as a Bollywood movie.

Until Tiger came along, golf hardly appealed to me. I didn’t consider it a real sport. I made fun of it. Some of the golfers looked out-of-shape; others looked like they had just left Old Country Buffet. They walked around and hit a little ball into a hole. I didn’t mind watching golf now and then, but only if I couldn’t watch a more intense and energetic activity such as knitting.

Then Tiger came along and changed everything. He played like a tiger, displaying a killer instinct that turned his opponents into rabbits. If he was playing his best, all they could do was hop out of his way. When he lost, he stewed; when he won, he had rabbit stew.

Like many people, I became a Tiger fan more than a golf fan. If he was in contention at a major golf tournament, I watched every stroke like my life depended on it. If he was out of contention, I turned the TV off and re-acquainted myself with my wife and children.

From 1997 to 2008, Tiger was in contention more often than not. He won 14 major championships in that span and appeared to have a cakewalk to 18 majors, the record held by the legendary Jack Nicklaus.

But over the next decade, a series of events put his golf career in turmoil. First his marriage crumbled, amid revelations that Tiger had collected mistresses as avidly as golf trophies. Then came a DUI arrest, along with a mug shot that made him look like all those women had visited him in one night.

He also suffered several injuries while playing golf and underwent four surgeries to his back.

Now and then, we saw glimpses of the old Tiger, giving us hope that he’d be able to win another major. But that hope faded as Tiger fell short at tournament after tournament. His days of dominance seemed to be over. The rabbits had put the tiger in a cage, limiting him to little more than an occasional growl.

But Tiger didn’t quit. Teaching everyone a lesson in persistence, he kept pushing against the gate, kept prying it open, kept fighting back. And it finally happened – he won a major championship again. He celebrated by hugging his children, his mother and anyone else who looked safe enough to hug.

I wish I could have hugged him, but all I could do was cry.

I have to admit that until a few weeks ago, I had never heard of Marie Kondo. So if you haven’t heard of her, don’t worry. She isn’t a popular singer or actress. She is even bigger than that. She is the queen of tidiness.

To be precise, the 34-year-old Japanese woman is an organizing consultant. She helps people organize and tidy up their homes. She has written four books on organizing, but like many people, I came to know her through her Netflix show: “Marie Kondo Throws All Your Things Away.”

Actually, the show is called “Tidying up with Marie Kondo,” and in each episode, Kondo marie-kondo_768xvisits an American family and helps them declutter their homes. She has a unique method that seems to appeal to many people. I’ve been so taken by her approach that whenever my doorbell rings, I keep hoping it’s Marie Kondo. But it’s usually just the UPS man, delivering more clutter.

Our home isn’t particularly messy, but we could certainly dispose of a lot of things and not miss them at all. Clothing is at the top of this list and, not coincidentally, it’s what Kondo tackles first when she helps people organize their homes. She gets them to put all their clothes in a single pile. Then, as they take one garment in their hands at a time, she makes them ask this question: “Does this spark joy?” If a shirt or dress does not spark any joy, it gets donated or discarded. If it sparks joy, it gets to stay in the home, even if it hasn’t been worn since 1984.

I haven’t yet put myself through this task, but if I did, I’d probably be left with just a pair of socks. My younger daughter bought me warm, comfortable socks for Christmas and I love wearing them. They certainly spark joy in me. So much joy that I feel like walking outside wearing nothing but socks. But then I’d get arrested – and that would not spark any joy at all.

My wife, Malathi, owns far more clothes than I do. I don’t think she has ever put her clothes in a single pile, but if she ever did, it would spark immense joy in me. I’d take photos and share them online. But then I’d have to find a new place to live – and that would not spark any joy at all.

After helping people discard many of their clothes, Kondo shows them how to fold the rest into small rectangles, so they can be arranged neatly in drawers and other spaces. It seems like a great idea, but to do it consistently takes a lot of discipline and effort. I’d probably give up after a week or two, unless Kondo plans to show up randomly at people’s homes and crack the whip.

The second types of possessions that Kondo focuses on are books. Many people accumulate books almost as fast as James Patterson writes them. My wife owns a thousand books or so. She is an avid reader, but if she plans to read them all in her lifetime, she will definitely set a Guinness World Record for oldest living person. Kondo apparently recommends not owning more than 30 books. But I don’t think even Kondo can get Malathi to downsize her book collection, not without the danger of having “War and Peace” flung at her.

The hardest items for people to discard are the sentimental ones – items that spark warm memories, if not joy. Photographs, report cards, wedding invitations and expired ID cards are among the many items we hold onto. They tell the stories of our lives and tossing them away is like tossing away one of our children, but without the benefit of a lower food bill. (No, I didn’t just read Hansel and Gretel to my kids.)

Kondo forces people to assess each sentimental item and decide if it still brings them joy. “These wedding photos are from 1985,” she says. “Do you really want to keep them or would you rather just keep the photos from your more recent weddings?”

In the end, it’s important for us to realize that if something does not bring us joy, it’s not worth keeping. Better to donate it, sell it or discard it, hoping that it will bring joy to another being, even if it’s just a worm in the landfill.

Categories: Home

I’ve been a parent for more than 16 years and let me tell you, it isn’t easy. Every stage of a child’s life unleashes new challenges on a parent. When I hear that a group of kids has committed a misdeed of some sort, I’m not quick to blame poor parenting. I know from experience that it’s not wise to judge other parents until you’ve determined, beyond any doubt, that one of your kids wasn’t involved.

But even if my kids weren’t involved (they’re good kids), I’m not quick to judge the parents because I know that every parent has unique circumstances and unique challenges. If one of my kids does something terrible, I don’t want to be blamed for it. And if one of my kids does something terrific, such as win the Nobel Prize, I don’t want to take the credit for it. I just want to take the prize money. (Well, not all of it. Just enough to pay for the ambulance I’d have to call when their mother faints upon hearing the news.)

People often think that a successful parent is one whose children have achieved great academic and career success. We admire parents whose children have become doctors or engineers or any type of high-earning professional. All parents want their children to be successful in their careers, but is that really enough?

Imagine that your child becomes the president of a country — any country around the world — but lacks integrity and is disrespectful toward political opponents, journalists and others? I know it’s hard to imagine such a president, but let’s stretch our imaginations for a moment. Would you feel proud if your child became a president, but was boastful and ill-mannered, always belittling people on social media? I wouldn’t. I’d want to grab a slipper and chase him or her around, at least until the bodyguards stop me.

Whether my kids become doctors, lawyers, flight attendants or store clerks, I’d first want them to be caring, considerate and conscientious adults. I’d rather picture my son as a courteous waiter at a restaurant than a rude billionaire at a beach club.

It’s up to parents to teach their children important values. Here are just a few of the lessons I’d want my kids to learn:

  1. Be honest. Lying, cheating and stealing are examples of dishonest behavior. Children learn at an early age what’s acceptable and what they can get away with. I never let my kids get away with lying, except when they’re telling me that I’m the greatest dad in the world. Father’s Day lies are generally okay – and so is telling me that I’m in great shape and don’t need to go on a diet, or that my hair isn’t falling out – my scalp is just asserting itself.
  2. Be respectful. I want my kids to be respectful to their elders, as well as everyone else. It’s easy to show respect to people in equal or superior positions, but how you treat the disadvantaged and underprivileged reveals your true character. All humans deserve respect, even the ones who are crazy enough to vote for the other party. (I’m speaking, of course, about the Libertarian Party.)
  3. Be humble. I want my kids to do well in life, but I don’t want them to be boastful about their achievements. I don’t want them to think that they’re better than others, just because those other people weren’t lucky enough to have the greatest dad in the world.
  4. Be kind. It’s important to be kind to others and not just your own kind. I hope to teach my kids to be kind in many different ways, including opening doors for strangers, helping old people cross busy roads, and handing the remote control to their father when the football game is about to start.
  5. Be generous. I want my kids to be generous with their time and money. I want them to be especially generous when a person holds his hand out and asks for money. I don’t want them to say something rude, such as, “Get lost, Dad!”

The Tata Group recently re-opened Bombay House, its global headquarters in Mumbai, after the 94-year-old building had undergone some major renovations. The most remarkable change to Bombay House is that, according to a press release, “a kennel has been created for the canine friends who have been an integral part of the building for decades.”

Through a Facebook post, Save Our Strays, a Mumbai-based NGO, shared a photo of six dogs enjoying the kennel, along with this message: “This is the area where the street dogs living around the area can have a meal, drink water, take shelter from the sun or rain or just chill out.”

It may seem strange to some people that Tata Group is allowing dogs to chill out in their building, but as a dog owner, I totally understand it. There are many benefits to having dogs around. Here are just a few:

  1. Exercise: If you own a dog, you will probably have to take the dog on walks – or even runs. This gives both you and your dog some much-needed exercise. Even if you don’t own any dogs, they may still inspire you to exercise. Indeed, other people’s dogs have inspired me to run many times, whether they’re just barking at me or chasing me.
  2. Love: Dogs give you unconditional love. They’re considered “man’s best friend,” as I often have to remind our female dog, Legacy, who instead considers herself “woman’s best friend.” She loves my wife, Malathi, partly because Malathi gives her far more attention than I do. Every evening, Legacy looks out the window, hoping to spot Malathi returning from work. When Malathi finally opens the door, Legacy wags her tail so vigorously that if I were an engineer I’d win the Nobel Prize by attaching an electric generator to it.
  3. Companionship: If you have a dog at home, you are never alone. It’s easy to take this for granted when you live with family or friends, but for people living by themselves, especially the elderly, dogs can bring great comfort. Most dog owners enjoy talking to their dogs and appreciate the fact that dogs, unlike children and other family members, never talk back. (They might respond in woofs and yaps, but thankfully Google Translate isn’t that advanced.) Dogs are surprisingly good listeners. In fact, Legacy is a better listener than my teenaged daughters. I can talk to Legacy for 10 minutes straight and not once during our conversation will she feel the need to look at a cellphone.
  4. Therapy: If you happen to spot someone having a long conversation with a dog, please don’t think they’re crazy. Speaking to dogs and being with them is a form of therapy for many people. Dogs are ideal therapists because not only will they listen to you attentively, it never occurs to them to send you a bill.
  5. Immunity: Studies show that children who are exposed to dogs early in life have stronger immune systems and are less likely to suffer from allergies and asthma. But the most important form of immunity that children get by having a four-legged friend around is when they go to school and are able to say, “Sorry, Miss Martin. The dog ate my homework.”
  6. Security: Whether you’re at home or walking through a dark alley somewhere, having a dog with you can make you feel more secure. Many people own dogs because they bark at strangers and, in some cases, will even bite people who enter a home. Legacy is quite friendly, but when a stranger approaches our door, she often barks, mostly to let them know that there’s a dog around and if they come any further, they risk having their backsides sniffed.
  7. Attractiveness: It may seem surprising to you, but studies show that having a dog makes you seem more attractive to other people. Indeed, if you are a single man hoping to meet single women, just borrow someone’s dog and walk around with it. An attractive woman will stop to pet the dog and it could be the start of a great relationship. Who knows, they may even include you in it.