Fiction Short Story
The moment she saw us, tears welled up in her eyes – there is nothing more shameful for a young bride than to see her husband helplessly drunk, staggering disgracefully in other woman’s arms.
I felt sorry for her.
It is true – to be married to a drunkard is the crown of all misery.
I lay him on the sofa, took off his shoes, put a pillow under his head – she, his wife, did not move but remained frozen with a look of anxious trepidation on her face.
The man who was dead drunk, Arun, lay in stupor, oblivious to the world.
It was only as I began to leave that his wife, Sadhana, rushed into my arms and broke down.
“He will be okay,” I hugged her warmly and comforted her.
“I want to die...I want to die...” she began screaming hysterically, “Why is this happening to me...?”
I sat her down, gave her a glass of cold water from the fridge, and said, “Sadhana, you just go to sleep now. Arun will be absolutely well in the morning. You don’t say anything to him – just ignore him – let him go to office. Then I will come here and we will talk.”
“You will come?” she pleaded.
“Yes, I will come in the morning and everything will be okay,” I calmed her.
I drove home late at night, lay alone in my lonely bed, commiserating, unable to sleep, wondering what to do.
I knew I had to do something, for I loved Arun dearly.
Hey, don’t get me wrong. It’s not what you’re thinking.
Tell me, can a woman love a man without ever having made love to him? Can a woman love a man without falling in love with him?
Of course she can – you can take my word for it – like I loved Arun.
Maybe it was our mutual chemistry or I don’t know what, but we certainly shared fantastic vibes, and we did love each other – Platonic, Ethereal, buddy-love – call it what you like.
Arun was my colleague and developing feelings of fondness for someone who you are in close proximity with for more than least ten hours every day is very natural – but he was much more than my “work spouse” – he was my soul mate.
Arun was my classmate from our student days in the States and I was not only his constant companion at work and socially, but also his closest confidante.
In such cases it is a thin line between friendship and having an affair, but we never crossed that line.
There were no secrets between us except the time he suddenly went to his hometown in the interiors of the mofussil and dutifully got married to the girl his parents had chosen for him.
Then he rang me up in the office, told me the news without much ado, and peremptorily commanded me to get his flat ready and come to the Mumbai Central Railway Station to receive him and his newly wedded wife.
I liked Arun’s wife Sadhana too.
She was a plump, graceful girl with a very pretty face and a sincere friendly smile which radiated a charming innocence.
She readily accepted me as a friend with honesty and openness, and generously understood my relationship with Arun without a trace of suspicion, envy or rancour.
I could not bear to see the poor innocent girl suffer like this.
Tomorrow I would talk to her, counsel her, and talk to Arun, and find a solution, make them more compatible, so that they could be happy, have a fun marriage.
But first let me tell you how it all started.
Arun loved his drink.
In fact, he loved his drink a bit too much.
I think he had an innate propensity for alcohol.
I noticed this and told him once or twice and then let it go as it was early days and maybe he was just enjoying himself, and I too didn’t quite mind sharing a spot of cheer in his affable company.
Maybe his parents knew this, his penchant for the bottle, and, maybe they thought that marriage was the panacea, and then they saw Sadhana, and said to themselves: “She is a very good girl, from a cultured family, excellent upbringing – I am sure she will bring improve him with her love and he will mend his ways after marriage. She’ll take care of him. Bring him around.”
It’s true; many people do seem to think the marriage is the easiest solution to many ills, like alcoholism, and everything will suddenly be happy ever after.
Sadhana’s marriage was a social triumph for her parents. She was an ordinary looking small town girl studying in college and it was almost a miracle, a stroke of good fortune, that the elders of the best known family in the town had come all the way their modest house, the girl’s parents, to ask for her hand in marriage to their son – a well-educated foreign returned top management executive.
It was a grand wedding; but I have heard somewhere that, sometimes, a grand wedding results in a disastrous marriage.
At first Arun too was quite happy at his newly acquired simple naïve “provincial” wife who he thought would be unquestioningly obedient and acquiesce to his every whim and fancy.
Sadhana turned out exactly as he expected – a nurturing, caring, loving wife who did exactly what he wanted, pampered him to glory and unquestioningly submitted to all his demands, except one – she did not allow even a drop of alcohol in their house. In this she did not yield.
On her first day she cleaned out his well stocked bar, simply throwing all the bottles of expensive booze down the garbage chute.
Arun tried to reason with her, explained the ways of cosmopolitan culture, but Sadhana stuck to her guns, defiant.
And when all of us at the office suddenly landed up for impromptu dinner with the big boss presenting Arun a bottle of his favourite Single Malt, Sadhana promptly drained the precious whisky down the sink saying, “This daru is evil stuff,” and then served us a delicious spur-of-the-moment meal.
This was the last straw!
I noticed Arun seethe in silence feeling totally humiliated in front of his colleagues, his juniors, his friends, and me, but he did not say anything.
He reacted the next day - from that day onwards he started drinking with vengeance.
Arun started drinking at the club bar on his way home from work every night.
At first I would give him company, but soon I stopped accompanying him, as his drinking grew from bad to worse and his behaviour would often become nasty after a few drinks.
And now this – a call at midnight from the club secretary that my colleague and friend Arun had passed out stone drunk in the bar and would I please take him away as they had to close up.
Next morning, I left the office around ten thirty, telling Arun that I was not feeling well and went straight to his house.
Sadhana was waiting for me.
“Shall we have tea...?” she asked.
“No. Let’s go to the club,” I hustled her out of the house and bundled her into my car overruling her protests, “We can be more discreet there,” I said hinting at the servants, but I had other plans.
It was early, the club was empty.
I chose a lonely inconspicuous table and ordered a Pina Colada Cocktail for myself and a Soft Drink for Sadhana.
“You’ve got to help him,” I said to Sadhana, coming straightaway to the point, not giving her a chance to start her sob story.
“Help him? Of course I want to help him. But how?”
“You adapt a bit, and he too will change and get better.”
“Adapt...? What should I do...?”
“Give him company.”
“Be his friend. Spend your evenings with him.”
“But he goes to the club every evening.”
“Go to the club with him, sit with him, meet his friends, chat, talk to him, and make friends with him. He will feel good. In fact, I would suggest that you join him in a drink once in a while and have a little fun.”
“What?” Sadhana said flabbergasted, “You want me to drink liquor? In my home I have not even seen a drop of alcohol…”
“Relax, Sadhana, don’t be so dogmatic,” I took her hands in mine and calmed her down, “You are in a different society now. There is no harm in having a small cocktail, or some wine – now-a-days everyone does – even I do.”
“Here, sip this,” I said giving her my glass of the lip-smacking sweet creamy Pina Colada.
“No. No. I can’t have this bitter strong stuff,” she protested.
“Try it, just once,” I insisted, almost forced her, and she took a tiny sip.
“It’s sweet and delicious isn’t it...? Now if you have a little bit for Arun’s sake, he will start enjoying your company. Arun needs companionship. Tell me Sadhana, isn’t it better he has a drink with you than his hard drinking friends – that he rather spends his time in your company than with his good-for-nothing friends who are out to ruin him...?”
Sadhana gave me a hesitant look, but did not say anything.
But I could sense her desperation deep within that would make her try out anything, any remedy, any cure.
I looked into her eyes and said, “The trick is to wean him away from hard drinking to social drinking. That’s what will happen once he starts enjoying your company. I am telling you again. Be his friend. Spend your evenings with him. Go to the club, sit with him, have a drink. Arun will feel good. He will start liking you. Now drinking is his priority – soon you will be his priority.”
“I don’t know…” Sadhana faltered.
“Trust me. Try it. It will make life easier for both of you. Stop trying to control him. It will never work. I know Arun well. If you nag him you will drive him away from you. Confrontations, threats, arguments – with these he will only get worse. Come on, Sadhana, for Arun’s sake, for your sake, give it a try, I am sure he will respond positively.”
Sadhana looked anxiously at me, nervous, unsure, yet desperate.
I stood up walked to her and gave her a loving hug, “You two are newly married. I want you to be able to laugh, relax, have fun and enjoy life to its fullest!”
She hugged me in return.
“Promise me you’ll give it a try,” I said.
“I will try my best,” she promised.
Arun sobered down.
And though he did enjoy his drinks – I never saw him drunk again.
The metamorphosis in Sadhana was truly fascinating.
The way she had transformed herself from a conservative Small Town Girl from the heart of the mofussil into a chic crème-de-la-crème socialite was remarkable, almost unbelievable. I would often see her sipping exotic colourful cocktails rubbing shoulders with the cream of society.
There was a time when Arun was ashamed of showing off his wife; now his heart swelled with pride and admiration as everyone noticed and praised her. They were the toast of society; the crowning glory was when they were crowned the “Made for Each Other Couple” at the New Year Eve Ball at the club.
Their marriage started rocking.
In fact their marriage rocked so much that soon comprehension dawned on me that there cannot be three persons in a marriage and I gracefully withdrew from their lives, changed my job, relocated and, yes, believe it or not, I got married to a nice young man and commenced a blissful married life of my own.
Of course, Arun and Sadhana attended my marriage, and at my wedding reception Sadhana seemed to be in a vivaciously celebratory mood, swinging brightly and dancing wildly, downing glass after glass of
My new husband and I honeymooned on a luxury cruise liner, sailing to exotic locales – a wedding gift from Arun and Sadhana.
At first we kept in touch, but with the passage of time, as I settled comfortably in the cocoon of wedded bliss, the communication became less and less, and when we relocated abroad to the States we lost touch altogether.
It was three years before I visited Mumbai again, and the first thing I did after depositing my baggage in the hotel was to head towards Arun’s flat on
. Marine Drive
It was early and I wanted to catch him home before he left for work.
Arun and Sadhana were not at home. “Saheb and Memsaheb have gone to the Ashram,” the servants said.
“Ashram...?” I said surprised, and asked whether they could give me his mobile number.
They did, and I rang up Arun on his cell phone, “Hey, Arun, what are you two doing in an Ashram – given up the material world and taken up the spiritual path...?”
“No. No. It’s not that. This is not really the type of Ashram you are thinking; it’s a nature cure clinic,” Arun said.
“Nature Cure Clinic...?”
“Not exactly, you can say it’s a de-addiction centre, a sort of rehab...”
“Rehab...? You promised me Arun, you promised me that you’d cut down your drinking…for her sake…poor thing…I hate you Arun…”
“Stop it...!” Arun interrupted angrily, “It’s not me. I’ve given up drinking. It’s Sadhana – she’s become an alcoholic.’
“What...?” I said, stunned.
“Yes. My wife Sadhana has become an alcoholic. Thanks to you and your stupid advice she's hit the bottle. And now will you please keep your advice to yourself and leave us alone...?” Arun said angrily and disconnected.
I cannot begin to describe the emotion I felt at that moment when I realized how terribly my good natured advice had boomeranged.
But one thing is sure: I have never ever felt so terribly guilty in my life, before or since, till this very day.
Copyright © Vikram Karve 2010
Vikram Karve has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.
VIKRAM KARVE educated at IIT Delhi, ITBHU and The Lawrence School Lovedale, is an Electronics and Communications Engineer by profession, a Human Resource Manager and Trainer by occupation, a Teacher by vocation, a Creative Writer by inclination and a Foodie by passion. An avid blogger, he has written a number of fiction short stories and creative non-fiction articles in magazines and journals for many years before the advent of blogging. His delicious foodie blogs have been compiled in a book "Appetite for a Stroll". Vikram lives in Pune with his family and pet Doberman girl Sherry, with whom he takes long walks thinking creative thoughts.
Vikram Karve Creative Writing Blog - http://vikramkarve.sulekha.com
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