Friday, April 21, 2017

The Enticing Cocktail

Whenever I see someone motivating someone else to drink – I remember my story COCKTAIL – the title story of my Book of Short Stories about Relationships COCKTAIL 

Most of us pick up bad habits like drinking and smoking due to peer pressure – our friends motivating us to drink and smoke and be a part of the crowd. 

I saw this in the Navy. 

Maybe – I would not have started drinking alcohol had I not joined the Navy. 

Even some Navy Wives started drinking alcohol due to peer pressure”. 

Today – I observe that – though smoking is on the decline – drinking is on the rise – especially among youngsters. 

This is a fiction story – but then fiction is a dramatized version of the truth 

Yes – most fiction is based on real life incidents...

COCKTAIL
Fiction Short Story
By
VIKRAM KARVE

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 another 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 she 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 I would talk to Arun  and find a solution  make them more compatible  so that they could be happy – and 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 I told him once or twice – and then I 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  Arun’s penchant for the bottle – and maybe  they thought that marriage was the panacea  and then they saw Sadhana – and they said to themselves: “She is a very good girl, from a cultured family, excellent upbringing – I am sure she will improve Arun 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  to meet the girl’s parents  to ask for their daughter Sadhana’s hand in marriage for their son Arun – 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 aspect of “no alcohol in the house” rule – she did not yield.

On her first day she cleaned out his well stocked bar  by simply throwing all the bottles of expensive booze down the garbage chute.

Arun tried to reason with her – he 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 – Sadhana 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 – Arun 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 desperately saying 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 10:30 AM  telling Arun that I was not feeling well – and – I 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. 

I ordered a Pina Colada Cocktail for myself and a Soft Drink for Sadhana.

“You’ve got to help him...” I said to Sadhana  I came 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.”

“What...?”

“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.”

“No. No…”

“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 with his hard drinking friends...?  Isn’t it better 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 isn’t it better but she did not say anything.

But I could sense her desperation deep within her  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.

It worked.

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. 

Arun and Sadhana were the toast of society. 

The crowning glory was when they were crowned the “Made for Each Other Couple” at the New Year’s 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. 

I 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 bubbly Champagne.

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 my husband and I – we relocated abroad to the States – I lost touch altogether with Arun and Sadhana.

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 I asked them whether they could give me Arun’s mobile number.

They did give me Arun’s mobile number. 

So – I rang up Arun on his cell phone: 

“Hey, Arun  what are you you and your wife doing in an Ashram – have you 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 would cut down your drinking – for her sake – poor thing – I hate you Arun…”

“Stop it...!!!” Arun interrupted angrily, “It is not me. I have given up drinking. It is my wife Sadhana – she has become an alcoholic.’

“What...?” I said, stunned.

“Yes. My wife Sadhana has become an alcoholic. Thanks to you and your stupid advice  she has 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 my good natured advice had terribly boomeranged.

But one thing is sure  I have never ever felt so terribly guilty in my life  till this very day. 

VIKRAM KARVE
Copyright © Vikram Karve 
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Disclaimer:
This story is a work of fiction. Events, Places, Settings and Incidents narrated in the story are a figment of my imagination. The characters do not exist and are purely imaginary. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

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Copyright © Vikram Karve (all rights reserved)
 

This is a revised and abridged version of my story COCKTAIL from my book COCKTAIL  my anthology of short stories about relationships published in the year 2011. I wrote this story 12 years ago in the year 2005. I have posted this story online a number of times earlier in my blogs including at url: http://karvediat.blogspot.in/2011/09/cocktail.html  and http://karvediat.blogspot.in/2016/06/cocktail-fiction-short-story.html  and  https://karvediat.blogspot.in/2013/08/cocktail-story-of-small-town-girl.html  etc
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