‘Don’t you wish you could take a single childhood memory and blow it up into a bubble and live inside it forever?’
Prita Menon* and Manoj Pisharodi* too wished the same. They wanted to hold every memory of their childhood close to their heart forever and forever, and they wished to cherish it together.
They grew up in an upscale town in Kerala which boasted of established English Medium convents and a famous university. Sadly, the town lacked recreational facilities for children like playgrounds or parks and left Prita and Manoj spending their free time in each other’s company. Old buildings, construction sites, orchards- the whole neighborhood was their playground.
Not all the times were their companionship filled with fun and frolic. They had their terrible fights too that needed intervention of elders. They would part, vowing not to see each other again, only to end up holding hands and running together to board the school bus the very next day.
Years passed like this and childhood companionship turned into young love. Neither of them realized when it happened but one thing they knew for sure was their lives were entwined and neither of them could imagine a life without the other.
Their love was truly blind as both paid little heed to their background. While Manoj was born into an affluent upper caste family, Prita was several rungs below in the social standing. While her father was a government employee; holding a clerical post and drawing a modest monthly salary, Manoj’s parents were counted among the richest family in town.
Manoj’s parents were furious when the blooming relationship of the two came to light. One day Manoj’s dad happened to pass by their college in his car and saw the two of them walking hand in hand in close proximity; Prita resting her head on Manoj’s shoulder.
What followed was devastating. Manoj’s parents humiliated Prita’s father and mother, accusing them of eyeing their vast wealth and having set their daughter to entrap Manoj. In true Capulet and Montague fashion, close neighbors turned into fierce enemies over night. Filthy allegations followed and in a fit of rage, Prita’s mother vowed to marry off her daughter at the earliest, to put an end to the blame game.
Much against his desire, Manoj was sent abroad on the pretext of further studies. His parents believed that his infatuation will die a natural death.
With Manoj gone, Prita had no choice but to submit to her parent’s wish. Her parents got her married to a groom from an affable and reputed family.
While Prita was leaving for her in law’s place, her mother held her hands earnestly and spoke with tears in her eyes. “You may hate me for doing this, but believe me I took this step to avoid further heart breaks. Even though we are at the threshold of embarking into the 21stcentury; as long as our moderate middle class conservative outlook is concerned, a girl’s ultimate place is where her husband dwells. It is advisable for you to completely erase every memory that is associated with Manoj.”
It was easier said than done; though Prita was trying her best to overcome her past, it kept haunting her from time to time.
However, the love and affection of an unassuming life partner like Anoop, slowly helped her to come out of it. She realized that while it is one thing to fall in love, it is entirely something else to be loved and to feel a responsibility towards that love.
In the meantime, Prita’s parents moved to another town on her father’s solicited transfer. This served their very purpose of snapping all ties with the Pisharodi family.
Time flew. Anoop and Prita lived a contented life; nothing to nitpick about. Both had their jobs that kept them engaged.
Anoop was all thrilled one evening when he came back from work. He had been handed over the responsibility of heading a project in Germany for three months. It had come with a much awaited appraisal too.
Taking Prita’s face into his cupped palms and planting an affectionate kiss on her forehead, he whispered into her ears, “You too will give me some good news soon.” Prita knew what he was indicating at. They had been eagerly looking forward to having a baby.
It had been almost two years since they were married. Their parents were anxious to see their grandchild.
Prita too wished that she could give him the ‘good news’, which he had been yearning for.
However Destiny had some other plans for them.
A couple of days after Anoop left, while Prita was returning from work she was pleasantly surprised to see Mukundan, the loyal house help of the Pisharodis, in her neighborhood. Overwhelmed to have spotted her, here, Mukundan opened up his heart to narrate all that had happened back in their town after she had left.
Apparently, Manoj had returned from abroad, abandoning his studies half way. He had taken to drinking soon after. This was the method he chose to revolt against his parents’ decision of getting him married to a girl from a rich family. He hated them for having dictated his life and for having separated him from his first love.
“The honor of their Tharavad*; which they did not wish to be at stake, for taking you as their daughter in law, was being literally dragged to the streets. Everyone began talking about Manoj’s addiction to alcohol. One day he was found lying in an unconscious condition in a pub. A few men brought him home.”Mukundan wiped his tear filled eyes with the Mel mundu*.
“They decided to keep Manoj far away because he was causing untold humiliation to his parents and his father’s health was getting affected. Also they wanted to keep him away from those places he frequented to drink. They asked me to accompany him and stay in this house they own.
His liver is on the verge of getting damaged and it can be saved only if he refrains from drinking. We have arranged for a doctor to come home regularly to see him. He is adamant on refusing to get admitted in a hospital. Maybe you could talk and convince him to come out of this addiction.”
How could Prita remain oblivious after learning that Manoj has come to her neighborhood in a pathetic condition? Strangely she felt accountable for his situation.
Her visit to Manoj’s house, the next morning, brought back sweet memories of their childhood and youth. They both started feeling rejuvenated and happy. Amidst pangs of nostalgic heartwarming thoughts, they spoke to each other at length about their lives after parting ways.
Manoj was in fact pleased to know that Prita was leading a very happy life with an amiable soul mate.
Prita would spend a couple of hours in Manoj’s house, every evening after she returned from work. Her vivacious company seemed to have pumped some energy into Manoj. Both of them were well aware though, that this was a transient phase and they would not be able to spend time together once Anoop returned.
They did not wish their enthusiasm to wane by contemplating about that now. However, it takes only a spark to ignite the fire, when moments of sin get engulfed by the flame of passion.
One evening when Mukundan had gone to the market, Prita was with Manoj.
While they were chatting to glory, in a state of oblivion they moved closer to each other. Prita felt the warmth of Manoj’s breath, falling on her.
Flowing in concurrence with the tide of passion and remaining blissfully ignorant about the fact that beyond the curtained windows there was a world with other people attached to their lives, they got entangled into a moment of ecstasy. It was a delicate moment that made them break themselves free from their shackles.
They could only look back at it with heavy repentance.
One thoughtless moment and everything was lost!
“I am sorry,” said Manoj avoiding eye contact with Prita. “Trust me, it was purely unintentional.”
Prita meekly nodded but could not bring herself to say anything and she left leaving a huge void behind.
No words could describe Prita’s anguish while she answered Anoop’s calls with a guilt ridden heart. She was literally dying under the burden of self remorse.
Though the ceasing of her regular visits baffled Mukundan, he kept to himself.
Habits die hard. Manoj sneaked out under Mukundan’s nose to satisfy his addiction to drinking. Unable to control Manoj, Mukundan thought of either calling for extra help or taking him back to his town.
Meanwhile, feeling a bit indisposed, Prita paid a visit to a doctor. It was there that the eagerly awaited ‘good news,’ was conveyed to her.
More than her, it was Anoop, who was looking forward to having a child in the house. The news of her pregnancy should have made him jump with joy, but Prita was baffled to sense his insipid response when she mentioned it to him over phone. She had never encountered Anoop in such a bizarre frame of mind. Even when he had called last weekend, he had sounded absolutely fine and unpretentious as always, talking at length about his project.
She felt that the conversation was rather snapped curtly. May be some official commitments were bothering him, she surmised.
While she was sitting in a confused state, a mail notification popped in her inbox. It was from Anoop. Bewildered she opened it and read it all over again and again, several times, until the veracity hit her like molten hot lava.
Congratulations!!! A treasured moment as this in a woman’s life calls for celebration. However I need not be a part of it.
Some important matter, which I had been waiting to discuss with you personally on my returning, has now been sent to you as a message.
Do not misjudge me as having deliberately kept it under wraps all this while. I have done it, not out of insecurity of losing you, but fearing that you might feel extremely sad to know that I was going through low ebb in my life, all alone. I tried to keep all my conversations on a cheerful note so as not to give you a whiff of my mental turmoil. I thought you loved me deeply and your heart would cry for me.
Now I see that I was mistaken. You have found solace in someone else’s company and I do not want to know who it is.
It is not that; callous remarks passed by others, about us still being issueless, haven’t been noticed by me. While we cannot stop tongues from wagging, I thought it was time for us to contemplate over it.
I did not have the heart to drag you to a clinic citing this reason. On the behest of a colleague, I decided to get myself examined first and with this view I visited a clinic in Germany. It was here that a harsh truth was revealed to me.
There are some issues that have been hindering the prospects of my fathering a kid. An expert team of doctors from the infertility clinic put me through a series of tests and advised me to go in for a prolonged treatment once I return. I have been assured that meticulous treatment can set right the problem.
However the truth remains that I could not have fathered your child and the sad fact about your infidelity has been unraveled to me in a very knotty situation.
Challenging my reports would be futile. It has come from a paramount infertility clinic.
I am a simple human being; I do not have a heart as magnanimous as that to pardon you for what you have done. Kindly sign on the mutual divorce papers that my lawyer will be sending soon.
I do not wish to meet you in person ever.
Let us part as friends.
Here was a man, who was selfless enough to not put her through the ordeal and here she was so callous and self centered.
It was late in the night. Prita had been sitting in a stupor for God knows how many hours. Her mother’s prudent words kept reverberating in her ears. ‘A girl’s life is like a piece of soft cloth. Whether the cloth falls upon a thorn or a thorn falls on the cloth, the cloth has no way out, other than getting torn.’
Eventually, fatigue having gotten the better of her; she fell asleep. It was nearly eight in the morning, When Prita got up with a start hearing some commotion outside.
On coming out hurriedly, she learnt that Manoj had taken seriously ill. Mukundan informed her that the day before he had somehow sneaked out of the house in a wobbly condition, when Mukundan had gone to the market and had consumed too much alcohol. He threw up blood later. They were moving him to the hospital.
“The doctor visiting him says the end may come anytime,” Mukundan was in tears.
Sitting at the window seat in the train, Prita looked at a photograph she was holding in her hand. A film of tears gave it a blurred vision. It was her parents who were smiling at her from within the frame.
‘Sorry Amma* and Acchha*,’ she mumbled, as she envisaged their faces devoid of that warm smile.
“Are you traveling till Varanasi?” A co passenger in the train asked and Prita nodded.
“A holy dip in the Ganges is what we have been looking forward to since so many years,” the elderly female, traveling with her husband, smiled. “Are you traveling alone?” She asked.
Prita nodded once again. Yes, she too was going to have a dip in the Holy Ganges. She had to go alone for it is only her sin that had to wash off. It was she who had got carried away by a moment of ecstasy.
An agonizing sigh passed Prita’s lips as she thought;
After all haven’t we heard of people drowning in the Ganges accidentally?
Pisharodi _________________ Higher class Brahmin community in Kerala
Menon___________________Non Brahmin community in Kerala
Mel Mundu________________A towel folded and put on one shoulder
Photo By: Luis Galvez
(This is an entry in ArttrA-4, a room8 writing game at ArtoonsInn. We’d much appreciate you rating the story and leaving a review in the comments.)