HOW TO WORK ON YOUR MARRIAGE : A Story

HOW TO WORK ON YOUR MARRIAGE

Source: Academic and Creative Writing Journal Vikram Karve: HOW TO MAKE YOUR MARRIAGE WORK

Link to my original post in my Academic and Creative Writing Journal:
Musings on MARRIAGE AND DIVORCE
The Incorrigible Couple – Fiction Short A Story by Vikram Karve
Dramatis Personae
Me and my “Made for Each Other Couple” Parents
She and her “Incorrigible Couple” Parents (“Uncle” and “Aunty”)
PART 1
GIRINAGAR
Circa 1985
“I wish I had parents like yours,” she said to me.
“What do you mean?” I asked her.
“I mean – I wish my parents were like your parents – refined, cultured, sophisticated, soft-spoken… ” she said.
What she said was true.
My parents were a perfect “made-for-each-other couple”.
In contrast – her mother and her father – were both unique “characters”.
Both of them were quite crazy.
Her parents were the opposite of my parents.
Whereas my parents were urbane, suave, polite and cultivated – her parents were quite coarse, forthright, indiscreet and outspoken in their behavior.
In fact – her parents were nicknamed as the “incorrigible couple”.
Now – before I begin narrating the story – let me give you a bit of backdrop – of the setting of the story – and also – tell you about her – my best friend at that time – and her parents – who were nicknamed as the ‘incorrigible couple’.
This story begins many years ago – more than 30 years ago – in 1985.
We were both “Fauji Brats” – children of Armed Forces Officers.
Her father was in the Navy – and my father was in the Army.
We first met in a verdant and picturesque forested place in the hills called ‘Girinagar’ – a remote ‘cantonment style’ township – located in the ‘back of beyond’ – at an ‘out-of-the-way’ –place – nestled in the jungle on the slopes of the Sahyadri Mountains overlooking a huge lake – many kilometers distant from Pune.
Though located far away from urban civilization – it was a ‘self contained’ campus – with a small “Gol” Market – a School – a Hospital – and – of course – lovely officers’ mess and club with plenty of sports, recreation and entertainment facilities.
Then – “She” and “I” – we both were 12 years old.
At that impressionable age – parents do matter a lot.
My father – and – her father – had been ‘course-mates’ for 3 years as cadets in the same squadron at the academy opposite the lake – and they had been the best of friends.
Both the course-mates – her father (“uncle”) and my father – had been posted into this out-of-the-way place at the same time – and we became our next door neighbours.
Actually – “Uncle” and “Aunty” lived exactly on top of us – we were allotted typical old-style ‘duplex’ accommodation.
We lived in the ground floor flat – and they – on the first floor flat above ours.
We – the two children – she and me – were classmates – and soon – we became ‘best friends’.
Yes – we became ‘best friends’ on the very first day of school – when her parents – “Uncle” and “Aunty” – showed their feisty temperament.
Yes – her parents had a ‘public brawl’ on the very first day of school – in full view of students, parents and teachers.
On our first day at school – there was a formal meeting of all ‘class-teachers’ with the newly admitted students along with their parents – in order to introduce the new students and parents to the ethos, rules and procedures of the school.
The meeting was at 2:30 in the afternoon.
In my case – both my parents – my Dad and my Mum – were present.
But – in her case – only “Aunty” – my friend’s mother – had come for the meeting.
It seemed that “Uncle” – my friend’s father – was busy at “work”.
It later transpired that the “work” with which “Uncle” was “busy” turned out to be “elbow bending” at the officers’ mess bar – drinking beer at his customary afternoon PLD (Pre-Lunch Drinks) session.
Well – after guzzling plenty of beer – “Uncle” turned up around 3:30 – gloriously drunk – looking quite a spectacle – with his disheveled hair – and unruly demeanor.
He walked into the classroom – roaring drunk – swaying menacingly from side to side.
“Uncle” looked at the class-teacher – and in a loud drunken voice – he cheerfully greeted her “Good Afternoon”.
Then – “Uncle” looked around – and he merrily waved to all the parents and students in a boisterous manner.
He seemed to be in top spirits – the highest of spirits.
Then – “Uncle” spotted his wife “Aunty” sitting in one of the middle rows.
He staggered animatedly towards her – swinging from side to side.
“Aunty” saw his ‘wild’ state – so – “Aunty” asked “Uncle” to leave the classroom at once.
But – “Uncle” refused to leave – saying that he too was a ‘parent’.
At first – there was a verbal argument between them.
Then – suddenly – “Uncle” and “Aunty’ started quarrelling noisily in the classroom – getting physical – pushing each other – fighting in a most rowdy manner – till the class-teacher – who was the wife of a senior officer – along with some other parents – intervened – and tried to calm them down.
I could see that my friend was most embarrassed by the spat between her parents – as her parents were shouting loudly – and fighting rowdily in front of her classmates and their parents – and I felt sorry for her.
The public brawl between “Uncle” and “Aunty” created an extremely awkward atmosphere in the classroom – and most parents and students were aghast.
To avoid further escalation of the brawl between “Uncle” and “Aunty” – and to prevent worsening of the embarrassing scene – the class-teacher quickly ended the ‘parent-teacher-student’ meeting – and invited all parents for tea in the main hall.
Meanwhile – my parents spoke to “Uncle” and “Aunty” and calmed them down.
My father took “Uncle” home – and my mother too “Aunty” for tea with the other parents.
Later – “Aunty” refused to go “home” to “Uncle” till he apologized – but he was in a mood to sleep as a result of imbibing that enormous amount of beer in the afternoon.
So – “Uncle” started growling when “Aunty” tried to wake him up and asked him to say “sorry” – and – to avoid further fracas between them – my parents brought “Aunty” and my friend home for the evening – till the effect of the alcohol wore off – and “Uncle” sobered up
Then – my friend and I went to play table-tennis in the officers’ mess.
It was dark by the time my friend and I returned from the officers’ mess – and we saw that “Aunty” had gone upstairs to her home – but – my mother asked my friend to stay for dinner and a “sleepover”.
At night – when we lay in bed – we could hear loud arguments from the room upstairs – “Uncle” and “Aunty” had started quarrelling again.
It was then that my friend said to me: “…I wish my parents were like your parents – refined, cultured, sophisticated, soft-spoken… ”
“Come on – ‘Uncle’ and ‘Aunty’ – your parents – they are so full of life – your parents may be a bit ‘lively’ – but they are so loving and good by ‘nature’…” I said.
“You say that my parents are ‘lively’ – ‘full of life’ – and they have a ‘loving nature’ – are you crazy – you saw the terrible fight they had in the evening – didn’t you – they were abusing each other – manhandling each other – almost exchanging blows – and that too in public…” she said.
“Don’t worry – everything will be okay – don’t think about it too much and go to sleep – they will make up in the morning – as all couples always do…” I said.
“I don’t think so – their brawls are getting worse and worse – and this time it has gone too far – you saw the violent physical fight they had – and that too in front of everybody …” she said.
My friend seemed to be right.
“Uncle” and “Aunty” would fight almost every day – on some pretext or the other – and their unruly brawls – sometimes in full public view – would get quite ‘vocal’ and ‘physical’ – much to the embarrassment of my friend.
He (Uncle) was a tough guy with a formidable personality – and he looked really wild and fearsome after he had imbibed a few drinks and he got ‘roaring drunk’ – which happened almost every evening.
However – she (Aunty) was no meek docile wife either – she was sturdy, forceful and gutsy – quite a pugnacious woman – who gave back as good as she got.
Every evening – “Uncle” would arrive in ‘high spirits’ from the officers’ mess bar (since he hated drinking at home because of his wife’s nagging).
“Aunty” would be waiting for him at the door.
The moment “Uncle” arrived home feeling ‘happy’ – and swinging in ‘high spirits’ – “Aunty” would start ‘nagging’ him.
“Uncle” would react – then “Aunty” would retaliate – and the quarrel would snowball.
Then – “Uncle” and “Aunty” would go for each other’s throats – at first – figuratively – and later – if things got out of hand – even literally – and – my parents would rush upstairs to intervene and calm them down.
Many times – my friend would sleepover at our place – to avoid the turbulent atmosphere and disturbing vibes due to her parents’ “marital discord” at home.
My friend openly said that she loved the marital harmony between my parents – and the congenial atmosphere in our home – and she wished that her parents were like my parents – and she often said that my parents were her ‘role model parents’.
A few days later – “Uncle” and “Aunty” had a horrible fight – and my friend was terribly distressed.
It was indeed a very violent fight between her mother and her father – and everyone was so stunned and scared.
It was the New Year’s Eve Party at the Club – and – as usual – her father – “Uncle” – was in ‘high spirits’ – well before the arrival of the New Year.
In fact – “Uncle” was quite drunk – much to embarrassment of my friend.
Then – fuelled by the alcohol in his veins – in his carefree uninhibited style – “Uncle” started flirting openly with the ladies – including my mother – who laughed it off – since she knew that he meant no harm.
But soon – “Uncle” asked our teacher for a dance.
Now – our teacher was a fellow army officer’s wife – so – out of courtesy – she accepted.
We saw that “Aunty” was closely observing “Uncle” close-dancing with our teacher.
Suddenly – “Aunty” blew her fuse.
“Aunty” rushed to the dancing couple (“Uncle” and our Teacher).
“What ‘hanky-panky’ are you two upto…?” a livid “Aunty” shouted at “Uncle” and our Teacher.
“What’s wrong with you…?” a surprised “Uncle” said to his wife “Aunty”.
“I am watching the intimate way in which you two are dancing – it seems that you are having an affair…” shouted “Aunty”.
Then – “Aunty” looked at our Teacher and said to her: “You ‘man-eater’ – are you trying to seduce my husband…?”
Our teacher turned crimson with embarrassment.
At first – “Uncle” appeared stunned on hearing his wife’s words.
Then – “Uncle” got angry – and he started shouting at “Aunty” – abusing her using unspeakable foul language.
“Uncle” seemed terribly angry – and – in his drunken state – he looked dreadfully ferocious – as he abused “Aunty” uttering obnoxious invectives.
“You are a ‘Khoon Ki Pyaasi Dayaan’ (Bloodthirsty Witch) – worse than a Zeherelee Nagin’ (Poisonous Female Snake)…” he shouted at “Aunty”.
“You Tharki Buddha’ (Lecherous Old Man) – I will kill you…” she retorted.
“You will kill me…?” shouted “Uncle” – and he advanced menacingly towards “Aunty” – as if he was going to attack her.
But “Aunty” did not seem scared – she did not back off – but tried to strike “Uncle” on his face.
Officers and their wives intervened – and they separated the quarrelling couple – who were about to go for each other’s throats.
“Uncle” was taken away by officers to a guest room in the mess.
The officers’ wives calmed “Aunty” on the sofa.
My friend (daughter of “Uncle” and “Aunty”) was weeping – tears were streaming down her cheeks.
I felt very bad.
My mother and father took “Aunty” and my friend to our home.
I, my Friend, and her mother “Aunty” – and my parents – we all “celebrated” the arrival of the New Year at home.
At night – when we were in bed – my friend was crying – and she said to me: “You are so lucky – you have got such good parents – and look at me – why do my parents fight like this – I don’t know what is going to happen…?”
“Don’t worry – everything will be alright…” I consoled her – but I knew that the way things were deteriorating between her parents – it was going to become worse and worse for her.
And – things did get worse.
The “Bosses” had taken a dim view of the happenings at the New Year’s Eve Party.
“Uncle” was posted out immediately – he was transferred to a hardship appointment in a “non-family” station in “Kala Pani”.
“Uncle” had to leave the very next day – and he came home just to collect his luggage – and say “goodbye” to us.
We all sat down to have lunch.
My parents were very polite to “Uncle”.
“Aunty” was crying throughout.
Suddenly – “Aunty” could not control her tears – she broke down and went inside into the washroom.
“Uncle” looked at “Aunty” – and he said to my mother: “See – my wife is crying because she is going to miss me – but don’t worry – this posting is only for one year – we will be together soon…”
But – it looked like they were not going to be together ever after.
“Uncle” left for Madras (Chennai) by the evening train – on his way to his “punishment posting” on a remote island.
Aunty’s parents – my friend’s Nana and Nani – arrived the next morning by flight – and they said: “Enough is enough – we will not allow our daughter to live with that brute…”
So – they decided to take “Aunty” and my friend with them to their hometown.
We went to see them off at the Pune railway station – and my friend said to me: “It looks like my parents are going to get divorced…”
“Don’t say such things – everything will be alright…” I consoled her.
“Not this time – my Nana and Nani are very angry…” she said.
The guard blew his whistle, the engine sounded its horn, the train started moving – and I said ‘goodbye’ to my best friend – not knowing whether I would even see her again.
15 Years Later
PART 2
DELHI AIRPORT
Circa 2000
I was waiting at Delhi Airport for the 6:30 evening flight to Pune.
It had been quite a strenuous journey so far – San Francisco – Hong Kong – Delhi – and I was feeling tired.
Now – I waited for the last leg of my journey – the domestic flight to my destination – Pune.
I was waiting to reach my hotel in Pune and go to sleep – because tomorrow was going to be a very busy day.
Suddenly – I saw “her” – the same friend I told you about in Part 1 of this story – my ‘best friend’ during my ‘Girinagar Days’ in 1985.
Though 15 years had passed – I recognized her at once.
I called out her name – and I walked towards her.
She turned – she looked at me for some time – then – she showed a trace of recognition – and she smiled at me.
“What a surprise…?” I said to her.
“Yes – we are meeting after so many years – and that too here – at the airport…” she said.
“Where to…?” I asked.
“I am going to Pune…?” she said.
“Really – I am going to Pune too…” I said.
“That’s great – we can talk in the flight – come – let’s go to boarding and ask for seats together…” she said.
“My flight is not yet announced…” she said.
“Are you going by the 6 o’clock flight…?” she asked me.
“No – I am booked on the 6:30 flight…” I said.
Suddenly – the ‘final call’ for 6 o’clock flight boarding was announced.
“You better hurry – your flight has been announced…” I said to her.
“I will wait for you in Pune – I will be there at the arrival gate waiting for you…” she said – and she walked to the boarding gate.
In a few minutes – my flight was announced too – and – soon – I was airborne – on my way to Pune.
I thought about my friend – about our ‘Girinagar’ days – about her parents – the “incorrigible couple” – “Uncle” and “Aunty” – their terrible fights – and the acrimonious circumstances in which they had parted – on the verge of divorce.
I remembered that moment at the Pune Railway Station – when I said ‘goodbye’ to my friend – the last time I saw her – and I thought we would never meet again.
Those days – in the 1980’s – there was no internet – no email – no mobile phones – so the only way to keep in touch was by ‘snail mail’.
I wrote a few letters to her – but she never wrote back – and it was understandable – her unpleasant family situation – the acrimony between her parents – “Uncle” and “Aunty” – it must have become worse – maybe her parents must have got divorced – and she had withdrawn into a shell.
Then – after a few months – my Army father was posted to a place in the North-East – so we went there – and then – a few years later – he got selected for a prestigious overseas assignment – and we moved abroad for a few years – and my parents seemed to have lost touch with her parents too – because I did not hear them mention anything about “Uncle” and “Aunty” – or – maybe they avoided the topic in front of me.
And now – we had suddenly met by coincidence – at Delhi Airport – it was pure serendipity.
I was happy to see that my friend looked okay – she seemed to have recovered from the trauma of her parents’ acrimonious relationship – which I was sure – must have ended in a bitter divorce.
Lest it touch a raw nerve – I had to be careful not to mention her parents – especially “Uncle”.
2 Hours Later
PART 3
PUNE AIRPORT
I walked to the exit of Pune Airport.
My friend was standing there – waiting for me.
I had expected this.
What I had not expected was to see her parents – “Uncle” and “Aunty” – standing right behind her.
They seemed delighted to see me.
“Aunty” hugged me warmly – and then “Uncle” hugged me too – I could smell the Rum on his breath – it looked like he had not changed his ways.
“Come – let’s fit your luggage in the car…” my friend said.
“No – I have been booked in a hotel – in fact – they must have sent a car for me…” I said.
“What hotel…? You are staying with us…” said “Aunty” firmly.
“I saw a driver holding out a placard with your name – I sent the taxi back…” said “Uncle”.
“But “Uncle”…” I said.
“No ‘ifs and buts’ – we will cancel the hotel booking – you just come with us…” said “Uncle”.
“But – I have come for work – I am staying in Pune for 3 days…” I said.
“You are staying with us – it is decided – we will drop you to wherever you want to go…” said “Uncle” with finality.
Soon – we were sitting in their car – “Uncle” driving – “Aunty” sitting next to him – and my friend and I in the back-seat.
“Uncle” said to me: “So – you are surprised to see that “Aunty” and me are still together – aren’t you…? I could see it in your expression when you saw us. You thought we would get divorced, didn’t you…?”
“No ‘Uncle’…” I said shamefacedly.
“You think I am going to divorce this horrible fellow and let him enjoy…?” said “Aunty” jokingly.
“Uncle” told me that he had quit the Navy long back and joined the Merchant Navy – and now they were settled in Pune.
My friend had done her MBA and was working in a bank in Pune – she had gone to Delhi for some official work.
“What about you…? You haven’t told us anything about yourself…” my friend said to me.
“Well – I am an “IT Nerd” – a “Techie”…” I said, “I work in California – in San Francisco…”
“Wow…” my friend said, “and how are your parents..?”
“They have settled down in America too…” I said.
“Really…? That’s great…” ‘Uncle’ said, “When did your Dad quit the Army…? I was so busy in the Merchant Navy that I totally lost track of him…”
“We were posted to the US. He put in his papers soon after that tenure – and then he relocated there since he got a good job – I did my college there – and now – we all live in the US…” I said.
“So that is really good – so all of you live in San Francisco…?” my friend asked me.
“No – I live in San Francisco – Daddy lives in Seattle – and Mummy lives in New York…” I said.
“Your Daddy and Mummy live separately…?” my friend said.
“Yes…” I said.
“I cannot believe it – how can your Daddy and Mummy stay separately – they were such a perfect ‘made-for each other couple’ – they were inseparable – I wonder how they are surviving a ‘long distance marriage’…?” said “Aunty”.
“Yes – I am surprised too – why are your Daddy and Mummy staying at different places…?” asked “Uncle”.
“They are divorced…” I said.
“What…? Your parents are divorced…?” both “Uncle” and “Aunty” exclaimed loudly in surprise – and “Uncle” stopped the car on the side of the road.
“Yes – Daddy and Mummy got divorced 7 years ago…” I said.
“What are you saying…” my friend asked me, “how can your parents ever get divorced…? They loved each other so much – they were an example of an ideal ‘role model marriage’. What happened…? How can such a perfect marriage break up…?”
“He must have had an affair…” commented “Aunty”.
“No – No – my ‘course-mate’ is a perfect gentleman – I am sure it was her fault…” retorted “Uncle”.
“Don’t talk nonsense – she was such a gracious person…” argued “Aunty”.
“So – can’t so-called ‘gracious’ women do ‘hanky-panky’…?” countered “Uncle”.
“You shut up – you terrible fellow – you will not say a word about my friend…” shouted “Aunty”.
“Uncle” looked at “Aunty” and he said to her in a threatening tone: “You don’t make false accusations against my course-mate – I am sure it was her – she is responsible for their divorce…”
And then – “Uncle” and “Aunty” started angrily arguing with each other – and within minutes – they were engaged in a full scale brawl.
It was just like the ‘good old days’.
I looked at my friend – and we broke out into laughter.
EPILOGUE
At night – when we were in bed – my friend said to me:
“I am so sorry about your parents. I could never imagine they would get divorced. What happened…? They were such a perfect ‘made-for-each-other’ couple. Their marriage was such a success…”
I looked at my friend – and I said:
“I feel that their marriage failed because they tried too hard to make it a success…”
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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