Time can be a test of loyalty and its strength…
A piece by Common Man’s Corner.
It was a pleasant December evening and the clock had just struck seven. Hari knew that soon his wife and five year old daughter would head out to catch a train from the Chennai Railway station. hen they would be gone for the next fifteen days to enjoy her daughter Ananya’s Christmas vacations with her maternal grandparents in Trichy. Hari was eagerly pleading with the two ladies of his house to hurry up lest they should miss their train. He was acting all tough but from within he felt sad that he would be separated from his family for the next fifteen days. The train was at 9 PM and Hari’s wife Akhila had insisted that he need not come to the station with them. The call taxi arrived at 7.15 PM and the mother daughter duo boarded the taxi as Hari bid them a warm and soulful send off.
Though Hari knew how to cook, yet he decided that day to take his dinner in a nearby restaurant. He reluctantly watched the TV till 8:30 PM and then started on foot for the restaurant. By the virtue of being a Central Govt. servant, Hari was privileged to have his Govt. quarters in Anna Nagar which was supposed to be a posh locality of Chennai. Hari being a strict vegetarian chose the famed but costly ‘Sarvana Bhavan’ restaurant to have his dinner. By 9 PM Hari had ordered his dinner and started the wait. He looked around the restaurant. The restaurant was reasonably empty that day. Only a few families and groups were occupying some of the tables. As his eyes tried to catch a beautiful face from those gathered around, a mid aged couple occupied a seat diagonally opposite to him.
The lady, who was somewhat attractive and may be in her late thirties, stared right at Hari’s face while her companion spoke over the phone with someone in a hush but animated voice. Hari enjoyed the attention of the lady but like a true gentleman decided to look somewhere else. The waiter placed the dinner before Hari and left. Hari tried to relish the food but could not resist another look for the lady. To his surprise, this time the lady winked. Hari was baffled and looked back to confirm if the wink was indeed intended for him. There was no one at the back and now Hari could see the lady grinning. Perhaps she was enjoying Hari’s discomfiture. Her partner could be seen talking to the receptionist at a fair distance from his table. The lady then said something to Hari but he could not follow her exact words. Hari guessed that she was perhaps indicating in the direction of his companion and softly called him as her client. Hari was startled to see a hooker in such an upmarket but family restaurant like this. By this time the lady’s companion had returned and their ordered meal was also served. Hari continued with his dinner but could not resist himself from exchanging coy glances in between with the lady. Hari watched as the lady fed her companion with her own spoon and he in turn naughtily played with the curls on her forehead. Hari decided to overlook the couple and concentrated on his meal. After some time the couple got up and left. Hari’s eyes followed the lady till the exit gate but she did not turn back. Hari now came back to his senses and quickly finished his meal. He then paid his bill and made a hasty retreat from the restaurant, perhaps subconsciously trying to get one last look of that lady.
To his surprise, the lady was there but without her companion this time. As Hari stood thinking, the lady brazenly approached him and murmured ‘Rs 1000/- for 2 hours’.
Hari had never been unfaithful to his wife before and this time was no different.
Hari started back home feigning that he had not heard what the lady said. But the lady followed her and again accosted Hari as they barely walked a hundred meters from the restaurant. Hari curtly told the lady this time that he was not such type of a man and hence not interested in her offer. The lady persisted and revised her offer to Rs 500/-. Hari wanted to shout at her this time but some natural instinct had taken over him by then. With fumbling words Hari agreed to her offer and gestured her to follow him at a safe distance lest he should be perceived in her company. Within ten minutes they reached the main entrance gate of Hari’s Govt. colony. To Hari’s relief, the private security guard was missing from the gate. Hari vehemently gestured her to increase her walking speed as they entered the main lobby of his building. Again there was nobody around in the lobby and Hari entered the lift with the lady. As the lift made its way up, Hari’s heart palpitated fast for he had never done anything like this before in his 35 years of existence. The lift stopped at the fourth floor and the pair made their way into Hari’s house. Hari entered first after unlocking the door. Suddenly the lady closed the entrance door with a loud thud. Hari was not amused with the sound. The lady then came quite close to Hari and to his utter bemusement suddenly flicked his genitals. Hari was now possessed by some other being inside him. He embraced the lady in his arms and started to kiss her non-stop. The patting and the kissing continued for some time as Hari leaded her to his bedroom. They were now almost on the verge of tearing away each other’s clothes. In an amorous trance, they started to undress each other when suddenly the call bell rang. Hari was too busy to respond but then the bell rang again and again.
In an enraged mood Hari tied his towel to his waist and lunged at the door. He then opened it with an intent to give a mouthful to the intruder. To his utter bewilderment he found his wife and daughter standing at the door. His wife playfully chastises him for his sound sleep and the resultant time taken by him to answer the door. By that time the young Ananya dodges her way to her daddy’s bedroom where she is taken aback to find some lady in an almost undressed state. She rushes back to the main door only to find her mother on the way. Akhila directs a furious glance at the lady and her husband. Ananya inquires her mother about that lady but Akhila ignores her query and takes her to the other room where she puts her to sleep. The lady was all dressed up by now and was seen haggling with Hari for her pay. Hari is dumbfounded and stands rooted to the door with a guilty face. Akhila suddenly lunges at the lady and slaps her hard. The lady turns furious and starts to utter expletives for Akhila and her husband in a loud voice. Hari tries to silence the lady but she turns more violent and squats down at the door itself, determined to claim her money before she leaves. Hari runs back to his room to fetch 500 rupees for the lady but by then the commotion had attracted many of his neighbors or office colleagues. Akhila could be seen sobbing incessantly and consoled by her neighbors. The friendly crowd soon discovers the entire story behind the current scene. Akhila keeps lamenting that this was the reward that her husband had given her for 10 years of faithfulness. The hooker lady continues to raise her voice. Hari hands over the money to her and personally scouts her out of the colony. When he returns to his house, he finds some of his neighbors gossiping in hushed tones near his flat and the door is seen closed. Hari gently taps at the door. When no response is received, he presses the call bell. At this juncture, one of his office colleagues named Ramesh tells him in a mocking voice that today his door would not open as his wife is angry with him for his misadventure.
Hari asks him to mind his own business and keep his mouth shut. Ramesh retorts back that he can shut his voice but what about the countless voices he will hear tomorrow in the office. They come to blows with each other and are separated by their other neighbors. Hari again bangs loudly at the door. This time Akhila opens the door and lets him in. Hari wants to explain but Akhila turns a cold shoulder and heads to sleep with her daughter. Hari goes to his bedroom and sits with a distraught look on his face. He is astounded by the fact that a person like Ramesh who is known for his flirtatious ways in the office had the guts to confront him. He also recollects that Mr. Sharma and Mr. Suri were also seen engaged in an animated gossip session outside his house. These 2 men were regular visitors to call girls and even their family secretly knew about their wayward habits but yes they never got caught in the act like he did. So perhaps they get the moral right to preach. Hari shuddered at the thought of facing his office colleagues on the next day ahead. He knew that the news would spread like wild fire and within no time he would lose his carefully cultivated image of a gentleman in his office. With these thoughts Hari lied down on his bed and faced some more mental agony before eventually passing out.
The next morning Hari got up quite late by his standards, as he was very punctual about his morning walks. He felt heavy in his head and decided to spend some more time in the bed. He did not feel like going to the office or doing anything that day. He could hear Akhila trying to wake up Ananya from the adjacent room. Something within goaded him to face the situation rather than run away from it. Hari gets up from his bed and is seen face to face with Akhila. He tries to talk to her but she almost ignores his presence and continues with her daily routine. Hari finishes off his morning ablutions and timidly asks Akhila whether she would be serving the breakfast sometime soon. Akhila darts back that he should head to that hooker house for the same. Hari is ashamed and angry on himself but decides to head for his office. Normally he would be greeted by many on the way to his office cabin but today only sly glances were exchanged between him and his colleagues. Hari can almost sense the ridicule and abomination for himself in their eyes. Perhaps the news of his misadventure had travelled faster than he had anticipated. Hari decides to bury himself in his files as work was supposed to be the best antidote for sorrow. After an hour, he calls for his secretary on her intercom. When around 15-20 minutes pass and the secretary does not arrive, he again calls her back. Instead of the secretary, Mrs. Nirmala walks in. She is the same lady whom Hari had once given adverse remarks in her annual appraisal due to her inefficiency. But now she had been promoted and was also the President of the Sexual Harassment Committee of her office. Mrs Nirmala curtly tells Hari that his secretary Lalitha was scared to come to him alone in his cabin. Hari is furious and tells her that Lalitha had been taking dictations from him in the same cabin for the last 05 years. To this Mrs Nirmala responds with a sly smile that during those last 05 years he was not caught doing nasty things also. Hari warns her from mixing his private life with his professional life. But Mrs Nirmala remains unfazed and tells him that he will have to go out to the Secretary’s seat to give dictation to her in the presence of all. Hari turns turkey with anger but decides to work all by himself that day. During lunch time he finds that everybody is trying to avoid sharing the lunch table with him. By now self chiding gives way to disgust in Hari’s mind. He looks around to see all those present in the canteen.
Most of them were tainted on one count or the other. Some were corrupt, some were grossly undisciplined, some were total non-workers but today they all held a moral high ground above him. The same mid age lady colleagues who had always tried their best to get in Hari’s good books by resorting to innocuous flirting earlier could now be seen turning their faces away from Hari with disgust. Hari was bemused by now by this self righteous behaviour from his colleagues. He knew all the dirty things that went on in his office during work hours but had successfully tried to insulate himself from them for all these years. He had seen condom packets accidentally tumbling out of his lady colleagues office shelf as they fetched for a file. He knew what happened inside closed doors when some of his bosses switched on the red light outside their cabins with their lady colleagues in tow, indicating that they were busy with something important for a while and need not be disturbed. The office peons often eulogized him in person and accused their other bosses of watching porn in their cabins during working hours. Hari also recollected that there were so many instances of inappropriate advances, slapping, accusing and then excusing in his office that he had almost lost count. But today he seemed to be the villain everybody loved to despise.
At 5.30 PM Hari headed home but with a lighter head this time. He reached home after an hour and confronted Akhila straight on. Initially Akhila tries to evade but Hari catches her by her arm and gently persuades her to sit by his side. Luckily Ananya had gone to play with her mates at that time. Hari tells her that he accepts his folly and does not expect her to excuse him. He continues that it was just that one moment of weakness for which he is utterly sorry but he cannot rewind what has happened. He also asks her to think of any such misdemeanor from him in the past ten years of their married life. Hari requests her to give him one more chance. He pleads with Akhila to settle the matter at home because if she washes her dirty linen in public then it would harm the future of their daughter only. He tells her that she can remain angry with him for a little longer but she should not make her husband and family the butt of others joke. He implores Akhila to forgive him with folded hands. Akhila relents at this juncture and tells him that she is only giving him one last chance for the sake of their daughter. She continues that if she decides to walk out of her house along with her daughter, she will only end up jeopardizing the future of her daughter. But she warns Hari that she is bearing with this disgusting behaviour of his for one last time only. She then heads on for the kitchen to make some tea for her husband. Hari leans back on his chair and thanks his good fortune for having such an understanding wife. He knows that she would never be able to forgive him completely but still she had now given him the strength to fight back the society at large. He can now face anybody because he has his family by his side.
Their natural instinct was to forgive him and shield him as opposed to his natural instinct for instant gratification.