Sridhar was devastated. A divorce within two years of marriage was something that he could not come to terms with.
He and Nidhi were never made for each other. He, a small town, shy boy and she, a cosmopolitan, city dwelling, bubbly girl. He had a very limited outlook towards life – Good education, Software job and settled life. He was not outgoing and did not have many friends. She was his exact opposite – Adventurous, had a lot of friends and was very talkative.
No wonder, whatever she did, it was ‘wrong’ in his eyes. She thought a lot of her freedom was taken away after marriage by him and his family. There was visible friction.
He became so paranoid in her eyes that she stopped looking into his eyes. She was so carefree in his eyes that he found lesser and lesser words to communicate with her.
It needed only a spark to set the explosion. ‘How could she do that?’ he thought. Everything was over one day. Both of them agreed to get divorced by mutual consent.
He was filled with so much grief for the failed marriage that alcohol became his ever loving companion from that day. He had heard that alcohol would make you forget your worries and give happiness. He had no idea of what he was doing as he let the alcohol take complete control over his happiness and life.
“All women are like that” was his judgment. And consolation. “All women are like that”
Sneha was supposed to celebrate her tenth birthday on that day. Even though they were not economically well off, her mother managed to save some money without the knowledge of her father and bought her new dress and gold ear rings. She had never worn gold before.
Her father had been addicted to alcohol for a couple of years. Sometimes he used to come home totally drunk. When ever her mother objected, he used to assault her. Sometimes verbally, sometimes physically.
All this used to happen in front of Sneha. She had grown more and more terrified of her father, with every passing day. He came home drunk on this day too. Seeing the ear rings, he started harassing her mother. Sneha never remembered how she got the courage to say,
“Please don’t hit mother, pa”
This time she got it. That was the last time she saw her home. Her mother admitted her in an orphanage hoping that at least her daughter could continue her studies beyond the primary school. It was obvious that her father wasn’t going to allow it. Forget sponsoring it.
Sneha developed an opinion rather early in life that, “All men are like that”. All men.
Sridhar’s parents were bent on getting him married once again. He was in no mood for it. “I don’t want a life partner” he said. “It’s not for you, we want to see our Grand children” they reasoned. They reminded him daily, but he, however decided to adopt a child. That way, he thought he could at least help bring in some happiness to a child, who would otherwise be deprived of the same – early in life. And his parents would get their grand child.
“I don’t want to go from here” screamed Sneha. It was about six months since she joined in the orphanage. “See, this person is ready to help you continue your education. That’s what your mother wanted, right? We can’t give you a good education. So, don’t behave like a little kid. He is like your father – you’ll have to go with him”. “I don’t want a father” she said. She was too terrified to forget the last few years. But nevertheless she was sent.
She was very quiet for the first couple of weeks. Sridhar wanted to break the silence and hence the distance.
“Why are you so quiet? Shall I get you some chocolates?”
”What? “Err.. I mean toys”
“Don’t feel shy. Ask anything you want, I am like your father”
“I don’t want a father”
That was unexpected. But still he wanted to understand.
“You didn’t like your father?”
“He used to drink and beat my mother often”
“So that’s why….. But I think your father was a good person”
“All men think alike, I guess”
He had to smile. “Not like that. Tell me this – was he beating your mother always or only when he was drunk?”
”Only when he was drunk”
“See. I proved what I said. Your father is not bad, the liquor is bad. It makes your father go crazy”
“Then he could have stopped drinking, right?”
”Yeah, he could have but once you are addicted to it, it doesn’t leave you easily”
“Do you drink?”
”I used to…..”
“I stopped before three months”
“Why did you drink?” ”I drank because I was sad…. I had divorced my wife recently”
“She came home drunk one day”
“Did she beat you?”
“You are luckier. My mother was not”
“Yeah, I think I was relatively luckier”
“So, your wife was also a nice person?”
”Yes. She was not bad. The liquor was… right?”
”Yeah…. I guess so…. So, you’ll stay with me?”
“If you promise not to drink again”
“I don’t have to. My pursuit was happiness. I didn’t find it in that liquid. It is elsewhere. I promise that I won’t drink from now on”