Friday, October 7, 2016

LIP SYMPATHY and CROCODILE TEARS – A Family Drama

LIP SYMPATHY and CROCODILE TEARS
A Family Drama
Short Fiction
By  
VIKRAM KARVE 

Around 16 years ago – in the year 2000  I visited a friend.

His widowed mother also lived with him.
 
My friend’s wife had given up her career to be at home to look after her mother-in-law 
 who did not keep too well.
 
The old woman had two children – a boy and a girl.
 
Her son – my friend – had remained in India. 

The old woman’s daughter (my friend’s sister) was an NRI (Non-Resident Indian) – or maybe  it would be more apt to call her a PIO (Person of Indian Origin). 

My friend’s sister had got married to an NRI (Non-Resident Indian) boy – who had migrated to America for higher studies and settled down there.

Later – they had even relinquished their Indian Citizenship to become an American Citizens.
 
The “Foreign” sister had come on vacation to India – and she was present there with her husband and two kids.
 
The old woman was blatantly praising her “American” daughter and her husband and kids – gloating about her son-in-law’s prosperity and success – telling us how cultured and caring her younger “American” daughter was – and how smart and bright her “American” grandchildren were – and she showed us the gifts they had brought for her – and pictures of their mansion in the US.
 
The old woman did not have a single word of praise for her elder son and his wife – who were looking after her – or their children.
 
In fact – the old woman made some snide sarcastic remarks about my friend’s wife – implying that her “Indian” daughter-in-law was not looking after her well.
 
Having known the “sacrifices” my friend’s wife had made to care for her mother-in-law – I felt angry 
– and  I wanted to bluntly express my feelings to the old woman.
 
However – I suppressed my emotions 
 and  I held my tongue – because – my speaking out may have been counterproductive to the ambience.
 
Later – at night – I sat down and wrote this story.
 
LIP SYMPATHY and CROCODILE TEARS – a Family Drama by Vikram Karve
 
The doorbell rings. 
 
The woman called Manjula opens the door.
 
“We have come to fit the air-conditioner,” the man outside says.
 
“What...? We haven’t ordered any AC...” the woman says and begins to close the door.
 
“Wait...” her husband’s voice says from behind the man.

Manjula is surprised that her husband has come home early from work. 
 
Her husband guides the man inside while his wife Manjula looks on in bewilderment.
 
“AC...? Have you gone crazy...? You just go and order an AC without even telling me...?”  Manjula asks her husband.
 
“Mother told me to get it. Smita and her family are coming,” the husband explains.
 
“Oh...! So all this is for your darling sister and foreign husband, is it...? When we ask for a cooler you crib, and for them it’s an AC...!” Manjula says sarcastically.
 
“He’s not a foreigner. He’s of Indian origin settled there.”
 
“So why does he need an AC...?”
 
“Mother said they wouldn’t be able to stand the heat here, especially the kids.”
 
“Listen – Houston is much hotter and humid than here.”
 
“That may be true. But they are used to air conditioning. Please don’t argue with me – as it is the heat is driving me crazy...!”
 
The bell rings again.
 
“It must be the commode,” her husband says and goes to open the door.
 
“Commode...?” Manjula asks, surprised.
 
“Yes – a “Western Style” Commode,” her husband says.
 
“This is too much. I have seen that Smita shitting in the open – in the fields near our village – when she was a kid.  And now that she’s married an NRI – she wants to defecate ‘western style’...? They are all bloody snobs. I don’t know why they come here once in a few years and try to show off. And you – the perfect dutiful Mamma’s boy – you have just no guts of your own...!” Manjula says angrily to her husband.
 
“What’s the matter...? Is everything ready...?” Manjula hears her mother-in-law’s stern voice from behind – so Manjula lowers her face and slips away into the kitchen.
 
“I heard what your wife was saying – her name is Manjula (sweet voiced) – but she speaks in such a rude and uncouth manner,” her mother-in-law says viciously in a loud voice to Manjula's husband, making sure her taunt is heard by Manjula in the kitchen.
 
“Oh yeah...Your darling daughter’s name is Smita (cheerful) – but have you ever seen her smiling or laughing – she just carps and cribs all the time,” Manjula mutters to herself.
 
The NRI guests arrive from Houston , and the next few days are hell for Manjula, physically and mentally.

Manjula dies a thousand deaths in her heart seeing the favoritism of her mother-in-law towards Smita and her family and is unable to bear the patronizing attitude of her guests and the subservient groveling of her own husband before his mother and his fawning submissive behaviour towards his sister and her husband.

And all the time Smita makes sarcastic barbs at Manjula and her incompetence. Manjula is horrified at the way Smita offers lip sympathy to her “beloved" mother and sheds crocodile tears at old woman’s ‘agony’.

And Manjula’s dear husband remains silent, a mute spectator...!

Why can’t he stand up for her...?
 
One evening – they have invited a large number of guests to dinner.

While Manjula slogs it out in the kitchen – his husband’s sister Smita is reveling in the paeans of praise being showered by her mother and her cronies.
 
“See Smita’s house in Houston,” the old woman boasts, showing everyone a photo album (which all NRIs invariably bring with them to impress us ‘natives’...!). 
 
“See...” Manjula's mother-in-law goes boasts with pride, “just look at my daughter's house in America...it’s got a swimming pool... and her children... they are so accomplished... and her husband… my son-in-law... he is doing so well...” she goes on and on and on praising her daughter Smita till Manjula can’t take it anymore and suddenly Manjula interrupts rudely and says: “Mummyji, if you like Smita's house so much, why don’t you go to Houston and stay there with your darling daughter...?”
 
“What...?” her mother-in-law asks disbelievingly.
 
“I mean, Smita is your own darling daughter after all, and I am sure she will look after you much better than I do, isn’t it...? After all, they are so well-off, and caring and loving. I am sure it’s better for you to go there and live in luxury like a Maharani (Queen) rather than suffering it out here with us...!” Manjula says instinctively.
 
Manjula wants to say more – vent out all her suppressed emotions – but seeing the fiery look in her mother-in-law’s eyes – Manjula starts to tremble.
 
Time freezes. 
 
Manjula feels tremors of trepidation wondering what is going to happen next. 
 
Manjula knows that she has gone too far this time.
 
There is silence. 
 
A grotesque silence...! 
 
And suddenly Manjula hears her husband’s voice, “I think Manjula is right...!”
 
“What are you saying...?” Smita asks astonished, looking in disbelief at her brother.
 
“I am saying that Manjula is right. It would be much better if mother stayed with you in Houston for some time. Why don’t you take mother with you to America? You are her daughter. You’ve also got to take some responsibility and look after her, isn’t it...?” Manjula's husband Suresh says firmly to his sister Smita.
 
The Suresh glances at his mother in a firm manner.
 
Suddenly 
 Suresh turns towards his wife Manjula – and he looks at her in a way she has never seen him look at her before.

Then Suresh lovingly takes his wife Manjula
s hand in his own hand  and he says: “Let’s go out somewhere – just you and me – we’ll go shopping – a movie – maybe have dinner at some nice restaurant – anywhere you want. And let’s leave them alone to wallow in their lip sympathy and crocodile tears...!” 
 
Manjula looks at her husband with pride. 
 
Manjula is amazed at the metamorphosis in her husband Suresh. 

Yes – Manjula is very happy.

Manjula is happy because her meek and submissive husband – who till now was like his mother’s obedient pet “dog” – has transformed himself into a free-willed courageous “lion”. 

VIKRAM KARVE
Copyright © Vikram Karve 
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Disclaimer:
This story is a work of fiction. Events, Places, Settings and Incidents narrated in this 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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No part of this Blog may be reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical including photocopying or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the Blog Author Vikram Karve who holds the copyright.
Copyright © Vikram Karve (All Rights Reserved)

© vikram karve., all rights reserved.
 

This story LIP SYMPATHY and CROCODILE TEARS was written by me Vikram Karve 16 years ago in the year 2000 and posted by me online on my various creative writing blogs  here are some of the urls:
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