Saturday, February 4, 2012

LIP SYMPATHY and CROCODILE TEARS - My Favourite Short Stories Part 89

My Favourite Short Stories Part 89
From my Creative Writing Archives: A simple fiction short story of a marriage and changing relationships ...  

The doorbell rings. 
The woman called Manjula opens the door.
“We’ve 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.

Manula 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...? 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.”
“Maybe. 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.
“Yes. Western Style.”
“This is too much... I’ve 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 and wants to defecate western style...? 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 – no guts of your own...!”
“What’s the matter...? Is everything ready...?” she 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 so uncouthly,” 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’ve invited a large number of guests to dinner, and while Smita is reveling in the paeans of praise being showered by her mother and her cronies, Manjula slogs it out in the kitchen.
“See Smita’s house in Houston ,” the old woman boasts, showing everyone a photo album (which all NRI’s 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’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 any more 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’m 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, but seeing the fiery look in her mother-in-law’s eyes, she starts to tremble.
Time freezes. 
Manjula feels tremors of trepidation wondering what is going to happen next. 
She knows 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. 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, glances at his mother, and then he turns towards his wife Manjula and 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 and says, 
Let's go out somewhere. Just you and me. Shopping... a Movie... Dinner... anywhere you want. And let's leave them alone to wallow in their lip sympathy and crocodile tears...! 

Copyright © Vikram Karve 2012
Vikram Karve has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.
© vikram karve., all rights reserved.

Did you like this story?
I am sure you will like the 27 fiction short stories from my recently published anthology of Short Fiction COCKTAIL 

To order your COCKTAIL please click any of the links below:

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Foodie Book:  Appetite for a Stroll
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About Vikram Karve

A creative person with a zest for life, Vikram Karve is a retired Naval Officer turned full time writer. Educated at IIT Delhi, ITBHU Varanasi, The Lawrence School Lovedale and Bishops School Pune, Vikram has published two books: COCKTAIL a collection of fiction short stories about relationships (2011) and APPETITE FOR A STROLL a book of Foodie Adventures (2008) and is currently working on his novel and a book of vignettes and short fiction. An avid blogger, he has written a number of fiction short stories, creative non-fiction articles on a variety of topics including food, travel, philosophy, academics, technology, management, health, pet parenting, teaching stories and self help in magazines and published a large number of professional research papers in journals and edited in-house journals for many years, before the advent of blogging. Vikram has taught at a University as a Professor for almost 15 years and now teaches as a visiting faculty and devotes most of his time to creative writing. Vikram lives in Pune India with his family and muse - his pet dog Sherry with whom he takes long walks thinking creative thoughts.

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© vikram karve., all rights reserved.

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