Tension – a fiction short story by Vikram Karve

TENSION 

By 

VIKRAM KARVE 

 

 

 

As the sun begins to set, the tension begins to rise in the Patwardhan household. 

  

Why? 

  

Because it’s time for Mr. Patwardhan to come home from work. 

  

Funny! Isn’t it? The family should be happy when the breadwinner returns home from work. They should be eagerly awaiting his arrival. 

  

You are right. That was how it used to be earlier. But now it’s different. Every evening is hell, a torturous ordeal, for the wife, daughter and son; as they anxiously wait for Mr. Patwardhan to come home. 

  

Why? What happened? 

  

It’s sad. Every evening, after work, Mr. Patwardhan goes straight to a bar, and comes home drunk. The way he is drinking now-a-days, it won’t be long before he becomes an alcoholic. 

  

Come, let’s go and see what happens tonight.  

  

Where? 

  

To the chawl tenement in Girgaum where Patwardhan lives. 

  

Look how it is built. Four storeys. Common balcony with a row of ten one-room households on each floor. The balconies afford a good view of the entrance and the main road, so everyone stands there in the evening enjoying the happenings, the comings and goings – that’s the main source of entertainment here. And when it gets dark, they all go in and watch the soaps on cable TV. 

  

And now-a-days, the arrival of the sozzled Mr. Patwardhan, his drunken antics, are the highlight, the event of the evening, eagerly awaited by all, except the Patwardhan family who wait in frightful trepidation, wishing it would be over fast. 

  

Look. 

  

Where? 

  

The second floor balcony. Do you see two ladies in the center? 

  

Yes. 

  

The one on the left, in the red sari – she’s Mrs. Patwardhan. 

  

And the other? 

  

Mrs. Joshi. Patwardhan’s neighbour. She’s lucky. Her husband is doing well. Sober, successful. Her children are bright. They may even move out of this place to a flat in Dombivli or the western suburbs of Mumbai if all goes well. 

  

Let’s go and see what they are talking. 

  

“Where are your kids? I can’t see them playing below,” asks Mrs. Joshi. 

  

“Avinash is inside, studying. He’s become such an introvert. The boys jeer at him, taunt him, because of his father; so he’s stopped playing with them.” 

  

“It’s cruel!” 

  

“Yes. He’s become so silent. And his eyes! I’m scared of the hate in his eyes.” 

  

“It’ll be okay. Just give him time. At least he’s doing well in his studies.” 

  

“Yes. But I’m more worried about Radhika. She’s just 14, and behaves as if she were 18, or even 20. Poor thing. From a child, she has straight away become a mature woman, because of all this. It’s so sad; she must be suffering terribly inside,” Mrs. Patwardhan says as tears well up in her eyes. 

  

“Don’t cry,” Mrs. Joshi says, “everything will be all right.” 

  

Suddenly, there is a commotion. Mr. Patwardhan has arrived. Totally drunk. Swinging from side to side, so unsteady on his feet that he is barely able to walk. He stumbles on first step of the staircase and falls. His daughter, Radhika, appears from nowhere and tries to lift him. Mrs. Patwardhan rushes down the staircase. Soon, both mother and daughter haul him up the staircase. 

  

Mrs. Joshi stands transfixed, not knowing what to do. Her husband comes out of the house, looks at the scene, mutters: “disgraceful” and takes Mrs. Joshi inside. Words cannot describe the emotion of shame, humiliation, helplessness and anger Mrs. Patwardhan experiences at that moment. 

  

A few hours later, Mrs. Patwardhan sleeps like a log; her tension dissipated. The day is over. Tomorrow is a new day. She’ll be up in the morning, busy with her chores and work, and everything will be okay. It’s only in the evening, when the sun begins to set, that the tension will begin to rise within her once again. 

  

Next door, Mrs. Joshi pretends she is fast asleep. Though her eyes are closed, in her mind’s eye she can clearly visualize her husband’s surreptitiously silent movements as he ‘makes sure’ everyone is asleep, stealthily closes the door and sneaks out of the house in a furtive manner. 

  

And as she lies desolately on her barren bed in self-commiseration, feeling betrayed and overcome by a sense of helplessness, and deeply suffers her terrible sorrow in secret silence; there is just one thought in her mind: “Her neighbor is luckier than her. It is better to be the wife of a drunkard than be a wife of a womanizer”. 

  

Mrs. Joshi thinks of Mrs. Patwardhan with envious sympathy. She has nothing to hide and can share her stigma with everyone. But Mrs. Joshi – she has to bear her grief all alone. And then, as the night advances, the tension begins to rise within her. And it will never dissipate; it will just keep on increasing till one day something snaps within her. 

  

I think I agree with Mrs. Joshi. The public shame Mrs. Patwardhan suffers is bad enough, many make fun of her, humiliate her, but some do sympathize with her. 

  

It is Mrs. Joshi who I really pity, as she suffers her private ignominy in secret; dying a hundred deaths inside, while keeping up a façade, a pretense, that everything is fine on the outside. Secret sorrow is worse than public humiliation – there is always the fear of your secret being found out! 

  

  

Dear Reader. Do you agree? What do you think? Do let me know. 

  

  

  

VIKRAM KARVE  

Copyright 2006 Vikram Karve 

 vikramkarve@sify.com 

http://vikramkarve.sulekha.com  

  

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1 Comment »

  1. 1
    All Blogs Says:

    Very Nice Blog , God Bless:)


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