Ever since the marriage, the husband has been in the sea with a sprawling net to capture even a maanathukanni(the smallest fish in Kerala) of a reason however deep it swims. To drink. To enjoy good times with his friends. His wife, he knows, is also out patrolling on the same waters like that Italian ship to tear into his weekend catch of excuses with protests, logic, promises, requests, threats, outbursts and of course tears. The war lines are drawn. Caution: Now you are within the firing range of a typical family most malayalees can identify with. Freekick Family begins from there.
“Aliya, you must come to Reji’s house. We will all be waiting there. And don’t forget. You’re the one to get the bottle this time. It is your round.”
“Ayyo Aji, spare me this time. The last two days I had parties. I don’t think I can come up with an excuse today.”
“Daa…we can’t postpone it, they’re all free today. You know that.”
“Hmm…let me try.”
First Act – Home.
“If today also he comes home drunk, that will be the end of this relationship. That makes three days in a row,” Divya thinks aloud in the kitchen.
“What chechi?” Manju our house maid asks.
“Just mind your business,” Divya cuts her rudely, as she hears her husband’s bike in the compound.
“Hi, Divya,” I breeze in with a grin plastered across my face.
“Here’s the diary I have promised.” I give her a blue diary, walk into the bedroom, slough off my socks, hurtle them towards the wardrobe, clearly missing it by a yard as usual.
“Manu chetta, tea?”
“Not now. Divya, sit here, iri. Now get a pencil. Haven’t you told me that we have to chart up a schedule? Yeah, now I understand your point dear. We need to bring some discipline to my life.”
Look, she is all smiles now.
“Oh, Manu chetta, you are so sweet”, Divya opens the diary, flips out a pencil from the cupboard and sits on the bed. I position myself three metres away from her. Well out of pouncing distance.
“So this is my proposal,” I clear my throat opening the negotiation talk. “Every day I will take two pegs, except on Sundays,” I muster all courage to complete the idea.
“EVERY DAY!!! You say every day? Are you mad? Are you kidding? You say everyday!!! You want to drink yourself to death! You want to have cirrhosis? Kidney problem? Heart? Why did you marry then? You could have lived off your life as a drunkard.” She seethes like a brand new volcano.
The word, ‘drunkard’ raises my hackles to dizzying heights. No…control Manu, control. You need to take your little yacht to the mooring. A bad mood can spoil everything. I have a promise to keep. To my friends who are waiting for me. Without hurting the sentiments of my wife.
See. I laugh. “Ha ha ha…ho ho…hi hi…” I laugh aloud.
“Ha ha ha…mandippennu. It was just a joke. You believed that! You don’t know how to take a joke,” I arch my brows until they knock at the roof and ricochet. “Alas, what is this dear!” I put the record of Chopin’s despair theme.
Divya wipes her flooded eyes with the back of her hands. A smile finally breaks through her wet cheeks. “Joking, alle?” She joins my laughter.
She now takes my hands into hers but asks looking away: “Chetta, what about drinking ‘once in a year’?”
My hands recoil.
“Once in a year!!!” I blow a fuse this time. “You say once in a year? Are you mad? Are you kidding? You say once in a year!!! Is this some Attukal pongala or Beemapally Uroos to be held only once in a year! You want me as a vegetable? A good-for-nothing? Henpecked? Why did you marry then? You could have married some saints of the Himalayas.”
“Ayyo Manu chetta, It was only a joke, You believed that!” She forces a smile through her fear but fails miserably.
Both of us now retire to our thinking labs to come out with a solution.
“Ok, dear. I will give you two choices,” I confront her at the end.
Divya is all ears.
“Either I drink on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday or I drink only on Saturday. Four days or one day, which one do you prefer?”
Divya holds the table so that she wouldn’t fall.
Has her husband gone mad? Is he already drunk? He definitely has lost some marbles making such a stupid proposal.
“I go with the second option,” Divya jumps at the choice, grabs it, holds it close to her heart like her baby, as she doesn’t want to give her husband a second chance to review the proposal he just made. She is panting. Even that Dasaratha who so tactlessly gave Kaikeyi a blank check (Ramayana) for thrusting her finger where an axle or a pin was needed, seems to be more prudent than her Manu chettan.
“So you won’t touch drinks on any other days?” I shake my head sadly. “You will not take a single sip on any other day? I shake my head again. “Even if your friends force you?” I shake it for one last time.
“You may mark all those Saturdays in this diary,” I hand over the blue diary to my lady, as if it is some rope some victim bigheartedly hands over to his killer to hang him. Divya seems amused as her pencil hurries through the diary, scribbling in the conditions.
Act V – Conclusion
“I love you chetta. You are greater than all of your friends. I promise, I won’t raise any objection to your Saturdays. They’ll be all yours, dear.” With that she closes the diary and tosses it away on the table.
“Come on, how are we going to celebrate this occasion, Manu chetta? The treat is on me. Can we go for a buffet? Or go to a park? Can we go to the beach? Can we go for a movie? Oh, tell me Manu chetta, how do you want it to be?” Her excitement bubbles over.
“I think you are more interested in movies, dear.”
“Exactly, Manu chettah. Which one?”
“Some movie you never get tired off. ‘Kilukkam’”. I smile. “You may watch it on TV, Divya,” I get up from my bed.
“Meanwhile, what day is it today, dear?” I ask her in a disinteresting tone as I stretch my aching back.
Her eyes fall on the calendar and then on the diary, “Sat…Sat…Saturday, Manu chettah…” Only I smile this time.
Tomorrow is another day, man.
Earlier Freekick Family stories: War of the Worlds