PrEm Ji

OCCUPATIONAL HAZARD (Short story)

 

 

OCCUPATIONAL HAZARD

 

“Shobha… Please put your signature on this document… See… Your husband needs it very badly…”

“What is it?” she asked me innocently.

“O… it’s nothing … but a divorce petition with mutual consent… Unfortunately, Pradeep is not gutsy enough to ask you…”

“How dare you ask me the same? Premji Sir, have you gone crazy?” Her beautiful eyes began to fire cannonballs to my heart… “Are you serious?”

“Unfortunately, yes!”

After many years of absence, I was back to the same institution where I began my official life as head of the department. Staff room was empty as a student’s protest was going on. Students are puppets of political clowns most of the times. I sank into a plush chair and soon sleep began to dance upon my eyelids.

“Good Morning Sir,” someone greeted me pleasantly who tore away a beautiful daydream mercilessly. I was forced to open up my eyes like a newborn blinking his eyes. “Sir, I am Pradeep, a demonstrator in our department,” he tried to introduce himself.

“Take you seat Mr Pradeep…” He sat down happily in front of me. I could sense some sort of strange anxiety or curiosity upon his face. “So, how are things?” I asked him patiently.

“I will answer to your question tomorrow,” he got up from chair.

“Pradeep, what is happening around?” I was totally confused.

“Pardon me… Sir… I cannot tolerate someone who is drunk,” he replied calmly.

“But… I am not drunk!”

“May be… but… you still carry the smell… Sorry… I cannot tolerate that…” he walked away swiftly.

“Strange man…” I cursed myself and took a body spray from my bag… “Brute… What a strange name for a brutal spray!

 ♠

Next day… Pradeep was the first man to reach the office almost every day… and he was most punctual in his duty too. 

“Good Morning Sir,” Pradeep greeted me happily as if nothing had happened yesterday.

“Good Morning Pradeep…” I greeted him warmly.

“Forgive me… Sir, I cannot tolerate even the smell of alcohol… that’s why…”

“That’s OK… Usually, I don’t take drinks… But, my colleagues threw me a sent off party day before yesterday…,” I tried for a quick cover-up. Unfortunately, it was true.

“That’s OK Sir…”

Old friends are always the source of pleasure.

“What’s wrong with Pradeep?” I asked Radhakrishnan, our peon, while sipping hot lemon tea in the college canteen. “He doesn’t like even the smell of alcohol.”

“Sir…don’t you know that?” Radhakrishnan smiled.

“Who knows!”

 “Sir, I lost my father when I was just ten… He died of liver cirrhosis… He was a maniac addict…” Pradeep stopped for a moment… “I haven’t touched even a single drop of alcohol till today…”

“If you ever plan to have a peg, please let that be with me,” I said. “You know, it’s a honest plea.”

“Sir, you have very good sense of humour,” Pradeep smiled. “I will be on leave in the afternoon.”

“What’s the matter?”

“My father-in-law is back home after seven years… Old man is working in Dubai… I have to pick him up from the airport…”

Pradeep walked away.

Pradeep was absent for the whole next week. But, I was lucky enough to meet him near a de-addiction center one-day.

“Pradeep… what’s happening around?”

Pradeep’s father-in-law was sleeping peacefully on the cot. Shobha was sitting next to the bed.

“Sir… We were forced to drop him here… Old man is a maniac drunkard…” Pradeep said.

“Did he return penniless?”

“You are right… Sir…” replied Shobha.

I visited them many times during his de-addiction process. Soon, Shobha began to treat me like an elder brother. Pradeep was successful at last, though the old man acted strange many-a-times.

“Even a single drop of alcohol can take away your life,” the doctor warned the old man when he was about to leave for home.

The old man was shifted to his home after one month long de-addiction treatment. Pradeep had the least interest to let him stay with them. But, Shobha, his beloved wife, was adamant to do so. As a result, her parents began to stay with them. But, on one condition by Pradeep: “no more drinking!”

Pradeep was absolutely right: the old man didn’t have liver at all! He would die on the very next moment if he consumes alcohol again. Days went on as usual. The old man was fed up of all rotten soap programs in the TV. Slowly, he began to go out whenever Pradeep was not at home. Neither his wife nor his mother-in-law had any doubt upon him as the old man didn’t have any access to money. There was nothing unusual in his activities till on that fateful day. 

 “Sir, Pradeep’s father-in-law is no more,” Rajesh informed me through mobile phone.

“When?”

“Just now… Pradeep caught him ready-handed and told him to get out of his home… right then!  And the old man fainted down as he couldn’t stand the shock… A massive heart-attack took away his life…”

Six months passed almost eventless. It was a pleasant sunny day in the spring season. Pradeep entered into my chamber with cover in his hand. And you know the rest.

“How dare you ask me the same? Premji Sir, have you gone crazy?” Shobha asked again.

“Why should I dare not? You love only maniac drunkards! Pradeep is only a tea-bag!”

“You are wrong…” she made an objection.

“May be… But… You haven’t talked with him since your father’s death…You have stopped loving him and…”

“You are wrong!” she was getting angrier.

“If the husband and wife have nothing to share and it’s better to end up the relationship,” I told calmly. “Instead of blaming him like hell, you should blame me first.”

Shobha couldn’t believe my words.

I had to slow down my car near that Ayuvedic Medicinal Shop as my right knee was paining like hell.

“Sir, what do you need?” Sunny Vaidyar, the local medical practitioner, appeared near the left window of the car.

“Some ointment to relieve knee pain,” I replied. But, quite accidentally, I saw him sitting on a chair in front of the shop.

“Why is he sitting here?”

“He sits here from morning to evening… Some of his old friends get him one or two glasses of ‘arishtam’ – the local Ayurveda liquor daily… He was the richest man here once, now he begs for a peg!” Sunny Vaidyar went back to his shop.

“Even, I didn’t expect all these…” I couldn’t face her powerful eyes. “If it could have been his father also, he would have done the same… He hates the habit of drinking so much… He is still merciless to such people.”

“I just can’t forgive him, Sir… My father succumbed to death in front of my eyes…,” Shobha wiped her tears.

“Your father lived out his life fully as the way he liked and you still love him! Pradeep leads a very principled life, he comes home always in right time, he doesn’t drink… But, you can’t even tolerate him! Life is very complicated, my sister! Anyway, you have a long day to decide. Those who live only in the past gain nothing in the present!” I left the green colour application form on the table as I was about to leave.

“Sir…”

“Pradeep will be a little late today evening… I have arranged him a party… initiation to the kingdom of drunkards…” I showed her the cap of a Smirnoff Vodka bottle, peeking out from my shoulder bag. “It will make him wiser and happier!” I began to walk out, heavyhearted.

“Sir…” Shobha called me from behind. “You can collect the same tomorrow morning, if…”

“If?”

“Pradeep is either late or drunk in the evening…” She showed me the green colour application from.

A cute smile appeared upon her face though her eyes were flooding… 

God! I must be thankful to my wife for replacing my old plastic water bottle with a fresh empty Vodka bottle! 

Love you honey…                                                                                                                                  

 

Premji

  • Author: PrEmJi PrEmJi (Pseudonym) (Offline Offline)
  • Published: May 10th, 2021 10:31
  • Category: Unclassified
  • Views:

Comments2

  • Fay Slimm.

    Another most interesting and engaging read on life when alcohol takes any hold - you are a storyteller extraordinaire my friend.

    • PrEm Ji

      Thanks dear Fay...

    • L. B. Mek

      another wonderfully woven tale, dear poet
      (and thanks for inspiring my own little scribbled reply)..
      'I am for temperate: in all things, including temperate - itself
      literally everything, in moderation
      and yeah, that includes lifeline nights of 'manic drunkenness'
      in celebration or sorrowful desperation...
      see, the more we box ourselves
      into caricature: identity - tropes, of self-worth
      the less manoeuvrability we afford ourselves, in the face
      of all those random hailstorms: Existence
      has the kindness, to grace us with...'

      • PrEm Ji

        Thanks dear poet friend... I had covid attack last year. I found out a cure also. I have been running behind the authorities since then for some clinical studies and trials. But, medicine is very effective! Nothing happened... People are dying like moths!

        • L. B. Mek

          It is not the virus that kills 'people like Moths', that amazes me
          rather, more so: how quickly the rest of society - cultivated
          their indifference to the daily issued death toll numbers...
          its such a depressing snapshot
          of humanity's regression and wilful disassociation
          with our once: innate and integral capacity, for Empathy



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