Marriage on the rocks

Ajay and Anjali were madly in love and had once shared dreams of a perfect life of togetherness when Ajay started drinking and their married life reduced to a painful charade. But he stopped. Will he and the love of his life be able to piece together their romance?

How nice it is to sit and stare at the open sky, counting the twinkling stars…

"Come closer…" Anjali heard Ajay's voice urging her softly. She hugged herself close and sighed. Where had those days gone, she wondered.

The early days of love in college. They were inseparable. There was nothing they liked more than rushing to Ajay's flat after classes to discuss their dream future, filled with love and romance.

"We will marry in the winters when the roses are in full bloom," Ajay had promised her. She still remembered her wedding day when they reached Ajay's flat, she found he had carpeted the floor from the front door to the room inside with soft, fresh rose petals, for her to walk on.

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When did the thorns appear amongst those rose petals, Anjali wondered sadly. There were days when she wanted to sob her heart out. But she swallowed her tears and went down. Ajay was asleep on his chair in the balcony. She put the tray with the coffee down, but he did not open his eyes.

Anjali took the opportunity to look at his face deeply. The furrowed brow, the grey hair on his temples, his parched lips.

Tumse Dur Hokar, the story of Anjali and Ajay and is written by Anulata Raj Nair as part of a collaboration between Gaon Connection, India's biggest rural media platform, and the World Health Organization South-East Asia (WHO SEARO) for a social campaign against alcohol abuse. The campaign takes the form of a series called Meri Pyaari Zindagi, made up of slam poetry, a qawwali to quit alcohol and audio and video stories. The stories are narrated by Neelesh Misra, the founder of Gaon Connection.

No bed of roses

Ajay had been sober for a full year. For 15 years before that, he had drunk non stop. Alcohol had made them drift apart. Anjali recalled the many many nights when she would fall asleep hugging a pillow hoping Ajay would come home straight from work.

He never did. Every time she called him when he was drinking in some bar, he would promise her he would be home in half an hour. That half-an-hour' wait had stretched into years.

In the beginning, when he came home he would wake her up and try to come close to her. But she was repulsed by the alcohol she smelt on his breath, and grabbing her pillow, she would go into the guest room to sleep.

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In the mornings Ajay behaved as if nothing had happened. He would get ready and go to work promising to be back early. Anjali tried to talk to him. But Ajay would have nothing of it. They both knew that the alcohol was building a wall between them.

Sometimes, Ajay would lose his temper and say hurtful things. "Go and find someone else if you want someone to sit with you all day whispering sweet nothings into your ears," he would yell at her. Anjali retreated into her shell. She knew it was not Ajay but the alcohol talking. She also knew the alcohol had taken its toll on Ajay physically. He was losing his confidence. He knew that he would not be able to bring any happiness to her. He began to make excuses not to be with her.

Meanwhile Anjali buried herself in her college work. After work, she began to teach at a coaching institute too. She was so exhausted with her routine that she did not even crave to be with Ajay anymore. Let alone sleeping together, they did not even drink their coffee together anymore.

A cup of coffee

And, here they were. Ajay woke up with a start. And, Anjali forced herself to come away from her bitter memories. She handed Ajay his cup of coffee.

Ajay looked at Anjali for long, and his eyes welled up. This happened often now, after he had stopped drinking. Ajay would lapse into sad silences, become emotional and cry. There was real regret in him about how he had allowed alcohol to ruin their life. He would often beg her forgiveness.

Anjali couldn't bear that. After all there was a time when she had loved this man beyond words. He had been her best friend and lover. She stepped forward, gathered him in her arms and sobbed for a long time. At last, she felt better. She forgave him. They may have wasted many years of their lives, but they still had many years ahead together. They were still together.

Kissing Ajay softly on his forehead, Anjali told him softly, "We may be too old for a honeymoon, but why don't we go on a pilgrimage," she laughed. Ajay smiled and the dark cloud of sadness lifted from his face. He reached for his phone to call up his travel agent to plan a trip. After years, Anjali had actually asked him for something, and she had smiled at him. He was determined to give it to her.

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