A mechanical engineer by qualification, a civil engineer by profession, a non-MBA by choice and a writer by default — is how he likes to describe himself. Ashish Srivastava belongs to the 2008 batch Indian Engineering Services. A fitness freak, he has got a black-belt in Taekwondo.
He lives in Lucknow with his wife, a daughter and a son. Currently, he is working on his second book.
MAN vs WIFE
Viral, a young IT professional going through a troubled married life wants to divorce his wife Trisha. After consulting a lawyer Mishraji in the court campus, he learns that Indian divorce laws are highly biased in favor of his wife, particularly in his case because his wife is not willing to. He keeps vacillating till he meets a middle-aged struggling lawyer Anwar, a man willing to go to any extent for greed.
The lawyer advises him to break the seven vows of marriage one by one, so that his wife starts hating him and agrees for a mutual consent route, even before they decide to go for a contested divorce.
Will Viral be able to break the seven vows of marriage, at last? And the greedy lawyer… will he be successful to break this marriage off…?
11 a.m.: family court, Lucknow
Hall no-2 of the family court was packed to its capacity, representing every section of the society: men and women, young and old, married and single: all from a wide range of backgrounds, viewpoints and life experiences.
The lawyer’s bench in the front was packed like sardines, behind which the litigants and their families waited impatiently for their turn. In the last row, a few social activists were lined up to scrape up data on the emerging grounds of divorces in India.
All eyes were fixed in an intense gaze on me as I stood in the witness box facing a rapid-fire round!
‘So, Mr. Vyral, on the last karwa-chauth when your wife bent to touch your feet, you drew back saying she doesn’t make a good wife. Do you accept the allegation?’ asked the lawyer with round, bulging eyes, drawing near the witness box.
‘Mhm,’ I responded in a faint voice.
‘May this court know why?’ he demanded, inching closer.
‘Because this woman mistreats me. Nor does she respect my family,’ I growled.
‘Correct me if I’m wrong. As per my information, she was just following your mother’s words that night, right?’ he asked, stroking his semi gray hair.
‘Whatever you think is right, you imp,’ I grumbled, getting hot under the collar now!
‘Be louder Mr. Vyral… you’re not allowed to talk to yourself. The court wants to hear you sweet voice,’ he said as he put on his reading glasses.
‘What the f…,’ I almost burst out in anger.
‘Are you yelling at me?’ he asked.
‘No, I’m not,’ I responded, crouching so that we were eye to eye.
‘But he just did, didn’t he?’ he mocked, addressing the audience, and turned back to me, ‘I was wondering Mr. Vyral whether you have a history of neurosis or split personality disord…’
‘…OBJECTION! YOUR HONOUR! This question has nothing to do with the case. The counsel is trying to steer the trial in a wrong direction,’ All of a sudden, my lawyer roared from the front-row. ‘And I don’t understand why he’s mispronouncing my client’s name again and again? His name is Viral. The letter ‘I’ is pronounced as in the word INK, not like in the word VIRUS.’
‘Objection sustained,’ said the old judge, a man with one foot in the grave and the other one on a banana peel! Slumped in a moth-eaten arm-chair aboard an elevated platform, he was flanked by a pyramid of dusty, archaic case-files.
Right on the wall behind him, a dead pendulum-clock was stuck at 09:30 sharp, like a thumbs-down! And down below, a dopey, lady stenographer in her forties yawned intermittently, while recording the proceedings of the day.
‘Whoops, my bad! Looks like watching too many viral videos on YouTube has corrupted my diction,’ he spoke tongue in cheek before reverting to me, ‘So Mr. Vyral… oops! Mr. Viral, I’ve been told that you’re a big sports fan. So what sports do you play?’
‘Well, I don’t play. I only watch them on television.’
‘Oh really! May I know what kind of sports?’ he asked, as his froggy eyes met mine.
‘Beach-volleyball and… uhh…’
‘…And rhythmic-gymnastics, trampolines, figure skating et cetera, et cetera… right Mr. Viral?’ he said. His face like a pay toilet attendant who just busted a penny-pinching customer pooping without paying!
I remained puzzled like a common man trying to get the hang of a multi-million-dollar modern art painting!
‘I’m impressed!’ he chuckled like a Bollywood baddy and suddenly paused. ‘Can you name one or two famous athletes from your favorite sports?’
I drew a blank when he asked me that. It felt like words were stuck somewhere between my mind and my mouth.
‘So you don’t, huh?’ he snapped, as his deep voice boomed through the hall.
‘OBJECTION!’ yammered my lawyer once again, ejecting out of his seat, ‘I don’t know what point my fellow lawyer is trying to make,’ he cried foul.
‘The point I’m trying to make is simple. Mr. Viral doesn’t enjoy manly sports. Nor does he like games in which women wear full-sleeved outfits, like fencing and cricket to mention a few. In fact, his voracious eyes keep wandering all the time, seeking out ladies in leotards and bikinis,’ he made a stink walking past the judge. ‘Your honor, this man’s crème-de-la-crème wife fasts for him and follows her in-laws’ words ad verbatim. Even so, he complains she doesn’t make a good wife!
Isn’t he a perv…?’
Suddenly, a hush fell over the room. There was no sound except for a gnashing noise from an antique ceiling fan, gyrating right over my head.
‘Answer the question, young man. The court can’t afford to waste its time on just one case,’ Judge’s voice cut through the silence. Apparently, he’d begun rifling through the next case-file.
Butthurt, I raised my head and looked at the crowd, brimming with raging anger sparked by the fiery speech of the prosecution lawyer just a while ago.
At last, I was left with no option, but to pour my heart out.
‘Yes, your honor, every word the prosecution lawyer said is true as gospel. Husband at the helm for one day. Sounds wonderful! Isn’t it?’ I said. ‘But what about the remaining three hundred and sixty-four days? You know, for the last several weeks, I’d been surviving on samosas and batata vadas because this woman wouldn’t give me food. And she knows that I can’t cook anything except Maggi! What’s more, for the last many months I’d been sleeping alone, for she’d refused to share the bed with me saying that I snore like a warthog! And on the last karwa-chauth night, I was sleeping on an empty stomach, when I felt someone kick me.
I sprang up in the bed looking around frantically and found her, standing akimbo on the bed! She hurled around half-a-dozen cuss words at me, including an F-bomb before telling me that she was going to touch my feet.
Is that what karwa-chauth meant for…? Sugar coated humiliation!’ My voice choked, ‘Your honor, my self-respect has hit the rock bottom in the last few years. I can’t share roof with this woman anymore,’ I blurted out and lapsed into silence.
An indistinct chatter followed in the hall and started growing louder.
‘Order… order!’ said the old judge wheezing and coughing — lolling his tongue out of his mouth. And suddenly, he lost his sound.
I craned my neck looking for him, wondering whether he’d died in harness.
But he hadn’t! His breath was stuck in a limbo. So was the fate of my case.