Dharwadkar was in a very pensive mood. The lady of the house had long since decided that the liquor cabinet would at all times remain locked and the key kept in her personal custody. In the Royal Navy there was a tradition which dates back to well over 300 years; they issued a daily ‘tot’ of Pusser's Rum to the crews of their ships - and always a double issue before battle and after victory. It was first introduced into the Navy in 1655. LOH was well versed with naval history and the local history had brought in this procedure with a slight modification. Dharwadkar – Dharu for short was allowed to indulge in ‘elbow bending’ once a week.
The sun was beginning to set and the trees cast long shadows. As the evening progressed he realized it was Saturday and it was his issue day.LOH was still in the kitchen participating in the making of dinner by giving elaborate instructions to the cook.
Dharu tried his best to attract the attention of his wife many times, but the lady refused to take the hint. He enquired about her work, informed her about completing all the chores she had entrusted him with before going for work. The fuse in the bedroom had been changed, her passbook had been updated, all the plants had been watered, cuckoo clock had been keyed and many such important errands had been successfully completed. Precious time was being wasted and Dharu started to feel restless and itchy. He did not want to force the issue any further than necessary as the entire process could derail. ’Slow and steady’ was the strategy most likely to succeed. In the normal course, the key to his happiness would have been in his hand by now. He would have poured himself a stiff restorative and proceeded to the balcony to sip the elixir and generally gaze at the open sky. But this Saturday was different. The events leading up to this Saturday prevented him from being more persistent and pursuing the issue.
A few days prior to the Saturday in question, Dharu minus LOH had to proceed to Belgaum to attend a very important family wedding. Initially he resented the idea but when he thought about the overnight journey by train, a number of possibilities appeared in front of him. A very close friend from his school days also decided to travel with him. It was a double whammy. Once in the train, the duo started early – talked about old times – and each tried to outdo the other in hospitality. As the night progressed they shifted gears from happiness to pure exhilaration and eventually retired to bed totally pickled.
The train reached its destination very early in the morning. The idea of waking up and proceeding to the hotel was a very unpleasant task. The twosome somehow made it to their rooms and once inside fell fast asleep. Dharu was rudely woken up from his deep slumber when the cell phone rang. He cursed loudly and in a fit of anger and frustration threw the phone in the direction of the bathroom. The phone skidded into the bathroom and Dharu went back to nurse his terrible hangover. While he slept peacefully, by an act of the ‘wind god’ the bathroom door closed – permanently masking the ring of the cell phone. Dharu slept like a child with a silly smile, making unintelligible gurgling noise at regular intervals.
At 7:30 AM the older sister of the LOH along with her teenage daughter reached the marriage hall. They were anxiously waiting outside in a car to take possession of a velvet box sent by the LOH to her sister through Dharu. It contained a lovely pearl necklace, matching bangles and ear rings hand crafted by a reputed jeweler in Bangalore. These were to adorn the beautiful neck of the teenager. There was no sight of the carrier pigeon and time was ticking away. The older relative could not fathom why the piegon was not present in spite of having reached Belgaum at 5 AM. When the wait became unbearable she rang up the LOH and told her of the missing link. LOH normally known for her calm and composure, literally flew of the handle and started making frantic calls to Dharu. The phone kept ringing. LOH’s once stoic personality was quickly giving way to fear and anger. What would the relatives say? How would the girl face their piercing eyes? And above all where was Dharu and why was he not answering the phone?
As calamity struck Bangalore and Belgaum, Dharu was stirring in his bed unable to focus and recall the events of the night with any degree of clarity. At first it was difficult to comprehend what he was doing in a strange place. He got up from the bed and proceeded unhurriedly towards the bathroom. That is when the abandoned cell phone on the ground attracted his attention. Bending down and picking up a small item was a very difficult task requiring precession and balance. He picked it up with great difficulty and saw there were 17 missed calls. That is when the entire universe opened and the wall on the clock told the tale – it was 5 past 10.
The rest is a very embarrassing narrative, which no true fellow reveler would like to read or as in my case, want to reveal.
With this reputation, Dharu was in no position to ask the LOH for the keys on this Saturday.