Why do have to drink when you have me to drink all your life, she had said very early in the marriage and John had nodded his head. He had looked up at her as she stood there in front of the mirror, running wet comb over her just bathed curly jet black hair that extended all the way down to her back.
She smiled through the glass, two perfectly round dimples that served as 100 watt light bulbs, instantly bathing their bedroom in a sea of noon day sunshine.
She was gorgeously beautiful, no doubt, and he had acknowledged it by walking up and planting a soft kiss on her cheeks.
"You are right, when you are my poison, why would I require another one."
That was day 1 of their marriage, also the day when David had bidden goodbye to the Bacchus.
The then 25 year old had well and truly fallen in love and in possession of the most prized possession he could dream of-the ever lasting love and presence of his dream girl Sheetal.
"Consider this my final warning. If this is the way you go, you will not have too many years to live."
Under the table, David pulled one leg over the other, scowled at the man seated across him, mumbled something indecipherable to himself, and stood up. A quick handshake, a promise to mend his ways, and he was gone.
As he stepped out into the scorching blaze that was mid June Cochin City, he reminded himself this was the last time he would step into a doctor's clinic, ever. It was already half past noon, and fifty five year old David's throat was parched, his larynx felt drier than the driest desert in the world.
He crossed the zebra line, and half ran towards Seventh Avenue Second Street, to Bottoms Up, his go to watering hole.
David liked Lucas. The old man sidled up to his table. It was the usual corner table shielded by a hastily pulled dark brown curtain-a private space within what was essentially a semi darkened basement morphed into a bar lounge half lit by an array of wall hanging ever blinking ever flickering multi chromatic lights that fell al over the low top teakwood tables, some even making slow moves on the hard granite floors.
A bottle of Old Monk, an empty glass, a plate of roasted peanuts-no questions asked, none expected.
A soft benign smile, a slight tilt of the bald as an eagle head, and Lucas was gone-as quietly as he had come.
David nodded back, watched this retreating back, his ears resounding with the multifarious voices, several muffled, many boisterous-all tired and weary men, their spirits quietened by the rigmarole of everyday mundanity, and now replenishing their glasses and hopefully souls, smiling, laughing, joking, enjoying, recharging their battered batteries, living and drinking to the day that was dying and the day that was birthing.
A wry smile played on David's rugged face, a face that once, long back in another world, one of his visiting Canadian colleagues at the factory where he had worked as an operations manager for over three decades had gushingly
described as Jesus Christ meets Nelson Mandela.
He had only smiled then, not knowing whatever that meant.
In less than five minutes David had downed his third glass.
Lucas, as he worked his way, tray in hand, through the alleyways, taking umpteen orders from choc a bloc tables, shot a quick glance towards David.
One more tall boy glass, and he would have to get a new bottle for his favourite customer.
An hour later, David ambled his way out of Bottoms Up, having bottoms upped three full bottles. He had left behind a hundred rupee bill, his usual tip for a person who was more than a waiter who served orders of pitch drunk clients, their voices slurring, their lips mouthing filth smattered words, their minds unmindful of all, too crushed by their sodden existences.
A quarter hour later, David was in his house, his room, his bed- his near six foot tall 85 kilo heavy frame spread eagled on the steel bed, legs half dangling from his sides.
It would be over ten hours or more that he would be lost to the world, his being having travelled to another world, another realm, another utopia where he would be joined by angelic faces, their soft hands holding him and leading towards the flower bedecked garden where amidst the gurgling of waterfalls and beside the swaying dahlias would await with outstretched arms and the most dazzling smile in the world his dear Sheetal.
The dreams were the same; all had him and her as the main characters. As he slide into La La Land, she would appear in her dazzling pearly white gown, her beautiful almond shaped eyes sitting pretty and lighting up his dark as hell soul with her dimpled smile, a most heart warming curve that would send his heart fluttering faster than a butterfly's wings.
She would sashay through the clouds, emerge from among the foamy whites, and come gliding straight into his open arms.
She would then bore her ocean blue eyes into his, two pairs of lovelorn pupils looking and locking and longing, her luscious lips gently pursing his, their arms entwined, their hearts enjoined-two lovers lost to the world, discovering everlasting bliss, a supreme happiness reserved only for the supremely blessed.
And so it would continue, this blessed state until...
Until the harsh rays of the morn pierced his eyelids and with a savage intensity hurled him back to terra firma.
Thus awakened, David would find himself staring into the barren roof, his mind ratcheting with very last words: Cheer up, my love. I am going to meet God. This cancer is His way of telling me that I am needed, that He values me and awaits me in His heavenly abode.
David stares, his eyes bereft of all emotions as his ears resound with such profound words of his beloved.
He knows she has gone, knows she is happy in God's Heaven, knows that she watches him from above, knows she loves him to eternity.
Yet, his heart refuses to move on, refuses to pay heed to the last promise she had extracted from him: My dear Dave (to her he was just Dave, (not David Abraham, the 58 year old hot shot advertising professional much admired for the series of fabulous campaigns he had launched in a glittering career spanning over three and half decades)...
'My dear Dave, she had whispered as held her in the hospital bed before she was wheeled out into the operation theatre, promise me, my Dave, promise me that you would never ever be sad and unhappy without me. Promise me that you would find love again, find yourself someone who loves you and to whom you would shower the same love you have blessed me with. Promise me my Dave, promise me that you would marry and be happy all over again. Promise me...'
She had held on to his hand until the last moments, her eyes lingering, her gaze extracting the promise from him.
And then an hour later she was gone.
Gone like the wind, brutally hacked away from his life.
Dave felt a familiar knock ala a big boulder knocking at his temple, a pencil prick shot through his veins and morphed into a giant boulder that began to mercilessly bludgeon his rib cage, his diaphragm resounding with the constant badgering of a thousand hammer strokes.
As the pain became utterly unbearable, Dave reached out for the bottle of Old Monk.
Promises could wait, he said to himself; for the time being he was just a hapless, helpless pitiable dreg who could neither live not die, his memories ensured he needed more time before he could extricate himself from the madness that consumed him.
Dave, ever the romantic, hopelessly in love with the memories of his dear departed sweetheart, knew he needed some more time before he could make good the promise he had made to the woman who was there in his life and still not there.