The Red Wine
The Red Wine10 mins 30 10 mins 30
“Finally, the day has arrived” Andrew smugly mused. No, it isn’t his birthday; or perhaps by a contorted logic one can say that it is. After all, wasn’t this day destined to usher in a new phase in Andrew’s life? This day will bestow a new lease of life to him; hence, one is justified in calling it his birthday.
The beeping of his phone pulled him out of his reverie. It was a message from Ajay, his office colleague. It read, “Congratulations!!! I want a grand party, no excuses shall be entertained. And don’t forget your hapless friend once you fly off to America.” Andrew smiled indulgently, evidently Ajay adored him. In fact, almost all of his colleagues admired and adored him. Andrew’s charismatic personality, coupled with his good looks and pleasant disposition won him a great many friends and admirers. However, this deluge of admiration had deluded him into thinking that the world revolves around him. But in this case it wasn’t presumptuous of him to think that since last few days he had become the hot topic of discussion amongst his colleagues. S
ince last few days his office was abuzz with news of him and he had actually become the sole topic of discussion. Rumours had it that the managerial board has decided to promote him and offer him a position at their San Francisco branch. There were several other perks such as a furnished, luxury accommodation; subsidised transportation; free gym membership, etc. His performance had been excellent in the last fiscal year and he had been expecting an appraisal but this was beyond his wildest imaginations. He had always been attracted to the American Dream, but being a mediocre student he had accepted the harsh truth that this dream would forever remain unfulfilled.
“Now all my dreams will be fulfilled for Lady Luck has finally smiled upon me” Andrew gloated as he chewed on his breakfast. Today his manager will officially declare his promotion and offer him the transfer letter to U.S.A. He had already prepared the speech which he will deliver after the official announcement. He has meticulously planned each and every moment of the day; he wants the day to be perfect and will ensure that nothing goes awry. He put on his best suit, wore his most charming smile and set out for the office. “It will be the best day of my life,” he smirked.
He got stuck in traffic, had it been any other day his mood would have soured. But today no adversity seemed strong enough to dampen his euphoria. However, the traffic jam delayed his arrival in office thereby compelling him to rush through the office lobby to mark his attendance. As he was rushing he collided with a colleague which made him almost topple though he regained his balance in the nick of time.
But his colleague was not as lucky as him as she couldn’t save herself from the impact of the collision and lay supine on the floor. Her satchel flew open scattering all its contents on the lobby floor. Andrew felt sorry for her and extended his hand to help her up, but as he saw her face he instantly drew back his hand. It was Shalini, his most despised colleague. Though there was no concrete reason for Andrew to despise Shalini yet he cannot help hating her. Perhaps it was Andrew’s bloated ego that cannot accept Shalini’s indifference towards him. She was the only person in his office who didn’t pander to his pompous self-image and made no effort at being his friend. However, Shalini wasn’t indifferent particularly to Andrew; it was her reclusive nature which made her indifferent to people in general. She had no friends in office and wasn’t at all bothered by it, she was happy to lead a solitary existence. “Next time onwards try to make more effective use of your eyes,” Andrew growled and left her lying on the floor with her files and papers scattered all around.
As he fiddled with the paperweight on his desk he found himself pondering over the mishap in the lobby. Andrew was incensed at this imperfect beginning of his perfect day, more so because it was with Shalini that he collided. However, the thought of Shalini not only riled him up but also made him anxious. Just as she ruined the beginning, she also posed a threat of devastating his entire ‘perfect’ day. This was not merely an unfounded anxiety of Andrew; it in fact had solid foundation of truth in it. Andrew’s promotion and his realization of the American Dream was not as smooth a ride as he himself and his colleagues made it out to be. There is a vexatious clause to this seemingly perfect proposition which his colleagues ignored and he entirely dismissed.
The news of this anticipated promotion had more to it which Andrew deliberately ignored; it was only the partial new that he chose to believe. Yet his wilful ignorance didn’t change the fact that the managerial board has decided upon two candidates who were being considered for the promotion; one was obviously Andrew and the other was Shalini. Andrew and all his colleagues believed that Shalini stood no chance of being preferred to Andrew. Shalini was a recluse and hardly made any effort to please the boss, while Andrew made all-out effort to charm the boss and was apparently a favoured employee amongst the managerial board. Though all the odds were in Andrew’s favour yet it didn’t eliminate Shalini from the race. She had minuscule chances of winning the race, but the fact that she was in the race made Andrew anxious.
The increment of his anxiety was directly proportional to the progression of the day. He hadn’t heard anything from the boss yet and the same was true for Shalini as well. And as they say, no news is good news, the silence of his boss had somewhat soothed his frayed nerves. After the lunch-break Andrew received a call from the boss asking him to come to his cabin immediately. Andrew surreptitiously eyed Shalini to check whether she was also going to the boss’ cabin. As he saw her immersed in her work he was ensured that she had not received any call from the boss. Thus heaving a sigh of relief, he made his way to the boss’ cabin.
As he walked out of the cabin he found the attention of all his colleagues riveted upon him, their eyes lit with anticipation. Before he could utter a word Ajay rushed and embraced him. He wanted to outdo everyone else in congratulating Andrew but he met with an unexpected response. Andrew pushed him away and started laughing maniacally before he crumbled onto the floor bawling. Everyone was perturbed by his sudden maniac behaviour but no one could muster the courage to approach him. After what seemed like an eternity he finally cooled down and regained his composure. His eyes were bloodshot and he shot a glance of pure hatred towards Shalini who was still immersed in her work unperturbed by the drama unfolding around her.
He shouted menacingly, “Congratulations witch! You have succeeded in snatching away my dreams with your black magic.” Without taking her eyes off her computer screen Shalini calmly replied, “I think you have forgotten that along with you I was also being considered for promotion. It isn’t gracious of you to blame me if the managerial board has chosen me over you, is it?” The entire office was dumbstruck to hear that it was Shalini who has been promoted, not Andrew. Andrew retorted with equal composure, “Yeah, it isn’t gracious of me to blame you. However, why don’t you prove your graciousness by inviting us all for dinner to your home? I suppose with this undeserved promotion you can finally afford to regale us, can’t you?” Shalini finally looked away from her computer screen and answered with a sigh, “Yes, owing to my undeserved promotion I can finally afford to throw a party. So, I invite you-all to dinner at my home tonight, with Andrew as my guest of honour. I expect you-all by 8 p.m. please don’t disappoint me.”
Though no one could comprehend the rationale behind Andrew’s asking for a party from Shalini, yet everyone was intrigued by the interesting turn of the events. Shalini was an enigma to everyone, neither did she ever visit anyone’s home nor did she invite anyone to her home. It was only when they saw Andrew’s message in the WhatsApp group did comprehension dawned upon them. Andrew had some faint idea that Shalini lived in a dilapidated dwelling in the poor quarter of the city. He provoked her into inviting them to her house because he wanted to make fun of her poor living standards. It was his only way of venting his anger at what he believed was a grossly unjust decision of the managerial board. Thus he wanted all his colleagues to support him in mocking and insulting Shalini. Though it seemed like a mean and petty idea yet all of them agreed to oblige Andrew because they too believed that Andrew had been wronged.
As they reached Shalini’s home they discovered that she indeed lived in a dilapidated and barely furnished apartment. Nevertheless, she made magnificent arrangements to entertain her guests. She had placed a huge stereo on a table with an eclectic collection of music tapes and had asked her guests to select the music of their choice. She had prepared delectable dishes and had abundant supply of snacks and wine to keep her guests occupied and satiate their taste buds. Unexpectedly, the guests found themselves enjoying and she turned out to be a good host. Andrew was infuriated to see everyone praising Shalini and having a gala time, he felt that his whole purpose of asking for the party was defeated. He felt compelled to salvage the situation and avenge the shattering of his long cherished dreams for which he blamed her.
Suddenly Andrew turned off the stereo forcing the room into a stunned silence. The silence was rent as he jeered, “Shalini, what an inattentive host you are! Have you noticed that the empty wine bottle has not yet been replenished? Or are you being your usual parsimonious self and saving the wine by not serving it to the guests?” His friends taking the cue also joined him in an uproarious demand of wine. Shalini answered composedly, “Despite my earnest efforts I know I have failed as a host but I beg all of you to bear with me. As you can see I have no one to help me around and have to manage everything single-handedly. Yes I have been inattentive to not replenish the wine bottles earlier as I was busy laying out the table for dinner. However, I won’t keep you-all waiting any longer. Andrew, it will be very kind of you if you accompany me to the kitchen and help me carry the wine glasses. Meanwhile, you-all enjoy and don’t let this minor inconvenience spoil the fun.” She threw a beseeching glance at Andrew before leaving the room. Andrew stood undecided for a moment before hesitatingly following her into the kitchen.
She returned after a long time carrying a tray of glasses filled with red wine. However, Andrew was nowhere to be seen which made his friends a little uncomfortable. “Where is Andrew?” asked Ajay. “Please, have some wine first. I assure you this is the finest wine you will ever drink in life. And this time there will be no delay in replenishing once you finish it” saying this Shalini forced the glasses into her guests’ hands. A few of them took a hesitant sip and immediately spat it out. “What the hell is this?” asked one of them.
Shalini flashed a dazzling smile and replied, “I ran out of wine, so I thought Andrew’s blood will make an excellent replacement. Thus, I pried open his stomach and filled the glasses. Isn’t it the finest red wine that have you ever had? Please, enjoy your drinks.”
Blood, flowers, cherries and wine
Red is the colour of life and fine dine.
But when anger takes control of the mind
Red can make a demon of mankind!