Mental Warfare

Wars have lost all nobility since the advent of guns. When you rush out to meet your enemy and duel with him clashing swords till one of you finally falls and dies. That must have been some battle. Now with guns it just depends on who is more willing to pull the trigger.

Even gods have stopped paying any attention or picking sides in our fights any more. None of us receive special weapons from gods or even blessings for that matter. What if one of our flying bullets shot god and dropped him dead. That sure would explain a lot.

No. Today the real battles are not fought in the battlefields. There are no noble princes fighting demon kings. Nobel princes and demons exist simultaneously in our heads and our minds are their battlefields.

This was not his normal strain of thought, but today Salil was a little drunk and he had been having violent urges for the past few days. That’s probably the reason for his particularly violent, disturbing or exciting strain of thought however you like to view it.

He drank alone these days. His friends had stopped coming to his place for their drinking sessions. He didn’t blame them. He wasn’t quite feel himself lately. One day in a fit or in some strange delirium he began trashing all the bottles of liquor on the walls. One of the glass shards scarred his eye brow while another scraped his friend’s hand. With much difficulty they had managed to sober him down and put him to bed. They were all worried about him but no one visited him since that day.

Not one to drink alone, Salil would now get drunk and make video calls to his family in Dubai. He had a wife and daughter living there. He was planning to shift there too but the transfer from his company was taking too long to process. He ended staying in rented flats which he hated and kept shifting around hoping to get one he liked.

Just like the other days, he made a video call today as well. His daughter spoke to him, never quite realizing he was drunk. She was too young to know it, but his wife would quickly pick up on this and the moment she put the daughter to bed she would scold him asking him to stop drinking so much and to come to them soon.

The first few times he told her that he was trying and would give her a long drawn explanation of the situation. Lately, he would remain mum over the topic of his transfer like he feared jinxing any progress by speaking about it.

Tired of carrying out the same conversations over the same screens everyday, their conversations shortened. This worried Salil more and he couldn’t figure what to do about it. His wife had been worried by the scar on his eyebrow. He wondered how she would react when she would see the ones he’d been making on his arms. Nevertheless, he found solace in one thing, alcohol.

If his performance at work was slacking no one told him until the day when he was called in to the managers cabin. “We’re trying to complete your transfer as soon as we can, but till then we need you to focus on your job here. Your performance is dropping. Is something bothering you?”

“No. Not really. I’ll buck up.” said Salil, while his insides were screaming to burst out at the manager, but then he needed to get to Dubai. The storm that had begun raged on all day.

After completing an entire bottle that evening, he tried to hold a video chat with his family again. This time however, there was hardly a chat. They were both busy running around for something.

‘What’s the occasions? Why are you packing her bag?” Salil asked his wife.

“Oh… She’s going to a friend’s place to stay over for the night. She will be back tomorrow morning… Sabah come here and tell your father bye before you leave.” His wife added before he could respond.

Sabah ran in and said a hasty bye and goodnight, “Arun uncle is wating at the door. I’m leaving now papa. Goodnight.” Salil smiled a forced smile and said goodnight, the smile didn’t escape Sabah or his wife. They exchanged a befuddled glance and Sabah rushed out giving her mother a peck on the cheek.

“What is wrong with you? How could you send her to stay at her friends place for the night? We don’t allow that. You know it.”

“Don’t get so worked up. These are nice people. Plus they’re just ten year old girls, there’s nothing to worry.”

“Listen, if you can’t bring up the kid properly send her back here. I’ll take care of her better.”

“Hah!” she laughed a laugh loaded with sarcasm. “You? A drunkard? Will take care of Sabah better than me?”

Just then there was a knock on the door of the room, followed by an awkwrd silence between Salil and his wife. She turned back. It was Arun. This was the first time Salil got a look at Arun, and realized he had everything that Salil lacked himself. The clear jawline and a perfect moustache, compared to Salil’s whitening beard covering most of his face which was chubby at the least. The well-built body compared to Salil’s growing waistline spilling out of this banyan.

“I’d just come to tell. That I’ll bring back Sabah by 9 tomorrow morning. We thought she could also have breakfast at our place if that is okay with you.” Arun said softly avoiding looking at Salil in the screen and focusing on his wife.

“Yeah. That is not a problem.” The wife said.

Salil raised his eyebrows but said nothing. Once Arun was gone he said, “ Who is this guy?” though he very well know who it was.

“That’s Arun, Sabah’s friend’s father. He had come to pick up Sabah. He is a good man don’t worry.”

“You seem very comfortable with him. How come you never mentioned him?”

“I just know him from the times he comes to pick up his daughter from school that’s about it. What is the matter with you?”

“Nothing… Nothing at all. I just see you all are getting along very well without me. You even seem to have found a man to take my place, haven’t you? Tell me does he even fill your bed every now and then. Since he is such a good man.”

His wife simply raised her eyebrows. “Let’s talk when you are sober. Oh wait you don’t remember us when you are sober, do you? I’ll tell you what, the next time we will talk when I feel like and want to talk now.”

She closed the chat and slammed the laptop shut. Salil did the same on the other end and clutched his receding hair in despair. What had he said! He wished he could take it back.

He tried sleeping, but sleep wouldn’t come to him. He kept imagining his wife and that Arun together. The more he thought about it he seemed to get strangely aroused by that thought. He blew off some steam under his sheets and took a bath. He cursed himself further thinking about how pathetic his life has gotten and now the thoughts that began to arouse him. He didn’t even feel pity for himself anymore. He began to despise himself.

The next morning his manager called him and said that his transfer would get through in a month and he could shift to Dubai then. He did not drink that night. He spend it trying to reach his wife and daughter to give them this news.

Days passed into weeks and weeks into months. Salil had begun counting down the days by drawing little scars across his torso, he felt a strange pleasure in hurting himself. He had stopped drinking, but had no one to talk to any more.

When the day finally arrived he jumped in joy and cancelled out the last frequency tally marking off thirty days on his chest. He could barely state how excited he was, but his wife had still not forgiven him. She did come to pick him up at the airport but didn’t say much.

“How are you doing?”

“Good… until now.”

“That’s a little mean don’t you think?”

She just shrugged her shoulders.

“Where’s Sabah? Didn’t she come?”

“She’s at school.”

“Well she could skip one day at least?”

“Wait an hour. She will be home by then.”

That was the last word either of them spoke till they reached home. When they reached home Salil removed his jacket and kept it on the sofa. His wife seen his arms riddled with knife cuts which his t-shirt didn’t cover. She said nothing. She turned on the tap for his bath.

Salil entered a room and began undressing after wrapping a towel around his waist. He turned and saw his wife at the door with a soap bar. She looked at his chest with the cut marks and looked stunned. She walked closer while he tried to avert her gaze. She ran her hand up gently up the scars and counted 30 in total. She knew what it meant for she had been counting the days they hadn’t spoke on her calendar as well.

She burst out in tears and hugged him, “Oh! What have you done?” “What have I done?”

They proceeded to make up for the scars of one month in the one hour they had before Sabah returned.

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