DEEP WITHIN – VII

“Can we talk?”

These three words had taken them both by surprise. Vikram and Shobhna haven’t ‘Talked’ in ages. The real, heartfelt, profound talk at least. All they had were monologues, meaningless prattle maintaining false intimacy at business dinners and company parties they hosted or attended as guests for the sake of public image.

But today was different, today he wasn’t the business magnate, and she wasn’t a woman trying to save her identity under the heavy burden of being the socialite wife of Mr Vikram Shah. Today they were merely a couple, parents who were desperately failing the capacity of parenthood. 

Mr Vikram Shah entered his home that day as a caring husband and a helpless father, and Shobhna greeted him like a loving wife and a concerned mother. They gave Punit what he wanted, not out of dread of his outbursts or of injuring his pseudo ego but out of one last, desperate attempt to put some sense of humility and modesty into their son. The son who assumed he was somehow entitled to all things he desired by default and was clouded enough by his wrong judgement to the limit of believing he deserved it on merit and virtue. 

Vikram was fretful that night; he gave Punit what he wanted, but he was questioning himself. Was I wrong in giving in to his demands? Will, it put a positive spin on his overbearing and domineering attitude? Where did I go wrong as a father in bringing him up? Maybe I should have sent him to a boarding school when he was still a kid; it would have kept him grounded and humble. Will he ever become the man I want him to be, the man who will be taking over my business empire after me, at least half of it? 

Shobhna, on the other hand, was thinking of a solution. How do I make Punit see others as equals and not undeserving obstacles? How should I teach him the value of being a self-made man rather than being a man of self-esteem? How should I bring him to understand the concept of healthy competition and sportsmanship? 

They both had another dilemma at their minds, about Aman. He must be knowing by now that the academy has changed its decision about captaincy, and he surely must be feeling dejected and victimised. This will sow seeds of enmity between Aman and Punit even deeper. They were both teenagers, and it was not an easy time on them. 

By morning she had come up with the perfect solution, one that would make Punit see that privileges come at a cost and there are no free lunches in life, would bring justice and fairness to Aman and would reintroduce Vikram to his son Punit.

On the other hand, there was a joyful atmosphere in Aman’s household. He read the final list of the team members playing for RPCA and smiled to see he was Vice-Captain while Punit was appointed captain once again. He knew why, he knew money, power and influence go a long way and who could deny the son of the trustee. Manan thumped his back and congratulated him, but Mudit couldn’t resist asking Aman if he wasn’t enraged.

“I am not enraged bro, but I am concerned. I want RPCA to bring the cup home this time and am hoping against hope that Punit would play with his head on his shoulders this time. If we can do that, I am a happy man.”

The next day they were all called by Mr Sharma for their first net practice at the academy as the tournaments weren’t far. He told them to make rounds of the ground for a warm-up and called Aman aside to talk. Punit saw this and smirked before running off with the others. 

“Aman, I know you are a sensible boy, and I owe you an apology. I shouldn’t have given you high hopes when I couldn’t make it happen for you.” Mr Sharma’s eyes were downcast.

“Please, Sir, you are my mentor, you don’t need to apologise to me for anything. Whatever I am, I am because of you, your guidance. I know you too have specific protocols to follow and if you believe in my capabilities, then I would do good as vice-captain also. I would make you proud.” Aman said with a smile.

Mr Sharma thumped Aman’s back and nodded in tacit understanding. Aman ran away to catch up with the others. Aman crossed Punit while running and heard him murmur “Loser”. Aman ran faster and put enough distance between himself and Punit. 

After than run they all lined up in front of the coach and he announced the team. He was standing with a mic at a raised podium, “And one last thing…” He said,

“This year our trustees have added certain…” Mr Sharma paused to find the right word, “Clause to the rules and regulations as to make sure all the players are treated fairly and the everyone plays in the best interest of the team keeping personal scores aside.”

There was a murmur in the players, each one wondering what these clauses are.

Mr Sharma’s voice came back over the mic, “These are as follows:

  1. Like football this time in cricket too every player would be given two yellow cards for foul play, and a third foul would mean a red card that is suspension for three upcoming matches. 
  2. Any bullying, swagger or ruffian behaviour among team members off the field will be treated and dealt severely.
  3. If any player tries to be self-centred and performs an individualistic play, he will be permanently barred from the team. 

That will be all. Start the practice. Punit, Aman, you two are openers so better get synchronised.”

All the players went to the field among whispers and murmurs, and both Aman and Punit knew it was about the new protocols, all of which were explicitly fashioned to restraint Punit’s ego.

DEEP WITHIN – VI

Mr. Vikram Shah, a business tycoon who had come up to this stage where he is today from a very average living condition. He is a man of principle and believes in doing things instead of blabbering to much. But today he is very shaken. There’s a guilt inside his chest eating him up bit by bit for two reasons… one, because he went against his principle to allow his son to be the captain of the team above Aman and secondly, he felt, he could have brought Punit, his son up in a better way so that he would not have been behaving the way he is now.

He reached his home and walked inside lowering his head. He was looking very tired. Shobhna had never seen her husband in this state recently. He is a very high spirited man and never remains in any sort of guilt or regret. But today, he was not in his real self.

What happened to you, Vik?” Shobhna asked with a concerned look in her eyes.

Mr. Shah kept his briefcase on the table and sat down on the couch with a heavy heart. “I am somehow feeling very tired of carrying the load of my son and my principles, as they are going against each other. If I am trying to save one, the other one is compromised.”

What suddenly happened that you are saying like this, my dear?” Shobhna asked anxiously.

Punit was voted as the captain of the team for upcoming tournament.” Mr. Vikram Shah said without enthusiasm.

Wow! Our son will be delighted to know this…but why are you so perplexed… Are you not happy that Punit was voted by all as the team’s captain?” Shobhna asked looking straight in to her husbands eyes, trying to figure out what was troubling him.

How can I be not happy for him, but he was voted because of my influence, not because of his temperament for the game and over all abilities. I stayed quiet, allowing a father to win over a man of principle, a leader unfairly.” He said.

Shobhna understood everything now and asked gently, “Did you hear what Punit was talking about, while I was in the line with you over the phone?

Yeah, I did hear everything that he blurted out angrily on you, a poor helpless mom.” Mr. Shah said as he patted Shobhna’s shoulder lovingly as she eventually sat down beside her.

She took his hands in hers and said lovingly, “So even if you knew Aman was deserving than our son, as a father you allowed this decision to be turned in Punit’s favour?

Mr. Shah just nodded and walked off to the washroom saying, “Call him, and tell him that his father won the battle over a sincere and truthful leader and there was no politics going on in the board as he thinks. Give him the good news.”

Shobhna could not think well about what to do and what not to do that moment. She was unable to think straight. She just messaged her son breaking the news, though he was now not sure whether it was a good news or a bad one. 

That night Mr. Shah had his dinner and went to bed sooner but he could not sleep. He could hear his son and daughter celebrating along with their Mom, he was happy in a way but he could feel there’s a war going on within him. When Shobhna came to bed, she quickly came to know that her husband isn’t asleep, but she allowed him space and tried to sleep herself.

Next morning, when Mr. Shah opened his eyes, he found Shobhna clutching her arms around her, keeping her head down on his chest. “I have a solution for your dilemma, my dear husband.” She said with a gentle and serene smile on her face as she looked up to her raising her head. 

And what is it?” He asked curiously.

As a banker, we never deal with our customers without any terms and conditions. We always let them sign a paper agreeing to something favouring us. I suggest, you frame something of that sort, keeping our son’s attitude in mind. Let all of them sign a paper with certain terms and conditions exclusively made for the tournament which needs to be applied without fail. That way, you can control your proud…Oops…” She giggled and corrected immediately… “Control our proud son and let him aware of the consequences of his misconduct. Either he will learn and behave well or lose his captaincy to Aman during the tournament.”   

He saw a ray of hope to pamper his conscience as he struggled with a guilty conscience all these time.  Later that day, he called for a meeting and let all agree to the idea of a formulating new terms and conditions for the selected squad for the tournament.  

All the players including Punit signed the paper, promising to abide by the rules and regulations but he was so arrogant and boastful that he never read all that even a bit before signing it. The joy of being in the position, power and pride kept him blinded as the first day of the tournament arrived finally.

DEEP WITHIN – V

Mr. Vikram stared at Mr. Sharma eye to eye. He stood up from the chair and walked out of the conference room.

Shobhna recollected herself, but she could not agree with how Vikram is questioning her abilities to perform the duties as a mother. She is worried about Punit. He is at a delicate age where he needs guidance. Vikram keeps himself always busy, so, expecting that he might be able to be that “friend” Punit needs now did not sound right. “Should I really consider quitting my job? Is Punit behaving this way because either of us were not able to give him time? Is it all my fault?” – breaking her thoughts, the phone rang. She answered the phone, but before she could speak, Punit bang opened the door and rushed to her.

In an authoritative voice he said, “Mom, what you said makes no sense. I am Punit Shah, son of the Vikram Shah. Till date I have never enjoyed being his son at the Academy. Dad always treated me in similar way he treated others. I do not even take the liberty to call him ‘Dad’ in meetings, he is always ‘Vikram Sir’. When Dad started his career, was he not supported by anyone? Did he grew his empire all on his own? Mom, being in this sports Academy for a few years now, I can assure you it is not easy to fight all those internal politics and become successful. Now, it is my turn to outplay these politics”

Shobhna asked Punit, “What politics are you talking about?”

These politics where they did not choose me as Captain because I am the son of one of the directors in the board. I don’t think I am incompetent compared to Aman. I am a well established and successful batsman like him. I have also demonstrated leadership skills whenever there was a need. Of course, I did fail at times but those are lessons. Aren’t they? I want this captaincy Mom and that’t it. Please talk to dad and request him to influence others“, Punit said in a requesting voice this time, tears rolling down his cheeks and fled out of the house.

It was Mr. Vikram on the other side of the phone call, but the call got disconnected. Shobhna tried calling him back but there was no response. Mr. Vikram had wet eyes after listening to what his son had expressed. He composed himself and started walking back to the conference hall.

Meanwhile, in the conference room, Sharma was clueless of what was happening. More than 10 minutes have passed by and it was pin drop silence in the room. While Sharma was still contemplating whether to speak or not, Anjali, one of the members shot a question at him, “Mr.Sharma, You must have done all the analysis, before you made this proposal. Are you really confident that Aman would be able to handle the team considering he may be opposed by some of the team members as the captain?“. Some others nodded in agreement. Sharma understood the deeper meaning of Mrs. Anjali’s question, she was inferring that Punit may not co-operate. Well, Sharma was aware of that, but he has not really thought of how to deal with that yet.

The conference room door swung open and it was Mr. Vikram Shah. Without noticing this Sharma continued, “I understand the concern, but we cannot put future of this team in the upcoming series at risk because we fear some of our players may not agree. Aman is more composed and stays calm when making decisions on the field. Also, he is well respected and has good relations with many team members. He also understands the nuances and weaknesses of opposition players. He is very good at observing the on field strategies of other players and acts accordingly. He is exactly what we need now”.

Who is your second recommendation?“, asked Shah from behind. Sharma startled a bit before answering, “Mithun“.

Shah: So, you think these are the only two competent players for captaincy?

Sharma: Yes, Sir.

Shah: You also think these players are going to uplift spirit in the team and have better chances in the tournament with this change?

Sharma: I am positive Sir

Shah: Good, then, let’s vote for the best candidate.

Sharma: Sir, you have not read the complete proposal

Shah: Is there something I should know before I can vote?

Sharma: Sir, Sir …. (murmuring)

Shah: Let’s vote

After going round the table, most of the panel voted for Punit as the new captain. Everyone clapped for the new captain which ended the meeting.

Shah: Mr.Sharma, I trust your decision making. I walked out of the room because, a part of me was blaming the father in me. Maybe, I completely failed to teach Punit about the importance of hard work and putting forward a fight for what we want. Nothing comes easy in life, Punit should learn that. I am glad you’ve put the future of our team as the top priority. Thank you!

Mr. Vikram returned Shobhna’s call, “I am coming home in half an hour. Can we talk?

DEEP WITHIN – IV

Aman was walking down the footpath to the bus stop lost in his own thoughts. He was thinking about Punit’s little drama. 

“It’s not even official yet and Punit is behaving like this. He is surely going to make my life difficult as a captain. How do I tackle him. He is one of the star batsmen. If he revolts then surely there will be a split in the team. Why is he so headstrong? I should try to talk to him once again.”

Aman boarded the bus. And someone called out his name. He turned and saw his elder brother Manan and his friend Mudit sitting in the back seat. They were coming back from their tuition classes. Manan was 2 years elder to Aman. He was studying to be a CA. He was quite good at his studies. Both Aman and Manan were talented and hardworking. They were well aware of their father’s financial condition and knew that to improve it they will have to work hard and take the family out of this condition.

“Hey Bhai! The coach is considering my name for the Captainship of the team.” Shouted Aman excitedly even before he reached the seat. There was a hoot of joy from them and a round of Hi-fives… Aman settled in the seat in front of the Manan and Mudit and turned around. He rattled off the morning’s happenings.

“This Punit sounds like trouble.” said Manan. “Be very careful of him.” were the wise words of the elder brother.

“Ya! What the hell does he think of himself. If he is the son of the trustee of RPCA does he think he owns the whole academy. He is nothing but a rich brat… very arrogant… How dare he call you slumdog? I don’t trust him one bit. These kind of people only know how to climb using their surname. He should be thrown out of the team” added an agitated Mudit making a disgusted face. 

“Easy easy… Mudit you sound like you are getting ready for war.” laughed Manan. “Don’t be so biased. He is after all an exceedingly good batsman. He will remain in the team.” added the level-headed Manan. 

Aman was looking from Manan to Mudit and wondering what a deep muddle he had got into and how was he going to get himself out of it.

Meanwhile Coach Sharma was getting ready to submit his recommendation of the final list of players to the board of trustees. He was sure he had made the right choice and that it was the best team they had put forward in the last few years. This team would really go a long way in the coming tournaments. Hopefully they will win the cup too.

Coach Sharma entered the grand conference room of RPCA. It was a huge room with wood panelled walls and a long oak table reminiscent of the grandeur of the British era when this building was built.  All the twelve trustees were seated at the table. After all this was a very important meeting, the team was being finalised today. Mr Sharma passed out the copies of his dossier to all the members and waited for their response. At the head of the table Mr Vikram Shah opened his dossier and had a grim look on his face…

DEEP WITHIN – III

A storm passed in Punit’s room but his heart is not yet at peace. Shobhna entered into his room silently, silence which was only camouflaging her inner turmoil as she already was hinted by the maid. Punit’s behaviour was always a matter of concern for Shobhna. Trisha was a mature person despite of the turbulent atmosphere in the family. She was a clone to her mother in maturity.

What happened Punit? Why are you upset?” Inquired Shobhna in an intentional meek voice.  But Punit was all flaring up in rage  “Don’t disturb me Mom, I am not in a mood for your preaching. I don’t understand what’s wrong with you all! That loser, good for nothing coach is overlooking me, The Punit Shah, son of Vikram Shah for that Slumdog Aman for captaincy. I’ll show them all that they are nothing and team is Me” and he continued spitting venom while Shobhna heard everything in utter silence and a hint of disgust as she was witnessing a outright selfish, self obsessed, arrogant person in making and thinking whose fault is this.

As Punit paused Shobhna took the chance to speak her determined mind “this is no way to speak to anyone or about anyone, I hope you received some etiquettes as a child, haven’t you?  You have to calm down first“. Shobhna had a calm demeanour to her voice as she was arranging the storm hit room and meanwhile trying to infuse some sense into her son’s disoriented brain and she continued “your problem is not your coach or Aman but your own attitude that makes you think that you are above all. Stop taking yourself too seriously dear“.

Punit stared at his Mom fuming as she settled besides him.

Shobhna: “Look, let your talent and hard work speak for you. Don’t use your surname as your passport and don’t let your bad attitude be your signature. It’s high time before you mend your ways.”

Punit: “I told you already don’t give me lectures about on ethics, etiquettes, values.  I am grown up for this nonsense chatter of yours. Do they know who am I, I will show them.”

Shobhna exhaled sharply, nodding in disbelief, posed one question “Do you know who you are? Try to prove your identity as Punit, not as someone’s son. Do you have that courage? Can you be the one who you desire to be without all the luxuries holding your back?”

And she left his room leaving the ball in Punit’s court.

DEEP WITHIN – II

Punit turned back to face none other than Aman. Wearing his serene smile as always, Aman said, “Punit, please don’t feel bad about Coach’s decision. Cricket is a team game, after all. Let’s join hands to ensure that our team wins this time. Its not about ‘you’ or ‘me’; its about ‘us’.”

Punit shoved off Aman’s hand with a jerk and stomped away fuming. He was determined to get the Coach to reverse his decision. No way was he going to play under somebody else!

He got into the car and banged the door shut behind him. The driver understood that Punit was in one of his fierce tempers and so silently drove him homewards.

As usual, Punit did not find his parents at home on reaching. The housemaid opened the door and took the cricket kit from his hand. Punit flung the kit towards her and tromped up the stairs to his room.

“Leave him alone. Another of his mad days . . . wooofff . . .”, whispered the driver to the maid shaking his head.

Vikram Shah, the perfectionist business tycoon had worked hard to set up his business empire in the position that it was. A workaholic, he seldom had time for his family. Though his business was in expert hands, his dreams of spreading the business to other countries and experimenting with new ventures kept him away from home on most days. He had married Shobhna, his college sweetheart when they were twenty three. The initial years were those of financial struggles, but their love for each other kept them well-bonded.

As the business flourished, there was no dearth of luxury at home. However, there were frequent squabbles often turning into bitter exchange of words between the couple.

“When do you have time for me and the children these days?”, Shobhna had screamed just a few days before.

“Quit your job and stay at home. You will get to spend time with the children. Let a man do a man’s job. Your earnings are peanuts compared to what flows in from the business. Who needs that money anyway”, retorted Vikram as he walked away leaving Shobhna in tears.

Shobhna sat on their circular bed, tears streaming down her cheeks as she recalled a conversation of twenty five years before.

Vikram: “We need a lot of capital, darling. Where will I get that much money from? Who will trust me to loan the money? I’m a new entrant into the world of business with absolutely no experience. I don’t know what to do. I work hard, but without capital investment there is no way I can succeed”, Vikram had told her one evening dejectedly.

Shobhna: “Don’t worry. I’ll take up a job and be a security for the loan you take.”

Vikram: “Are you sure? I had made so many promises to you. I don’t know whether I will ever be able to keep them.”

Shobhna: “Don’t think too much. Two is strength. I am with you.”

And so, Shobhna started writing a few exams and was selected for a banking job which made it even easier for Vikram to get a loan for his business.

As Vikram’s business prospered, Shobhna’s career graph progressed too. She was the General Manager of the bank now, where she had joined as a Probationary Officer one day. She loved her job and had never thought to quit when Vikram’s business started flourishing. It gave her an exclusive identity and earned her respect.

Today, Vikram seemed to have forgotten everything. Yes, he was a man of principles – but his principles applied more to his work than his personal life.

Shobhna had begun to feel lonely most of the time. Trisha, their 22-year old daughter and 17-year old Punit were witnesses to the frequent arguments at home that only worsened over the years. It was impacting them. Even the driver, watchman and housemaids were aware of the constant conflicts between the couple.

WIN HEART INSTEAD OF WINNING ARGUMENTS

Marriage is a constitution where two people from different backgrounds, having different personalities come together to build a family. They start it with a lot of expectations in their hearts. But then life happens. The daily chores, tensions, pressure from boss and family members, past life and some finances, when intermingles with the others, stirs up heat and causes chaos and conflicts. Conflicts doesn’t only happen due to the difference in opinion or disagreement but it can also happen over time when stubbornness, pride, anger, bitterness, ego mix together to form issues between couples. It is present in all types of marriages and at times, manages to destroy the the beauty of the bond. A conflict between a couple can turn bitter in a matter of seconds or it can end in a very positive way. The only key is to handle it the right way.

There are many factors that can lead to disagreements and conflicts. To mention some :

1. Control and Power – It is not everyday in this modern world, that a person submits easily. Being in charge, having the power to control may affect the relationship if not handled with care.
2. Kids – The amount of discipline, love and attention to be given varies in each parent. One may try to be stern while the other lenient. One may think swimming is good for them, even at night and the other might oppose it.
3. Work – Consuming an ample amount of time in the 24 hrs. It kills couple time, makes them tired and much vulnerable to fights.
4. In laws – A touchy matter for both the persons involved. Due to a very different mindset and background, either they find us intolerable or vice versa. This creates stir in the family. At times over expectations from them also lead to conflicts.
5. Sex – A sensitive subject. Many couples are shy enough to discuss their fears, hopes and wants. This paves path for added frustrations.
6. Ex-es – Trust is all it takes. It is better to sit and talk about it and be strong not to fall into a past thing again.
7. Misunderstandings – When she says, ” I don’t want to go there” might be she really does not want to be there. Why assume and deduce something which is not true. It is always better to ask if not sure.

These are some of the factors, but there are a lot more. But only if one can handle these and try to resolve them in a positive way, then only can the bond of love be harmonious and pleasant. We must always remember that words have a great amount of power. They can break or make a person. It is we, who can determine how our words are going to affect the person at the receiving end. Our attitude towards our partner should be loving and respectful. We shouldn’t tell them that we do not care about them or how they feel just because we are angry on them. WE must also be careful of our surroundings before getting into conflicts. We should be ready to listen to their feelings and be able handle criticism. Each should get a chance to speak and being partners we should understand what our spouse is going through. A conflict between couples should never extend beyond bed time. Conflicts is not about who won in the end but how it ended. It’s always the person who is more important.

I would like to narrate a small incident. It is about a newly wedded couple. Theirs was a love marriage and everything about them was magical. The only bad thing was they fought a lot. Every now and then they would fight and then make up also. The only problem was that, they ruined the time and mood of their friends. Slowly, people started avoiding them. They had various tiny events that caused small conflicts, which in turn gave rise to big fights. Later, both understood that no matter how many arguments did they win against each other, they have lost it as a couple and have failed to win the heart of their spouse. Learning to limit our fights to the center of the conflict and forgetting about past events is necessary. Past things should be left as such because they are already forgiven.

As said by Matt Chandler :

“In too many marriage conflicts, we work too hard at winning the argument and too little at winning the heart!!”