(The man is eighty five; the women seventy three. Foyer of the home. It is evening and they are enjoying a cup of tea.)
Mrs Menon: So, why are you so morose today?
Mr. Menon: Didn’t you read the obituary column? Raghavan died. He was one year younger than me.
Mrs Menon: Which Raghavan?
Mr. Menon: In the general administration department, don’t you remember? The singer!
Mrs Menon (thoughtfully) Ahh…(relapses into silence)
Mr.Menon( teasingly) ; So, why are you so morose today?
Mrs.Menon : (looks up ) You know something, I never liked him though he was your friend. Perfidious fellow!
Mr. Menon: (laughs) “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”
Mrs.Menon: Oh, now we are playing word games, are we? And what is it that you want me to know?
Mr. Menon: And why did you dislike him, my dearest? I thought he was pretty popular amongst the ladies in our office! Singer, sportsman, club secretary…
Mrs.Menon: (Sharply) Well, I just felt a distaste, that’s all. Anyway, Sushma wasn’t too happy with him. I heard she was living with her son. Your ‘friend’ died a lonely man, for your information.
Mr. Menon: Do you remember that movie we watched sometime recently? Dangerous Liasions. I had read the translation of that French epistolary novel, a classic, a long time ago, while in college. It was written by an army officer, Pierre Choderlot de Laclos.
Mrs.Menon: Considering that you studied Economics and I did Literature, you still can impress me! (laughs)
Mr.Menon: ( slyly) My beautiful lady had many admirers in our office too.
Mrs. Menon: Yes , now with four grandchildren, this is the perfect time for you to wax eloquent on my erstwhile popularity. What about that movie you were mentioning?
Mr.Menon: There was that diabolic character Marquise de Merteuil, who plotted with that ex-lover of hers, Vicomte de Valmont, to destroy innocent lives. In one scene she says, ‘ Men enjoy the happiness they feel. We can only enjoy the happiness we give.’
Mrs.Menon: That is too cryptic for me.
Mr.Menon: She goes on to say, ‘ They are not capable of devoting themselves exclusively to one person. So to hope to be made happy by love is a certain cause of grief!’
Mrs. Menon: You mean, Sushma and Raghavan’s lives have something to do with that observation? That man was bad.
Mr. Menon: Can I ask you something? Will you tell me the truth?
Mrs.Menon: (astounded) What? Ask me.
Mr.Menon: Did Raghavan ever propose to you?
Mrs. Menon: (trembling suddenly) What…what are you asking?
(A cool breeze blows.Mrs.Menon pulls her sari pallu around her tightly)
Mr.Menon: Just tell me the answer.
Mrs.Menon: ( sudden tears springing up her eyes) Yes.
Mr.Menon: What did you tell him?
Mrs.Menon: (suddenly furious) Tell me yourself!
Mr.Menon : (Reaches out and caresses her hand) Why are you upset? It was just a question…
Mrs.Menon: (Looks away, and then slowly breathes) I detested that man. You know that when I first joined office, I was fresh out of College. It was my first experience in the city. The girls in the working womens hostel were a talkative lot. I heard a lot about that Raghavan and his Casanova life style. Sushma was in my hostel too.
Mr.Menon ( sipping his tea with relish) Hmm.
Mrs.Menon: Well, I knew that many girls were in love with him, including Sushma. But I somehow found him very creepy during the arts club functions.
Mrs.Menon (Suddenly smiles) And then there was this tall, lean, bespectacled nerd in the office who would have a stack of books by his side…and there were many fans in hostel who were gaga about him… His fiery speeches, his encyclopaedic knowledge…
Mr.Menon: (Laughs quietly, and removes his glasses, before putting them back) You still did not answer my question, dear.
Mrs.Menon: (Soberly) Two days after Sushma told me that they had gone on a tour together, that rascal had the temerity to propose to me! I asked him to get his act together and never speak to me again. I did not tell Sushma or a single soul. Till now.
Mr.Menon: ( Slowly) Well, that is okay. I knew, you know.
Mrs.Menon : How?
Mr.Menon (Grinning) This old man has some secrets too!
Mrs.Menon (affronted): Did that stupid fellow tell you himself? Why would he?
Mr.Menon : He is dead now. Let him rest in peace. ‘The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones.’
Mrs.Menon : I am truly upset now! Can you stop quoting, and tell me the truth?
Mr.Menon: My dear lady, you should remember your Shakespeare! As you say, I studied Galbraith and Keynes.
‘ There’s letters sealed, and my two school fellows
Whom I will trust as I will adders fanged….etc, etc
Hoist with his own petard and it shall go hard..’
Mrs. Menon : I will call up your children and tell them that their father has lost his marbles. For the last time, will you tell me what he told you?
Mr.Menon: He wrote me a letter. One day before we got married.
Mrs.Menon: (Utterly shocked): What did he write?
Mr.Menon: It was a poison pen letter, of course. Anonymous author. But I knew.
Mrs.Menon: (On the edge of her seat now) What? How?
Mr.Menon: Well, he changed the name of the lady friend who enjoyed the tour with him in Kodaikanal.
Mrs.Menon : That bastard! You mean…?
Mr. Menon: What a waste of beautiful green ink!
Mrs.Menon: But you never…how…please?
Mr.Menon: Come on, my dear, all my friends were envious of me. I was marrying the most beautiful woman in the office.He forgot to change the ink in his hurry, though he tried to alter his handwriting. I was familiar enough with the Club Secretary’s signature ink to decipher who was the ‘green monster’ behind that missive.
Mrs.Menon: ( Breathing agitatedly) What did you do with the letter?
Mr. Menon: Tore it and threw it in the dust bin. What do you do with dirt anyway?
Mrs.Menon: I am speechless…
Mr.Menon(Laughing) Well, that is news!
Mrs.Menon: My God, I just cannot believe it! What if you were not you? I mean, what if you had doubted me?
Mr.Menon: ‘Beware of jealousy, my lord! It’s a green-eyed monster that makes fun of the victims it devours.’ That was Iago speaking to Othello.
Mrs.Menon : (With a shudder) I remember the rest of the lines. My God! I hate that bastard!
Mr.Menon: Shall we go for a walk? Time to shake off the old blues…and greens. Come on, my lady!
Mrs.Menon (Embracing her husband tightly) I truly love you. I was so jealous of those girls who praised you in the hostel.Now don’t laugh!
(They laugh together…Scene fades…)
(Inspired by a true story)