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Agony Uncle
Venkatesan Iyengar | 18 Feb 2007

I could see what she was coming to. A quiet affair with a married man, whom you found quite handsome and charming, would not, of course, hurt anyone. As long as you are careful enough to avoid unwanted pregnancy and contracting sexually transmitted diseas

The other day a friend of mine rang me up and asked whether I could meet her that evening at a famous restaurant, where you could eat delicious vegetarian dishes with fancy names under shaded lights. I said that I would be there at the appointed time. The moment she ended the call, I knew that she wanted to confide in me. Also, I knew that it was something personal. You don't have to be a Sherlock Holmes to surmise that. The choice of the time and the restaurant made that clear to me.
 
After a hectic afternoon at the office, I reached the restaurant in the evening. I could see my friend waiting at the entrance of the restaurant. When she saw me she flashed a smile. A smile of relief - my mind told me. She waited for me to park my vehicle, and then we quietly stepped in. It was around 7:00 p.m. Fortunately for us, there were not many people in the restaurant, and we could find a comfortable place for ourselves. We perched ourselves on seats opposite each other at the table, ordered a few dishes, and then smiled at each other.
 
Even in that dull light I could see that she was being troubled by thoughts she couldn't possibly handle.
 
"Is it something classified?" I asked her conversationally.
 
"Yes", she replied with an embarrassing smile.  She didn't miss the humour in my voice. 
 
She smiled once again and then said, "I need your advice on a personal matter."
 
"Go ahead.  I'm here", I said encouragingly.
 
Without testing your patience with long-winded sentences in Direct speech, let me come to the matter straightaway.
 
My friend, a young unmarried woman in her early 20s, found herself being attracted to one of her colleagues at her company. The guy, in my friend's own words, was tall, dark, handsome, and quite charming, and she felt that she was head over heels in love with him. The guy too was in love with her, she added reassuringly. And, madly so. The only impediment to their union was, of course, the guy's wife and their two children!
 
As a third person and an objective observer, I could immediately see the meaninglessness of the whole thing. I told her that falling in love with a married man was the height of folly. If the guy was ready to divorce his wife for my friend, then he was unfaithful and insincere to his wife all along. How could one trust such a man?  What guarantee was there that he would not ditch my friend on getting somebody younger and more attractive in the future? I asked her to search her conscience and find out whether she really wanted to end up breaking a marriage, a home, and leaving his children victims of a broken marriage.
 
The dishes which had arrived a few minutes earlier were sending out a strong aroma demanding our attention. "Let's eat and think", I prodded her.
 
As I was negotiating the food-item with the spoon and fork, I could feel the ebb and flow of my friend's thoughts.
 
After a few minutes of silence, she raised her head suddenly and asked me, "What about having an affair with the guy"?
 
I could see what she was coming to. A quiet affair with a married man (whom you found quite handsome and charming) would not, of course, hurt anyone. As long as you are careful enough to avoid unwanted pregnancy and contracting sexually transmitted diseases, why make a fuss about an extra-marital affair? After all, the attraction is physical, and what's wrong in satisfying that urge without losing anything in the bargain?
 
I looked at my friend incredulously. It was like looking at a face that I did not know existed.
 
"Are you already into a physical relationship with this guy?"
 
"No, but I don't think I can resist the temptation for too long", she mumbled.
 
I looked at her sympathetically.
 
"Do you think it is the right thing to do?"
 
"Well, if what I do with a married man remains confidential between us, no one's feelings will be hurt.  What's wrong with that?"
 
"OK, let me ask you a few questions. How can you be sure that such an affair will remain a secret forever? What if, in spite of your precautions and care, people come to know about the affair? What kind of impact will it have on your career? What kind of impact will it have on your relationship with your colleagues and friends? What will your parents say if they come to know of this? What will be the reaction of his wife and children? What if you become emotionally dependent on him?  What if he starts blackmailing you? What if the precautions that you take fail and you end up with an unwanted pregnancy? How would you terminate it? What about the scars on your conscience?  Are you sure that this is what you wanted in your life? What if in the middle of this relationship you come across a person who would make a good life-partner for you? And one final question: Is it worth the trouble?"
 
She listened to me attentively as I expounded on what could go wrong, as I weighed the pros and cons of getting into a physical relationship with a married man, as I assembled one question after another for her perusal. And then, after exhausting all that I had on the topic, I told her to ponder over the whole thing for a few days and decide for herself.
 
As we walked out in silence, I could see her wrestling with her thoughts. She bade me good night and told that she would get back to me after a few days.
 
But, the very next day, I got a call from her telling me that she had decided to give a quiet burial to her crush for the man, and start her life anew.
 
When I met her a few weeks after in the company of our common friends, she looked very happy. When I caught her eyes during conversations they sent a silent message. Well, the message was: "Thanks."