The Story of ‘One Percent’
This is the story of a man of my parents’ generation and the so called ‘relationship’ he had with a woman where he committed so much that she called him ‘One Percent’.
Neela and Rohan knew each other since their late teens. They met through mutual friends and both were from rather prominent schools, prominent Colombo families and thereby they met at many events and eventually embarked on an affair which was Neela’s first proper relationship. There is a saying that ‘the first cut is the deepest’ and this was true for Neela. She and Rohan eventually went their separate ways – Neela going overseas to study – and Rohan following a typical corporate life – but neither forgot each other. Neela had a few relationships with men overseas but none of these came to marriage because somewhere in her heart, there still remained a pang for Rohan.
Rohan on the other hand just continued with a few selected liaisons but never ventured to marry. For him, life consisted of just enjoying it and not being too prominent as his brother who was quite famous or rather infamous for many a shenanigan. Somehow neither brother had luck in the relationship department. While Rohan flitted, his brother flailed and fluttered.
Neela returned to Sri Lanka after spending several years overseas. She chose to remain in Sri Lanka because for her, this was home. She also kept in close contact with the same group of friends that formed in her early youth of which Rohan was a part of. And so they met again and thus began a rather dubious liaison which was not defined, demarcated and occurred only when it suited Rohan.
Neela was surrounded by her friends who were loyal to her but also sympathized with Rohan’s inability to commit and thereby convinced themselves that this was a modern and progressive relationship. One that lacked trust, accountability and commitment. Sure. Soo progressive that Neela used to refer to Rohan as ‘One Percent’. Because that is about all he gave their relationship.
Neela used to get upset when Rohan would try to bring other women into the fray – women she scorned because they were nowhere as intelligent, smart or as attractive as Neela. But for Rohan these were his regular distractions. He saw nothing wrong in introducing them to Neela because in his head, he and Neela weren’t exactly a couple.
When asked, Neela would refer to Rohan as her boyfriend. Somehow this ‘boyfriend’ never made an effort to meet regularly, to visit home or meet the friends as often as a normal boyfriend would. He would instead summon Neela at all odd hours of the night to meet him when it suited him. And Neela, still smitten from her youth, convinced that this was a ‘relationship’, used to agree and go. A woman travelling at night to wherever the hell is never safe but of course, this never bothered Rohan. For him, it was about his convenience. When he felt like it he would grace Neela’s parties and gatherings but not often.
This continued for decades and well into Neela’s 50s. She was a very attractive and intelligent woman with many admirers but somehow, she never got over Rohan and what idea she had in her head. Because it was in her head. This man who hardly committed, offered scraps off his table to the woman he jolly well knew was in love with him and who he used as he pleased.
Neela was a cancer survivor. She was in remission and was determined to live a good life. Unfortunately for her, her cancer returned and she was forced to face it in its entire wrath on her own, overseas; where she was receiving treatment. Neela knew it was terminal but had trouble accepting it. It was her Achilles’ heel because she did not want to accept that she was dying. In the midst of this, Rohan remained in Sri Lanka though he could have gone to be with her. By this time, he was a retired man and had enough money to make the trip. But he did not.
Instead Neela died all alone in a hospice surrounded by a few family members. Rohan the ‘boyfriend’ together with a few of Neela’s friends were planning on going for the funeral. Funeral?? What’s the point of going once the person is no more?? Sounded like Rohan in his one percent fashion, did not have the guts to go see a woman who was dying and who he had led around all these years, knowing very well that she wanted more whereas he was going to give her one percent and no more.
To the outside world, Neela and her group of misbegotten friends were seen as the crème de la crème of Colombo society who wined and dined at Gallery Café, bought gifts at Barefoot and who represented everything chic and avant garde in Colombo. Clearly all needed therapy as they saw nothing wrong in these relationships that took them nowhere, caused endless heartache which they all hid and instead portrayed a masquerade of delightful debauchery.
In the quest for so called ‘progress’, don’t ever become a Neela or Rohan. These half baked no strings attached, no commitment liaisons are a recipe for disaster which is proven time and time again. Just that everyone likes to pretend and so the charade continues. If you genuinely have issues committing to anything in life – speak to a psychologist. There’s no shame there. Flitting from one thing to the next with this ‘I don’t care’ attitude works in the movies, not in real life.