DISCOVERING FREEDOM – short fiction – a romance

DISCOVERING FREEDOM

Fiction Short Story

By

VIKRAM KARVE

From my archives: Here is one of my lazy Mumbai stories…

Anonymity. That’s what I like about Mumbai. As I lose myself in the sea of humanity leaving Churchgate station in the morning rush hour, I experience a refreshing sense of solitude. I notice that I am walking fast, in step with the crowd, as if propelled by the collective momentum. I experience the tremendous advantages of obscurity as I lose myself in the huge enveloping deluge of people. That’s freedom – the power of anonymity.

But I am in no hurry. I have no office, no destination to reach. I had come here to spend some time with myself. Where no one would be watching me. And I can do as I please. That’s freedom – to be able to do what I want to do.

I stand outside the subway at Churchgate. Should I turn right, walk past Asiatic, Gaylord, and Rustoms towards Marine Drive on the Arabian Sea? Or go straight ahead, past Eros, to Nariman Point? Or walk to my left, between the Oval and Cross Maidan, towards Hutatma Chowk? I feel good. On top of the world. I am free to go wherever I please. That’s freedom!

The essence of travel is to have no destination. A good traveler is one who does not know where he is going to reach before he starts his journey. One decides on the spot. Instinctively. Intuitively. Impulsively. Spontaneously. That’s freedom! To be able to do as one likes. To go where one wants. Yes. That’s real and true freedom!

I choose the third option, leisurely walk on the pavement, looking at the boys playing cricket on the Oval to my right. The pavement booksellers near the Central Telegraph Office are gone. I cross the road and stand near the Fountain. Might as well ring up my husband. Not that he would bother. He’s not bothered, neither am I – it is mutual. Indifference. Yes, Indifference – that is the essence of our relationship – marital indifference – mutual indifference. That’s not freedom – indifference is not freedom.

But the mask of caring and sharing, the facade of conjugal conviviality has to be carefully maintained. At least for the sake of the outside world. That’s  what matters. To him, at least. And maybe for me too; at least till now.

I search for a public telephone. I am not carrying my cell-phone. I did not forget to carry my mobile phone. I purposely did not bring my it with me. That’s freedom! Unshackling myself from the manacles of my cell-phone.

I find a phone, insert a coin and dial his office number.

“I shall be late today,” I say.

“Okay,” he replies trying to suppress his irritation. But I can sense his annoyance a hundred miles away. Transmitted through the telephonic waves. He doesn’t like to be disturbed at office. Especially by me. For he is always too busy with his affairs. I wonder who his latest conquest is. Last time it was that petite girl at his office. Who looked so innocent, so pristine, so pure. An improbable paramour for a man of fifty. That’s why probably she made such a good one for so many months. There were many before. Many will be there in future.

Deep down I feel betrayed. It is terrible to love and not be loved in return. I don’t know what to do. I feel a sense of futility and helplessness. That’s not freedom.

What can I do? Walk out of the marriage. And do what? Perhaps I can have also had an affair. Tit for tat. I have the looks, but lack the guts. That is the reason why I have no choice but to continue this futile and meaningless relationship. That’s not freedom. That’s cowardice, what they also call compromise.

Everyone looks at us with envy and admiration. The successful husband. The charming wife. The ideal couple. ‘Made for each other’. And from time to time I hear myself tell everyone my biggest lie, “I’m so lucky. It’s been a lovely marriage. My life has been such a marvellous success.” Mendacity, hypocrisy, pretence – that’s not freedom.

I window-shop on MG Road opposite the university till I reach Kalaghoda. There’s a sale almost everywhere. Have a glass of refreshing cold sugarcane juice on the roadside stall. Browse at the Magna Book Store. Hear the latest music at Rhythm House. See the latest paintings at Jehangir Art Gallery. You can see, feel, browse, and hear whatever you want but need not buy – that’s freedom.

I decide to have lunch. Stuffed Parathas at Café Samovar. Heavenly rich tasty stuff with an abundance of calories and cholesterol. To hell with self-imposed killjoy restrictions. That’s freedom!

I sit alone in the long rectangular restaurant which reminds me of the dining cars on trains of yesteryears. I eat alone. I eat unhurriedly and consciously. It is sacrilege to eat delectable food hastily.

Nobody stares at me as I eat slowly and mindfully, relishing the piping hot stuffed parathas to the fullest, dipping them liberally in the spicy chutneys with my fingers. I indulge till I am satiated. Follow up with ice cream. A delightful delicious meal enjoyed alone. Epicurean pleasure of the highest order. That’s freedom!

Once again I realize the benefits of anonymity. Nobody knows me. Nobody’s bothered about me. The arty restaurant is full – with artists, art-lovers, office-goers, society ladies. All busy in their own world. The creative types – preoccupied with their own thoughts. No one gives a damn. This is Mumbai. Not our company township, and in it the exclusive residential campus near Pune, where my husband is the undisputed boss – the feudal lord, the ‘King’ – and I the ‘Queen’, pampered with all the comforts, fawned and flattered, by plenty of sycophants masquerading as friends, secretly envied by all, but trapped in a golden cage. That’s pseudo-freedom!

My daughter must have returned from college. She is independent. On her own trip. Having been given all the material comforts she desires. With every passing year the distance between us keeps on increasing. I telephone from the phone outside the restaurant.

“I’ll be late,” I tell my daughter.

“So shall I,” she replies. “I am going out with my friends.”

Brevity in communication. The hallmark of our family.

I spend the next few hours doing what I always liked. Aimless loafing on Colaba Causeway, a brief visit to the Museum, gazing at the ships across the Gateway of India, a movie at Regal, a walk across the Oval, invigorating Irani Style Tea at the Stadium restaurant, sitting on the parapet at Marine Drive and watching the sun being swallowed up by the sea. I lose myself in my pleasure trip, in a state of timelessness. This is freedom – not the artificial sterile synthetic life I am living.

The sky is overcast and it starts to drizzle. I walk leisurely on A-Road enjoying the weather. Mumbai is at its best in the monsoon season. I stop before my house. My old house. My parents’ house. The house of my childhood. The house where I grew up. The house my parents had to sell for my dowry. In the hope that I would enjoy a better life. And yes, they were so happy – for my parents, my marriage was a social triumph.

I feel a sense of nostalgia. I reminisce. There is no greater pain than to remember happier times when one is despondent, depressed and dejected with life. But it is also true that when one’s intractable desires are thwarted by reality, there is a tendency to hark back to happy memories. It is indeed at vicious circle. In which I felt trapped at that moment. So I turn away from my house of the past and walk into the present, back towards Marine Drive.

The sea is rough. It is windy. I can smell the rain in the distance. I look at my watch. Almost 7 PM. More than ten hours since I left my house in Pune. I am enjoying the change of routine. A break. After a long long time. Most of us have a preference for some kind of routine or rhythm in our day-to-day life. But when the rhythm becomes sinusoidal, the routine overwhelms you. That’s when you got to break it. Like I had done. Today. At precisely 6.30 AM I had left my house. As usual. But today I wasn’t wearing leotards underneath. For I wasn’t going to the health club. I went straight to the Pune railway station and caught the Deccan Queen. To Mumbai.

It’s raining now. I rush towards Churchgate station. As I cross my favourite Chinese restaurant I wonder with whom my husband would be having his “working” dinner. He wouldn’t have missed me. We never eat together now-a-days. Except breakfast on Sundays. When he would bury himself behind the newspaper nursing a hangover. On other days he would be off to office by the time I returned form the health club. And I would busy myself with my daily routine. Everything runs like clockwork. Everyone takes me for granted. There are no problems. That is the real problem. Oh yes! My problem is that I do not have any problems! Or do I? You tell me.

I catch a Volvo bus from Dadar and reach home late at night. It’s almost 11. There is no one at home. The servants ask me if I want anything and then go off to sleep.

I wake up late in the morning. My husband gives me a beautiful diamond necklace. A gift for his darling wife.  As always – a gift to compensate his guilty conscience for his misdemeanours – the bigger the misdemeanour, the larger the guilt, and the more expensive the gift. That’s not love, that’s not freedom.

We sit at the breakfast table. No one asks me where I was yesterday. Maybe I have become redundant. Or have I?

“Be ready at 12. I’ll send the car. We’ve got to go for that business lunch at the Golf Club,” my husband snaps peremptorily.

Oh yes. I’ll go along. As Arm Candy“.

“And, Mom, after that you’ve got to come with me to the jeweller,” my daughter commands. That’s all I am worth these days, isn’t it? I just have ornamental value. Soon I won’t have even that.

The moment they go away I break into a laugh. To hell with them! From now on I am going to be free! Do exactly as I want. Go wherever I wish. Do whatever I please.

Yesterday it was Mumbai. Today, where should I go – Lonavala? No, it’s too boring. Mumbai? – Not again! Bangalore ? – I’ve been there many times. Delhi? – Maybe! Why not head for the hills – Ooty, Mussoorie, Darjeeling, Shimla, Nainital, Mahableshwar? The possibilities are endless!

Hey! Why should I tell you? I’m free to do as I please. I’m off on my own trip.

That’s freedom…I’ve discovered my freedom…!

DISCOVERING FREEDOM

Fiction Short Story

by

VIKRAM KARVE

Copyright © Vikram Karve 2010

Vikram Karve has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work

http://vikramkarve.sulekha.com

http://www.linkedin.com/in/karve

vikramkarve@sify.com

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2 Comments »

  1. i wish to have some diamond necklace but they are quite expensive ”.

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