Posts Tagged ‘anthology’

LIP SYMPATHY and CROCODILE TEARS

August 10, 2010

LIP SYMPATHY and CROCODILE TEARS.

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RENDEZVOUS at LANDOUR PEAK

July 25, 2010

The Woman with Restless Eyes and Enticing Perfume.

Love Torn Apart – A Lovedale Story

July 23, 2010

LOVE TORN APART

Fiction Short Story

By

VIKRAM KARVE

One of my earliest fiction short stories set on the beautiful Nilgiri Mountain Railway –  for old times’ sake…

Lovedale.

A quaint little station on the Nilgiri Mountain Railway that runs from Mettupalayam in the plains up the Blue Mountains on a breathtaking journey to beautiful Ooty, the Queen of Hill Stations.

On Lovedale railway station there is just one small platform – and on it, towards its southern end, there is a solitary bench.
If you sit on this bench you will see in front of you, beyond the railway track, an undulating valley, covered with eucalyptus trees, and in the distance the silhouette of a huge structure, which looks like a castle, with an impressive clock-tower.

In this mighty building is located a famous boarding school – one of the best schools in India. Many such ‘elite’ schools are known more for snob value than academic achievements, but this one is different – it is a prestigious public school famous for its rich heritage and tradition of excellence.

Lovedale, in 1970.

That is all there is in Lovedale – this famous public school, a small tea-estate called Lovedale (from which this place got its name), a tiny post office and, of course, the lonely railway platform with its solitary bench.

It’s a cold damp depressing winter morning, and since the school is closed for winter, the platform is deserted except for two people – yes, just two persons – a woman and a small girl, shivering in the morning mist, sitting on the solitary bench.

It’s almost 9 o’clock – time for the morning “toy-train” from the plains carrying tourists via Coonoor to Ooty, the “Queen” of hill-stations, just three kilometres ahead – the end of the line. But this morning the train is late, probably because of the dense fog and the drizzle on the mountain-slopes, and it will be empty – for there are hardly any tourists in this cold and damp winter season.

“I’m dying to meet mummy. And this stupid train – it’s always late,” the girl says.

She is dressed in school uniform – gray blazer, thick gray woollen skirt, navy-blue stockings, freshly polished black shoes, her hair tied smartly in two small plaits with black ribbons.

The woman, 55 – maybe 60, dressed in a white sari with a thick white shawl draped over her shoulder and a white scarf around her head covering her ears, looks lovingly at the girl, softly takes the girl’s hand in her own, and says, “It will come. Look at the weather. The driver can hardly see in this mist. And it must be raining down there in Ketti valley.”

“I hate this place. It’s so cold and lonely. Everyone has gone home for the winter holidays and we have nowhere to go. Why do we have to spend our holidays here every time?”

“You know we can’t stay with her in the hostel.”

“But her training is over now. And she’s become an executive – that’s what she wrote.”

“Yes. Yes. She is an executive now. After two years of tough training. Very creditable; after all that has happened,” the old woman says.

“She has to take us to Mumbai with her now. We can’t stay here any longer. No more excuses now.”

“Even I don’t want to stay here. It’s cold and I am old. Let your mummy come. This time we’ll tell her to take us all to Mumbai.”

“And we’ll all stay together – like we did before God took Daddy away.”

“Yes. Mummy will go to work. You will go to school. And I will look after the house and all of you. Just like before.”

“Only Daddy won’t be there. Why did God take Daddy away?” the girl says, tears welling up in her eyes.

“Don’t think those sad things. We cannot change what has happened. You must be brave – like your mummy,” says the old lady putting her hand softly around the girl.

The old lady closes her eyes in sadness.

There is no greater pain than to remember happier times when in distress.

Meanwhile the toy-train is meandering its way laboriously round the steep u-curve, desperately pushed by a hissing steam engine, as it leaves Wellington station on its way to Ketti.

A man and a woman sit facing each other in the tiny first class compartment.

There is no one else in the compartment.

“You must tell her today,” the man says.

“Yes,” the woman replies softly.

“You should have told her before.”

“Told her before…? How…? When…?”

“You could have written, called her up. I told you so many times.”

“How can I be so cruel…?”

“Cruel…? What’s so cruel about it…?”

“I don’t know how she will react. She loved her father very much.”

“Now she will have to love me. I am her new father now.”

“Yes, I know,” the woman says, tears welling up in her eyes, “I don’t know how to tell her; how she’ll take it. I think we should wait for some time. Baby is very sensitive.”

“Baby! Why do you still call her Baby…? She is a grown up girl now. You must call her by her real name. Damayanti – what a nice name – and you call her Baby…!”

“It’s her pet name. Deepak always liked to call her Baby.”

“Well I don’t like it…! It’s childish, ridiculous…!” the man says firmly, “Anyway, all that we can sort out later. But you tell her about us today. Tell both of them.”

“You want me to tell both of them right now…? My mother-in-law also…? What will she feel…? She will be shocked…!”

“She’ll understand.”

“Poor thing. She will be all alone.”

“Stop saying ‘poor thing… poor thing’. She’ll be okay. She’s got her work to keep her busy.”

“She’s old and weak. I don’t think she’ll be able to do that matron’s job much longer.”

“Let her work till she can. At least it will keep her occupied. Then we’ll see.”

“Can’t we take her with us…?”

“You know it’s not possible.”

“It’s so sad. She was so good to me. Where will she go…? We can’t abandon her just like that…!”

“Abandon…? Nobody is abandoning her. Don’t worry. If she doesn’t want to stay on here, I’ll arrange something – I know an excellent place near Lonavala. She will be very comfortable there – it’s an ideal place for senior citizens like her.”

“You want to me to put her in an Old-Age Home…?”

“Call it what you want but actually it’s quite a luxurious place. She’ll be happy there. I’ve already spoken to them. Let her continue here till she can. Then we’ll shift her there.”

“I can’t be that cruel and heartless to my mother-in-law. She was so loving and good to me, treated me like her own daughter, and looked after Baby, when we were devastated. And now we discard her when she needs us most,” the woman says, and starts sobbing.

“Come on Kavita. Don’t get sentimental,. You have to face the harsh reality. You know we can’t take your mother-in-law with us. And by the way, she is your ex-mother-in-law now.”

“How can you say that…?”

“Come on, Kavita, don’t get too sentimental…you must begin a new life now…there is no point carrying the baggage of your past…” the man realizes he has said something wrong and instantly apologizes, “I am sorry. I didn’t mean it.”

“You did mean it…! That’s why you said it…! I hate you, you are so cruel, mean and selfish,” the woman says, turns away from the man and looks out of the window.   They travel in silence, an uneasy disquieting silence.

Suddenly it is dark, as the train enters a tunnel, and as it emerges on the other side, the woman can see the vast lush green Ketti Valley with its undulating mountains in the distance.

“Listen Kavita, I think I’ll also get down with you at Lovedale. I’ll tell them. Explain everything. And get over with it once and for all,” the man says.

“No! No! I don’t even want them to see you. The sudden shock may upset them. I have to do this carefully. Please don’t get down at Lovedale. Go straight to Ooty. I’ll tell them everything and we’ll do as we decided.”

“I was only trying to help you, Kavita. Make things easier for everyone. I want to meet Damayanti. Tell her about us. I’m sure she’ll love me and understand everything.”

“No, please. Let me do this. I don’t want her to see you before I tell her. She’s a very sensitive girl. I don’t know how she’ll react. I’ll have to do it very gently.”

“Okay,” the man says. “Make sure you wind up everything at the school. We have to leave for Mumbai tomorrow. There is so much to be done. We’ve hardly got any time left.”

The steam engine pushing the train huffs and puffs up the slope round the bend under the bridge.

“Lovedale station is coming,” the woman says. She gets up and takes out her bag from the shelf.

“Sure you don’t want me to come with you to the school…?” asks the man.

“No. Not now. You go ahead to Ooty. I’ll ring you up,” says the woman.    “Okay. But tell them everything. We can’t wait any longer.”

“Just leave everything to me. Don’t make it more difficult.”

They sit in silence, looking out of different windows, waiting for Lovedale railway station to come.

On the solitary bench on the platform at Lovedale station the girl and her grandmother wait patiently for the train which will bring their deliverance.

“I hate it over here in boarding school. I hate the cold scary dormitories. At night I miss mummy tucking me in. And every night I count DLFMTC…”

“DLFMTC… ?”

“Days Left For Mummy To Come…! Others count DLTGH – Days Left To Go Home…”

“Next time you too …”
“No. No. I am not going to stay here in boarding school. I don’t know why we came here to this horrible place. I hate boarding school. I miss mummy so much. We could have stayed on in Mumbai with her.”

“Now we will be all staying in Mumbai. Your mummy’s training is over. She can hire a house now. Or get a loan. We will try to buy a good house. I’ve saved some money too.”

The lone station-master of the forlorn Lovedale Railway Station strikes the bell outside his office.

The occupants of the solitary bench look towards their left.

There is no one else on the platform.

And suddenly the train emerges from under the bridge – pushed by the hissing steam engine.

Only one person gets down from the train – a beautiful woman, around 30.

The girl runs into her arms.

The old woman walks towards her with a welcoming smile.

The man, sitting in the train, looks furtively, cautious not to be seen.

A whistle; and the train starts and moves out of Lovedale station towards Fern Hill tunnel on its way to Ooty – the end of the line.

That evening the small girl and her granny sit near the fireplace with the girl’s mother eating dinner and the woman tells them everything.

At noon the next day, four people wait at Lovedale station for the train which comes from Ooty and goes down to the plains – the girl, her mother, her grandmother and the man.

The girl presses close to her grandmother and looks at her new ‘father’ with trepidation. He gives her a smile of forced geniality.

The old woman holds the girl tight to her body and looks at the man with distaste.

The young woman looks with awe, mixed with hope, at her new husband.

They all stand in silence. No one speaks. Time stands still.

And suddenly the train enters.

“I don’t want to go,” the girl cries, clinging to her grandmother.

“Don’t you want to stay with your mummy…? You hate boarding school don’t you…? ” the man says extending his hand.

The girl recoils and says, “No. No. I like it here. I don’t want to come. I like boarding school. I want to stay here.”

“Come Baby, we have to go,” her mother says as tears well up in her eyes.

“What about granny…? How will she stay here all alone…? No mummy – you also stay here. We all will stay here. Let this man go to Mumbai,” the girl pleads.

“Damayanti…! I am your new father…!” the man says firmly to the girl.

And then the man turns to the young woman and he commands, “Kavita. Come. The train is going to leave.”

“Go Baby. Be a good girl. I will be okay,” says the old woman releasing the girl.

As her mother gently holds her arm and guides her towards the train, for the first time in her life the girl feels that her mother’s hand is like the clasp of an iron gate… like manacles.

“I will come and meet you in Mumbai. I promise…” the grandmother says fighting back her tears.

But the girl feels scared – something inside tells her she that may never see her grandmother again.

As the train heads towards the plains, the old woman begins to walk her longest mile – her loneliest mile – into emptiness, a void.

Poor old Lovedale Railway Station.

It wants to cry.

It tries to cry.

But it cannot even a shed a tear.

For it is not human.

So it suffers its sorrow in inanimate helplessness, powerless, hapless, a silent spectator, and a mute witness. Yes, Lovedale helplessly watches love being torn apart.

“Love being torn apart at Lovedale” – a pity, isn’t it…?

Yes, a pity…real pity…!

LOVE TORN APART

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.

VIKRAM KARVE educated at IIT Delhi, ITBHU and The Lawrence School Lovedale, is an Electronics and Communications Engineer by profession, a Human Resource Manager and Trainer by occupation, a Teacher by vocation, a Creative Writer by inclination and a Foodie by passion. An avid blogger, he has written a number of fiction short stories and creative non-fiction articles in magazines and journals for many years before the advent of blogging. His delicious foodie blogs have been compiled in a book “Appetite for a Stroll”. Vikram lives in Pune with his family and pet Doberman girl Sherry, with whom he takes long walks thinking creative thoughts.

Vikram Karve Creative Writing Blog – http://vikramkarve.sulekha.com

Professional Profile of Vikram Karve – http://www.linkedin.com/in/karve

Email: vikramkarve@sify.com

Links to my creative writing blog and profile

CREATIVE WRITING by VIKRAM KARVE

VIKRAM KARVE Profile and Bio

MY FOODIE ADVENTURES BOOK

http://vikramkarve.sulekha.com

http://books.sulekha.com/book/appetite-for-a-stroll/default.htm

Appetite for a Stroll

vikramkarve@sify.com

ROVING EYE

July 11, 2010

ROMANCING MY EX

Fiction Short Story – a romance

By

VIKRAM KARVE

From my archives – One of my earliest fiction short stories written almost 20 years ago way back in the early 1990s when everyone loved travelling by train …

Do tell me if you liked the story …

I stood on the platform of Hyderabad Railway Station with placid indifference.

It was dark, and the incessant rain made the atmosphere quite depressing.

But I was in a state of elation… the long arduous business tour of the South had been successful and I was keen on getting back home to my family in Pune after a month’s absence.

The couple of beers and delicious Biryani Dinner had further enhanced my joyful mood.

The beer had been properly chilled and the meat deliciously succulent. I felt on top of the world.

The train entered the platform.

I entered the air-conditioned sleeper coach and found my berth.

There were four berths in the small enclosure.

I wondered who my companions would be.

I was a typical middle aged man with a roving eye and a faithful wife.

I was hoping for the best; a bit of flirtation didn’t hurt anyone.

An old lady entered and sat beside me… a disappointing start…!

Suddenly, Rajashree entered the compartment.

I am still not sure as to who was more surprised, Rajashree or me… ?

I certainly hadn’t bargained for this.

We, Rajashree and I, stared at each other incredulously.

I was at my wits’ end when Vijay suddenly came in.

The coincidence was unbelievable.

“What a pleasant surprise, old boy…!” Vijay exclaimed, shaking my hand, “Long time, no see!”

“Glad to see you, too,” I stammered, “Make yourselves comfortable. I’ll go out and have some fresh air.”

I looked at Rajashree.

She pointedly avoided my glance and tried to look busy organizing the luggage. No hint of recognition, as if I were a total stranger…!

I made a quick exit to the platform and looked at the clock. There were still ten minutes for the train to start.

As I ambled on the platform, I wondered about the situation.

What were Vijay and Rajashree doing together in the same place?

Were they together, or was it a mere coincidence…?

Maybe they were just two co-travellers, total strangers, like the old woman and I.

If they were together Vijay would have certainly introduced Rajashree to me.

Probably he was too busy with the luggage and the porter.

There was plenty of time to get to the bottom of this mystery. It was a long overnight journey to Pune.

Vijay had been a crony of mine, till a few years ago.

We had studied together and later worked in the same firm till he had migrated to the USA in search of better prospects.

He was an unpretentious, soft-voiced man without temper, drama, or visible emotion. He was a fine gentleman and I was proud to claim his as a friend.

“Meet Rajashree, a friend and associate of mine”, he said as I entered the compartment.

I looked into her eyes and extended my hand.

Rajashree looked ravishing.

Around her slender neck she was wearing an exquisite diamond pendant which enhanced her alluring charm.

Her low-cut blouse, which accentuated the curves of her shapely breasts, made her look temptingly desirable.

She greeted me with a formal namaste, tinged with a chill reserve.

There was not a trace of recognition in her eyes.

I kept staring at her.

The silence was grotesque.

Vijay had introduced Rajashree as a ‘friend’ and ‘associate’ – a rather nebulous description of their relationship.

Was Vijay playing games with me…?

Why was Rajashree behaving in this strange manner, refusing to recognize me…?

Well, if they wanted to play a double game, I’d be too happy to oblige.

A man’s first love fills an enduring place in his heart.

Rajashree had been my protégée. Six years my junior, she was a management trainee when I first met her.

Her vigour was infectious, her wit barbed and she was at once stimulating and overbearing. Spirited and talkative, she always wanted to dominate. She was ambitious and her commitment to her career was complete.

I was her senior manger… it was the fourth job of my career and undoubtedly the best job I had ever held.

Rajashree was extremely competent and I mentored her, helped propel her career… and she made full use of my patronage.

She thirsted for quick success and her ambition took charge of her.

Her faults entirely arose from her overwhelming ambition and self-centeredness. She was impervious to absolutes and could measure her own success only in relation to others.

Despite her frailties and faults, Rajashree was an extremely desirable woman. I was attracted towards her and she responded with passion.

With the clarity of hindsight, I can now say that she led me up the garden path.

I can clearly remember the day I had gifted her that lovely diamond pendant which now adorned her slender neck. It was Rajashree’s twenty-fifth birthday, and after office we were strolling down Opera House intending to have a bowl of zesty Green Chilli Ice Cream at Bachellor’s Fruit Juice Stall opposite Chowpatty, and then spend the evening romancing the sunset on Marine Drive followed by dinner at her favourite restaurant in Churchgate.

I don’t know what made me do it, but suddenly, on the spur of the moment, I took her hand and led her into a posh jewellery shop and grandly asked her to choose her birthday present.

She promptly obliged by selecting a chic, exclusive, gorgeous and most expensive diamond pendant.

My credit cards and cheque book saved the day, but the impulsive birthday gift, which cost me a fortune, almost made me bankrupt.

But then, to me, it did not matter.

That night, for the first time, she made love to me.

Then we became lovers, I was madly in love with her, even proposed to her, she accepted, soon we got engaged and Rajashree became my fiancée.

Meanwhile, right from the beginning of our relationship, the office grapevine was working overtime. The love affair destabilized working relationships in my department.

Suddenly, everything started to go wrong for me at work.

My career took a down-swing and I was passed over for promotion.

Rajashree dropped me like a hot potato.

She didn’t want to be identified with a symbol of failure… she didn’t care for losers.

Now that I was of no use to her in furthering her ambitions, she abandoned me and cleverly latched on and ingratiated herself to a new powerful patron.

Her rise was rapid.

Within days she became my peer, and soon Rajashree broke the glass ceiling and became my boss.

Just imagine my plight and shame – my ex-protégée had now become my boss.

I accepted our reversal in roles with grace and tried to maintain a cordial working relationship, but Rajashree was ruthless.

It was the most humiliating time of my life and I still smart from the pain of those memories.

Soon the relationship between us had become so demoralized by hate and distrust that it was better severed than patched up.

I quit my job and moved to a new place.

I shed my pique and rancour and rebounded back fresh with zest.

I did well in my new job, got married to a nice back-home-type girl and settled down, and soon was living the life of a happy and contented family man.

The ticket-collector interrupted my chain of thoughts.

I noticed that Rajashree and Vijay were travelling together on a common ticket – so that was it – “Friends”, “Associates”, “Companions” – many nuances are possible in the relationship between a man and a woman.

I decided to go in for the kill.

“That’s a lovely pendant,” I said boldly to Rajashree, “it must have cost you a fortune.”

Rajashree ignored me.

Vijay gave her a canny look.

“You shouldn’t wear such expensive jewellery while travelling,” I added. “It is very dangerous, especially in trains.”

“He is right. You must be careful,” Vijay said to Rajashree.

Vijay was now looking curiously at the pendant, “Rajashree, it is really a very elegant and beautiful pendant. Fantastic diamond – must be very expensive. How much did it cost…?”

“No, No – it’s just costume jewellery, imitation stuff,” Rajashree said, “I picked it up in the lanes near Charminar, yesterday, for a couple of rupees.”

“What nonsense,” the old lady co-passenger sitting opposite Rajashree suddenly interjected out of the blue. “That is a superb diamond. And it is certainly not costume jewellery. It’s a beautifully crafted premium necklace.”

“No, No – it’s imitation …I know …I bought it…” Rajashree stammered nervously, trying to cover the necklace with the palu of her sari.

“Imitation diamond – what nonsense – that’s a genuine top-grade ornament…!” the lady said vehemently, “I should know. I’m a trained gemmologist and jewellery designer. Come on, young girl, show me the diamond, the pendant, and I will tell you its true price.”

Rajashree looked nervous. She put her hands over her neck.

“Let the lady have a look the necklace,” I spoke looking directly into Rajashree’s eyes. “I had once bought a diamond pendant exactly like the one you are wearing for my fiancée. I want to know whether I got my money’s worth.”

Rajashree looked dumbstruck, sat still, frozen, not knowing what to do.

Taking advantage, I moved fast, unfastened the clasp, removed the ornament from Rajashree’s neck and gave the necklace to the old lady.

My unexpected action hadn’t given Rajashree any time to react and she was frozen stunned.

I looked roguishly at Rajashree.

She was staring at me totally bewildered with wide and terrified eyes. Her eyes held a desperate appeal. She had suddenly become small, weak and vulnerable.

I saw tears of shame start in her eyes and her face became so ashen that she looked as thought she were about to faint.

I did not rebuke her for her mendacity.

There was no need.

Her guilt and shame itself were Rajashree own worst reprimand.

As the old lady was meticulously scrutinizing the diamond pendant, comprehension slowly dawned on Vijay.

The train was slowing down to stop at a station.

“Come, let’s go out on the platform,” Vijay said to me putting his hand affectionately on my shoulder, “I desperately need a breath of fresh air…!”

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.

VIKRAM KARVE educated at IIT Delhi, ITBHU and The Lawrence School Lovedale, is an Electronics and Communications Engineer by profession, a Human Resource Trainer Manager by occupation, a Teacher by vocation, a Creative Writer by inclination and a Foodie by passion. An avid blogger, he has written a number of fiction short stories and creative non-fiction articles in magazines and journals for many years before the advent of blogging. His delicious foodie blogs have been compiled in a book “Appetite for a Stroll”. Vikram lives in Pune with his family and pet Doberman girl Sherry, with whom he takes long walks thinking creative thoughts. Vikram Karve Creative Writing Blog – http://vikramkarve.sulekha.com

Professional Profile of Vikram Karve – http://www.linkedin.com/in/karve

Email: vikramkarve@sify.com

MOTI The Life Story of a Stray Dog

June 30, 2010

MOTI The Life Story of a Stray Dog.

DISCOVERING FREEDOM – short fiction – a romance

June 18, 2010

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

WHY I AM GOING TO BOARDING SCHOOL

May 16, 2010

WHY I AM GOING TO BOARDING SCHOOL

Short Fiction – A Story from the pages of a Diary written by a Small girl many years ago

By

VIKRAM KARVE

From my Archives – a fiction short story I wrote a few years ago. A small girl’s tale, narrated in her own words…


It all started when God took my baby brother away.

Poor thing!

God took him away even before he was born.

And Mamma was never the same again.

She changed forever.

We were so happy then.

A happy family – My Papa, my Mamma, my loving Granny and cute little Me.

We all lived in a cute little house in a place called Madiwale Colony in Sadashiv Peth in Pune.

In the morning Papa caught the company bus to his factory in Pimpri and Mamma walked me down to my school nearby on Bajirao Road.

And the evenings we all went to the Talyatla Ganpati temple in Saras Baug, played on the lush green lawns, and if Papa was in a good mood he would treat me to a yummy Bhel prepared by the man with the huge flowing beard at the Kalpana Bhel stall on the way back.

On Sundays we would go to Laxmi Road for shopping, Misal at Santosh Bhavan, Amba ice cream at Ganu Shinde and, maybe, a Marathi movie at Prabhat, Vijay or Bhanuvilas.

And once in a while, Papa would take us on his Bajaj scooter to Camp, or a ride on the Jangli Maharaj Road, or to picnic spots like Khadakvasla and Katraj lakes, or up Sinhagarh Fort, and once we even went all the way to Lonavala; Papa, Mamma and me, all riding on our beloved and hardy scooter.

It was a good life, and we were happy and content.

Two things are a must for a happy home – firstly, you must love your home, and always want to go home (your home should be the best place in the world for you); and, secondly, your home must love you, your home must want you to come home, beckon you, welcome you and like you to live in it.

Our cute little house in Sadashiv Peth with all the loving people in living in it was indeed a happy home. And I had lots of friends all around.

One day they all said Mamma was going to have a baby.

Being a girl myself, I wanted a baby sister to play with, but Granny scolded me and said it must be a baby brother, so I said okay – I would manage with a baby brother.

And suddenly one day, when Mamma’s tummy was bloating quite a bit, they rushed her to hospital, and God took my unborn baby brother away.

It was at this moment that Mamma changed forever.

I sat beside Mamma in the hospital and consoled her, “Don’t worry. God will send another baby brother.”

And on hearing this Mamma started crying and said she would never have a baby again and I was her only baby.

She looked pale and had a sad look in her eyes for many days even after leaving hospital.

And most of the time she would sit alone brooding by the window or moping all alone in her room.

“She’ll go crazy sitting in the house all day. She must do something!” everyone said, but Papa was adamant: “Who’ll look after the house, my mother, my daughter?” he asked.

“Don’t worry, I’ll manage everything,” Granny said, so Mamma joined a Computer class nearby.

And soon she started becoming normal and happy again.

“She’s a natural programmer,” everyone praised her, and when she finished the course she was offered a good job in a top IT software firm.

“No way,” said Papa, “I’m the breadwinner. I don’t want my wife to work. I want her to look after the house.”

“MCP,” said everyone to Papa.

I didn’t know what MCP meant, but it made Papa very angry.

“Let her work. I’ll manage the house,” Granny said.

“Don’t worry, Papa. I’m a big girl now and can look after myself. I’ll study regularly and come first,” I promised.

And so, Mamma started working.

And when she brought her first pay and gave it to Papa, he said proudly, “I’ll be the last person to touch my wife’s money, I would rather starve than live off my wife.”

So my Mamma gave the money to Granny and Papa didn’t say a thing, he just sulked for days.

Life was hectic now.

Mamma got up very early, cooked the food, did the housework, got ready and then both Papa and Mamma caught their respective company buses to their faraway workplaces – he to his factory in Pimpri and she to the IT Park.

And after that Granny made me ready and I walked down Bajirao Road to my school.

One day my Mamma’s boss came home with Mamma.

He said the company wanted to send Mamma abroad to the US for working on a project.

He had come home to convince Papa to let her go.

I thought that Papa would argue, and hoped he would not let her go, but surprisingly he meekly agreed, probably thinking it was futile to argue, and Mamma went away to the States for three months.

Then there was an IT boom.

IT, IT everywhere!

That was a turning point in our lives.

Mamma started doing better and better, becoming more and more successful, doing more and more projects, earning more and more money.

Papa felt jealous that she was earning more than him, so he took VRS and started a business selling spare parts.

And then a competition started between them, and soon they both were making so much money that Sadashiv Peth wasn’t a good enough place to stay in any longer as it did not befit their new found status!

So we moved to a luxury apartment in a fancy township in a posh suburb of Pune, and I was put in a famous elite school known more for its snob appeal than academic accomplishments and studies.

Our new house was in a beautiful colony, far away from the city, with landscaped gardens, clubhouse, swimming pool, gym, and so many facilities.

It was so luxurious, and people living there so highbrow and snobbish, that Granny and I were miserable.

“It’s like a 5 star prison,” she would say. She was right in one way.

For the whole day when we all were away she was trapped inside with nothing to but watch soaps on cable TV in airconditioned comfort.

I too missed our cute old house in Sadashiv Peth, the Bhel, the trips to Saras Baug and Laxmi Road and most of all my earlier friends who were so friendly unlike the snobbish people here.

Oh yes, this was indeed a better house, but our old place in Sadashiv Peth was certainly a better home!

But Granny and me – we managed somehow, as Mamma increased her trips abroad and Papa was busy expanding his flourishing business.

And suddenly one day God took Granny away.

Mamma was abroad in America on an important project and she just couldn’t come immediately.

She came back after one month and for days Papa and she kept discussing something.

I sensed it was about me.

And tomorrow morning, I am off to an elite boarding school in Panchgani.

I don’t know whether what has happened is good or bad, or what is going to happen in future, but one thing is sure: If God hadn’t taken my baby brother away, I wouldn’t be going to boarding school!
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

A PERFECT MATCH Fiction Short Story A Romance

May 11, 2010

A PERFECT MATCH

Fiction Short Story – A Romance

By

VIKRAM KARVE

I am busy working in my office on the morning of the First of April when my cell phone rings.

It is Sudha, my next door neighbour, so I take the call.

“Vijay, you lucky dog, your life is made,” Sudha says excitedly.

“Lucky Dog? Please, Sudha, I am busy,” I say, a trifle irritated.

“Don’t switch off your cell phone,” Sudha says, “you are going to get a very important phone call.”

“Important call?”

“From the hottest and most eligible woman in town,” Sudha says with exuberance, “She’s fallen head over heels for you, Vijay. She wants to date you.”

“Date me? Who’s this?”

“My boss.”

“Your boss?”

“Come on, Vijay, I told you, didn’t I, about the chic Miss Hoity Toity who joined last week…”

Suddenly it dawns on me and I say to Sudha, “Happy April Fools Day…”

“Hey, seriously, I swear it is not an April Fools’ Day prank. She is really going to ring you up…she desperately wants to meet you…”

“Desperately wants to meet me? I don’t even know her…haven’t even seen her…”

“But she’s seen you…”

“Seen me…where…?”

“Jogging around the Oval Maidan…I think she is stalking you…”

“Stalking me…?”

“She knows everything…your routine…where you stay…that you are my neighbour…so she called me to her office and asked for your mobile number.”

“I’ve told you not to give my number to anyone…”

“I told her…but she said it was very urgent…I think she wants to come over in the evening…”

“This evening…?… I am switching off my mobile…”

“No you don’t…You’ll like her…she is your type…”

“My Type?… What do you mean?…Sudha please…”

“Bye, Vijay…I don’t want to keep your mobile busy…She’ll be calling any time now…Remember, her name is Nisha…All the Best…” Sudha cuts off the phone.

As I wait for the mysterious lady’s call, let me tell you’re a bit about Sudha.

Ever since she dumped me and married that suave, slimy, effeminate, ingratiating sissy Suhas, Sudha probably felt so guilt ridden that she had taken upon herself the responsibility for getting me married.

Sudha was my neighbour, the girl next door; my childhood friend, playmate, classmate, soul-mate, confidante and constant companion. I assumed we would get married but she suddenly fell for Suhas who she met at a training seminar.

I hated Suhas – he was one of those glib, smooth-talking, street-smart, slick characters that adorn the corporate world – a clean-shaven, soft-spoken, genteel, elegantly groomed metrosexual type with an almost feminine voice and carefully cultivated mannerisms as if he had been trained in a finishing school.

At first, I was devastated and could not understand why Sudha had betrayed me, but when Sudha gently explained to me that she always saw me as a friend and never as a husband, I understood and maintained cordial relations with her, though I loathed her husband who had shamelessly moved into her spacious apartment after relocating from Delhi to Mumbai.

Probably Sudha thought I had remained unmarried because of her (which may have been true to an extent) so in order to allay her guilt conscience she kept on setting up dates for me hoping for the best.

The ring of my cell-phone interrupts my train of thoughts.

“Mr. Vijay…?” asks a sweet mellifluous feminine voice.

“Yes,” I say my heartbeat slightly increasing.

“Nisha here,” she says, “Is it a good time to talk.”

“Of course,” I say.

“I want to meet you…Is it okay if I come over to your place this evening…”

My My My!

She comes to the point pretty fast isn’t it?

“Today evening…?” I blurt out a bit incredulous.

“It’s a bit urgent,” she says.

“Sure. You are most welcome,” I stammer recovering my wits.

“Six-thirty…before you go for your jog…or later after you return…or maybe we can meet up at the Oval…”

I am truly stunned… this Nisha is indeed stalking me…meet up at the Oval…as brazen as that… I have never experienced such blatant propositioning…Tocsins sound in my brain…

“Mr. Vijay…” I hear Nisha’s soft voice in the cell-phone earpiece.

“Yes, Yes, six-thirty is absolutely fine…I’ll wait for you in my house…you know the place…” I stutter recovering my wits.

“Yes, I know your place,” Nisha says, “I’ll be there at six-thirty,” and she disconnects.

I go home early, shower, deodorize, groom, titivate, put on my best shirt and wait in eager anticipation for this mysterious woman who is coming onto me so heavily.

Precisely at six-fifteen the bell rings.

I open the door.

“Hi, I’m Nisha,” the stunningly attractive woman in front of me says.

Sudha was right…Nisha is certainly very hot… oh yes, Nisha is indeed my type of woman.

“I’m sorry I’m a bit early, but I noticed you were in, saw your car below…”she says.

‘Noticed I was in’… My, My…She knows my car…about my daily jogs on the Oval…my routine…everything…she’s really hot on my trail…isn’t she?

I look at her. She comes closer towards me.

She looks and smells natural. No attempt to camouflage her raw steamy physical self behind a synthetic mask of make-up and artificial deodorants.

Her persona is tantalizingly inviting and temptingly desirable; her tight-fitting pink T-shirt tucked into hip hugging dark blue jeans accentuate the curves of her exquisite body and she radiates a captivating aura, an extraordinary magnetic attraction, I have never experienced before.

I cannot take my eyes off her, her gorgeous face, her beautiful eyes, her lush skin, so I feast my eyes on her, let my eyes travel all over her shapely body.

The frank admiration in my eyes wins a smile. She lets her eyes hold mine.

“Aren’t you going to ask me to come in?” she smiles as if reading my mind.

“Oh, yes, sorry, please come in,” I say, embarrassed at having eyed her so openly.

I guide her to the sofa and sit as near her as politely possible.

We sit on the sofa. She looks terribly attractive, very very desirable.

Our closeness envelops us in a stimulating kind of intimacy.

Overwhelmed by passion I inch towards her.

She too comes closer.

I sense the beginnings of an experience I have dreamt about in my fantasies.

“Actually, I have come for mating,” she says.

“Mating…?” I exclaim instinctively, totally shocked, stunned beyond belief.

I look at her tremendously excited, yet frightened, baffled, perplexed, wondering what to do, how to make my move, as the improbability of the situation makes me slightly incredulous and bewildered

I notice her eyes search the drawing room, then she looks at the bedroom door, and asks, “Where is your daughter?”

“Daughter? I’m not married,” I say, completely taken aback.

“I know,” she says, “I’m talking about your lovely dog…or rather, bitch…” she laughs tongue-in-cheek.

“I’ve locked her inside. She is not very friendly.”

“I know. Hounds do not like strangers…but don’t worry…soon I won’t be a stranger…” Nisha says, gets up and begins walking towards the closed bedroom door.

“Please,” I say anxiously, “Angel is very ferocious and aggressive.”

“Angel…what a lovely name,” Nisha says, “I have been seeing you two jogging and playing at the Oval. That’s why I have come here…to see your beautiful hound Angel…” and then she opens the door.

Angel looks suspiciously as Nisha enters the bedroom and as she extends her hand towards her to pat her on the head, Angel growls at Nisha menacingly, her tail becomes stiff, and the hackles on her back stiffen, since, like most Caravan Hounds, she does not like to be touched or handled by anyone other than me, her master.

“Please…please…” I plead to Nisha, but she moves ahead undaunted and caresses Angel’s neck and suddenly there is a noticeable metamorphosis in the hound’s body language as the dog recognizes the true dog lover. All of a sudden Angel licks Nisha’s hand, wags her tail and jumps lovingly at Nisha who embraces her.

I am really surprised at the way Nisha is hugging and caressing Angel as not even the most ardent of dog lovers would dare to fondle and take liberties with a ferocious Caravan Hound.

“She’s ideal for Bruno. They’ll love each other,” Nisha says cuddling Angel.

“Bruno?”

“My handsome boy… I was desperately looking for a mate for Bruno…and then I saw her…they’re ideally suited…a perfect made for each other couple.”

“You’ve got a hound?”

“A Mudhol.”

“Mudhol?”

“Exactly like her.”

“But Angel is a Caravan Hound.”

“It’s the same…a Caravan Hound is the same as a Mudhol Hound …in fact, the actual name is Mudhol…”

“I don’t think so.”

“Bet?”

“Okay.”

“Dinner at the place of my choice.”

“Done.”

“Let’s go.”

“Where?”

“To my place.”

“To your place?”

“To meet Bruno…doesn’t Angel want to see him?”

“Of course… me too.”

And so, the three of us, Nisha, Angel and I, drove down to Nisha’s home on Malabar Hill. The moment we opened the door Bruno rushed to welcome Nisha…then gave Angel a tentative look…for an instant both the hounds stared menacingly at each other…Bruno gave a low growl…then extended his nose to scent…Angel melted…it was love at first sight.

Nisha won the bet…we surfed the internet…cross checked in libraries…she was right… Mudhol Hound is the same as Caravan Hound…but not the same as a Rampur, Rajapalyam or  Chippiparai Hound.

But that’s another story.

Here is what happened to our “Dating and Mating Story”.

As per our bet, I took Nisha out to dinner – a sumptuous Butter Chicken and Tandoori affair at Gaylord’s. And while we were thoroughly enjoying our food, suddenly, out of the blue, Sudha and her husband landed up there, sat on the neighbouring table, and the way Sudha gave me canny looks, I wonder if it was a “contrived” coincidence.

Angel and Bruno had a successful mating and Nisha and Bruno would visit my pregnant girl every day, and then, on D-Day,  Nisha stayed through the night to egg on Angel in her whelping.

Angel gave birth to four cute little puppies, and every day the “doggie” parents and “human” grandparents would spend hours doting on the little ones.

Since Nisha and I could not agree as to who should take which puppy we solved the problem by getting married – strictly a marriage of convenience – but Sudha, her aim achieved, tells me that Nisha and I are the most rocking couple madly in love.

And so now we all live together as one big happy family – ours, theirs, mine and hers.

A PERFECT MATCH

Fiction Short Story – A Romance

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

Chilled Beer

May 6, 2010

CHILLED BEER

Fiction Short Story – A Mystery

By

VIKRAM KARVE

It’s a lazy Sunday morning and I sit languidly in my balcony reminiscing the good old days of my wonderful past, melancholically mourning the gloomy and depressing present, and speculating with foreboding about what the ominous future may hold in store for me.

The doorbell rings.

I curse at being disturbed from my reverie, and wonder who’s come to meet me on a Sunday morning.

I open the door.

I am dumbstruck.

It is that gorgeous snooty pompous beauty called Monica, my wife Anjali’s friend and colleague, who lives across the street.

“Anjali is not at home,” I say tersely.

“I know,” she says, “I’ve come to see you.”

“Me…?” I stare at her baffled, for till now the pretentious haughty Monica, who doesn’t care for losers, has always ignored me as if I did not exist.

“Yes, Ajay, I know Anjali is not at home. I’ve come to see you. I want to talk to you alone.”

“Alone…?” I am curious as I can feel a shiver of anticipation rising within me. We’ve never been alone before.

“Yes. Alone. Won’t you ask me to come in…?”

“Of course. Please come in. Shall we sit in the balcony…?”

“No. We’ll sit inside here, so no one will see us and we can talk in private.”

Monica looks chic and ravishing, in tight jeans and a close fitting pink T-shirt.

I try not to stare at her.

The moment we sit down on the living room sofa, she says, “Suppose you found out that your wife was being unfaithful. Tell me, Ajay, what would you do…?”

Taken aback by the bombshell, I say, “What…?”

“Suppose you caught her having an affair.”

“What nonsense…!” I say angrily, but inside me there germinates a small seed of doubt. Does Monica know something…? Why is she saying all this…? Trying to hide my fears, I put up a solid face and say, “Come on Mrs. Kumar. It’s impossible. You know Anjali for so many years and how much she loves me.”

“Hey, stop calling me Mrs. Kumar. I’ve told you before, haven’t I…? You just call me Monica…” Monica says, looks provocatively into my eyes, and asks, “Now think carefully…Suppose, just suppose, you caught your wife Anjali having an affair, cheating on you, betraying your trust with infidelity…”

“I’ll kill her,” I say instinctively.

“How…?”

“How…? What do you mean ‘How’…?”

“I mean ‘How’. How will you kill your wife…?”

“Well, I don’t know,” I say getting up from the sofa, not wanting to continue this conversation.

“Let’s hypothesize. Will you shoot her…? Strangle her…? Stab her to death…? Suffocate her with a pillow…? Push her over the balcony or shove her off a cliff…?  Electrocute her…? Drown her…? Douse her with kerosene and set her on fire…? An ‘accidental’ gas cylinder explosion…?”

“What do you want from me…? Why are you harassing me…? Please go away Mrs. Kumar. Anjali will be here any moment,” I beseech her.

“No, she won’t. I know she’s gone to the health club and parlour for her Sunday session. She’ll be back after twelve. We have enough time together, haven’t we…?” Monica says mischievously looking up at me and adds, “Okay, you just tell me how you would kill your wife if you caught her having an affair, and I promise I’ll go away…!”

“I’d probably use poison,” I say, and start walking towards the entrance door.

Monica remains seated in silence for some time, and then she looks at me intently and says, her words clear and deliberate, “Poison… The way you finished off Nisha, your first wife…?”

I stop dead in my tracks.

Stunned, pole-axed, I can sense a sharp, cold fear drilling into my vitals.

I look at Monica, into her shining eyes.

She knows…

And she wants me to know, that she knows…

And now I know that I have no choice.

I walk back to my sofa, sit down and say to her, “So you want to kill your husband. Just because you think he is having an affair.”

“You killed Nisha, didn’t you…?” she asks, looking directly into my eyes.

I feel very frightened, scared.

How much does Monica know…?

Or is she just speculating, guessing…?

Maybe she’s just trying a shot in the dark…

But seeing the venom in her eyes, I realize that I dare not take any chances, so I smile and say, “Well, Monica, you have got your manacles on me, haven’t you…?”

“Listen, Ajay,” Monica says, her voice soft, as she speaks in measured tones, “I don’t want a scandal, that’s why I haven’t given him even the slightest hint that I suspect. But I can’t live a lie any longer pretending I am happy. The flimsy façade of our successful marriage, the veneer of pretence – it’s all going to blow-up sooner or later as he is becoming more and more indiscreet and careless.”

She pauses for a moment and says, “He’s got to go. Quickly. Quietly. As ‘normal’ a death as you can arrange.”

“Why don’t you leave him…? Ask him for a divorce.”

“It’s much better to be a widow than a divorcee, isn’t it…?”

I think about what she says.

Monica is right. It is much better to have all the sympathy of a widow than the stigma of being a divorcee; inherit all her husband’s riches, money, property rather than the paltry alimony.

Her husband is rich and successful, and her marriage a social triumph.

“Tell me, who is he having an affair with…?” I ask out of sheer curiosity.

“It’s none of your business,” she says angrily. “Just do what I tell you and don’t delve too deeply.”

“I thought maybe…”

“What’s the use…? He’ll get another one – bloody philanderer,” Monica says with contempt. “It’s he who has betrayed me and I want to get rid of him fast. You do this for me, Ajay, and my lips remain sealed about Nisha forever. I promise…”

“That’s all…?”

“I’ll clear all your gambling debts, your loans, the mortgages – with the bookies, financers…”

Inside I tremble with indescribable terror… outside I try to be calm and say, “You know all about me, don’t you…?”

“I’ve done my homework. Now you execute a foolproof plan. And after it’s all over there’ll be plenty more to come for you. I’ll give you so much money, you can’t even imagine…”

“Okay, let’s brainstorm. You tell me everything about your husband. Each and every detail, his food habits, his routine, his programme for the next few days, about both of you, everything. Absolutely everything.”

“I’m thirsty,” Monica announces.

“Fresh Lime…?”

“How about a chilled beer?”

I get two cans of chilled beer from the fridge.

“Hey,” Monica exclaims holding up a beer can, “you know what…? Kumar drinks the same brand of beer as you do…! It’s his favourite beer.”

“That’s a good start,” I say and clink my beer can with hers, “Cheers… To our success… Now tell me everything.”

Monica tells me everything about her husband Kumar.

I listen intently and carefully make notes.

By the time Monica finishes, in my mind’s eye I am already evaluating the pros and cons of various options of how Kumar is going to die.

“How do you want him to die…? Instantaneous death or prolonged illness…?” I ask Monica.

“I want to finish it off as quickly as possible. Painless. Fast. When he is far away from here. Like maybe during his trekking trip to Mussoorie next week,” she pauses for a moment and says, “but make sure it’s a perfect foolproof job – not even an iota of doubt or needle of suspicion.”

My mind races, exploring and weighing all the options, like maybe an exotoxin which leaves no trace, excretes itself from the organism within a few hours…?

I keep on thinking, my brain cells working at lightning speed, and all of a sudden I know what I’m going to do…

“We’ll give him something in his favourite beer,” I say.

“What…? Tell me, please…” Monica says excitedly.

“Now you don’t delve too much…” I say haughtily. “Just do what I say. Lips sealed. And ask no questions…”

“Okay.”

I look at the notes I have made when she was telling me about her husband and ask, “His weight is only 70…?”

“That’s right. Seventy kilograms. Five feet ten. Thirty Eight years of age. Ideal, isn’t it… He’s a fitness freak.”

“And he leaves for Mussoorie on Thursday…”

“Yes. Early in the morning.”

“Okay,” I say, “I’ll have the beer can ready by Wednesday evening. Make sure you collect it by six before Anjali comes back from office and see that he drinks it…”

“No. No. You serve it to him. Let him have it here. In front of you. Right here.”

“He’s never come here to our place before…”

“He will come here. If you invite him.”

“Fine. I’ll tell Anjali to invite both of you to dinner on Wednesday evening. She’s been wanting to call you over for a long time.”

“And…?”

“I’ll make sure your Kumar drinks the special beer. He’ll be off to Mussoorie on Thursday, and you should have the ‘good news’ by Sunday morning.”

“He shouldn’t pop off here…”

“He won’t. I’ll calculate everything precisely – make sure there’s at least a 36 hour incubation and proliferation period.”

After Monica leaves, I realize three things.

Firstly, murder is a rather lucrative business.

Secondly, from an amateur, I am going to become a professional.

And thirdly, infidelity is not only reason why Monica wants to get rid of her husband.

Everything works as per my plan.

I meticulously keep the vacuum microencapsulated ‘special’ can of beer firmly in its designated place in the fridge on Wednesday morning the moment Anjali leaves for work.

Then I leave for my office.

When I open the fridge the moment I return early from work on Wednesday evening I notice that the particular beer-can is missing.

My heart skips a beat, I feel a tremor of trepidation, search desperately in the fridge, don’t find the can, and soon I’m in a state of total panic.

After a frantic search I find the empty beer can in the kitchen dustbin.

I pick up the can and check.

Oh yes, no doubt about it – it is the same beer-can.

And the beer can is empty…

I try to think, steady my confused mind.

Who can it be…?

Everything becomes clear all of a sudden and I find myself shaking in sheer terror.

I rush to the bedroom, run around the house like a crazy animal.

Anjali is not at home.

I dial her mobile.

An excruciating wait as time stands still.

Anjali answers.

“Anjali…? Where are you…?”

“In the mall. Picking up some stuff for the evening.”

“So early…?”

“I took half a day off. Came home for lunch, got things tidied up and ready for the evening and am just getting a few things from the market. I’ll be back soon.”

“Anjali. The beer…! The beer…! ” I stutter anxiously.

“You want me to get more beer…? I thought we had enough.”

“No. No. There is a beer-can missing in the fridge. I found it in the dustbin.”

“Oh, that. I drank it in the afternoon,” Anjali says.

“What…? You drank that beer…?” I shout anxiously.

“Yes. I drank it. I came home in the afternoon. It was hot. I felt thirsty. So I opened the fridge, picked up a can of beer and I drank it. It’s that simple.”

“You stupid fool… Why did you drink that beer-can…?” I scream into the phone.

“Stupid fool…? How dare you…? Ajay, have you lost it…? I just can’t understand your behaviour now-a-days…” Anjali says and disconnects.

It was extraordinary, how my mind became clear all of a sudden.

There was no known antidote to the stuff I had synthesized.

Clinically, there was nothing I could do.

Logically, there was no point in doing something stupid in desperation.

It was a question of my own survival.

Having sunk to the depths of depravity, all I could do was helplessly wait and haplessly watch Anjali die.

She was less than sixty kilos, much lighter than Kumar.

By Saturday evening it would all be over…

The evening passes in a haze.

My heart sinks as I watch Kumar enjoy beer after beer, but what’s the use…? That beer-can, the one I had specially prepared for him, is lying empty in the dustbin.

There is a gleam in Monica’s eye.

What excuse am I going to give her…?

She does not know what’s happened and I shudder to think what she may do when she realizes.

At best she may forget everything; but knowing her vindictive streak, anything is possible…

Inside I tremble with fear in unimaginable agony… outside I try to present a happy and cheerful façade and make pretence of enjoying the dinner.

Time crawls.

I feel wretched and suffer in painful silence the longest and most agonizing hours of my life.

Thursday. Friday. Saturday.

I closely observe Anjali for symptoms, waiting for the worst.

Nothing happens.

Anjali seems normal, in fact, quite hale and hearty.

Sunday.

Anjali is still going strong…!

She sits across the dining table devouring her favorite idli-chutney-sambar Sunday breakfast.

I marvel at her constitution, her liver, it’s got to be super-strong; or maybe I’ve goofed up!

My cell-phone rings.

It’s Monica.

My heart skips a beat.

“Hello,” I say with trepidation.

“Ajay, congrats… You’ve done it… Kumar is dead. I just got a call from Mussoorie,” Monica says excitedly.

“How…?” I mumble incredulously, perplexed, baffled out of my wits in consternation.

“It happened exactly like you said. In the early hours of Sunday morning. He died in his sleep. They say maybe it was heart failure. Painless, instantaneous death.”

“I’ll come now…?” I ask Monica.

“No… No… Not now. We can’t take chances. I’m rushing to Mussoorie now. I’ll finish off everything; make sure the paperwork is done okay. And when I return, you can come and offer your condolences…” I hear Monica’s voice trail away.

I disconnect, put my mobile phone in my pocket, and look at Anjali.

“Who was it…?” she asks.

“Someone from the office,” I lie, trying to keep a straight face.

“Anything important…?”

“No. A man died. That’s all…” I say nonchalantly.

I look at Anjali, into her large brown liquid eyes, and comprehension dawns on me like a bolt of lightening.

What a cuckold she’s made me, a real sucker.

My brain goes into a tizzy. I wonder what I should do to her.  The possibilities are endless, aren’t they…?

And while I contemplate on my plan of action…I think I’ll have a chilled beer…

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.

vikramkarve@sify.com

http://vikramkarve.sulekha.com

REALTY CHECK Fiction Short Story

May 4, 2010

REALTY CHECK

Fiction Short Story

By

VIKRAM KARVE

“I want to go home…!” the father, a redoubtable intrepid tough looking old man, around seventy, shouts emphatically at his son.

“Please Baba. Don’t create a scene,” the son, an effeminate looking man in his mid-forties, says softly.

“What do you mean don’t create a scene…?” the old man shouts even louder, waving his walking stick in a menacing manner.

“Please calm down…! Everyone is looking at us…!” an old woman, in her mid-sixties, pleads with her husband.

“Let them look…! Let everyone see what an ungrateful son is doing to his poor old parents…” the old man says loudly, looking all around.

“Ungrateful…?” the son winces.

“Yes, ungrateful…! That’s what you are. We did everything for you; educated you, brought you up. And now you throw us out of our house into this bloody choultry.”

“Choultry…! You call this a choultry…! Please Baba… This is a luxury township for Senior Citizens…” the son says.

“It’s okay,” the old woman consoles her husband, “we’ll manage in this Old Age Home.”

“Mama, please…!” the son implores in exasperation, “How many times have I told you. This is not an Old Age Home. It’s such a beautiful exclusive township for Senior Citizens to enjoy a happy and active life. And I’ve booked you a premium cottage – the best available here.”

The mother looks at her son, and then at her husband, and feels trapped between the two, not knowing what to say as both are right in their own way. So she says gently to her husband, “Try to understand. We’ll adjust here. See how scenic and green this place is. See there – what a lovely garden.”

“I prefer Nana-Nani Park at Chowpatty. All my friends are there,” the old man says.

“You’ll make friends here too,” she says.

“Friends…! These half-dead highbrow snobs…?” the old man says mockingly.

“Okay,” the son intervenes, “you both can take long walks. The air is so pure and refreshing at this hill station.”

“Listen you…! Don’t try all this on me. I’ve been walking for the last fifty years on Marine Drive and that’s where I intend walking the rest of my life…” the old man shouts at his son. Then the old man turns to his wife and says peremptorily to her, “You pack our bags and let’s go back to Mumbai. We are not staying here…!”

“Try and adjust,” his wife beseeches him, “you’ll like the place. Look at the facilities here – there’s a modern health club, gym, library, recreation… everything is here.”

“Gym…? You want me to do body building at this age…? Library…? You know after my cataract I can hardly read the newspaper…! And I can get all the recreation I need watching the sea at the Chowpatty…”

“Please Baba, don’t be obstinate,” begs his son. “This place is so good for your health. They give you such delicious nourishing food here.”

“Delicious…? Nourishing…? The bloody sterile stuff tastes like hospital food. I can’t stand it – where will I get Sardar’s Pav Bhaji, Kyani’s Kheema Pav, Vinay’s Misal, Satam’s Vada Pav, Delhi Durbar’s Biryani, Sarvi’s Boti Kababs, Fish in Anantashram in Khotachi wadi next door…”

“Please Baba…! All you can think of is horrible oily spicy street-food which you should not eat at your age…! With your cholesterol and sugar levels, you’ll die if you continue eating that stuff…”

“I’d rather die of a heart attack in Mumbai enjoying the tasty good food I like rather than suffer a slow death here trying to eat this insipid tasteless nonsense,” the old man shouts at his son, then looks at his wife and commands, “Listen. Just pack up. We are not staying here like glorified slaves in this golden cage. One month here in this godforsaken place has made me almost mad. We are going right back to our house in Girgaum to live with dignity…!”

“Please Baba. Don’t be difficult. I have to leave for the states tonight,” the son pleads desperately. “I’m trying to do the best possible for you. You know the huge amount of money I’ve paid in advance to book this place for you…?”

“You go back to your family in America. I’m going back to my house in Girgaum…! That’s final…!” the old man says firmly to his son. Then he looks at his wife, the old woman, and says, “You want to come along…? Or should I go back alone…?”

“Mama, please tell him…” the son looks at his mother.

The old woman looks lovingly at her husband, puts her hand on his arm and says softly, “Please try to understand. We have to live here. There’s no house in Girgaum. Our tenement chawl has been sold to a builder. They are building a commercial complex there.”

“What…?” the old man looks at his wife, totally stunned, as if he is pole-axed, “you too…!”

And suddenly the old man’s defences crumble and he disintegrates… no longer is he the strong indefatigable redoubtable man he was a few moments ago — the old man seems to have lost his spirit, his strength, his dignity, his self-esteem, even his will to live…!

The metamorphosis in the old man’s personality is unbelievable as he meekly holds his wife’s hand for support and, totally defeated, the once tough and redoubtable old man obediently leans on his frail wife for support and walks with her towards their cottage where they both will spend the last days of their lives… lonely… unwanted… waiting for death.

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

vikramkarve@sify.com

http://vikramkarve.sulekha.com

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

http://www.ryze.com/go/karve

http://www.indiaplaza.in/finalpage.aspx?storename=books&sku=9788190690096&ct=2

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