Posts Tagged ‘blogger’

THE SOLDIER – a short story

January 10, 2013
THE SOLDIER
A Short Story
by
VIKRAM KARVE

Original Post Link on my Academic and Creative Writing Journal
http://karvediat.blogspot.in/2013/01/the-pen-is-mightier-than-sword.html

THE PEN IS MIGHTIER THAN THE SWORD

Short Fiction – A Soldier’s Story
By
VIKRAM KARVE
 
The Soldier sat on the footpath near the gate of the Accounts Office.
 
Abe Langde … Hat Wahan Se (Hey you one-legged cripple … Move from there)” a street-food cart vendor said, “Yeh Meri Jagah Hai (This is my place).”
 
The soldier winced.
 
Then he looked down at his amputated leg.
 
Yes, he was indeed a cripple, a langda.
 
When he had joined the army he had two strong legs.
 
And now he had just one leg and one stump.
 
He picked up his crutch, pushed his body up and slowly hobbled a few steps away and was about to sit under a shady canopy near the street corner when a traffic policeman shouted, “Ae Bhikari … Wahan Mat Baith (Hey Beggar … don’t sit there).”
 
Main Bhikari Nahin Hoon … Main Fauji Hoon (I am not a beggar … I am a soldier),” protested the soldier.
 
Phir Border Pe Ja Kar Lad (Then go and fight on the border),” the policeman said with sarcasm.
 
Wahi to kar raha tha (That is what I was doing),” the soldier mumbled to himself.
 
As the soldier tottered on the street on his crutches he talked to himself. He had been a fool to be brave. He should have played safe. At least he wouldn’t have lost his leg. And he wouldn’t have been discharged from the army as medically unfit.
 
Now he was being made to run from pillar to post for his disability pension because just because some clerk had “misplaced” his documents.
 
The soldier was exasperated.
 
In the army he was expected to do everything promptly and properly in double-quick time.
 
But these civilians were just not bothered.
 
First the paperwork was delayed due to red tape.
 
Then there were some careless typographical errors in his papers and his documents had to be sent back for the necessary corrections.
 
And now his papers had been misplaced.
 
It was sad.
 
Nobody was bothered about his plight.
 
The civilian babus comfortably cocooned in their secure 9 to 5 five-day-week jobs were slack and indifferent and did not give a damn for the soldiers they were meant to serve.
 
Civilians expected soldiers to be loyal unto the grave without offering loyalty in return.
 
“What is the big deal if you lost a leg?” one cruel clerk had remarked mockingly, “You soldiers are paid to fight. And if you die, or get wounded, it is a part of your job. You knew the risks before you joined, didn’t you? If you wanted to live a safe life why did you become a soldier? You should have become a chaprassi (peon) like your friend.”
 
Tears rolled down the soldier’s cheek as he thought of this.
 
Others were not so cruel and heartless, but their sympathy was tinged with scorn.
 
Indeed, he should have become a chaprassi like his friend who was now helping him get his disability pension.
 
Both he and his friend had been selected for the post of peon in a government office.
 
But he had been a fool – he told everyone that it was below his dignity to work as achaprassi and then he went to recruitment rally and joined the army as a soldier.
 
He made fun of his friend who took up the job of a peon and boasted with bloated pride about being a soldier.
 
And now the tables had turned and the peon was having the last laugh on the soldier.
 
The peon was secure in his job while the soldier was out on the street, crippled for life and begging for his pension.
 
And now his friend wasn’t even called a chaprassi – they had upgraded all Class-4 to Class-3 and his friend was now designated as “assistant”.
 
His friend would retire at the age of 60 after a safe, secure, easy, tension-free career without any transfers or hardships.
 
And if he got disabled they wouldn’t throw him out.
 
And if he died, his wife or son or daughter would get a job in his place.
 
Nothing like that for the soldier. He had to fend for himself.
 
The soldier felt disheartened.
 
He looked at his amputated leg and deeply regretted his decision to join the army.
 
Indeed he had made a mistake.
 
He would have been much better off as a peon or in some other civilian job.
 
The soldier also felt a sense of guilt that he had made fun of his friend.
 
Today he was at his friend’s mercy.
 
The soldier had to live on the kindness of the man he had once ridiculed and scoffed at.
 
It was a terrible feeling.
 
It was more than six months as he anxiously waited for his pension and dues.
 
His friend had given the soldier, and his family, shelter and food. And now he was trying to help him out by running around from office to office using the “peon network” to trace the misplaced papers.
 
The soldier felt sorry for his hapless wife.
 
She was at the mercy of his friend’s wife who openly derided her and made her displeasure quite clear by making scathing comments about the soldier, his wife and their children and kept on carping about how they were sponging on her hospitality like parasites.
 
The soldier’s wife hated his friend’s wife but she had to suffer the humiliation in silence and bear the daily insults – it was terrible to be at the mercy of someone who detested you.
 
Today the friend had asked the soldier to stand outside the gate and gone into the accounts office alone.
 
He had gone in alone because last time the soldier had spoilt everything by refusing to a pay a bribe to the accounts officer.
 
The soldier had even threatened the accounts officer that he would report the matter.
 
The accounts officer was furious: “Go and report. Nothing will happen. Now I will see to it that your papers are not traced until you die. What do you bloody soldiers think? That you can threaten us? This is not the army. This is the accounts office. Haven’t you heard the saying that the pen is mightier than the sword – now I will show you.”
 
Today his friend had gone inside to negotiate.
 
The clerks had told him not to bring the soldier inside the office as the egoistic accounts officer may get furious on seeing the soldier and everything will be spoilt.
 
Once everything was “settled”, they would try and trace the “misplaced” documents and he could take them out to obtain the soldier’s signature and resubmit the papers for clearance of the disability pension.
 
The soldier waited anxiously in the hot sun for his friend to come out. Angry thoughts buzzed in his mind.
 
“Ungrateful, corrupt people – all these civilians,” the soldier muttered to himself, “we sacrifice our life and limb for their sake and they humiliate us, even ask me to pay a bribe to get my own disability pension.”
 
“Patriotism, heroism, idealism – no one bothers about these things anymore. I made a mistake by joining the army,” he mumbled to himself, “I made a bigger mistake trying to be brave. What was the point of showing courage, initiative, daring and going beyond the call of duty to nab those guys? How does it matter if a few sneak in? Out here in the city, who is bothered about these things anyway? They don’t even know what is happening out there. Had I looked the other way no one would have known and I would not be a one-legged cripple – a langda. And even then, I wish they had shot me in the head and I had died. That would have been better”.
 
The soldier thought of his wife, his children, the bleak future awaiting them.
 
How long would they have to be dependent on the mercy of his friend and his loath wife?
 
He felt sad, very sad, as depressing thoughts of despondency and hopelessness perambulated in his brain.
 
He wondered whether his disability pension problem would be solved today.
 
It was taking long – his friend had gone in at 10 and it was almost 12 noon now.
 
The sweltering summer sun was hot and the soldier felt parched and weak.
 
He had drunk just a cup of tea since they started their journey to the accounts office in the city by bus from their friend’s home in the distant suburbs early in the morning.
 
Suddenly the soldier felt faint, so he walked towards the compound wall of the accounts office, took support and slid down to sit on his haunches.
 
At 12:30 his friend emerged from the gates of the accounts office. He was happy – the bribe had been paid, the documents had been promptly traced. Now all he had to do was get the soldier’s signature on the papers and he had been assured that the soldier’s disability pension and all his dues would be given within a month.
 
He began to look around for the soldier and saw him sitting strangely, propped against the wall.
 
The soldier’s eyes were closed and it seemed that he had fallen asleep.
 
Something seemed amiss, so he briskly walked towards the soldier, bent down and touched the soldier’s shoulder.
 
The soldier fell down to his side.
 
The friend panicked. He thought the soldier had fainted so he started shouting for help.
 
The traffic policeman, the street-cart vendor and some passers-by rushed to help.
 
The policeman told the vendor to sprinkle some water on the soldier’s face but nothing happened.
 
The policeman rang up the police control room for an ambulance.
 
“I hope he is not dead,” the friend said with trepidation.
 
“I don’t know. But it looks like he is totally unconscious. What happened? Who is he? He was muttering that he is a fauji – is he really a soldier?” the policeman asked.
 
The friend told the policeman the soldier’s story – the full story.
 
“Sad,” the policeman said, “very sad – the way they treat our soldiers.”
 
The ambulance arrived.
 
A paramedic examined the soldier and said, “I think he is dead. We will take him to the hospital. There the doctors will examine him and officially pronounce him dead.”
 
“The enemy’s bullets could not do what the babus did – the enemy’s bullets could not kill him but the these babus  killed him,” the policeman commented.
 
“Yes, the accounts officer was right,” the distraught friend said, “the pen is indeed mightier than the sword.”
 
 
VIKRAM KARVE
Copyright © Vikram Karve 2012
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., all rights reserved.

Academic and Creative Writing Journal Vikram Karve

October 5, 2012

Academic and Creative Writing Journal Vikram Karve.

Click the link above and read my journal

URBANIZATION OF THE MOFUSSIL GIRL – Story of a Modern Girl

August 5, 2011

URBANIZATION OF THE MOFUSSIL GIRL – Story of a Modern Girl.

Click the link above and read the story on my creative writing blog

Regards

Vikram Karve

Vikram Karve: SOCIAL NETWORKING – THE BEST OF BOTH WORLDS

February 12, 2011

Vikram Karve: SOCIAL NETWORKING – THE BEST OF BOTH WORLDS.

 
Academic and Creative Writing Journal Vikram Karve: SOCIAL NETWORKING – THE BEST OF BOTH WORLDS

SOCIAL NETWORKING – THE BEST OF BOTH WORLDS

CYBER SPACE and VIRTUAL REALITY

VIRTUAL REALITY
A Mulla Nasrudin Story
By
VIKRAM KARVE
Thanks to the advent of the internet, now-a-days, we have the opportunity to live in two worlds, the real world and the virtual world, and have two identities, online and offline, maintain two lives, one in real space and one in cyberspace, and have two kinds of friends, even relationships, virtual and real, offline and online.
Internet is a great tool for social networking and it enables us to live two lives and enjoy the benefits of instant interaction and friendships across the globe and facilitates us to enjoy the best of both worlds.
It is good to have the best of both worlds, the real and the virtual, as long as you maintain a balance.

Here is one of my favourite Mulla Nasrudin stories which exemplifies this …

Mulla Nasrudin bought a beautiful house at a picturesque place far away from civilization high up in the hills.

From time to time he would suddenly pack his bags, leave the city, and go away to his house in the hills, disappearing for days, sometimes for weeks, sometimes for months.

And just as suddenly as he used to disappear, he used to unpredictably return back to the city, suddenly, without any warning or notice.

When asked the reason for his erratic and whimsical behaviour, Nasrudin explained: 

“I have kept a caretaker woman up there in the hills to look after my house. She is the ugliest woman – horrible, repulsive, hideous, and nauseating. Just one look at her and one feels like vomiting.

When I go to live there, at first she looks horrible. But slowly, slowly, after a few lonely days, she is not so horrible. Then after some more desolate forlorn days, she doesn’t seem that undesirable. And as more and more time passes in lonesome seclusion, a day comes when I start seeing some beauty in her.

The day I start seeing beauty in that horrid woman I know that it is time to escape from my virtual world in the hills.

The day I start getting attracted to the hideous woman means enough is enough – I have lived away from the real world for too long – now even this horrible revolting woman has started looking beautiful.

I may even fall in love with this ghastly ugly repugnant woman – that’s dangerous.

Enough is Enough… Enough of the virtual world… it is time to get back to the real world…

So I pack up my things and rush back to the city.”


Dear Reader:
Has your Virtual World, your cyber space, your second life, started looking a bit too “beautiful”…?
Are you spending more time in cyberspace, social networking and interacting with your virtual friends, rather than having face to face interactions and communication with your immediate flesh and blood friends in real space?
Is there an imbalance? Are your virtual relationships overwhelming and taking precedence over your real relationships?
Are you losing touch with reality?
Maybe it is time for you to return back to the Real World, isn’t it…?
Of course, when you get saturated and bored spending too much time in the real world, feel suffocated with relationships in the Real World, you can always go back to the virtual world, your alter ego, and enjoy the best of both worlds, alternating and switching over between both your lives, online and offline, just like Mulla Nasrudin does between the city and the hill-station!
Social Networking gives you a lot of pleasure and satisfaction and internet a great tool for building relationships. It is good to have the best of both worlds, the real and the virtual, as long as you maintain a balance living your life in real space and cyber space.
Good Bye, take care…
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., all rights reserved.
VIKRAM KARVE educated at IIT Delhi, ITBHU Varanasi, The Lawrence School Lovedale, and Bishop’s School Pune, 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. He has written a foodie book Appetite For A Stroll and a book of fiction short stories COCKTAIL which is being published soon and is currently busy writing his first novel. Vikram lives in Pune with his family and pet Doberman girl Sherry, with whom he takes long walks thinking creative thoughts.
Academic and Creative Writing Journal Vikram Karve: http://karvediat.blogspot.com
Professional Profile of Vikram Karve:
http://www.linkedin.com/in/karve
Creative Writing by Vikram Karve: http://vikramkarve.sulekha.com/blog/posts.htm

http://shopping.sify.com/appetiteforastroll-vikram-karve/books/9788190690096.htm


http://www.facebook.com/notes.php?pages#!/pages/Cocktail-by-Vikram-Karve-APK-Publishers/177873552253247


© vikram karve., all rights reserved.

DEAD END

January 22, 2011

DEAD END.

 

DEAD END
Short Fiction – A Story
By
VIKRAM KARVE
From my Creative Writing Archives:
I wrote this short story sometime in the mid 1990s. Then, it was highly appreciated. I think it is quite relevant even today.
Manjunath was a contended man.
He was the proud owner of a coconut grove, more than a hundred trees, located on the most picturesque stretch of the western coast, skirting the Arabian Sea. The land was fertile and the yield was excellent.
Every morning, along with his wife and two sons, Manjunath would cast his fishing nets into the gentle waters of Baicol Bay, and in the evening, when he pulled in his nets with the receding tide, the catch would be adequate, if not substantial.
I loved Baicol Bay. It was a most beautiful and pristine place by the sea and sunset, on the western coast, was a special event.
So every evening, I went for a jog on the soft unspoilt beach, and after a swim in the crystal-clear waters, I relaxed on the sands, beholding the fascinating, yet soothing, spectacle of the mighty orange sun being devoured under the horizon of the sea.
As darkness enveloped, Manjunath would gently appear by my side with a tender coconut in hand.
At that moment, there was nothing more refreshing than sweet coconut water.
The year was 1980 and I was a fresh, young and idealistic Indian Police Service (IPS) Officer, on my first posting, as Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) of this lovely coastal district.
The air was fresh and unpolluted and the weather was temperate. There was no railway line, no industries, and no noise. The district headquarters was a one-street town. Everybody knew everybody, the people were peace-loving, and in the prevailing climate of contentment, it was no surprise that the crime-rate was almost zero.
One day, my boss, the Superintendent of Police (SP) took me to an important meeting in the District Collector’s office.
As I heard the words of the Collector, I experienced a deep sense of distress. A notification had been issued and a mammoth Steel Plant had been sanctioned in the Baicol Bay area. Land Acquisition was the immediate top priority. The police were to ensure that there was no law and order problem.
“But why can’t they locate the Steel Plant somewhere else?” I protested. “This lovely palace will be ruined. And where will the people go?”
At first, the Collector appeared dumbstruck by my interruption. Then he glowered at me with a fierce and threatening stare. I avoided his gaze and looked around the room. Everyone was looking at me in a curious manner. My boss, the SP, was desperately gesturing to me to keep quiet.
“I wonder whose side you are on?” the Collector snapped angrily, still giving me an intimidating glare.
“Don’t worry, Sir,” the SP spoke, addressing the Collector. “There will be no problems. The people here are a docile lot. Everything shall proceed smoothly.”
When we were driving back to our office, the SP said, “Joshi, you better tame your tongue and watch what you say, especially in front of others.”
“Sir, you please tell me. Isn’t this injustice? We pay them a pittance for their fertile land. And then evict them from their habitat, and destroy the beauty of this place, just because someone decides to set up a set up a Steel Plant here.”
“It’s in the national interest, Joshi. Why don’t you try and understand. Everyone shall be properly rehabilitated with a job and a house and also get a compensation.”
“Come on, sir,” I argued. “You know where we are going to relocate them. The rehabilitation camp is more than twenty kilometres away from the sea front. And we are putting them into small overcrowded multi-storeyed tenements, which are at complete variance from their ethos. These people are used to open spaces, fresh air, and most important – the waterfront, the sea.”
“That’s enough, Joshi,” the SP said angrily. “Your job is to carry out my orders. I want you to take personal charge of this operation. The task must be completed smoothly and on schedule. Is that clear?”
“Yes, sir,” I replied meekly.
That evening I held a meeting with the affected villagers. Manjunath was sitting in the first row, right in front of me. I spoke of patriotism, sacrifice for the “national cause” and the prosperity the Steel Plant would bring into their lives.
To my utter surprise, there was no resistance. Everyone seemed convinced, I think because they where simple people who believed every word I said, but to my own self, my own words sounded insincere and I felt acutely uncomfortable.
And so the operation began.
Awe-struck, Manjunath saw the might of the government on display. He watched with tears in his eyes, columns of police standing by, while bulldozers destroyed his beloved coconut grove.
A few days later Manjunath stood before the employment officer. The employment officer was in a foul mood. “These illiterate buggers get jobs on a platter while my matriculate brother-in-law rots unemployed in city,” he complained, “I had promised my wife that I would wrangle at least a Class IV job for him out here.”
“Hold your tongue,” said the rehabilitation officer. “These so-called ‘illiterate buggers’, as you call them, were land-owners, displaced from their own land.”
“Okay, okay. Don’t get hot,” the employment officer said to the rehabilitation officer. Then he looked at Manjunath and curtly asked him, “Do you posses any special skills?”
Manjunath could not comprehend, so he just stood silent.
In an exasperated manner, the employment officer snapped, “We haven’t got all day. Tell me. What can you do?”
“Coconuts,” Manjunath answered.
“Coconuts?”
“Yes, Sir. Coconuts.”
“What else?”
“Fish.”
“Fish and Coconuts, eh! You’ll see plenty of them,” the employment officer said. He wrote the word ‘cook’ beside Manjunath’s name in the register.
And so, at one stroke, Manjunath was transformed, from land-owner into a cook, first in the ramshackle canteen for construction workers and later in the huge industrial canteen of the Steel Plant.
But Manjunath was lucky. At least he had become a cook. Most others became Unskilled Labourers because the skills they possessed, like farming and fishing, were not relevant as far as the Steel Plant was concerned.
And so almost all the “skilled” workers – the tradesmen, all the welders, fitters, machinists, electricians etc. – they all came from outside, from faraway places, the cities and the urban areas. And the complexion of the place began to change.
Soon I stooped going for my daily evening jog to Baicol beach, for now it was littered with debris from the construction work and the air was no longer pure, but polluted by fumes and dust and the noise was unbearable.
And, of course, now there would be no Manjunath waiting for me with a tender coconut in hand.
So when my transfer came, I felt relieved and happy, for I no longer loved the place and, more so, because it was getting painful to see the beginning of the systematic metamorphosis of a beautiful natural paradise into a huge monster of concrete and steel.
When I returned after fifteen long years, the place had change beyond recognition. The gigantic steel plant, the railway line, the new port, the industries, the ‘fruits’ of liberalization and the signs of prosperity, modern buildings adorned by adjoining slums, filth and polluted air, all types of vehicles clogging the roads, restaurants and bars, the noise and even most of the people looked alien.
As we drove down to the police headquarters, the SP said, “It’s not the same place when you were here, sir.”
“The crime-rate was zero then,” I said. “What has gone wrong?”
“There are two types of people now, Sir – the liberalised Indian and the marginalised Indian.”
“And us!”
“And us,” he laughed, “yes, sir, and us trying to sort the whole thing out.”
I was head of the crime branch at the state police headquarters and had been sent down to investigate a series of bizarre murders. A few bigwigs were waylaid, had their heads chopped off and their headless bodies dumped outside their houses. It had created such a scare that my boss had rushed me down.
The car stopped. I recognized the place at once.
“The common thread, sir,” the SP said. “All the victims lived in this luxury residential enclave.”
“I knew this place,” I said, feeling a tinge of nostalgia. “There used to be a coconut grove here. This place was acquired for the steel plant. But now I see that it is just outside the perimeter wall. I wonder why they excluded this area.”
“Must be the environment stipulations, sir,” the SP mumbled, “the two hundred meter zone or something. They must have de-notified it.”
“Don’t give me bullshit!” I shouted. “Then how the hell has this posh residential complex come up here? And if they didn’t want the land for the steel plant then why wasn’t this land returned back to the original owners?”
“Sir, land which was sold by the acre in your time, fifteen years ago, is now priced the same per square foot.”
“The fruits of progress, is it?” I snapped.
I could see that the SP was getting confused by my unexpected line of investigation, and he was getting a bit scared too, for I was a DIG. So I decided to put him at ease.
“Tell me, Pandey,” I said patronizingly. “What were you before joining the IPS?”
“An Engineer, Sir. From IIT, Delhi.”
I wasn’t surprised. Engineers, even doctors, were joining the IAS and IPS nowadays. I looked at the SP and said, “Let me explain in a way you will understand.”
Pandey was looking at me intently.
I paused, and asked him. “Do you know what’s a system?”
“Yes, sir,” he answered.
“Every system has a natural rhythm,” I said, “take this place for example. All the people here in this system, farmers, fishermen, everyone, they all had a natural rhythm of life which perfectly matched the rhythm of this place. And there was harmony. Then suddenly we disturb the system. We drastically change the rhythm of the place. Create a mismatch. And when the people can’t cope up, we call them ‘marginalised Indians’ – as you put it.”
Pandey looked thoroughly confused, so I avoided further rhetoric and came straight to the point, “You are looking for a motive, isn’t it, Pandey?”
“Yes, Sir,” he said.
“Okay, consider this. You own some fertile land. We forcibly acquire it, mouthing platitudes like ‘national interest’, ‘patriotism’ etc. Then we sit on your land for fifteen long years while you are reduced from an owner to a labourer. And then, one fine day, you find that your beloved land been grabbed by some land-sharks from the city. What would you do?”
The SP did not reply.
“Do one thing, Pandey,” I said. “There’s a man called Manjunath. He probably works as a cook in the Steel Plant canteen. Bring him to me. He may have some clue and maybe he will give us a lead.”
In my mind’s eye I was thinking how to get Manjunath off the hook.
An hour later the SP came rushing into the police headquarters. He looked dazed, as if he had been pole-axed. “The guy went crazy,” he stammered. “When the police party approached him, he was chopping coconuts with a sharp sickle. Suddenly he slashed his own neck. He died on the way to hospital. There’s blood everywhere.”
In the morgue, looking at Manjunath’s dead body the SP commented, “Look at the expression on his face, sir. He looks so content.”
“Yes,” I said. “He’s reached the dead end.”
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., all rights reserved.

VIKRAM KARVE educated at IIT Delhi, ITBHU Varanasi, The Lawrence School Lovedale, and Bishop’s School Pune, 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/blog/posts.htm
Academic Journal Vikram Karve – http://karvediat.blogspot.com
Professional Profile of Vikram Karve – http://www.linkedin.com/in/karve
© vikram karve., all rights reserved.

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

MELTING MOMENTS Fiction Short Story – A Passionate Romance

December 14, 2009

MELTING MOMENTS

Fiction Short Story – A Passionate Romance
By

VIKRAM KARVE

Jayashree entered my life the moment I saw her photograph on Sanjay’s desk.

And my life changed forever!

Till that moment, I had never wanted anything belonging to anyone else.

I stared transfixed at her photo, enthralled, totally captivated by her beauty.

“Sir, this is Jayashree, my wife!” Sanjay said, getting up form the swivel chair.

He picked up the framed photograph and showed it to me.

I took her picture in my hand and looked intently at her, totally mesmerized.

What a stunning beauty!

Never before had the mere sight of a woman aroused such strong passions, and a yearning desire in me to this extent.

Sanjay was talking something, but it didn’t register.

I hastily said, “Cute!” for I believe that thoughts can transmit themselves if they are strong enough!

I thought Sanjay seemed just a trifle taken aback, but he smiled, and pulled out a photo-album from the drawer.

He began showing me the photographs and started describing his home, his family, his wedding, his honeymoon – the wonderful days they had spent together in Goa.

I took the album from him and looked at a photograph of Jayashree in a bathing suit which was so revealing that she might as well have worn nothing, but she conveyed such innocence that it was obvious that she had no inkling of this.

She looked ravishing. Absolutely Breathtaking! Her exquisite body was boldly outlined under the flimsy fabric and she radiated a tantalizing sensuousness with such fervour that I could not take my eyes off her.

“Cute,” I instinctively and unthinkingly said again, and bit my lip; it was the wrong word, but Sanjay didn’t seem to mind; he didn’t even seem to be listening.

Dear Reader, before I proceed further with my story, let me tell you something about myself.

My name is Vijay. At the time of this story I was the Master of a merchant ship – an oil tanker. Sanjay was my Chief Officer – my number two!

He had joined recently and it was our first sailing together.

I had not met him earlier, but in due course he proved to be an excellent deputy. He was young, just thirty, he ran the ship efficiently and I liked him for his good qualities.

But there was something in his eyes that I could not fathom. I shut my mind to it.

It’s extraordinary how close you can be to a man and still know nothing about him.

Sometimes I wondered whether he was much more naïve or a lot more shrewd than I thought.

“Captain, may I ask you a personal question?’ Sanjay asked me one evening, the first time we went ashore.

“Sure,” I said.

“Captain, I was wondering, why didn’t you get married so far?”  Sanjay said with childlike candour.

I sipped my drink and smiled, “I don’t really know. Maybe I am not marriage-material.”

“You tried?”

“Yes.”

“You loved someone?”

I didn’t answer.

And as I thought about it, I felt depressed.

Life was passing me by.

I looked around the restaurant.

The atmosphere was gloomy-dark and quiet. It was late; almost midnight.

Sanjay offered me a cigarette.

His hands were unsteady.

He seemed to be quite drunk.

As we smoked, he lapsed into silence – his eyes closed.

When he opened his eyes, I observed a strange metamorphosis in his expression.

He looked crestfallen; close to tears.

Suddenly, he blurted out, “I wish I had never got married.”

With those few words, Sanjay had bared the secret of his marriage.

As I attempted to smoothen my startled look into a grin, I was ashamed to find that, inwardly, I was glad to hear of his misfortune.

I wondered how I could desire and yearn for Jayashree to this extent without ever having met her in flesh and blood, merely by seeing her photograph?

But it is true; my heart ached whenever I thought of her.

We sailed from Chennai port next morning, and headed for Singapore.

It was the monsoon season and the sea was rough.

As the voyage progressed, the weather swiftly deteriorated.

The ship rolled and pitched feverishly, tossed about by the angry waves.

As we neared the Strait of Malacca, I began to experience a queer sensation – a strange foreboding.

Though I was moulded in a profession where intellect habitually meets danger, I felt restless and apprehensive. I had felt and fought occasional fear before, but this was different – a premonition – a nameless type of fright; a strange feeling of dread and uneasiness.

I tried my best to dispel my fear, thrust away the strange feelings. But all my efforts failed. The nagging uneasiness persisted and soon took charge of me.

It was so dark that I couldn’t even see our ship’s forecastle. The incessant rain and treacherous sea created an eerie atmosphere. I was close to panic as we negotiated the treacherous and hazardous waters of the Strait.

As I stared into the pitch blackness which shrouded the hour moments before the breaking of dawn, a strange tocsin began sounding in my brain – a warning I could not fathom.

The ship was pitching violently. I felt sick with fear and stood gasping for air, clutching the telegraph. I had to get outside, into the fresh air, or I’d suffocate.

As I groped my way along the rail in the bridge-wing, I heard a shrill voice behind me, “Don’t go away, Captain! Please stay. I can’t handle it alone. I can’t. Please, Sir. Don’t go!”

I turned around. It was Sanjay. He looked at me beseechingly with terror and fright in his eyes.

It penetrated to me in flash of revelation what I’d done.

I had transmitted my own fear into my crew. Sanjay was the Chief Officer. For him, to confess in front of the crew, that he could not handle it, brought home to me the fact of how desperate he was.

I had to take control at once.” You are not supposed to handle it as long as I’m around,” I shouted. “Go down to your cabin and catch up on your sleep. I don’t want passengers on the bridge. Get out from here.”

The moment those words left my mouth, I instantly regretted what I had said; but it was too late now. Sanjay was close to tears, humiliated in front of the crew. He shamefacedly left the bridge and went down to his cabin.

Suddenly, a searchlight was switched on, dead ahead. Instinctively I shouted an order to the quartermaster to swing the ship across the ship across to starboard. I crossed my fingers, desperately praying to avoid a collision. It was a near-miss, but the searchlight kept following our sheer to starboard.

I was angry now. I stopped the engines, picked up the loudhailer, rushed out the bridge-wing, leaned over, and shouted, “You stupid fools. Are you crazy? What the hell do you think you are doing?”

“We are in distress,” a voice answered. “Throw us a rope.”

I called the boatswain and told him to throw over the monkey-ladder. “Be careful, and report quickly,” I told him.

Ten minutes must have passed but there was no report. The silence was disquieting, ominous. I decided to go to the deck.

Before I could move, four men entered the bridge. They were wearing hoods. As I started at the nozzle of a carbine pointed at me, comprehensive dawned on me pretty fast. This was piracy on the high seas.

Incredible, but true, I had never imagined it would happen to me.

Undecided as to my next move, I stood there feeling far from heroic. There was no question of resistance. After all, this was a merchant ship, not a man-o’-war. Saving the lives of the crew was of paramount importance. The man pointing the carbine at me said softly, “Captain, we are taking over. Don’t try anything foolish. Tell the crew.”

Suddenly, there was deep shuddering sound followed by a deafening roar. The ship rose on top of a steep quivering hill and slithered down its slope. There was a resounding thud followed by reverberating screeching vibrations. We had run aground.

Suddenly the ship lurched wildly, throwing everyone off-balance. Sanjay suddenly appeared out of nowhere, made a running dive and grabbed the carbine from the pirate.

It happened too quickly, and so unexpectedly that I was totally dumbstruck. Everyone seemed to have opened fire. Bullets wildly straddled the bridge.

There was pandemonium, as crew members joined the melee, grappling with the pirates. I hit the deck and froze.

I don’t know who pulled me up, but by then everything was calm and quit. “The pirates have been overpowered,” said the boatswain, “but the Chief Officer ……….”

I followed his gaze.

Sanjay lay on the deck, in a pool of blood.

I knelt down beside him.

His face was vacant, but he tried to focus his eyes on me, whimpering, “Jayashree, Jayashree…” I shook him, he tried to get up, but slumped back – Sanjay was dead!

Six months later I knocked on a door.

There was long wait.

Then Jayashree opened the door.

Her gorgeously stunning dazzling face took my breath away.

She was even more beautiful than her photographs.

Dressed in white sari, she looked so proud in her grief that I felt embarrassed.

I had myself not yet recovered from the shock of Sanjay’s sudden death.

I said, awkwardly, “I am Captain Vijay.”

She looked directly into my eyes and said, “So I see.” Her dark eyes were hostile.

“I am sorry about what happened. Sanjay was a brave man, and we are all proud to have known him.” My words sounded insincere and I felt acutely uncomfortable.

“Proud!” she exclaimed, her magnificent eyes flashing. “Some people might feel grateful, especially those whose life he saved.”

I was stunned by the sting of her bitterness.

Never had I felt such a burning shame; the shame of being held responsible for someone’s death.

I looked at Jayashree helplessly, pleading innocence, but it was of no use.

It was hopeless now to try and explain.

The hurt was deep, and I had to let it go in silence.

Jayashree excused herself, turned and went inside.

It was then that I remembered the real reason for my visit.

I wanted to hand over what remained of Sanjay’s personal effects; an unfinished letter, a dairy, a framed photograph.

I would first give Jayashree the unfinished letter.

Once she read the letter – probably then she would understand the real reason for Sanjay’s reckless bravery, his suicidal heroics; his desperate concern about proving his masculinity.

When Jayashree returned, she was composed.

I gave her Sanjay’s unfinished letter.

She took the letter in her dainty hands and started reading it.

As she silently read on, I saw tears well up in her eyes.

I do not know whether I did the right thing by giving her Sanjay’s unfinished letter.

Probably it would have been wiser to destroy the letter and the diary – better to leave things unspoken and unhealed.

But I had thought it would be better to exorcise the sense of guilt and shame.

Better for me.

Better for Jayashree.

Best for both of us.

It was not easy, but we both had to come to terms with ourselves.

Jayashree finished reading the letter and looked at me, her eyes cold.

I looked at Jayashree, deep into her intoxicating eyes, and she looked into my eyes too.

We looked into each other, transfixed, in silence, a deafening silence.

And suddenly Jayashree’s frozen eyes melted and she smiled.

MELTING MOMENTS

Fiction Short Story – A Passionate Romance
By

VIKRAM KARVE

Copyright © Vikram Karve 2009

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

A DIVORCE STORY – MAN WOMAN and CHILD

September 14, 2009

MAN WOMAN and CHILD
[Fiction Short Story]

by

VIKRAM KARVE

“She can take the flat, but I want custody of my son,” the man says emphatically to the marriage counselor in the family court.

“No way,” shouts the woman, “he can keep his flat, his money, everything. I don’t want anything from him. I just want my son.”

The marriage counselor looks at the eight-year-old boy and asks him lovingly, “Dear boy, tell me, what do you want?”

“I want both of them,” the boy says.

“Both of them?” the counselor asks looking a bit puzzled.

“Yes,” the boy says emphatically, “I want both my mummy and my daddy.”

“I think you both should give it a last try, at least for your child’s sake,” the counselor says to the man and the woman.

“No. I’ve had enough. It’s over. We can’t stay with this man!” the woman says.

“We?” the man asks incredulously, “What do you mean ‘we’…Well you are most welcome to go wherever you want, but my son is staying with me. I am his father!”

“And I am his mother!” the woman pleads anxiously to the man, “Listen, I don’t want anything from you – maintenance, alimony, nothing! Just give me my son. I can’t live without him!”

“He’s my son too. I love him and I can’t live without him too!” the man says.

“See,” the counselor appeals to the man and the woman, “You both love your son so much. I still think you should try to reconcile.”

“No. I want out,” the woman says.

“Me too!” the man says.

“Okay, let’s go in,” the counselor says, shrugging her shoulders, “Since you two have agreed on everything else, the judge will probably ask you the same things I asked you, he will talk to the child, and then, considering the child’s age, let him stay with his mother and grant the father visiting rights.”

“This whole system is biased in favor of women! I can look after my son much better than her,” the man says angrily.

“My foot!” the woman says, “You’ll ruin his life. It is better he remains away from your influence!”

“Please don’t fight inside,” the counselor advises, “You want an amicable mutual consent separation, isn’t it?”

And so, the man and the woman separate, a step towards the death of their relationship.

Since their son is a small boy he goes with his mother.

After the six month long separation period is over, the man and woman assemble in the family court for their divorce.

“I want to tell you something,” the woman says to the man.

“What?” the man asks.

“Well I don’t know how to tell you this, but I’ve been seeing someone.”

“And you want to get married to him?”

“Yes.”

“That’s great. Go ahead. Good Luck to you!” the man says, “and who is the lucky guy?”

“Oh yes, he is indeed a lucky guy – He’s a childhood friend. Now he lives in the States and is here on a vacation.”

“So you’re off to the States?”

“Yes. Once all this divorce business is through.”

“Good for you.”

“It’s about our son…” the woman says awkwardly.

“What?” the man asks suspiciously.

“I want to leave him with you. As a gesture of goodwill, let’s say as a parting gift.”

“Goodwill? Parting Gift?” the man asks dumbfounded.

“We thought we should begin life afresh, without the baggage of the past.”

“You call our son the baggage of the past? How dare you? He is your son!” the man says angrily.

“And he is your son too!” the woman says, “He needs a father, especially now.”

“You’ve told the boy?”

“No,” the woman answers.

The man says nothing.

There is silence.

And then the man hesitantly says to the woman, “A friend of mine has just moved in with me. Actually she’s more than a friend. She’s going to live in with me for some time, to get to know each other better, and then we’ll decide. I don’t think it’s the right time for the boy to stay with me. I think you better keep our son with you – as goodwill, a parting gift, from me!”

Strange are the ways of life.

First the parents fought bitterly for his custody and now no one, not his mother nor his father, wants to keep him any longer.

And so the man and the woman each find their new life-partners and live “happily ever after” and their darling son is packed off to boarding school.

Sad, isn’t it, when children become hapless innocent victims of broken marriages.

MAN WOMAN and CHILD

[Fiction Short Story]

By

VIKRAM KARVE

Copyright © Vikram Karve 2009

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

vikramkarve@sify.com

The Derby

September 3, 2009

Prologue

I am not a die-hard punter, but I love to go to the races once in a while.

Whenever I was in Mumbai there was one race I never missed. I always went to the Race Course on Derby Day, not to gamble, but to enjoy myself, the atmosphere, the excitement, the horses [the four legged variety] and, of course, the lovely decked-up dressed-to-kill chicks [you know which variety].

The Indian Derby is normally held on the first Sunday of February at the Mahalaxmi Racecourse in Mumbai, and, like I said, when in Mumbai, I made it a point to enjoy the most exciting race of the year.

I was fortunate to witness races at Kolkata, Bangalore, Hyderabad, and Ooty too, and one of my most cherished memories is enjoying the Mysore Derby at probably the most picturesque race course I have ever seen, many years ago.  In fact, it was such a splendid unforgettable experience etched in my memory that, a few days later, I wrote a fiction short story set in Mysore.

Here is the fiction short story – The Flirting Game.

As I said I wrote this story long back, and maybe the writing is a bit old-fashioned, but I am sure you will like it.

THE DERBY

[Fiction Short Story]

By

VIKRAM KARVE

The Mysore racecourse is undoubtedly the most picturesque racecourse in India.

The lush green grass track, the verdant expanse right up to the foot of the rugged Chamundi hills which serve as a magnificent backdrop with the mighty temple atop, standing like a sentinel – the luxuriant ambience is so delightful and soothing to the eye that it instantly lifts one’s spirit. And on this bright morning on that delightful Saturday in October, the atmosphere was so refreshing that I felt as if I were on top of the world.

“I love this place, it’s so beautiful,” I said.

“And lucky too,” Girish, my husband, added. “I have already made fifty grand. And I’m sure Bingo will win the Derby tomorrow.”

Girish appraisingly looked at the horses being paraded in the paddock, suddenly excused himself, and briskly walked towards the Bookies’ betting ring.

I still can’t describe the startling shock I experienced when I suddenly saw Dilip, bold as brass, standing bang in front of me, as if appearing from nowhere, looking straight into my eyes.

“Excuse me, ma’am,” he said. “I think you have dropped this.”

In his hand was tote jackpot ticket.

Now he was looking at me in a funny sort of way, neither avoiding my eyes nor seeking them.

I understood at once.

I took the tote ticket he proffered, put it in my purse and thanked him.

He smiled, turned and briskly walked away towards the first enclosure.

I felt a tremor of trepidation, but as I looked around I realized that no one had noticed our quick encounter in the hustle-bustle of the racecourse.

As I waited for my husband to emerge from the bookies’ betting ring, in my mind’s eye, I marvelled at the finesse with which Dilip had cleverly stage-managed the contrived encounter to make it look completely accidental.

It was only after lunch, in the solitude of my hotel room that I took out the tote jackpot ticket and examined it. I smiled to myself.

It was the simplest substitution cipher – maybe Dilip thought I’d gone rusty – a last minute improvisation for immediate emergency communication.

That meant Dilip wasn’t shadowing me; he hadn’t even expected me at the Mysore racecourse. But having suddenly seen me, he desperately wanted to make contact. So he quickly improvised, contrived the encounter, and left further initiative to me. The ball was now squarely in my court.

I scribbled the five numbers of the jackpot combination on a piece of paper. For seasoned punters, racing buffs, it was an unlikely jackpot combination that hardly had a chance of winning, and now that the races were over the ticket was worthless. But for me hidden inside it was information, a secret message from Dilip to me, since I knew how to decipher the secret code. To the five numbers I added the two numbers of my birth-date. I now had seven numbers and from each I subtracted Dilip’s single digit birth-date and in front of me I had a seven-digit combination. I picked up the telephone and dialled [At the time of this story Mysore still had seven digit telephone numbers – I wonder what it is now]. It was a travel agency – a nice cover. I didn’t identify myself but only said, “Railway Enquiry?”

“Oh, Yes, madam,” a male voice answered.

I recognized it at once. It was Dilip, probably anxiously waiting for my call, and he said, “You are booked on our evening sightseeing tour. Seat No. 13. The luxury coach will be at your hotel at 3 in the afternoon. And don’t carry your mobile with you. We don’t want to be tracked.”

I looked at my watch. It was almost 2:30. Time for a quick wash. I tore up the jackpot tote ticket and scribble paper and flushed it down the toilet. It was too dangerous to keep them around once their utility was over. And should the ticket fall into the wrong hands, anything was possible – one must not underestimate anybody – for it is well known that human ingenuity can never concoct a cipher which human ingenuity cannot resolve.

The tourist bus arrived precisely at 3 o’clock and soon I was in seat No. 13, a window seat. I had hardly sat down when Dilip occupied the adjacent seat No. 14. He was carrying the ubiquitous tourist bag, but I knew what was inside – the tools of his tradecraft.

“Thanks for coming, Vibha,” he said.

“I was scared you’d do something stupid, indiscreet.” I scolded him, “And Girish…”

“Don’t tell me you haven’t told your husband about us?” Dilip interrupted.

“No.”

“Why?”

“I don’t know.”

“Tell him now. There’s no place for secrets between husband and wife”

“I can’t. I don’t want to. It’s too late now.” I was getting a bit impatient now. “Listen, Dilip. This is dangerous. What do you want? Girish, my husband…”

“He’s gone to Ooty. It’s a four hours’ drive. Should be half-way up the hills by now,” Dilip interjected looking at his watch.

“He is coming back tomorrow.”

“I know. He’ll be there in time for the Mysore Derby. Your horse Bingo is running, isn’t it? It’s a hot favourite too!”

“How do you know all this?”

“It’s common knowledge. Besides I make a living prying into other people’s lives.” Dilip paused for a moment, “Don’t worry, Vibha. The races start only at two in the afternoon. And the Derby is at four. We’ve got plenty of time together, the whole of today and tomorrow morning. He won’t know. I promise you.”

The bus stopped. We had arrived at the majestic Mysore Palace.

“Come, Vibha. Let me take your photo,” Dilip said, talking out his camera.

“No,” I snapped.

“Okay. You take mine. I’ll stand there. Make sure you get the Palace entrance in the frame.” He gave me the camera and said, “Have a look. It’s a special camera. I’ll focus the zoom lens if you want.”

I pointed the camera in the direction of the palace and looked through the viewfinder. But the palace wasn’t in the frame. The camera had a ninety-degree perpendicular prismatic zoom lens. I could see the tourists from our bus crowding around the shoe-stand about fifty meters to my left, depositing their shoes.

“Dilip, tell me, who is the Target?” I asked.

“Lady in the sky-blue sari, long hair. And the man in the yellow T-shirt and jeans, still wearing his Ray Ban aviator.”

I happily clicked away, a number of photos, the unsuspecting victims, the young target couple, not once realizing that it was they who were in my frame.

“I don’t think they are having an affair,” I said, once we were inside the cool confines of the Mysore Palace, admiring the wall paintings of the Dasera procession, “Come on, Dilip, the boy looks so young, mod and handsome. And the woman – she’s middle-aged, a shy, timid, unadventurous, stay-at-home type. And just look at her face, her looks – so pedestrian. It is a most improbable combination.”

“Yes, a most improbable combination – that’s why their affair is flourishing for so long.”

I gave Dilip a quizzical look.

“Three years,” Dilip said. “It’s going on for over three years. The woman is a widow. She gets a huge monthly maintenance from her in-laws’ property – in lakhs. It’s a wealthy business family. They want to stop giving her the monthly maintenance.”

“I don’t understand,” I said, confused.

“The right of a widow to maintenance is conditional upon her leading a life of chastity,” Dilip quoted matter-of-factly.

“What nonsense!”

“That’s what their hot-shot lawyer told me. The one who commissioned this investigation,” Dilip said. “They’ll probably confront her with this evidence and coerce her into signing-off everything. Maybe even her children.”

“What if she doesn’t agree?”

“Then we’ll intensify the surveillance. A ‘no holds barred’ investigation. Two-way mirrors with installed video cameras, bugs with recording equipment,” Dilip paused, and said, “In fact, in this case I’m so desperate for success that I’m even considering image morphing if nothing else works.”

I was shocked. “Isn’t it morally disgusting? To do all these unethical dirty things. Extortion? Blackmail? To what length does one go?” I asked Dilip annoyed.

“Once you have the information, the possibilities are endless,” Dilip said softly, “It’s not my concern to worry about moral and ethical issues. I never ask the question ‘why’. I just state my fee. And even if I do know why, I’ve made it a policy never to show that I understand what other people are up to.”

“What are you up to Dilip? And why me?” I asked.

Dilip did not answer. He just smiled and led me towards our bus.

I was glad I had not married Dilip. I had never known he could sink to such depths. I hated him for the way he was using me. Taking advantage of my fear, my past, and my helplessness. Filthy emotional blackmailer. Shameless bully. I looked at Dilip with loathing and disgust, but he just grinned at me bald-facedly like a Cheshire Cat.

Nalini, my elder sister, had been right about Dilip. In my mind I thanked her for saving my life. But for her timely intervention, I would have married Dilip, maybe even eloped with him. I shudder to think what my life would have been like had I married Dilip.

“It’s beautiful,” Dilip said, looking at the famous painting – ‘Lady with the Lamp’ – at the Mysore Museum.

“Yes,” I answered, jolted out of my thoughts.

“Remember, Vibha. The last time we were here. It’s been almost ten years.”

I did not answer, but I clearly remembered. It was our college tour. And Dilip had quickly pulled me into a dark corner and kissed me on the lips. A hasty inchoate stolen kiss. My first kiss. The electric shivers, the tremors of trepidation. How could I ever forget?

“Vibha. Tell me honestly. Why did you ditch me so suddenly, so mercilessly?”

“Nalini told me not to marry you,” I said involuntarily, instantly regretting my words.

“And then she forced you to marry Girish, your brother-in-law.”

“Girish is not my brother-in-law. He is my co-brother.”

“Co-brother indeed! He is the younger brother of your elder sister Nalini’s husband. So he is your brother-in-law also, isn’t it?” Dilip said sarcastically.

“So what?” I snapped angrily. “It’s not illegal. Two brothers marrying two sisters – it’s quite common. And it’s none of your business.”

“Business!” Dilip said. “That’s it. Business! Two sisters marry two brothers. So it’s all in the family. The business. The money. The tea estates and coffee plantations. The industries. The property. Everything.”

“So that’s what you had your eyes on, didn’t you? My father’s property.” I knew it was a cruel thing to say and I could see that Dilip was genuinely hurt.

Instinctively I realized that Dilip was still in love with me.

Maybe he was jealous of my successful marriage, my happiness and probably my wealth, my status in society and that’s what had made him bitter.

But seeing the expression on his face I knew that Dilip would not harm me, for he was indeed truly in love with me. “I’m sorry, Dilip. Forget the past and let’s get on with our surveillance,” I said looking at the ‘target’ couple.

And so we reached the magnificent Brindavan gardens, posing as tourists in the growing crowd of humanity, stalking the couple, surreptitiously taking their photographs as they romantically watched the water, gushing through the sluice gates of Krishnarajasagar dam, forming a rainbow admits the spraying surf.

After sunset we enjoyed the performance at the musical fountain sitting right behind the ‘couple’. Suddenly, the lights went out, everyone stood up and started moving. Trying to adjust our eyes to the enveloping darkness, we desperately tried not to lose track of target couple as they made their way, in the confusion, towards “Lovers’ Park.”

It was pitch dark. But through the lens of the night vision device I could clearly discern two silhouettes, an eerie blue-green against the infrared background. The images were blurred and tended to merge as the two figures embraced each other, but that did not matter since I knew that the infrared camera would process the signal through an image intensifier before recording, rendering crystal-clear photo quality pictures.

“Let’s go,” Dilip whispered, and we stealthily negotiated our way out, but in hindsight, there was really no need to be clandestine about it, since we were just another couple ostensibly having a “good time” in the darkness and dense foliage of “Lovers’ Park” as it was known.

Pondering over the day’s events I realized how right Dilip had been taking me along. Surveillance involves hours of shadowing and stalking training and tracking your target, sitting for hours in all sports of places like hotels, restaurants, parks, cars, hanging around airports, railway stations, bus stands or even on the streets, waiting and watching. A man and a woman would appear for less conspicuous than a single man or a pair of men. And if they look like a married couple it’s even better for the cover. And we did look like a much-married tourist couple.

I wondered why I’d agreed to do all this. Maybe because I felt a sense of guilt, remorse, a sort of an obligation I owed Dilip. Any girl always has a feeling of debt, a guilt-complex, towards a decent man who she has ditched, brutally dumped.

Or maybe because I wanted to find out what life would have been like had I married Dilip.

Or maybe because I was scared and fearful that Dilip would blackmail me. Dilip was the only secret I had kept from my husband – a skeleton I wanted to keep firmly locked away in the cupboard.

Or maybe it was because a woman’s first love always has an enduring place in her heart.

I guess it was a combination of all the above reasons.

The tourist bus reached my hotel at precisely 9.30 p.m. Before getting down from the bus, Dilip handed over the bag containing the infrared device, special cameras and all paraphernalia to a non-descript middle-aged man sitting right behind us.

“Who was that man?” I asked after the bus drove away with the man in it.

“Never mind,” Dilip said leading me into the foyer of the hotel.

“No,” I insisted. “I want to know.”

“It is sometimes important for an operative conducting surveillance to put himself, his own self, under observation,” Dilip said nonchalantly.

At first the sentence sounded innocuous, but gradually comprehension began to dawn on me, and as I realized the import of those words I experienced a chill of panic. All sorts of scary thoughts entered my brain. Photographs of Dilip and me.

Oh my God!

The man may even have bugged our conversation.

The possibilities were endless.

I looked at Dilip. Didn’t he have any scruples?

My impulse was to run to my room and lock myself up.

But when Dilip invited me to have dinner with him in the restaurant I knew I dared not refuse. I had no choice. Dilip now had me at his mercy. He had his manacles on me. The only way to escape Dilip’s clutches was to tell Girish everything.

But could I tell him everything?

Especially after today! I couldn’t even bring myself to imagine the consequences.

After dinner I invited Dilip to my room for a cup of coffee. I knew it was suicidal but I had decided to give Dilip whatever he wanted and get rid of him, out of my life – forever.

The moment we entered the room, the phone rang. It was for Dilip- a man’s voice – probably the same man sitting behind us in the bus.

Dilip took the receiver from my hands and spoke, “I told you not to ring up here……… What…? But how is that possible?……… Oh, my God! I am coming at once.”

“What happened?” I asked him.

“We got the wrong couple on the infrared camera in Lovers’ Park. Couldn’t you see properly?”

“No, it was dark and hazy,” I said. “I could see just blurred images.”

Instinctively I rushed along with Dilip to his office-cum-laboratory.

He emphatically told me not to come, but I did not listen. A strange irresistible inner force was propelling me.

I looked at the blurred images on the large workstation monitor. Then as Dilip kept zooming, again and again, enhancing the magnification and focus, the images started becoming clear, and as I watched something started happening inside me and I could sense my heartbeats rise.

Oh, My God! I couldn’t believe it! It was Nalini and Girish. Or Girish and Nalini. Whichever way you like it. It doesn’t matter. Or does it? Nalini, my darling elder sister – the very person instrumental in arranging my  marriage to Girish. And Girish – my beloved ‘faithful’ husband. Their expressions so confident, so happy, so carefree. So lovey-dovey. So sure they would never be found out. So convenient.
I wondered how long was this going on? Both of them living a lie and fooling a trusting and naive person like me.
Deep down I felt terribly betrayed.
As I thought about them, suddenly I felt as if I had been pole-axed, a sharp sensation drilling into my vitals, my stomach curdling as I threw up my dinner.
I washed up, sat down, and closed my eyes in silence.
When I opened my eyes I saw Dilip staring intently at me.

It was extraordinary how clear my mind became all of a sudden.
“Listen, Dilip,” I said emphatically, “I want a full-scale comprehensive surveillance. Two-way mirrors, bugs, photos, video, audio – the entire works. A no-holds barred investigation. And dig deep into the past. I want to know everything.”

“No, Vibha !” Dilip said. “I can’t do it.”

“You can’t do it or you won’t do it?” I asserted. “Listen, Dilip. You have to do it. I want you to do it.”

“Why, Vibha. Why?”

I smiled and said, “Dilip, remember what you said in the afternoon about your professional credo and motto: You never ask the question ‘why’. You just state your fee.”

He looked at me nonplussed, in silence.

I paused, and said, “So my dear Dilip. Don’t ask any questions. Just state your fee. And do a good job.”

“But, Vibha. What will you do with all this information?” Dilip protested.

“The possibilities are endless,” I said, almost licking my lips in anticipation, as I could feel the venom rising within me. “Yes indeed! Information is power, isn’t it? Once I have all the information, just imagine what all I can do. The possibilities are endless – aren’t they?”

“Yes,” he echoed, “The possibilities are endless.”

“We’ll meet tomorrow at the race course,” I said, intertwining my arm in his.

I am looking forward to an exciting day at the Race Course tomorrow – it is going to be a thrilling Derby.

THE DERBY

[Fiction Short Story]

By

VIKRAM KARVE

Copyright © Vikram Karve 2009

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

MONKEY TRAP

August 22, 2009

ARE YOU A MONKEY IN A TRAP

[Short Fiction]

By

VIKRAM KARVE

“And what are we doing tomorrow?” I asked my uncle.

“Let’s catch some monkeys,” he said.

“Monkeys?” I asked excitedly.

“Yes,” my uncle said and smiled,” And if you catch one you can take him home as a pet.”

“A monkey! As a pet?” I asked in astonishment.

“Why not?” my uncle said.

“But monkeys? Aren’t they dangerous?” I asked.

“The monkeys here are quite small and very cute. And once you train them, they become very friendly and obedient – ideal pets.”

And so, next morning, at the crack of dawn we sailed off from Haddo Wharf in Port Blair in a large motorboat. Soon we were crossing the Duncan Passage, moving due south; the densely forested Little Andaman Island to our right, the sea calm like a mirror.

I began to feel seasick, so I stood on the foc’sle deck, right at the front end sea-sick, enjoying the refreshing sea-spray, occasionally tasting my salty lips.

I looked in admiration, almost in awe, at uncle who stood rock-steady on the bridge, truly a majestic figure. He signaled to me and I rushed up to the bridge.

“Vijay, it’s time to prepare the Monkey Traps,” he said.

“Monkey-Traps?” I asked confused.

“Tito will show you,” he said. “You must learn to make them yourself.”

Tito, my uncle’s odd-job-man, was sitting on the deck, seaman’s knife in hand, amidst a heap of green coconuts. He punctured a coconut, put it to his lips, drank the coconut water, and then began scooping out a small hollow. I took out my seaman’s knife and joined in enthusiastically with the other coconuts. The coconut water tasted sweet.

“Keep the hole small,” my uncle shouted over my shoulder, “and hollow the coconut well.”

“But how will we catch monkeys with this?” I asked.

“You will see in the evening,” he said. “Now get on with the job.”

We reached a densely forested island at five in the evening.

It was almost dark. The sun sets early in these eastern longitudes.

And soon we set up our monkey-traps.

Each hollowed-out coconut was filled with a mixture of boiled rice and jaggery (gur) through the small hole. Then the coconut was chained to a stake, which was driven firmly into the ground.

And then we hid in the bushes in pin-drop silence.

Suddenly there was rattling sound. My uncle switched on his torch.

A monkey was struggling, one hand trapped inside the coconut. In an instant, Tito threw a gunny-bag over the monkey and within minutes we had the monkey nicely secured inside.

By the time we lit the campfire on the cool soft sands of the beach, we had captured three monkeys.

My uncle put his arm around my shoulder and, “Vijay, you know why the monkey gets trapped? The monkey gets trapped because of its greed.”

He picked up a hollowed-out coconut and said, “Look at this hole. It is just big enough so that the monkey’s hand can go in, but too small for full fist filled with rice to come out. Because his greed won’t allow him to let go of the rice and take out his hand, the monkey remains trapped, a victim of his own greed, until he is captured; forever a captive of his greed.”

“The monkey cannot see that freedom without rice is more valuable that capture with it!” he said.

My uncle looked at Tito and commanded, “Free the monkeys.” And, one by one, the monkeys jumped out of their gunny bags and started running, with one hand still stuck in a coconut. It was a really funny sight.

“There is a lesson for us to learn from this,” my uncle said. “That’s why I brought you here to show you all this.”

I looked at my uncle. His name was Ranjit Singh. And true to his name he was indeed a magnificent man! Over six feet tall, well-built, redoubtable; a truly striking personality! He stood erect in his khaki uniform, stroking his handsome beard with his left hand, his right hand gripping a swagger stick, which he gently tapped on his thigh.

As he surveyed the scenic surroundings – the moonlight sea, the swaying Causarina trees, the silver sands of the beach in between – he looked majestic, like a king cherishing his domain. Indeed he was like a king here – after all he was the Chief Forest Officer, in-charge of the entire islands – and this was his domain.

Uncle Ranjit was an exception in our family—the odd-man out. My father always said that he was the most intelligent of all brothers. But whereas all of them were busy earning money in Mumbai and Delhi, uncle Ranjit had chosen to be different.

To the surprise of everybody else, uncle Ranjit had joined the Forest Service when he could have easily become an engineer, doctor or even a business executive, for he had always topped all examinations – first class first in merit, whether it be the school or the university.

“So, Vijay, you like it here?” he asked.

“It’s lovely, uncle,” I answered. “And thank you so much for the lovely holiday, spending so much time with me. In Mumbai no one has any time for me. I feel so lonely.”

“Why?” he asked, with curiosity.

“Mummy and Daddy both come late from office. Then there are parties, business dinners, and tours. And on Sundays they sleep, exhausted, unless there is a business-meeting in the club or golf with the boss.”

Uncle Ranjit laughed, “Ha. Ha. The Monkey Trap. They are all caught in monkey traps of their own making. Slaves of their greed! Trapped by their desires,caught in the rat race, wallowing in their golden cages, rattling their jewellery, their golden chains – monkey-trapped, all of them, isn’t it?”

As I thought over Ranjit uncle’s words I realized how right he was. Most of the people I knew in Mumbai were just like that – trapped by their greed, chasing rainbows, in search of an ever elusive happiness.

“Happiness is to like what you do as well as to do what you like,” uncle Ranjit said, as if he were reading my thoughts. “Happiness is not a station which never arrives, but the manner you travel in life.” He paused, and asked me, “Tell me Vijay, tell me, what do you want to do in life?”

“I don’t know.”

“Come on, Vijay. You are fifteen now. By next year you have to decide, tell me what your plans are.”

“It depends on my percentage,” I said truthfully.

“I am sure you will get around ninety percent marks in your board exams,” he said. “Assume you top the exams. Secure a place in the merit list. Then what will you do?”

“I’ll go in for Engineering. Computers, Software, IT,” I said.

“Computers? Software? IT? Why? Why not something more interesting – like Arts, Literature, Philosophy, History, Humanities?” he asked.

“Job prospects,” I answered.

“Oh!”  He exclaimed. “And then?”

“Management. Or I may even go abroad for higher studies.”

“Why?”

“Qualifications.”

“And why do you want so many qualifications?”

“To get the best job,” I answered.

“And earn a lot of money?” uncle Ranjit prompted.

“Of course,” I said. “I want to earn plenty of money so that I can enjoy life.”

Uncle Ranjit laughed, “My dear Vijay. Aren’t you enjoying life right now, at this very moment? What about me? Am I am not enjoying life? Remember – if you do not find happiness as you are, where you are, you will never find it.”

He smiled and asked,” Vijay, you know what Maxim Gorky once said?

“What?”

“When work is a pleasure, life is a joy.

When work is a duty, life is slavery.”

“Slavery!” I exclaimed, understanding the message he was trying to give me. “Slavery to one’s elusive desires, one’s greed. Just like the Monkey Trap.”

“The Monkey Trap!” we both said in unison, in chorus.

It was the defining moment in my life – my Minerva Moment!

And so, I decided to do what I wanted to experience an inner freedom.

And guess what I am today?

Well, I am a teacher. I teach philosophy.

And let me tell you I enjoy every moment of it. It’s a life of sheer joy and delight – being with my students, their respect and adulation, my innate quest for knowledge and a sense of achievement that I am contributing my bit to society.

I shall never forget uncle Ranjit and that crucial visit to the forests of the Andamans, the turning point, or indeed the defining moment, of my life.

Dear Readers (especially my young friends on the verge choosing a career) – whenever you reach the crossroads of your life, and have to make the crucial decision of how you would like to live your life [selecting a career, life-partner, a house, a place to stay – any life-decision]; think, be careful, listen to your inner voice, and be careful not to trapped in a ‘Monkey-Trap’!

VIKRAM KARVE

Copyright © Vikram Karve 2009

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

vikramkarve@hotmail.com

http://vikramkarve.sulekha.com

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

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