Posts Tagged ‘break up’

SMART BOY – Are Children Innocent Victims of Divorce

December 16, 2009

Dear Reader, have you read my fiction short story I posted recently on my Sulekha Creative Writing Blog titled A DAY IN THE LIFE OF A DIVORCED MAN

To read it just click on the title above or on the link below and after you have read it remember to come back here:

http://vikramkarve.sulekha.com/blog/post/2009/12/a-day-in-the-life-of-a-divorced-man.htm

Now this story highlighted the negative effects of divorce, especially in the context of children, who are supposed to be innocent victims in divorce situations for no fault of their own. It was quite a depressing open-ended story and some readers wanted a happy conclusion to that story.

Well, I did try, but could not conjure up a proper believable “happy ending” to A DAY IN THE LIFE OF A DIVORCED MAN so in order to counterbalance the situation here is a “happy ending” divorce story where the child is certainly not an “innocent victim” of a divorce situation!

Read on and tell me if you liked this story:

SMART BOY


Short Fiction – An Intriguing Conversation – A Slice of Life Story

By

VIKRAM KARVE

I am going to tell you about a very intriguing conversation I had with a naughty boy while travelling from Mumbai to Pune on the Deccan Queen last evening.

I find a smart boy sitting on my window seat talking to a handsome man sitting on the seat beside him.

“Excuse me,” I say to the man, “this is the ladies’ compartment…”

Before the man can answer, the boy says, “I’m only seven…below 12…I can travel…”

“Don’t be rude, Rohan,” the man admonishes the boy, and then he rises from the seat, moves into the aisle, making way for me, and says, “Sorry, Ma’am, I am getting off, I just came to see off my son…is it okay if he sits in the window seat…”

“It is okay,” I say and sit down next to the boy, on the seat by the aisle.

“Actually I was waiting for you to come,” the man says.

“Me?” I ask, flabbergasted.

“My son…he’s travelling alone…”

“I always travel alone…” the boy interjects.

“Of course, you are a big boy now aren’t you?” the father says lovingly to his son, then turns towards me and says, “His mother will come to receive him in Pune…I’ve SMSed the coach and seat number to her…and Rohan’s got his cell-phone too…”

“Don’t worry, I’ll take care of your son and deliver him safely to his mother,” I assure the man.

“Thanks,” the man says to me, then turns to his son and says affectionately, “Give me a call when you reach…and come next weekend…”

“Of course I’ll be here on Saturday morning…you be here to get me off the Deccan Queen…I’ve got three days holidays…we’ll go off somewhere on an adventure trip…”

“Yes. Yes. I’ll do the bookings…” the man’s words are suddenly interrupted by the guard’s whistle and the train starts moving.

“Bye, Papa,” the boy jumps across me, hugs his father who bends down, kisses his son on the cheek, disengages and quickly moves to the exit, turning once to wave out to his son. The train gradually picks up speed.

Rohan sits down in his seat, takes out his fancy mobile phone, and a pair of earplugs.

My curiosity gets the better of my discretion and I ask the boy, “That’s a real good mobile phone.”

“Yes. It’s cool…the latest…it’s got everything…touch screen…music…internet…”

“Your father gave it to you?”

“Yes. Papa gets me the best…”

“And your mother…”

“Oh, Mama is too good…she loves me so much…takes so much care of me… lets me do whatever I want…oh…before you ask I should tell you…Papa and Mama are divorced…”

“Oh dear, I am so sorry…”

“No. No. It’s okay…I am happy they are divorced…”

“You are happy your parents are divorced?” I ask totally astonished, incredulous.

“Yes…for me it is better this way…you know my Mama and Papa now have to share me…they’ve divided me between them…during the week I stay with Mama in Pune…and I spend the weekends with Papa in Mumbai…”

“But wasn’t it better when you all lived together as one family?”

“It was terrible…when we lived together they were just not bothered about me….Mama and Papa were so busy with their office and work and parties and travelling and everything…they just had no time for me…and whatever little time we were together they kept fighting…”

“And now?”

“After they split my life is just too good…!” the boy says.

“Too good…?” I interrupt, taken aback.

“Yes…after their divorce my life has become real good…I like it this way…now they care for me so much…they never scold me now like they used to before…now both my Mama and Papa pamper me so much…just imagine…I had two birthday parties this year…one by Mama at Pune and one by Papa in Mumbai…”

“Really? You had two birthday parties?”

Yes…an now they let me do whatever I want…give me so much time…and presents…they give me whatever I want…they even give me whatever I don’t want…”

“Whatever you don’t want…?”

“Now see, Papa has given me this fantastic mobile phone…now Mama will give me even a better one…or maybe some other groovy stuff…it’s like my Mama and Papa are in competition to make me happy…”

“That’s good…you are really lucky…”

“Oh, yes. I am very lucky…but it is funny isn’t it…?

“Funny? What?”

“About my Papa and Mama…when they were together they neglected me…and now they when live separated, they pamper me so much…so it is better isn’t it…that they are divorced… at least for me…”

I am still trying to analyze the uncanny truth in the young boy’s topsy-turvy logic.

You neglect your kids when you are married together and you spoil them to glory when you are separated divorced…and I thought children were “innocent victims” in divorce situations!

Smart Boy!

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


Appetite for a Stroll


A DAY IN THE LIFE OF A DIVORCED MAN


http://vikramkarve.sulekha.com/blog/post/2009/12/a-day-in-the-life-of-a-divorced-man.htm

vikramkarve@sify.com

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A Divorce Story – A DAY IN THE LIFE OF A DIVORCED MAN

December 9, 2009

A DAY IN THE LIFE OF A DIVORCED MAN


Short Fiction

A Long Short Story in Seven Parts

By

VIKRAM KARVE


I am sure you have heard the term “win-win” situation.

But have you heard of “lose-lose” situation.

Here is one of my fiction short stories which depicts lose-lose situations – or does it?

It is a story with a message.

Dear Reader, do tell me your views, can such lose-lose situations be avoided?

Read on. It is a longish story, so if you want, you can read it in parts too.

PART 1 – DAYBREAK

“I’m going,” the man says.

“Don’t go. Please don’t go,” the woman says.

“Don’t go? What do you mean don’t go? You know I have to go.”

“You don’t have to go. You know you don’t have to go. Please. Please. Please don’t go. I beg you. Please don’t go!”

“Come on, Hema, be reasonable, and try to understand. You know I have to go. I promised him I would be there for his school’s Annual Day…”

“No, Ashok, No. You don’t go. His mother can go. He is staying with her, isn’t it? Let her look after him…”

“And I am his father!” the man says firmly, “I promised Varun I’ll be there and I have to be there!”

“You don’t love me! You still love them!”

“You know how much I love you, Hema,” the man says taking the woman in his arms, “But I love my son too. I have to go. Please don’t make it difficult for me…”

Tears begin to well up in the man’s eyes. The woman snuggles her face against his neck and grips him tightly.

“I’m scared,” she sobs.

“Scared? Why?”

“I don’t know. It’s the first time you are going to her after you two split…”

“Please, Hema. I am not going to her. I’m going to meet my son, for his school’s annual day, because Varun rang me up and made me promise that I would be there to see his performance on stage. I’ll meet Varun, attend the PTA meeting, I’ll talk to his teacher, see the concert and come straight back to you. I won’t even talk to Pooja, I promise,” the man called Ashok says to the woman nestling in his arms, “Don’t worry, Hema. You know it’s all over between Pooja and me, isn’t it? Maybe she won’t even come to the PTA meeting if she knows I’m coming, and even if she’s there I’m sure she too will avoid me as far as possible.”

The woman takes his hand, gently places it on her stomach, and whispers in the man’s ears, “Soon we will have our own son.”

“Yes,” the man says lovingly, caressing her stomach tenderly with his soft hand, “a son, and a daughter, whatever you want.”

They disentangle, then he holds her once more, pushes his face into her warm mouth, kisses her lovingly, and says, “Don’t worry, I’m all yours, and I promise I’ll be right back as fast as possible.”

A few moments later, the man sits in his car, wipes his face fresh with a cologne-scented tissue, starts the car, and drives off.

PART 2 – MORNING

“My Daddy has come, my Daddy has come,” a boy shouts gleefully to his friends and rushes towards his father as he enters the school gate.

“Daddy, Daddy, Daddy,” the boy says delightedly and jumps into his father’s arms.

“Hey, Varun, you look so good in your school uniform,” the man says picking up and lovingly kissing his son on the cheek. Seeing his son’s genuine happiness and rapturous delight, the man feels glad that he has come. He warmly hugs his son and then gently sets him down.

“Come fast, Daddy,” the boy tugs at his father’s sleeve, “everyone is sitting in the class.”

“Mummy’s come?” the man asks cautiously.

“Yes, Yes, Daddy,” the boy says gleefully, “She’s sitting in the class, waiting for you.”

They, father and son, walk to the classroom, and at the door the man pauses, looks around, sees the mother of his son sitting alone on a bench on the other side of the classroom, so he begins to sit at the bench nearest to the door.

“No, No, Daddy, not here. Mummies and Daddies have to sit together,” the boy says doggedly, and pulls the man towards the woman, who is the boy’s mother.

As he walks towards her, the man looks at the woman, on paper still his wife. As he approaches, she looks up at him and gives him a smile of forced geniality.

The boy rushes to his mother and exclaims exultantly, “See Mummy, Daddy has come; I told you he will come!”

The man and the woman contrive courteous smiles and exchange a few amiable words for the sake of their son, and for public show. It’s the first time the man, the woman, and their son are together as a family since they split a few months ago.

“Come on Mummy, make place for Daddy,” the boy says prodding his mother, and nudging his father onto the bench, and squeezing himself in between. The school double-bench is small, meant for two children, and for the three of them it’s a tight fit. His wife stares ahead, as he looks askance at her, over the head of their son, their common blood, who has connected them forever, whether they like it or not.

The man looks around the classroom. Happiest are the children whose both parents have come. Then there are those kids whose only one parent, mostly the mother, has come. And sitting lonely and forlorn, in the last row, are those unfortunate children for whom no one has come, no mother, no father, no one. It’s a pity, really sad. Parents matter a lot especially in boarding school, and the man feels sorry for the lonesome unlucky children.

The Class-Teacher, an elegant woman, probably in her thirties, briskly walks in, and instinctively everyone rises.

“Please be seated,” she says, and seats herself on the chair behind a table on the podium facing the class. The Class-Teacher explains the procedure for the PTA meeting – she’ll call out, one by one, in order of merit, the students’ names, who’ll collect their first term report card, show it to their parents, and then run off to the concert hall, while the parents discuss their child’s progress with the teacher, one by one.

“Varun Vaidya!” the teacher calls out the first name, and Varun squeezes out between his father’s legs and runs towards the teacher, the man is overwhelmed with pride as he realizes that his son has stood first in his class.

He swells with affection when Varun, his son, gleefully gives the report card to him, and as he opens it, he can sense the sensuous proximity of his wife’s body and smell the enchanting fragrance of her fruity perfume, as she unwittingly comes close to eagerly look at the report card, and he quivers with the spark of intimacy and feels the beginnings of the familiar stirrings within him.

PART 3 – AFTERNOON

Ashok realizes that their physical proximity, the intimacy, the touch of skin, has rekindled amorous memories and roused dormant desires in Pooja too, for she suddenly draws away from him and blushes in embarrassment. He wonders how people can suddenly cease to love a person they have once passionately loved so much and still desire.

“Hello, Mr. and Mrs. Vaidya,” the teacher’s mellifluous voice jerks him from his reverie. He looks up at the charming young lady who has walked up to their desk and is lovingly ruffling Varun’s hair.

“Good Morning, Ma’am,” he says.

“Call me Nalini,” she says with a lovely smile, “Varun is really intelligent.”

“Like my Daddy– do you know he’s from IIT?”  The boy proudly tells his teacher.

“And your Mummy?” the teacher playfully asks the boy.

“She is also a genius. But only in computers – she is an IT pro, you know. But my daddy is real good, he knows everything,” the boy says, and the teacher laughs, turns to Varun and says, “You go run along to the hall and get ready for the concert.”

“I’m Muriel. Muriel the goat!” says Varun animatedly, and runs away.

“We are enacting a skit from George Orwell’s Animal Farm,” Varun’s teacher says, “You are very fortunate Mr. and Mrs. Vaidya. Varun is a very gifted child. He comes first in class and is so talented in extracurricular activities and good in sports too. You must be really proud of him.”

“Oh yes, we are really proud of him,” the man says, and notices that the attractive teacher looks into his eyes for that moment longer than polite courtesy. He averts his eyes towards his wife and her disdainful expression tells him that his wife has observed this too.

He feels his cell-phone silently vibrating in his pocket, excuses himself, and goes out of the classroom into the corridor outside.

“Yes, Hema,” he says softly into his mobile.

“Is it over?”

“We’ve got the report card. There’s a concert now.”

“Concert? The PTA is over, isn’t it? You come back now. There is no need to go to the concert.”

“Please, Hema. I have to go to the school concert. Varun is acting – playing an important part – I promised him I would be there to cheer him.”

“Promised him? What about the promise you made to me – that you would be back as soon as possible and then we’d go to the disc.”

“Of course we’re going out this evening. I’ll start straight after the concert and be with you in the afternoon, latest by four, for tea.”

“I’ll get your favourite pineapple pastries and patties from Gaylord.”

“You do that. And spend some time on Fashion Street and browsing books…” the man sees his wife come out of the classroom and walk towards him, so he hurriedly says, “Bye Hema, I’ve got to go now.”

“You be here by four, promise…”

“Of course, darling. I Promise,” he says and disconnects.

“The bank manager…” he tries to explain the call to his wife, but she isn’t interested and says, “The Headmaster wants to meet us.”

“Headmaster? Meet us? Why?”

“How should I know?” his wife Pooja says coldly.

Soon they are sitting in the regal office front of the distinguished looking Headmaster who welcomes them, “Your son has settled down very well in his first term, Mr. and Mrs. Vaidya. In fact, Varun is our youngest boarder in the hostel. He’s brilliant in academics, proficient in all activities, sports, outdoors – a good all-rounder. ”

They nod, and the father’s chest swells with pride.

“Pardon me for being personal,” the Headmaster says, “I was wondering why you have sent such a young boy to boarding school? Especially when you live nearby in the same city.”

“I have shifted to Mumbai now.” Ashok says.

“Oh, I see. And you too, ma’am?”

“No,” Pooja answers, “I still live in Pune.”

“Aundh, isn’t it? The same address you’ve given us in the admission form?” the Headmaster says glancing at a paper in front of him.

“Yes. I stay in Aundh.”

“We’ve got a school bus coming from Aundh. If you want your son can be a day-scholar…”

“Thank you, Sir, but I have kept him in boarding as I work night shifts.”

“Night Shifts?”

“I work in ITES?”

“ITES?”

“Information Technology Enabled Services.”

“She works in a call centre,” Ashok interjects.

“I’m in a senior position in a BPO,” she retorts haughtily.

“Oh! That’s good,” the Headmaster says, and looks at both of them as if signalling the end of the interview.

“Sir…” Ashok hesitates.

“Yes? Please feel free Mr. Vaidya,” the Headmaster says.

“Sir, I thought I must tell you, we are separated.”

“Divorced?”

“Yes.”

“How much does the boy know?” the Headmaster asks Pooja.

“He knows. We try to be honest with him. We’ve just told him that since his father is in Mumbai and since I’ve to work night shifts, boarding school is the best for him,” Pooja says.

The Headmaster ponders and then says, “It may seem presumptuous of me to give you unsolicited advice, Mr. and Mrs. Vaidya, but why don’t you try and patch up? At least for your boy’s sake, he’s so young and loving. At such a tender age children must continue to feel they are a part of a family. They need to feel loved, to belong and to be valued. I know how much your son loves you both. He’s so proud of his parents.”

“We’ll try,” Ashok says, and looks at his wife.

Patch up and come back together – for Varun’s sake – he knows it is out of the question. Their relationship had become so suffocating, so demoralized by distrust, that it was better severed than patched up. And now, in his life, there is Hema …”

“We’ll try and work it out,” he hears his wife’s voice.

“I am sure you will – for your son’s sake. Thank you for coming, Mr. and Mrs. Vaidya. I’m sure you’ll love to see your son’s acting skills in the concert,” the Headmaster says and rises, indicating that the interview is over.

Later, sitting in the auditorium, they watch their son enact the role of Muriel, the know-it-all Goat, in a scene adapted from Animal Farm, and Ashok’s heart swells with pride as he watches his son smartly enunciate the seven commandments with perfect diction.

After the concert, they stand outside, waiting for Varun, to take off his make-up and costume and join them. Ashok looks at his watch. It’s almost one, and he wonders whether he should stay for the parents’ lunch, or leave for Mumbai to make it on time by four after the three hour drive.

“You look as if you’re in a hurry,” his wife says.

“I’ve an appointment at four. He called up in the morning, remember, the bank manager…” he lies.

“Where?”

“Nariman Point.”

“Then why don’t you go now? You’ll barely make it.”

“I’m waiting for Varun.”

“Doesn’t matter. I’ll tell him.”

He tries to control the anger rising within him and says firmly, “Listen, Pooja. Don’t try to eradicate me from your lives, at least from my son’s life.”

“I wish I could! Please Ashok, leave us alone. I didn’t ask you to come all the way from Mumbai today – I would have handled the PTA alone.”

“Varun rang me up. Made me promise I’d be here. I’m glad I came. He’s so happy, especially so delighted that I came to see him in the concert.”

“I’ll tell him not to disturb you in future.”

“No you don’t,” Ashok said firmly, “Varun is my son as much as yours.”

They stand in silence, a grotesque silence, and then he says, “I didn’t come only for Varun. I came to see you too!”

“See me?” the woman’s face is filled with ridicule, contempt and astonishment at the same time.

Suddenly they see Varun prancing in delight towards them and they put on smiles on their faces.

“You liked the concert?” he asks breathless.

“I loved your part. You were too good – isn’t it Mummy?” the man says.

“Yes. Varun is the best,” the woman says bending down and kissing her son on the cheek. Then she says, “Varun, Daddy has to go now. He has important work in Mumbai.”

“No,” protests Varun, and looks at his father and says, “No! No! No! First, we’ll all have lunch. And then the school fete.”

“School Fete?” they say in unison, and then the man says, “You didn’t tell me!”

“Surprise! Surprise! But Mummy, Daddy, we all have to go to the fete and enjoy.”

So they have lunch and go to the sports ground for the school fete – merry-go-round, roller-coaster, hoopla, games of skill and eats – they enjoy themselves thoroughly. Tine flies. To the outside observer they seem to be the happiest family.

On the Giant Wheel Ashok and Pooja instinctively sit on different seats. Suddenly Ashok notices that his son looks hesitant, wary, confused, undecided as to which parent he should go to, sensing that he couldn’t choose one without displeasing the other. So Ashok quickly gets up and sits next to Pooja, and a visibly delighted Varun runs and jumps in between them.

As he gets off the giant wheel, Ashok notices his mobile ringing. He detaches himself from his son, looks at the caller id and speaks, “Yes. Hema.”

“What ‘Yes Hema’. Why aren’t you picking up the phone? Where are you? Have you crossed Chembur? I’ve been calling for the last five minutes – just see the missed calls.”

“I was on the Giant Wheel.”

“Giant Wheel?”

“We are at the school fete.”

“School Fete? You are still in Pune? You told me you’d be here by four!”

“I couldn’t help it. Varun was adamant. He didn’t let me go.”

“She’s there with you?”

“Who?”

She! Stupid. She! Your ex-wife. Is she there with you?”

“Yes.”

“You simpleton, can’t you see? She’s trying to get you back through your son!” Hema pauses, takes a breath, and pleads, “Ashok, you do one thing, just say good-bye to them and come back straight to me. Please. Please. Please. Don’t be with her. Please. Please…”

“Okay,” the man says and cuts off the cell-phone. Then he switches off his mobile.

“Daddy, Daddy, who was that?” the boy asks.

“Someone from the office,” the man says. He thinks for a moment, looks at his son, bends down and says, “Listen, Varun. I’ve got to get back to the office fast. Mummy will stay with you – be a good boy.”

“No, No, No! It’s only three o’clock . We can stay out till eight…” The boy sees his housemaster nearby and runs to him, “Sir, Sir, My Daddy has come all the way from Mumbai. Please can he take me out for dinner?”

“Of course you can go, Varun,” the kindly housemaster says to the boy, then looks at Ashok and says, “It’s the first time you’ve come, isn’t it? Okay, we’ll give Varun a night-out. Why don’t you take him home and drop him back tomorrow evening by six? Tomorrow is declared a holiday anyway!”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” shouts an ecstatic Varun is delirious delight, “Let’s go to the dormitory, collect my stuff, and go out. I want to see a Movie, and then we’ll all go home.”

PART 4 – EVENING

So they, father, mother, and son, see a movie at the multiplex, then have a good time strolling and snacking on Main Street, and by the time they reach their home in Aundh it’s already seven in the evening.

Ashok stops his car below his erstwhile home in Aundh, where Pooja lives all by herself now.

“Okay, Varun, come give me a kiss and be a good boy.”

“No, Daddy, you’re not going from below. Let’s go up and have dinner. And then we’ll all sleep together and you go tomorrow morning.”

“Please, Varun, I have to go now,” the man says.

The boy looks at him, distraught, and the man gives a beseeching look to the woman, who smiles and says, “Okay. Come up and have a drink. You can take your books too – I’ve packed them for you.”

“Yea!” the boy exclaims in glee.

His wife’s invitation, the warming of her emotions, confuses and frightens him. He thinks of Hema waiting for him in Mumbai, what state she’d be in, frantically trying to reach him on his switched off cell-phone, feels a ominous sense of foreboding and tremors of trepidation. He is apprehensive, at the same time curious, and his son tugs at his shirt, so he goes up with them.

“I’ll freshen up and come,” the woman says to the man, “Make a drink for yourself – everything is in the same place.”

Varun, back home after three months, rushes into his room to see his things.

He opens the sideboard. The whiskey bottle is still there, exactly in the same place, but he notices the bottle is half empty. It was almost full when he had left – maybe she’s started having an occasional drink!

He sets everything on the dining table, and when she comes out, he picks up the whiskey bottle and asks her, “Shall I make you drink?”

“Me? Whiskey? You know I don’t touch alcohol, don’t you?” she says aghast.

“Sorry. Just asked…”

“You want soda? I’ll ring up the store to send it up.”

“I’ll have it with water.”

“Okay. Help yourself. I’ll quickly make you your favorite onion pakoras and fry some papads.”

He looks warmly at her, with nostalgia, and she looks back at him in the same way and goes into the kitchen.

Varun comes running out and soon he sits on the sofa, sipping his drink, cuddling his son sitting beside him, and they, father and son, watch TV together, and soon his son’s mother brings out the delicious snacks and they, the full family, all sit together and have a good time.

PART 5LATE EVENING

Her cell-phone rings, she takes it out of her purse, looks at the screen, excuses herself, goes into her bedroom, closes the door, takes the call, and says, “Hi, Pramod.”

“What the hell is going on out there…?” Pramod’s angry voice booms through the wireless airways all the way from Delhi.

“Please Pramod, speak softly. There is someone here.”

“I know he is there,” Pramod shouts, “What’s wrong with you? I leave you alone for a few days and you invite him into your home.”

“Listen, Pramod, don’t get angry. Try to understand. He came for Varun’s Annual Day.”

“But what is he doing there in your house right now so late at night?”

“He’s come to drop Varun.”

“Drop Varun?”

“He’d taken him out from school for a movie…”

“Why did you let him?”

“What do you mean ‘Why did you let him?’ – Ashok is Varun’s father.”

“You shouldn’t have called him to Pune…”

“I didn’t call him – Varun rang him up and told him to be there for his School’s Annual Day.”

“Anyway, get rid of him fast. I told you that you two are supposed to stay separate for at least six months.”

“Please Pramod. We are living separately. He’s just dropped in on a visit – we are not cohabiting or anything.”

“Just stay away from him – he could cause trouble!”

“Trouble? What are you saying, Pramod? He’s just come to drop Varun.”

“Pooja, can’t you see? He’s using your son to get you back. He’s a nasty chap – he may even withdraw his mutual consent and then we’ll be back at square one.”

“Pramod, don’t imagine things. And please Pramod, we had our differences, but Ashok was never a nasty person. Just get the papers ready and I’ll get him to sign on the dotted line,” she pauses for a moment and asks angrily, “And tell me Pramod, who told you Ashok is here?”

“That doesn’t matter. Now you are mine. I have to look after you, your welfare.”

“Look after my welfare? You’re keeping tabs on me, Pramod?” Pooja says irately.

“Now, you listen to me Pooja. Just throw him out right now. He has no right to trespass…” Pramod orders her.

“Trespass? Pramod, remember this is his house too – in fact the house is still on his name.”

“Don’t argue!” Pramod commands peremptorily, “Just do what I say!”

A flood of fury rises inside Pooja and she snaps angrily, “You know why I split up with Ashok, don’t you? Because I felt suffocated in that relationship. And now you are doing the same thing!”

Tears well up in her eyes, trickle down her cheeks, her throat chokes, she breaks down and she begins to sob.

“I’m sorry, Pooja. Please don’t cry,” Pramod pleads, “You know how much I love you.”

“I love you too.”

“I’ll cut short my trip and be with you in Pune tomorrow evening.”

“It’s okay, finish your work first and then come.”

“Give Varun my love.”

“Okay, take care.”

“You also take care,” Pramod says and disconnects.

She stares into the darkness, at the sky, the stars in the distance and tries to compose herself.

In a while, Pooja comes into the drawing room. Ashok looks at her face. After her tears, her eyes shine in the bright light; the moisture from her unwiped tears solidified on her cheeks like dry glass.

“I’ll make us some dinner,” she says to him, “Let’s eat together.”

Totally taken aback, confused and startled, Ashok looks at his wife and says, “Thanks. But I’ve got to go.”

“Stay, Daddy! Please Stay,” pleads Varun.

“Daddy is staying for dinner,” Pooja says with mock firmness, and then looking at Ashok says, “Please. Stay. Have dinner with us. By the time you get back your cafeteria would have closed. You still stay in the bachelor’s hostel don’t you?”

“Yes,” he lies, “But I’ll be moving into flat soon.”

“That’s good. Where?”

“Churchgate. Near the office,” he says. Now that is not entirely untrue. Hema, with whom he has moved in, does indeed live near Churchgate!

“Churchgate! Wow! That’s really good for you. Food, Books, Films, Theatre, Art, Walks on Marine Drive – everything you like is nearby,” she says, “And Hey, now that you’re moving into a flat please take all your books. I’ve packed them up and kept them in the study.”

“Come Daddy, I’ll show you,” Varun jumps and pulls him into the study.

He looks around his former study and sees his books packed in cardboard boxes on the floor. The room has changed; except for his books there is nothing of him left in it.

He opens the wardrobe. There are some men’s clothes and a pair of shoes he has not seen before.

He is tempted to ask his son, but doesn’t ask. Varun has also come home after a three month spell, his first stint at boarding school.

He takes a towel, closes the cupboard, and goes into the bathroom to freshen up. The moment he comes out his son excitedly says, “Come Daddy, let’s help Mummy with the cooking.”

So they go to the kitchen and cook together – like they sometimes did in happier times.

Later they sit in their usual places at the small round dining table for dinner. It is the first time he, his wife and their son eat a meal together as a family since they had split three months ago. It is a happy meal, with much banter, primarily due the sheer joyfulness of their son, who is so happy that they are all together after a hiatus.

Then they sit together on the sofa, father, son, and mother,   and watch her favorite soap on TV. Ashok notices how happy, natural and relaxed they all are. It is almost as if they have resumed living their old life once again.

PART 6 – NIGHT

Suddenly, he remembers Hema, waiting for him in Mumbai, and says, “I’ve got to go”

“Stay here Daddy, please,” his son implores, tugging at his shirt.

“It’s late. Let Daddy go,” Pooja says to Varun, “he’ll come to meet you in school soon.”

“He can’t. Parents are not allowed till the next term break. Please Mummy, let us all sleep here and tomorrow we can all go away,” Varun says emphatically to his mother, and pulls his father towards the bedroom, “Come Daddy, let’s all sleep in Mummy’s bed like before.”

“No, Varun, I have to go,” Ashok says with a lump in his throat, disentangles his hands, bends down, and kisses his son, “Varun, be a good boy. I’ll be back to see you soon.”

At the door he turns around and looks at Pooja, his ex-wife, and says, “Bye. Thanks. Take Care.”

“It’s good you came to see your son,” she remarks.

“I didn’t come only for the child,” he says overwhelmed by emotion, “I came to see you too.”

He sees tears start in her eyes, so he quickly turns and walks out of the door.

PART 7 – MIDNIGHT

The clock on Rajabai Tower is striking midnight as he parks his car below Hema’s flat. The lights are still on. He runs up the steps to the house and opens the door with his latchkey.

Hema is sitting on the sofa watching TV. She switches of the TV, rushes towards him and passionately kisses him. He kisses her back and recognizes the intoxicating sweet aroma of rum on her breath.

“You’ve been drinking. It’s not good for you,” he says.

“Promise me you will never go to there again,” she cries inconsolably, holding him tightly.

“Please, Hema. Try to understand. I don’t want to be eradicated from my son’s life.”

“No, Ashok. You promise me right now. You’ll never go there again. I don’t want you to ever meet them again.”

“But why?”

“I am in constant fear that you’ll leave me and go back to them. I’ve been dumped once, I don’t want to be ditched again, to be left high and dry,” Hema starts to weep, “I’m scared Ashok. I am really very frightened to be all alone, again!”

“Okay, Hema,” Ashok says gathering her in his arms, “I promise. I promise I’ll never go there again.”

“Kiss me,” Hema says.

He kisses her warm mouth, tastes the salty remains of her tears, which trickle down her cheeks onto her lips.

“Come,” she says, “it’s late. Let’s sleep.”

He doesn’t have a dreamless sleep – he sees a dream – a dream he will never forget. He is drowning, struggling in the menacing dark fiery turbulent sea.

To his left, in the distance he sees Varun, his son, standing on a ship beckoning him desperately, and to his right, far away, standing on a desolate rock jutting out into the sea he sees Hema, his newfound love, waving, gesturing and calling him frantically.

Floods of conflicting emotions overwhelm him. He looks at his Varun, then he looks at Hema, and he finds himself imprisoned between the two.

His strength collapses, his spirit yields, and slowly he drowns, helplessly watching the terrifying angry black sea swallow him up and suck his body deep within into the Davy Jones’s Locker.

Jolted awake by the strange scary nightmare, Ashok breaks into cold sweat with a terrible fear.

Ashok cannot sleep. He starts to think of his innocent adorable son Varun, imagining him sleeping soundly in his bed in Pune. The father in him agonizingly yearns and excruciatingly pines for his son, the pain in his heart aches unbearably, and he wishes he could go right now, at this very moment, lovingly take his son in his arms and kiss his son goodnight, like he used to do.

He clearly recalls Varun’s words when he heard that his parents were going to split: “I don’t like it…”

He remembers the phone call Pooja did not want to take in his presence – maybe a new man in Pooja’s life. Pooja hasn’t told him anything – but then he hasn’t told Pooja about Hema either.

And suppose Pooja remarries. That guy would become Varun’s stepfather.

“Step-father…!” he shudders. No. If Pooja remarries he will get Varun to stay here with him.

Then he looks at his newfound love Hema, sleeping calmly beside him, and the beautiful serene expression on her pristine face. He gently places his hand on her forehead and lovingly caresses her hair. She warmly snuggles up to him, turns, puts her hand over his chest, and with a heightened sense of security continues her tranquil blissful sleep.

Will she accept Varun? No way! He remembers her tantrums in the morning, her insecurities… she is fearful that the “baggage” of his past, the “debris” of his broken marriage, will destroy their new relationship. A flood of emotion overwhelms him as he thinks about Hema. Poor thing. She’s just recovered from a terrible break up, and is holding on to him so tight – apprehensive, anxious, insecure…

Torn between his past and future, between the conflicting forces of his love for son and his love for the woman beside him, he feels helpless and scared.

He knows he has lost Pooja, his wife, forever.

Now he doesn’t want to lose both his son and his newfound love.

Varun and Hema are the only two things he has in this world.

And he knows can’t have both of them together.

His life is a mess. Maybe he is responsible – if only he had tried harder, if only he had stayed on with Pooja in that suffocating relationship, if only they had made more efforts to save their marriage, just for Varun’s sake.

If only? If only?

It’s no use. One can’t go back in time and undo what has been done.

The more he thinks about it, the more helpless and hapless he feels, and soon his mind, his brain, starts spinning like a whirlwind.

In the whirlwind he sees all of them, Varun, Pooja and a new unknown face, Hema and himself, all of them being tossed around in disarray.

There is nothing he can do about it, so he breaks down and begins to cry.

A DAY IN THE LIFE OF A DIVORCED MAN

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

Appetite for a Stroll

vikramkarve@sify.com

Arm Candy – Wanderlust

December 8, 2009

ARM CANDY

Fiction Short Story

By

VIKRAM KARVE

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 JehangirArtGallery. 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!

ARM CANDY

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@hotmail.com

vikramkarve@sify.com

MARRIAGE COCKTAIL

December 3, 2009

 

MARRIAGE COCKTAIL

A Fiction Short Story

By

VIKRAM KARVE

The moment she saw us, tears welled up in her eyes – there is nothing more shameful for a young bride than to see her husband helplessly drunk, staggering disgracefully in other woman’s arms.

I felt sorry for her.

It is true – to be married to a drunkard is the crown of all misery.

I lay him on the sofa, took off his shoes, put a pillow under his head – she, his wife, did not move but remained frozen with a look of anxious trepidation on her face.

The man who was dead drunk, Arun, lay in stupor, oblivious to the world.

It was only as I began to leave that his wife, Sadhana, rushed into my arms and broke down.

“He will be okay,” I hugged her warmly and comforted her.

“I want to die! I want to die!” she began screaming hysterically, “Why is this happening to me?”

I sat her down, gave her a glass of cold water from the fridge, and said, “Sadhana, you just go to sleep now. Arun will be absolutely well in the morning. You don’t say anything to him – just ignore him – let him go to office. Then I will come here and we will talk.”

“You will come?” she pleaded.

“Yes, I will come in the morning and everything will be okay,” I calmed her.

I drove home late at night, lay alone in my lonely bed, commiserating, unable to sleep, wondering what to do.

I knew I had to do something, for I loved Arun dearly.

Hey, don’t get me wrong. It’s not what you’re thinking.

Tell me, can a woman love a man without ever having made love to him? Can a woman love a man without falling in love with him?

Of course she can – you can take my word for it – like I loved Arun.

Maybe it was our mutual chemistry or I don’t know what, but we certainly shared fantastic vibes, and we did love each other – Platonic, Ethereal, buddy-love – call it what you like.

Arun was my colleague and developing feelings of fondness for someone who you are in close proximity with for more than least ten hours every day is very natural – but he was much more than my “work spouse” – he was my soul mate.

Arun was my classmate from our student days in the States and I was not only his constant companion at work and socially, but also his closest confidante.

In such cases it is a thin line between friendship and having an affair, but we never crossed that line.

There were no secrets between us except the time he suddenly went to his hometown in the interiors of the mofussil and dutifully got married to the girl his parents had chosen for him.

Then he rang me up in the office, told me the news without much ado, and peremptorily commanded me to get his flat ready and come to the Mumbai Central Railway Station to receive him and his newly wedded wife.

I liked Arun’s wife Sadhana too.

She was a plump, graceful girl with a very pretty face and a sincere friendly smile which radiated a charming innocence.

She readily accepted me as a friend with honesty and openness, and generously understood my relationship with Arun without a trace of suspicion, envy or rancour.

I could not bear to see the poor innocent girl suffer like this.

Tomorrow I would talk to her, counsel her, and talk to Arun, and find a solution, make them more compatible, so that they could be happy, have a fun marriage.

But first let me tell you how it all started.

Arun loved his drink.

In fact, he loved his drink a bit too much.

I think he had an innate propensity for alcohol.

I noticed this and told him once or twice and then let it go as it was early days and maybe he was just enjoying himself, and I too didn’t quite mind sharing a spot of cheer in his affable company.

Maybe his parents knew this, his penchant for the bottle, and, maybe they thought that marriage was the panacea, and then they saw Sadhana, and said to themselves: “She is a very good girl, from a cultured family, excellent upbringing – I am sure she will bring improve him with her love and he will mend his ways after marriage. She’ll take care of him. Bring him around.”

It’s true; many people do seem to think the marriage is the easiest solution to many ills, like alcoholism, and everything will suddenly be happy ever after.

Sadhana’s marriage was a social triumph for her parents. She was an ordinary looking small town girl studying in college and it was almost a miracle, a stroke of good fortune, that the elders of the best known family in the town had come all the way their modest house, the girl’s parents, to ask for her hand in marriage to their son – a well-educated foreign returned top management executive. 

It was a grand wedding; but I have heard somewhere that, sometimes, a grand wedding results in a disastrous marriage.

At first Arun too was quite happy at his newly acquired simple naïve “provincial” wife who he thought would be unquestioningly obedient and acquiesce to his every whim and fancy.

Sadhana turned out exactly as he expected – a nurturing, caring, loving wife who did exactly what he wanted, pampered him to glory and unquestioningly submitted to all his demands, except one – she did not allow even a drop of alcohol in their house. In this she did not yield.

On her first day she cleaned out his well stocked bar, simply throwing all the bottles of expensive booze down the garbage chute.

Arun tried to reason with her, explained the ways of cosmopolitan culture, but Sadhana stuck to her guns, defiant.

And when all of us at the office suddenly landed up for impromptu dinner with the big boss presenting Arun a bottle of his favourite Single Malt, Sadhana promptly drained the precious whisky down the sink saying, “This daru is evil stuff,” and then served us a delicious spur-of-the-moment meal.

This was the last straw!

I noticed Arun seethe in silence feeling totally humiliated in front of his colleagues, his juniors, his friends, and me, but he did not say anything.

He reacted the next day – from that day onwards he started drinking with vengeance.

Arun started drinking at the club bar on his way home from work every night.

At first I would give him company, but soon I stopped accompanying him, as his drinking grew from bad to worse and his behaviour would often become nasty after a few drinks.

And now this – a call at midnight from the club secretary that my colleague and friend Arun had passed out stone drunk in the bar and would I please take him away as they had to close up.

Next morning, I left the office around ten thirty, telling Arun that I was not feeling well and went straight to his house.

Sadhana was waiting for me.

“Shall we have tea?” she asked.

“No. Let’s go to the club,” I hustled her out of the house and bundled her into my car overruling her protests, “We can be more discreet there,” I said hinting at the servants, but I had other plans.

It was early, the club was empty.

I chose a lonely inconspicuous table and ordered a Pina Colada Cocktail for myself and a Soft Drink for Sadhana.

“You’ve got to help him,” I said to Sadhana, coming straightaway to the point, not giving her a chance to start her sob story.

“Help him? Of course I want to help him. But how?”

“You adapt a bit, and he too will change and get better.”

“Adapt? What should I do?”

“Give him company.”

“What?”

“Be his friend. Spend your evenings with him.”

“But he goes to the club every evening.”

“Go to the club with him, sit with him, meet his friends, chat, talk to him, and make friends with him. He will feel good. In fact, I would suggest that you join him in a drink once in a while and have a little fun.”

“What?” Sadhana said flabbergasted, “You want me to drink liquor? In my home I have not even seen a drop of alcohol…”

“Relax, Sadhana, don’t be so dogmatic,” I took her hands in mine and calmed her down, “You are in a different society now. There is no harm in having a small cocktail, or some wine – now-a-days everyone does – even I do.”

“No. No…”

“Here, sip this,” I said giving her my glass of the lip-smacking sweet creamy Pina Colada.

“No. No. I can’t have this bitter strong stuff,” she protested.

“Try it, just once,” I insisted, almost forced her, and she took a tiny sip.

“It’s sweet and delicious isn’t it? Now if you have a little bit for Arun’s sake, he will start enjoying your company. Arun needs companionship. Tell me Sadhana, isn’t it better he has a drink with you than his hard drinking friends – that he rather spends his time in your company than with his good-for-nothing friends who are out to ruin him?”

Sadhana gave me a hesitant look, but did not say anything.

But I could sense her desperation deep within that would make her try out anything, any remedy, any cure.

I looked into her eyes and said, “The trick is to wean him away from hard drinking to social drinking. That’s what will happen once he starts enjoying your company. I am telling you again. Be his friend. Spend your evenings with him. Go to the club, sit with him, have a drink. Arun will feel good. He will start liking you. Now drinking is his priority – soon you will be his priority.”

“I don’t know…” Sadhana faltered.

“Trust me. Try it. It will make life easier for both of you. Stop trying to control him.  It will never work. I know Arun well. If you nag him you will drive him away from you. Confrontations, threats, arguments – with these he will only get worse. Come on, Sadhana, for Arun’s sake, for your sake, give it a try, I am sure he will respond positively.”

Sadhana looked anxiously at me, nervous, unsure, yet desperate.

I stood up walked to her and gave her a loving hug, “You two are newly married. I want you to be able to laugh, relax, have fun and enjoy life to its fullest!”

She hugged me in return.

“Promise me you’ll give it a try,” I said.

“I will try my best,” she promised.

It worked.

Arun sobered down.

And though he did enjoy his drinks – I never saw him drunk again.

The metamorphosis in Sadhana was truly fascinating.

The way she had transformed herself from a conservative Small Town Girl from the heart of the mofussil into a chic crème-de-la-crème socialite was remarkable, almost unbelievable. I would often see her sipping exotic colourful cocktails rubbing shoulders with the cream of society.

There was a time when Arun was ashamed of showing off his wife; now his heart swelled with pride and admiration as everyone noticed and praised her. They were the toast of society; the crowning glory was when they were crowned the “Made for Each Other Couple” at the New Year Eve Ball at the club.

Their marriage started rocking.

In fact their marriage rocked so much that soon comprehension dawned on me that there cannot be three persons in a marriage and I gracefully withdrew from their lives, changed my job, relocated and, yes, believe it or not, I got married to a nice young man and commenced a blissful married life of my own.

Of course, Arun and Sadhana attended my marriage, and at my wedding reception Sadhana seemed to be in a vivaciously celebratory mood, swinging brightly and dancing wildly, downing glass after glass of Champagne.

My new husband and I honeymooned on a luxury cruise liner, sailing to exotic locales – a wedding gift from Arun and Sadhana.

At first we kept in touch, but with the passage of time, as I settled comfortably in the cocoon of wedded bliss, the communication became less and less, and when we relocated abroad to the States we lost touch altogether.

It was three years before I visited Mumbai again, and the first thing I did after depositing my baggage in the hotel was to head towards Arun’s flat on Marine Drive.

It was early and I wanted to catch him home before he left for work.

Arun and Sadhana were not at home. “Saheb and Memsaheb have gone to the Ashram,” the servants said.

Ashram?” I said surprised, and asked whether they could give me his mobile number.

They did, and I rang up Arun on his cell phone, “Hey, Arun, what are you two doing in an Ashram – given up the material world and taken up the spiritual path?”

“No. No. It’s not that. This is not really the type of Ashram you are thinking; it’s a nature cure clinic,” Arun said.

“Nature Cure Clinic?”

“Not exactly, you can say it’s a de-addiction centre, a sort of rehab.”

“Rehab? You promised me Arun, you promised me that you’d cut down your drinking…for her sake…poor thing…I hate you Arun…”

“Stop it!” Arun interrupted angrily, “It’s not me. I’ve given up drinking. It’s Sadhana – she’s become an alcoholic.’

“What?” I said, stunned.

“Yes. My wife has become an alcoholic. Thanks to you and your stupid advice. And now will you please leave us alone?” Arun said angrily and disconnected.

I cannot begin to describe the emotion I felt at that moment, but one thing is sure: I have never ever felt so terribly guilty in my life, before or since, till this very day.

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

UNREQUITED LOVE

June 20, 2009

JILTED LOVER

[Short Fiction – Romance]
 

By

 

VIKRAM KARVE

 

 

 

It’s late and the bar at the Savoy in Mussoorie is almost empty.

There are just three people – a couple, a man and woman, in their thirties, sit together on a sofa; and on the sofa just behind them sits a solitary man, unseen, in the shadows.  

It is quite dark as the lights are dim; in fact the lights are so dim that the man and woman can hardly see each other’s face.

They have been drinking for quite some time, and, in fact, the woman appears pleasantly drunk as she engages the man in some light-hearted banter, slurring loudly as she speaks. 

“She dumped you, isn’t it?” the woman says.  

“No. That’s not true. Leena didn’t dump me. It was I who left her!” the man says emphatically.  

“Come on, Anil. You think I don’t know everything about you two?”  

“You don’t. You know nothing. It was I who left her. I told you once; I’m telling you again! She didn’t dump me. I didn’t want to live with her, so I left her.”  

“Don’t fib!”  

“Fib? Why should I fib?”  

“Masculine pride!”  

“Masculine pride? What nonsense!” 

“When a man ditches a woman she gains sympathy; but when a woman dumps a man he becomes a laughing stock, a subject of ridicule.”  

“So?”  

“That’s why you ran away from Bangalore after spreading false stories all around that you were the one who had split up with her, when actually it was Leena who had dumped you unceremoniously,” the woman jeers loudly. 

“Talk softly,” the man says.  

“Why? Afraid of the truth, is it?”  

“I told you it’s not true. We had our differences. And I wanted a change of job.”  

“You know why she dumped you? Because you are a bloody ‘loser’. A born loser!”  

“Who told you that?”  

“She did. I’ll never forget what she told me. Anil, you want to hear Leena’s exact words about you: quote ‘Anil is a born loser who is content to wallow in the gutter and see others climb mountains’ unquote. That’s why she left you. She didn’t want to ruin her life with you – a man with no future, a namby-pamby who has no ambition, no drive – a good for nothing geek.”  

“Namby-pamby! Good for nothing geek?”  

“That’s what she told me.”  

“She told you? When? Where?”  

“Last year. In Hyderabad . During this same annual IT Seminar. She’d flown down from the States. She even presented a paper – I’m sure it was plagiarized from something you had written or from the notes you kept giving her about your work and research.”  

“I’m not interested!”  

“Leena is real smart – a real scheming bitch. Mesmerizes you with her wily charms, uses you and then jettisons you, just throws you away when she’s got what she’s wanted. Like toilet paper! Or you know what?” the woman starts giggling; “She treated you like a pad – a sanitary napkin! Use and throw straight into the dustbin.” 

“Shut up, will you?” the man shouts angrily, “Let’s go now. You’re drunk.”

 “I still remember our Bangalore days when you used to grovel at her feet, your tongue drooling like a lapdog. And now look where she’s reached – the hot shot CEO of a top IT company while you wallow in your self-made misery as a Nobody in some nondescript place.”  

“Please, Nanda! Let’s go,” the man says exasperated.  

But the woman is in no mood to go, ignores him, and continues talking loudly: “Leena is smart! She told me she’d managed to hook some NRI Head Honcho. He’s an American citizen too. Her life is made!”  

“Maybe, she’ll use him and dump him too!” the man says sardonically.  

“Hey! You’ve accepted it! You’ve accepted that she dumped you. I was right! That calls for a drink.”  

“No. You’ve already had three big bottles of beer.”  

“Who’s counting?” the woman says happily, lurching from her seat, “Okay. If I’ve had too much beer, now I’ll have whisky!” She picks up the man’s glass, drinks it bottoms up in one go, and exclaims at the top of her voice: “Cheers! Down the hatch!”  

“What’s wrong with you?” the man scolds her. Don’t you know, “Beer and whisky – it’s risky.”  

“And frisky! I want to feel frisky.”  

“You mustn’t drink so much.”  

“Why?”  

“Someone may take advantage of you!”  

“Ha! Maybe I want to be taken advantage of? Come, take advantage of me,” she says loudly and snuggles up to him, “Come on, Lovey-dovey. Cuddle me. Do something naughty to me, like you used to do to Leena. Remember…”  

“Shut up. Someone will hear!”  

“Come on sweetie-pie,” the Nanda says snuggling even closer, “No one will see, no one will hear. We are all alone. There is no one here!”  

“We are not alone,” Anil whispers gravely, noticing the solitary figure in the shadows for the first time.

He moves close to Nanda and whispers into her ear, “Don’t look behind you.”  

“Where?” she shouts in surprise and turns around.

She sees the silhouette of the man and brazenly calls out to him, “Hey Mr. Eavesdropper! Come, why don’t you join us?”  

“Thanks. But it’s okay. I’m fine here,” the stranger says.  

“No! No! Come on. Have a drink with us. Don’t be a snob!” Nanda shouts drunkenly, tries to get up and reels towards him, and seeing her swaying and lurching in an inebriated manner, the stranger quickly joins them, pulling up a chair opposite the sofa.  

“I hope we have not been disturbing you,” Anil says, “We’re sorry. We thought we were all alone in the bar.”  

“Not at all!” the stranger says, “in fact, I’ve been enjoying your banter.”  

“Good. That calls for a drink!” the woman says.  

“Certainly. My pleasure! The drink is on me,” the stranger says.  

“That’s the spirit,” Nanda roars.  

“Nanda. Please. I think we’ve had enough,” Anil pleads.  

“I insist,” the stranger says, “just one last drink.”  

“Just one last drink!” Nanda repeats drunkenly, “and then the real surprise!”  

“Surprise?” Anil asks.  

“We’ll all go and wake up Leena!”  

“Leena? She’s here? In Mussoorie?” Anil asks incredulously.  

“Yes, my dear. She’s coming for the seminar too. She must have arrived in the evening when we had gone out for our romantic walk to Lal Tibba.”  

“How do you know?”  

“E-mail! I was the one who called her for this seminar.”  

“You didn’t tell me!”  

“Of course not! And I didn’t tell her that I had called you here either. I don’t want to be a killjoy!”  

“I’m going back!” Anil says.  

“You still desperately love her, don’t you? After all that she’s done to you; destroyed you. You’re scared of her aren’t you?”  

“No.”  

“Then why are you afraid of facing her? Come on, Anil, be a man! Ask her why she dumped you so unceremoniously. Leena owes you a bloody explanation, doesn’t she?” Nanda says. She pulls Anil’s hand and lurches towards the entrance, “Come. We’ll go to the reception and find out in which room Leena is staying.”  

“Leena is in Room 406,” the stranger says wryly.  

“How do you know?” Nanda asks wide-eyed, trying to focus on the stranger.  

“I am Leena’s husband,” the stranger says matter-of-factly. He keeps his glass on the table and silently walks out of the bar.

 

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.

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