Posts Tagged ‘counselor’

INNOCENT VICTIM – A Divorce Story with a Difference by Vikram Karve

May 8, 2011

INNOCENT VICTIM.

INNOCENT VICTIM

Dear Reader: Have you read my latest book COCKTAIL – a collection of 27 short stories about relationships? 
 
If you haven’t please click the link below and order a copy:
 
 
In COCKTAIL there is a story called A DAY IN THE LIFE OF A DIVORCED MAN. This story highlights the negative aspects of divorce on relationships, especially the adverse effect divorce has on children who are supposed to be innocent victims in divorce situations and who suffer for no fault of their own. 
 
Are children really innocent victims and do they actually suffer when their parents divorce? 
 
Well, here is a divorce story from a different perspective — 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 like this story:
“INNOCENT VICTIM”
A Divorce Story with a Difference
Short Fiction
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.

As I walk towards my seat in the Ladies’ Coach of the Deccan Queen 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 in the ladies compartment…”

“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, wondering whether tha man is trying to flirt with me.

“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, not wanting to talk to him too much.

“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 Papa. I’ll be here to meet you next weekend 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 aghast, totally astonished and incredulous.

“Yes…for me it is better this way…you know my Mama and Papa now have to share me…they have 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…?” I ask.

“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…and 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…”

“They give you 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’s funny…?”

“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.

What type of parenting is this? 
 
First you neglect your children when you are married together, and then, you spoil your kids to glory when you are separated divorced. 
 
Strange isn’t it? 
 
And I thought children were “innocent victims” in divorce situations…! 

Dear Reader: What do you think…?
VIKRAM KARVE 
Copyright © Vikram Karve 2011
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.  

Did you like this Story?
I am sure you will like the 27 stories in COCKTAIL
To order your COCKTAIL please click any of the links below:

About Vikram Karve 

A creative person with a zest for life, Vikram Karve is a retired Naval Officer turned full time writer. Educated at IIT Delhi, ITBHU Varanasi, The Lawrence School Lovedale and Bishops School Pune, Vikram has published two books: COCKTAIL a collection of fiction short stories about relationships (2011) and APPETITE FOR A STROLL a book of Foodie Adventures(2008) and is currently working on his novel and a book of vignettes and short fiction. An avid blogger, he has written a number of fiction short stories, creative non-fiction articles on a variety of topics including food, travel, philosophy, academics, technology, management, health, pet parenting, teaching stories and self help in magazines and published a large number of professional research papers in journals and edited in-house journals for many years, before the advent of blogging. Vikram has taught at a University as a Professor for almost 14 years and now teaches as a visiting faculty and devotes most of his time to creative writing. Vikram lives in Pune India with his family and muse – his pet dog Sherry with whom he takes long walks thinking creative thoughts. 

Vikram Karve Academic and Creative Writing Journal: http://karvediat.blogspot.com
Professional Profile Vikram Karve: http://www.linkedin.com/in/karve
Vikram Karve Facebook Page:  https://www.facebook.com/vikramkarve
Vikram Karve Creative Writing Blog: http://vikramkarve.sulekha.com/blog/posts.htm
Email: vikramkarve@sify.com          
Fiction Short Stories Book

© vikram karve., all rights reserved.

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Academic and Creative Writing Journal Vikram Karve The Efficacy of Marriage Counselling in the Alleviation of Marital Discord

April 1, 2011

Academic and Creative Writing Journal Vikram Karve.

 

The Efficacy of Marriage Counselling in the Alleviation of Marital Discord

THE EFFICACY OF MARRIAGE COUNSELLING IN THE ALLEVIATION OF MARITAL DISCORD
Fiction Short Story
By

VIKRAM KARVE
From my Creative Writing Archives:
Short Fiction – A Story of changing relationships
Your relationship has become so demoralized by distrust that you two better break up rather than try to patch up.”
“What?”
“Yes. It’s better you split instead of living in perpetual suspicion like this. Why live a lie?”
“How can you say this? You are a marriage counsellor … you are supposed to save marriages, not break them.”
“But then what can I do if you don’t change your attitude?” I said in desperation, “you have to learn to trust your wife … just stop being jealous, suspicious, possessive. Mutual trust is important in a marriage, especially a long distance marriage like yours.”
I looked at the man sitting in front of me.

He was incredibly handsome; mid thirties, maybe forty, well groomed, sharp features accentuated by a smart neatly trimmed beard, clean brown eyes, he looked strong and confident, and his outward appearance betrayed no sign of what was going on inside him.

He looked at me longingly, in a lingering sort of way that women secretly want men to look at them.

I blushed, felt good, but quickly composed myself.

In such vulnerable situations anything could happen and I had to be careful, so I said to him in a firm dispassionate tone, “I think you better go now. It’s time for your flight.”

“It’s delayed.”
“You’re sure?”
“Of course. I’m the pilot – the commander of the aircraft. I’ve to report after an hour.”
“I’ll leave? It’s almost check-in time.”
“No! No! Please stay. There’s still two hours for your flight toLondon . I’ll get you checked-in. There’s something I want to tell you,” he pleaded, “I’ll order some more coffee.”
The airport restaurant was deserted at this late hour and wore a dark, eerie look, with just a few people huddled in muted whispers.
“I want to thank you for giving me this special appointment – agreeing to meet me here at such short notice,” he said.
“It’s okay. It was quite convenient for both of us, enroute catching our flights. A nice quiet discreet place, this airport restaurant.”
He paused for a moment, then spoke guiltily, “I did something terrible today.”
“What?”
“I stole my wife’s cell-phone.”
“Stole?”

“Yes.”

“You stole your wife’s mobile?”

“Yes. Just before I left. I took it from her purse. She was fast asleep.”
“This is too much! Stealing your wife’s mobile. That was the most despicable thing to do. I don’t think we should talk any more. You need some serious help,” I said, gulped down my coffee and started to get up.
“No! No! Please listen. It’s those tell-tale SMS messages!”
“SMS messages?”
“From ‘Teddy Bear’.”
“Teddy Bear?”
“Someone she knows. ‘Teddy Bear’. She’s saved his number. She keeps getting these SMSs, which she erases immediately.

“This ‘Teddy Bear’ SMSs your wife?”

“Yes. I think they are having a good time right behind my back the moment I take off on a flight. This ‘Teddy Bear’ and my wife. This evening when she was bathing while I was getting ready to leave for the airport, her cell-phone was lying on the bed, an SMS came from ‘Teddy Bear’ : “I am yearning for you. SPST.”

“SPST? What’s that?” I asked.
“I don’t know. I called the number. A male voice said: ‘Hi Sugar!’ Just imagine, he calls her ‘Sugar’. I hung up in disgust immediately. Then during dinner she kept getting calls and SMSs – must be the same chap: ‘Teddy Bear’.”
“Your wife spoke to him?”
“No. She looked at the number and cut it off. Four or five times. Then she switched her mobile to silent and put in her purse.”
“You asked her who it was?”
“No.”
“You should have. It may have been a colleague, a friend. That’s your problem – you keep imagining things and have stopped communicating with her. Ask her next time and I’m sure everything will clear up.”
“No! No! I am sure she is having an affair with this ‘Teddy Bear’ chap. Had it not been for the last minute delay in my flight, I wouldn’t have been home at that time.” he said. And then suddenly he broke down, tears pouring down his cheeks, his voice uncontrollable, “The moment I take off, she starts cheating on me.”
It was a bizarre sight. A tough looking man totally shattered, weeping inconsolably.
“Please,” I said, “control yourself. And you better not fly in this state.”
“I think you’re right,” he said recovering his composure, “I’m in no mood to fly.”

He took out a cell-phone from his shirt pocket, dialled the standby pilot and a few other numbers and told them he was unwell and was going off the roster.

He kept the mobile phone on the table.
“Your wife’s cell-phone?” I asked pointing to the sleek mobile phone he had kept on the table.
“Yes.”
“She’ll be missing it.”
“No. She’ll be fast asleep. I’ll go back and put it in her purse.”

We sat for some time in silence. It appeared he was in a trance, a vacuous look in his eyes. Years of counselling had taught me that in such moments it was best to say nothing. So I just picked up my cup and sipped what remained of my coffee.

Suddenly he got up and said, “I think I’ll go home,” and he quickly turned and walked away.

It was only after he had gone, as I kept my coffee cup back on the table, that I noticed that he had forgotten the cell-phone on the table, his unfaithful wife’s cell-phone.

An idea struck me.

At first I was a bit hesitant; then curiosity took charge of me and I picked it the mobile phone.

Hurriedly I clicked on ‘names’, pressed ‘T’, quickly found‘Teddy Bear’ and pressed the call button.

A few rings and I instantly recognized my husband’s baritone voice at the other end, “Hey Sugar, where are you? Why aren’t you answering? Did you get my SMS  – SPST’  –  ‘Same Place Same Time’. Why did you give me a blank call?…..”

I couldn’t believe this. My dear own husband – ‘Teddy Bear’. Right under my nose. It was unimaginable, incredulous.

I felt shattered. My very own world came tumbling down like a pack of cards.

I cannot begin to describe the emotions that overwhelmed me at that moment, but I’ll tell you what I did.
I put the cell-phone in my purse, walked briskly to the check-in counter without looking back, quickly checked in, and boarded the flight; and, Dear Reader, as you read this, at this very moment, I am on my way to London to present my research paper on ‘ The efficacy of marriage counselling in the alleviation of marital discordat the International Conference of Counsellors.

And till I return, let everyone here stew in suspense.

VIKRAM KARVE
Copyright © Vikram Karve 2011
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”. A collection of his short stories about relationships titled COCKTAIL has been published and Vikram is currently busy writing his first novel and with his teaching and training assignments. Vikram lives in Pune with his family and his muse – his pet DobermanX girl Sherry, with whom he takes long walks thinking creative thoughts.
Short Stories Book:
COCKTAIL Short Stories about Relationships By VIKRAM KARVE
APK PUBLISHERS (They ship overseas too)
Foodie Book:
Vikram Karve Creative Writing Blog:http://vikramkarve.sulekha.com/blog/posts.htm
Academic and Creative Writing Journal Vikram Karve: http://karvediat.blogspot.com
Professional Profile of Vikram Karve: http://www.linkedin.com/in/karve
© vikram karve., all rights reserved.

INFIDELITY – short fiction

June 8, 2010

INFIDELITY
Fiction Short Story
By

VIKRAM KARVE

“Your relationship has become so demoralized by distrust that you two better break up rather than try to patch up.”

“What?”

“Yes. It’s better you split instead of living in perpetual suspicion like this. Why live a lie?”

“How can you say this? You are a marriage counsellor; you’re supposed to save marriages, not break them.”

“But then what can I do if you don’t change your attitude?” I said in desperation, “you have to learn to trust your wife; just stop being jealous, suspicious, possessive. Mutual trust is important in a marriage, especially a long distance marriage like yours.”

I looked at the man sitting in front of me.

He was incredibly handsome; mid thirties, maybe forty, well groomed, sharp features accentuated by a smart neatly trimmed beard, clean brown eyes, he looked strong and confident, and his outward appearance betrayed no sign of what was going on inside him.

He looked at me longingly, in a lingering sort of way that women secretly want men to look at them.

I blushed, felt good, but quickly composed myself.

In such vulnerable situations anything could happen and I had to be careful, so I said to him in a firm dispassionate tone, “I think you better go now. It’s time for your flight.”

“It’s delayed.”

“You’re sure?”

“Of course. I’m the pilot – the commander of the aircraft. I’ve to report after an hour.”

“I’ll leave? It’s almost check-in time.”

“No! No! Please stay. There’s still two hours for your flight to London . I’ll get you checked-in. There’s something I want to tell you,” he pleaded, “I’ll order some more coffee.”

The airport restaurant was deserted at this late hour and wore a dark, eerie look, with just a few people huddled in muted whispers.

“I want to thank you for giving me this special appointment – agreeing to meet me here at such short notice,” he said.

“It’s okay. It was quite convenient for both of us, enroute catching our flights. A nice quiet discreet place, this airport restaurant.”

He paused for a moment, then spoke guiltily, “I did something terrible today.”

“What?”

“I stole my wife’s cell-phone.”

“Stole?”

“Yes.”

“You stole your wife’s mobile?”

“Yes. Just before I left. I took it from her purse. She was fast asleep.”

“This is too much! Stealing your wife’s mobile. That was the most despicable thing to do. I don’t think we should talk any more. You need some serious help,” I said, gulped down my coffee and started to get up.

“No! No! Please listen. It’s those tell-tale SMS messages!”

“SMS messages?”

“From ‘Teddy Bear’.”

“Teddy Bear?”

“Someone she knows. ‘Teddy Bear’. She’s saved his number. She keeps getting these SMSs, which she erases immediately.

“This ‘Teddy Bear’ SMSs your wife?”

“Yes. I think they are having a good time right behind my back the moment I take off on a flight. This ‘Teddy Bear’ and my wife. This evening when she was bathing while I was getting ready to leave for the airport, her cell-phone was lying on the bed, an SMS came from ‘Teddy Bear’ : “I am yearning for you. SPST.”

“SPST? What’s that?” I asked.

“I don’t know. I called the number. A male voice said: ‘Hi Sugar!’ Just imagine, he calls her ‘Sugar’. I hung up in disgust immediately. Then during dinner she kept getting calls and SMSs – must be the same chap: ‘Teddy Bear’.”

“Your wife spoke to him?”

“No. She looked at the number and cut it off. Four or five times. Then she switched her mobile to silent and put in her purse.”

“You asked her who it was?”

“No.”

“You should have. It may have been a colleague, a friend. That’s your problem – you keep imagining things and have stopped communicating with her. Ask her next time and I’m sure everything will clear up.”

“No! No! I am sure she is having an affair with this ‘Teddy Bear’ chap. Had it not been for the last minute delay in my flight, I wouldn’t have been home at that time.” he said. And then suddenly he broke down, tears pouring down his cheeks, his voice uncontrollable, “The moment I take off, she starts cheating on me.”

It was a bizarre sight. A tough looking man totally shattered, weeping inconsolably.

“Please,” I said, “control yourself. And you better not fly in this state.”

“I think you’re right,” he said recovering his composure, “I’m in no mood to fly.”

He took out a cell-phone from his shirt pocket, dialled the standby pilot and a few other numbers and told them he was unwell and was going off the roster.

He kept the mobile phone on the table.

“Your wife’s cell-phone?” I asked pointing to the sleek mobile phone he had kept on the table.

“Yes.”

“She’ll be missing it.”

“No. She’ll be fast asleep. I’ll go back and put it in her purse.”

We sat for some time in silence. It appeared he was in a trance, a vacuous look in his eyes. Years of counselling had taught me that in such moments it was best to say nothing. So I just picked up my cup and sipped what remained of my coffee.

Suddenly he got up and said, “I think I’ll go home,” and he quickly turned and walked away.

It was only after he had gone, as I kept my coffee cup back on the table, that I noticed that he had forgotten the cell-phone on the table, his unfaithful wife’s cell-phone.

An idea struck me.

At first I was a bit hesitant; then curiosity took charge of me and I picked it the mobile phone.

Hurriedly I clicked on ‘names’, pressed ‘T’, quickly found ‘Teddy Bear’ and pressed the call button.

A few rings and I instantly recognized my husband’s baritone voice at the other end, “Hey Sugar, where are you? Why aren’t you answering? Did you get my SMS  –  ‘SPST’  –  ‘Same Place Same Time’. Why did you give me a blank call?…..”

I couldn’t believe this. My dear own husband – ‘Teddy Bear’. Right under my nose. It was unimaginable, incredulous.

I felt shattered. My very own world came tumbling down like a pack of cards.

I cannot begin to describe the emotions that overwhelmed me at that moment, but I’ll tell you what I did.

I put the cell-phone in my purse, walked briskly to the check-in counter without looking back, quickly checked in, and boarded the flight; and, Dear Reader, as you read this, at this very moment, I am on my way to London to present my research paper on ‘The efficacy of marriage counselling in the alleviation of marital discord’ at the International Conference of Counsellors.

And till I return, let everyone here stew in suspense.

VIKRAM KARVE

Copyright © Vikram Karve 2010

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

vikramkarve@sify.com


http://vikramkarve.sulekha.com


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

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

HOW TO SAVE YOUR MARRIAGE

September 29, 2009

HOW TO SAVE YOUR MARRIAGE
[Fiction Short Story]
 
by 

 VIKRAM KARVE 

  

 

 

“Your relationship has become so demoralized by distrust that it is better severed than patched up.”

 

“What?”

 

“Yes. It is better you split instead of living in perpetual suspicion like this. Why live a lie?”

 

“How can you say this? You are a marriage counsellor; you’re supposed to save marriages, not break them.”

 

“But then what can I do if you don’t change your attitude?” I said in desperation, “you have to learn to trust your wife; just stop being jealous, suspicious, possessive. Mutual trust is important in a marriage, especially a long distance marriage like yours.”

 

I looked at the man sitting in front of me. 

He was incredibly handsome; mid thirties, maybe forty, well groomed, sharp features accentuated by a smart neatly trimmed beard, clean brown eyes, he looked strong and confident, and his outward appearance betrayed no sign of what was going on inside him. 

He looked at me longingly, in a lingering sort of way that women secretly want men to look at them.

 

I blushed, felt good, but quickly composed myself. 

In such vulnerable situations anything could happen and I had to be careful, so I said to him in a firm dispassionate tone, “I think you better go now. It’s time for your flight.”

 

“It’s delayed.”

 

“You’re sure?”

 

“Of course. I’m the pilot – the commander of the aircraft. I’ve to report after an hour.”

 

“I’ll leave? It’s almost check-in time.”

 

“No! No! Please stay. There’s still two hours for your flight to London. I’ll get you checked-in. There’s something I want to tell you,” he pleaded, “I’ll order some more coffee.”

 

The airport restaurant was deserted at this late hour and wore a dark, eerie look, with just a few people huddled in muted whispers.

 

“I want to thank you for giving me this special appointment – agreeing to meet me here at such short notice,” he said.

 

“It’s okay. It was quite convenient for both of us to meet here while waiting to catch our flights. It was a nice quiet discreet place, this airport restaurant.”

 

He paused for a moment, then spoke guiltily, “I did something terrible today.”

 

“What?”

 

“I stole my wife’s cell-phone.”

 

“Stole?”

“Yes.”
 
“You stole your wife’s mobile?”

 

“Yes. Just before I left. I took it from her purse. She was fast asleep.”

 

“This is too much! Stealing your wife’s mobile. That was the most despicable thing to do. I don’t think we should talk any more. You need some serious help,” I said, gulped down my coffee and started to get up.

 

“No! No! Please listen. It’s those tell-tale SMS messages!”

 

“SMS messages?”

 

“From ‘Teddy Bear’.”

 

“Teddy Bear?”

 

“Someone she knows. ‘Teddy Bear’. She’s saved his number. She keeps getting these SMSs, which she erases immediately.
 
“This ‘Teddy Bear’ SMSs your wife?”

“Yes. I think they are having a good time right behind my back the moment I take off on a flight. This ‘Teddy Bear’ and my wife. This evening when she was bathing while I was getting ready to leave for the airport, her cell-phone was lying on the bed, an SMS came from ‘Teddy Bear’: “I am yearning for you. SPST.”

 

“SPST? What’s that?” I asked.

 

“I don’t know. I called the number. A male voice said: ‘Hi Sugar!’ Just imagine, he calls her ‘Sugar’. I hung up in disgust immediately. Then during dinner she kept getting calls and SMSs – must be the same chap: ‘Teddy Bear’.”

 

“Your wife spoke to him?”

 

“No. She looked at the number and cut it off. Four or five times. Then she switched her mobile to silent and put in her purse.”

 

“You asked her who it was?”

 

“No.”

 

“You should have. It may have been a colleague, a friend. That’s your problem – you keep imagining things and have stopped communicating with her. Ask her next time and I’m sure everything will clear up.”

 

“No! No! I am sure she is having an affair with this ‘Teddy Bear’ chap. Had it not been for the last minute delay in my flight, I wouldn’t have been home at that time.” he said. And then suddenly he broke down, tears pouring down his cheeks, his voice uncontrollable, “The moment I take off, she starts cheating on me.”

 

It was a bizarre sight. A tough looking man totally shattered, weeping inconsolably.

 

“Please,” I said, “control yourself. And you better not fly in this state.”

 

“I think you’re right,” he said recovering his composure, “I’m in no mood to fly.” 

He took out a cell-phone from his shirt pocket, dialled the standby pilot and a few other numbers and told them he was unwell and was going off the roster.

 

He kept the mobile phone on the table.

 

“Is that your wife’s cell-phone?” I asked pointing to the sleek mobile phone he had kept on the table.

 

“Yes.”

 

“She’ll be missing it.”

 

“No. She’ll be fast asleep. I’ll go back and put it in her purse.” 

We sat for some time in silence.

 

It appeared he was in a trance, a vacuous look in his eyes.

 

Years of counselling had taught me that in such moments it was best to say nothing. 

 

So I just picked up my cup and sipped what remained of my coffee.

Suddenly he got up and said, “I think I’ll go home,” and he quickly turned and walked away. 

It was only after he had gone, as I kept my coffee cup back on the table, that I noticed that he had forgotten the cell-phone on the table.

 

I looked at his unfaithful wife’s mobile phone, wondering what to do.. 

An idea struck me. 

At first I was a bit hesitant; then curiosity took charge of me and I picked it the mobile phone. 

Hurriedly I clicked on ‘names’, pressed ‘T’, quickly found ‘Teddy Bear’ and pressed the call button.
 
A few rings and I instantly recognized my husband’s baritone voice at the other end, “Hey Sugar, where are you? Why aren’t you answering? Did you get my SMS  –  ‘SPST’  –  ‘Same Place Same Time’. Why did you give me a blank call?…..” 

 

I was shell-shocked – I just couldn’t believe this!

 

It was stunning –  my dear own husband – ‘Teddy Bear’ – it was happening right under my nose and I was clueless. It was unimaginable, incredulous. 

I felt shattered and my world came tumbling down like a pack of cards.

 

I cannot begin to describe the emotions that overwhelmed me at that moment, but I’ll tell you what I did.

 

I put the cell-phone in my purse, walked briskly to the check-in counter without looking back, quickly checked in, and boarded the flight.

 

Dear Reader, as you read this, at this very moment, I am on my way to London to present my research paper on ‘The efficacy of marriage counselling in the alleviation of marital discord’ at the International Conference of Counsellors.

 

And till I return, let everyone here stew in suspense. 

 

 

 

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

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

A Lazy Hot Afternoon in Mumbai

July 27, 2009

Métier

[Short Fiction – A Romance]

By

VIKRAM KARVE

What is the best way to kill a lazy hot afternoon in South Mumbai?

You can go window-shopping on Colaba Causeway; enjoy a movie at Eros or Regal; loaf aimlessly around Churchgate, Fountain, Gateway of India or on the Marine Drive; leisurely sip chilled beer at Gaylord, Leopold, Sundance or Mondegar; browse at the Oxford Book Store or in the Mumbai University Library under the Rajabai clock-tower; watch cricket sitting under the shade of a tree at the Oval; visit the Museum; or, if you are an art lover, admire the works of budding artists on display in the numerous art galleries in the Kalaghoda art district.

That’s what I decide to do.

At 11 o’clock in the morning I stand at the entrance of the JehangirArt Gallery at Kalaghoda in Mumbai. I walk into the exhibition hall to my right. The art gallery has just opened and I am the first visitor.

Standing all alone in placid relaxing hall, in peaceful silence, surrounded by paintings adorning the pristine white walls, I experience a feeling of soothing tranquillity – a serene relaxing calm – and for the first time after many hectic, harried and stressed days, I experience an inner peace and comforting silence within me and, at that moment, I know what it feels like to be in harmony with oneself.

I leisurely look around at the paintings. I see a familiar face in a portrait. An uncanny resemblance to someone I know.

The face on the canvas stares back at me. Comprehension strikes like a thunderbolt. It’s me! Yes – it’s me! No doubt about it! Someone has painted my portrait, my own face.

I look at myself. I like what I see. It is a striking painting, crafted to the point of the most eloquent perfection.

I am amazed at the painter’s precise attention to detail – my flowing luxuriant black hair, delicate nose, large expressive eyes, even my beauty spot, the tiny mole on my left cheek; the painter has got everything right.

Never before have I looked so beautiful; even in a photograph. My face looks so eye-catching that I can’t help admiring myself – like Narcissus.

I look at the title of the painting on a brass tally below – My Lovely Muse. Muse?

I’ve never modelled for anyone in my life. Who can it be?

Suddenly I notice a wizened old man staring at me. He looks at the painting and then at me, and gives me a knowing smile.

“Excuse me, Sir,” I ask him, “do you know the artist who painted this?”

“I’m the painter,” a gruff voice says behind me. I turn around and look at the man. With his flowing beard, unkempt hair and dishevelled appearance he looks like a scruffy scarecrow. At first sight, totally unrecognizable.

But the yearning look of frank admiration in his eyes gives him away. No one else has ever looked at me in that way and I know he is still desperately in love with me.

“Do I see the naughty boy I once knew hiding behind that horrible shaggy beard?” I say to him.

“Do I see the bubbly and vivacious girl I once knew hiding inside the beautiful woman standing in front of me?” he responds.

“You look terrible,” I say.

“You look lovely – like a flower in full bloom,” he says.

I feel good. Aditya may be in love with me, but there is no pretence about him. I know the compliment is genuine.

“Come, Anu,” he says taking my arm, “let me show you my work.” And as we walk around he explains the themes, nuances and finer points of each painting.

Here I feel a sense of timelessness – a state of supreme bliss. I wish this were my world; sublime, harmonious, creative. I wish I’d stayed on; not burnt my bridges. Or have I?

“Let’s eat, I’m hungry,” Aditya interrupts my train of thoughts.

“Khyber?” I ask.

“No. I can’t afford it,” he says.

“I can,” I tease.

“The treat’s on me,” he asserts, pulls me gently, and says, “Let’s go next door to Samovar and have the stuffed parathas you loved once upon a time.”

“I still do,” I say, and soon we sit in Café Samovar enjoying a lazy unhurried lunch relishing delicious stuffed parathas.

“What time do you have to go?”

“I’ll collect the visa from Churchgate at four and then catch the flight at night.”

“Churchgate? I thought the visa office was at Breach Candy!”

“That’s the American visa. It’s already done. The British visa office is at Churchgate.”

“Wow! You are going to England too?”

“Of course. US, UK, Europe, Singapore. Globetrotting. The next few months are going to be really hectic. It’s a huge software development project.”

“Lucky you! It must be so exciting. You must love it!”

“I hate it!”

“What?”

“It’s unimaginable agony. Sitting in front of a computer for hours and hours doing something I don’t like.”

“You don’t like it? Then why do you do it?”

“I don’t know,” I say. “Aditya, do you know what the tragedy of my life is?”

“What?”

“My biggest misfortune is that I am good at things I don’t like.”

“Come on, be serious! Don’t tell me all that.”

“I hated Maths, but was so good at it that I landed up in IIT doing Engineering, and that too Computers.”

“But you’re damn good. A genius at computers. That’s why they are sending abroad aren’t they? The youngest and brightest project manager! You told me that.”

“Being good at work is different from liking it. You know, the thing I despise the most – sitting like a Zombie in front of the monitor for hours, discussing tedious technical mumbo jumbo with nerds I find insufferable. It’s painful, but then I am the best software expert in the company, the IT whiz-kid!”

“Yes. I know. It’s true. It is indeed a great tragedy to be so good at something you hate doing. That’s why I quit practice and am doing my first love – painting. I don’t know how good I am but I certainly love doing it.”

“But you are so good. You must be minting money, isn’t it?”

“Not at all. I told you I couldn’t afford Khyber. Just about make ends meet.”

“I thought artists make a lot of money. The art market is booming.”

“Only the established ones. Not struggling types like me!.”

“Come on, Aditya. Don’t joke. Tell me, how can you afford to have your exhibition here in Jehangir?”

“There’s a patron. An old lady. She encourages budding artists like me. She’s given me a place for my studio.”

“Just like that?”

“Yes. There are still a few such people left in this world. I present her a painting once in a while,” he pauses and says, “But today I’m going to be lucky. Looks like My Lovely Muse is going to fetch me a good price. Thanks to you!”

“Thanks to me?”

“You were the model for this painting. My inspiration. My Muse!”

“I never modeled for you!”

“You don’t have to. You image is so exquisitely etched in my mind’s eye that I can even paint you in the nude.”

“Stop it!” I say angrily, but inside me I blush and feel a kind of stirring sensation.

“Tell me about yourself, Anu,” Aditya says, changing the subject.

“I told you. About my painfullyboring work. And you won’t understand much about software. Spare me the agony. I just don’t want to talk about it.”

“You still paint?”

“No. I stopped long ago. At IIT.”

“Why?”

“No time. Too much study, I guess. And the techie crowd.”

“You should start again. You’re good. You’ve got a natural talent.”

“It’s too late. That part of me is dead. Now, it’s work and meeting deadlines. An intellectual sweatshop.”

“Come on Anu, cheer up. Tell me about your love life?”

“The company is taking care of that too! They are trying to get me hooked to some high flier Project Manager in my team.”

“Don’t tell me? What’s his name?”

“Anand.”

“Wow! Anu and Anand! Made for each other!”

“You know they set us up as per their convenience, facilitate working together all the time, encourage office romance, and even give us a dating allowance.”

“Dating allowance? Office romance! It’s crazy! Just imagine – Paying people money to fall in love!”

“Helps reduce attrition, they say; makes people stay on in the company. Nerds understand each other better; can cope better together, at work and at home. That’s what they say. Smart fellows, those guys in HR – they try and team us up as it suits them. They are dangling carrots too – like this trip abroad. They’ve even promised us a posting together to Singapore on a two year contract, if things work out.”

“It’s great!”

“Great? Are you crazy? Just imagine living full-time with a boring number crunching nerd all my life, doing nothing but being buried in software, day in and day out. I shiver at the very thought.”

“Tell me, who would you like to marry?”

“I don’t know.”

“How about marrying me?”

“Come on, be serious.”

“I’m serious. We could paint together, do all the creative stuff you always wanted to do. Live a good life.”

“Let’s go,” I say changing the topic.

“Anu. Remember. If you love flowers, become a gardener. Don’t curb your creativity. A lifetime of having to curb the expression of original thought often culminates in one losing one’s ability to express.”

“I’ve got to go, Aditya. It’s almost four. The visa should be ready by now.”

“Wait. Let me give you a parting gift to remember me by.”

Aditya calls the curator and tells him to gift wrap and pack the painting titled ‘My Lovely Muse’.

“Sir, we’ll get a good price for it. I’ve already got an offer,” the curator says.

“It’s not for sale,” Aditya says, “It’s a gift from an Artist to his Muse.”

I am overcome by emotion at his loving gesture. I look at Aditya.

It is clearly evident that Aditya is really deeply in love with me. And me?

Am I in love with him? Tears well up in my eyes. My throat chokes. My heart aches.

I find myself imprisoned in the chasm between the two different worlds – Aditya’s and mine.

But soon the rational side of me takes charge, and as we part, Aditya says, “Bye, Anu. Remember. If you can do something well, enjoy doing it and feel proud of doing it, then that’s your perfect métier. There’s no point living a lie. You’ve got to find yourself.”

I hold out my hand to him.

He presses my hand fondly and says, “Start painting. You must always do what you love to do. That’s the highest value use of time – time spent on doing what you want to do.”

“And what is the lowest value of time?” I ask.

“Doing what you don’t like just because others want you to do it.”

“Or maybe for money!”

“Money?” he asks, and then he looks lovingly into my eyes and says, “Anu, don’t destroy your talent by not using it.”

I get into a taxi and drive away form his world, my dream-world; into the material world of harsh reality.

In the evening, I sit by the sea, at the southern tip of Marine Drive and watch the glorious spectacle of sunset. As I watch the orange sun being gobbled up the calm blue sea, and crimson petals form in the sky, my mobile phone rings.

It is Anand, my Project Manager, with whom my romance is being contrived, from the airport. “Hey, Anuradha. The flight is at 10, check in begins at 8; make sure you are there on time. Terminal 2A.”

“I’m not coming,” I say.

“What do you mean you’re not coming?” Anand shouts from the other end.

“I mean I’m not coming,” I say calmly.

“Why? What’s wrong? Someone made you a better offer?”

“It’s nothing like that. I’ve discovered my métier. I’m going back to the world where I really belong,” I say.

“Where are you? How can you ditch us like this at the last moment?” he pleads.

I know if this is the defining moment of my life. It’s now or never. I have to burn my bridges now. “I have made my decision, Anand. I am not coming back. I have to discover my true self, do what I want, be happy from the inside. I’m sorry, Anand. I’m sure you’ll find someone else, your soul-mate, at work and for yourself. Best of luck!”

I switch off my cell-phone. I look at it. The last of the manacles! Deliberately, I throw the mobile phone into the Arabian Sea.

I begin walking towards the place where I know I’ll find Aditya.

And then I will return to the world where I really belong to realize my true metier and be my own Muse!

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

http://vikramkarve.sulekha.com

MARRIAGE DIVORCE MARRIAGE

July 14, 2009

Dating Mating Hating Resuscitating

Short Fiction – A Love Story

By

VIKRAM KARVE


The much delayed monsoon has finally arrived in Pune. It’s been raining incessantly all morning.

Ideally, at 10 o’clock in the morning on a working day, I should have been safely ensconced in my office, but today I sit in the driving seat of my car, slowly negotiating my way in the torrential rain, for I have an important appointment to keep.

Suddenly I see Avinash, half drenched, shivering under the bus-stop at Aundh, trying to protect himself from the pouring rain.

He sees me too. Our eyes meet. I don’t know who is more surprised at this unexpected encounter – he or me.

At first instinct, I just feel like ignoring him and driving away.

But then my humanitarian side takes over, so I stop the car near him, lean across, open the door and beckon him to get inside.

He seems hesitant, “Thanks, but I’ll take an auto – I am going to Deccan…”

“Come on Avinash, get in fast or you’ll get wet – you won’t get a rickshaw in this rain – I too am going towards Deccan Gymkhana – I’ll drop you on the way.”

He gets in and for a while we drive in silence.

“It’s been five years,” he says.

“Yes,” I say, “Quite a surprise, seeing you here in Pune…”

“Yes. I just came in from Mumbai by the Volvo bus, got down at Parihar Chowk… and you…what are you doing in Pune?”

“I relocated here six months ago…you still in the States?”

“Yes. But maybe I’ll come back…”

“Recession…?”

“Not really…”

“So you’ve come to look for a job in Pune…?”

“It’s actually something else…a family matter…”

“Family matter…? In Pune…?”

“My wife is from Pune…”

“Wife…? You remarried…?

“Yes…two years ago…”

“And I didn’t even know…!”

“We decided…didn’t we…to move on…go off on our different ways…not look back…”

“Yes…we lost track of each other completely…”

“That was good…isn’t it…for both of us…”

“Yes…”

“And you…? You married again…?”

“Yes…soon after you left for the States after our divorce…”

“On the rebound…?”

“Maybe…” I laugh.

Avinash has not changed…the way he says these devastatingly rude things in such a naïve innocent way.

We are nearing the Pune University circle so I ask, “Where is your wife’s house…? I’ll take the road accordingly…”

“It’s okay…just drop me wherever you can…”

“Come on…tell me…see how much it is raining…you want me to take Senapati Bapat Road…or drive straight ahead…to Fergusson College Road…or Jangli Maharaj Road…?”

“It’s okay…you go wherever you want to go in Deccan…I’ll get off there…”

“Oh…so you don’t want to show me your wife’s house…” I say, tongue in cheek.

“No…No…it’s not that…I am going somewhere else…to the Family Court…”

“To the Family Court…? I ask, taken aback.

“Yes,” he says, “it’s beyond Deccan, past Lakdi Pul…near Alaka…”

“I know where the family court is…” I say, “I hope you are not…”

“Yes…first it was the Family Court in Mumbai with you…and now…” he stops, as tears well up in his eyes.

“I too am going to the Family Court…” I say, sensing a lump in my throat.

“What…?” he looks at me, startled.

“I am divorcing my husband…today is the final hearing…hopefully…”

I slow down, stop the car near the kerb past E-Square. I wipe my eyes with tissue and hold the tissue box towards Avinash. He too wipes his eyes.

“Maybe we should have stayed together, tried to make our marriage work,” I say.

“Yes…it all happened so fast …maybe we were too hasty, too impatient, too headstrong…”

“Yes…we could have tried to make it work…”

“I think we sought the easy way out…we were too young…unrealistic…immature…impetuous…volatile…”

“Yes… ours was a tempestuous stormy relationship…a terrible marriage…but there is one thing…”

“What…?”

“With you I could be myself…no mask, no pretence, no forced geniality…”

“Me too…with you I could truly be myself…no contrived feelings, no holding back…I could never be like that with anyone else…with her too…the way could naturally be with you…you know I think we were made for each other…”

“Maybe we should give it a try…one more time…make things work…”

“You’re serious…?” he asks with a curious look in his eyes.

“Yes, Avinash. Let’s empty our cups and start afresh. Like you said, I too think we are made for each other.”

“Okay, but there is one thing…”

“What…?”

“Is it allowed to marry the same person twice…?

“I think so…I’ll ask my divorce lawyer…she will know…”

“Yes…I’ll confirm at the Family Court too…”

“One more thing…”

“Now what…?”

“This time…No Expectations, No Disappointments, Happy Marriage…”

“Yes,” I say lovingly putting my hand on his: “No Expectations…No Disappointments…Happy Marriage…”

Suddenly I notice that it has stopped raining and the sun is peeping through the clouds.

I feel good. I start the car and we drive on towards the Family Court…to erase the second chapter of our marital lives forever and to begin writing our first inchoate chapter afresh.

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

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