Posts Tagged ‘father’

Love Torn Apart – A Lovedale Story

July 23, 2010

LOVE TORN APART

Fiction Short Story

By

VIKRAM KARVE

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

Lovedale.

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

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

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

Lovedale, in 1970.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The old lady closes her eyes in sadness.

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

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

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

There is no one else in the compartment.

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

“Yes,” the woman replies softly.

“You should have told her before.”

“Told her before…? How…? When…?”

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

“How can I be so cruel…?”

“Cruel…? What’s so cruel about it…?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“She’ll understand.”

“Poor thing. She will be all alone.”

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

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

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

“Can’t we take her with us…?”

“You know it’s not possible.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“How can you say that…?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“DLFMTC… ?”

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

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

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

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

The occupants of the solitary bench look towards their left.

There is no one else on the platform.

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

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

The girl runs into her arms.

The old woman walks towards her with a welcoming smile.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And suddenly the train enters.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Poor old Lovedale Railway Station.

It wants to cry.

It tries to cry.

But it cannot even a shed a tear.

For it is not human.

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

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

Yes, a pity…real pity…!

LOVE TORN APART

Fiction Short Story

By

VIKRAM KARVE

Copyright © Vikram Karve 2010

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

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

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

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

Email: vikramkarve@sify.com

Links to my creative writing blog and profile

CREATIVE WRITING by VIKRAM KARVE

VIKRAM KARVE Profile and Bio

MY FOODIE ADVENTURES BOOK

http://vikramkarve.sulekha.com

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

Appetite for a Stroll

vikramkarve@sify.com

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DON’T CALL ME AUNTY – Fiction Short Story

December 17, 2009

DON’T CALL ME AUNTY
Fiction Short Story

By

VIKRAM KARVE 

 

“Wake up, I am sending you on a mission,” my father said, shaking me off my bed.

“Mission!” I jumped out of bed and got ready in a jiffy.

My father is a detective and, once in a while, he sends me on undercover assignments.

My father is all I have got in this world after God took my mother away.

“Surveillance?” I ask, as we stand discreetly at the bus stop outside Taraporewala Aquarium on Marine Drive.

“Yes. A simple tail-chase. Look to your right; keep your eyes focused on the gate of the working women’s hostel. A woman will come out soon. Follow her, shadow her, like a tail, but very discreetly, and the moment you lose her, ring me up on your mobile.”

Suddenly, a tall woman wearing a bright yellow dress appeared at the gate. My father gave me a nudge, and then he disappeared.

The woman walked towards Charni Road Station, crossed the over-bridge to platform No.2, and waited for the train to Churchgate.

She got into the ladies compartment and I followed her in, for though I am a boy, I’m still below twelve.

She sat down and I observed her, unseen, standing in the crowd. She must have been around 25, maybe 30, and with her smooth fair creamy complexion she looked really smashing in the bright yellow dress.

What I liked about her the most was her huge strikingly expressive dancing eyes.

At Churchgate, she leisurely strolled down the platform, whilst everyone else rushed by.

She browsed at Wheeler’s bookstall, and then stopped at Tibbs, bought a Frankie, and walked towards the underground exit. I too love frankies, so I quickly bought one too, and followed her, careful not to be seen.

We both walked, me behind her, munching away, straight down the road towards Nariman Point, till she stopped at the Inox Multiplex.

Shit! I hoped she wouldn’t go for an Adults movie, but luckily she bought a ticket for ‘Paa’ and I followed her in.

I really enjoyed the rest of my mission.

She was quite a fun person, and spent the day thoroughly enjoying herself, seeing the sights, browsing books, window shopping, street food, eating things I love to eat, doing the things I like to do.

It was smooth sailing, till suddenly she stepped into a beauty parlour.

Now I needed backup, so I called up my father.

But he told me to abort the mission and to meet him at our usual favourite place in the vicinity – Stadium next to Churchgate station.

“Abort the mission?” I protested.

“Yes,” my Dad ordered, “and come fast to Churchgate…The usual place…I’ll tell you the reason when you get here…”

We chose an inconspicuous table in the middle of the restaurant and sat facing the entrance.

I told him everything.

He listened intently.

Suddenly I saw the woman in yellow standing bold as brass at the entrance of the restaurant looking directly at us.

I felt a tremor of trepidation, the ground slipped beneath my feet.

And when I saw her coming directly towards our table, I tried to hide in my chair and wished the earth would swallow me up.

My father smiled at the woman, “Hello, Nanda.”

I was stunned.

‘Hello Nanda?’ This was too much!

I looked at my father, puzzled by his behaviour.

First he sends me after her on a tail-chase, shadowing her all day, and now ‘Hello Nanda’!

The lady in the yellow dress with the dancing eyes sat down, looked at me curiously.

“You’ve met, haven’t you?” father asked.  

“No, she said.”

“No? You’re sure? Try to think. You must have seen him somewhere before.”

“I’m sure I have not seen him before. I never forget a face. This is the first time I am seeing him. He’s cute,” she said, looking at me tenderly.

My father winked at me in appreciation.

But who was this woman, I wondered, so I asked my father, “Who is this aunty?”

It was the lovely woman in the bright yellow dress who looked lovingly at me with her dancing eyes and answered, “Don’t call me aunty. I am going to be your new mother.”

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

SMART BOY – Are Children Innocent Victims of Divorce

December 16, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

Read on and tell me if you liked this story:

SMART BOY


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

By

VIKRAM KARVE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Me?” I ask, flabbergasted.

“My son…he’s travelling alone…”

“I always travel alone…” the boy interjects.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Your father gave it to you?”

“Yes. Papa gets me the best…”

“And your mother…”

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

“Oh dear, I am so sorry…”

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

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

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

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

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

“And now?”

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

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

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

“Really? You had two birthday parties?”

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

“Whatever you don’t want…?”

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

“That’s good…you are really lucky…”

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

“Funny? What?”

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

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

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

Smart Boy!

VIKRAM KARVE

Copyright © Vikram Karve 2009

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


http://vikramkarve.sulekha.com


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


Appetite for a Stroll


A DAY IN THE LIFE OF A DIVORCED MAN


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

vikramkarve@sify.com

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

A DIVORCE STORY – MAN WOMAN and CHILD

September 14, 2009

MAN WOMAN and CHILD
[Fiction Short Story]

by

VIKRAM KARVE

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

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

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

“I want both of them,” the boy says.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“No. I want out,” the woman says.

“Me too!” the man says.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What?” the man asks.

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

“And you want to get married to him?”

“Yes.”

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

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

“So you’re off to the States?”

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

“Good for you.”

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

“What?” the man asks suspiciously.

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

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

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

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

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

“You’ve told the boy?”

“No,” the woman answers.

The man says nothing.

There is silence.

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

Strange are the ways of life.

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

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

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

MAN WOMAN and CHILD

[Fiction Short Story]

By

VIKRAM KARVE

Copyright © Vikram Karve 2009

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

http://vikramkarve.sulekha.com

vikramkarve@sify.com

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

LOVEDALE

July 10, 2009

LOVEDALE

[Short Fiction – A Slice of Life Story]

By

VIKRAM KARVE

Lovedale.

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

On Lovedale railway station there is just one small platform – and on it, towards its southern end, there is a solitary bench.

If you sit on this bench you will see in front of you, beyond the railway track, an undulating valley, covered with eucalyptus trees, and in the distance the silhouette of a huge structure, which looks like a castle, with an impressive clock-tower.

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

Lovedale, in 1970 – that’s all there is in Lovedale – this famous public school, a small tea-estate called Lovedale (from which this place got its name), a tiny post office and, of course, the lonely railway platform with its solitary bench.

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

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

“I’m dying to meet mummy. And this stupid train – it’s always late,” the girl says. She is dressed in school uniform – gray blazer, thick gray woollen skirt, navy-blue stockings, freshly polished black shoes, her hair tied smartly in two small plaits with black ribbons.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The old lady closes her eyes in sadness. There is no greater pain than to remember happier times when in distress.

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

A man and a woman sit facing each other in the tiny first class compartment. There is no one else.

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

“Yes,” the woman replies softly.

“You should have told her before.”

“Told her before? How? When?”

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

“How can I be so cruel?”

“Cruel? What’s so cruel about it?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“She’ll understand.”

“Poor thing. She will be all alone.”

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

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

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

“Can’t we take her with us?”

“You know it’s not possible.”

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

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

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

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

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

“Come on Kavita. Don’t get sentimental,. You have to face the harsh reality. You know we can’t take your mother-in-law with us. Kavita, you must begin a new life now – no point carrying the baggage of your past,” the man realizes he has said something wrong and instantly apologizes, “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean it.”

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

They travel in silence, an uneasy disquieting silence.

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

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

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

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

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

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

The steam engine pushing the train huffs and puffs up the slope round the bend under the bridge. “Lovedale station is coming,” the woman says. She gets up and takes out her bag from the shelf.

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

“No. Not now. You go ahead to Ooty. I’ll ring you up,” says the woman.

“Okay. But tell them everything. We can’t wait any longer.”

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

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

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

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

“DLFMTC ?”

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

“Next time you too …”

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

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

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

The occupants of the solitary bench look towards their left.

There is no one else on the platform.

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

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

The girl runs into her arms.

The old woman walks towards her with a welcoming smile.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

They all stand in silence. No one speaks. Time stands still. And suddenly the train enters.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Poor old Lovedale Railway Station, the mute witness, doesn’t even a shed a tear.

It wants to cry. It tries. But it can’t. Poor thing. It’s not human. So it suffers its sorrow in inanimate helplessness.

Powerless. Hapless. Helpless.

A Silent Spectator. A Mute Witness.

A pity. A real pity!

VIKRAM KARVE

Copyright © Vikram Karve 2009

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

vikramkarve@sify.com

vikramkarve@hotmail.com

http://vikramkarve.sulekha.com

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

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