Posts Tagged ‘girl’

URBANIZATION OF THE MOFUSSIL GIRL – Story of a Modern Girl

August 5, 2011

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

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

Regards

Vikram Karve

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The Smart Young IT Pro and her Secret

November 6, 2010

The Smart Young IT Pro and her Secret.

UMAMI

July 15, 2010

UMAMI

Short Fiction – A Delicious Love Story

By

VIKRAM KARVE

Part 1 – SPDP

SPDP.

That’s right – SPDP…!

You know what SPDP is, don’t you…?

You don’t? Don’t tell me you don’t know what SPDP is…!

Oh. I’m sorry.

Maybe you are not a Punekar.

And if you do live in Pune and still don’t even know what SPDP is, it’s a pity…a real pity…!

SPDP – Sev Potato Dahi Puri – that’s what the acronym SPDP stands for.

Why ‘Potato’ and not ‘Batata’…?

I do not know – you’ll have to ask the guys at Vaishali.

Now don’t tell me you don’t know what Vaishali is…?

That’s being real daft and clueless, isn’t it…?

Well, Vaishali is the landmark restaurant on Fergusson College Road which serves the best and tastiest SPDP in the world – no doubt about it…!

And talking about taste, do you know how many basic tastes there are…?

“Four…!” you will rattle out, and you will proudly tell me as if you were a know-it-all: “Sweet, Sour, Salty, Bitter.”

“Well, my dear reader, you’re wrong…!

There are five primary tastes – Sweet, Sour, Salt, Bitter, and Umami.”

Umami…?

You’ve never heard of it…?

Well I can tell you one thing: “Besides being a lost case, you’re no ardent foodie for sure…!”

Umami is the unique tingling ‘savouriness’ or ‘deliciousness’ of Oriental Cuisines.

Well let’s forget all that mumbo-jumbo. If you really want to know what Umami is, just go down to Vaishali, order an SPDP, gently put a portion in your mouth, close your eyes, roll the delectable SPDP till it dissolves on your tongue, and you will experience what Umami tastes like…!

Now talking of rolling the SPDP on your tongue – have you noticed that as you roll your food on your tongue its taste changes and flavour varies as the food interacts with different regions of your tongue…?

The ‘Tongue Map’ – ever heard of it…?

You haven’t…?

Don’t tell me you haven’t heard of the Tongue Map…?

Hey, you are a real dumbo, aren’t you…?

Then try this yummy scrummy mouth-watering game.

Take some spicy chatpatta stuff, like Bhel, Chaat, or SPDP, and put some on your tongue.

Never heard of these things…?

I knew it.

But not to worry, it doesn’t matter. Relax. It’s okay. It just doesn’t matter…!

You can do this eating experiment with Chopsuey – yes, yes, the usual American Chopsuey you get at these ubiquitous Chinese eateries proliferating like hobgoblins all over the place.

Close your eyes.

Yes, you must close your eyes to heighten your awareness, your mindfulness.

Now focus inwards to accentuate your gustatory, kinaesthetic and olfactory sensations, and gently press the rich juicy scrumptious Chopsuey against your palate with the tip of your tongue.

It tastes heavenly doesn’t it…?

That’s Umami…yes… the taste you are experiencing is called UMAMI…!

Now slowly roll the chopsuey backwards to the right side of your tongue and notice how its sweetness enhances, and it moves back the relish the tangy sweetish-sourness, the inimitable sweet and sour flavour – to the left – a tinge of delicious subtle bitter flavour – and as you move the delectable melange forward on the left side of your tongue, soak up the tingling vitalizing scrummy saltiness, till once again you experience the intense lip-smacking luscious flavoursome savouriness of Umami.

That’s exactly what I am doing here right now, sitting on a lovely rainy evening at my favourite table in Vaishali restaurant on Fergusson College road in Pune.

Dissolving exquisite tingling mouth-watering portions of SPDP on my tongue, my eyes closed, senses focussed inwards, luxuriating in sheer epicurean bliss, trancelike ecstasy, epiphany, when suddenly, unwittingly, on the spur of the moment, I open my eyes, and I am totally astonished, shocked out of my wits, baffled and dazed, to see her standing at the entrance.

Instantaneously, I avert my eyes, try to hide myself in the SPDP in front of me, wishing, hoping against hope, that it is not her, and slowly, furtively, with tremors of trepidation, glance, through the corner of my eyes, a fleeting look, and my hopes are dashed, my worst fears come true, the delicious zesty SPDP turns tasteless in my mouth, like cud, and I wish the ground beneath me opens up and swallows me in.

I wish she doesn’t see me, so I look away, try to hide.

I do not want to meet her.

Tell me, which loser wants to meet a winner…!

Have you ever seen a failure attending a reunion, and enjoying it…?

At this stage of my life, I avoid people who are more successful than me.

The company of those less accomplished than you is always more comforting… at least for losers and “failures” like me.

Suddenly I sense she is near me.

Hesitantly, I look up.

We look at each other.

Priyamvada has blossomed. She looks exquisite, even more beautiful than before – radiant, slick, chic, booming with confidence – all the things that I am not.

“Hi, Praveen,” she says excitedly, “what a surprise…!”

“Yes,” I say nonchalantly.

“Hey, what’s the matter?  You’re not happy to see me…? Won’t you ask me to sit down…?” she says.

“Of course I am happy to see you. I’m sorry, but I was lost in my thoughts…do sit down and please do join me,” I say.

“Wow…! Having SPDP…? I too will have an SPDP,” she says cheerfully the moment she sits down opposite me.

“You like SPDP…?”

“I love it. SPDP in Vaishali – it brings back nostalgic memories too…!”

“Nostalgic memories…?”

“Vilas saw me for the first time right here – while I was having SPDP with my college gang.”

“So…?”

“He fell in love with me – love at first sight.”

“So…?”

“So he told his parents.”

“What…?”

“That he wanted to get married to me.”

“And…?”

“He told his parents that if at all he ever got married it would be to me and to no one else.”

“Oh…”

“His parents were delighted as he’d been rejecting proposals for years, avoiding marriage on some pretext or the other. So they found out about me from my college and landed up at my place to ask for my hand in marriage.”

“And you jumped…?”

“Jumped…?”

“Jumped with joy at the golden opportunity and dumped me without a thought and married a man twice your age…!”

“Twice my age…? What nonsense. Vilas wasn’t twice my age, just 30.”

“And you…? You were just a teenager then. Bloody cradle-snatcher…!”

“I wasn’t a teenager. I was 20.”

“It’s the same thing.”

“Praveen. Tell me, why are you still so bitter even today…? Just forget it…!”

“Forget it…? I can’t. You broke my heart.”

“Broke you heart…? I broke your heart…?”

“I was in love with you. We were in love with each other.”

“Love…? Come on, Praveen. It was just infatuation – one sided inchoate infatuation.”

“One sided infatuation…? I am sorry to hear that. I am really sorry to hear that. And then it was not only that. You made me the laughing stock of society. Not only me, my whole family…!”

“What do you mean?”

“What do I mean? You know what I mean!”

“What?”

“You know how it was then. A boy rejecting a girl is okay, but a girl rejecting a boy? That too in Madiwale Colony – you can’t even imagine the unimaginable agony I suffered. I became the laughing stock of town – not me alone, our whole family. I couldn’t even walk the streets peacefully without sensing those unspoken taunts and unseen jeers. It was terrible – really cruel of you.”

“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to hurt you. But I never wanted to marry you.”

“Then why did you say ‘yes’?”

“I don’t know. My parents were in a hurry. They showed me your photograph – it was all so confusing,” she says taking a sip of water, “please let’s talk something else.”

“No. I want to know why you ditched me for that richie-rich tycoon. Was it just money?”

“No. It’s not that. You were too mediocre.”

“Mediocre…? I’d passed out from an IIT…!”

“So what…? Remember when I asked you what your plans were…and do you know what you said…? The way you told me your philosophy of life…”

“Philosophy of life…? I think I just said that I never plan anything, that I just flow along, and take life as it comes.”

“Oh yes, just flow along. No ambitions. No aspirations. No dreams. No desire to achieve anything in life. Well I always wanted to get out of the middle class, have success, prosperity, see the world, enjoy the good things in life, and not spend my entire life going nowhere with an apathetic husband like you with no plans in life, listening to sermons on thrift and frugality.”

Priyamvada pauses for a moment, and then continues speaking, “I’m so sorry, but in life one has to be rational isn’t it…? One has to have plans in life.”

“Oh, yes. Plans in life…!” I say caustically, “And looking at you it’s evident that all your plans seem to have worked pretty well…”

I stop speaking at once, for seeing the sudden transformation in the expression on her face I instantly know that I have said something terribly wrong.

(To be continued…)

UMAMI

Short Fiction – A Delicious Love Story

Part 1 -SPDP

By

VIKRAM KARVE

Copyright © Vikram Karve 2010

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

http://vikramkarve.sulekha.com

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

vikramkarve@sify.com

The Healthier Side

July 14, 2010

A YUMMY DATE

Short Fiction – A Breezy Romance

By

VIKRAM KARVE
She stands in front of the full-length mirror and looks at herself.

She cringes a bit, for she does not like what she sees.

The jeans make her look fat.

And the tight blue top – it’s all wrong!

So she wears a loose dress – Churidar, Kurta and Dupatta – to hide her bulges.

She looks at her new high-heels – should she? They’ll make her look tall, less fat.

No.

Not today.

Now it’s got to be walking shoes.

A brisk invigorating walk from Chowpatty to Churchgate rejuvenating her body breathing the fresh evening sea breeze on Marine Drive is what she needs to cheer her up.

She stands on the weighing machine at Churchgate station and, with a tremor of trepidation, puts in the coin.

Lights flash.

Out comes the ticket.

She looks at it.
Same as yesterday.
And the day before.
And the day before.
No change.
She is doomed.
There is never any change in her weight or in her fortune!
Her face falls.

She’s trying so much… exercising, dieting.
But it’s of no use… her weight, her size, remains the same…

She looks longingly at the Softy Ice Cream counter.

There is a smart young handsome man with two Ice Cream cones, one in each hand.

He looks at her for that moment longer than necessary.

She averts her eyes, but he walks up to her and says, “Hi! How are you?”

She looks at him confused.

His face seems vaguely familiar.

“You are Sheena’s roommate, aren’t you?” he asks.

She remembers him.

He is Sheena’s boyfriend from HR.

“Here,” he says, coming close, proffering an Ice Cream cone.

She steps back awkwardly, perplexed and taken aback by the man’s audacity.

“Take the ice cream fast. It’ll melt,” he says.

She hesitates, confused.

“Come on. Don’t be shy. I know you love Ice Cream. Sheena told me.”

She takes the Ice Cream cone from his hands.

“I’m Mohan. I work in HR.”

She doesn’t say anything.

“Let’s walk,” he says, “and hey, eat your ice cream fast before it melts”.

They start walking.

As they walk slowly out of Churchgate station towards Marine Drive, they slowly lick the creamy yummy softy ice cream off their cones.

“You walked all the way?” he asks.

“Yes,” she speaks for the first time.

“All alone?”

“Yes.”

“You come here every evening?”

“Yes. I jog every morning too.”

“All alone?”

“No. On other days we come together.”

“We?”

“Sheena and me.”

“And today?”

“Sheena’s gone out.”

“For the office party at the disc?”

“Maybe.”

“And you? Why didn’t you go for the party? Didn’t want to go all alone is it? No date?”

She’s furious.

But she controls herself.

She says nothing.

No point getting on the wrong side of HR.

He notices and says, “Hey, don’t get angry. I didn’t go the party too.”

She hastens her steps and says, “Okay. Bye. Time for me to go! And thanks for the Ice Cream.”

“No. No. Wait. Let’s have a Pizza over there,” he says pointing to the Pizzeria on Marine Drive by the sea.

“No. Please. I’ve got to go.”

“Come on. Don’t count your calories too much. And don’t weigh yourself every day.”

“What?” she goes red with embarrassment!

This is too much! So this guy has been stalking her – watching her every day.

Outwardly she fumes. But inside, she secretly feels a flush of excitement.

“Yes. Don’t get obsessed about your weight. Like Sheena.”

“Sheena?”

“She keeps nagging me about my weight?”

“But you’re not fat!” she says.

“Then what would you say I am?” he asks.
“Let’s say you’re on the healthier side?”

“Healthier side? That’s great!” he says amused. “Then you too are on the healthier side, aren’t you?”

“Oh yes. We both are on the healthier side.” She laughs.

He laughs.

They both laugh together.

Healthy laughter!

They sit in the sea breeze and relish, enjoy their pizzas.

He is easy to talk to, she has much to say, and the words come tumbling out.

And so they enjoy a ‘healthy’ date.

Relishing delicious Pizzas, and other lip smacking goodies, to their hearts’ content, capping the satiating repast with the heavenly ice creams at Rustom’s nearby.

“Where were you?”  Sheena asks when she returns to their room in the working women’s hostel late at night.

“I had a date.”

“You? Fatso? A date?”  Sheena says disbelievingly

“Yes. A yummy date at Churchgate.”

“A date at Churchgate? Wow! Things are looking up for you yaar!”

“Yes. Things are really looking up for me. And you Sheena? How was your date?”

“The whole evening was ruined. That creep Mohan. He stood me up. He didn’t turn up at the disc and kept his mobile off.”

“Mohan?”

“You’ve met him.”

“Mohan? You’ve not introduced me to any Mohan.”

“Of course I have. He’s come here to pick me up so many times. He comes over to meet me at our office too. He works in HR.”

“Oh the guy from HR. The chap on the healthier side! That’s your darling Mohan, is it?”

“Darling? My foot!” Sheena says angrily, “Bloody ditcher, that’s what that Mohan is – how dare he stand me up – to hell with him!” Sheena mutters and goes off to sleep.

But our heroine cannot sleep.

She eagerly waits for sunrise.

For at six in the morning her newfound beau Mohan has promised to meet her on Marine Drive opposite the Aquarium – for a “healthy’”jog on Marine Drive.

And they will be meeting in the evening too – at Churchgate – for ice cream, pizza and a yummy lovey-dovey date.

She feels happy, full of anticipation and zest.

Happiness is when you have something to look forward to.
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://books.sulekha.com/book/appetite-for-a-stroll/default.htm

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

http://vikramkarve.sulekha.com

MELTING MOMENTS Fiction Short Story – A Passionate Romance

December 14, 2009

MELTING MOMENTS

Fiction Short Story – A Passionate Romance
By

VIKRAM KARVE

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

And my life changed forever!

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

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

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

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

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

What a stunning beauty!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Sure,” I said.

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

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

“You tried?”

“Yes.”

“You loved someone?”

I didn’t answer.

And as I thought about it, I felt depressed.

Life was passing me by.

I looked around the restaurant.

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

Sanjay offered me a cigarette.

His hands were unsteady.

He seemed to be quite drunk.

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

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

He looked crestfallen; close to tears.

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

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

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

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

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

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

It was the monsoon season and the sea was rough.

As the voyage progressed, the weather swiftly deteriorated.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I followed his gaze.

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

I knelt down beside him.

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

Six months later I knocked on a door.

There was long wait.

Then Jayashree opened the door.

Her gorgeously stunning dazzling face took my breath away.

She was even more beautiful than her photographs.

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

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

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

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

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

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

I was stunned by the sting of her bitterness.

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

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

It was hopeless now to try and explain.

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

Jayashree excused herself, turned and went inside.

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

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

I would first give Jayashree the unfinished letter.

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

When Jayashree returned, she was composed.

I gave her Sanjay’s unfinished letter.

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

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

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

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

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

Better for me.

Better for Jayashree.

Best for both of us.

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

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

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

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

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

MELTING MOMENTS

Fiction Short Story – A Passionate Romance
By

VIKRAM KARVE

Copyright © Vikram Karve 2009

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


vikramkarve@sify.com

http://vikramkarve.sulekha.com

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

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

LPO – THE ART OF OUTSOURCING

July 11, 2009

ART OF OUTSOURCING 

by 

VIKRAM KARVE 


Short Fiction – On of my favourite stories, revisited  

 

One leisurely morning, while I am loafing on Main Street, in Pune, I meet an old friend of mine.   

“Hi!” I say.  

“Hi,” he says, “where to?”   

“Aimless loitering,” I say, “And you?”   

“I’m going to work.”   

“Work? This early? I thought your shift starts in the evening, or late at night. You work at a call center don’t you?”   

“Not now. I quit. I’m on my own now.”   

“On your own? What do you do?”   

“LPO.”   

“LPO? What’s that?”   

“Life Process Outsourcing.”   

“Life Process Outsourcing? Never heard of it!”   

“You’ve heard of Business Process Outsourcing haven’t you?”   

“BPO? Outsourcing non-core business activities and functions?”   

“Precisely. LPO is similar to BPO. There it’s Business Processes that are outsourced, here it’s Life Processes.”   

“Life Processes? Outsourced?”  

“Why don’t you come along with me? I’ll show you.”   

Soon we are in his office. It looks like a mini call center.   

A young attractive girl welcomes us. “Meet Rita, my Manager,” my friend says, and introduces us.   

Rita looks distraught, and says to my friend, “I’m not feeling well. Must be viral fever.”  

“No problem. My friend here will stand in.”   

“What? I don’t have a clue about all this LPO thing!” I protest.  

“There’s nothing like learning on the job! Rita will show you.”   

“It’s simple,” Rita says, in a hurry. “See the console. You just press the appropriate switch and route the call to the appropriate person or agency.”

And with these words Rita disappears. It’s the shortest induction training I have ever had in my life.   

And so I plunge into the world of Life Process Outsourcing; or LPO as they call it.  

It’s all very simple.

Everyone is busy. Working people don’t seem to have time these days, but they have lots of money; especially those double income couples, IT nerds, MBA hot shots, finance wizards; just about everybody running desperately in the modern rat race.
 
So what do they do? Simple. They ‘outsource’!

‘Non-core Life Activities’, for which you neither have the inclination or the time – you just outsource them; so you can maximize your work-time to rake in the money and make a fast climb up the ladder of success. 

A ring, a flash on the console infront of me and I take my first LPO call.  

“My daughter’s puked in her school. They want someone to pick her up and take her home. I’m busy in a shoot and just can’t leave,” a creative ad agency type with a husky voice says.    

“Why don’t you tell your husband?” I suggest.   

“Are you crazy or something? I’m a single mother.”   

“Sorry ma’am. I didn’t know. My sympathies and condolences.”  

 “Condolences? Who’s this? Is this LPO?”   

“Yes ma’am,” I say, press the button marked ‘children’ and transfer the call, hoping I have made the right choice. Maybe I should have pressed ‘doctor’.  

 Nothing happens for the next few moments. I breathe a sigh of relief.   

A yuppie wants his grandmother to be taken to a movie. I press the ‘movies’ button. ‘Movies’ transfers the call back, “Hey, this is for movie tickets; try ‘escort services’. He wants the old hag escorted to the movies.”   

‘Escort Services’ are in high demand. These guys and girls, slogging in their offices minting money, want escort services for their kith and kin for various non-core family processes like shopping, movies, eating out, sight seeing, marriages, funerals, all types of functions; even going to art galleries, book fairs, exhibitions, zoos, museums or even a walk in the nearby garden.   

A father wants someone to read bedtime stories to his small son while he works late. A busy couple wants proxy stand-in ‘parents’ at the school PTA meeting. An investment banker rings up from Singapore; he wants his mother to be taken to pray in a temple at a certain time on a specific day. 

Someone wants his kids to be taken for a swim, brunch, a play and browsing books and music.   

A sweet-voiced IT project manager wants someone to motivate and pep-talk her husband, who’s been recently sacked, and is cribbing away at home demoralized. He desperately needs someone to talk to, unburden himself, but the wife is busy – she neither has the time nor the inclination to take a few days off to boost the morale of her depressed husband when there are deadlines to be met at work and so much is at stake.   

The things they want outsourced range from the mundane to the bizarre; life processes that one earlier enjoyed and took pride in doing or did as one’s sacred duty are considered ‘non-core life activities’ now-a-days by these highfalutin people.   

At the end of the day I feel illuminated on this novel concept of Life Process Outsourcing, and I am about to leave, when suddenly a call comes in.   

“LPO?” a man asks softly.   

“Yes, this is LPO. May I help you?” I say.   

“I’m speaking from Frankfurt Airport. I really don’t know if I can ask this?” he says nervously.   

“Please go ahead and feel free to ask anything you desire, Sir. We do everything.”   

“Everything?”   

“Yes, Sir. Anything and everything!” I say.   

“I don’t know how to say this. This is the first time I’m asking. You see, I am working 24/7 on an important project for the last few months. I’m globetrotting abroad and can’t make it there. Can you please arrange for someone suitable to take my wife out to the New Year’s Eve Dance?”   

I am taken aback but quickly recover, “Yes, Sir.”   

“Please send someone really good, an excellent dancer, and make sure she enjoys and has a good time. She loves dancing and I just haven’t had the time.”   

“Of course, Sir.”   

“And I told you – I’ve been away abroad for quite some time now and I’ve got to stay out here till I complete the project.”   

“I know. Work takes top priority.”   

“My wife. She’s been lonely. She desperately needs some love. Do you have someone with a loving and caring nature who can give her some love? I just don’t have the time. You understand what I’m saying, don’t you?”   

I let the words sink in. This is one call I am not going to transfer. “Please give me the details, Sir,” I say softly into the mike.  

As I walk towards my destination with a spring in my step, I feel truly enlightened.    

Till this moment, I never knew that ‘love’ was a ‘non-core’ ‘life-process’ worthy of outsourcing.  

Long Live LPO

Life Process Outsourcing


Love Process Outsourcing

Call it what you like, but I’m sure you’ve got the essence of outsourcing. 

 

VIKRAM KARVE 

Copyright © Vikram Karve 2009

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

 

vikramkarve@sify.com

http://vikramkarve.sulekha.com  

http://www.ryze.com/go/karve  

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

How I discovered the Meaning of Love

June 22, 2009

HOW I DISCOVERED THE MEANING OF LOVE

[Short Fiction – A Love Story]

by 

  VIKRAM KARVE  

  

 

 

            I do not know how the idea entered my brain in the first place; but once conceived, it haunted me with such urgency that a strange force took charge of me, impelling me to act. I tucked the packet under my arm and walked towards my destination, looking around furtively like someone with a guilty conscience. 

 

            The moment I saw her photograph I knew that I had to see her. A man’s first love fills an enduring place in his heart. Ten years. Ten long years. She had married money. And status. I was heartbroken. Yet I bore her no pique or rancor. Never will. How can I? I had truly loved her. I still love her. I will always love her. Till my dying day.

 

             I was desperately eager to impress her. To give her a gift would be too obvious. I did not know how much she had told her husband. About me! About us! 

 

            Her children should be the same age as mine. Maybe slightly older. They say the best route to a married woman’s heart is through her children. I looked at the packet under my arm. A gift. The deluxe set of children’s encyclopedias I had promised my son. And my daughter. Year after year. For the last three years. And did not buy. Because it was too expensive. And now I was going to present it to Anjali’s children. Just to impress her. Why? I do not know.

 

            As I rang the doorbell, I felt a tremor of anticipation. Suddenly I realized that I did not know whether Anjali would be happy to see me or pretend she didn’t recognize me. The door opened. Anjali looked ravishing. She gave me her sparkling smile and welcomed me with genuine happiness, “Sanjiv! After so many years! What a delightful surprise. How did you manage to find me?’

 

            We looked at each other. Anjali had fully blossomed and looked stunning. She looked so exquisite, so dazzling, that I cannot begin to describe the intense emotion I felt as I looked intently into her radiating eyes, totally mesmerized by her beauty.

 

            “Stop staring at me, “Anjali said, her large expressive eyes dancing mischievously.

 

            “You look so beautiful. And so young!”

 

            “But you look old. Even your beard has becoming gray.” Anjali paused, probably regretting what she had said.

 

            Then suddenly she held out her hand to me and said, “I am so happy to see you, Sanjiv. Come inside.”

 

            Her house was extravagant. Wealth and opulence showed everywhere. Anjali carried herself majestically with regal poise; her demeanor slick and confident. No wonder! To ‘belong’ had always been the driving force of her life. Money, status, social prestige, success – she had got everything she wanted. I couldn’t help feeling a pang of envy, and failure.

 

            “You like my house?” she asked. “Sit down. And don’t look so lost.”

 

            I sat down on a sofa and kept the gift wrapped packet on the side-table.

 

            Anjali sat down opposite. “How did you know I live here? We shifted to Mumbai only a month ago.”

 

            I took out the wallet from my pocket and gave it to her. “Your husband’s purse. I saw your photograph in it.”

 

            Anjali opened the purse and started to check the contents.

 

            “You don’t trust cops, do you?” I smiled.

 

            Anjali blushed. She kept the wallet on the table. She looked at me with frank admiration in her eyes. “IPS? That’s fantastic. I never thought you would do so well! What are you? Superintendent? Deputy Commissioner?”

 

            Now it was my turn to blush. “No,” I said sheepishly. “I am only a sub-inspector.”

 

            “Oh!” she said, trying to hide her disappointment. But I had read the language of her eyes. The nuance wasn’t lost on me. Suddenly she had changed.

 

            “Is Mr. Joshi at home?” I asked.

 

            “He is still at the office,” Anjali said.

 

            “Oh! I thought he would be home,” I said.

 

            “I’ll make you some tea,” she said and started to get up.

 

            “Please sit down, Anjali. Let’s talk.” I looked at my watch. “It’s already six-thirty. Let’s wait for Mr. Joshi. Maybe he’ll offer me a drink. And dinner.”

 

            “My husband comes home very late,” Anjali said. “After all, he is the Managing Director. There is so much work. And conferences. Important business meetings. He is the top boss – a very successful and extremely busy man.” She couldn’t have spelt it out more clearly. I got the message loud and clear.

 

             Anjali changed the topic and asked, “Where did you find the purse?”

 

              “It was deposited in the lost-and-found section last evening,” I lied.

 

             “It’s strange,” Anjali said. “He didn’t mention anything.”

 

            “He may not have noticed,” I said, tongue-in-cheek, “After all Mr. Joshi is a very busy man to notice such minor things like a missing purse.”

 

            “Yes,” she said, giving a distant look. Anjali opened the purse once more and examined his credit cards and driving license. At first she appeared confused. Then she gave me a cold hard look. But she didn’t say anything. There was a long period of silence. 

 

            Anjali kept staring at me. Looking directly into my eyes.  A distant look. Almost dismissive. I began to feel uneasy. Suddenly I remembered the gift wrapped packet I had brought and exclaimed enthusiastically, “Anjali, where are your children? I have got a gift for them. Just a small present for your kids!”            

 

            From the look on her face, I immediately sensed that I had said something terribly wrong. I saw tears well up in her eyes. All of a sudden, Anjali looked small, weak and vulnerable. I felt a sense of deep regret as comprehension dawned on me. I looked at her helplessly, pleading innocence, but it was of no use. Some day Anjali might understand my actions, but at that moment it was hopeless to try and explain. The hurt was deep, and I had to let it go in silence.

 

            We just sat there in silence, not knowing what to say. A deafening silence. A grotesque silence.

 

            It’s strange how moments you have rehearsed for end up with a different script.

 

            I could not bear it any longer. I quickly got up and started walking swiftly towards the door. Suddenly I realized that I had forgotten to pick up the packet – the gift. But I did not turn back. Why? I do not know.

 

            “Don’t go, Sanjiv. I want to talk to you,” Anjali spoke coldly.

 

            I stopped in my tracks. I could hear Anjali footsteps behind me. I turned around to face her. She seemed a bit composed.  

 

            “You lied to me, Sanjiv,” Anjali said. “I want to know where you found this wallet.”

 

             I did not know what to say. I tried to avoid her eyes.

 

            “Tell me,” Anjali pleaded.

 

            When in doubt, I speak the truth. “We raided one of those exclusive classy joints last night,” I stammered. “A posh call-girl racket……….” I could not continue. “I’m sorry. I didn’t know.”

 

            “I know! Oh yes I know!” Anjali said mockingly. “That impotent creep! Trying to prove his virility to himself.” 

 

            With those few words, she had bared the secret of her marriage. I looked at her. Her manner was relaxed and nonchalant; her fury was visible only in her eyes. 

 

            I was nonplussed. Suddenly I blurted out, “Don’t worry Anjali. I have dropped the charges. I’ll hush it up.” 

 

            I still don’t know why I uttered those words, but on hearing them there was a visible metamorphosis in Anjali. Suddenly she became flaming mad. She looked so distraught and angry that I felt very frightened. Terrified that she would go berserk and attack me, slap me, or something, I instinctively stepped back. But Anjali suddenly turned and left the room. I waited, pole-axed, for a moment and after regaining my composure decided to leave and started to move towards the door.

 

            “Wait!” I heard her scream. I stopped in my tracks and turned around. 

 

            Anjali quickly walked towards me and thrust out her right hand. She held a bundle of hundred rupee notes. “So this is what you have come for, isn’t it? A bribe to hush up the case, isn’t it? Even from me! You unscrupulous dog, I didn’t expect you to fall so low. Here – take the money and get out. This is all I have at home. If you want more, you know where to find my husband; don’t you?”           

 

            “No, Anjali,” I recoiled. “Please don’t ………..”

 

            “Cheap!” Anjali spat out. There was contempt in her eyes. “Cheap riffraff! That’s what you always were, Sanjiv. Get out you filthy blackmailer.” She threw the bundle of notes at me. It hit my chest and fell on the ground, the money scattering near my feet.

 

            “I love you, Anjali,” I said, trying to sound sincere.

 

            “Love,” she exclaimed, her radiating eyes burning with anger. “So you have come to see how your barren old flame is flourishing, isn’t it?” She paused and said sarcastically, “So you are pleased aren’t you? Happy to see my success?”

 

            Her sly and sarcastic suggestion that I might be happy at her misfortune hurt me more than anything else. I turned around and walked out of the house. As I walked towards the gate something hit me on my back. I winced in pain. The three volumes of the expensive Children’s Encyclopedia were scattered on the ground, their silver paper gift wrapper torn. I knew that Anjali was standing in the door looking at me. But I did not look back at her. I gathered the books and walked away into the darkness.

 

            As I gradually came into consciousness from my drunken stupor, I realized that I was in my bed. Though sunlight filtered in through the open windows, everything looked blurred. Slowly things began to come into focus.
 
           My daughter was sitting beside me on the bed. She touched my arm with tenderness. There were tears in her eyes.
 
           My son stood aloof on the other side of the bed. There was fear in his eyes.
 
           My wife looked at me with loving pity and said, “The children want to thank you for the lovely gift. They are so happy!” She was holding the set of encyclopedias in her hands.

          I smiled and reached out to them. They held my hands and smiled back. 

           I looked at the pure unadulterated joy in their eyes. For the first time in my life I experienced a deep genuine true love for my wife and children. A love which I had never felt before. 
          
           Tears of joy welled up in my eyes. I had discovered love.

           Yes, I had discovered the true meaning of love.

  

 VIKRAM KARVE 

 

Copyright © Vikram Karve 2009

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

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