Posts Tagged ‘happiness’

I AM FEELING GOOD – Pure Romance

November 22, 2009

I AM FEELING GOOD

 

Short Fiction   –   Pure Romance   –   A Love Story

 

By 

 

VIKRAM KARVE

 

Dear Reader, it is a cold morning and during my morning walk this story, one of my earliest writings, suddenly came to my mind and then perambulated in me. It made me feel good. I am sure it will make you feel good too!

 

 

I felt good.

 

My eyes feasted on the snow-clad Himalayan Mountain peaks painted honey-gold by the first rays of sunlight.

 

Behind me, deep down, was the resplendent Doon valley.

 

I breathed in slowly, mouth and nose together, relishing the pure, cold, nourishing mountain air.

 

I felt on top of the world, literally and figuratively, as I stood high in the middle of nowhere on a refreshingly cold bright morning, undecided what I was going to do, or where I was going to go.

 

What greater freedom than not having anything to do or anywhere to go!

 

I felt I was flying like a bird in the sky, with no one to take my freedom away.

 

“Something exciting is going to happen today,” said a tingling sensation within me, as if I were on the top of a high roller-coaster ready to plunge into unknown depths.

 

Suddenly, at the spur of the moment I decided to visit Victor, and with a spring in my step started walking towards Landour.

 

“Who’s Piyu ?” I asked Victor, picking up and opening the book lying on the bedside table.

 

“Piyu?” Victor said, his voice feigning ignorance but his eyes gave him away.

 

“Yes. Piyu! It’s written here in this book‘ To my darling Victor, with fond memories of those wonderful moments at Port Blair. Love Piyu ‘ And Wow! Look at the lovely cursive feminine handwriting. So delicate. If her handwriting is so beautiful, she must be really gorgeous. A real beauty! Tell me. Who is she?” I asked teasingly.

 

“Shalini, you shouldn’t pry into others’ private matters,” Victor said.

 

“Private ? This is no personal dairy. It’s ‘Selected Stories of Anton Chekhov’. I’m taking it to read.”

 

“No,” Victor shouted and started to move his wheelchair towards me.

 

I know I had touched a raw nerve.

 

“I’m sorry,” I said and gave him the book.

 

He opened it and stared at Piyu’s handwriting.

 

“I thought there were no secrets between us,” I said.

 

“There aren’t,” he said.

 

“Except Piyu?”

 

“Please Shalu…….”

 

“You want to tell me about her?”

 

“Okay,” Victor said. And then he told me. About Piyu. And him. And their days in Port Blair. Maybe not everything. But whatever he wanted to tell me, he told me.

 

“Piyu ? A funny name?” I said.

 

“That’s what I called her. Like you call me Victor.”

 

I left it at that and said, “Now there are no secrets between us?”

 

“No! Now there are no secrets between us!” Victor said and gave me the book, “Read it, Shalu. There’s a story called ‘The Darling’. You’re just like the heroine. Always trying to mother me.”

 

“That’s because you are a naughty boy,” I teased.

 

“Naughty boy? I’m almost an old man. You should play with girls of your own age.”

 

“Play? You think I’m a small kid to play Barbie Doll? And you’re not that old either. You are just thirty.”

 

“I am twice your age.”

 

“Girls mature faster,” I said. “And your mental age is the same as mine.”

 

“Come on. You’re just a kid compared to me. I am a man of the world with a lot of experiences.”

 

“Like Piyu ………” I bit my tongue and said, “I’m sorry.”

 

“Piyu is a closed chapter,” Victor said.

 

“I’ve forgotten her,” I said “Piyu will never come between us again.”

 

“Promise?”

 

“I Promise.”

 

“Shalu, why don’t you come to meet me more often?” Victor asked.

 

“I don’t want to disturb you too much,” I replied.

 

“Disturb me?” he smiled. “It is impossible to disturb me. You see, I never do anything. Every day is a holiday for me, from morning to night, from the moment I get up to the moment I sleep, there is nothing to do, nothing to look forward to…”

 

“Don’t speak like that,” I said.

 

“Okay. But please come more often, Shalu. You make me feel good.”

 

“You too make me feel good!” I said.

 

It was true.

 

Talking to someone who needs comforting seems to make one’s own troubles go away.

 

“I’ll come on Wednesday. We’ve got a holiday,” I said.

 

“Promise?”

 

“Yes. We’ll discuss Anton Chekhov,” I said holding up the book.

 

“The Darling?”

 

“The Darling!” I said.

 

“Okay. Bye. Take care,” he said and lovingly looked at me as I began to walk away.

 

Victor had come into my life on a cold and rainy evening just a few months back.

 

I had slipped and fractured my leg playing basketball. It was a simple fracture.

 

Victor was convalescing from a severe injury to both his legs. His was a complex case, and for months he was confined to a wheelchair not knowing whether or when he would be able to walk again.

 

Actually, his name wasn’t Victor – he was Vivek – but everyone called him Victor, so I too started calling him Victor.

 

At first I called him Victor uncle. But as our friendship grew, somewhere on the way, the ‘uncle’ dropped. And now there were no secrets between us.

 

On Tuesday evening I rushed to see Victor bunking the self-study period.

 

“A clandestine visit,” I joked.

 

“Better be careful, Shalu. If your warden finds out, she may think something.”

 

“Let her,” I said, “I came to tell you I won’t be coming tomorrow.”

 

“Oh, no! I was looking forward to discussing Anton Chekhov with you.”

 

“Daddy is coming to Dehradun for some urgent work. He wants me to meet him at the station. He rang up the Principal for permission.”

 

“That’s great. I’m dying to meet your Dad. Make sure you bring him up here to Mussoorie.”

 

“I’ll try,” I said.

 

“You must. I want to ask him for your hand,” he said, tongue-in-cheek.

 

“How cute,” I said coyly.

 

“I’ll miss you,” he said.

 

“Take care.”

 

“You too take care. Okay Bye,” I said and rushed back to my hostel.

 

On Wednesday morning I left Mussoorie at six by the first bus and reached Dehradun railway station just in time for the express from Delhi which steamed in at eight.

 

Daddy was the first to get down from the AC coach and the moment he saw me his face lit up and he gave me a tight warm hug and smothered my cheeks with kisses.

 

“Please Papa,” I said embarrassed, “People are looking.”

 

“I feel so good when I see you, Shalu,” he said.

 

Papa kept the bag he was holding next to me and said, “Look after this. I’ll get the rest of the luggage.”

 

He beckoned to a porter and went back into the coach.

 

“Rest of the luggage?” I wondered.

 

Normally Papa travelled light, with just one bag.”

 

Soon there were three bags, a basket and a tall young woman with a small child in her arms standing beside Papa.

 

“Shalu, this is Ms. Bhattacharya. We travelled together from Delhi,” Papa introduced the woman, who smiled a sweet hello, and we began following the porter to the exit.

 

I looked at the woman through the corner of my eye. She was a real beauty, fair, with a skin like smooth cream. She looked straight ahead, as if looking at a distant object, and walked on expressionless.

 

But I noticed the way my Papa stole glances at her when he thought I wasn’t looking and I knew that she was much more than a mere fellow passenger.

 

I felt a tingle of excitement. Something was brewing. Maybe Papa was falling in love. Ten years after mummy had gone.

 

My father walked with a spring in his step, pulling his stomach in and thrusting his chest out.

 

“You seem very happy, Papa,” I said mischievously.

 

“Yes. Yes.” he said, “I’m so happy to see you, Shalu. You look so good.”

 

He opened the door of the taxi and looked at her, trying to mask the undisguised love in his eyes. It seemed a desperate case of thunderbolt.

 

I decided to have a bit of fun, quickly got in the car, and said, “Thanks, Papa, for treating me like a lady.”

 

Then I looked at the woman and said, “Bye Auntie.”

 

“Auntie is coming with us,” Papa said, “Shalu, you sit in front.”

 

“It’s okay, I’ll sit in front,” Ms. Bhattacharya said.

 

“There’s place for all of us at the back,” I said. “We can keep the basket in front next to the driver.”

 

I shifted, she sat next to me with the baby on her lap, Papa next to her on the other side and we drove in silence through Palton Bazar towards Rajpur road.

 

I kept quiet, waiting for Papa to tell me everything, but he too remained silent, probably because of the driver.

 

He got off outside an office. “You two can go to the guest house and freshen up. I’ll join you after finishing my work.

 

We sat alone at the breakfast table. The baby was sleeping inside. I looked at Ms. Bhattacharya. She looked so elegant yet youthful.

 

Late twenties? Maybe! Or maybe a bit younger.

 

I was dying to ask her everything, wondering what to say, when she looked into my eyes and spoke softly, “Shalu, I want to be your mother.”

 

I was touched by the way she phrased it.

 

I can’t begin to describe the emotions I felt, but instinctively I blurted out, “Why didn’t Papa tell me?”

 

She touched my hand and said, “He felt shy, embarrassed. You know how he is. He wanted me to tell you. And leave the decision to you.” She paused, and said; “I know it’s difficult for you. I promise we’ll do what you want. But try to understand. Your Papa feels very lonely.”

 

“And you?” I asked.

 

“I am lonely too,” she said, tears welling up in her eyes.

 

Suddenly she started to cry into her handkerchief, “I’m sorry,” she said, got up, and went into her room.

 

I sat confused.

 

She had been so calm and composed. And suddenly she broke down.

 

Had I said something wrong?

 

Maybe I was too young to understand. All I wanted was that Papa should be happy, everyone should be happy; even she should be happy.

 

Ms. Bhattacharya came out of the room. She had washed up, done up her face and looked so beautiful, so vulnerable, that I instantly felt like hugging her.

 

Something inside told me that she would make Papa very happy. And me too!

 

“I’m sorry,” she said. “It’s just that sometimes you wait for a moment and when it comes you don’t know what to do with it.”

 

 “I like you,” I said. “I know you’ll make Papa happy. Only I wish Papa had told me. Shall I call you mummy?”

 

She smiled, “Come on Shalini. Be my friend. Call me Priya.”

 

“Okay,” I held out my hand, “Priya, let’s be friends. And you call me Shalu.”

 

“Shalu, actually even I wanted your Papa to tell you,” she said.

 

“He must’ve been embarrassed.”

 

“Embarrassed?”

 

“To tell me that he’s fallen in love at his age.”

 

“He’s only 43.”

 

“And you, Priya?”

 

“28. Oh come on, I shouldn’t be telling you my age.”

 

“You look 25,” I said.

 

She blushed. The baby cried. She went inside.

 

I went into my room and lay on the bed. What a day! I just couldn’t wait to tell Victor all this. He’d die laughing. Maybe I should marry him. We are so happy together. If Papa can marry Priya, why can’t I marry Victor?

 

They – 43 and 28 – Adult Love!

 

We – 15 and 30 – Puppy Love?

 

It’s not fair, isn’t it?

 

I drifted into sleep.

 

When I woke up, Papa was sitting beside me on the bed.

 

“It’s past one,” he said. “Let’s go for lunch.”

 

“Why didn’t you tell me, Papa?” I asked.

 

His cheeks, his ears became red. He avoided my eyes.

 

“I guessed it the moment I saw you two at the station,” I said.

 

“You’ve really grown up, Shalu,” Papa said. “I’m so happy you have accepted her and your little brother.”

 

“Brother?” I said dumbstruck, and slowly comprehension dawned on me. I closed my eyes. All sorts of thoughts entered my brains. And suddenly everything was clear. “Oh yes. My little brother.”

 

Lunch passed off in a trance and soon we were on our way to Mussoorie. I’d wanted to go alone by bus, but Papa wouldn’t hear of it. He had work at the site office near Mussoorie and Priya wanted to see my school. She hadn’t been to Mussoorie before.

 

It was almost five when Papa got off at the site office and we were cruising on the Mall on the way to my school. Priya was looking out of the window as if searching for something. Suddenly she asked the driver to stop.

 

“I have to get something. Please look after the baby for a moment,” she said.

 

I took the baby in my lap and saw her enter Hackman’s, the biggest departmental store in Mussoorie.

 

She returned fast. “A small gift for you, Shalu” she said giving me a gift-wrapped packet and an envelope containing a greeting card.

 

I opened the envelope. It was a ‘Thank-you’ card.

 

She had written a message on the inside of the card:  “…To my darling daughter and friend, Shalini…”

 

I kept on starting at the beautiful handwriting, unable to read further.

 

Instantly, I recognized the same unique familiar lovely cursive handwriting, so feminine, so delicate.

 

Tremors started reverberating in my stomach, like a roller coaster. My pulse was racing. The car negotiated the steep road past Picture Palace up the winding slopes of Landour.

 

“Priya, look,” I said pointing out of the car window, “that’s the oldest building in Mussoorie. It’s called Mullingar. Isn’t it just like the Cellular Jail?”

 

“Yes,” she said.

 

“You’ve seen Cellular Jail?” I asked.

 

“Of course,” she said. “Many times.”

 

“You’ve been to Port Blair?” I persisted.

 

“Yes. I’ve lived there. It’s a lovely place,” she said.

 

“How lucky,” I said. “I’ve only seen pictures of Cellular Jail.”

 

Silence. Pregnant silence.

 

Then I spoke, looking at her child seated on her lap, “Baby. He’s so cute. How old is he?”

 

“Six months,” she said.

 

“You haven’t named him?

 

“Oh yes,” she said, “we call him Baby, his real name is Vivek.”

 

“Vivek?”

 

“Yes. Vivek ,” she said “It’s a nice name, isn’t it?”

 

“Yes,” I answered.

 

I patted the driver on the shoulder and said, “Seedha Le Chalo. Jaldi. Drive fast. To Landour Hospital.”

 

“Hospital?” Priya asked flabbergasted.

 

“I want you to meet someone,” I said.

 

The car stopped outside the hospital. “Come,” I said, and Priya holding her baby in her arms followed me towards the door of Victor’s room.

 

I opened the door and said, “Come Piyu. Go right in. Your Victor is waiting for you, for both of you.”

 

I didn’t wait to see the expression on her face.

 

I quickly turned and ran to the car and shouted to the driver, “Driver – jaldi karo. Be quick. Take me to the site office. Fast.”

 

As the car descended down the steep slopes of Landour, past Char-Dukan, towards Picture Palace at the end of the Mall, I took out Anton Chekhov’s book from my purse.

 

I’ll have plenty of time to read it now.

 

Maybe I’ll keep it as a souvenir to remember Victor.

 

I opened the book, read on the first page: “To my darling Victor…Love. Piyu.”

 

I took out my cell-phone and sent an SMS to Victor: “Happy Reunion!”

 

Then I turned the page and began reading Anton Chekhov’s enthralling short story ‘The Darling.’

 

As I write this I am feeling good.

 

Yes, I am feeling good.

 

Don’t ask me why.

 

Happiness goes when you speak of it.

 

 

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

  

 

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

 

 

vikramkarve@sify.com

 

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Gift of Insults – Food for Thought

November 6, 2009

THE GIFT OF INSULTS

 

Ancient Wisdom

 

An Inspirational Story

 

By

 

VIKRAM KARVE

 

 

 

Now-a-days many persons, especially young people, are very touchy and hypersensitive to what others say.

 

Here is one of my favorite stories to mull over.

 

 

There was once a great warrior. His reputation extended far and wide throughout the land and many students gathered to study under him. Though quite old, he still adept at martial arts and, despite his age, the legend was that he could defeat any adversary.

 

One afternoon, a young warrior, known for his complete lack of scruples, arrived in the village.

 

The young warrior had never lost a fight.

 

Along with his strength, he had an uncanny ability to spot and exploit any weakness in an opponent. He would wait for his opponent to make the first move, thus revealing a weakness, and then would strike with merciless force and lightning speed. No one had ever lasted with him in a match beyond the first move.  

 

The young warrior had heard of the old master’s reputation was determined to be the first man to defeat the till then invincible great master.
The brash young warrior challenged the old master to a fight. Much against the advice of his concerned students, the old master gladly accepted the young warrior’s challenge.

 

All villagers eagerly gathered in the village square to witness the bout.

 

As the two squared off for battle, the young warrior began to hurl insults at the old master. The young warrior threw dirt and spat in the master’s face and tried his utmost to goad and incite the master to make the first move.

 

But the old warrior merely stood there motionless and calm.

 

For hours the young warrior provoked the master. He verbally abused the master with every curse and insult known to mankind and even insulted the master’s ancestors, but the old man kept smiling and remained impassive.

 

Finally, as the sun started setting, the young warrior started feeling exhausted and humiliated. Gradually comprehension dawned on the young warrior and he knew that he was defeated so he bowed before the master and feeling shamed he left the village.

 

Disappointed that the master had received so many insults and provocations, the students gathered around the old master and questioned him, “How could you bear such indignity?  Why didn’t you use your sword and fight the insolent youth? It would have been better if you lost the fight instead of displaying such cowardice in front of us all?”

 

“If someone comes to you with a gift, and you do not accept it, to whom does the gift belong?” asked the master.

 

“To the giver, the one who tried to give the gift,” replied one of his students.

 

“The same goes for envy, anger and insults,” said the master, “If you do not accept the gift of insults, they continue to belong to the one who deliver them!”

 

 

Dear Reader, I am sure you have read this famous story before. Now let us apply it in our daily life.

 

 

VIKRAM KARVE

vikramkarve@sify.com

http://vikramkarve.sulekha.com

 

 

 

MONKEY TRAP

August 22, 2009

ARE YOU A MONKEY IN A TRAP

[Short Fiction]

By

VIKRAM KARVE

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

“Let’s catch some monkeys,” he said.

“Monkeys?” I asked excitedly.

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

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

“Why not?” my uncle said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Monkey-Traps?” I asked confused.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And soon we set up our monkey-traps.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Why?” he asked, with curiosity.

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

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

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

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

“I don’t know.”

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

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

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

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

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

“Job prospects,” I answered.

“Oh!”  He exclaimed. “And then?”

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

“Why?”

“Qualifications.”

“And why do you want so many qualifications?”

“To get the best job,” I answered.

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

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

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

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

“What?”

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

When work is a duty, life is slavery.”

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

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

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

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

And guess what I am today?

Well, I am a teacher. I teach philosophy.

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

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

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

VIKRAM KARVE

Copyright © Vikram Karve 2009

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

vikramkarve@sify.com

vikramkarve@hotmail.com

http://vikramkarve.sulekha.com

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

A Lazy Hot Afternoon in Mumbai

July 27, 2009

Métier

[Short Fiction – A Romance]

By

VIKRAM KARVE

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

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

That’s what I decide to do.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“You look terrible,” I say.

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

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

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

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

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

“Khyber?” I ask.

“No. I can’t afford it,” he says.

“I can,” I tease.

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

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

“What time do you have to go?”

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

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

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

“Wow! You are going to England too?”

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

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

“I hate it!”

“What?”

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

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

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

“What?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Just like that?”

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

“Thanks to me?”

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

“I never modeled for you!”

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

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

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

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

“You still paint?”

“No. I stopped long ago. At IIT.”

“Why?”

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

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

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

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

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

“Don’t tell me? What’s his name?”

“Anand.”

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

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

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

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

“It’s great!”

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

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

“I don’t know.”

“How about marrying me?”

“Come on, be serious.”

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

“Let’s go,” I say changing the topic.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I hold out my hand to him.

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

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

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

“Or maybe for money!”

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

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

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

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

“I’m not coming,” I say.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

VIKRAM KARVE

Copyright © Vikram Karve 2009

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

vikramkarve@sify.com

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

http://vikramkarve.sulekha.com

MARRIAGE DIVORCE MARRIAGE

July 14, 2009

Dating Mating Hating Resuscitating

Short Fiction – A Love Story

By

VIKRAM KARVE


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“It’s been five years,” he says.

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

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

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

“Yes. But maybe I’ll come back…”

“Recession…?”

“Not really…”

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

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

“Family matter…? In Pune…?”

“My wife is from Pune…”

“Wife…? You remarried…?

“Yes…two years ago…”

“And I didn’t even know…!”

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

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

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

“Yes…”

“And you…? You married again…?”

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

“On the rebound…?”

“Maybe…” I laugh.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What…?” he looks at me, startled.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What…?”

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

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

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

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

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

“Okay, but there is one thing…”

“What…?”

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

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

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

“One more thing…”

“Now what…?”

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

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

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

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

VIKRAM KARVE

Copyright © Vikram Karve 2009

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

http://vikramkarve.sulekha.com


vikramkarve@sify.com

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