Posts Tagged ‘literary’

From Academic and Creative Writing Journal Vikram Karve : ZAMEEN – Short Fiction Story – DEAD END

October 17, 2014

Academic and Creative Writing Journal Vikram Karve: ZAMEEN – Short Fiction Story – DEAD END.

Link to my original post in my academic and creative writing journal:
http://karvediat.blogspot.in/201…

DEAD END aka ZAMEEN
Short Fiction Story
By
VIKRAM KARVE

From my Creative Writing Archives:

There is a saying in Urdu:

 Har qatl di e jar zan zar zameen

(The motive for every murder is because of woman, money or land)

Most crimes occur because of Zan (woman or love passion) or Zar (money). 

This is a story where Zameen (land) is a motive for a crime.

I wrote this short story 21 years ago, sometime in the year 1993. 

One evening when I had gone on a long evening walk, I happened to witness a brutal land acquisition.

The might of the powers-that-be was on full display against the hapless landowners who were being evicted from their land.

They were protesting because the promised compensation had not been paid to them.

The hapless landowners feared that once they lost their land, they would have to make rounds of various government offices for compensation and pay bribes to get their due.

A few years later, someone told me that the land had been encroached upon, so the whole land acquisition exercise had gone waste, and the biggest losers were the erstwhile landowners.

The whole scene and situation moved me and I wrote a fiction short story called DEAD END.

Then, the story was highly appreciated.  

Huge land acquisitions take place for building projects and institutions. 

But does anyone look at it from the perspective of the displaced landowners? 

You even hear stories, maybe apocryphal, of land being forcibly acquired from farmers ostensibly for public purposes, and then the acquired land is “de-reserved” and sold off to builders who make a huge profit by building residential and commercial projects.

Land can become a big bone of contention and is the root of crime and corruption (the Zameen in crime triad Zan Zar Zameen).

I think this fiction story DEAD END is quite relevant even today. 

Do tell me if you like the story.

DEAD END – Short Fiction Story by VIKRAM KARVE

Manjunath was a contented man.
 
He was the proud owner of a coconut grove, more than a hundred trees, located on the most picturesque stretch of the western coast, skirting the Arabian Sea. The land was fertile and the yield was excellent.
 
Every morning, along with his wife and two sons, Manjunath would cast his fishing nets into the gentle waters of Baicol Bay, and in the evening, when he pulled in his nets with the receding tide, the catch would be adequate, if not substantial.
 
I loved Baicol Bay. 

It was a most beautiful and pristine place by the sea and sunset, on the western coast, was a special event.
 
So every evening, I went for a jog on the soft unspoilt beach, and after a swim in the crystal-clear waters, I relaxed on the sands, beholding the fascinating, yet soothing, spectacle of the mighty orange sun being devoured under the horizon of the sea.
 
As darkness enveloped, Manjunath would gently appear by my side with a tender coconut in hand.
 
At that moment, there was nothing more refreshing than sweet coconut water.
 
The year was 1980 and I was a fresh, young and idealistic Indian Police Service (IPS) Officer, on my first posting, as Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) of this lovely coastal district.
 
The air was fresh and unpolluted and the weather was temperate. There was no railway line, no industries, and no noise. The district headquarters was a one-street town. Everybody knew everybody, the people were peace-loving, and in the prevailing climate of contentment, it was no surprise that the crime-rate was almost zero.
 
One day, my boss, the Superintendent of Police (SP) took me to an important meeting in the District Collector’s office.
 
As I heard the words of the Collector, I experienced a deep sense of distress. A notification had been issued and a mammoth Steel Plant had been sanctioned in the Baicol Bay area. Land Acquisition was the immediate top priority. The police were to ensure that there was no law and order problem.
 
“But why can’t they locate the Steel Plant somewhere else?” I protested. “This lovely palace will be ruined. And where will the people go?”
 
At first, the Collector appeared dumbstruck by my interruption. 

Then he glowered at me with a fierce and threatening stare. 

I avoided his gaze and looked around the room. 

Everyone was looking at me in a curious manner. 

My boss, the SP, was desperately gesturing to me to keep quiet.
 
“I wonder whose side you are on?” the Collector snapped angrily, still giving me an intimidating glare.
 
“Don’t worry, Sir,” the SP spoke, addressing the Collector, “There will be no problems. The people here are a docile lot. Everything shall proceed smoothly.”
 
When we were driving back to our office, the SP said, “Joshi, you better tame your tongue and watch what you say, especially in front of others.”
 
“Sir, you please tell me. Is it not gross injustice? We pay them a pittance for their fertile land. And then evict them from their habitat, and destroy the beauty of this place, just because someone decides to set up a set up a Steel Plant here.”
 
“It’s in the national interest, Joshi. Why don’t you try and understand. Everyone shall be properly rehabilitated with a job and a house and also get a compensation.”
 
“Come on, sir,” I argued. “You know where we are going to relocate them. The rehabilitation camp is more than twenty kilometres away from the sea front. And we are putting them into small overcrowded multi-storeyed tenements, which are at complete variance from their ethos. These people are used to open spaces, fresh air, and most important – the waterfront, the sea.”
 
“That’s enough, Joshi,” the SP said angrily. “Your job is to carry out my orders. I want you to take personal charge of this operation. The task must be completed smoothly and on schedule. Is that clear?”
 
“Yes, sir,” I replied meekly.
 
That evening I held a meeting with the affected villagers. 

Manjunath was sitting in the first row, right in front of me. 

I spoke of patriotism, sacrifice for the “national cause” and the prosperity the Steel Plant would bring into their lives.
 
To my utter surprise, there was no resistance. 

Everyone seemed convinced, I think because they were simple people who believed every word I said.

But to my own self, my own words sounded insincere, and I felt acutely uncomfortable.
 
And so the land acquisition operation began.
 
Awe-struck, Manjunath saw the might of the government on display. 

Manjunath watched with tears in his eyes, columns of police standing by, while bulldozers destroyed his beloved coconut grove.
 
A few days later Manjunath stood before the employment officer. 

The employment officer was in a foul mood. 

“These illiterate buggers get jobs on a platter while my matriculate brother-in-law rots unemployed in city,” he complained, “I had promised my wife that I would wrangle at least a Class 4 unskilled labourer, domestic attendant or peon’s job for him out here.”
 
“Hold your tongue,” the rehabilitation officer said angrily, “These so-called ‘illiterate buggers’, as you call them, were land-owners, displaced from their own land. They are entitled a job in lieu of their land acquired for this project.”
 
“Okay, okay. Don’t get hot,” the employment officer said to the rehabilitation officer. 

Then, the employment officer looked at Manjunath and curtly asked him, “Do you possess any special skills?”
 
Manjunath could not comprehend, so he just stood silent.
 
In an exasperated manner, the employment officer snapped, “We haven’t got all day. Tell me. What can you do?”
 
“Coconuts,” Manjunath answered.
 
“Coconuts?”
 
“Yes, Sir. Coconuts.”
 
“What else?”
 
“Fish.”
 
“Fish and Coconuts, eh! You will see plenty of them,” the employment officer said. 

He wrote the word ‘cook’ beside Manjunath’s name in the register.
 
And so, at one stroke, Manjunath was transformed, from a land-owner into a cook.

First he worked as a cook in the ramshackle canteen for construction workers and later as a cook in the huge industrial canteen of the Steel Plant.
 
But Manjunath was lucky. 

At least he had become a cook. 

Most others became Unskilled Labourers because the skills they possessed, like farming and fishing, were not relevant as far as the Steel Plant was concerned.
 
And so almost all the “skilled” workers – the tradesmen, all the welders, fitters, machinists, electricians etc – they all came from outside, from faraway places, the cities and the urban areas. 

And the complexion of the place began to change.
 
Soon I stopped going for my daily evening jog to Baicol beach.

Now the whole place was  littered with debris from the construction work and the air was no longer pure, but polluted by fumes and dust.

It was no longer quiet and calm, but the noise from the ongoing construction work was unbearable.
 
And, of course, now there would be no Manjunath waiting for me with a tender coconut in hand.
 
So when my transfer came, I felt relieved and happy.

I no longer loved the place and, more so, I could not bear the pain of witnessing the beginning of the systematic metamorphosis of a beautiful natural paradise into a huge monster of concrete and steel.
 
When I returned after fifteen long years, the place had changed beyond recognition. 

The gigantic steel plant, the railway line, the new port, the industries, the ‘fruits’ of liberalization and the signs of prosperity, modern buildings adorned by adjoining slums, filth and polluted air, all types of vehicles clogging the roads, restaurants and bars, the noise and even most of the people looked alien.
 
As we drove down to the police headquarters, the SP said, “It’s not the same place when you were here, sir.”
 
“The crime-rate was zero then,” I said. “What has gone wrong?”
 
“There are two types of people now, Sir – the liberalised Indian and the marginalised Indian.”
 
“And us!”
 
“And us,” he laughed, “yes, sir, and us trying to sort the whole thing out.”
 
I was head of the crime branch at the state police headquarters and had been sent down to investigate a series of bizarre murders. 

A few bigwigs were waylaid, had their heads chopped off and their headless bodies dumped outside their houses. 

It had created such a scare that my boss had rushed me down.
 
The car stopped. 

I recognized the place at once.
 
“The common thread, sir,” the SP said, “All the victims lived in this luxury residential enclave.”
 
“I knew this place,” I said, feeling a tinge of nostalgia, “There used to be a coconut grove here. This place was acquired for the steel plant. But now I see that it is just outside the perimeter wall. I wonder why they excluded this area.”
 
“Must be the environment stipulations, sir,” the SP mumbled, “the two hundred meter zone or something. They must have de-notified it.”
 
“De-notified it? Don’t give me bullshit!” I shouted, “How the hell has this posh residential complex come up here? And if the government did not want the land for the steel plant, then why was this excess acquired land not returned back to the original owners?”
         
“Sir, this land which was sold by the acre in your time, fifteen years ago – now it is priced per square foot.”
 
“The fruits of progress, is it?” I snapped.
 
I could see that the SP was getting confused by my unexpected line of investigation, and he was getting a bit scared too, for I was a DIG. 

So I decided to put him at ease.
 
“Tell me, Pandey,” I said patronizingly. “What were you before joining the IPS?”
 
“An Engineer, Sir. From IIT, Delhi.”
 
This was no surprise.

Engineers, even doctors, were joining the IAS and IPS nowadays. 

I looked at the SP, and said, “Let me explain in a way you will understand.”
 
Pandey was looking at me intently.
 
I paused, and asked him. “Do you know the definition of the term ‘system’?”
 
“Yes, sir,” he answered.
 
“Every ‘system’ has a natural rhythm,” I said, “take this place for example. All the people here in this system, farmers, fishermen, everyone, they all had a natural rhythm of life which perfectly matched the rhythm of this place. And there was harmony. Then suddenly we disturb the system. We drastically change the rhythm of the place. Create a mismatch. And when the people cannot cope up, we call them ‘marginalised Indians’ – as you put it.”
 
Pandey looked thoroughly confused, so I avoided further rhetoric and came straight to the point, “You are looking for a motive, isn’t it, Pandey?”
 
“Yes, Sir,” he said.
 
“Okay, consider this. You own some fertile land. We forcibly acquire it, mouthing platitudes like ‘national interest’, ‘patriotism’ etc. Then we sit on your land for fifteen long years while you are reduced from an owner to a labourer. And then, one fine day, you find that your beloved land been grabbed by some land-sharks from the city. What would you do?”
 
The SP did not reply.
 
“Do one thing, Pandey,” I said. “There is a man called Manjunath. He probably works as a cook in the Steel Plant canteen. Bring him to me. He may have some clue and maybe he will give us a lead.”
 
In my mind’s eye, I was thinking of ways of how to get Manjunath off the hook.
 
An hour later, the SP came rushing into the police headquarters. 

The SP looked dazed, as if he had been pole-axed. 

“The guy went crazy,” the SP stammered, “Sir, when the police party approached him, he was chopping coconuts with a sharp sickle. Suddenly he slashed his own neck. He died on the way to hospital. There is blood everywhere.”
 
In the morgue, staring sadly at Manjunath’s dead body, the SP commented, “Look at the expression on his face, sir. He looks so content.”
 
“Yes,” I said. “He has reached the dead end.”

VIKRAM KARVE
Copyright © Vikram Karve 
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© vikram karve., all rights reserved.

Disclaimer:
1. This story is a work of fiction. Events, Places, Settings and Incidents narrated in the story are a figment of my imagination. The characters do not exist and are purely imaginary. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
2. All stories in this blog are a work of fiction. Events, Places, Settings and Incidents narrated in the story are a figment of my imagination. The characters do not exist and are purely imaginary. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

Copyright Notice:
No part of this Blog may be reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical including photocopying or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the Blog Author Vikram Karve who holds the copyright.
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© vikram karve., all rights reserved.


Posted by Vikram Karve at 10/17/2014 02:04:00 PM

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THE SOLDIER – a short story

January 10, 2013
THE SOLDIER
A Short Story
by
VIKRAM KARVE

Original Post Link on my Academic and Creative Writing Journal
http://karvediat.blogspot.in/2013/01/the-pen-is-mightier-than-sword.html

THE PEN IS MIGHTIER THAN THE SWORD

Short Fiction – A Soldier’s Story
By
VIKRAM KARVE
 
The Soldier sat on the footpath near the gate of the Accounts Office.
 
Abe Langde … Hat Wahan Se (Hey you one-legged cripple … Move from there)” a street-food cart vendor said, “Yeh Meri Jagah Hai (This is my place).”
 
The soldier winced.
 
Then he looked down at his amputated leg.
 
Yes, he was indeed a cripple, a langda.
 
When he had joined the army he had two strong legs.
 
And now he had just one leg and one stump.
 
He picked up his crutch, pushed his body up and slowly hobbled a few steps away and was about to sit under a shady canopy near the street corner when a traffic policeman shouted, “Ae Bhikari … Wahan Mat Baith (Hey Beggar … don’t sit there).”
 
Main Bhikari Nahin Hoon … Main Fauji Hoon (I am not a beggar … I am a soldier),” protested the soldier.
 
Phir Border Pe Ja Kar Lad (Then go and fight on the border),” the policeman said with sarcasm.
 
Wahi to kar raha tha (That is what I was doing),” the soldier mumbled to himself.
 
As the soldier tottered on the street on his crutches he talked to himself. He had been a fool to be brave. He should have played safe. At least he wouldn’t have lost his leg. And he wouldn’t have been discharged from the army as medically unfit.
 
Now he was being made to run from pillar to post for his disability pension because just because some clerk had “misplaced” his documents.
 
The soldier was exasperated.
 
In the army he was expected to do everything promptly and properly in double-quick time.
 
But these civilians were just not bothered.
 
First the paperwork was delayed due to red tape.
 
Then there were some careless typographical errors in his papers and his documents had to be sent back for the necessary corrections.
 
And now his papers had been misplaced.
 
It was sad.
 
Nobody was bothered about his plight.
 
The civilian babus comfortably cocooned in their secure 9 to 5 five-day-week jobs were slack and indifferent and did not give a damn for the soldiers they were meant to serve.
 
Civilians expected soldiers to be loyal unto the grave without offering loyalty in return.
 
“What is the big deal if you lost a leg?” one cruel clerk had remarked mockingly, “You soldiers are paid to fight. And if you die, or get wounded, it is a part of your job. You knew the risks before you joined, didn’t you? If you wanted to live a safe life why did you become a soldier? You should have become a chaprassi (peon) like your friend.”
 
Tears rolled down the soldier’s cheek as he thought of this.
 
Others were not so cruel and heartless, but their sympathy was tinged with scorn.
 
Indeed, he should have become a chaprassi like his friend who was now helping him get his disability pension.
 
Both he and his friend had been selected for the post of peon in a government office.
 
But he had been a fool – he told everyone that it was below his dignity to work as achaprassi and then he went to recruitment rally and joined the army as a soldier.
 
He made fun of his friend who took up the job of a peon and boasted with bloated pride about being a soldier.
 
And now the tables had turned and the peon was having the last laugh on the soldier.
 
The peon was secure in his job while the soldier was out on the street, crippled for life and begging for his pension.
 
And now his friend wasn’t even called a chaprassi – they had upgraded all Class-4 to Class-3 and his friend was now designated as “assistant”.
 
His friend would retire at the age of 60 after a safe, secure, easy, tension-free career without any transfers or hardships.
 
And if he got disabled they wouldn’t throw him out.
 
And if he died, his wife or son or daughter would get a job in his place.
 
Nothing like that for the soldier. He had to fend for himself.
 
The soldier felt disheartened.
 
He looked at his amputated leg and deeply regretted his decision to join the army.
 
Indeed he had made a mistake.
 
He would have been much better off as a peon or in some other civilian job.
 
The soldier also felt a sense of guilt that he had made fun of his friend.
 
Today he was at his friend’s mercy.
 
The soldier had to live on the kindness of the man he had once ridiculed and scoffed at.
 
It was a terrible feeling.
 
It was more than six months as he anxiously waited for his pension and dues.
 
His friend had given the soldier, and his family, shelter and food. And now he was trying to help him out by running around from office to office using the “peon network” to trace the misplaced papers.
 
The soldier felt sorry for his hapless wife.
 
She was at the mercy of his friend’s wife who openly derided her and made her displeasure quite clear by making scathing comments about the soldier, his wife and their children and kept on carping about how they were sponging on her hospitality like parasites.
 
The soldier’s wife hated his friend’s wife but she had to suffer the humiliation in silence and bear the daily insults – it was terrible to be at the mercy of someone who detested you.
 
Today the friend had asked the soldier to stand outside the gate and gone into the accounts office alone.
 
He had gone in alone because last time the soldier had spoilt everything by refusing to a pay a bribe to the accounts officer.
 
The soldier had even threatened the accounts officer that he would report the matter.
 
The accounts officer was furious: “Go and report. Nothing will happen. Now I will see to it that your papers are not traced until you die. What do you bloody soldiers think? That you can threaten us? This is not the army. This is the accounts office. Haven’t you heard the saying that the pen is mightier than the sword – now I will show you.”
 
Today his friend had gone inside to negotiate.
 
The clerks had told him not to bring the soldier inside the office as the egoistic accounts officer may get furious on seeing the soldier and everything will be spoilt.
 
Once everything was “settled”, they would try and trace the “misplaced” documents and he could take them out to obtain the soldier’s signature and resubmit the papers for clearance of the disability pension.
 
The soldier waited anxiously in the hot sun for his friend to come out. Angry thoughts buzzed in his mind.
 
“Ungrateful, corrupt people – all these civilians,” the soldier muttered to himself, “we sacrifice our life and limb for their sake and they humiliate us, even ask me to pay a bribe to get my own disability pension.”
 
“Patriotism, heroism, idealism – no one bothers about these things anymore. I made a mistake by joining the army,” he mumbled to himself, “I made a bigger mistake trying to be brave. What was the point of showing courage, initiative, daring and going beyond the call of duty to nab those guys? How does it matter if a few sneak in? Out here in the city, who is bothered about these things anyway? They don’t even know what is happening out there. Had I looked the other way no one would have known and I would not be a one-legged cripple – a langda. And even then, I wish they had shot me in the head and I had died. That would have been better”.
 
The soldier thought of his wife, his children, the bleak future awaiting them.
 
How long would they have to be dependent on the mercy of his friend and his loath wife?
 
He felt sad, very sad, as depressing thoughts of despondency and hopelessness perambulated in his brain.
 
He wondered whether his disability pension problem would be solved today.
 
It was taking long – his friend had gone in at 10 and it was almost 12 noon now.
 
The sweltering summer sun was hot and the soldier felt parched and weak.
 
He had drunk just a cup of tea since they started their journey to the accounts office in the city by bus from their friend’s home in the distant suburbs early in the morning.
 
Suddenly the soldier felt faint, so he walked towards the compound wall of the accounts office, took support and slid down to sit on his haunches.
 
At 12:30 his friend emerged from the gates of the accounts office. He was happy – the bribe had been paid, the documents had been promptly traced. Now all he had to do was get the soldier’s signature on the papers and he had been assured that the soldier’s disability pension and all his dues would be given within a month.
 
He began to look around for the soldier and saw him sitting strangely, propped against the wall.
 
The soldier’s eyes were closed and it seemed that he had fallen asleep.
 
Something seemed amiss, so he briskly walked towards the soldier, bent down and touched the soldier’s shoulder.
 
The soldier fell down to his side.
 
The friend panicked. He thought the soldier had fainted so he started shouting for help.
 
The traffic policeman, the street-cart vendor and some passers-by rushed to help.
 
The policeman told the vendor to sprinkle some water on the soldier’s face but nothing happened.
 
The policeman rang up the police control room for an ambulance.
 
“I hope he is not dead,” the friend said with trepidation.
 
“I don’t know. But it looks like he is totally unconscious. What happened? Who is he? He was muttering that he is a fauji – is he really a soldier?” the policeman asked.
 
The friend told the policeman the soldier’s story – the full story.
 
“Sad,” the policeman said, “very sad – the way they treat our soldiers.”
 
The ambulance arrived.
 
A paramedic examined the soldier and said, “I think he is dead. We will take him to the hospital. There the doctors will examine him and officially pronounce him dead.”
 
“The enemy’s bullets could not do what the babus did – the enemy’s bullets could not kill him but the these babus  killed him,” the policeman commented.
 
“Yes, the accounts officer was right,” the distraught friend said, “the pen is indeed mightier than the sword.”
 
 
VIKRAM KARVE
Copyright © Vikram Karve 2012
Vikram Karve has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work. 
© vikram karve., all rights reserved.

DEAD END – A Fiction Short Story

December 26, 2012

Academic and Creative Writing Journal Vikram Karve: DEAD END – A Real Estate Crime Story.

Click the link above and read the story in my creative writing journal.

KETTI – a travel romance by Vikram Karve

May 28, 2011

KETTI.

KETTI
Short Fiction – A Travel Tale
By
VIKRAM KARVE

From my Creative Writing Archives:

 
Short Fiction – A Simple Love Story I wrote sometime in the 1990s …
Winter.

Early morning.

Chill in the air.


I stand alone on the metre gauge side of the lonely island platform of Mettupalaiyam Railway Station and stare at the peaks of the Blue Mountains (the Nilgiris) silhouetted in a veil of mist in the distance.

Nothing much has changed here since the last time I came here on my way to Ooty.

It was almost 30 years ago and even now the place, the things, the people – everything looks the same – as if frozen in time.

But for me there is a world of difference.

Then I was a young bride, full of inchoate zest, in the company of my handsome husband, eagerly looking forward to the romantic journey on the toy train of the Nilgiri Mountain Railway on my way to our honeymoon at Ooty.  

Then, on my way to my honeymoon, the place felt so exciting. 

Now it feels so gloomy.

Strange. 

But true. 

What’s outside just doesn’t matter; it is what is inside that matters.


I try not to reminisce.

Remembering good times when I am in misery causes me unimaginable agony.


I look at my watch.

7.30 A.M.

The small blue toy train pushed by its hissing steam engine comes on the platform.

Dot on time.

As it was then.


The same chill in the air. The same February morning – the 14th of February – Valentine’s Day. 

Then I had the loving warmth of my husband’s arm around me.

Now I feel the bitter cold penetrating within me.


I drag my feet across the platform towards the mountain train – then they called it The Blue Mountain Express – now I don’t know.

Scared, anxious, fear in my stomach, I experience a strange uneasiness, a sense of foreboding, a feeling of ominous helplessness – wondering what my new life would have in store for me.

I sit alone in the First Class compartment right in front of the train and wait for the train to start – the train which is going to take me to the point to no return.

I wish that all this is just a dream.

But I know it is not.


And suddenly, Avinash enters.

We stare at each other in disbelief.

Time stands still.


There is silence, a grotesque silence, till Avinash speaks, “Roopa! What are you doing here?”

I do not answer.

Because I cannot answer.

I am struck dumb, swept by a wave of melancholic despair.

My vocal cords numbed by emotional pain.


I look ineffectually and forlornly at Avinash and I realize that there is no greater pain than to remember happier times when in distress.  

“You look good when you get emotional,” Avinash says sitting opposite me.

In the vulnerable emotional state that I am in, I know that I will have a breakdown if I continue sitting with Avinash.

I want to get out, run away; but suddenly, the train moves.

I am trapped.

So I decide to put on a brave front, and say to Avinash, “Coming from Chennai?”


“Yes,” he says, “I’d gone for some work there.”

“You stay here? In Ooty?” I ask with a tremor of trepidation for I do not want to run into Avinash again and again; and let him know that I had made a big mistake by not marrying him – that I had made the wrong choice by dumping him, the man I loved, in search of a “better” life.

“I stay near Kotagiri,” Avinash says.

“Kotagiri?” I ask relieved.

“Yes, I own a tea-estate there.”

“You own a tea estate?”

“Yes. I am a planter.”

Now I really regret my blunder 30 years ago. Indeed I had made the wrong choice.

“Your family – wife, children?” I probe, curious.

“I didn’t marry,” he says curtly. “There’s no family; only me. A confirmed bachelor – just me – I live all by myself.”

“Oh, Avinash. You should have got married. Why didn’t you?”

“It is strange that you should be asking me why I did not marry,” he says.

 “Oh my God! Because of me?” 
 
Avinash changes the subject and says, “I’ll be getting off at Coonoor. My jeep will pick me up.”

He pauses, then asks me, “And you, Roopa? Going to Ooty? At the height of winter! To freeze over there?”


“No,” I say, “I am going to Ketti.”

“Ketti ?” he asks with derisive surprise.

“Yes. What’s wrong with going to Ketti?” I protest.

“There are only two places you can go to in Ketti – The boarding school and the old-age home. And the school is closed in December,” Avinash says nonchalantly, looking out of the window.

I say nothing.

Because I cannot say anything.

So I suffer his words in silence.


“Unless of course you own a bungalow there!” he says sarcastically turning towards me and mocking me once again.

The cat is out of the bag.

I cannot describe the sense of humiliation I feel sitting there with Avinash.

The tables seem to have turned.

Or have they?


There are only the two of us in the tiny compartment.

As the train begins to climb up the hills it began to get windy and Avinash closes the windows.


The smallness of the compartment forces us into a strange sort of intimacy.

I remember the lovely moments with Avinash.


A woman’s first love always has an enduring place in her heart.

“I am sorry if I hurt you,” Avinash says, “but the bitterness just came out.”

We talk.

Avinash is easy to talk to and I am astonished how effortlessly my words come tumbling out. 


I tell him everything. Yes, I tell him everything – the entire story of my life.

How I had struggled, sacrificed, planned and taken every care.

But still, everything had gone wrong.


Widowed at 28.

Abandoned by my only son at 52.

Banished to an old-age home. So that “they” could sell off our house and emigrate abroad.

“They” – yes, “they” – those two who ruined my life, betrayed my trust – my only son who I doted upon and lived for and that scheming wife of his. 


“I have lost everything,” I cry, unable to control my self. “Avinash, I have lost everything.”

“No, Roopa,” Avinash says. “You haven’t lost everything. You have got me! I’ve got you. We’ve got each other.”

Avinash takes me in his comforting arms. 

Cuddled in his arms, I experience the same feeling, the same zest, the same warmth, the same lovely emotion, the same love, that I felt thirty years ago, yes, thirty years ago, as a newly-wed on my first romantic journey, on this same mountain toy train, on my way to my first honeymoon, into the lovely blue mountains. 


VIKRAM KARVE
Copyright © Vikram Karve 2011
Vikram Karve has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work. 
© vikram karve., all rights reserved. 

Did you like this story?

I am sure you will like the stories in my recently published book COCKTAIL comprising twenty seven short stories about relationships.  

 

 

 

Do try out this delicious, heady and excitingCOCKTAIL. 

 

To know more please click the links below:
Cheers

About Vikram Karve

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

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

Email: vikramkarve@sify.com          

Fiction Short Stories Book

© vikram karve., all rights reserved.

 

 

Creative Writing by Vikram Karve: A POET AND HIS MUSE

February 3, 2011

Academic and Creative Writing Journal Vikram Karve: A POET AND HIS MUSE.

A POET AND HIS MUSE
THE CREATIVE ENGINE
Fiction Short Story
By
VIKRAM KARVE

Do you remember the moment when you saw your first creative effort published, your very own words in print, for the world to read?
I do.
It was the happiest moment of my life when I saw my first fiction short story published in the Sunday literary supplement of a newspaper long long back. (Well  literary supplements have disappeared long back and today we have page 3 gossip and entertainment news in their place).
Tell me, dear reader, what inspires you to write…?
Do you have a “Creative Engine”  –  to inspire you and help you unleash your creative talents…?
Some of us may be inspired by a Muse.
Here is a simple Story of a Poet and his Muse. I am sure you will like the story.

Chotte Lal is in seventh heaven, on cloud nine…call it what you like.

But one thing is sure. This is the happiest moment of his life.


Chotte Lal experiences a delightfully beautiful emotion as he looks lovingly at his own words printed on the top left hand corner of the last page of the newspaper.

Chotte Lal experiences an ecstatic feeling of pride, joy, thrill – I really have no words to describe this unique emotion, but if you are a writer, just recall the moment when you saw your first creative effort in print, and you will understand what I mean.


Chotte Lal reads his poem to himself, slowly, deliberately, tenderly, drinking in each word, drowns his self in his creation, in a state of blissful timelessness, till the bookstall owner roughly shakes him out of his idyllic reverie loudly asking for money for the newspaper.

Chotte Lal pays him, and then, continuing to read his own poetry, walks with a spring in his step towards the running room to share his happiness with his colleagues.

And as he strides down the long platform towards his destination, let me tell you a bit about Chotte Lal, the hero of our story, an Engine Driver in the railways.

Chotte Lal’s father was a humble gangman whose life’s ambition was to make his motherless son an Engine Driver.

Everyday as he looked up from his lowly place beside the railway tracks fascinated by the sight of the haughty engine drivers speeding by, roughly snatch the tokens he held up for them, and then rudely throw their tokens kept in small leather pouches mounted on large cane rings at a distance for him to fetch and hand over to the signalman, his resolve became stronger and stronger, and Chotte Lal’s father dreamed of the moment when his son, sitting in the driver’s seat, would pick up the token from him.


The day his dutiful obedient son Chotte Lal was selected as an engine driver, his father was so overjoyed, that he celebrated all night, indulging himself so much that he died of liver failure in the morning.

Now let’s get back to our story and see what our hero Chotte Lal is up to.

Chotte Lal walks into the driver running room. No one notices. His fellow drivers are busy playing cards.

“See. See. My poem has been published,” Chotte Lal says excitedly holding out the newspaper.

A driver takes the newspaper from his hands and says. “Hey, look, there is going to be a pay hike…” and he begins reading the headlines from the front page as the others listen.

“No. No. Not there. My poem is on the back page,” Chotte Lal says.

“Where?”

Chotte Lal turns the paper and shows him.

“Good,” the driver says even without reading the poem, turns back to the first page and begins reading aloud details of the pay hike.

“Illiterate Greedy Dopes. Bloody Riff Raff…! Only interested in money,” Chotte Lal says in anger snatching the paper.

“Oh yes, we are illiterates worried about money, not philosophers like you wasting your time writing poetry,” someone says.

“Why don’t you become a Professor instead of wasting time here?” another taunts.

“Or join the film industry, write poems for songs, sher-shairy…” they jeer.

Chotte Lal walks out in a huff.

But let me tell you dear reader that the drivers are right.

Chotte Lal certainly doesn’t belong here amongst this hard drinking rough and earthy fraternity.

Chotte Lal lives on a higher plane – while his compatriots drink and gamble to pass their time in their leisure and changeover breaks, Chotte Lal reads, and now, he writes.

Had Chotte Lal got the proper opportunity he would be a man of erudition, but as I have already told you, circumstances willed otherwise and poor Chotte Lal he had no choice.


Chotte Lal is a good engine driver. He is happy in his job and content with life. He never gets bored with the long waits for he always carries with him a good book to read. And now he’s started writing – yes, creative writing.

Chotte Lal always wanted to write but did not know how till one evening, while waiting for a signal, the glorious spectacle of the setting sun, the picturesque countryside, the villagers hurrying home, the birds chirping returning to their nests, the endless tracks disappearing into the horizon in front of him, the whole scene in its entirety, inspired him so much that the spark of creativity was ignited within him and for the first time he poured out his inner feelings on paper, and thereby was born his first creative effort, a poem – Waiting for the Signal.

Chotte Lal lives in a typical railway town, a relic of the Raj, with its spacious well laid out railway colony with huge bungalows and neat cottages, amidst plenty of greenery and expanse.

This quaint mofussil town boasts of a newspaper – a four page tabloid really.

The back page of this local rag features crosswords, tit-bits, and creative contributions from readers, which Chotte Lal always reads with avid interest and it was his dream to see his own creative writing printed right there on that page one day.


So he neatly wrote down his first creative composition “Waiting for the Signal” on a foolscap sheet of paper torn from his daughter’s notebook and personally submitted his contribution to the editor who gave him an amused look and said, “We’ll see!”

Chotte Lal waited, and waited, almost lost hope, and now, at long last, his poem had been published.

Chotte Lal walks conspicuously towards the exit of the Railway Station, deliberately stopping by at the Station Master’s Office, the ASMs, the Train Clerks, the TTEs, yearning for appreciation, hoping someone would say something, but all he gets is smiles of forced geniality.

“Useless fellows!” he says to himself, and then begins walking fast towards his house eager to show his poem to his wife and children.

Seeing Chotte Lal walk past his dhaba without even a glance in that direction, Ram Bharose senses something terribly is wrong, for every time Chotte Lal returns from duty he always stops by at Ram Bharose’s Dhaba for a cup of tea and to pick up a parcel of Anda-Bun for Engine, his pet dog.

As always, Engine is the first to welcome him at the compound gate of his home and gives him the customary enthusiastic reception, playful, vigorously wagging his tail, barking, jumping, running – but today Chotte Lal’s response is different – he just walks by –  no hugging, no fondling, no baby-talk and most importantly no Anda-Bun.

Engine is confused at his Master’s odd behaviour and follows him loyally towards the door of the cottage.

Chotte Lal rings the bell.

His wife of twenty years opens the door, gives him a preoccupied look, and begins walking towards the kitchen.


“See, See,” Chotte Lal says with childlike enthusiasm, “My poem had been published in the newspaper.”

“Poem…? What Poem…?” his wife asks.

Chotte Lal hands over the tabloid to his wife and shows her the poem – Waiting for the Signal.

His wife gives it a cursory glance and asks, “How much did they pay you for it…?”

“Pay me…? What are you talking…?” Chotte Lal asks puzzled.

“Yes. Pay you. Don’t tell me you are doing this for charity. Or maybe the poem is so third rate that they haven’t thought it worth even a paisa,” his wife says scornfully.

“Please!” Chotte Lal raises his voice getting angry, “This beautiful poem is the fruit of my creative effort, not some item for sale. Where is the question of money? You will never understand the value of creative reward!”

“Creative reward my foot…! This good for nothing local rag prints a poem of yours and you are boasting as if you have won the Nobel Prize…!” his wife mocks. “Why don’t you stop wasting your time doing all this nonsense and join my brother’s transport business – he wants to make you the Regional Manager.”

“I don’t want to go to the city.”

“You want to rot in this godforsaken place driving engines all your life?”

“I like my job. I like this place. I like to read and write.”

“Oh yes, now all you will be doing is wasting your time and your effort writing all this nonsense for free, when you could be earning handsomely if you put in the same efforts elsewhere!”

“I am happy where I am and content with what I have.”

“Oh, sure. You are happy to live in a gutter and watch other men climb mountains!”

“Papa, Mama is right,” his daughter interjects appearing suddenly, “Why don’t you retire and take your pension and then take up the job uncle is offering you as regional manager in his transport business and let us all move to the city…?”

“Here, here,” the father says excitedly, giving the newspaper to his daughter, “My poem is published today. Read it and tell me how you like it.”

“You can read it later. Have your breakfast first,” her mother says sternly, “you’re getting late for college.”

“Take the newspaper with you. Show my poem to your friends, your teacher,” he says.

A horn honks. The girl puts the newspaper in her bag and rushes out. Chotte Lal excitedly runs behind his daughter towards the gate and shouts to her, “My poem is on the back page…it is called Waiting for the Signal…”

A boy is waiting for her on a motorcycle. Maybe it’s her college classmate, her boyfriend, maybe… Chotte Lal realises how little he knows about his children.

His son – he has already gone to the city to work in his uncle’s company. He is obsessed with earning money and has no time for the finer things of life. Like mother like son. He feels sad. It’s a pity, a real pity.

There is nothing worse for a man than to realise that his wife, his son are ashamed of him.

Maybe his daughter will appreciate his poem, his talent, his creative genius, his worth – after all she is a student of arts.


He looks at his daughter. She is talking to the boy, pointing to the rear seat, telling him it is dirty.

Then, she takes out the precious newspaper which Chotte Lal has given her. Chotte Lal looks on in anticipation. Maybe his daughter is going to show the poem to the boy.

Yes, Chotte Lal’s daughter does take out the newspaper from her bag. But she doesn’t even open it, leave alone showing her father’s poem to her friend. She just crumples the newspaper and wipes the motorcycle seat with it and throws it on the ground.

Then she sits on the seat and they drive off on the motorcycle.


Chotte Lal experiences a pain much worse than if a knife had pierced through his heart.

His dog Engine rushes out, picks up the newspaper in his mouth, brings it to Chotte Lal, drops it at his feet and begs for his treat.

Suddenly Chotte Lal realises he has forgotten to get Engine’s customary treat – the Anda-Bun.

“Come,” he says to Engine.

He picks up the newspaper and they both, Master and dog, walk towards Ram Bharose’s Dhaba.


Chotte Lal looks at Engine as he happily cavorts and gambols in spontaneous delight at this unexpected outing.

“And now you have got a Pie Dog, a Mongrel,” his wife was furious when he had got the tiny abandoned pup whose mother had been run over by a train.

First he used to take the baby puppy along with him in his Engine, and his assistant driver named the pup “Engine”. But soon the word spread and he got a memo.

Since then Engine remained home, and whenever Chotte Lal was away on duty, poor Engine was dependent on the reluctant love of his wife who Chotte Lal suspected actually liked the cheerful dog.


They reach Ram Bharose’s Dhaba.

“What happened, Driver Sahib, you didn’t take your usual Anda-Bun parcel…?” Ram Bharose says.

“I forgot,” Chotte Lal says, “Give me one Anda-Bun now, and a cup of tea.”

Chotte Lal thinks of showing the poem to Ram Bharose, but hesitates. The poor guy may barely be literate. And if educated people like his colleagues, even his wife, and daughter, no one could appreciate his creative composition, how can he expect this country bumpkin to do so.

So he sits down and decides to read his own poem to himself – celebrate his own personal victory, and not be dependent on others for his happiness.

He gives the Anda-Bun to his delighted dog Engine who sits at his feet and starts polishing it off hungrily.

Then he sips the piping hot rejuvenating tea and starts reading the poem to himself.

Suddenly he feels a nudge on his feet – it’s Engine, prodding with his paw, looking up expectantly at him, eyes dazzling, making a sound, talking, trying to say something.

“Want to hear my poem…?” Chotte Lal lovingly asks his pet dog Engine, affectionately caressing the dog’s ears.

Engine gets up, nods his head, places it on Chotte Lal’s knee adoringly, and wags his tail.

As Chotte Lal reads his poem “Waiting at the Signal”, his devoted dog Engine listens to His Master’s voice with rapt attention, his eyes glued on Chotte Lal’s face, and his tail wagging in appreciation.

After he finishes reading the poem, Chotte Lal looks lovingly at Engine. Engine looks back at him with frank admiration, wags his tail, and proffers his paw as a “shake hand” gesture.

Chotte Lal is overwhelmed with emotion. He orders one more Anda-Bun for Engine.

Delighted at his Master’s sudden spurt of generosity, Engine gratefully devours the delicious Anda-Bun and looks pleadingly at Chotte Lal as if saying: “Encore.”

“You want to hear once again,” Chotte Lal asks Engine, who again keeps his head tenderly on Chotte Lal’s knee, looks up lovingly at his Master, continuously wagging his tail, listening with rapt attention to his Master’s voice, waiting for him to finish, in eager anticipation for his reward of an Anda-Bun.

Many such recitations and Anda-Buns later, dog and master, Engine and Chotte Lal walk back home.

Chotte Lal looks admiringly at Engine – his sincere patron, a true connoisseur who understands, appreciates.

He gets the inner urge to write, to express, to say something – Engine has ignited the spark of creativity within him.


Moments later, the creativity within him unleashed, Chotte Lal sits at his desk and pours out his latent emotions, his inner feelings, on paper, writing poem after poem, while his darling pet dog, his stimulus, his inspiration, his muse, his motivating “Engine”, sits loyally by his side looking lovingly at his Master with undisguised affection.

And so, the Railway Engine Driver Chotte Lal creates and his “Creative Engine” inspires and appreciates – they sit together in sublime unison – the Poet and his Muse – in perfect creative harmony.

VIKRAM KARVE
Copyright © Vikram Karve 2010

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

© vikram karve., all rights reserved.
VIKRAM KARVE educated at IIT Delhi, ITBHU Varanasi, The Lawrence School Lovedale, and Bishop’s School Pune, is an Electronics and Communications Engineer by profession, a Human Resource Manager and Trainer by occupation, a Teacher by vocation, a Creative Writer by inclination and a Foodie by passion. An avid blogger, he has written a number of fiction short stories and creative non-fiction articles in magazines and journals for many years before the advent of blogging. He has written a foodie book Appetite For A Stroll and a book of fiction short stories which is being published soon and is busy writing his first novel. Vikram lives in Pune with his family and pet Doberman girl Sherry, with whom he takes long walks thinking creative thoughts.

Vikram Karve Creative Writing Blog: http://vikramkarve.sulekha.com/blog/posts.htm
Academic and Creative Writing Journal Vikram Karve:
http://karvediat.blogspot.com
Professional Profile of Vikram Karve:

vikramkarve@sify.com
Foodie Book:
© vikram karve., all rights reserved.

RENDEZVOUS at LANDOUR PEAK

July 25, 2010

The Woman with Restless Eyes and Enticing Perfume.

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

Chilled Beer

May 6, 2010

CHILLED BEER

Fiction Short Story – A Mystery

By

VIKRAM KARVE

It’s a lazy Sunday morning and I sit languidly in my balcony reminiscing the good old days of my wonderful past, melancholically mourning the gloomy and depressing present, and speculating with foreboding about what the ominous future may hold in store for me.

The doorbell rings.

I curse at being disturbed from my reverie, and wonder who’s come to meet me on a Sunday morning.

I open the door.

I am dumbstruck.

It is that gorgeous snooty pompous beauty called Monica, my wife Anjali’s friend and colleague, who lives across the street.

“Anjali is not at home,” I say tersely.

“I know,” she says, “I’ve come to see you.”

“Me…?” I stare at her baffled, for till now the pretentious haughty Monica, who doesn’t care for losers, has always ignored me as if I did not exist.

“Yes, Ajay, I know Anjali is not at home. I’ve come to see you. I want to talk to you alone.”

“Alone…?” I am curious as I can feel a shiver of anticipation rising within me. We’ve never been alone before.

“Yes. Alone. Won’t you ask me to come in…?”

“Of course. Please come in. Shall we sit in the balcony…?”

“No. We’ll sit inside here, so no one will see us and we can talk in private.”

Monica looks chic and ravishing, in tight jeans and a close fitting pink T-shirt.

I try not to stare at her.

The moment we sit down on the living room sofa, she says, “Suppose you found out that your wife was being unfaithful. Tell me, Ajay, what would you do…?”

Taken aback by the bombshell, I say, “What…?”

“Suppose you caught her having an affair.”

“What nonsense…!” I say angrily, but inside me there germinates a small seed of doubt. Does Monica know something…? Why is she saying all this…? Trying to hide my fears, I put up a solid face and say, “Come on Mrs. Kumar. It’s impossible. You know Anjali for so many years and how much she loves me.”

“Hey, stop calling me Mrs. Kumar. I’ve told you before, haven’t I…? You just call me Monica…” Monica says, looks provocatively into my eyes, and asks, “Now think carefully…Suppose, just suppose, you caught your wife Anjali having an affair, cheating on you, betraying your trust with infidelity…”

“I’ll kill her,” I say instinctively.

“How…?”

“How…? What do you mean ‘How’…?”

“I mean ‘How’. How will you kill your wife…?”

“Well, I don’t know,” I say getting up from the sofa, not wanting to continue this conversation.

“Let’s hypothesize. Will you shoot her…? Strangle her…? Stab her to death…? Suffocate her with a pillow…? Push her over the balcony or shove her off a cliff…?  Electrocute her…? Drown her…? Douse her with kerosene and set her on fire…? An ‘accidental’ gas cylinder explosion…?”

“What do you want from me…? Why are you harassing me…? Please go away Mrs. Kumar. Anjali will be here any moment,” I beseech her.

“No, she won’t. I know she’s gone to the health club and parlour for her Sunday session. She’ll be back after twelve. We have enough time together, haven’t we…?” Monica says mischievously looking up at me and adds, “Okay, you just tell me how you would kill your wife if you caught her having an affair, and I promise I’ll go away…!”

“I’d probably use poison,” I say, and start walking towards the entrance door.

Monica remains seated in silence for some time, and then she looks at me intently and says, her words clear and deliberate, “Poison… The way you finished off Nisha, your first wife…?”

I stop dead in my tracks.

Stunned, pole-axed, I can sense a sharp, cold fear drilling into my vitals.

I look at Monica, into her shining eyes.

She knows…

And she wants me to know, that she knows…

And now I know that I have no choice.

I walk back to my sofa, sit down and say to her, “So you want to kill your husband. Just because you think he is having an affair.”

“You killed Nisha, didn’t you…?” she asks, looking directly into my eyes.

I feel very frightened, scared.

How much does Monica know…?

Or is she just speculating, guessing…?

Maybe she’s just trying a shot in the dark…

But seeing the venom in her eyes, I realize that I dare not take any chances, so I smile and say, “Well, Monica, you have got your manacles on me, haven’t you…?”

“Listen, Ajay,” Monica says, her voice soft, as she speaks in measured tones, “I don’t want a scandal, that’s why I haven’t given him even the slightest hint that I suspect. But I can’t live a lie any longer pretending I am happy. The flimsy façade of our successful marriage, the veneer of pretence – it’s all going to blow-up sooner or later as he is becoming more and more indiscreet and careless.”

She pauses for a moment and says, “He’s got to go. Quickly. Quietly. As ‘normal’ a death as you can arrange.”

“Why don’t you leave him…? Ask him for a divorce.”

“It’s much better to be a widow than a divorcee, isn’t it…?”

I think about what she says.

Monica is right. It is much better to have all the sympathy of a widow than the stigma of being a divorcee; inherit all her husband’s riches, money, property rather than the paltry alimony.

Her husband is rich and successful, and her marriage a social triumph.

“Tell me, who is he having an affair with…?” I ask out of sheer curiosity.

“It’s none of your business,” she says angrily. “Just do what I tell you and don’t delve too deeply.”

“I thought maybe…”

“What’s the use…? He’ll get another one – bloody philanderer,” Monica says with contempt. “It’s he who has betrayed me and I want to get rid of him fast. You do this for me, Ajay, and my lips remain sealed about Nisha forever. I promise…”

“That’s all…?”

“I’ll clear all your gambling debts, your loans, the mortgages – with the bookies, financers…”

Inside I tremble with indescribable terror… outside I try to be calm and say, “You know all about me, don’t you…?”

“I’ve done my homework. Now you execute a foolproof plan. And after it’s all over there’ll be plenty more to come for you. I’ll give you so much money, you can’t even imagine…”

“Okay, let’s brainstorm. You tell me everything about your husband. Each and every detail, his food habits, his routine, his programme for the next few days, about both of you, everything. Absolutely everything.”

“I’m thirsty,” Monica announces.

“Fresh Lime…?”

“How about a chilled beer?”

I get two cans of chilled beer from the fridge.

“Hey,” Monica exclaims holding up a beer can, “you know what…? Kumar drinks the same brand of beer as you do…! It’s his favourite beer.”

“That’s a good start,” I say and clink my beer can with hers, “Cheers… To our success… Now tell me everything.”

Monica tells me everything about her husband Kumar.

I listen intently and carefully make notes.

By the time Monica finishes, in my mind’s eye I am already evaluating the pros and cons of various options of how Kumar is going to die.

“How do you want him to die…? Instantaneous death or prolonged illness…?” I ask Monica.

“I want to finish it off as quickly as possible. Painless. Fast. When he is far away from here. Like maybe during his trekking trip to Mussoorie next week,” she pauses for a moment and says, “but make sure it’s a perfect foolproof job – not even an iota of doubt or needle of suspicion.”

My mind races, exploring and weighing all the options, like maybe an exotoxin which leaves no trace, excretes itself from the organism within a few hours…?

I keep on thinking, my brain cells working at lightning speed, and all of a sudden I know what I’m going to do…

“We’ll give him something in his favourite beer,” I say.

“What…? Tell me, please…” Monica says excitedly.

“Now you don’t delve too much…” I say haughtily. “Just do what I say. Lips sealed. And ask no questions…”

“Okay.”

I look at the notes I have made when she was telling me about her husband and ask, “His weight is only 70…?”

“That’s right. Seventy kilograms. Five feet ten. Thirty Eight years of age. Ideal, isn’t it… He’s a fitness freak.”

“And he leaves for Mussoorie on Thursday…”

“Yes. Early in the morning.”

“Okay,” I say, “I’ll have the beer can ready by Wednesday evening. Make sure you collect it by six before Anjali comes back from office and see that he drinks it…”

“No. No. You serve it to him. Let him have it here. In front of you. Right here.”

“He’s never come here to our place before…”

“He will come here. If you invite him.”

“Fine. I’ll tell Anjali to invite both of you to dinner on Wednesday evening. She’s been wanting to call you over for a long time.”

“And…?”

“I’ll make sure your Kumar drinks the special beer. He’ll be off to Mussoorie on Thursday, and you should have the ‘good news’ by Sunday morning.”

“He shouldn’t pop off here…”

“He won’t. I’ll calculate everything precisely – make sure there’s at least a 36 hour incubation and proliferation period.”

After Monica leaves, I realize three things.

Firstly, murder is a rather lucrative business.

Secondly, from an amateur, I am going to become a professional.

And thirdly, infidelity is not only reason why Monica wants to get rid of her husband.

Everything works as per my plan.

I meticulously keep the vacuum microencapsulated ‘special’ can of beer firmly in its designated place in the fridge on Wednesday morning the moment Anjali leaves for work.

Then I leave for my office.

When I open the fridge the moment I return early from work on Wednesday evening I notice that the particular beer-can is missing.

My heart skips a beat, I feel a tremor of trepidation, search desperately in the fridge, don’t find the can, and soon I’m in a state of total panic.

After a frantic search I find the empty beer can in the kitchen dustbin.

I pick up the can and check.

Oh yes, no doubt about it – it is the same beer-can.

And the beer can is empty…

I try to think, steady my confused mind.

Who can it be…?

Everything becomes clear all of a sudden and I find myself shaking in sheer terror.

I rush to the bedroom, run around the house like a crazy animal.

Anjali is not at home.

I dial her mobile.

An excruciating wait as time stands still.

Anjali answers.

“Anjali…? Where are you…?”

“In the mall. Picking up some stuff for the evening.”

“So early…?”

“I took half a day off. Came home for lunch, got things tidied up and ready for the evening and am just getting a few things from the market. I’ll be back soon.”

“Anjali. The beer…! The beer…! ” I stutter anxiously.

“You want me to get more beer…? I thought we had enough.”

“No. No. There is a beer-can missing in the fridge. I found it in the dustbin.”

“Oh, that. I drank it in the afternoon,” Anjali says.

“What…? You drank that beer…?” I shout anxiously.

“Yes. I drank it. I came home in the afternoon. It was hot. I felt thirsty. So I opened the fridge, picked up a can of beer and I drank it. It’s that simple.”

“You stupid fool… Why did you drink that beer-can…?” I scream into the phone.

“Stupid fool…? How dare you…? Ajay, have you lost it…? I just can’t understand your behaviour now-a-days…” Anjali says and disconnects.

It was extraordinary, how my mind became clear all of a sudden.

There was no known antidote to the stuff I had synthesized.

Clinically, there was nothing I could do.

Logically, there was no point in doing something stupid in desperation.

It was a question of my own survival.

Having sunk to the depths of depravity, all I could do was helplessly wait and haplessly watch Anjali die.

She was less than sixty kilos, much lighter than Kumar.

By Saturday evening it would all be over…

The evening passes in a haze.

My heart sinks as I watch Kumar enjoy beer after beer, but what’s the use…? That beer-can, the one I had specially prepared for him, is lying empty in the dustbin.

There is a gleam in Monica’s eye.

What excuse am I going to give her…?

She does not know what’s happened and I shudder to think what she may do when she realizes.

At best she may forget everything; but knowing her vindictive streak, anything is possible…

Inside I tremble with fear in unimaginable agony… outside I try to present a happy and cheerful façade and make pretence of enjoying the dinner.

Time crawls.

I feel wretched and suffer in painful silence the longest and most agonizing hours of my life.

Thursday. Friday. Saturday.

I closely observe Anjali for symptoms, waiting for the worst.

Nothing happens.

Anjali seems normal, in fact, quite hale and hearty.

Sunday.

Anjali is still going strong…!

She sits across the dining table devouring her favorite idli-chutney-sambar Sunday breakfast.

I marvel at her constitution, her liver, it’s got to be super-strong; or maybe I’ve goofed up!

My cell-phone rings.

It’s Monica.

My heart skips a beat.

“Hello,” I say with trepidation.

“Ajay, congrats… You’ve done it… Kumar is dead. I just got a call from Mussoorie,” Monica says excitedly.

“How…?” I mumble incredulously, perplexed, baffled out of my wits in consternation.

“It happened exactly like you said. In the early hours of Sunday morning. He died in his sleep. They say maybe it was heart failure. Painless, instantaneous death.”

“I’ll come now…?” I ask Monica.

“No… No… Not now. We can’t take chances. I’m rushing to Mussoorie now. I’ll finish off everything; make sure the paperwork is done okay. And when I return, you can come and offer your condolences…” I hear Monica’s voice trail away.

I disconnect, put my mobile phone in my pocket, and look at Anjali.

“Who was it…?” she asks.

“Someone from the office,” I lie, trying to keep a straight face.

“Anything important…?”

“No. A man died. That’s all…” I say nonchalantly.

I look at Anjali, into her large brown liquid eyes, and comprehension dawns on me like a bolt of lightening.

What a cuckold she’s made me, a real sucker.

My brain goes into a tizzy. I wonder what I should do to her.  The possibilities are endless, aren’t they…?

And while I contemplate on my plan of action…I think I’ll have a chilled beer…

VIKRAM KARVE

Copyright © Vikram Karve 2010

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

vikramkarve@sify.com

http://vikramkarve.sulekha.com

REALTY CHECK Fiction Short Story

May 4, 2010

REALTY CHECK

Fiction Short Story

By

VIKRAM KARVE

“I want to go home…!” the father, a redoubtable intrepid tough looking old man, around seventy, shouts emphatically at his son.

“Please Baba. Don’t create a scene,” the son, an effeminate looking man in his mid-forties, says softly.

“What do you mean don’t create a scene…?” the old man shouts even louder, waving his walking stick in a menacing manner.

“Please calm down…! Everyone is looking at us…!” an old woman, in her mid-sixties, pleads with her husband.

“Let them look…! Let everyone see what an ungrateful son is doing to his poor old parents…” the old man says loudly, looking all around.

“Ungrateful…?” the son winces.

“Yes, ungrateful…! That’s what you are. We did everything for you; educated you, brought you up. And now you throw us out of our house into this bloody choultry.”

“Choultry…! You call this a choultry…! Please Baba… This is a luxury township for Senior Citizens…” the son says.

“It’s okay,” the old woman consoles her husband, “we’ll manage in this Old Age Home.”

“Mama, please…!” the son implores in exasperation, “How many times have I told you. This is not an Old Age Home. It’s such a beautiful exclusive township for Senior Citizens to enjoy a happy and active life. And I’ve booked you a premium cottage – the best available here.”

The mother looks at her son, and then at her husband, and feels trapped between the two, not knowing what to say as both are right in their own way. So she says gently to her husband, “Try to understand. We’ll adjust here. See how scenic and green this place is. See there – what a lovely garden.”

“I prefer Nana-Nani Park at Chowpatty. All my friends are there,” the old man says.

“You’ll make friends here too,” she says.

“Friends…! These half-dead highbrow snobs…?” the old man says mockingly.

“Okay,” the son intervenes, “you both can take long walks. The air is so pure and refreshing at this hill station.”

“Listen you…! Don’t try all this on me. I’ve been walking for the last fifty years on Marine Drive and that’s where I intend walking the rest of my life…” the old man shouts at his son. Then the old man turns to his wife and says peremptorily to her, “You pack our bags and let’s go back to Mumbai. We are not staying here…!”

“Try and adjust,” his wife beseeches him, “you’ll like the place. Look at the facilities here – there’s a modern health club, gym, library, recreation… everything is here.”

“Gym…? You want me to do body building at this age…? Library…? You know after my cataract I can hardly read the newspaper…! And I can get all the recreation I need watching the sea at the Chowpatty…”

“Please Baba, don’t be obstinate,” begs his son. “This place is so good for your health. They give you such delicious nourishing food here.”

“Delicious…? Nourishing…? The bloody sterile stuff tastes like hospital food. I can’t stand it – where will I get Sardar’s Pav Bhaji, Kyani’s Kheema Pav, Vinay’s Misal, Satam’s Vada Pav, Delhi Durbar’s Biryani, Sarvi’s Boti Kababs, Fish in Anantashram in Khotachi wadi next door…”

“Please Baba…! All you can think of is horrible oily spicy street-food which you should not eat at your age…! With your cholesterol and sugar levels, you’ll die if you continue eating that stuff…”

“I’d rather die of a heart attack in Mumbai enjoying the tasty good food I like rather than suffer a slow death here trying to eat this insipid tasteless nonsense,” the old man shouts at his son, then looks at his wife and commands, “Listen. Just pack up. We are not staying here like glorified slaves in this golden cage. One month here in this godforsaken place has made me almost mad. We are going right back to our house in Girgaum to live with dignity…!”

“Please Baba. Don’t be difficult. I have to leave for the states tonight,” the son pleads desperately. “I’m trying to do the best possible for you. You know the huge amount of money I’ve paid in advance to book this place for you…?”

“You go back to your family in America. I’m going back to my house in Girgaum…! That’s final…!” the old man says firmly to his son. Then he looks at his wife, the old woman, and says, “You want to come along…? Or should I go back alone…?”

“Mama, please tell him…” the son looks at his mother.

The old woman looks lovingly at her husband, puts her hand on his arm and says softly, “Please try to understand. We have to live here. There’s no house in Girgaum. Our tenement chawl has been sold to a builder. They are building a commercial complex there.”

“What…?” the old man looks at his wife, totally stunned, as if he is pole-axed, “you too…!”

And suddenly the old man’s defences crumble and he disintegrates… no longer is he the strong indefatigable redoubtable man he was a few moments ago — the old man seems to have lost his spirit, his strength, his dignity, his self-esteem, even his will to live…!

The metamorphosis in the old man’s personality is unbelievable as he meekly holds his wife’s hand for support and, totally defeated, the once tough and redoubtable old man obediently leans on his frail wife for support and walks with her towards their cottage where they both will spend the last days of their lives… lonely… unwanted… waiting for death.

VIKRAM KARVE

Copyright © Vikram Karve 2010
Vikram Karve has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work

vikramkarve@sify.com

http://vikramkarve.sulekha.com

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

http://www.ryze.com/go/karve

http://www.indiaplaza.in/finalpage.aspx?storename=books&sku=9788190690096&ct=2

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

The Third Slap – Fiction Short Story – A Romance

May 4, 2010

THE THIRD SLAP

Pure Fiction – Pulp Fiction – Junk Fiction

A Comical Story – A Tall Story — A Yarn

By

VIKRAM KARVE

Dear Reader, I urge you not to read this story.

I think it is one of my worst stories – an example of my inchoate and amateurish attempts at creative writing.

I wrote this rubbish sometime in the 1990’s, I think, when you travelled to Goa by those delightful metre-gauge trains winding their way down from Londa past the cascading Dudhsagar falls to Vasco.

I wonder what genre one can call this. Pulp Fiction…?

Maybe ‘Junk Fiction’ is more apt…!

I’ve warned you…

Now, if you still want to read this bizarre, preposterous story, go ahead, do so at your own peril.

Have a laugh … and don’t forget the brickbats (or the bouquets) …

As always, I value your feedback and comments.

PART 1 – THE FIRST SLAP

I looked thoughtfully, with nostalgia and pride, at the words inscribed on the brass plaque I held in my hand:

“The first time you slap me it is your fault…

The second time you slap me it is my fault…”

This engraved plaque was the only item I had brought with me from my old office in Pune. I had now made it big time. A top job in a prestigious firm in Bangalore .

I gave the brass plaque to Suhas and told him to hang it on the wall. For added effect, I loudly recited the words – a Chinese proverb – again and again.

The first impression is a lasting one. I wanted to project myself as a tough guy, and had dramatically succeeded. I had totally intimidated Suhas into submission. He had never expected that I would order him to drive me from the airport straight to office on a Sunday, get the office opened, and brief me in detail.

Suhas had been one of the aspirants for the chair I was sitting on; now he would be my deputy. If he was disappointed at not being promoted, he did not show it. After all, he had worked for ten years in the same firm and surely did not like an outsider like me thrust upon him.

As I stroked my beard, I looked appraisingly at Suhas. True to his name he had a sweet pleasant smile. But he looked a weakling – one of those suave, slimy, effeminate characters that adorn the corporate world – a soft-spoken, clean-shaven, ingratiating sissy with an almost feminine voice and carefully cultivated mannerisms as if he had been trained in a finishing school. Suhas had no masculinity, no manliness about him. He was one of those cissy types who were bullied and ragged at school and college. In my mind’s eye I smiled to myself at my excellent assessment.

Suhas handed me an invitation card and stammered, “Sir, an invitation for the New Year Eve party tonight.”

I was genuinely pleased and gave him an appreciative smile. In my euphoria I had almost forgotten the date.

Eager-Beaver and sycophant that he was, Suresh had organized a partner for me. Anita. A young executive anxious to please the boss. Anita was openly showing her willingness to get involved with me. A pity. I was not interested. She was not my type of woman. Anita was one of those synthetic beauties; pleasing to look at but not exciting to embrace. Dainty, delicate, perfectly poised, petite, precise, prim and proper. Her make-up perfect and exact, she looked like an artificial doll – optimally designed, precisely engineered and finished to perfection. Her actions appeared carefully contrived; there was no spontaneity about her. That vital spark of sensuality was missing. I could see that she had titivated for me, but I was not titillated. I liked voluptuous, sensual, earthy women – the rough-and-ready kind. As we danced she pressed against me in desperate appeal. I was not stirred. She was too simulated to stimulate me.

I signaled to Suhas who rescued me. I picked up a drink and took up a strong tactical position with my back to the wall. I looked at Anita – Good from Far, but, Far from Good. I smiled to myself. I sipped my drink, lit a cigarette, and looked at the entrance.

I saw her almost at once. She radiated an extraordinary sensuousness of a degree I had never experienced before. The impact was so overwhelming that I was instantly aroused and consumed with desire. She could not have made her body more inviting. There was nothing delicate about her. Plump and lusty, she oozed raw sexuality. I ached with desire and drank her in with my eyes insatiably.

“Enjoying the party, Sir” Suhas had followed my transfixed gaze and guessed what was on my mind. “That dish is Menaka. She’s a hot-shot executive in our main competitor. Let me formally introduce you.”

“No,” I said, “not now.”

Politeness is a pleasant way for a man to get nowhere with a woman.

Suhas got the hint and left me alone. My hungry eyes locked on to Menaka. I was feasting my eyes on her captivating face when she suddenly turned and glanced at me. Our eyes met. She looked at me for that moment longer, and with a curious smile, she turned back to her group.

I kept my eyes on her, looking steadily and directly; trying to transmit and project my thought-waves of passionate yearning. She adjusted her stance slightly, probably to observe me through the corner of her eye. Her gestures indicated that I had succeeded in disturbing the equilibrium of her personal inner comfort zone. I was thrilled with anticipation.

Suddenly she excused herself from her group, walked towards a secluded corner, turned and looked directly towards me. She held my gaze in a kind of challenge, there was a lengthy pause, and then she smiled. There was a conspiratorial look in her expressive eyes; at once inviting and taunting. She teased me with her eyes. My stimulus had evoked a response.

Encouraged by her enthusiastic response, I indulged myself lavishly. I made love to her with my eyes. She responded with unrestrained zeal; exhilaration pouring out of her eyes. As our mutual visual interplay became intense, I could clearly decipher the language in her eyes. I did not require the power of clairvoyance to look into the province of her mind; to read her thoughts. I boldly walked up to her and asked her for a dance. As I led her onto the dance-floor, I realized that every man, who was a man, was hungrily ogling at her. I felt the natural pride of possession that any man feels when he has the company of a woman that other men desire.

We danced continuously, without break. I held her tightly. She let her body rub against mine. Suddenly, the lights went off. Someone announced, “One minute left for the New Year.”

It was pitch-dark. The dance-floor was packed with bodies. I locked Menaka in a passionate embrace. Intoxicated by the aroma of her natural scent, I caressed her neck with my tongue. Her skin was moist with sweat. She sighed and her breathing became heavy and rapid. I kissed her warm mouth, a fervent passionate kiss. She kissed me back, most eagerly and amorously. As our tongues intertwined I could taste the fresh flavour of her mouthwash mixed with her hot saliva. We were luxuriating in a wave of sensuality which had engulfed us when the lights were suddenly switched on. Everyone seemed to have gone berserk – shouting “Happy New Year” at the top of their voices, and hooters, whistles, horns, drums, shouts raising the noise level to a deafening din.

“Happy New Year,” it was Suhas. He was quite drunk. Anita was standing next to him – her hurt evident in her eyes.

Before I realized it, Menaka had quickly disengaged and walked away. I was too confused to react. Anita pulled me to dance. She still hadn’t given up hopes. I kissed her on the cheeks, wished her a Happy New Year, and joined in the merrymaking. It was only after a considerable amount of time that I noticed that Suhas had disappeared.

It took me a week to sink my teeth into my new assignment. I worked hard. My first vital challenge was to win a huge software development contract with a multinational company. It was a prestigious contract. A large number of firms would be vying for it. It was imperative that I succeeded in winning it – to establish my credentials and prove my worth. The primary reason I had been appointed to the top post was owing to my expertise and track record in this area. My professional reputation was at stake. By the end of the week I had my proposal ready. I kept just one hard copy – no soft copies – for I believe that one should not store anything in a computer that one cannot display on a public notice board.

But my being busy at work was not the only reason that I had not contacted Menaka. I had not forgotten the sensuality of her body. During nights, as I lay awake in bed, I desperately yearned for her and I felt like a volcano without eruption.

I purposely did not make the first move. I didn’t want her to think I was desperate and grovel before her. I had ardently communicated my unspoken intentions to her on New Year’s Eve – if she wanted me, she’d contact me.

One day, while I was working in my plush office, suddenly my phone rang. It was Menaka. I felt a tremor of anticipation. She invited me to lunch at a nearby restaurant. I accepted.

Menaka was waiting for me outside the restaurant. She was dressed in a full-sleeved blouse and a heavy formal blue silk sari. It was hot. The fabric of her blouse around her armpits was wet with sweat. She looked and smelt natural. No attempt to camouflage her raw steamy sensuousness behind the synthetic mask of make-up and deodorants. Raw steamy sensuousness – that’s what I liked about her. It stimulated me and attracted me towards her.

As we sipped chilled beer, I found that she was easy to talk to. I had a strange feeling of elation. In these moods there was so much to say, the words simply came tumbling out. I told her everything about myself. In hindsight, I realize that she hardly told me anything about herself.

We met often during the next few days, arranging rendezvous in restaurants and our club. She tantalized me. But she did not let me go all the way. A bit of petting, necking, fondling, caressing, hugging, kissing, cuddling – it was okay. But there she drew the line. She never invited me home nor talked about her personal things. At first I was patient. No point hurrying up or forcing things. I did not want to lose her. There is a time to let things happen and a time to make things happen. I thought I would let things happen. But the more I met her, the more the desire began building up in me. The time had come to make things happen. I was wondering what strategy I should adopt when Suhas interrupted me, “Drying a divorcee’s tears is one of the most dangerous pastimes known to man.”

I tried to hide my surprise and regain my composure. I certainly wasn’t interested in drying Menaka’s tears!

“I didn’t know she is a divorcee,” I said truthfully. “In any case it’s a purely platonic friendship.”

“All such platonic relationships have a potential to culminate into affairs,” Suhas pontificated.

I was getting angry now. Surely I didn’t need a lecture on how to handle women from this prissy effeminate sissy.

He sensed my feelings and pleaded, “The office grapevine is pulsating with juicy rumors about your romance with Menaka. Such liaisons can be dangerous. She is working for our rival firm which is competing for the vital contract.”

This was news to me. Menaka hadn’t mentioned the contract. I looked innocently at Suhas. I would have to be careful with this Nosey Parker around.

One evening I was stunned when Menaka suddenly walked into my office. I had not bargained for this unexpected situation at all. It was one thing to meet Menaka in some restaurant or club. It was quite another thing to have her show up bold as brass at my office; it was embarrassing and downright dangerous.

“Don’t worry, everyone has gone home,” Menaka said and came around my desk and stood close to me. I was sitting on my swivel-chair working on the computer. I swiveled my chair around. Her silky smooth stomach was inches from my face. I sensed the beginnings of the experience which had been eluding me. I was tremendously excited, yet frightened. Even the improbability of the situation made me slightly incredulous and cautious. But I could not control myself and animal instinct took charge of me. I clasped her hips and buried my face in her stomach, and we both were going wildly berserk when suddenly the door opened and Suhas walked in.

A few moments later, as I sat in Suhas’s office trying to regain my composure, I realized that Suhas had not spoken a word, and was totally ignoring me. He was sitting quietly, ostensibly engrossed in work. The nuance wasn’t lost on me.

I had left Menaka in my office to tidy up. I wondered what effect this episode would have on her.

Suddenly an ominous thought entered my mind and I was overcome by a strange foreboding. I rushed to my office. Menaka had disappeared. I yanked open my desk drawer. I broke into cold sweat. My premonition had come true – the vital file was missing.

Disgraced, and accused of moral turpitude and disloyalty, I resigned my job and left Bangalore forever, under a cloud of shame, a discredited man.

Needless to say, Suhas walked into my job.

PART2 – THE SECOND SLAP

But I was not one to wallow in despondency for long. I put the episode behind me and went on a sabbatical. Interestingly, I found my true métier in the world of academics. I bounced back into life with vigor and zeal. I started teaching and, in a couple of years, was heading my own computer training institute.

Five years later, I stood on the platform of Pune Railway Station and scanned the passenger list on the reservation chart. No matter how many times I begin a train journey; there is always an intriguing interest in seeing who one’s follow-passengers are. I was on berth number 27. Berth number 28 was reserved in the name of a Mrs. M. Rao, Age 35. All others in the vicinity were males. A disappointment. I always wondered why all the good chicks were in other trains, other compartments. Let’s hope this Mrs. Rao was worth a look, at least.

When Mrs. Rao entered and sat down opposite me, I was dumbstruck.

It was Menaka.

She gave me a warm smile and started talking of me as if she were expecting me. Her behaviour was natural, as if she had fixed up a rendezvous with me here on the train. No guilt, no regret, no remorse. There was absolutely no trace of surprise at seeing me evident on her face. She had blossomed. Her beauty had enhanced with age.

“I was looking forward to meeting you,” she said looking directly into my eyes. “It’s good they organized the seminar in Goa . We shall enjoy ourselves. And, of course, finish our unfinished business. It’s so exciting!”

I couldn’t believe my ears and cannot begin to describe my emotions I felt. At once, I hated her for the way she had played with me, used me, and tossed me by the wayside; at the same time she evoked within me the familiar stirrings of passion. But I knew it was dangerous, so I decided to steer clear of her – once bitten, twice shy

I avoided talking to Menaka, snubbed her when she tried to start a conversation, pretended to read and we traveled in silence on the broad-gauge train from Pune to Miraj, where we would change over to the connecting metre-gauge express to Goa . Hopefully, Menaka would get seat away from me.

In the evening, just before Miraj, the train conductor arrived and said, “There is no air-conditioned service on the metre-gauge overnight train from Miraj to Vasco Da Gama. You will have to travel first class.”

“Both of us are together. Give us a coupe,” Menaka said.

I was tongue-tied.

“Yes, Madam. Coach F-1, coupe compartment D,” the train conductor gave me a canny look, and said in railway lingo, “This train reaches Miraj at 2000 hrs. The connecting train leaves at 2030.”

Menaka sat down close to me on the berth of the coupe of the metre-gauge train. The compartment’s smallness forced us into such an intimacy that I could not control myself when she made her move.

She made love to me with a professional’s skill and an amateur’s enthusiasm. Making love in a speeding metre-gauge train was an awesome experience. As the train rocked and sped through the night, we went crazy with passion, and she did not let me rest, but brought me back to her each time I tried to slide away from her, exhausted.

In the next two weeks, I realized the wildest of my fantasies with her. We made love to each other in all possible ways, at all possible places.

Later, as I lay next to her on the wet sand in a secluded corner of the beach, intoxicated with ‘feni’, I felt exhausted, drained and gratified. “Enough is enough”, I said to myself and I decided to leave quietly next morning.

Six months later I had a surprise visitor. Anita. She had a parcel for me. I opened it. There was a ‘Thank-you’ card from Menaka. There was also the brass plaque with the Chinese proverb which I had forgotten in my Bangalore office. I was baffled, nonplussed.

“Tell me Anita, who is this Rao that Menaka remarried. Or is it her first husband’s surname. Or maiden name.”

Anita burst out laughing, “She married Suhas. Suhas Rao. Your ex-deputy. Have you forgotten him?”

I felt angry, betrayed. Suhas Rao. That effete womanish softy. He was hardly man enough for her. What a mismatch. She needed a real man; a strong, virile, potent man like me.

Seeing the look on my face, Anita spoke quickly, “Suhas and Menaka got married soon after you left. Now they have set up their own firm. I work for them.” She abruptly stopped speaking. I could sense her hesitation. But I wanted to know why Menaka had sent Anita to me. It was an intriguing mystery.

“Go on,” I said. “Tell me everything.”

Anita gave me a curious look and said, “Menaka is pregnant. For the first time. She was trying desperately all these years. I am so happy for her. The baby is due in another three months time.”

Comprehension dawned on me pretty fast. Anita need not have spelt it out to me. I did not know whether to laugh or to cry. Menaka had used me again, for the second time, to realize her goal and then cast me aside. She had “slapped” me again!

But was it a slap? Had she slapped me for the second time? I don’t know. I truly don’t know. And I don’t care. I picked up the brass plaque and read the proverbial words written on it:

“The first time you slap me it is your fault…

The second time you slap me it is my fault…”

Then I looked at the brass plaque nostalgically for one last time and tossed it out of the window. No more proverbs for me.

“Convey my congratulations and best wishes to Menaka,” I said genuinely to Anita. “Tell her I am eagerly waiting for the next rendezvous with her. Whenever she wants me, wherever she wants me, any time, any place, I’ll be there at her service.”

Ten years have passed since – ten long years. Often I think of Menaka, yearn for her, and wonder when I am going to have my next rendezvous with her. Yes, I eagerly await the “third slap…”

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.

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