Posts Tagged ‘lovedale’

THREE-IN-ONE LOVE STORY

July 17, 2011

THREE-IN-ONE LOVE STORY.

click the title above to read this love story on my creative writing blog

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.

 

 

Vikram Karve : COCKTAIL – Short Stories about Relationships By VIKRAM KARVE

February 12, 2011

Academic and Creative Writing Journal Vikram Karve: COCKTAIL – Short Stories about Relationships By VIKRAM KARVE.

 

COCKTAIL – Short Stories about Relationships By VIKRAM KARVE

Dear Fellow Bloggers and Friends,
My book titled COCKTAIL – a collection of my fiction short stories is about to be published soon. I will let all of you know the moment it is ready and about the launch. I look forward to your patronage and encouragement. Here is the backcover blurb
Relationships are like cocktails.
Every relationship is a unique labyrinthine melange of emotions, shaken and stirred, and, like each cocktail, has a distinctive flavour and taste.
The twenty-seven stories in this collection explore fascinating aspects of modern day relationships – love, romance, sex, betrayal, marriage, parenting and even pet parenting.
You will relish reading these riveting cocktails of emotions narrated in easy engaging style and once you start reading you will find this delicious “cocktail” unputdownable.
Wish me luck
Vikram Karve
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 COCKTAIL which is being published soon and is currently 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.
Academic and Creative Writing Journal Vikram Karve: http://karvediat.blogspot.com
Professional Profile of Vikram Karve: http://www.linkedin.com/in/karve
Creative Writing by Vikram Karve: http://vikramkarve.sulekha.com/blog/posts.htm

http://shopping.sify.com/appetiteforastroll-vikram-karve/books/9788190690096.htm

http://www.facebook.com/notes.php?pages#!/pages/Cocktail-by-Vikram-Karve-APK-Publishers/177873552253247

Love Torn Apart – A Lovedale Story

July 23, 2010

LOVE TORN APART

Fiction Short Story

By

VIKRAM KARVE

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

Lovedale.

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

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

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

Lovedale, in 1970.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The old lady closes her eyes in sadness.

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

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

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

There is no one else in the compartment.

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

“Yes,” the woman replies softly.

“You should have told her before.”

“Told her before…? How…? When…?”

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

“How can I be so cruel…?”

“Cruel…? What’s so cruel about it…?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“She’ll understand.”

“Poor thing. She will be all alone.”

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

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

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

“Can’t we take her with us…?”

“You know it’s not possible.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“How can you say that…?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“DLFMTC… ?”

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

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

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

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

The occupants of the solitary bench look towards their left.

There is no one else on the platform.

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

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

The girl runs into her arms.

The old woman walks towards her with a welcoming smile.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And suddenly the train enters.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Poor old Lovedale Railway Station.

It wants to cry.

It tries to cry.

But it cannot even a shed a tear.

For it is not human.

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

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

Yes, a pity…real pity…!

LOVE TORN APART

Fiction Short Story

By

VIKRAM KARVE

Copyright © Vikram Karve 2010

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

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

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

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

Email: vikramkarve@sify.com

Links to my creative writing blog and profile

CREATIVE WRITING by VIKRAM KARVE

VIKRAM KARVE Profile and Bio

MY FOODIE ADVENTURES BOOK

http://vikramkarve.sulekha.com

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

Appetite for a Stroll

vikramkarve@sify.com

A Divorce Story – A DAY IN THE LIFE OF A DIVORCED MAN

December 9, 2009

A DAY IN THE LIFE OF A DIVORCED MAN


Short Fiction

A Long Short Story in Seven Parts

By

VIKRAM KARVE


I am sure you have heard the term “win-win” situation.

But have you heard of “lose-lose” situation.

Here is one of my fiction short stories which depicts lose-lose situations – or does it?

It is a story with a message.

Dear Reader, do tell me your views, can such lose-lose situations be avoided?

Read on. It is a longish story, so if you want, you can read it in parts too.

PART 1 – DAYBREAK

“I’m going,” the man says.

“Don’t go. Please don’t go,” the woman says.

“Don’t go? What do you mean don’t go? You know I have to go.”

“You don’t have to go. You know you don’t have to go. Please. Please. Please don’t go. I beg you. Please don’t go!”

“Come on, Hema, be reasonable, and try to understand. You know I have to go. I promised him I would be there for his school’s Annual Day…”

“No, Ashok, No. You don’t go. His mother can go. He is staying with her, isn’t it? Let her look after him…”

“And I am his father!” the man says firmly, “I promised Varun I’ll be there and I have to be there!”

“You don’t love me! You still love them!”

“You know how much I love you, Hema,” the man says taking the woman in his arms, “But I love my son too. I have to go. Please don’t make it difficult for me…”

Tears begin to well up in the man’s eyes. The woman snuggles her face against his neck and grips him tightly.

“I’m scared,” she sobs.

“Scared? Why?”

“I don’t know. It’s the first time you are going to her after you two split…”

“Please, Hema. I am not going to her. I’m going to meet my son, for his school’s annual day, because Varun rang me up and made me promise that I would be there to see his performance on stage. I’ll meet Varun, attend the PTA meeting, I’ll talk to his teacher, see the concert and come straight back to you. I won’t even talk to Pooja, I promise,” the man called Ashok says to the woman nestling in his arms, “Don’t worry, Hema. You know it’s all over between Pooja and me, isn’t it? Maybe she won’t even come to the PTA meeting if she knows I’m coming, and even if she’s there I’m sure she too will avoid me as far as possible.”

The woman takes his hand, gently places it on her stomach, and whispers in the man’s ears, “Soon we will have our own son.”

“Yes,” the man says lovingly, caressing her stomach tenderly with his soft hand, “a son, and a daughter, whatever you want.”

They disentangle, then he holds her once more, pushes his face into her warm mouth, kisses her lovingly, and says, “Don’t worry, I’m all yours, and I promise I’ll be right back as fast as possible.”

A few moments later, the man sits in his car, wipes his face fresh with a cologne-scented tissue, starts the car, and drives off.

PART 2 – MORNING

“My Daddy has come, my Daddy has come,” a boy shouts gleefully to his friends and rushes towards his father as he enters the school gate.

“Daddy, Daddy, Daddy,” the boy says delightedly and jumps into his father’s arms.

“Hey, Varun, you look so good in your school uniform,” the man says picking up and lovingly kissing his son on the cheek. Seeing his son’s genuine happiness and rapturous delight, the man feels glad that he has come. He warmly hugs his son and then gently sets him down.

“Come fast, Daddy,” the boy tugs at his father’s sleeve, “everyone is sitting in the class.”

“Mummy’s come?” the man asks cautiously.

“Yes, Yes, Daddy,” the boy says gleefully, “She’s sitting in the class, waiting for you.”

They, father and son, walk to the classroom, and at the door the man pauses, looks around, sees the mother of his son sitting alone on a bench on the other side of the classroom, so he begins to sit at the bench nearest to the door.

“No, No, Daddy, not here. Mummies and Daddies have to sit together,” the boy says doggedly, and pulls the man towards the woman, who is the boy’s mother.

As he walks towards her, the man looks at the woman, on paper still his wife. As he approaches, she looks up at him and gives him a smile of forced geniality.

The boy rushes to his mother and exclaims exultantly, “See Mummy, Daddy has come; I told you he will come!”

The man and the woman contrive courteous smiles and exchange a few amiable words for the sake of their son, and for public show. It’s the first time the man, the woman, and their son are together as a family since they split a few months ago.

“Come on Mummy, make place for Daddy,” the boy says prodding his mother, and nudging his father onto the bench, and squeezing himself in between. The school double-bench is small, meant for two children, and for the three of them it’s a tight fit. His wife stares ahead, as he looks askance at her, over the head of their son, their common blood, who has connected them forever, whether they like it or not.

The man looks around the classroom. Happiest are the children whose both parents have come. Then there are those kids whose only one parent, mostly the mother, has come. And sitting lonely and forlorn, in the last row, are those unfortunate children for whom no one has come, no mother, no father, no one. It’s a pity, really sad. Parents matter a lot especially in boarding school, and the man feels sorry for the lonesome unlucky children.

The Class-Teacher, an elegant woman, probably in her thirties, briskly walks in, and instinctively everyone rises.

“Please be seated,” she says, and seats herself on the chair behind a table on the podium facing the class. The Class-Teacher explains the procedure for the PTA meeting – she’ll call out, one by one, in order of merit, the students’ names, who’ll collect their first term report card, show it to their parents, and then run off to the concert hall, while the parents discuss their child’s progress with the teacher, one by one.

“Varun Vaidya!” the teacher calls out the first name, and Varun squeezes out between his father’s legs and runs towards the teacher, the man is overwhelmed with pride as he realizes that his son has stood first in his class.

He swells with affection when Varun, his son, gleefully gives the report card to him, and as he opens it, he can sense the sensuous proximity of his wife’s body and smell the enchanting fragrance of her fruity perfume, as she unwittingly comes close to eagerly look at the report card, and he quivers with the spark of intimacy and feels the beginnings of the familiar stirrings within him.

PART 3 – AFTERNOON

Ashok realizes that their physical proximity, the intimacy, the touch of skin, has rekindled amorous memories and roused dormant desires in Pooja too, for she suddenly draws away from him and blushes in embarrassment. He wonders how people can suddenly cease to love a person they have once passionately loved so much and still desire.

“Hello, Mr. and Mrs. Vaidya,” the teacher’s mellifluous voice jerks him from his reverie. He looks up at the charming young lady who has walked up to their desk and is lovingly ruffling Varun’s hair.

“Good Morning, Ma’am,” he says.

“Call me Nalini,” she says with a lovely smile, “Varun is really intelligent.”

“Like my Daddy– do you know he’s from IIT?”  The boy proudly tells his teacher.

“And your Mummy?” the teacher playfully asks the boy.

“She is also a genius. But only in computers – she is an IT pro, you know. But my daddy is real good, he knows everything,” the boy says, and the teacher laughs, turns to Varun and says, “You go run along to the hall and get ready for the concert.”

“I’m Muriel. Muriel the goat!” says Varun animatedly, and runs away.

“We are enacting a skit from George Orwell’s Animal Farm,” Varun’s teacher says, “You are very fortunate Mr. and Mrs. Vaidya. Varun is a very gifted child. He comes first in class and is so talented in extracurricular activities and good in sports too. You must be really proud of him.”

“Oh yes, we are really proud of him,” the man says, and notices that the attractive teacher looks into his eyes for that moment longer than polite courtesy. He averts his eyes towards his wife and her disdainful expression tells him that his wife has observed this too.

He feels his cell-phone silently vibrating in his pocket, excuses himself, and goes out of the classroom into the corridor outside.

“Yes, Hema,” he says softly into his mobile.

“Is it over?”

“We’ve got the report card. There’s a concert now.”

“Concert? The PTA is over, isn’t it? You come back now. There is no need to go to the concert.”

“Please, Hema. I have to go to the school concert. Varun is acting – playing an important part – I promised him I would be there to cheer him.”

“Promised him? What about the promise you made to me – that you would be back as soon as possible and then we’d go to the disc.”

“Of course we’re going out this evening. I’ll start straight after the concert and be with you in the afternoon, latest by four, for tea.”

“I’ll get your favourite pineapple pastries and patties from Gaylord.”

“You do that. And spend some time on Fashion Street and browsing books…” the man sees his wife come out of the classroom and walk towards him, so he hurriedly says, “Bye Hema, I’ve got to go now.”

“You be here by four, promise…”

“Of course, darling. I Promise,” he says and disconnects.

“The bank manager…” he tries to explain the call to his wife, but she isn’t interested and says, “The Headmaster wants to meet us.”

“Headmaster? Meet us? Why?”

“How should I know?” his wife Pooja says coldly.

Soon they are sitting in the regal office front of the distinguished looking Headmaster who welcomes them, “Your son has settled down very well in his first term, Mr. and Mrs. Vaidya. In fact, Varun is our youngest boarder in the hostel. He’s brilliant in academics, proficient in all activities, sports, outdoors – a good all-rounder. ”

They nod, and the father’s chest swells with pride.

“Pardon me for being personal,” the Headmaster says, “I was wondering why you have sent such a young boy to boarding school? Especially when you live nearby in the same city.”

“I have shifted to Mumbai now.” Ashok says.

“Oh, I see. And you too, ma’am?”

“No,” Pooja answers, “I still live in Pune.”

“Aundh, isn’t it? The same address you’ve given us in the admission form?” the Headmaster says glancing at a paper in front of him.

“Yes. I stay in Aundh.”

“We’ve got a school bus coming from Aundh. If you want your son can be a day-scholar…”

“Thank you, Sir, but I have kept him in boarding as I work night shifts.”

“Night Shifts?”

“I work in ITES?”

“ITES?”

“Information Technology Enabled Services.”

“She works in a call centre,” Ashok interjects.

“I’m in a senior position in a BPO,” she retorts haughtily.

“Oh! That’s good,” the Headmaster says, and looks at both of them as if signalling the end of the interview.

“Sir…” Ashok hesitates.

“Yes? Please feel free Mr. Vaidya,” the Headmaster says.

“Sir, I thought I must tell you, we are separated.”

“Divorced?”

“Yes.”

“How much does the boy know?” the Headmaster asks Pooja.

“He knows. We try to be honest with him. We’ve just told him that since his father is in Mumbai and since I’ve to work night shifts, boarding school is the best for him,” Pooja says.

The Headmaster ponders and then says, “It may seem presumptuous of me to give you unsolicited advice, Mr. and Mrs. Vaidya, but why don’t you try and patch up? At least for your boy’s sake, he’s so young and loving. At such a tender age children must continue to feel they are a part of a family. They need to feel loved, to belong and to be valued. I know how much your son loves you both. He’s so proud of his parents.”

“We’ll try,” Ashok says, and looks at his wife.

Patch up and come back together – for Varun’s sake – he knows it is out of the question. Their relationship had become so suffocating, so demoralized by distrust, that it was better severed than patched up. And now, in his life, there is Hema …”

“We’ll try and work it out,” he hears his wife’s voice.

“I am sure you will – for your son’s sake. Thank you for coming, Mr. and Mrs. Vaidya. I’m sure you’ll love to see your son’s acting skills in the concert,” the Headmaster says and rises, indicating that the interview is over.

Later, sitting in the auditorium, they watch their son enact the role of Muriel, the know-it-all Goat, in a scene adapted from Animal Farm, and Ashok’s heart swells with pride as he watches his son smartly enunciate the seven commandments with perfect diction.

After the concert, they stand outside, waiting for Varun, to take off his make-up and costume and join them. Ashok looks at his watch. It’s almost one, and he wonders whether he should stay for the parents’ lunch, or leave for Mumbai to make it on time by four after the three hour drive.

“You look as if you’re in a hurry,” his wife says.

“I’ve an appointment at four. He called up in the morning, remember, the bank manager…” he lies.

“Where?”

“Nariman Point.”

“Then why don’t you go now? You’ll barely make it.”

“I’m waiting for Varun.”

“Doesn’t matter. I’ll tell him.”

He tries to control the anger rising within him and says firmly, “Listen, Pooja. Don’t try to eradicate me from your lives, at least from my son’s life.”

“I wish I could! Please Ashok, leave us alone. I didn’t ask you to come all the way from Mumbai today – I would have handled the PTA alone.”

“Varun rang me up. Made me promise I’d be here. I’m glad I came. He’s so happy, especially so delighted that I came to see him in the concert.”

“I’ll tell him not to disturb you in future.”

“No you don’t,” Ashok said firmly, “Varun is my son as much as yours.”

They stand in silence, a grotesque silence, and then he says, “I didn’t come only for Varun. I came to see you too!”

“See me?” the woman’s face is filled with ridicule, contempt and astonishment at the same time.

Suddenly they see Varun prancing in delight towards them and they put on smiles on their faces.

“You liked the concert?” he asks breathless.

“I loved your part. You were too good – isn’t it Mummy?” the man says.

“Yes. Varun is the best,” the woman says bending down and kissing her son on the cheek. Then she says, “Varun, Daddy has to go now. He has important work in Mumbai.”

“No,” protests Varun, and looks at his father and says, “No! No! No! First, we’ll all have lunch. And then the school fete.”

“School Fete?” they say in unison, and then the man says, “You didn’t tell me!”

“Surprise! Surprise! But Mummy, Daddy, we all have to go to the fete and enjoy.”

So they have lunch and go to the sports ground for the school fete – merry-go-round, roller-coaster, hoopla, games of skill and eats – they enjoy themselves thoroughly. Tine flies. To the outside observer they seem to be the happiest family.

On the Giant Wheel Ashok and Pooja instinctively sit on different seats. Suddenly Ashok notices that his son looks hesitant, wary, confused, undecided as to which parent he should go to, sensing that he couldn’t choose one without displeasing the other. So Ashok quickly gets up and sits next to Pooja, and a visibly delighted Varun runs and jumps in between them.

As he gets off the giant wheel, Ashok notices his mobile ringing. He detaches himself from his son, looks at the caller id and speaks, “Yes. Hema.”

“What ‘Yes Hema’. Why aren’t you picking up the phone? Where are you? Have you crossed Chembur? I’ve been calling for the last five minutes – just see the missed calls.”

“I was on the Giant Wheel.”

“Giant Wheel?”

“We are at the school fete.”

“School Fete? You are still in Pune? You told me you’d be here by four!”

“I couldn’t help it. Varun was adamant. He didn’t let me go.”

“She’s there with you?”

“Who?”

She! Stupid. She! Your ex-wife. Is she there with you?”

“Yes.”

“You simpleton, can’t you see? She’s trying to get you back through your son!” Hema pauses, takes a breath, and pleads, “Ashok, you do one thing, just say good-bye to them and come back straight to me. Please. Please. Please. Don’t be with her. Please. Please…”

“Okay,” the man says and cuts off the cell-phone. Then he switches off his mobile.

“Daddy, Daddy, who was that?” the boy asks.

“Someone from the office,” the man says. He thinks for a moment, looks at his son, bends down and says, “Listen, Varun. I’ve got to get back to the office fast. Mummy will stay with you – be a good boy.”

“No, No, No! It’s only three o’clock . We can stay out till eight…” The boy sees his housemaster nearby and runs to him, “Sir, Sir, My Daddy has come all the way from Mumbai. Please can he take me out for dinner?”

“Of course you can go, Varun,” the kindly housemaster says to the boy, then looks at Ashok and says, “It’s the first time you’ve come, isn’t it? Okay, we’ll give Varun a night-out. Why don’t you take him home and drop him back tomorrow evening by six? Tomorrow is declared a holiday anyway!”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” shouts an ecstatic Varun is delirious delight, “Let’s go to the dormitory, collect my stuff, and go out. I want to see a Movie, and then we’ll all go home.”

PART 4 – EVENING

So they, father, mother, and son, see a movie at the multiplex, then have a good time strolling and snacking on Main Street, and by the time they reach their home in Aundh it’s already seven in the evening.

Ashok stops his car below his erstwhile home in Aundh, where Pooja lives all by herself now.

“Okay, Varun, come give me a kiss and be a good boy.”

“No, Daddy, you’re not going from below. Let’s go up and have dinner. And then we’ll all sleep together and you go tomorrow morning.”

“Please, Varun, I have to go now,” the man says.

The boy looks at him, distraught, and the man gives a beseeching look to the woman, who smiles and says, “Okay. Come up and have a drink. You can take your books too – I’ve packed them for you.”

“Yea!” the boy exclaims in glee.

His wife’s invitation, the warming of her emotions, confuses and frightens him. He thinks of Hema waiting for him in Mumbai, what state she’d be in, frantically trying to reach him on his switched off cell-phone, feels a ominous sense of foreboding and tremors of trepidation. He is apprehensive, at the same time curious, and his son tugs at his shirt, so he goes up with them.

“I’ll freshen up and come,” the woman says to the man, “Make a drink for yourself – everything is in the same place.”

Varun, back home after three months, rushes into his room to see his things.

He opens the sideboard. The whiskey bottle is still there, exactly in the same place, but he notices the bottle is half empty. It was almost full when he had left – maybe she’s started having an occasional drink!

He sets everything on the dining table, and when she comes out, he picks up the whiskey bottle and asks her, “Shall I make you drink?”

“Me? Whiskey? You know I don’t touch alcohol, don’t you?” she says aghast.

“Sorry. Just asked…”

“You want soda? I’ll ring up the store to send it up.”

“I’ll have it with water.”

“Okay. Help yourself. I’ll quickly make you your favorite onion pakoras and fry some papads.”

He looks warmly at her, with nostalgia, and she looks back at him in the same way and goes into the kitchen.

Varun comes running out and soon he sits on the sofa, sipping his drink, cuddling his son sitting beside him, and they, father and son, watch TV together, and soon his son’s mother brings out the delicious snacks and they, the full family, all sit together and have a good time.

PART 5LATE EVENING

Her cell-phone rings, she takes it out of her purse, looks at the screen, excuses herself, goes into her bedroom, closes the door, takes the call, and says, “Hi, Pramod.”

“What the hell is going on out there…?” Pramod’s angry voice booms through the wireless airways all the way from Delhi.

“Please Pramod, speak softly. There is someone here.”

“I know he is there,” Pramod shouts, “What’s wrong with you? I leave you alone for a few days and you invite him into your home.”

“Listen, Pramod, don’t get angry. Try to understand. He came for Varun’s Annual Day.”

“But what is he doing there in your house right now so late at night?”

“He’s come to drop Varun.”

“Drop Varun?”

“He’d taken him out from school for a movie…”

“Why did you let him?”

“What do you mean ‘Why did you let him?’ – Ashok is Varun’s father.”

“You shouldn’t have called him to Pune…”

“I didn’t call him – Varun rang him up and told him to be there for his School’s Annual Day.”

“Anyway, get rid of him fast. I told you that you two are supposed to stay separate for at least six months.”

“Please Pramod. We are living separately. He’s just dropped in on a visit – we are not cohabiting or anything.”

“Just stay away from him – he could cause trouble!”

“Trouble? What are you saying, Pramod? He’s just come to drop Varun.”

“Pooja, can’t you see? He’s using your son to get you back. He’s a nasty chap – he may even withdraw his mutual consent and then we’ll be back at square one.”

“Pramod, don’t imagine things. And please Pramod, we had our differences, but Ashok was never a nasty person. Just get the papers ready and I’ll get him to sign on the dotted line,” she pauses for a moment and asks angrily, “And tell me Pramod, who told you Ashok is here?”

“That doesn’t matter. Now you are mine. I have to look after you, your welfare.”

“Look after my welfare? You’re keeping tabs on me, Pramod?” Pooja says irately.

“Now, you listen to me Pooja. Just throw him out right now. He has no right to trespass…” Pramod orders her.

“Trespass? Pramod, remember this is his house too – in fact the house is still on his name.”

“Don’t argue!” Pramod commands peremptorily, “Just do what I say!”

A flood of fury rises inside Pooja and she snaps angrily, “You know why I split up with Ashok, don’t you? Because I felt suffocated in that relationship. And now you are doing the same thing!”

Tears well up in her eyes, trickle down her cheeks, her throat chokes, she breaks down and she begins to sob.

“I’m sorry, Pooja. Please don’t cry,” Pramod pleads, “You know how much I love you.”

“I love you too.”

“I’ll cut short my trip and be with you in Pune tomorrow evening.”

“It’s okay, finish your work first and then come.”

“Give Varun my love.”

“Okay, take care.”

“You also take care,” Pramod says and disconnects.

She stares into the darkness, at the sky, the stars in the distance and tries to compose herself.

In a while, Pooja comes into the drawing room. Ashok looks at her face. After her tears, her eyes shine in the bright light; the moisture from her unwiped tears solidified on her cheeks like dry glass.

“I’ll make us some dinner,” she says to him, “Let’s eat together.”

Totally taken aback, confused and startled, Ashok looks at his wife and says, “Thanks. But I’ve got to go.”

“Stay, Daddy! Please Stay,” pleads Varun.

“Daddy is staying for dinner,” Pooja says with mock firmness, and then looking at Ashok says, “Please. Stay. Have dinner with us. By the time you get back your cafeteria would have closed. You still stay in the bachelor’s hostel don’t you?”

“Yes,” he lies, “But I’ll be moving into flat soon.”

“That’s good. Where?”

“Churchgate. Near the office,” he says. Now that is not entirely untrue. Hema, with whom he has moved in, does indeed live near Churchgate!

“Churchgate! Wow! That’s really good for you. Food, Books, Films, Theatre, Art, Walks on Marine Drive – everything you like is nearby,” she says, “And Hey, now that you’re moving into a flat please take all your books. I’ve packed them up and kept them in the study.”

“Come Daddy, I’ll show you,” Varun jumps and pulls him into the study.

He looks around his former study and sees his books packed in cardboard boxes on the floor. The room has changed; except for his books there is nothing of him left in it.

He opens the wardrobe. There are some men’s clothes and a pair of shoes he has not seen before.

He is tempted to ask his son, but doesn’t ask. Varun has also come home after a three month spell, his first stint at boarding school.

He takes a towel, closes the cupboard, and goes into the bathroom to freshen up. The moment he comes out his son excitedly says, “Come Daddy, let’s help Mummy with the cooking.”

So they go to the kitchen and cook together – like they sometimes did in happier times.

Later they sit in their usual places at the small round dining table for dinner. It is the first time he, his wife and their son eat a meal together as a family since they had split three months ago. It is a happy meal, with much banter, primarily due the sheer joyfulness of their son, who is so happy that they are all together after a hiatus.

Then they sit together on the sofa, father, son, and mother,   and watch her favorite soap on TV. Ashok notices how happy, natural and relaxed they all are. It is almost as if they have resumed living their old life once again.

PART 6 – NIGHT

Suddenly, he remembers Hema, waiting for him in Mumbai, and says, “I’ve got to go”

“Stay here Daddy, please,” his son implores, tugging at his shirt.

“It’s late. Let Daddy go,” Pooja says to Varun, “he’ll come to meet you in school soon.”

“He can’t. Parents are not allowed till the next term break. Please Mummy, let us all sleep here and tomorrow we can all go away,” Varun says emphatically to his mother, and pulls his father towards the bedroom, “Come Daddy, let’s all sleep in Mummy’s bed like before.”

“No, Varun, I have to go,” Ashok says with a lump in his throat, disentangles his hands, bends down, and kisses his son, “Varun, be a good boy. I’ll be back to see you soon.”

At the door he turns around and looks at Pooja, his ex-wife, and says, “Bye. Thanks. Take Care.”

“It’s good you came to see your son,” she remarks.

“I didn’t come only for the child,” he says overwhelmed by emotion, “I came to see you too.”

He sees tears start in her eyes, so he quickly turns and walks out of the door.

PART 7 – MIDNIGHT

The clock on Rajabai Tower is striking midnight as he parks his car below Hema’s flat. The lights are still on. He runs up the steps to the house and opens the door with his latchkey.

Hema is sitting on the sofa watching TV. She switches of the TV, rushes towards him and passionately kisses him. He kisses her back and recognizes the intoxicating sweet aroma of rum on her breath.

“You’ve been drinking. It’s not good for you,” he says.

“Promise me you will never go to there again,” she cries inconsolably, holding him tightly.

“Please, Hema. Try to understand. I don’t want to be eradicated from my son’s life.”

“No, Ashok. You promise me right now. You’ll never go there again. I don’t want you to ever meet them again.”

“But why?”

“I am in constant fear that you’ll leave me and go back to them. I’ve been dumped once, I don’t want to be ditched again, to be left high and dry,” Hema starts to weep, “I’m scared Ashok. I am really very frightened to be all alone, again!”

“Okay, Hema,” Ashok says gathering her in his arms, “I promise. I promise I’ll never go there again.”

“Kiss me,” Hema says.

He kisses her warm mouth, tastes the salty remains of her tears, which trickle down her cheeks onto her lips.

“Come,” she says, “it’s late. Let’s sleep.”

He doesn’t have a dreamless sleep – he sees a dream – a dream he will never forget. He is drowning, struggling in the menacing dark fiery turbulent sea.

To his left, in the distance he sees Varun, his son, standing on a ship beckoning him desperately, and to his right, far away, standing on a desolate rock jutting out into the sea he sees Hema, his newfound love, waving, gesturing and calling him frantically.

Floods of conflicting emotions overwhelm him. He looks at his Varun, then he looks at Hema, and he finds himself imprisoned between the two.

His strength collapses, his spirit yields, and slowly he drowns, helplessly watching the terrifying angry black sea swallow him up and suck his body deep within into the Davy Jones’s Locker.

Jolted awake by the strange scary nightmare, Ashok breaks into cold sweat with a terrible fear.

Ashok cannot sleep. He starts to think of his innocent adorable son Varun, imagining him sleeping soundly in his bed in Pune. The father in him agonizingly yearns and excruciatingly pines for his son, the pain in his heart aches unbearably, and he wishes he could go right now, at this very moment, lovingly take his son in his arms and kiss his son goodnight, like he used to do.

He clearly recalls Varun’s words when he heard that his parents were going to split: “I don’t like it…”

He remembers the phone call Pooja did not want to take in his presence – maybe a new man in Pooja’s life. Pooja hasn’t told him anything – but then he hasn’t told Pooja about Hema either.

And suppose Pooja remarries. That guy would become Varun’s stepfather.

“Step-father…!” he shudders. No. If Pooja remarries he will get Varun to stay here with him.

Then he looks at his newfound love Hema, sleeping calmly beside him, and the beautiful serene expression on her pristine face. He gently places his hand on her forehead and lovingly caresses her hair. She warmly snuggles up to him, turns, puts her hand over his chest, and with a heightened sense of security continues her tranquil blissful sleep.

Will she accept Varun? No way! He remembers her tantrums in the morning, her insecurities… she is fearful that the “baggage” of his past, the “debris” of his broken marriage, will destroy their new relationship. A flood of emotion overwhelms him as he thinks about Hema. Poor thing. She’s just recovered from a terrible break up, and is holding on to him so tight – apprehensive, anxious, insecure…

Torn between his past and future, between the conflicting forces of his love for son and his love for the woman beside him, he feels helpless and scared.

He knows he has lost Pooja, his wife, forever.

Now he doesn’t want to lose both his son and his newfound love.

Varun and Hema are the only two things he has in this world.

And he knows can’t have both of them together.

His life is a mess. Maybe he is responsible – if only he had tried harder, if only he had stayed on with Pooja in that suffocating relationship, if only they had made more efforts to save their marriage, just for Varun’s sake.

If only? If only?

It’s no use. One can’t go back in time and undo what has been done.

The more he thinks about it, the more helpless and hapless he feels, and soon his mind, his brain, starts spinning like a whirlwind.

In the whirlwind he sees all of them, Varun, Pooja and a new unknown face, Hema and himself, all of them being tossed around in disarray.

There is nothing he can do about it, so he breaks down and begins to cry.

A DAY IN THE LIFE OF A DIVORCED MAN

Fiction Short Story

By

VIKRAM KARVE

Copyright © Vikram Karve 2009

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

http://vikramkarve.sulekha.com

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

Appetite for a Stroll

vikramkarve@sify.com

A Sizzling Love Story

November 28, 2009

LOVE LUST DECEIT ELECTRICITY
Short Fiction

 

A Sizzling Love Story

by

VIKRAM KARVE

There is a saying: “ If you decide to murder your husband you must never act in concert with your lover ”.

 

That’s why I did not tell Raj.

 

Or involve him in any way.

 

Not even the smallest hint.

 

I made my plans alone and with perfect care.

 

An “accident” so coolly and meticulously designed.

Precisely at 12:50 in the afternoon, the ghastly accident would occur.

 

And then my phone would ring – to convey the “bad” news.

 

And suddenly I would be a widow.

 

Free.

 

Liberated from shackles.

 

Released from bondage.

 

Then all I had to do was to keep cool, maintain a solemn façade, and patiently wait for Raj to return after completing his project in Singapore.
Then after the customary condolence period was over, Raj would propose to marry me – an act of chivalry, of sympathy, or even “self-sacrifice”.

 

First I would demur, then “reluctantly” succumb to the pressure from my friends and relatives, and accept – just for my children’s sake.

 

There would be nods of approval all around.

 

And soon Raj and I would be Husband and Wife.

The phone rang.

 

I panicked.

 

There is no fear like the fear of being found out.

 

I looked at the wall-clock. It was only 10.30 am.

 

Had something gone wrong?

 

I felt a tremor of trepidation.

 

The phone kept on ringing – it just wouldn’t stop ringing.

 

I picked up the receiver, and held it to my ears with bated breath.

 

The moment I heard Anjali’s voice I felt relieved.

“Why didn’t you come to the health club?” Anjali asked.

I’m not well,” I lied.

“Anything serious? Should I come over?” she asked.

“No!” I tried to control the anxiety in my voice. “It’s a just a slight headache. I’ll take a tablet and sleep it off,” I said cautiously.

“I hope Manish and you are coming over in the evening,” Anjali asked.

“Of course,” I said and put down the phone.

 

I smiled to myself.

 

That was one party Manish was going to miss. Probably they would cancel it and would be right here offering their condolences and sympathy.

 

I would have to be careful indeed.

 

And to hell with the health club and the painful weight loss program. I didn’t need it any more.

 

Raj accepts me as I am – nice and plump and on the “healthier” side, as he calls me lovingly.

 

Not like Manish who is always finding fault with me.

 

I know I can always depend on Raj.

 

He really loves me from the bottom of his heart.

I looked at my husband Manish’s framed photograph on the mantelpiece.

 

Soon it would be garlanded.

 

My marriage to Manish had been a miserable mistake, but soon it would be over and I would be free to live the life I always wanted.

 

I wish I didn’t have to kill Manish, but there was no way out – Manish would never give me a divorce, and if he came to know about me and Raj, he would destroy both of us, ruin our lives; for he was a rich and powerful man.

 

Also, I prefer to be a pitied widow rather than a stigmatized divorcee.

The plan was simple.

 

I had programmed a Robot to do the job.

 

The huge giant welding robot in Manish’s factory.

 

At exactly 12:45, when the lunch-break started, Manish would enter his pen drive into the robot control computer to carry out a maintenance troubleshooting check.

 

And then he would start inspecting various parts of the robot – the manipulator, end effectors and grippers – to cross-check their programmed movements.

 

It was a routine exercise, and I knew Manish had become quite complacent as the robot had never developed any faults so far.

But today it would be different.

 

Because I had surreptitiously reprogrammed the software last night.

 

This is what was going to happen.

 

At precisely 12:50 all safety interlocks would be bypassed, and suddenly the robot would activate and the welding electrode would arc 600 Amperes of electric current into Manish’s brain.

 

It would be a ghastly sight – his brain welded out and his body handing like a pendulum, lifeless. Death would be instantaneous.

 

Manish had been a fool to tell me everything and dig his own grave. A real dope – he deserved it!

It was a foolproof plan and no one would suspect since the program would erase itself immediately. I had ensured that. It would be an accident, an unfortunate accident.

 

Condolences, compensation, insurance – soon I would be a rich widow, with one and all showering me with sympathy and compassion.

 

And then I would wait for Raj to come back from Singapore.

 

And then, after a few days I knew he would propose to me, and I would ‘reluctantly’ accept and we would live happily ever after.

I looked at the wall clock. It was almost 11 O’clock.

 

Suddenly I began to have second thoughts. Maybe I should give Manish a last chance.

 

All I had to do was pick up the phone and ask Manish to rush home.

 

Feign a sudden illness or something.

 

But no! I tried to steel my nerves. I had crossed the Rubicon, and there was no going back. The tension of waiting was unbearable, but I must not lose my head.

I tried to divert my thoughts to Raj.

 

The first time I suspected that Raj loved me was when he didn’t attend my wedding. Then he disappeared abroad for higher studies and I almost forgot him. And one fine day, after almost fifteen years, Raj suddenly reappeared to take up a job in my husband’s factory.

And when I learnt that Raj had still not married I realized how deeply in love with me he was.

 

At that point of time I was so disillusioned with my marriage that my daily life was rather like sitting in a cinema and watching a film in which I was not interested.

 

Raj and I began spending more and more time together, and somewhere down the line emotions got entangled and physical intimacy followed.

Did Manish suspect?

 

I do not know.

 

Was that the reason he had sent Raj to Singapore?

 

I don’t think so.

 

We had kept our affair absolutely clandestine.

I looked again at the clock.

 

11.45 am.

 

One hour to go.

 

I began to have a feeling of dread and uneasiness, a sort of restlessness and apprehension – a queer sensation, a nameless type of fear.

 

So I poured myself a stiff drink of gin.

 

As I sipped the alcohol, my nerves calmed down.

 

Today was the last time I was going to have a drink, I promised myself.

 

Once I married Raj I would never drink – there would be no need to.

 

In my mind’s eye I could almost visualize my husband Manish sitting in the vacant chair opposite getting steadily drunk every evening.

 

Manish was an odd creature with effeminate mannerisms that became more pronounced when he was drunk.

 

He was always picking at an absurd little moustache, as though amazed at himself for having produced anything so virile.

 

How I hated the mere sight of him.

 

The very thought of my husband made me gulp down my drink.

 

I poured myself one more drink and gulped it quickly to steady my nerves. Then I had one more drink; and one more, when my cell-phone rang.

I shook out of my stupor and picked up my mobile phone. It was an unknown number. I rejected the call.

 

The cell phone rang again; same number. I looked at the number. 65….. – it was from Singapore.

 

Was it Raj? From Singapore? My heart skipped a beat. I answered urgently.

“Hello,” I said.

“Hi Urvashi, how are you?” it was Raj’s voice.

“Where are you speaking from? Is this your new number?” I asked.

“No. This is Rajashree’s cell-phone,” Raj said.

“Rajashree?”

“Yes, Rajashree, she wants to talk to you,” Raj said.

 

“Hi Urvashi,” a female voice said, “Raj has told me so much about you.”

It was strange.

 

Who was this Rajashree?

 

I knew nothing about her!

 

So I said, “But Raj has told me nothing about you!”

“I know,” Rajashree said, “it all happened so suddenly. Even I can’t believe it could happen so fast – Love at first sight, whirlwind romance, swift wedding.”

“Wedding?” I stammered, shocked beyond belief.

“Yes. We, Raj and I, got married yesterday and we are on our way to our honeymoon, on a cruise liner.”

“You bitch! Give the phone to Raj,” I shouted, losing control, the ground slipping beneath me.

“Hey, chill out. What’s wrong with you?” Rajashree said calmly, paused for a moment, and spoke, “Raj has gone to the embarkation booth. Hey, he’s waving to me. I’ve got to go now. Bye. We’ll see you when we come there.” And suddenly she disconnected.

I stared at my cell-phone, never so frightened, never so alone.

 

I felt as if I had been pole-axed.

 

I looked at the wall-clock.

 

12.55.

 

Oh, My God!

 

The deadline of 12.50 had gone.

 

It was too late.

 

My blood froze.

 

The telephone rang.

 

I picked it up, my hands trembling.

“There’s been an accident, madam,” said the voice. It was the company doctor. “We are rushing Manish Sahib to the hospital. I am sending someone to pick you up.”

“Hospital? Tell me the truth,” I shouted hysterically into the phone, “Tell me, is he dead?”
“No. He’ll survive.”

Manish did survive.

 

I wish he hadn’t.

 

For his sake. And for mine.

 

For till this day he is still in coma.

 

And I know I will have to live with a ‘vegetable’ husband all my life.

It was a small miscalculation.

 

600 Amperes wasn’t enough.

 

But then the Robot is a machine.

 

My real miscalculation was about Raj.

 

 

LOVE LUST DECEIT ELECTRICITY

Short Fiction

A Sizzling Love Story

By

VIKRAM KARVE

Copyright © Vikram Karve 2009

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

http://vikramkarve.sulekha.com

 

HONESTY IS THE BEST POLICY – A Story – Just One Seed

October 10, 2009

JUST ONE SEED

A Story

By

VIKRAM KARVE


Dear Reader, do read and reflect on this apocryphal tale, a teaching story I heard long back, from one of my teachers, I think.

Once upon a time there was a childless King who wanted to choose a worthy successor to his throne after he passed away.

He called all the young children in his kingdom to his palace one day and said: “It has come time for me to choose the next King. I have decided to choose one of you as my successor, as my Crown Prince, and groom you to be the King after I am gone.”

The amazed children listened spellbound as the King spoke: “I am going to give each one of you a seed today – Just One Seed. It is a very special seed. I want you all to go home, plant the seed, water it, nurture it, and come back here to me exactly one year from today with the plant you have grown from this one seed. I will then judge the plants that you bring to me and whoever grows the best plant will be the Crown Prince, the next King after me.”

There was one small shy boy who was there that day and he, like the others, received a seed from the King. He went home and excitedly told his mother the whole story. She helped him get a pot and some planting soil, and he planted the seed and watered it regularly and nurtured it carefully. Twice every day, in the morning and in the evening, the small shy boy would water the seed lovingly and watch to see if it had germinated and grown.

After a few days, some of the other children began to talk about their seeds and the lovely plants that were beginning to grow, but the small shy boy kept going home and checking his seed, disappointed that nothing was growing from his seed.

Days passed, then weeks, and months, but still there was no sign of a plant growing from the small shy boy’s seed. But the small boy still kept lovingly watering his seed regularly hoping that it would germinate.

By now the others were talking about their wonderful healthy plants but small shy boy didn’t have a plant and he felt like a failure, but he kept persevering and nurturing his seed with love and dedication in the optimistic hope that his seed would someday sprout a plant.

Six months went by and there was still no sign of a plant in the small shy boy’s pot.

Everyone else had exquisite tall plants, but he had nothing. Inwardly he feared that maybe he had killed his seed but the small shy boy didn’t say anything to his friends and kept on tenderly watering and nurturing his seed with dogged determination and doting devotion in the fond hope that his seed would grow and blossom into a beautiful plant.

Finally, one year passed, and all the children of the kingdom brought their plants to the King for inspection.

The small shy boy was scared and did not want to take his desolate plant-less pot with just the soil and seed to the King, but his mother encouraged him to go, to take his pot with him, and to be honest about everything.

The small shy boy felt fearful and nervous, but he listened to his mother and took his barren pot to the King.

When the small shy boy arrived at the King’s Palace, he was astonished to see the variety of beautiful and exotic plants grown by all the other children.

Totally crestfallen, the small shy boy put his desolate pot on the floor and everyone jeered in derision and mocked him. A few children felt pity for him and tried to console the small shy boy.

Suddenly the King arrived, looked around the hall appraising the plants and showered words of praise to the gathered children: “It is really amazing – you all have really grown fantastic beautiful plants, trees and flowers. I am truly impressed. Today, one of you is going to be selected as the Crown Prince to be the next King!”

The small shy boy shivered with tremors of trepidation and overcome with shame tried to hide in the back.

The King’s eyes searched all over and suddenly he saw the small shy boy at the back of the hall with his barren pot.

The King ordered his guards to bring him in front of the throne

The small shy boy was terrified. “When the King sees my pot, how badly I have failed in the task he gave me, he is sure to punish me!”

Seeing how frightened the small shy boy was, the King stepped down from his throne, walked down towards the petrified boy, lovingly put his hand on the small shy boy’s shoulders and announced: “This boy is your new King!”

The small shy boy could not believe his ears – it was unbelievable that the King should select a failure and loser like him who couldn’t even sprout his seed be the Crown Prince.

The King escorted the small shy boy to the throne and said to everyone: “One year ago I gave all of you a seed. I told you to take the seed, plant it, water it, and bring it back to me today. But what you did not know is that I gave you all boiled seeds that would not grow. Except this honest boy, all of you have brought me beautiful plants with exotic flowers and even trees with fruit. When you found out that the seed would not grow, you substituted another seed for the one I gave you. This boy was the only one with the sincerity to nurture the barren seed for one whole year with dedication, hope and perseverance and had the courage and honesty to bring me the desolate pot with my seed in it. Therefore, I select him as my Crown Prince to be the next King!”

Tell me Dear Reader – is this “teaching” story relevant in today’s world?

VIKRAM KARVE

Copyright © Vikram Karve 2009

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

http://vikramkarve.sulekha.com

vikramkarve@sify.com

Appetite for a Stroll

A DIVORCE STORY – MAN WOMAN and CHILD

September 14, 2009

MAN WOMAN and CHILD
[Fiction Short Story]

by

VIKRAM KARVE

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

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

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

“I want both of them,” the boy says.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“No. I want out,” the woman says.

“Me too!” the man says.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What?” the man asks.

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

“And you want to get married to him?”

“Yes.”

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

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

“So you’re off to the States?”

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

“Good for you.”

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

“What?” the man asks suspiciously.

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

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

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

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

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

“You’ve told the boy?”

“No,” the woman answers.

The man says nothing.

There is silence.

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

Strange are the ways of life.

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

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

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

MAN WOMAN and CHILD

[Fiction Short Story]

By

VIKRAM KARVE

Copyright © Vikram Karve 2009

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

http://vikramkarve.sulekha.com

vikramkarve@sify.com

MONKEY TRAP

August 22, 2009

ARE YOU A MONKEY IN A TRAP

[Short Fiction]

By

VIKRAM KARVE

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

“Let’s catch some monkeys,” he said.

“Monkeys?” I asked excitedly.

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

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

“Why not?” my uncle said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Monkey-Traps?” I asked confused.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And soon we set up our monkey-traps.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Why?” he asked, with curiosity.

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

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

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

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

“I don’t know.”

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

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

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

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

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

“Job prospects,” I answered.

“Oh!”  He exclaimed. “And then?”

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

“Why?”

“Qualifications.”

“And why do you want so many qualifications?”

“To get the best job,” I answered.

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

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

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

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

“What?”

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

When work is a duty, life is slavery.”

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

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

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

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

And guess what I am today?

Well, I am a teacher. I teach philosophy.

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

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

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

VIKRAM KARVE

Copyright © Vikram Karve 2009

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

vikramkarve@sify.com

vikramkarve@hotmail.com

http://vikramkarve.sulekha.com

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

A Lazy Hot Afternoon in Mumbai

July 27, 2009

Métier

[Short Fiction – A Romance]

By

VIKRAM KARVE

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

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

That’s what I decide to do.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“You look terrible,” I say.

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

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

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

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

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

“Khyber?” I ask.

“No. I can’t afford it,” he says.

“I can,” I tease.

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

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

“What time do you have to go?”

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

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

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

“Wow! You are going to England too?”

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

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

“I hate it!”

“What?”

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

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

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

“What?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Just like that?”

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

“Thanks to me?”

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

“I never modeled for you!”

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

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

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

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

“You still paint?”

“No. I stopped long ago. At IIT.”

“Why?”

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

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

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

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

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

“Don’t tell me? What’s his name?”

“Anand.”

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

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

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

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

“It’s great!”

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

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

“I don’t know.”

“How about marrying me?”

“Come on, be serious.”

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

“Let’s go,” I say changing the topic.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I hold out my hand to him.

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

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

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

“Or maybe for money!”

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

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

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

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

“I’m not coming,” I say.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

VIKRAM KARVE

Copyright © Vikram Karve 2009

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

vikramkarve@sify.com

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

http://vikramkarve.sulekha.com

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