Posts Tagged ‘mountain’

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          

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© vikram karve., all rights reserved.

 

 

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LOVEDALE

July 10, 2009

LOVEDALE

[Short Fiction – A Slice of Life Story]

By

VIKRAM KARVE

Lovedale.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Yes,” the woman replies softly.

“You should have told her before.”

“Told her before? How? When?”

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

“How can I be so cruel?”

“Cruel? What’s so cruel about it?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“She’ll understand.”

“Poor thing. She will be all alone.”

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

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

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

“Can’t we take her with us?”

“You know it’s not possible.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

They travel in silence, an uneasy disquieting silence.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“DLFMTC ?”

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

“Next time you too …”

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

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

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

The occupants of the solitary bench look towards their left.

There is no one else on the platform.

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

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

The girl runs into her arms.

The old woman walks towards her with a welcoming smile.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Powerless. Hapless. Helpless.

A Silent Spectator. A Mute Witness.

A pity. A real pity!

VIKRAM KARVE

Copyright © Vikram Karve 2009

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

vikramkarve@sify.com

vikramkarve@hotmail.com

http://vikramkarve.sulekha.com

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

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