Posts Tagged ‘prose’

WHY I AM GOING TO BOARDING SCHOOL

May 16, 2010

WHY I AM GOING TO BOARDING SCHOOL

Short Fiction – A Story from the pages of a Diary written by a Small girl many years ago

By

VIKRAM KARVE

From my Archives – a fiction short story I wrote a few years ago. A small girl’s tale, narrated in her own words…


It all started when God took my baby brother away.

Poor thing!

God took him away even before he was born.

And Mamma was never the same again.

She changed forever.

We were so happy then.

A happy family – My Papa, my Mamma, my loving Granny and cute little Me.

We all lived in a cute little house in a place called Madiwale Colony in Sadashiv Peth in Pune.

In the morning Papa caught the company bus to his factory in Pimpri and Mamma walked me down to my school nearby on Bajirao Road.

And the evenings we all went to the Talyatla Ganpati temple in Saras Baug, played on the lush green lawns, and if Papa was in a good mood he would treat me to a yummy Bhel prepared by the man with the huge flowing beard at the Kalpana Bhel stall on the way back.

On Sundays we would go to Laxmi Road for shopping, Misal at Santosh Bhavan, Amba ice cream at Ganu Shinde and, maybe, a Marathi movie at Prabhat, Vijay or Bhanuvilas.

And once in a while, Papa would take us on his Bajaj scooter to Camp, or a ride on the Jangli Maharaj Road, or to picnic spots like Khadakvasla and Katraj lakes, or up Sinhagarh Fort, and once we even went all the way to Lonavala; Papa, Mamma and me, all riding on our beloved and hardy scooter.

It was a good life, and we were happy and content.

Two things are a must for a happy home – firstly, you must love your home, and always want to go home (your home should be the best place in the world for you); and, secondly, your home must love you, your home must want you to come home, beckon you, welcome you and like you to live in it.

Our cute little house in Sadashiv Peth with all the loving people in living in it was indeed a happy home. And I had lots of friends all around.

One day they all said Mamma was going to have a baby.

Being a girl myself, I wanted a baby sister to play with, but Granny scolded me and said it must be a baby brother, so I said okay – I would manage with a baby brother.

And suddenly one day, when Mamma’s tummy was bloating quite a bit, they rushed her to hospital, and God took my unborn baby brother away.

It was at this moment that Mamma changed forever.

I sat beside Mamma in the hospital and consoled her, “Don’t worry. God will send another baby brother.”

And on hearing this Mamma started crying and said she would never have a baby again and I was her only baby.

She looked pale and had a sad look in her eyes for many days even after leaving hospital.

And most of the time she would sit alone brooding by the window or moping all alone in her room.

“She’ll go crazy sitting in the house all day. She must do something!” everyone said, but Papa was adamant: “Who’ll look after the house, my mother, my daughter?” he asked.

“Don’t worry, I’ll manage everything,” Granny said, so Mamma joined a Computer class nearby.

And soon she started becoming normal and happy again.

“She’s a natural programmer,” everyone praised her, and when she finished the course she was offered a good job in a top IT software firm.

“No way,” said Papa, “I’m the breadwinner. I don’t want my wife to work. I want her to look after the house.”

“MCP,” said everyone to Papa.

I didn’t know what MCP meant, but it made Papa very angry.

“Let her work. I’ll manage the house,” Granny said.

“Don’t worry, Papa. I’m a big girl now and can look after myself. I’ll study regularly and come first,” I promised.

And so, Mamma started working.

And when she brought her first pay and gave it to Papa, he said proudly, “I’ll be the last person to touch my wife’s money, I would rather starve than live off my wife.”

So my Mamma gave the money to Granny and Papa didn’t say a thing, he just sulked for days.

Life was hectic now.

Mamma got up very early, cooked the food, did the housework, got ready and then both Papa and Mamma caught their respective company buses to their faraway workplaces – he to his factory in Pimpri and she to the IT Park.

And after that Granny made me ready and I walked down Bajirao Road to my school.

One day my Mamma’s boss came home with Mamma.

He said the company wanted to send Mamma abroad to the US for working on a project.

He had come home to convince Papa to let her go.

I thought that Papa would argue, and hoped he would not let her go, but surprisingly he meekly agreed, probably thinking it was futile to argue, and Mamma went away to the States for three months.

Then there was an IT boom.

IT, IT everywhere!

That was a turning point in our lives.

Mamma started doing better and better, becoming more and more successful, doing more and more projects, earning more and more money.

Papa felt jealous that she was earning more than him, so he took VRS and started a business selling spare parts.

And then a competition started between them, and soon they both were making so much money that Sadashiv Peth wasn’t a good enough place to stay in any longer as it did not befit their new found status!

So we moved to a luxury apartment in a fancy township in a posh suburb of Pune, and I was put in a famous elite school known more for its snob appeal than academic accomplishments and studies.

Our new house was in a beautiful colony, far away from the city, with landscaped gardens, clubhouse, swimming pool, gym, and so many facilities.

It was so luxurious, and people living there so highbrow and snobbish, that Granny and I were miserable.

“It’s like a 5 star prison,” she would say. She was right in one way.

For the whole day when we all were away she was trapped inside with nothing to but watch soaps on cable TV in airconditioned comfort.

I too missed our cute old house in Sadashiv Peth, the Bhel, the trips to Saras Baug and Laxmi Road and most of all my earlier friends who were so friendly unlike the snobbish people here.

Oh yes, this was indeed a better house, but our old place in Sadashiv Peth was certainly a better home!

But Granny and me – we managed somehow, as Mamma increased her trips abroad and Papa was busy expanding his flourishing business.

And suddenly one day God took Granny away.

Mamma was abroad in America on an important project and she just couldn’t come immediately.

She came back after one month and for days Papa and she kept discussing something.

I sensed it was about me.

And tomorrow morning, I am off to an elite boarding school in Panchgani.

I don’t know whether what has happened is good or bad, or what is going to happen in future, but one thing is sure: If God hadn’t taken my baby brother away, I wouldn’t be going to boarding school!
VIKRAM KARVE

Copyright © Vikram Karve 2010

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

http://vikramkarve.sulekha.com

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

vikramkarve@sify.com

Chilled Beer

May 6, 2010

CHILLED BEER

Fiction Short Story – A Mystery

By

VIKRAM KARVE

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

The doorbell rings.

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

I open the door.

I am dumbstruck.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I try not to stare at her.

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

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

“Suppose you caught her having an affair.”

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

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

“I’ll kill her,” I say instinctively.

“How…?”

“How…? What do you mean ‘How’…?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I stop dead in my tracks.

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

I look at Monica, into her shining eyes.

She knows…

And she wants me to know, that she knows…

And now I know that I have no choice.

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

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

I feel very frightened, scared.

How much does Monica know…?

Or is she just speculating, guessing…?

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

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

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

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

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

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

I think about what she says.

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

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

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

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

“I thought maybe…”

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

“That’s all…?”

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

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

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

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

“I’m thirsty,” Monica announces.

“Fresh Lime…?”

“How about a chilled beer?”

I get two cans of chilled beer from the fridge.

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

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

Monica tells me everything about her husband Kumar.

I listen intently and carefully make notes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Okay.”

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

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

“And he leaves for Mussoorie on Thursday…”

“Yes. Early in the morning.”

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

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

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

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

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

“And…?”

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

“He shouldn’t pop off here…”

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

After Monica leaves, I realize three things.

Firstly, murder is a rather lucrative business.

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

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

Everything works as per my plan.

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

Then I leave for my office.

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

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

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

I pick up the can and check.

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

And the beer can is empty…

I try to think, steady my confused mind.

Who can it be…?

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

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

Anjali is not at home.

I dial her mobile.

An excruciating wait as time stands still.

Anjali answers.

“Anjali…? Where are you…?”

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

“So early…?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Clinically, there was nothing I could do.

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

It was a question of my own survival.

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

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

By Saturday evening it would all be over…

The evening passes in a haze.

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

There is a gleam in Monica’s eye.

What excuse am I going to give her…?

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

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

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

Time crawls.

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

Thursday. Friday. Saturday.

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

Nothing happens.

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

Sunday.

Anjali is still going strong…!

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

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

My cell-phone rings.

It’s Monica.

My heart skips a beat.

“Hello,” I say with trepidation.

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

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

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

“I’ll come now…?” I ask Monica.

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

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

“Who was it…?” she asks.

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

“Anything important…?”

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

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

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

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

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

VIKRAM KARVE

Copyright © Vikram Karve 2010

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

vikramkarve@sify.com

http://vikramkarve.sulekha.com

REALTY CHECK Fiction Short Story

May 4, 2010

REALTY CHECK

Fiction Short Story

By

VIKRAM KARVE

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

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

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

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

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

“Ungrateful…?” the son winces.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

VIKRAM KARVE

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

vikramkarve@sify.com

http://vikramkarve.sulekha.com

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

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

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

http://www.flipkart.com/appetite-stroll-vikram-karve/8190690094-gw23f9mr2o

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

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

MARRIAGE A LA MODE

November 24, 2009

MARRIAGE A LA MODE

Fiction Short Story

By

VIKRAM KARVE

 

 

Dear Reader, I am sure you have heard the saying: Absence makes the heart grow fonder

Now, please read this fiction short story:

 

At exactly 8 PM her cell-phone rings in her hand. She’s expecting the call – that’s why she’s holding the cell-phone in her hand. She looks at the caller-id, accepts the call, moves the mobile phone near her ear and says, “I love you, darling!”

 

“I love you, Sugar!” says her husband’s voice from half way around the globe. On his bed beside him, sprawled with arms and legs outstretched like a fallen statue, the woman is still asleep, her breathing untroubled.

 

It’s a long distance marriage, and the ‘married bachelors’ have been following the same drill for quite some time now – two calls every day at exactly the same time (Eight in the morning she calls him up just before leaving for work and eight in the evening she receives his call from half way across the globe just before he leaves for work. And both of them start their conversation automatically with the words: “I love you, darling! Or, I love you, Sugar!” He’s her ‘darling’ and she’s his ‘Sugar’!)

 

“How was your day?” the husband asks.

 

“Hectic. Lot’s of work. Deadlines to meet!” the wife answers. She steals a glance at the handsome young man sitting beside her in the darkened lounge bar.

 

“It’s terrible here too,” the husband says, “It’s killing – the work. Too much traveling. Sales meets, seminars, conferences. One hotel to another. Living out of a suitcase. I’m feeling exhausted.”

 

It’s true. The husband is indeed feeling exhausted; a relaxing, satiating kind of exhaustion. He gets up and opens the window and allows the early morning air to cool his body, then turns around and looks at the marvelous body of the woman on his bed. She looks lovelier than ever before, and as he remembers the ferocity of her lovemaking, he feels waves of desire rise within him. Not for a long time has the mere sight of a woman aroused the lion in him to such an extent. He smiles to himself. He feels proud and elated; it was a grand performance. Spontaneous lovemaking at its best; not like the planned and contrived “quality” lovemaking with his wife, full of performance anxiety, each performing for the other’s gratification, putting on an act and both faking pleasure thinking the other would not know.

 

“Yes, darling. Poor you. I can understand,” the wife says, and sips her potent cocktail. It’s her third. She wonders what it is – the mysterious but deadly intoxicating cocktails her companion is plying her with, and she is feeling gloriously high.

 

“I’m just waiting for this hectic spell of work to be over so we can meet,” the husband says. He sits on the edge of the bed and looks at the sleeping woman. Mesmerized, marveling. It is difficult to believe that in a few hours from now they would be addressing each other formally again.

 

“Oh, yes. It’s been three months and I’m dying to meet you. When are we meeting?” the wife asks.

 

“I’m planning a fantastic vacation. I’ll let you know soon. We’ll go to some exotic place. Just the two of us. Quality Time!” the husband says to his faraway wife and at the same time looks yearningly at the gorgeously sexy woman lying so close to him.

 

“That’s great! We must spend some Quality Time together,” the wife says to her distant husband while she snuggles close against her strikingly handsome colleague. He presses his knee against hers. She presses hers against his. He moves his hand around her over her soft skin and pulls her gently. She feels an inchoate desire. He gently strokes her hair, and she turns towards him, her mouth partly open as he leans over her.  Fuelled by the alcohol in her veins, she can sense the want churning inside her like fire. And as she looks into his eyes, and feels the intensity of his caresses, she can sense her resistance melting.

 

“I love you, Sugar!” the husband says.

 

“I love you, darling!” the wife says.

 

Their lovey-dovey conversation completed, both the long distance spouses disconnect their cell-phones, focus on their present objects of affection, and, with renewed zeal, carry on the passionate amorous activity presently in hand. After all, a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.

 

At the beginning of this story I had quoted a famous saying: Absence makes the heart grow fonder.


Now I am temped to say: Absence makes the heart grow fonder – for someone else.

 

 

MARRIAGE A LA MODE

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

The Derby

September 3, 2009

Prologue

I am not a die-hard punter, but I love to go to the races once in a while.

Whenever I was in Mumbai there was one race I never missed. I always went to the Race Course on Derby Day, not to gamble, but to enjoy myself, the atmosphere, the excitement, the horses [the four legged variety] and, of course, the lovely decked-up dressed-to-kill chicks [you know which variety].

The Indian Derby is normally held on the first Sunday of February at the Mahalaxmi Racecourse in Mumbai, and, like I said, when in Mumbai, I made it a point to enjoy the most exciting race of the year.

I was fortunate to witness races at Kolkata, Bangalore, Hyderabad, and Ooty too, and one of my most cherished memories is enjoying the Mysore Derby at probably the most picturesque race course I have ever seen, many years ago.  In fact, it was such a splendid unforgettable experience etched in my memory that, a few days later, I wrote a fiction short story set in Mysore.

Here is the fiction short story – The Flirting Game.

As I said I wrote this story long back, and maybe the writing is a bit old-fashioned, but I am sure you will like it.

THE DERBY

[Fiction Short Story]

By

VIKRAM KARVE

The Mysore racecourse is undoubtedly the most picturesque racecourse in India.

The lush green grass track, the verdant expanse right up to the foot of the rugged Chamundi hills which serve as a magnificent backdrop with the mighty temple atop, standing like a sentinel – the luxuriant ambience is so delightful and soothing to the eye that it instantly lifts one’s spirit. And on this bright morning on that delightful Saturday in October, the atmosphere was so refreshing that I felt as if I were on top of the world.

“I love this place, it’s so beautiful,” I said.

“And lucky too,” Girish, my husband, added. “I have already made fifty grand. And I’m sure Bingo will win the Derby tomorrow.”

Girish appraisingly looked at the horses being paraded in the paddock, suddenly excused himself, and briskly walked towards the Bookies’ betting ring.

I still can’t describe the startling shock I experienced when I suddenly saw Dilip, bold as brass, standing bang in front of me, as if appearing from nowhere, looking straight into my eyes.

“Excuse me, ma’am,” he said. “I think you have dropped this.”

In his hand was tote jackpot ticket.

Now he was looking at me in a funny sort of way, neither avoiding my eyes nor seeking them.

I understood at once.

I took the tote ticket he proffered, put it in my purse and thanked him.

He smiled, turned and briskly walked away towards the first enclosure.

I felt a tremor of trepidation, but as I looked around I realized that no one had noticed our quick encounter in the hustle-bustle of the racecourse.

As I waited for my husband to emerge from the bookies’ betting ring, in my mind’s eye, I marvelled at the finesse with which Dilip had cleverly stage-managed the contrived encounter to make it look completely accidental.

It was only after lunch, in the solitude of my hotel room that I took out the tote jackpot ticket and examined it. I smiled to myself.

It was the simplest substitution cipher – maybe Dilip thought I’d gone rusty – a last minute improvisation for immediate emergency communication.

That meant Dilip wasn’t shadowing me; he hadn’t even expected me at the Mysore racecourse. But having suddenly seen me, he desperately wanted to make contact. So he quickly improvised, contrived the encounter, and left further initiative to me. The ball was now squarely in my court.

I scribbled the five numbers of the jackpot combination on a piece of paper. For seasoned punters, racing buffs, it was an unlikely jackpot combination that hardly had a chance of winning, and now that the races were over the ticket was worthless. But for me hidden inside it was information, a secret message from Dilip to me, since I knew how to decipher the secret code. To the five numbers I added the two numbers of my birth-date. I now had seven numbers and from each I subtracted Dilip’s single digit birth-date and in front of me I had a seven-digit combination. I picked up the telephone and dialled [At the time of this story Mysore still had seven digit telephone numbers – I wonder what it is now]. It was a travel agency – a nice cover. I didn’t identify myself but only said, “Railway Enquiry?”

“Oh, Yes, madam,” a male voice answered.

I recognized it at once. It was Dilip, probably anxiously waiting for my call, and he said, “You are booked on our evening sightseeing tour. Seat No. 13. The luxury coach will be at your hotel at 3 in the afternoon. And don’t carry your mobile with you. We don’t want to be tracked.”

I looked at my watch. It was almost 2:30. Time for a quick wash. I tore up the jackpot tote ticket and scribble paper and flushed it down the toilet. It was too dangerous to keep them around once their utility was over. And should the ticket fall into the wrong hands, anything was possible – one must not underestimate anybody – for it is well known that human ingenuity can never concoct a cipher which human ingenuity cannot resolve.

The tourist bus arrived precisely at 3 o’clock and soon I was in seat No. 13, a window seat. I had hardly sat down when Dilip occupied the adjacent seat No. 14. He was carrying the ubiquitous tourist bag, but I knew what was inside – the tools of his tradecraft.

“Thanks for coming, Vibha,” he said.

“I was scared you’d do something stupid, indiscreet.” I scolded him, “And Girish…”

“Don’t tell me you haven’t told your husband about us?” Dilip interrupted.

“No.”

“Why?”

“I don’t know.”

“Tell him now. There’s no place for secrets between husband and wife”

“I can’t. I don’t want to. It’s too late now.” I was getting a bit impatient now. “Listen, Dilip. This is dangerous. What do you want? Girish, my husband…”

“He’s gone to Ooty. It’s a four hours’ drive. Should be half-way up the hills by now,” Dilip interjected looking at his watch.

“He is coming back tomorrow.”

“I know. He’ll be there in time for the Mysore Derby. Your horse Bingo is running, isn’t it? It’s a hot favourite too!”

“How do you know all this?”

“It’s common knowledge. Besides I make a living prying into other people’s lives.” Dilip paused for a moment, “Don’t worry, Vibha. The races start only at two in the afternoon. And the Derby is at four. We’ve got plenty of time together, the whole of today and tomorrow morning. He won’t know. I promise you.”

The bus stopped. We had arrived at the majestic Mysore Palace.

“Come, Vibha. Let me take your photo,” Dilip said, talking out his camera.

“No,” I snapped.

“Okay. You take mine. I’ll stand there. Make sure you get the Palace entrance in the frame.” He gave me the camera and said, “Have a look. It’s a special camera. I’ll focus the zoom lens if you want.”

I pointed the camera in the direction of the palace and looked through the viewfinder. But the palace wasn’t in the frame. The camera had a ninety-degree perpendicular prismatic zoom lens. I could see the tourists from our bus crowding around the shoe-stand about fifty meters to my left, depositing their shoes.

“Dilip, tell me, who is the Target?” I asked.

“Lady in the sky-blue sari, long hair. And the man in the yellow T-shirt and jeans, still wearing his Ray Ban aviator.”

I happily clicked away, a number of photos, the unsuspecting victims, the young target couple, not once realizing that it was they who were in my frame.

“I don’t think they are having an affair,” I said, once we were inside the cool confines of the Mysore Palace, admiring the wall paintings of the Dasera procession, “Come on, Dilip, the boy looks so young, mod and handsome. And the woman – she’s middle-aged, a shy, timid, unadventurous, stay-at-home type. And just look at her face, her looks – so pedestrian. It is a most improbable combination.”

“Yes, a most improbable combination – that’s why their affair is flourishing for so long.”

I gave Dilip a quizzical look.

“Three years,” Dilip said. “It’s going on for over three years. The woman is a widow. She gets a huge monthly maintenance from her in-laws’ property – in lakhs. It’s a wealthy business family. They want to stop giving her the monthly maintenance.”

“I don’t understand,” I said, confused.

“The right of a widow to maintenance is conditional upon her leading a life of chastity,” Dilip quoted matter-of-factly.

“What nonsense!”

“That’s what their hot-shot lawyer told me. The one who commissioned this investigation,” Dilip said. “They’ll probably confront her with this evidence and coerce her into signing-off everything. Maybe even her children.”

“What if she doesn’t agree?”

“Then we’ll intensify the surveillance. A ‘no holds barred’ investigation. Two-way mirrors with installed video cameras, bugs with recording equipment,” Dilip paused, and said, “In fact, in this case I’m so desperate for success that I’m even considering image morphing if nothing else works.”

I was shocked. “Isn’t it morally disgusting? To do all these unethical dirty things. Extortion? Blackmail? To what length does one go?” I asked Dilip annoyed.

“Once you have the information, the possibilities are endless,” Dilip said softly, “It’s not my concern to worry about moral and ethical issues. I never ask the question ‘why’. I just state my fee. And even if I do know why, I’ve made it a policy never to show that I understand what other people are up to.”

“What are you up to Dilip? And why me?” I asked.

Dilip did not answer. He just smiled and led me towards our bus.

I was glad I had not married Dilip. I had never known he could sink to such depths. I hated him for the way he was using me. Taking advantage of my fear, my past, and my helplessness. Filthy emotional blackmailer. Shameless bully. I looked at Dilip with loathing and disgust, but he just grinned at me bald-facedly like a Cheshire Cat.

Nalini, my elder sister, had been right about Dilip. In my mind I thanked her for saving my life. But for her timely intervention, I would have married Dilip, maybe even eloped with him. I shudder to think what my life would have been like had I married Dilip.

“It’s beautiful,” Dilip said, looking at the famous painting – ‘Lady with the Lamp’ – at the Mysore Museum.

“Yes,” I answered, jolted out of my thoughts.

“Remember, Vibha. The last time we were here. It’s been almost ten years.”

I did not answer, but I clearly remembered. It was our college tour. And Dilip had quickly pulled me into a dark corner and kissed me on the lips. A hasty inchoate stolen kiss. My first kiss. The electric shivers, the tremors of trepidation. How could I ever forget?

“Vibha. Tell me honestly. Why did you ditch me so suddenly, so mercilessly?”

“Nalini told me not to marry you,” I said involuntarily, instantly regretting my words.

“And then she forced you to marry Girish, your brother-in-law.”

“Girish is not my brother-in-law. He is my co-brother.”

“Co-brother indeed! He is the younger brother of your elder sister Nalini’s husband. So he is your brother-in-law also, isn’t it?” Dilip said sarcastically.

“So what?” I snapped angrily. “It’s not illegal. Two brothers marrying two sisters – it’s quite common. And it’s none of your business.”

“Business!” Dilip said. “That’s it. Business! Two sisters marry two brothers. So it’s all in the family. The business. The money. The tea estates and coffee plantations. The industries. The property. Everything.”

“So that’s what you had your eyes on, didn’t you? My father’s property.” I knew it was a cruel thing to say and I could see that Dilip was genuinely hurt.

Instinctively I realized that Dilip was still in love with me.

Maybe he was jealous of my successful marriage, my happiness and probably my wealth, my status in society and that’s what had made him bitter.

But seeing the expression on his face I knew that Dilip would not harm me, for he was indeed truly in love with me. “I’m sorry, Dilip. Forget the past and let’s get on with our surveillance,” I said looking at the ‘target’ couple.

And so we reached the magnificent Brindavan gardens, posing as tourists in the growing crowd of humanity, stalking the couple, surreptitiously taking their photographs as they romantically watched the water, gushing through the sluice gates of Krishnarajasagar dam, forming a rainbow admits the spraying surf.

After sunset we enjoyed the performance at the musical fountain sitting right behind the ‘couple’. Suddenly, the lights went out, everyone stood up and started moving. Trying to adjust our eyes to the enveloping darkness, we desperately tried not to lose track of target couple as they made their way, in the confusion, towards “Lovers’ Park.”

It was pitch dark. But through the lens of the night vision device I could clearly discern two silhouettes, an eerie blue-green against the infrared background. The images were blurred and tended to merge as the two figures embraced each other, but that did not matter since I knew that the infrared camera would process the signal through an image intensifier before recording, rendering crystal-clear photo quality pictures.

“Let’s go,” Dilip whispered, and we stealthily negotiated our way out, but in hindsight, there was really no need to be clandestine about it, since we were just another couple ostensibly having a “good time” in the darkness and dense foliage of “Lovers’ Park” as it was known.

Pondering over the day’s events I realized how right Dilip had been taking me along. Surveillance involves hours of shadowing and stalking training and tracking your target, sitting for hours in all sports of places like hotels, restaurants, parks, cars, hanging around airports, railway stations, bus stands or even on the streets, waiting and watching. A man and a woman would appear for less conspicuous than a single man or a pair of men. And if they look like a married couple it’s even better for the cover. And we did look like a much-married tourist couple.

I wondered why I’d agreed to do all this. Maybe because I felt a sense of guilt, remorse, a sort of an obligation I owed Dilip. Any girl always has a feeling of debt, a guilt-complex, towards a decent man who she has ditched, brutally dumped.

Or maybe because I wanted to find out what life would have been like had I married Dilip.

Or maybe because I was scared and fearful that Dilip would blackmail me. Dilip was the only secret I had kept from my husband – a skeleton I wanted to keep firmly locked away in the cupboard.

Or maybe it was because a woman’s first love always has an enduring place in her heart.

I guess it was a combination of all the above reasons.

The tourist bus reached my hotel at precisely 9.30 p.m. Before getting down from the bus, Dilip handed over the bag containing the infrared device, special cameras and all paraphernalia to a non-descript middle-aged man sitting right behind us.

“Who was that man?” I asked after the bus drove away with the man in it.

“Never mind,” Dilip said leading me into the foyer of the hotel.

“No,” I insisted. “I want to know.”

“It is sometimes important for an operative conducting surveillance to put himself, his own self, under observation,” Dilip said nonchalantly.

At first the sentence sounded innocuous, but gradually comprehension began to dawn on me, and as I realized the import of those words I experienced a chill of panic. All sorts of scary thoughts entered my brain. Photographs of Dilip and me.

Oh my God!

The man may even have bugged our conversation.

The possibilities were endless.

I looked at Dilip. Didn’t he have any scruples?

My impulse was to run to my room and lock myself up.

But when Dilip invited me to have dinner with him in the restaurant I knew I dared not refuse. I had no choice. Dilip now had me at his mercy. He had his manacles on me. The only way to escape Dilip’s clutches was to tell Girish everything.

But could I tell him everything?

Especially after today! I couldn’t even bring myself to imagine the consequences.

After dinner I invited Dilip to my room for a cup of coffee. I knew it was suicidal but I had decided to give Dilip whatever he wanted and get rid of him, out of my life – forever.

The moment we entered the room, the phone rang. It was for Dilip- a man’s voice – probably the same man sitting behind us in the bus.

Dilip took the receiver from my hands and spoke, “I told you not to ring up here……… What…? But how is that possible?……… Oh, my God! I am coming at once.”

“What happened?” I asked him.

“We got the wrong couple on the infrared camera in Lovers’ Park. Couldn’t you see properly?”

“No, it was dark and hazy,” I said. “I could see just blurred images.”

Instinctively I rushed along with Dilip to his office-cum-laboratory.

He emphatically told me not to come, but I did not listen. A strange irresistible inner force was propelling me.

I looked at the blurred images on the large workstation monitor. Then as Dilip kept zooming, again and again, enhancing the magnification and focus, the images started becoming clear, and as I watched something started happening inside me and I could sense my heartbeats rise.

Oh, My God! I couldn’t believe it! It was Nalini and Girish. Or Girish and Nalini. Whichever way you like it. It doesn’t matter. Or does it? Nalini, my darling elder sister – the very person instrumental in arranging my  marriage to Girish. And Girish – my beloved ‘faithful’ husband. Their expressions so confident, so happy, so carefree. So lovey-dovey. So sure they would never be found out. So convenient.
I wondered how long was this going on? Both of them living a lie and fooling a trusting and naive person like me.
Deep down I felt terribly betrayed.
As I thought about them, suddenly I felt as if I had been pole-axed, a sharp sensation drilling into my vitals, my stomach curdling as I threw up my dinner.
I washed up, sat down, and closed my eyes in silence.
When I opened my eyes I saw Dilip staring intently at me.

It was extraordinary how clear my mind became all of a sudden.
“Listen, Dilip,” I said emphatically, “I want a full-scale comprehensive surveillance. Two-way mirrors, bugs, photos, video, audio – the entire works. A no-holds barred investigation. And dig deep into the past. I want to know everything.”

“No, Vibha !” Dilip said. “I can’t do it.”

“You can’t do it or you won’t do it?” I asserted. “Listen, Dilip. You have to do it. I want you to do it.”

“Why, Vibha. Why?”

I smiled and said, “Dilip, remember what you said in the afternoon about your professional credo and motto: You never ask the question ‘why’. You just state your fee.”

He looked at me nonplussed, in silence.

I paused, and said, “So my dear Dilip. Don’t ask any questions. Just state your fee. And do a good job.”

“But, Vibha. What will you do with all this information?” Dilip protested.

“The possibilities are endless,” I said, almost licking my lips in anticipation, as I could feel the venom rising within me. “Yes indeed! Information is power, isn’t it? Once I have all the information, just imagine what all I can do. The possibilities are endless – aren’t they?”

“Yes,” he echoed, “The possibilities are endless.”

“We’ll meet tomorrow at the race course,” I said, intertwining my arm in his.

I am looking forward to an exciting day at the Race Course tomorrow – it is going to be a thrilling Derby.

THE DERBY

[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

vikramkarve@sify.com

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