Posts Tagged ‘railway’

KETTI – a travel romance by Vikram Karve

May 28, 2011

KETTI.

KETTI
Short Fiction – A Travel Tale
By
VIKRAM KARVE

From my Creative Writing Archives:

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

Early morning.

Chill in the air.


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

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

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

But for me there is a world of difference.

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

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

Now it feels so gloomy.

Strange. 

But true. 

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


I try not to reminisce.

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


I look at my watch.

7.30 A.M.

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

Dot on time.

As it was then.


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

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

Now I feel the bitter cold penetrating within me.


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

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

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

I wish that all this is just a dream.

But I know it is not.


And suddenly, Avinash enters.

We stare at each other in disbelief.

Time stands still.


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

I do not answer.

Because I cannot answer.

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

My vocal cords numbed by emotional pain.


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

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

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

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

I am trapped.

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


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

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

“I stay near Kotagiri,” Avinash says.

“Kotagiri?” I ask relieved.

“Yes, I own a tea-estate there.”

“You own a tea estate?”

“Yes. I am a planter.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


“No,” I say, “I am going to Ketti.”

“Ketti ?” he asks with derisive surprise.

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

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

I say nothing.

Because I cannot say anything.

So I suffer his words in silence.


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

The cat is out of the bag.

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

The tables seem to have turned.

Or have they?


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

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


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

I remember the lovely moments with Avinash.


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

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

We talk.

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


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

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

But still, everything had gone wrong.


Widowed at 28.

Abandoned by my only son at 52.

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

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


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

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

Avinash takes me in his comforting arms. 

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


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

Did you like this story?

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

 

 

 

Do try out this delicious, heady and excitingCOCKTAIL. 

 

To know more please click the links below:
Cheers

About Vikram Karve

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

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

Email: vikramkarve@sify.com          

Fiction Short Stories Book

© vikram karve., all rights reserved.

 

 

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INNOCENT VICTIM – A Divorce Story with a Difference by Vikram Karve

May 8, 2011

INNOCENT VICTIM.

INNOCENT VICTIM

Dear Reader: Have you read my latest book COCKTAIL – a collection of 27 short stories about relationships? 
 
If you haven’t please click the link below and order a copy:
 
 
In COCKTAIL there is a story called A DAY IN THE LIFE OF A DIVORCED MAN. This story highlights the negative aspects of divorce on relationships, especially the adverse effect divorce has on children who are supposed to be innocent victims in divorce situations and who suffer for no fault of their own. 
 
Are children really innocent victims and do they actually suffer when their parents divorce? 
 
Well, here is a divorce story from a different perspective — a “happy ending” divorce story where the child is certainly not an “innocent victim” of a divorce situation 
Read on and tell me if you like this story:
“INNOCENT VICTIM”
A Divorce Story with a Difference
Short Fiction
By
VIKRAM KARVE

I am going to tell you about a very intriguing conversation I had with a naughty boy while travelling from Mumbai to Pune on the Deccan Queen last evening.

As I walk towards my seat in the Ladies’ Coach of the Deccan Queen I find a smart boy sitting on my window seat talking to a handsome man sitting on the seat beside him.

“Excuse me,” I say to the man, “this is the ladies’ compartment…”

Before the man can answer, the boy says, “I’m only seven…below 12…I can travel in the ladies compartment…”

“Don’t be rude, Rohan,” the man admonishes the boy, and then he rises from the seat, moves into the aisle, making way for me, and says, “Sorry, Ma’am, I am getting off, I just came to see off my son…is it okay if he sits in the window seat…”

“It is okay,” I say and sit down next to the boy, on the seat by the aisle.

“Actually I was waiting for you to come,” the man says.

“Me…?” I ask, flabbergasted, wondering whether tha man is trying to flirt with me.

“My son…he’s travelling alone…”

“I always travel alone…” the boy interjects.

“Of course, you are a big boy now aren’t you…?” the father says lovingly to his son, then turns towards me and says, “His mother will come to receive him in Pune…I’ve SMSed the coach and seat number to her…and Rohan’s got his cell-phone too…”

“Don’t worry, I’ll take care of your son and deliver him safely to his mother,” I assure the man, not wanting to talk to him too much.

“Thanks,” the man says to me, then turns to his son and says affectionately, “Give me a call when you reach…and come next weekend…”

“Of course Papa. I’ll be here to meet you next weekend on Saturday morning…you be here to get me off the Deccan Queen…I’ve got three days holidays…we’ll go off somewhere on an adventure trip…”

“Yes. Yes. I’ll do the bookings…” the man’s words are suddenly interrupted by the guard’s whistle and the train starts moving.

“Bye, Papa,” the boy jumps across me, hugs his father who bends down, kisses his son on the cheek, disengages and quickly moves to the exit, turning once to wave out to his son. The train gradually picks up speed.

Rohan sits down in his seat, takes out his fancy mobile phone, and a pair of earplugs.

My curiosity gets the better of my discretion and I ask the boy, “That’s a real good mobile phone.”

“Yes. It’s cool…the latest…it’s got everything…touch screen…music…internet…”

“Your father gave it to you?”

“Yes. Papa gets me the best…”

“And your mother…”

“Oh, Mama is too good…she loves me so much…takes so much care of me… lets me do whatever I want…oh…before you ask I should tell you…Papa and Mama are divorced…”

“Oh dear, I am so sorry…”

“No. No. It’s okay…I am happy they are divorced…”

“You are happy your parents are divorced…?” I ask aghast, totally astonished and incredulous.

“Yes…for me it is better this way…you know my Mama and Papa now have to share me…they have divided me between them…during the week I stay with Mama in Pune…and I spend the weekends with Papa in Mumbai…”

“But wasn’t it better when you all lived together as one family…?” I ask.

“It was terrible…when we lived together they were just not bothered about me….Mama and Papa were so busy with their office and work and parties and travelling and everything…they just had no time for me…and whatever little time we were together they kept fighting…”

“And now…?”

“After they split my life is just too good…!” the boy says.

“Too good…?” I interrupt, taken aback.

“Yes…after their divorce my life has become real good…I like it this way…now they care for me so much…they never scold me now like they used to before…now both my Mama and Papa pamper me so much…just imagine…I had two birthday parties this year…one by Mama at Pune and one by Papa in Mumbai…”

“Really…? You had two birthday parties…?”

Yes…and now they let me do whatever I want…give me so much time…and presents…they give me whatever I want…they even give me whatever I don’t want…”

“They give you whatever you don’t want…?”

“Now see, Papa has given me this fantastic mobile phone…now Mama will give me even a better one…or maybe some other groovy stuff…it’s like my Mama and Papa are in competition to make me happy…”

“That’s good…you are really lucky…”

“Oh, yes. I am very lucky…but it is funny isn’t it…?

“Funny…? What’s funny…?”

“About my Papa and Mama…when they were together they neglected me…and now they when live separated, they pamper me so much…so it is better isn’t it…that they are divorced… at least for me…”

I am still trying to analyze the uncanny truth in the young boy’s topsy-turvy logic.

What type of parenting is this? 
 
First you neglect your children when you are married together, and then, you spoil your kids to glory when you are separated divorced. 
 
Strange isn’t it? 
 
And I thought children were “innocent victims” in divorce situations…! 

Dear Reader: What do you think…?
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 27 stories in COCKTAIL
To order your COCKTAIL please click any of the links below:

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 and a book of vignettes and short fiction. An avid blogger, he has written a number of fiction short stories, creative non-fiction articles on a variety of topics including food, travel, philosophy, academics, technology, management, health, pet parenting, teaching stories and self help in magazines and published a large number of professional research papers in journals and edited in-house journals for many years, before the advent of blogging. Vikram has taught at a University as a Professor for almost 14 years and now teaches as a visiting faculty and devotes most of his time to creative writing. Vikram lives in Pune India with his family and muse – his pet dog Sherry with whom he takes long walks thinking creative thoughts. 

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

© vikram karve., all rights reserved.

Creative Writing by Vikram Karve: A POET AND HIS MUSE

February 3, 2011

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

“Where?”

Chotte Lal turns the paper and shows him.

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

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

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

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

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

Chotte Lal walks out in a huff.

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chotte Lal rings the bell.

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


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

“Poem…? What Poem…?” his wife asks.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I don’t want to go to the city.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

“Come,” he says to Engine.

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


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

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

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

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


They reach Ram Bharose’s Dhaba.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

VIKRAM KARVE
Copyright © Vikram Karve 2010

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

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

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

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

SECOND HONEYMOON

July 28, 2010

SECOND HONEYMOON.

CREATIVE ENGINE

July 24, 2010

CREATIVE ENGINE.

Love Torn Apart – A Lovedale Story

July 23, 2010

LOVE TORN APART

Fiction Short Story

By

VIKRAM KARVE

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

Lovedale.

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

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

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

Lovedale, in 1970.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The old lady closes her eyes in sadness.

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

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

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

There is no one else in the compartment.

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

“Yes,” the woman replies softly.

“You should have told her before.”

“Told her before…? How…? When…?”

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

“How can I be so cruel…?”

“Cruel…? What’s so cruel about it…?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“She’ll understand.”

“Poor thing. She will be all alone.”

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

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

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

“Can’t we take her with us…?”

“You know it’s not possible.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“How can you say that…?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“DLFMTC… ?”

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

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

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

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

The occupants of the solitary bench look towards their left.

There is no one else on the platform.

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

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

The girl runs into her arms.

The old woman walks towards her with a welcoming smile.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And suddenly the train enters.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Poor old Lovedale Railway Station.

It wants to cry.

It tries to cry.

But it cannot even a shed a tear.

For it is not human.

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

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

Yes, a pity…real pity…!

LOVE TORN APART

Fiction Short Story

By

VIKRAM KARVE

Copyright © Vikram Karve 2010

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

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

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

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

Email: vikramkarve@sify.com

Links to my creative writing blog and profile

CREATIVE WRITING by VIKRAM KARVE

VIKRAM KARVE Profile and Bio

MY FOODIE ADVENTURES BOOK

http://vikramkarve.sulekha.com

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

Appetite for a Stroll

vikramkarve@sify.com

Unrequited Love – THE NIGHT TRAIN AT DEOLI – My Favorite Short Story

June 8, 2010

THE NIGHT TRAIN AT DEOLI

My Favourite Love Story

By

VIKRAM KARVE


I love reading short stories. You can read a short story in one sitting and it immediately fills you with an exquisite sense of satisfaction.

I love writing short stories too, and I am sure you have read many of my short stories in my blog.

Dear Reader, let me tell you about my all time favourite short story – The Night Train at Deoli by Ruskin Bond.

The Night Train at Deoli is a beautiful story of unrequited love. Each one of us has experienced this wonderfully painful emotion of unrequited love.

Dear Reader, I am sure you too have experienced the delightful heart-ache of longing, yearning – an alluring attraction for someone who is out of reach – a one way love – a love unreciprocated.

Well I am quite familiar with the delicate tenderness of unrequited love; in fact, my life story is a story of unrequited loves.

The Night Train at Deoli is narrated in first person by a college boy who travels by the night train from Delhi to Dehra Dun every year to spend his summer vacations at his grandmother’s place. On its journey up the hills of the terai, early in the morning, the train stops at Deoli, a lonely station in the wilderness… “Why it stopped at Deoli. I don’t know. Nothing ever happened. Nobody got off the train and nobody got in…and then the bell would sound, the guard would blow his whistle, and presently Deoli would be left behind and forgotten” – isn’t the description brilliant, so breathtaking in its simplicity.

On one such journey the boy sees a girl at Deoli, selling baskets, and is smitten by her… “I sat up awake for the rest of the journey. I could not rid my mind of the picture of the girl’s face and her dark, smouldering eyes”.

He looks out for her on his return journey and is thrilled when he sees her… “I felt an unexpected thrill when I saw her…I sprang off the foot-board and waved to her. When she saw me, she smiled. She was pleased that I remembered her. I was pleased that she remembered me. We were both pleased, and it was almost like a meeting of old friends”…superb writing, isn’t it…simply superb.

It is time for the train to leave, and for the lovers to part… “I felt the impulse to put her on the train there and then…I caught her hand and held it… ‘I have to go to Delhi,’ I said…she nodded, ‘I do not have to go anywhere.’…the guard blew his whistle…and how I hated the guard for doing that…”

Beautifully poignant, marvellously written, touches the very fragile chords of your heart, isn’t it?

I will not tell you the rest of this story, but I can assure you, that if you are a lover at heart, you will be touched with compassion for the protagonist and as the story elevates you to the romantic mood you will relate your very own tale of unrequited love.

Though The Night Train at Deoli is my all time favourite, I like many stories in this anthology, especially, The Woman on Platform 8, His Neighbour’s Wife and Death of a Familiar.

If you are a lover of the fiction short story I am sure you have this delightful book; if you don’t, do get a copy for your bookcase to delve into whenever you are in a blue mood nostalgically yearning for your unrequited love.

Tell me, Dear Reader, which is your favourite love story…

VIKRAM KARVE

http://vikramkarve.sulekha.com

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

vikramkarve@sify.com

DON’T CALL ME AUNTY – Fiction Short Story

December 17, 2009

DON’T CALL ME AUNTY
Fiction Short Story

By

VIKRAM KARVE 

 

“Wake up, I am sending you on a mission,” my father said, shaking me off my bed.

“Mission!” I jumped out of bed and got ready in a jiffy.

My father is a detective and, once in a while, he sends me on undercover assignments.

My father is all I have got in this world after God took my mother away.

“Surveillance?” I ask, as we stand discreetly at the bus stop outside Taraporewala Aquarium on Marine Drive.

“Yes. A simple tail-chase. Look to your right; keep your eyes focused on the gate of the working women’s hostel. A woman will come out soon. Follow her, shadow her, like a tail, but very discreetly, and the moment you lose her, ring me up on your mobile.”

Suddenly, a tall woman wearing a bright yellow dress appeared at the gate. My father gave me a nudge, and then he disappeared.

The woman walked towards Charni Road Station, crossed the over-bridge to platform No.2, and waited for the train to Churchgate.

She got into the ladies compartment and I followed her in, for though I am a boy, I’m still below twelve.

She sat down and I observed her, unseen, standing in the crowd. She must have been around 25, maybe 30, and with her smooth fair creamy complexion she looked really smashing in the bright yellow dress.

What I liked about her the most was her huge strikingly expressive dancing eyes.

At Churchgate, she leisurely strolled down the platform, whilst everyone else rushed by.

She browsed at Wheeler’s bookstall, and then stopped at Tibbs, bought a Frankie, and walked towards the underground exit. I too love frankies, so I quickly bought one too, and followed her, careful not to be seen.

We both walked, me behind her, munching away, straight down the road towards Nariman Point, till she stopped at the Inox Multiplex.

Shit! I hoped she wouldn’t go for an Adults movie, but luckily she bought a ticket for ‘Paa’ and I followed her in.

I really enjoyed the rest of my mission.

She was quite a fun person, and spent the day thoroughly enjoying herself, seeing the sights, browsing books, window shopping, street food, eating things I love to eat, doing the things I like to do.

It was smooth sailing, till suddenly she stepped into a beauty parlour.

Now I needed backup, so I called up my father.

But he told me to abort the mission and to meet him at our usual favourite place in the vicinity – Stadium next to Churchgate station.

“Abort the mission?” I protested.

“Yes,” my Dad ordered, “and come fast to Churchgate…The usual place…I’ll tell you the reason when you get here…”

We chose an inconspicuous table in the middle of the restaurant and sat facing the entrance.

I told him everything.

He listened intently.

Suddenly I saw the woman in yellow standing bold as brass at the entrance of the restaurant looking directly at us.

I felt a tremor of trepidation, the ground slipped beneath my feet.

And when I saw her coming directly towards our table, I tried to hide in my chair and wished the earth would swallow me up.

My father smiled at the woman, “Hello, Nanda.”

I was stunned.

‘Hello Nanda?’ This was too much!

I looked at my father, puzzled by his behaviour.

First he sends me after her on a tail-chase, shadowing her all day, and now ‘Hello Nanda’!

The lady in the yellow dress with the dancing eyes sat down, looked at me curiously.

“You’ve met, haven’t you?” father asked.  

“No, she said.”

“No? You’re sure? Try to think. You must have seen him somewhere before.”

“I’m sure I have not seen him before. I never forget a face. This is the first time I am seeing him. He’s cute,” she said, looking at me tenderly.

My father winked at me in appreciation.

But who was this woman, I wondered, so I asked my father, “Who is this aunty?”

It was the lovely woman in the bright yellow dress who looked lovingly at me with her dancing eyes and answered, “Don’t call me aunty. I am going to be your new mother.”

VIKRAM KARVE

 

Copyright © Vikram Karve 2009

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

vikramkarve@sify.com

 

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

 

 

http://vikramkarve.sulekha.com

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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