Posts Tagged ‘system’

MONKEY TRAP

August 22, 2009

ARE YOU A MONKEY IN A TRAP

[Short Fiction]

By

VIKRAM KARVE

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

“Let’s catch some monkeys,” he said.

“Monkeys?” I asked excitedly.

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

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

“Why not?” my uncle said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Monkey-Traps?” I asked confused.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And soon we set up our monkey-traps.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Why?” he asked, with curiosity.

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

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

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

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

“I don’t know.”

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

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

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

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

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

“Job prospects,” I answered.

“Oh!”  He exclaimed. “And then?”

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

“Why?”

“Qualifications.”

“And why do you want so many qualifications?”

“To get the best job,” I answered.

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

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

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

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

“What?”

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

When work is a duty, life is slavery.”

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

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

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

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

And guess what I am today?

Well, I am a teacher. I teach philosophy.

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

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

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

VIKRAM KARVE

Copyright © Vikram Karve 2009

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

vikramkarve@sify.com

vikramkarve@hotmail.com

http://vikramkarve.sulekha.com

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

How I discovered the Meaning of Love

June 22, 2009

HOW I DISCOVERED THE MEANING OF LOVE

[Short Fiction – A Love Story]

by 

  VIKRAM KARVE  

  

 

 

            I do not know how the idea entered my brain in the first place; but once conceived, it haunted me with such urgency that a strange force took charge of me, impelling me to act. I tucked the packet under my arm and walked towards my destination, looking around furtively like someone with a guilty conscience. 

 

            The moment I saw her photograph I knew that I had to see her. A man’s first love fills an enduring place in his heart. Ten years. Ten long years. She had married money. And status. I was heartbroken. Yet I bore her no pique or rancor. Never will. How can I? I had truly loved her. I still love her. I will always love her. Till my dying day.

 

             I was desperately eager to impress her. To give her a gift would be too obvious. I did not know how much she had told her husband. About me! About us! 

 

            Her children should be the same age as mine. Maybe slightly older. They say the best route to a married woman’s heart is through her children. I looked at the packet under my arm. A gift. The deluxe set of children’s encyclopedias I had promised my son. And my daughter. Year after year. For the last three years. And did not buy. Because it was too expensive. And now I was going to present it to Anjali’s children. Just to impress her. Why? I do not know.

 

            As I rang the doorbell, I felt a tremor of anticipation. Suddenly I realized that I did not know whether Anjali would be happy to see me or pretend she didn’t recognize me. The door opened. Anjali looked ravishing. She gave me her sparkling smile and welcomed me with genuine happiness, “Sanjiv! After so many years! What a delightful surprise. How did you manage to find me?’

 

            We looked at each other. Anjali had fully blossomed and looked stunning. She looked so exquisite, so dazzling, that I cannot begin to describe the intense emotion I felt as I looked intently into her radiating eyes, totally mesmerized by her beauty.

 

            “Stop staring at me, “Anjali said, her large expressive eyes dancing mischievously.

 

            “You look so beautiful. And so young!”

 

            “But you look old. Even your beard has becoming gray.” Anjali paused, probably regretting what she had said.

 

            Then suddenly she held out her hand to me and said, “I am so happy to see you, Sanjiv. Come inside.”

 

            Her house was extravagant. Wealth and opulence showed everywhere. Anjali carried herself majestically with regal poise; her demeanor slick and confident. No wonder! To ‘belong’ had always been the driving force of her life. Money, status, social prestige, success – she had got everything she wanted. I couldn’t help feeling a pang of envy, and failure.

 

            “You like my house?” she asked. “Sit down. And don’t look so lost.”

 

            I sat down on a sofa and kept the gift wrapped packet on the side-table.

 

            Anjali sat down opposite. “How did you know I live here? We shifted to Mumbai only a month ago.”

 

            I took out the wallet from my pocket and gave it to her. “Your husband’s purse. I saw your photograph in it.”

 

            Anjali opened the purse and started to check the contents.

 

            “You don’t trust cops, do you?” I smiled.

 

            Anjali blushed. She kept the wallet on the table. She looked at me with frank admiration in her eyes. “IPS? That’s fantastic. I never thought you would do so well! What are you? Superintendent? Deputy Commissioner?”

 

            Now it was my turn to blush. “No,” I said sheepishly. “I am only a sub-inspector.”

 

            “Oh!” she said, trying to hide her disappointment. But I had read the language of her eyes. The nuance wasn’t lost on me. Suddenly she had changed.

 

            “Is Mr. Joshi at home?” I asked.

 

            “He is still at the office,” Anjali said.

 

            “Oh! I thought he would be home,” I said.

 

            “I’ll make you some tea,” she said and started to get up.

 

            “Please sit down, Anjali. Let’s talk.” I looked at my watch. “It’s already six-thirty. Let’s wait for Mr. Joshi. Maybe he’ll offer me a drink. And dinner.”

 

            “My husband comes home very late,” Anjali said. “After all, he is the Managing Director. There is so much work. And conferences. Important business meetings. He is the top boss – a very successful and extremely busy man.” She couldn’t have spelt it out more clearly. I got the message loud and clear.

 

             Anjali changed the topic and asked, “Where did you find the purse?”

 

              “It was deposited in the lost-and-found section last evening,” I lied.

 

             “It’s strange,” Anjali said. “He didn’t mention anything.”

 

            “He may not have noticed,” I said, tongue-in-cheek, “After all Mr. Joshi is a very busy man to notice such minor things like a missing purse.”

 

            “Yes,” she said, giving a distant look. Anjali opened the purse once more and examined his credit cards and driving license. At first she appeared confused. Then she gave me a cold hard look. But she didn’t say anything. There was a long period of silence. 

 

            Anjali kept staring at me. Looking directly into my eyes.  A distant look. Almost dismissive. I began to feel uneasy. Suddenly I remembered the gift wrapped packet I had brought and exclaimed enthusiastically, “Anjali, where are your children? I have got a gift for them. Just a small present for your kids!”            

 

            From the look on her face, I immediately sensed that I had said something terribly wrong. I saw tears well up in her eyes. All of a sudden, Anjali looked small, weak and vulnerable. I felt a sense of deep regret as comprehension dawned on me. I looked at her helplessly, pleading innocence, but it was of no use. Some day Anjali might understand my actions, but at that moment it was hopeless to try and explain. The hurt was deep, and I had to let it go in silence.

 

            We just sat there in silence, not knowing what to say. A deafening silence. A grotesque silence.

 

            It’s strange how moments you have rehearsed for end up with a different script.

 

            I could not bear it any longer. I quickly got up and started walking swiftly towards the door. Suddenly I realized that I had forgotten to pick up the packet – the gift. But I did not turn back. Why? I do not know.

 

            “Don’t go, Sanjiv. I want to talk to you,” Anjali spoke coldly.

 

            I stopped in my tracks. I could hear Anjali footsteps behind me. I turned around to face her. She seemed a bit composed.  

 

            “You lied to me, Sanjiv,” Anjali said. “I want to know where you found this wallet.”

 

             I did not know what to say. I tried to avoid her eyes.

 

            “Tell me,” Anjali pleaded.

 

            When in doubt, I speak the truth. “We raided one of those exclusive classy joints last night,” I stammered. “A posh call-girl racket……….” I could not continue. “I’m sorry. I didn’t know.”

 

            “I know! Oh yes I know!” Anjali said mockingly. “That impotent creep! Trying to prove his virility to himself.” 

 

            With those few words, she had bared the secret of her marriage. I looked at her. Her manner was relaxed and nonchalant; her fury was visible only in her eyes. 

 

            I was nonplussed. Suddenly I blurted out, “Don’t worry Anjali. I have dropped the charges. I’ll hush it up.” 

 

            I still don’t know why I uttered those words, but on hearing them there was a visible metamorphosis in Anjali. Suddenly she became flaming mad. She looked so distraught and angry that I felt very frightened. Terrified that she would go berserk and attack me, slap me, or something, I instinctively stepped back. But Anjali suddenly turned and left the room. I waited, pole-axed, for a moment and after regaining my composure decided to leave and started to move towards the door.

 

            “Wait!” I heard her scream. I stopped in my tracks and turned around. 

 

            Anjali quickly walked towards me and thrust out her right hand. She held a bundle of hundred rupee notes. “So this is what you have come for, isn’t it? A bribe to hush up the case, isn’t it? Even from me! You unscrupulous dog, I didn’t expect you to fall so low. Here – take the money and get out. This is all I have at home. If you want more, you know where to find my husband; don’t you?”           

 

            “No, Anjali,” I recoiled. “Please don’t ………..”

 

            “Cheap!” Anjali spat out. There was contempt in her eyes. “Cheap riffraff! That’s what you always were, Sanjiv. Get out you filthy blackmailer.” She threw the bundle of notes at me. It hit my chest and fell on the ground, the money scattering near my feet.

 

            “I love you, Anjali,” I said, trying to sound sincere.

 

            “Love,” she exclaimed, her radiating eyes burning with anger. “So you have come to see how your barren old flame is flourishing, isn’t it?” She paused and said sarcastically, “So you are pleased aren’t you? Happy to see my success?”

 

            Her sly and sarcastic suggestion that I might be happy at her misfortune hurt me more than anything else. I turned around and walked out of the house. As I walked towards the gate something hit me on my back. I winced in pain. The three volumes of the expensive Children’s Encyclopedia were scattered on the ground, their silver paper gift wrapper torn. I knew that Anjali was standing in the door looking at me. But I did not look back at her. I gathered the books and walked away into the darkness.

 

            As I gradually came into consciousness from my drunken stupor, I realized that I was in my bed. Though sunlight filtered in through the open windows, everything looked blurred. Slowly things began to come into focus.
 
           My daughter was sitting beside me on the bed. She touched my arm with tenderness. There were tears in her eyes.
 
           My son stood aloof on the other side of the bed. There was fear in his eyes.
 
           My wife looked at me with loving pity and said, “The children want to thank you for the lovely gift. They are so happy!” She was holding the set of encyclopedias in her hands.

          I smiled and reached out to them. They held my hands and smiled back. 

           I looked at the pure unadulterated joy in their eyes. For the first time in my life I experienced a deep genuine true love for my wife and children. A love which I had never felt before. 
          
           Tears of joy welled up in my eyes. I had discovered love.

           Yes, I had discovered the true meaning of love.

  

 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.

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