Posts Tagged ‘teen’

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

February 12, 2011

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

 

COCKTAIL – Short Stories about Relationships By VIKRAM KARVE

Dear Fellow Bloggers and Friends,
My book titled COCKTAIL – a collection of my fiction short stories is about to be published soon. I will let all of you know the moment it is ready and about the launch. I look forward to your patronage and encouragement. Here is the backcover blurb
Relationships are like cocktails.
Every relationship is a unique labyrinthine melange of emotions, shaken and stirred, and, like each cocktail, has a distinctive flavour and taste.
The twenty-seven stories in this collection explore fascinating aspects of modern day relationships – love, romance, sex, betrayal, marriage, parenting and even pet parenting.
You will relish reading these riveting cocktails of emotions narrated in easy engaging style and once you start reading you will find this delicious “cocktail” unputdownable.
Wish me luck
Vikram Karve
VIKRAM KARVE educated at IIT Delhi, ITBHU Varanasi, The Lawrence School Lovedale, and Bishop’s School Pune, is an Electronics and Communications Engineer by profession, a Human Resource Manager and Trainer by occupation, a Teacher by vocation, a Creative Writer by inclination and a Foodie by passion. An avid blogger, he has written a number of fiction short stories and creative non-fiction articles in magazines and journals for many years before the advent of blogging. He has written a foodie book Appetite For A Stroll and a book of fiction short stories COCKTAIL which is being published soon and is currently busy writing his first novel. Vikram lives in Pune with his family and pet Doberman girl Sherry, with whom he takes long walks thinking creative thoughts.
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Creative Writing by Vikram Karve: http://vikramkarve.sulekha.com/blog/posts.htm

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The Healthier Side

July 14, 2010

A YUMMY DATE

Short Fiction – A Breezy Romance

By

VIKRAM KARVE
She stands in front of the full-length mirror and looks at herself.

She cringes a bit, for she does not like what she sees.

The jeans make her look fat.

And the tight blue top – it’s all wrong!

So she wears a loose dress – Churidar, Kurta and Dupatta – to hide her bulges.

She looks at her new high-heels – should she? They’ll make her look tall, less fat.

No.

Not today.

Now it’s got to be walking shoes.

A brisk invigorating walk from Chowpatty to Churchgate rejuvenating her body breathing the fresh evening sea breeze on Marine Drive is what she needs to cheer her up.

She stands on the weighing machine at Churchgate station and, with a tremor of trepidation, puts in the coin.

Lights flash.

Out comes the ticket.

She looks at it.
Same as yesterday.
And the day before.
And the day before.
No change.
She is doomed.
There is never any change in her weight or in her fortune!
Her face falls.

She’s trying so much… exercising, dieting.
But it’s of no use… her weight, her size, remains the same…

She looks longingly at the Softy Ice Cream counter.

There is a smart young handsome man with two Ice Cream cones, one in each hand.

He looks at her for that moment longer than necessary.

She averts her eyes, but he walks up to her and says, “Hi! How are you?”

She looks at him confused.

His face seems vaguely familiar.

“You are Sheena’s roommate, aren’t you?” he asks.

She remembers him.

He is Sheena’s boyfriend from HR.

“Here,” he says, coming close, proffering an Ice Cream cone.

She steps back awkwardly, perplexed and taken aback by the man’s audacity.

“Take the ice cream fast. It’ll melt,” he says.

She hesitates, confused.

“Come on. Don’t be shy. I know you love Ice Cream. Sheena told me.”

She takes the Ice Cream cone from his hands.

“I’m Mohan. I work in HR.”

She doesn’t say anything.

“Let’s walk,” he says, “and hey, eat your ice cream fast before it melts”.

They start walking.

As they walk slowly out of Churchgate station towards Marine Drive, they slowly lick the creamy yummy softy ice cream off their cones.

“You walked all the way?” he asks.

“Yes,” she speaks for the first time.

“All alone?”

“Yes.”

“You come here every evening?”

“Yes. I jog every morning too.”

“All alone?”

“No. On other days we come together.”

“We?”

“Sheena and me.”

“And today?”

“Sheena’s gone out.”

“For the office party at the disc?”

“Maybe.”

“And you? Why didn’t you go for the party? Didn’t want to go all alone is it? No date?”

She’s furious.

But she controls herself.

She says nothing.

No point getting on the wrong side of HR.

He notices and says, “Hey, don’t get angry. I didn’t go the party too.”

She hastens her steps and says, “Okay. Bye. Time for me to go! And thanks for the Ice Cream.”

“No. No. Wait. Let’s have a Pizza over there,” he says pointing to the Pizzeria on Marine Drive by the sea.

“No. Please. I’ve got to go.”

“Come on. Don’t count your calories too much. And don’t weigh yourself every day.”

“What?” she goes red with embarrassment!

This is too much! So this guy has been stalking her – watching her every day.

Outwardly she fumes. But inside, she secretly feels a flush of excitement.

“Yes. Don’t get obsessed about your weight. Like Sheena.”

“Sheena?”

“She keeps nagging me about my weight?”

“But you’re not fat!” she says.

“Then what would you say I am?” he asks.
“Let’s say you’re on the healthier side?”

“Healthier side? That’s great!” he says amused. “Then you too are on the healthier side, aren’t you?”

“Oh yes. We both are on the healthier side.” She laughs.

He laughs.

They both laugh together.

Healthy laughter!

They sit in the sea breeze and relish, enjoy their pizzas.

He is easy to talk to, she has much to say, and the words come tumbling out.

And so they enjoy a ‘healthy’ date.

Relishing delicious Pizzas, and other lip smacking goodies, to their hearts’ content, capping the satiating repast with the heavenly ice creams at Rustom’s nearby.

“Where were you?”  Sheena asks when she returns to their room in the working women’s hostel late at night.

“I had a date.”

“You? Fatso? A date?”  Sheena says disbelievingly

“Yes. A yummy date at Churchgate.”

“A date at Churchgate? Wow! Things are looking up for you yaar!”

“Yes. Things are really looking up for me. And you Sheena? How was your date?”

“The whole evening was ruined. That creep Mohan. He stood me up. He didn’t turn up at the disc and kept his mobile off.”

“Mohan?”

“You’ve met him.”

“Mohan? You’ve not introduced me to any Mohan.”

“Of course I have. He’s come here to pick me up so many times. He comes over to meet me at our office too. He works in HR.”

“Oh the guy from HR. The chap on the healthier side! That’s your darling Mohan, is it?”

“Darling? My foot!” Sheena says angrily, “Bloody ditcher, that’s what that Mohan is – how dare he stand me up – to hell with him!” Sheena mutters and goes off to sleep.

But our heroine cannot sleep.

She eagerly waits for sunrise.

For at six in the morning her newfound beau Mohan has promised to meet her on Marine Drive opposite the Aquarium – for a “healthy’”jog on Marine Drive.

And they will be meeting in the evening too – at Churchgate – for ice cream, pizza and a yummy lovey-dovey date.

She feels happy, full of anticipation and zest.

Happiness is when you have something to look forward to.
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

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

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SHOULD I TELL HER…? Pure Romance

May 7, 2010

PURE ROMANCE

SHOULD I TELL HER…?

Short Fiction – A Love Story


By

VIKRAM KARVE

I love making love on a Sunday morning.

I make love to a beautiful woman on Sunday morning – yes, I make love to her with my eyes.

Here is how we make love.

Tell me, what does a beautiful woman do when a handsome young man looks at her in an insistent, lingering sort of way, which is worth a hundred compliments?

I’ll tell you what she does.

First, she realizes I am looking at her, then she accepts being looked at and finally she begins to look at me in return.

Suddenly her eyes become hard and she grills me with a stern stare that makes me uncomfortable.

Scared and discomfited, I quickly avert my eyes and try to disappear into the crowd. I feel ashamed of having eyed her so blatantly. ‘What will she think of me?’ I wonder.

But soon, by instinct and almost against my will, my eyes begin searching, trying to find her again.

Ah, there she is. She stands at the fruit-stall, buying fruit.

She is an exquisite beauty – tall, fair and freshly bathed, her luxuriant black hair flows down her back, her sharp features accentuated by the morning sun, her nose slightly turned up, so slender and transparent, as though accustomed to smelling nothing but perfumes.

I am mesmerized.

Never before had anyone evoked such a delightful tremor of thrilling sensation in me.

An unknown force propels me towards the fruit-stall. I stand near her and made pretence of choosing a papaya, trying to look at her with sidelong glances when I think she isn’t noticing.

She notices.

She looks at me.

Her eyes are extremely beautiful – enormous, dark, expressive.

Suddenly her eyes began to dance, and seeing the genuine admiration in my eyes, she gives me smile so captivating that I experience a delightful twinge in my heart.

She selects a papaya and extends her hands to give it to me.

Our fingers touch.

The feeling is electric. It is sheer ecstasy. I feel so good that I wish time would stand still.

I can’t begin to describe the sensation I feel deep within me.

I try to smile.

She communicates an unspoken good-bye with her eyes and briskly walks away.

Three months have passed. She has never misses her Sunday morning love date with me, same time, same place, every Sunday – at precisely Seven o’clock in the morning.

But, my dear Reader, do you know that not a word has been exchanged between us.

We just make love every Sunday morning using the language of our eyes and part with an unspoken good-bye.

Once I was slightly late for our rendezvous.

I could see her eyes desperately searching for me.

And when her eyes found me, her eyes danced with delight, and began making love to my eyes.

Tell me, is there any love making that can surpass our fascinating alluring love making?

It feels like the supreme bliss of non-alcoholic intoxication.

Should I speak to her?

I do not know.

Why doesn’t she speak to me?

I do not know.

Does one have to speak to express love?

Are words from the mouth the only way to communicate love?

Maybe we both want our beautiful romance to remain this way.

Our silent love making with our eyes – so lovely, so esoteric, so exquisite, so pristine, so divine, so fragile, so delicate, so sensitive, so delicately poised.

Just one word would spoil everything, destroy our enthralling state of trancelike bliss, bring everything crashing down from supreme ecstasy to harsh ground reality.

I think it’s best to let our exquisite Sunday morning love making go on for ever and ever, till eternity.

What do you feel, Dear Reader?

How long should we go on making love like this?

Tell me, should I make a move, talk to her, break the spell…?

Tell me, My Dear Reader…Should I tell her…?

I’ll do exactly as you say.

Till then, I will make love to the beautiful woman every Sunday morning – yes, I’ll make love to her with my eyes.

PURE ROMANCE

SHOULD I TELL HER…?

Short Fiction – A Love 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.

http://vikramkarve.sulekha.com

vikramkarve@sify.com

The Third Slap – Fiction Short Story – A Romance

May 4, 2010

THE THIRD SLAP

Pure Fiction – Pulp Fiction – Junk Fiction

A Comical Story – A Tall Story — A Yarn

By

VIKRAM KARVE

Dear Reader, I urge you not to read this story.

I think it is one of my worst stories – an example of my inchoate and amateurish attempts at creative writing.

I wrote this rubbish sometime in the 1990’s, I think, when you travelled to Goa by those delightful metre-gauge trains winding their way down from Londa past the cascading Dudhsagar falls to Vasco.

I wonder what genre one can call this. Pulp Fiction…?

Maybe ‘Junk Fiction’ is more apt…!

I’ve warned you…

Now, if you still want to read this bizarre, preposterous story, go ahead, do so at your own peril.

Have a laugh … and don’t forget the brickbats (or the bouquets) …

As always, I value your feedback and comments.

PART 1 – THE FIRST SLAP

I looked thoughtfully, with nostalgia and pride, at the words inscribed on the brass plaque I held in my hand:

“The first time you slap me it is your fault…

The second time you slap me it is my fault…”

This engraved plaque was the only item I had brought with me from my old office in Pune. I had now made it big time. A top job in a prestigious firm in Bangalore .

I gave the brass plaque to Suhas and told him to hang it on the wall. For added effect, I loudly recited the words – a Chinese proverb – again and again.

The first impression is a lasting one. I wanted to project myself as a tough guy, and had dramatically succeeded. I had totally intimidated Suhas into submission. He had never expected that I would order him to drive me from the airport straight to office on a Sunday, get the office opened, and brief me in detail.

Suhas had been one of the aspirants for the chair I was sitting on; now he would be my deputy. If he was disappointed at not being promoted, he did not show it. After all, he had worked for ten years in the same firm and surely did not like an outsider like me thrust upon him.

As I stroked my beard, I looked appraisingly at Suhas. True to his name he had a sweet pleasant smile. But he looked a weakling – one of those suave, slimy, effeminate characters that adorn the corporate world – a soft-spoken, clean-shaven, ingratiating sissy with an almost feminine voice and carefully cultivated mannerisms as if he had been trained in a finishing school. Suhas had no masculinity, no manliness about him. He was one of those cissy types who were bullied and ragged at school and college. In my mind’s eye I smiled to myself at my excellent assessment.

Suhas handed me an invitation card and stammered, “Sir, an invitation for the New Year Eve party tonight.”

I was genuinely pleased and gave him an appreciative smile. In my euphoria I had almost forgotten the date.

Eager-Beaver and sycophant that he was, Suresh had organized a partner for me. Anita. A young executive anxious to please the boss. Anita was openly showing her willingness to get involved with me. A pity. I was not interested. She was not my type of woman. Anita was one of those synthetic beauties; pleasing to look at but not exciting to embrace. Dainty, delicate, perfectly poised, petite, precise, prim and proper. Her make-up perfect and exact, she looked like an artificial doll – optimally designed, precisely engineered and finished to perfection. Her actions appeared carefully contrived; there was no spontaneity about her. That vital spark of sensuality was missing. I could see that she had titivated for me, but I was not titillated. I liked voluptuous, sensual, earthy women – the rough-and-ready kind. As we danced she pressed against me in desperate appeal. I was not stirred. She was too simulated to stimulate me.

I signaled to Suhas who rescued me. I picked up a drink and took up a strong tactical position with my back to the wall. I looked at Anita – Good from Far, but, Far from Good. I smiled to myself. I sipped my drink, lit a cigarette, and looked at the entrance.

I saw her almost at once. She radiated an extraordinary sensuousness of a degree I had never experienced before. The impact was so overwhelming that I was instantly aroused and consumed with desire. She could not have made her body more inviting. There was nothing delicate about her. Plump and lusty, she oozed raw sexuality. I ached with desire and drank her in with my eyes insatiably.

“Enjoying the party, Sir” Suhas had followed my transfixed gaze and guessed what was on my mind. “That dish is Menaka. She’s a hot-shot executive in our main competitor. Let me formally introduce you.”

“No,” I said, “not now.”

Politeness is a pleasant way for a man to get nowhere with a woman.

Suhas got the hint and left me alone. My hungry eyes locked on to Menaka. I was feasting my eyes on her captivating face when she suddenly turned and glanced at me. Our eyes met. She looked at me for that moment longer, and with a curious smile, she turned back to her group.

I kept my eyes on her, looking steadily and directly; trying to transmit and project my thought-waves of passionate yearning. She adjusted her stance slightly, probably to observe me through the corner of her eye. Her gestures indicated that I had succeeded in disturbing the equilibrium of her personal inner comfort zone. I was thrilled with anticipation.

Suddenly she excused herself from her group, walked towards a secluded corner, turned and looked directly towards me. She held my gaze in a kind of challenge, there was a lengthy pause, and then she smiled. There was a conspiratorial look in her expressive eyes; at once inviting and taunting. She teased me with her eyes. My stimulus had evoked a response.

Encouraged by her enthusiastic response, I indulged myself lavishly. I made love to her with my eyes. She responded with unrestrained zeal; exhilaration pouring out of her eyes. As our mutual visual interplay became intense, I could clearly decipher the language in her eyes. I did not require the power of clairvoyance to look into the province of her mind; to read her thoughts. I boldly walked up to her and asked her for a dance. As I led her onto the dance-floor, I realized that every man, who was a man, was hungrily ogling at her. I felt the natural pride of possession that any man feels when he has the company of a woman that other men desire.

We danced continuously, without break. I held her tightly. She let her body rub against mine. Suddenly, the lights went off. Someone announced, “One minute left for the New Year.”

It was pitch-dark. The dance-floor was packed with bodies. I locked Menaka in a passionate embrace. Intoxicated by the aroma of her natural scent, I caressed her neck with my tongue. Her skin was moist with sweat. She sighed and her breathing became heavy and rapid. I kissed her warm mouth, a fervent passionate kiss. She kissed me back, most eagerly and amorously. As our tongues intertwined I could taste the fresh flavour of her mouthwash mixed with her hot saliva. We were luxuriating in a wave of sensuality which had engulfed us when the lights were suddenly switched on. Everyone seemed to have gone berserk – shouting “Happy New Year” at the top of their voices, and hooters, whistles, horns, drums, shouts raising the noise level to a deafening din.

“Happy New Year,” it was Suhas. He was quite drunk. Anita was standing next to him – her hurt evident in her eyes.

Before I realized it, Menaka had quickly disengaged and walked away. I was too confused to react. Anita pulled me to dance. She still hadn’t given up hopes. I kissed her on the cheeks, wished her a Happy New Year, and joined in the merrymaking. It was only after a considerable amount of time that I noticed that Suhas had disappeared.

It took me a week to sink my teeth into my new assignment. I worked hard. My first vital challenge was to win a huge software development contract with a multinational company. It was a prestigious contract. A large number of firms would be vying for it. It was imperative that I succeeded in winning it – to establish my credentials and prove my worth. The primary reason I had been appointed to the top post was owing to my expertise and track record in this area. My professional reputation was at stake. By the end of the week I had my proposal ready. I kept just one hard copy – no soft copies – for I believe that one should not store anything in a computer that one cannot display on a public notice board.

But my being busy at work was not the only reason that I had not contacted Menaka. I had not forgotten the sensuality of her body. During nights, as I lay awake in bed, I desperately yearned for her and I felt like a volcano without eruption.

I purposely did not make the first move. I didn’t want her to think I was desperate and grovel before her. I had ardently communicated my unspoken intentions to her on New Year’s Eve – if she wanted me, she’d contact me.

One day, while I was working in my plush office, suddenly my phone rang. It was Menaka. I felt a tremor of anticipation. She invited me to lunch at a nearby restaurant. I accepted.

Menaka was waiting for me outside the restaurant. She was dressed in a full-sleeved blouse and a heavy formal blue silk sari. It was hot. The fabric of her blouse around her armpits was wet with sweat. She looked and smelt natural. No attempt to camouflage her raw steamy sensuousness behind the synthetic mask of make-up and deodorants. Raw steamy sensuousness – that’s what I liked about her. It stimulated me and attracted me towards her.

As we sipped chilled beer, I found that she was easy to talk to. I had a strange feeling of elation. In these moods there was so much to say, the words simply came tumbling out. I told her everything about myself. In hindsight, I realize that she hardly told me anything about herself.

We met often during the next few days, arranging rendezvous in restaurants and our club. She tantalized me. But she did not let me go all the way. A bit of petting, necking, fondling, caressing, hugging, kissing, cuddling – it was okay. But there she drew the line. She never invited me home nor talked about her personal things. At first I was patient. No point hurrying up or forcing things. I did not want to lose her. There is a time to let things happen and a time to make things happen. I thought I would let things happen. But the more I met her, the more the desire began building up in me. The time had come to make things happen. I was wondering what strategy I should adopt when Suhas interrupted me, “Drying a divorcee’s tears is one of the most dangerous pastimes known to man.”

I tried to hide my surprise and regain my composure. I certainly wasn’t interested in drying Menaka’s tears!

“I didn’t know she is a divorcee,” I said truthfully. “In any case it’s a purely platonic friendship.”

“All such platonic relationships have a potential to culminate into affairs,” Suhas pontificated.

I was getting angry now. Surely I didn’t need a lecture on how to handle women from this prissy effeminate sissy.

He sensed my feelings and pleaded, “The office grapevine is pulsating with juicy rumors about your romance with Menaka. Such liaisons can be dangerous. She is working for our rival firm which is competing for the vital contract.”

This was news to me. Menaka hadn’t mentioned the contract. I looked innocently at Suhas. I would have to be careful with this Nosey Parker around.

One evening I was stunned when Menaka suddenly walked into my office. I had not bargained for this unexpected situation at all. It was one thing to meet Menaka in some restaurant or club. It was quite another thing to have her show up bold as brass at my office; it was embarrassing and downright dangerous.

“Don’t worry, everyone has gone home,” Menaka said and came around my desk and stood close to me. I was sitting on my swivel-chair working on the computer. I swiveled my chair around. Her silky smooth stomach was inches from my face. I sensed the beginnings of the experience which had been eluding me. I was tremendously excited, yet frightened. Even the improbability of the situation made me slightly incredulous and cautious. But I could not control myself and animal instinct took charge of me. I clasped her hips and buried my face in her stomach, and we both were going wildly berserk when suddenly the door opened and Suhas walked in.

A few moments later, as I sat in Suhas’s office trying to regain my composure, I realized that Suhas had not spoken a word, and was totally ignoring me. He was sitting quietly, ostensibly engrossed in work. The nuance wasn’t lost on me.

I had left Menaka in my office to tidy up. I wondered what effect this episode would have on her.

Suddenly an ominous thought entered my mind and I was overcome by a strange foreboding. I rushed to my office. Menaka had disappeared. I yanked open my desk drawer. I broke into cold sweat. My premonition had come true – the vital file was missing.

Disgraced, and accused of moral turpitude and disloyalty, I resigned my job and left Bangalore forever, under a cloud of shame, a discredited man.

Needless to say, Suhas walked into my job.

PART2 – THE SECOND SLAP

But I was not one to wallow in despondency for long. I put the episode behind me and went on a sabbatical. Interestingly, I found my true métier in the world of academics. I bounced back into life with vigor and zeal. I started teaching and, in a couple of years, was heading my own computer training institute.

Five years later, I stood on the platform of Pune Railway Station and scanned the passenger list on the reservation chart. No matter how many times I begin a train journey; there is always an intriguing interest in seeing who one’s follow-passengers are. I was on berth number 27. Berth number 28 was reserved in the name of a Mrs. M. Rao, Age 35. All others in the vicinity were males. A disappointment. I always wondered why all the good chicks were in other trains, other compartments. Let’s hope this Mrs. Rao was worth a look, at least.

When Mrs. Rao entered and sat down opposite me, I was dumbstruck.

It was Menaka.

She gave me a warm smile and started talking of me as if she were expecting me. Her behaviour was natural, as if she had fixed up a rendezvous with me here on the train. No guilt, no regret, no remorse. There was absolutely no trace of surprise at seeing me evident on her face. She had blossomed. Her beauty had enhanced with age.

“I was looking forward to meeting you,” she said looking directly into my eyes. “It’s good they organized the seminar in Goa . We shall enjoy ourselves. And, of course, finish our unfinished business. It’s so exciting!”

I couldn’t believe my ears and cannot begin to describe my emotions I felt. At once, I hated her for the way she had played with me, used me, and tossed me by the wayside; at the same time she evoked within me the familiar stirrings of passion. But I knew it was dangerous, so I decided to steer clear of her – once bitten, twice shy

I avoided talking to Menaka, snubbed her when she tried to start a conversation, pretended to read and we traveled in silence on the broad-gauge train from Pune to Miraj, where we would change over to the connecting metre-gauge express to Goa . Hopefully, Menaka would get seat away from me.

In the evening, just before Miraj, the train conductor arrived and said, “There is no air-conditioned service on the metre-gauge overnight train from Miraj to Vasco Da Gama. You will have to travel first class.”

“Both of us are together. Give us a coupe,” Menaka said.

I was tongue-tied.

“Yes, Madam. Coach F-1, coupe compartment D,” the train conductor gave me a canny look, and said in railway lingo, “This train reaches Miraj at 2000 hrs. The connecting train leaves at 2030.”

Menaka sat down close to me on the berth of the coupe of the metre-gauge train. The compartment’s smallness forced us into such an intimacy that I could not control myself when she made her move.

She made love to me with a professional’s skill and an amateur’s enthusiasm. Making love in a speeding metre-gauge train was an awesome experience. As the train rocked and sped through the night, we went crazy with passion, and she did not let me rest, but brought me back to her each time I tried to slide away from her, exhausted.

In the next two weeks, I realized the wildest of my fantasies with her. We made love to each other in all possible ways, at all possible places.

Later, as I lay next to her on the wet sand in a secluded corner of the beach, intoxicated with ‘feni’, I felt exhausted, drained and gratified. “Enough is enough”, I said to myself and I decided to leave quietly next morning.

Six months later I had a surprise visitor. Anita. She had a parcel for me. I opened it. There was a ‘Thank-you’ card from Menaka. There was also the brass plaque with the Chinese proverb which I had forgotten in my Bangalore office. I was baffled, nonplussed.

“Tell me Anita, who is this Rao that Menaka remarried. Or is it her first husband’s surname. Or maiden name.”

Anita burst out laughing, “She married Suhas. Suhas Rao. Your ex-deputy. Have you forgotten him?”

I felt angry, betrayed. Suhas Rao. That effete womanish softy. He was hardly man enough for her. What a mismatch. She needed a real man; a strong, virile, potent man like me.

Seeing the look on my face, Anita spoke quickly, “Suhas and Menaka got married soon after you left. Now they have set up their own firm. I work for them.” She abruptly stopped speaking. I could sense her hesitation. But I wanted to know why Menaka had sent Anita to me. It was an intriguing mystery.

“Go on,” I said. “Tell me everything.”

Anita gave me a curious look and said, “Menaka is pregnant. For the first time. She was trying desperately all these years. I am so happy for her. The baby is due in another three months time.”

Comprehension dawned on me pretty fast. Anita need not have spelt it out to me. I did not know whether to laugh or to cry. Menaka had used me again, for the second time, to realize her goal and then cast me aside. She had “slapped” me again!

But was it a slap? Had she slapped me for the second time? I don’t know. I truly don’t know. And I don’t care. I picked up the brass plaque and read the proverbial words written on it:

“The first time you slap me it is your fault…

The second time you slap me it is my fault…”

Then I looked at the brass plaque nostalgically for one last time and tossed it out of the window. No more proverbs for me.

“Convey my congratulations and best wishes to Menaka,” I said genuinely to Anita. “Tell her I am eagerly waiting for the next rendezvous with her. Whenever she wants me, wherever she wants me, any time, any place, I’ll be there at her service.”

Ten years have passed since – ten long years. Often I think of Menaka, yearn for her, and wonder when I am going to have my next rendezvous with her. Yes, I eagerly await the “third slap…”

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.

MELTING MOMENTS Fiction Short Story – A Passionate Romance

December 14, 2009

MELTING MOMENTS

Fiction Short Story – A Passionate Romance
By

VIKRAM KARVE

Jayashree entered my life the moment I saw her photograph on Sanjay’s desk.

And my life changed forever!

Till that moment, I had never wanted anything belonging to anyone else.

I stared transfixed at her photo, enthralled, totally captivated by her beauty.

“Sir, this is Jayashree, my wife!” Sanjay said, getting up form the swivel chair.

He picked up the framed photograph and showed it to me.

I took her picture in my hand and looked intently at her, totally mesmerized.

What a stunning beauty!

Never before had the mere sight of a woman aroused such strong passions, and a yearning desire in me to this extent.

Sanjay was talking something, but it didn’t register.

I hastily said, “Cute!” for I believe that thoughts can transmit themselves if they are strong enough!

I thought Sanjay seemed just a trifle taken aback, but he smiled, and pulled out a photo-album from the drawer.

He began showing me the photographs and started describing his home, his family, his wedding, his honeymoon – the wonderful days they had spent together in Goa.

I took the album from him and looked at a photograph of Jayashree in a bathing suit which was so revealing that she might as well have worn nothing, but she conveyed such innocence that it was obvious that she had no inkling of this.

She looked ravishing. Absolutely Breathtaking! Her exquisite body was boldly outlined under the flimsy fabric and she radiated a tantalizing sensuousness with such fervour that I could not take my eyes off her.

“Cute,” I instinctively and unthinkingly said again, and bit my lip; it was the wrong word, but Sanjay didn’t seem to mind; he didn’t even seem to be listening.

Dear Reader, before I proceed further with my story, let me tell you something about myself.

My name is Vijay. At the time of this story I was the Master of a merchant ship – an oil tanker. Sanjay was my Chief Officer – my number two!

He had joined recently and it was our first sailing together.

I had not met him earlier, but in due course he proved to be an excellent deputy. He was young, just thirty, he ran the ship efficiently and I liked him for his good qualities.

But there was something in his eyes that I could not fathom. I shut my mind to it.

It’s extraordinary how close you can be to a man and still know nothing about him.

Sometimes I wondered whether he was much more naïve or a lot more shrewd than I thought.

“Captain, may I ask you a personal question?’ Sanjay asked me one evening, the first time we went ashore.

“Sure,” I said.

“Captain, I was wondering, why didn’t you get married so far?”  Sanjay said with childlike candour.

I sipped my drink and smiled, “I don’t really know. Maybe I am not marriage-material.”

“You tried?”

“Yes.”

“You loved someone?”

I didn’t answer.

And as I thought about it, I felt depressed.

Life was passing me by.

I looked around the restaurant.

The atmosphere was gloomy-dark and quiet. It was late; almost midnight.

Sanjay offered me a cigarette.

His hands were unsteady.

He seemed to be quite drunk.

As we smoked, he lapsed into silence – his eyes closed.

When he opened his eyes, I observed a strange metamorphosis in his expression.

He looked crestfallen; close to tears.

Suddenly, he blurted out, “I wish I had never got married.”

With those few words, Sanjay had bared the secret of his marriage.

As I attempted to smoothen my startled look into a grin, I was ashamed to find that, inwardly, I was glad to hear of his misfortune.

I wondered how I could desire and yearn for Jayashree to this extent without ever having met her in flesh and blood, merely by seeing her photograph?

But it is true; my heart ached whenever I thought of her.

We sailed from Chennai port next morning, and headed for Singapore.

It was the monsoon season and the sea was rough.

As the voyage progressed, the weather swiftly deteriorated.

The ship rolled and pitched feverishly, tossed about by the angry waves.

As we neared the Strait of Malacca, I began to experience a queer sensation – a strange foreboding.

Though I was moulded in a profession where intellect habitually meets danger, I felt restless and apprehensive. I had felt and fought occasional fear before, but this was different – a premonition – a nameless type of fright; a strange feeling of dread and uneasiness.

I tried my best to dispel my fear, thrust away the strange feelings. But all my efforts failed. The nagging uneasiness persisted and soon took charge of me.

It was so dark that I couldn’t even see our ship’s forecastle. The incessant rain and treacherous sea created an eerie atmosphere. I was close to panic as we negotiated the treacherous and hazardous waters of the Strait.

As I stared into the pitch blackness which shrouded the hour moments before the breaking of dawn, a strange tocsin began sounding in my brain – a warning I could not fathom.

The ship was pitching violently. I felt sick with fear and stood gasping for air, clutching the telegraph. I had to get outside, into the fresh air, or I’d suffocate.

As I groped my way along the rail in the bridge-wing, I heard a shrill voice behind me, “Don’t go away, Captain! Please stay. I can’t handle it alone. I can’t. Please, Sir. Don’t go!”

I turned around. It was Sanjay. He looked at me beseechingly with terror and fright in his eyes.

It penetrated to me in flash of revelation what I’d done.

I had transmitted my own fear into my crew. Sanjay was the Chief Officer. For him, to confess in front of the crew, that he could not handle it, brought home to me the fact of how desperate he was.

I had to take control at once.” You are not supposed to handle it as long as I’m around,” I shouted. “Go down to your cabin and catch up on your sleep. I don’t want passengers on the bridge. Get out from here.”

The moment those words left my mouth, I instantly regretted what I had said; but it was too late now. Sanjay was close to tears, humiliated in front of the crew. He shamefacedly left the bridge and went down to his cabin.

Suddenly, a searchlight was switched on, dead ahead. Instinctively I shouted an order to the quartermaster to swing the ship across the ship across to starboard. I crossed my fingers, desperately praying to avoid a collision. It was a near-miss, but the searchlight kept following our sheer to starboard.

I was angry now. I stopped the engines, picked up the loudhailer, rushed out the bridge-wing, leaned over, and shouted, “You stupid fools. Are you crazy? What the hell do you think you are doing?”

“We are in distress,” a voice answered. “Throw us a rope.”

I called the boatswain and told him to throw over the monkey-ladder. “Be careful, and report quickly,” I told him.

Ten minutes must have passed but there was no report. The silence was disquieting, ominous. I decided to go to the deck.

Before I could move, four men entered the bridge. They were wearing hoods. As I started at the nozzle of a carbine pointed at me, comprehensive dawned on me pretty fast. This was piracy on the high seas.

Incredible, but true, I had never imagined it would happen to me.

Undecided as to my next move, I stood there feeling far from heroic. There was no question of resistance. After all, this was a merchant ship, not a man-o’-war. Saving the lives of the crew was of paramount importance. The man pointing the carbine at me said softly, “Captain, we are taking over. Don’t try anything foolish. Tell the crew.”

Suddenly, there was deep shuddering sound followed by a deafening roar. The ship rose on top of a steep quivering hill and slithered down its slope. There was a resounding thud followed by reverberating screeching vibrations. We had run aground.

Suddenly the ship lurched wildly, throwing everyone off-balance. Sanjay suddenly appeared out of nowhere, made a running dive and grabbed the carbine from the pirate.

It happened too quickly, and so unexpectedly that I was totally dumbstruck. Everyone seemed to have opened fire. Bullets wildly straddled the bridge.

There was pandemonium, as crew members joined the melee, grappling with the pirates. I hit the deck and froze.

I don’t know who pulled me up, but by then everything was calm and quit. “The pirates have been overpowered,” said the boatswain, “but the Chief Officer ……….”

I followed his gaze.

Sanjay lay on the deck, in a pool of blood.

I knelt down beside him.

His face was vacant, but he tried to focus his eyes on me, whimpering, “Jayashree, Jayashree…” I shook him, he tried to get up, but slumped back – Sanjay was dead!

Six months later I knocked on a door.

There was long wait.

Then Jayashree opened the door.

Her gorgeously stunning dazzling face took my breath away.

She was even more beautiful than her photographs.

Dressed in white sari, she looked so proud in her grief that I felt embarrassed.

I had myself not yet recovered from the shock of Sanjay’s sudden death.

I said, awkwardly, “I am Captain Vijay.”

She looked directly into my eyes and said, “So I see.” Her dark eyes were hostile.

“I am sorry about what happened. Sanjay was a brave man, and we are all proud to have known him.” My words sounded insincere and I felt acutely uncomfortable.

“Proud!” she exclaimed, her magnificent eyes flashing. “Some people might feel grateful, especially those whose life he saved.”

I was stunned by the sting of her bitterness.

Never had I felt such a burning shame; the shame of being held responsible for someone’s death.

I looked at Jayashree helplessly, pleading innocence, but it was of no use.

It was hopeless now to try and explain.

The hurt was deep, and I had to let it go in silence.

Jayashree excused herself, turned and went inside.

It was then that I remembered the real reason for my visit.

I wanted to hand over what remained of Sanjay’s personal effects; an unfinished letter, a dairy, a framed photograph.

I would first give Jayashree the unfinished letter.

Once she read the letter – probably then she would understand the real reason for Sanjay’s reckless bravery, his suicidal heroics; his desperate concern about proving his masculinity.

When Jayashree returned, she was composed.

I gave her Sanjay’s unfinished letter.

She took the letter in her dainty hands and started reading it.

As she silently read on, I saw tears well up in her eyes.

I do not know whether I did the right thing by giving her Sanjay’s unfinished letter.

Probably it would have been wiser to destroy the letter and the diary – better to leave things unspoken and unhealed.

But I had thought it would be better to exorcise the sense of guilt and shame.

Better for me.

Better for Jayashree.

Best for both of us.

It was not easy, but we both had to come to terms with ourselves.

Jayashree finished reading the letter and looked at me, her eyes cold.

I looked at Jayashree, deep into her intoxicating eyes, and she looked into my eyes too.

We looked into each other, transfixed, in silence, a deafening silence.

And suddenly Jayashree’s frozen eyes melted and she smiled.

MELTING MOMENTS

Fiction Short Story – A Passionate Romance
By

VIKRAM KARVE

Copyright © Vikram Karve 2009

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


vikramkarve@sify.com

http://vikramkarve.sulekha.com

Rendezvous at Sunrise

December 11, 2009

I am feeling nostalgic. So here is my first creative baby – a fiction short story written by me more than twenty years ago. It is a simple love story. I am sure you will love reading it, even if you have read it earlier in my blog.

RENDEZVOUS AT SUNRISE

By

VIKRAM KARVE

Sunrise, on the eastern coast, is a special event.

I stood at Dolphin’s Nose, a spur jutting out in to the Bay of Bengal, to behold the breaking of the sun’s upper limb over the horizon of the sea.

As the eastern sky started unfolding like crimson petals of a gigantic flower, I was overcome by a wave of romance and nostalgia – vivid memories, not diminished by the fact that almost ten years had passed.

I was a young bachelor then, and Vizag (Visakhapatnam) did not have much to offer.

Every Sunday morning, I used to rise before dawn and head for Dolphin’s Nose to enjoy the resplendent spectacle of sun majestically rising out of the sea.

The fresh salty sea breeze was a panacea for all the effects of the hangover caused by Saturday night excesses.

After the viewing the metamorphosis at sunrise, I used to walk downhill along the steep mountain-path towards the rocky beach for a brief swim.

I used to notice a flurry of activity at a distance, in the compound of a decrepit building, which I used to ignore, but curious, one day I decided to have a closer look.

It was a fish market.

Most of the customers were housewives from the nearby residential complexes who were in their “Sunday-worst” – sans make-up, slovenly dressed, face unwashed and unkempt hair – what a contrast from their carefully decked-up appearances at the club the previous evening.

I began to walk away, quite dejected, when I first saw her.

I stopped in my tracks.

She was a real beauty – tall, fair and freshly bathed, her long lustrous hair dancing on her shoulders.

She had large expressive brown eyes and her sharp features were accentuated by the rays of the morning Sun.

I cannot begin to describe the sensation she evoked in me but it was the first time in my life that I felt my heart ache with intense yearning.

I knew this was love.

But I knew in my heart that I stood no chance – she had a mangalsutra around her neck.

She was married – maybe happily too.

Nevertheless I went close to her and made her pretense of buying some fish.

Smiling cannily at me she selected a couple of pomfrets and held them out to me.

I managed to briefly touch her soft hands – the feeling was electric and a shiver of thrill passed through me.

She communicated an unspoken good-bye with her teasing dancing eyes and briskly walked away.

I was too delightfully dazed to follow her.

I returned to my room and had fried pomfret for breakfast. Needless to say they were delicious.

I religiously followed this routine every Sunday morning.

She never missed her rendezvous with me – same place, same time, at precisely Seven o’clock in the morning.

But not a word was exchanged between us.

I was too shy and she probably wanted to keep it this way – a beautiful ethereal relationship – a love so delicate that one wrong move might destroy everything.

Meanwhile, I have developed a taste for fried pomfret – quite creditable, considering that I had never eaten fish before.

I left Vizag and traveled around the world, met so many beautiful girls in the numerous exotic places I visited, but I never forgot her.

A man’s first love always has an enduring place in his heart.

And now I was back in Vizag almost ten years later.

As I walked down the slope towards the beach, in my mind’s eye I could still vividly visualize the playfully sublime look on her face – her gentle smile and communicative eyes – although ten years had passed.

I could not contain the mounting excitement and anticipation in me. I was desperately yearning to see her again. It was a forlorn hope but I was flushed with optimism.

As I reached the beach I noticed that the Sun was well clear of the horizon.

I glanced at my watch. It was almost Seven O’clock.

I hastened my step – almost broke in to a run – and reached the fish market and stood exactly at the same spot where we used to have our rendezvous at sunrise.

With tremors of anticipation, almost trepidation, I looked around with searching eyes.

Nothing had changed. The scene was exactly the same as I had left it ten years ago.

Only one thing was missing – she wasn’t there.

I had drawn a blank.

I was crestfallen.

My mind went blank and I was standing vacuously when suddenly I felt that familiar electrifying touch, the same shiver of thrill.

It shook me to reality, as quick as lighting.

She softly put two promfret fish in my hands.

I was in seventh heaven.

I looked at her.

I was not disappointed.

Her beauty had enhanced with age.

But something had changed.

Yes, it was in her eyes.

Her large brown eyes did not teasingly dance anymore.

There was a trace of sadness, a tender poignancy in her liquid brown eyes as she bid me an unspoken goodbye.

I was so dumbstruck by the suddenness of the event, and the enormity of the moment, that I stood frozen, like a statue, unable to react or to say anything.

It was only as she was leaving that I noticed that there was no mangalsutra around her slender neck.

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

I AM FEELING GOOD – Pure Romance

November 22, 2009

I AM FEELING GOOD

 

Short Fiction   –   Pure Romance   –   A Love Story

 

By 

 

VIKRAM KARVE

 

Dear Reader, it is a cold morning and during my morning walk this story, one of my earliest writings, suddenly came to my mind and then perambulated in me. It made me feel good. I am sure it will make you feel good too!

 

 

I felt good.

 

My eyes feasted on the snow-clad Himalayan Mountain peaks painted honey-gold by the first rays of sunlight.

 

Behind me, deep down, was the resplendent Doon valley.

 

I breathed in slowly, mouth and nose together, relishing the pure, cold, nourishing mountain air.

 

I felt on top of the world, literally and figuratively, as I stood high in the middle of nowhere on a refreshingly cold bright morning, undecided what I was going to do, or where I was going to go.

 

What greater freedom than not having anything to do or anywhere to go!

 

I felt I was flying like a bird in the sky, with no one to take my freedom away.

 

“Something exciting is going to happen today,” said a tingling sensation within me, as if I were on the top of a high roller-coaster ready to plunge into unknown depths.

 

Suddenly, at the spur of the moment I decided to visit Victor, and with a spring in my step started walking towards Landour.

 

“Who’s Piyu ?” I asked Victor, picking up and opening the book lying on the bedside table.

 

“Piyu?” Victor said, his voice feigning ignorance but his eyes gave him away.

 

“Yes. Piyu! It’s written here in this book‘ To my darling Victor, with fond memories of those wonderful moments at Port Blair. Love Piyu ‘ And Wow! Look at the lovely cursive feminine handwriting. So delicate. If her handwriting is so beautiful, she must be really gorgeous. A real beauty! Tell me. Who is she?” I asked teasingly.

 

“Shalini, you shouldn’t pry into others’ private matters,” Victor said.

 

“Private ? This is no personal dairy. It’s ‘Selected Stories of Anton Chekhov’. I’m taking it to read.”

 

“No,” Victor shouted and started to move his wheelchair towards me.

 

I know I had touched a raw nerve.

 

“I’m sorry,” I said and gave him the book.

 

He opened it and stared at Piyu’s handwriting.

 

“I thought there were no secrets between us,” I said.

 

“There aren’t,” he said.

 

“Except Piyu?”

 

“Please Shalu…….”

 

“You want to tell me about her?”

 

“Okay,” Victor said. And then he told me. About Piyu. And him. And their days in Port Blair. Maybe not everything. But whatever he wanted to tell me, he told me.

 

“Piyu ? A funny name?” I said.

 

“That’s what I called her. Like you call me Victor.”

 

I left it at that and said, “Now there are no secrets between us?”

 

“No! Now there are no secrets between us!” Victor said and gave me the book, “Read it, Shalu. There’s a story called ‘The Darling’. You’re just like the heroine. Always trying to mother me.”

 

“That’s because you are a naughty boy,” I teased.

 

“Naughty boy? I’m almost an old man. You should play with girls of your own age.”

 

“Play? You think I’m a small kid to play Barbie Doll? And you’re not that old either. You are just thirty.”

 

“I am twice your age.”

 

“Girls mature faster,” I said. “And your mental age is the same as mine.”

 

“Come on. You’re just a kid compared to me. I am a man of the world with a lot of experiences.”

 

“Like Piyu ………” I bit my tongue and said, “I’m sorry.”

 

“Piyu is a closed chapter,” Victor said.

 

“I’ve forgotten her,” I said “Piyu will never come between us again.”

 

“Promise?”

 

“I Promise.”

 

“Shalu, why don’t you come to meet me more often?” Victor asked.

 

“I don’t want to disturb you too much,” I replied.

 

“Disturb me?” he smiled. “It is impossible to disturb me. You see, I never do anything. Every day is a holiday for me, from morning to night, from the moment I get up to the moment I sleep, there is nothing to do, nothing to look forward to…”

 

“Don’t speak like that,” I said.

 

“Okay. But please come more often, Shalu. You make me feel good.”

 

“You too make me feel good!” I said.

 

It was true.

 

Talking to someone who needs comforting seems to make one’s own troubles go away.

 

“I’ll come on Wednesday. We’ve got a holiday,” I said.

 

“Promise?”

 

“Yes. We’ll discuss Anton Chekhov,” I said holding up the book.

 

“The Darling?”

 

“The Darling!” I said.

 

“Okay. Bye. Take care,” he said and lovingly looked at me as I began to walk away.

 

Victor had come into my life on a cold and rainy evening just a few months back.

 

I had slipped and fractured my leg playing basketball. It was a simple fracture.

 

Victor was convalescing from a severe injury to both his legs. His was a complex case, and for months he was confined to a wheelchair not knowing whether or when he would be able to walk again.

 

Actually, his name wasn’t Victor – he was Vivek – but everyone called him Victor, so I too started calling him Victor.

 

At first I called him Victor uncle. But as our friendship grew, somewhere on the way, the ‘uncle’ dropped. And now there were no secrets between us.

 

On Tuesday evening I rushed to see Victor bunking the self-study period.

 

“A clandestine visit,” I joked.

 

“Better be careful, Shalu. If your warden finds out, she may think something.”

 

“Let her,” I said, “I came to tell you I won’t be coming tomorrow.”

 

“Oh, no! I was looking forward to discussing Anton Chekhov with you.”

 

“Daddy is coming to Dehradun for some urgent work. He wants me to meet him at the station. He rang up the Principal for permission.”

 

“That’s great. I’m dying to meet your Dad. Make sure you bring him up here to Mussoorie.”

 

“I’ll try,” I said.

 

“You must. I want to ask him for your hand,” he said, tongue-in-cheek.

 

“How cute,” I said coyly.

 

“I’ll miss you,” he said.

 

“Take care.”

 

“You too take care. Okay Bye,” I said and rushed back to my hostel.

 

On Wednesday morning I left Mussoorie at six by the first bus and reached Dehradun railway station just in time for the express from Delhi which steamed in at eight.

 

Daddy was the first to get down from the AC coach and the moment he saw me his face lit up and he gave me a tight warm hug and smothered my cheeks with kisses.

 

“Please Papa,” I said embarrassed, “People are looking.”

 

“I feel so good when I see you, Shalu,” he said.

 

Papa kept the bag he was holding next to me and said, “Look after this. I’ll get the rest of the luggage.”

 

He beckoned to a porter and went back into the coach.

 

“Rest of the luggage?” I wondered.

 

Normally Papa travelled light, with just one bag.”

 

Soon there were three bags, a basket and a tall young woman with a small child in her arms standing beside Papa.

 

“Shalu, this is Ms. Bhattacharya. We travelled together from Delhi,” Papa introduced the woman, who smiled a sweet hello, and we began following the porter to the exit.

 

I looked at the woman through the corner of my eye. She was a real beauty, fair, with a skin like smooth cream. She looked straight ahead, as if looking at a distant object, and walked on expressionless.

 

But I noticed the way my Papa stole glances at her when he thought I wasn’t looking and I knew that she was much more than a mere fellow passenger.

 

I felt a tingle of excitement. Something was brewing. Maybe Papa was falling in love. Ten years after mummy had gone.

 

My father walked with a spring in his step, pulling his stomach in and thrusting his chest out.

 

“You seem very happy, Papa,” I said mischievously.

 

“Yes. Yes.” he said, “I’m so happy to see you, Shalu. You look so good.”

 

He opened the door of the taxi and looked at her, trying to mask the undisguised love in his eyes. It seemed a desperate case of thunderbolt.

 

I decided to have a bit of fun, quickly got in the car, and said, “Thanks, Papa, for treating me like a lady.”

 

Then I looked at the woman and said, “Bye Auntie.”

 

“Auntie is coming with us,” Papa said, “Shalu, you sit in front.”

 

“It’s okay, I’ll sit in front,” Ms. Bhattacharya said.

 

“There’s place for all of us at the back,” I said. “We can keep the basket in front next to the driver.”

 

I shifted, she sat next to me with the baby on her lap, Papa next to her on the other side and we drove in silence through Palton Bazar towards Rajpur road.

 

I kept quiet, waiting for Papa to tell me everything, but he too remained silent, probably because of the driver.

 

He got off outside an office. “You two can go to the guest house and freshen up. I’ll join you after finishing my work.

 

We sat alone at the breakfast table. The baby was sleeping inside. I looked at Ms. Bhattacharya. She looked so elegant yet youthful.

 

Late twenties? Maybe! Or maybe a bit younger.

 

I was dying to ask her everything, wondering what to say, when she looked into my eyes and spoke softly, “Shalu, I want to be your mother.”

 

I was touched by the way she phrased it.

 

I can’t begin to describe the emotions I felt, but instinctively I blurted out, “Why didn’t Papa tell me?”

 

She touched my hand and said, “He felt shy, embarrassed. You know how he is. He wanted me to tell you. And leave the decision to you.” She paused, and said; “I know it’s difficult for you. I promise we’ll do what you want. But try to understand. Your Papa feels very lonely.”

 

“And you?” I asked.

 

“I am lonely too,” she said, tears welling up in her eyes.

 

Suddenly she started to cry into her handkerchief, “I’m sorry,” she said, got up, and went into her room.

 

I sat confused.

 

She had been so calm and composed. And suddenly she broke down.

 

Had I said something wrong?

 

Maybe I was too young to understand. All I wanted was that Papa should be happy, everyone should be happy; even she should be happy.

 

Ms. Bhattacharya came out of the room. She had washed up, done up her face and looked so beautiful, so vulnerable, that I instantly felt like hugging her.

 

Something inside told me that she would make Papa very happy. And me too!

 

“I’m sorry,” she said. “It’s just that sometimes you wait for a moment and when it comes you don’t know what to do with it.”

 

 “I like you,” I said. “I know you’ll make Papa happy. Only I wish Papa had told me. Shall I call you mummy?”

 

She smiled, “Come on Shalini. Be my friend. Call me Priya.”

 

“Okay,” I held out my hand, “Priya, let’s be friends. And you call me Shalu.”

 

“Shalu, actually even I wanted your Papa to tell you,” she said.

 

“He must’ve been embarrassed.”

 

“Embarrassed?”

 

“To tell me that he’s fallen in love at his age.”

 

“He’s only 43.”

 

“And you, Priya?”

 

“28. Oh come on, I shouldn’t be telling you my age.”

 

“You look 25,” I said.

 

She blushed. The baby cried. She went inside.

 

I went into my room and lay on the bed. What a day! I just couldn’t wait to tell Victor all this. He’d die laughing. Maybe I should marry him. We are so happy together. If Papa can marry Priya, why can’t I marry Victor?

 

They – 43 and 28 – Adult Love!

 

We – 15 and 30 – Puppy Love?

 

It’s not fair, isn’t it?

 

I drifted into sleep.

 

When I woke up, Papa was sitting beside me on the bed.

 

“It’s past one,” he said. “Let’s go for lunch.”

 

“Why didn’t you tell me, Papa?” I asked.

 

His cheeks, his ears became red. He avoided my eyes.

 

“I guessed it the moment I saw you two at the station,” I said.

 

“You’ve really grown up, Shalu,” Papa said. “I’m so happy you have accepted her and your little brother.”

 

“Brother?” I said dumbstruck, and slowly comprehension dawned on me. I closed my eyes. All sorts of thoughts entered my brains. And suddenly everything was clear. “Oh yes. My little brother.”

 

Lunch passed off in a trance and soon we were on our way to Mussoorie. I’d wanted to go alone by bus, but Papa wouldn’t hear of it. He had work at the site office near Mussoorie and Priya wanted to see my school. She hadn’t been to Mussoorie before.

 

It was almost five when Papa got off at the site office and we were cruising on the Mall on the way to my school. Priya was looking out of the window as if searching for something. Suddenly she asked the driver to stop.

 

“I have to get something. Please look after the baby for a moment,” she said.

 

I took the baby in my lap and saw her enter Hackman’s, the biggest departmental store in Mussoorie.

 

She returned fast. “A small gift for you, Shalu” she said giving me a gift-wrapped packet and an envelope containing a greeting card.

 

I opened the envelope. It was a ‘Thank-you’ card.

 

She had written a message on the inside of the card:  “…To my darling daughter and friend, Shalini…”

 

I kept on starting at the beautiful handwriting, unable to read further.

 

Instantly, I recognized the same unique familiar lovely cursive handwriting, so feminine, so delicate.

 

Tremors started reverberating in my stomach, like a roller coaster. My pulse was racing. The car negotiated the steep road past Picture Palace up the winding slopes of Landour.

 

“Priya, look,” I said pointing out of the car window, “that’s the oldest building in Mussoorie. It’s called Mullingar. Isn’t it just like the Cellular Jail?”

 

“Yes,” she said.

 

“You’ve seen Cellular Jail?” I asked.

 

“Of course,” she said. “Many times.”

 

“You’ve been to Port Blair?” I persisted.

 

“Yes. I’ve lived there. It’s a lovely place,” she said.

 

“How lucky,” I said. “I’ve only seen pictures of Cellular Jail.”

 

Silence. Pregnant silence.

 

Then I spoke, looking at her child seated on her lap, “Baby. He’s so cute. How old is he?”

 

“Six months,” she said.

 

“You haven’t named him?

 

“Oh yes,” she said, “we call him Baby, his real name is Vivek.”

 

“Vivek?”

 

“Yes. Vivek ,” she said “It’s a nice name, isn’t it?”

 

“Yes,” I answered.

 

I patted the driver on the shoulder and said, “Seedha Le Chalo. Jaldi. Drive fast. To Landour Hospital.”

 

“Hospital?” Priya asked flabbergasted.

 

“I want you to meet someone,” I said.

 

The car stopped outside the hospital. “Come,” I said, and Priya holding her baby in her arms followed me towards the door of Victor’s room.

 

I opened the door and said, “Come Piyu. Go right in. Your Victor is waiting for you, for both of you.”

 

I didn’t wait to see the expression on her face.

 

I quickly turned and ran to the car and shouted to the driver, “Driver – jaldi karo. Be quick. Take me to the site office. Fast.”

 

As the car descended down the steep slopes of Landour, past Char-Dukan, towards Picture Palace at the end of the Mall, I took out Anton Chekhov’s book from my purse.

 

I’ll have plenty of time to read it now.

 

Maybe I’ll keep it as a souvenir to remember Victor.

 

I opened the book, read on the first page: “To my darling Victor…Love. Piyu.”

 

I took out my cell-phone and sent an SMS to Victor: “Happy Reunion!”

 

Then I turned the page and began reading Anton Chekhov’s enthralling short story ‘The Darling.’

 

As I write this I am feeling good.

 

Yes, I am feeling good.

 

Don’t ask me why.

 

Happiness goes when you speak of it.

 

 

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

  

 

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

 

 

vikramkarve@sify.com

 

SPDP Sev Potato Dahi Puri

October 11, 2009

SEV POTATO DAHI PURI


Short Fiction – A Tasty Story

By

VIKRAM KARVE

Pune. Fergusson College Road. Vaishali Restaurant. 5 PM on a Sunday evening.

Crowded. Crammed full. Jam-packed. All tables occupied chock-a-block. Aisles teeming with people waiting with watchful eyes for signs of someone finishing their refreshments.

Suddenly I see a woman waving to me, beckoning me with her hand. Her face seems familiar – oh yes, she is Ravi’s wife. She is sitting all alone on a table for two with a half eaten masala dosa in front of her.

I walk towards her and give her a smile.

“Sit down, sit down,” she says to me, gesturing with her hand towards the empty chair opposite her, “Sit down here with me, otherwise you will have to wait for hours.”

I sit down opposite her and say, “Thanks.”

She summons a waiter and orders peremptorily, “SPDP.”

“Two?” the waiter asks.

“No, one SPDP for Madam,” she says pointing to the empty plate in front of me without even bothering to ask me, “and get one Kachori for me.”

Before I can recover my wits, she says, “You like SPDP don’t you? Ravi told me.”

“Yes, I love the SPDP at Vaishali. In fact I come all the way here every Sunday…”

“To spend the day reading in the library opposite followed by an SPDP at Vaishali,” she completes my sentence.

“Ravi told you all this?”

“Of course. He’s told me everything about you. Ravi admires you so much, he always talks about you.”

“Really? But he never tells me anything about you.”

“What’s there to tell? I am only his housewife, you are his office wife.”

“Come on. Please don’t say that. There is nothing like that between me and Ravi. We are just colleagues – workmates. That’s all.”

“Workmates? I think you are his soulmate – and I am only his mate!”

I am struck dumb, feel a bit uneasy, but suddenly the plate of SPDP is kept in front of me, so I look down and begin to eat.

“I’m sorry,” she says, “Don’t get angry. I was just teasing. I want you to be Ravi’s friend. He likes you so much. That’s why he is so happy in office and doing so well in his work.”

I stop eating; look up at her vacuously, wondering what to say.

“Ravi appreciates you so much he even brings you home to me every evening in his thoughts and talks…that’s why I wanted to meet you.”

“We’ve met before…”

“Only once, that too only an introduction, at the Office Annual Day get-together…we are hardly married for three months, you know, and you all are so busy, with your targets and all, so I decided to meet you, talk to you, get to know you better, make a friendship…”

“You mean…”

“Yes, I contrived this coincidence. I came to the library also, but you were so busy browsing that I did not want to disturb you, so I waited here in Vaishali knowing you would surely come for your SPDP.”

“You’re not eating your Kachori,” I say, trying to change the direction of the conversation.

“Here, you eat,” she says pushing her untouched plate of Kachori and katori of whipped curds towards me, “I am all full – I ate an Uttapam, Idli-Vada Sambar, god-knows-what, waiting for you to come…”

She leans forward and casually picks up a Sev Potato Dahi Puri from my plate, pops into her mouth and says, “Wow. I love the chatpata flavour of SPDP – you call it Umami taste or something – that’s what you told Ravi, isn’t it?”

“I think I’ll go now,” I say, feeling distinctly uncomfortable, making up my mind to have a long talk with Ravi the moment I meet him in the morning at work.

“No, no, don’t go, I want to show you something.”

“Show me something?”

“Yes, that’s why I came all the way here to meet you.”

We finish the SPDP and Kachori, I insist on paying the bill, she doesn’t object too much, and then she takes me to the drapery section of the Shopping Mall nearby.

“We are furnishing our new house,” she says, pointing at the curtain cloth on display.

I look at her clueless.

“I like yellow, you like blue, and since you have told him about the aesthetic cool tranquil beauty of the blue colour, Ravi is besotted with everything blue – blue shirts, blue trousers, blue table-covers, blue bed-sheets, blue napkins, the sober blue everything that you make him buy…”

I look furtively and self-consciously at the blue dress I am wearing, and say, “Okay, tell me which curtains you like.”

She points to a bright yellow floral print and says, “I like that one, I love yellow, so lively and cheerful… I hate sober gloomy colours, especially blue, it depresses me.”

Next morning at the office, Ravi says to me, “Hey, keep yourself free in the evening. We’ll go to Deccan for some shopping. You’ve got to help me select curtains for our new home. Then we’ll have SPDP at Vaishali.”

“Sure, Ravi, I’ll love to come with you,” I say.

Now I’ve got till evening to decide one thing – which colour curtains should I tell Ravi to buy – Yellow Curtains or Blue Curtains?

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

THE WALLFLOWER – A Romance

June 13, 2009

HOW I DISCOVERED MY TRUE LOVE

Short Fiction – A Romantic Love Story

by

VIKRAM KARVE

“I don’t want to marry Manisha,” I told my mother.

My mother looked as if she had been pole-axed. Suddenly there was a metamorphosis in her expression – a distant look across my shoulder followed by a smile of forced geniality.

“Manisha is coming!” my mother whispered.

I turned around quickly and saw Manisha entering the wicket-gate and walking towards us.

She wished my mother and smiled at me. “I want to come and see you off at the airport.”

“Why bother? I’ll go on my own,” I said. “The flights are quite unpredictable. They never leave on time. And how will you come back all the way?”

“You two talk here in the garden,” my mother said. “I’ll go inside and pack your things.”

“I am sorry about last night,” Manisha said, with genuine regret in her voice.

“It’s okay.” I looked at Manisha. Plump and full-faced, with small brown eyes and dusky complexion, hair drawn back into a conventional knot – there was only one adjective to describe Manisha – ‘prosaic’; yes, she looked prosaic – so commonplace, unexciting and pedestrian.

“I’ll go inside and help your mother,” Manisha said, and went inside.

‘Last night’ was the fiasco at the disco. Manisha and I – An unmitigated disaster!

“Let’s dance,” I had asked Manisha.

“No,” Manisha was firm.

“Come on. I’ll teach you,” I pleaded. “Everyone is on the floor.”

But Manisha did not budge. So we just sat there watching. Everybody was thoroughly enjoying themselves. Many of my friends and colleagues were on the floor, with their wives, fiancées and girlfriends. Among them Sanjiv and Swati.

“Who is this wallflower you’ve brought with you?” taunted Sanjiv, during a break in the music.

“My fiancée, Manisha,” I answered, trying to keep cool.

“Your fiancée? How come you’ve hooked on to such a Vern?” Swati mocked. “Come on Vijay,” she said derisively, coming close and looking directly into my eyes. “You are an Executive now, not a clerk. Don’t live in your past. Find someone better. She doesn’t belong here.”

If someone had stuck a knife into my heart it would have been easier to endure than these words. It always rankled; the fact that I had come up the hard way, promoted from the ranks.

“This is too much” I said angrily to Sanjiv.

“Cool down, Vijay,” Sanjiv said putting his hand on my shoulder. “You know Swati doesn’t mean it.”

But I knew that Swati had meant every word she uttered.

“Let’s go,” I told Manisha. “I’ve had enough.”

When we were driving home, Manisha asked innocently, “What’s a Vern?

“Vernacular!” I answered. And at that moment there was a burst of firecrackers and rockets lit up the sky to usher in the New Year.

That night I could not sleep. I thought of my future, trying to see both halves of my future life, my career and my marriage, side by side. I realized that my career was more important to me than anything else. I had to succeed at any cost. And a key ingredient in the recipe for success was a ‘socially valuable’ wife. It mattered. It was the truth. The blunt truth – whether you liked it or not! Swati was right. Manisha just didn’t belong to that status and class of society of which I was now a part. I had crossed the class barrier; but Manisha had remained where she was. And she would remain there, unwilling and unable to change.

In marriage one has to be rational. Manisha would be an encumbrance, maybe even an embarrassment. It was a mistake – my getting engaged to her. She was the girl next door, we had grown up together and everyone assumed we would be married one day. And our parents got us engaged. At that point of time I didn’t think much of it. It was only now, that my eyes had opened; I realized the enormity of the situation. I was an upwardly mobile executive now, not a mere clerk, and the equations had changed. What I needed was someone like Swati. Smart, chic and savvy. Convent educated, well groomed and accustomed to the prevalent lifestyle, a perfect hostess, an asset to my career. And most importantly she was from a well-connected family. I tired to imagine what life would have been like had I married Swati.

Sanjiv was so lucky. He was already going places. After all Swati was the daughter of the senior VP.

Suddenly I returned to the present. I could bear my mother calling me. I went inside. Manisha was helping her pack my bags, unaware of what was going on in my mind. I felt a sense of deep guilt, but then it was question of my life.

“What’s wrong with you?” my mother asked after Manisha had left.

“Why were so rude to Manisha, so distant? She loves you so much!”

“I don’t love her,” I said.

“What?” my mother asked surprised, “Is there some else?”

“No,” I said.

“I don’t understand you.”

“Manisha is not compatible anymore. She just doesn’t fit in.”

I could see that my mother was angry. Outwardly she remained calm and nonchalant; her fury was visible only in her eyes.

“Who do you think you are?” she said icily, trying to control herself. “You know Manisha from childhood, isn’t it? For the last two years you have been engaged and moving around together. And suddenly you say Manisha is not compatible?” My mother paused for a moment, and then taking my hand asked me softly, “What happened last night?”

I told her. Then we argued for over two hours and till the end I stuck to my guns. Finally my mother said, “This is going to be difficult. And relations between our families are going to be permanently strained. Think about Manisha. It will be so difficult for her to get married after the stigma of a broken engagement. Forget about last night. It’s just a small incident. Think about it again. Manisha is the ideal wife, so suitable for you.”

But I had made up my mind, so I told my mother, “If you want I’ll go and talk to her father right now and break off the engagement.”

“No,” my mother snapped. “Let your father come home. He will decide what to do.”

The doorbell rang. I opened the door. Standing outside along with my father were Manisha and her parents.

“I have fixed up your wedding with Manisha Patwardhan on the 30th of May of this year,” my father thundered peremptorily in his usual impetuous style.

“Congratulations,” echoed Manisha’s parents, Mr. and Mr. Patwardhan.

I was dumbstruck. Manisha was smiling coyly. My mother was signaling to me with her eyes not to say anything. She was probably happy at the fait accompli. I felt trapped. I excused myself and went up to my room. I locked the door. Someone knocked.

“Give me five minutes,” I said. “I’ll get ready and come down.”

“Come soon,” said Manisha from the other side of the door.

I took out my notepad and wrote a letter to Manisha:

Dear Manisha,

Forgive me, but I have discovered that I can’t marry you and I think that it is best for us to say goodbye.

Yours sincerely,

Vijay

I knew the words sounded insincere, but that was all I could write for my mind had bone blank and I wanted to get it over with as fast as possible; just one sentence to terminate our long relationship. I knew I was being cruel but I just couldn’t help it.

I sealed the letter in a postal envelope, wrote Manisha’s name and address on it and put it in my bag. I looked at my watch. It was time to leave.

Everyone came to the airport to see me off. Sanjiv and Swati had come too. They were located at Pune and I was off on a promotion to Delhi.

“I’m really very sorry about last night,” Swati apologized to us. She took Manisha’s hand and said tenderly, “Manisha, please forgive me. You are truly an ideal couple – both made for each other.”

As I walked towards the boarding area Manisha’s father Mr. Patwardhan shouted to me jovially, “Hey, Vijay. Don’t forget to come on 30th of May. The wedding muhurat is exactly at 10.35 in the morning. Everything is fixed. I have already booked the best hall in town. If you don’t turn up I’ll lose my deposit!”

I nodded to him but in my mind’s eye I smiled to myself – the “joke” was going to be on him!  Then I waved everyone goodbye, went to the waiting hall, sat on a chair, opened my bag and took out the letter I had written to Manisha. I wish I had torn up the letter there and then, but some strange force stopped me. I put the envelope in my pocket and remembered my mother’s parting words: “Please Vijay. Marry Manisha. Don’t make everyone unhappy. Manisha is good girl. She’ll adjust. I’ll talk to her.”

During the flight I thought about it. I tried my utmost, but I just could not visualize Manisha as my wife in my new life any more. Till now I had done everything to make everybody happy. But what about me? It was my life after all. Time would heal wounds, abate the injury and dissipate the anger; but if I got trapped for life with Manisha, it would be an unmitigated sheer disaster.

I collected my baggage and walked towards the exit of Delhi Airport. Suddenly I spotted a red post box. I felt the envelope in my pocket. I knew I had to make the crucial decision right now. Yes, it was now or never.

I walked towards the red post box and stood in front of it, indecisive and confused. I took a deep breath, took out the envelope from my pocket and looked at it – the address, postage stamp – everything was okay.

I moved my hand to post the letter. A strange force stopped my hand in its tracks. I hesitated, and in my mind I tried to imagine the severe ramifications, the terrible consequences of what I was about to do.

At first Manisha would be delighted, even surprised, to see my handwriting on the letter. And then she would read it…! I dreaded to even think about the unimaginable hurt and distress she would feel… and then her parents… and mine…the sense of betrayal and insult…relationships built and nurtured for years would be strained, even broken, forever. And poor Manisha…everyone knew we were engaged…how tongues would wag…the stigma of broken engagement…the anguish of my betrayal of her love… she would be devastated… may even commit…

Suddenly my cell-phone rang interrupting my train of thoughts. ‘Must be Manisha monitoring me as usual,’ I thought getting irritated at her – Manisha’s suffocating familiarity and closeness seemed like manacles and I was glad I was getting away from her. I decided not to answer, but my mobile kept ringing persistently, so I looked at the display. It wasn’t Manisha, but an unknown new number.

“Hello,” I said into my cell-phone.

“Mr. Joshi?” a male voice spoke.

“Yes. Vijay Joshi here. Who is it, please?” I asked.

“Sir, we’ve come to receive you. Please come to the exit gate and look for the board with your name.”

“I’m coming,” I said and looked the letter addressed to Manisha in my hand.

No. Not now in a hurry. Providence was giving me signals to wait, reflect, and think it over, not to do something so irretrievable in such a hurry. So I put the envelope in my pocket and walked away from the post box towards the exit.

I settled down well in my new job and liked my place in Delhi. Every morning I would put the envelope in my pocket determined to post it in the post box outside my office on my way to work but something happened and I didn’t post the letter to Manisha. Meanwhile I rang up Manisha, and my mother, every evening, and made pretence that everything was okay. The stress and strain within me was steadily building up.

Every time I looked at the envelope I felt as if was holding a primed grenade in my hand. With every passing day, the 30th of May was approaching nearer and nearer. Time was running out, and I knew I would have to unburden myself of the bombshell pretty fast. So one day, during lunch break, I decided to post the fateful letter and get it over with once and for all.

As I was walking out someone from the reception called out to me, “Hey, Mr. Joshi, is Mr. Gokhale in his office?”

Gokhale was my boss, and he was out on tour, so I said, “No, he’s gone on tour. Anything I can do?”

“Sir, there’s a courier for him,” the receptionist said.

“I’ll take it and give it to him when he comes,” I said, signed the voucher and took the envelope from the courier.

The moment I looked at the envelope an electric tremor of trepidation quivered through me like a thunderbolt.

I cannot begin to describe the bewildered astonishment and shocking consternation I felt when I saw Manisha’s distinctive handwriting on the envelope. Beautiful large flowing feminine writing with her trademark star-shaped ‘t’ crossing, the huge circle dotting the ‘i’… there was no doubt about it. And of course her favorite turquoise blue ink. There was no doubt about it but I turned the envelope around hoping I was wrong, but I was right – the letter to my boss Mr. Gokhale was indeed from Manisha; she had written her name and address on the reverse, as bold as brass!

My pulse raced, my insides quivered, my brain resonated and I trembled with feverish anxiety. At first impulse I wanted to tear open the envelope and see what was inside, but I controlled myself, tried to mask my inner emotions, put on a fake smile of geniality for everyone around, gently put the letter in my pocket and began retracing my steps back to my office.

I discreetly felt the two envelopes in my suit pocket – one, my unposted letter to Manisha; and the other, much fatter, Manisha’s unopened letter to my boss Mr. Avinash Gokhale.

I locked myself in my office, sat down, calmed myself with a glass of water, took out the two envelopes and put them on the table in front of me. My unposted letter to Manisha would now have to wait – I thanked my stars that some mysterious hidden restraining force had stopped me from posting it every time I tried to.

I picked up Manisha’s envelope addressed to Avinash Gokhale. It was sheer serendipity that I happened to be at the reception when the courier arrived – otherwise I would have never known.

I looked at the envelope. The whole thing was incredulous. Why on earth should Manisha write to Avinash Gokhale? What was the connection? How did she know Gokhale? What had she written to him?

Had my simpleton mother blurted out something to her – told Manisha or her parents what I’d said – that I didn’t want to marry her? My mind went haywire with strange thoughts. Revenge! Yes, revenge. Stung by my betrayal, Manisha had somehow found out the name of my boss, from Sanjiv or Swati most probably, and was out to ruin my career – wreck vengeance on me for ditching her. Written to Avinash Gokhale what a jerk I was. These things mattered in my company. My heart skipped a beat. I felt a tremor of trepidation. I suddenly realized that I had to swiftly interrupt this pernicious line of thinking and insidious train of thoughts.

No, No! It was just not possible. No chance.  Manisha was not the vindictive type. She would never do such a thing. Especially to me. She always loved me so much. And I was sure my mother would not have been so indiscreet and would have kept our conversation to herself.

But then anything is possible. I couldn’t take any chances. Dying with curiosity I desperately felt like tearing open the envelope and reading the letter. I had to get to the bottom of this mystery. It was simple. I would open the letter in the privacy of my house. Steam-open the envelope very carefully so no one would even discern. Then I would read it and accordingly decide the further course of action.

I wondered why Manisha had sent this letter so indiscreetly to the office address with her name and address written so blatantly. Was it on purpose? She could have spoken privately to Gokhale, or even e-mailed him. Why this bold as brass missive? Was it on purpose?  She wanted me to know…No. No. It was too bizarre!

I had an impulse to call up Manisha then and there and get it over with once and for all, but I stopped myself. I had to know first what she had written in that letter before I could do anything.

The suspense was killing. I felt restless and uneasy. When I feel tense I go for a long walk. That’s what I did. I went for a long walk around my entire office, each department, making pretence of MBWA [Management By Walking Around]. When I returned to my office it was four, still an hour to go. The next hour was the longest hour of my life.

The moment it was five, I rushed out of my office. The moment I opened the door I ran bang into the receptionist. “Mr. Joshi, Sir. That letter for Mr. Gokhale – you want me to give it to his PA?”

“No. No. I’ll give to him personally,” I said feeling the envelope in my coat pocket.

She gave me a curious questioning look so I hastily said, “Don’t worry, I’ve locked it carefully in my drawer,” and hurriedly walked away.

I rushed home to my apartment. I put some water in a pot to boil and then carefully held the envelope over it. I had to steam it open very meticulously and delicately – no tell tale signs.

Soon I had Manisha letter in my hands.

Dear Avinashshe began.  Oh … great… Dear Avinash indeed!

Already on first name terms – Thank God for small mercies it wasn’t Darling AvinashSweetie-pie or something even more mushy!

Dear Avinash,

The suddenness with which you popped the question left me so dumbfounded that I am still recovering from the shock. Shock? Maybe that’s the wrong word, but the swiftness of your proposal, out of the blue, on our very first date – well I am a simple girl and it really left me dazed.

You called once. I didn’t answer. You didn’t call again. I really appreciate that. That was very gentlemanly of you.

You sent me an e-mail. Explaining your feelings. Apologizing for what you did at the spur of the moment. Said sorry for having hurt my feelings. Please don’t say sorry. You haven’t hurt my feelings at all. Maybe outwardly I didn’t show it, but in fact, inside, I felt so good, so happy, that a suave man like you found a simple ordinary looking girl like me so attractive.

Avinash, please try to understand. I also feel the same way about you. I can’t exactly describe the emotions I experienced when we were together. Is it love? I don’t know. It’s the first time it’s happened to me that I’ve  felt so attracted to someone. I really feel like being with you, forever, spending the rest of our lives together. Thanks for proposing to me, Avinash – I accept.

What I want to say now I don’t want to say over the phone, or e-mail, so I am writing this letter. I am writing this because I believe that there is no place for secrets between husband and wife. Please read it carefully and destroy it. For my sake. Please. Read what I have written, think about it carefully, and I’ll wait for your reply.

You know Vijay, don’t you? Vijay Joshi. Of course you do. He works with you in Delhi. You are his boss.

In fact, I came to Sanjiv and Swati’s party in Pune just to see what Vijay’s boss looked like. Of course, I’d also come to help out Swati, but I was more interested to know how Vijay is doing in his new job in Delhi and maybe say something good about him. But the thunderbolt struck and we ended saying sweet nothings to each other. I hope Swati didn’t notice, as she seemed the busy hostess most of the time, and I haven’t told her, or anyone, about our hush-hush dinner-date the next evening in that lovely romantic garden restaurant.

Now, let’s talk about Vijay. Vijay and me were neighbors ever since I remember. Our families are very very close, deeply bonded to each other. Vijay and I are the dearest of dearest childhood friends, inseparable buddies who grew up together. Vijay has always been my most intimate confidant. I have always told him everything. Except about you – about us. It’s the first time I have hidden something from Vijay. And I’m feeling so guilty about it.

Avinash, I really love Vijay. But not in that way. Vijay is my friend, yes; buddy, yes; even soul mate, yes; but I just can’t imagine Vijay as my lover. Like I can visualize you!

Now brace your heart, Avinash!

I am engaged to Vijay. And our wedding date has been fixed on the 30th of May. Everyone knows about it.

This was fixed long back by both our families. My marriage to Vijay – a foregone conclusion and implicit happy culmination of our friendship. I too was happy. Till I met you. Now it is different.

What do we do, Avinash?

I just can’t bear to tell Vijay myself. To him it will be a terrible betrayal, a stab in his back. I can’t break his heart. He will be devastated.

I don’t have the guts to tell my parents; or his, either. They will be shattered, the hurt very painful and relationships will be strained forever.

So what do we do, Avinash?

I have an idea. It may sound bizarre, but let’s give it a try. Why not make Vijay fall in love with someone else?

Avinash, why don’t you introduce Vijay to some nice girl out there? Someone smart and chic, like Swati. I think he likes girls like that – I’ve seen him stealing canny glances at Swati when he thought I wasn’t looking. Right now he is lonely, vulnerable, and I am sure you there are many lovely, mod, savvy, attractive women out there in Delhi who are also lonely and vulnerable. You’ve just got to match them and hope for the best.

Avinash, try to understand. I want Vijay to call off our engagement. I want him to “break” my heart. It will be better that way, isn’t it? For me, for you, and for all of us.

Avinash. Am I asking too much of you? You like the idea, or is it too weird? Or can you think of anything better?

I am waiting for your reply. Please send me e-mails only. Don’t ring up or write – we have to very careful of hidden ears and curious eyes.

And remember to destroy this letter right now.

Yours lovingly,

Manisha.

I read the letter once again, slowly, carefully, word by word, till the last line – And remember to destroy this letter right now”.

It was unbelievable – this bolt from the blue from Manisha. I laughed to myself. I thought I was smart, but it was Manisha who was playing the double game.

I put the letter on the table, closed my eyes, and tried to think clearly. It was crazy – a classy snob like Avinash Gokhale falling for a pedestrian Plain Jane like Manisha Patwardhan! Yes, Love is blind – Love is truly blind! Or, is it?

Instinctively I picked up my cell-phone and called Manisha.

“Hi, Vijay,” Manisha said, “what’s up?”

“Just thought of you, so called to say Hi,” I said.

“How’s life out there?”

“Good. I like Delhi. You’ll like it too – when you come here.”

“Come there?”

“You’re going to come here and stay with me in Delhi after we get married, aren’t you?”

“Of course,” Manisha said smoothly – so smoothly, so slickly, so effortlessly, so glibly, without even the slightest demur or trace of dither, that, for a moment I was struck dumb.

“Hey, Vijay, what happened?” Manisha asked.

“Nothing,” I answered, “everything okay out there?”

“Oh, yes, I’d gone to your place this morning – everyone is fine.”

“Your parents?”

“My Mum and Dad are fine. Everyone is okay – just waiting for you to come. When are you coming to Pune?”

“I don’t know. There’s lots of work.”

“Come on, Vijay. Don’t tell me you can’t come for a day or two, at least on a weekend. I’m sure there’s not that much work that the heavens will fall if you are not there.”

“It’s not that – my boss here is a funny guy.”

“Funny Guy?”

“A painful killjoy called Avinash Gokhale,” I said, and listened carefully, but I couldn’t even detect even the slightest gasp or tremor in her voice as Manisha continued talking smoothly and glibly as ever, “Never mind, Vijay, you just work hard,” and then she effortlessly changed the subject to the latest happenings in Pune and started off with mushy ‘sweet nothings’ about how much she missed me.

Listening to her, for a moment, I thought the letter in front of me was a forgery, but then I knew Manisha’s handwriting too well. I was too flabbergasted to continue the conversation so I quickly said bye and kept the cell-phone on the table.

I never imagined Manisha could be so secretive, so mendacious.

It was strange – how close one can be to a person and yet know nothing about her.

And Avinash Gokhale? I worked with him every day, spent hours together, yet knew nothing about him, except that he was brilliant workaholic and a recluse – a most boring and private person who always kept to himself, never mixed around, never socialized or attended parties, a pain in the neck who everyone avoided and the only thing he ever talked was about work.

Made for each other – two secretive loners – Manisha Patwardhan and Avinash Gokhale.

But why was I so bothered? Good Luck to them! My problem was being solved. I had to just quietly wait and watch, do nothing, till my boss found some nice smart chic girl for me. Can anyone be luckier? Life was going to be exciting!

I carefully put Manisha’s letter back into the envelope and resealed it meticulously with a glue-stick. No one could have suspected that it had been steamed open. Now all I had to do was to quietly put it in the mail folder of Avinash Gokhale before he reached office on Monday morning.

Suddenly, I was jolted out of my thoughts by the ring-tone of my cell-phone.

“Hello!” I said.

“Is that Mr. Joshi?” a sweet mellifluous feminine voice said.

“Yes. Vijay Joshi here,” I said.

“I’m Vibha speaking.”

“Vibha?” I asked surprised. I didn’t know any Vibha.

“Oh I’m sorry Mr. Joshi, we haven’t met. I’m Vibha Gokhale. Avinash Gokhale’s wife.”

“Oh, I’m so sorry Mrs. Gokhale. I didn’t know Mr. Gokhale had a wife,” I mumbled.

“Well, Well, Mr. Joshi! Of course your Mr. Gokhale is a much married man and has a Mrs. Gokhale and you are speaking to her right now,” she said playfully, and added, “You don’t believe me, do you?”

“No. No. Ma’am. It’s not that. I didn’t know he was married. He’s never told me anything about you.”

“Really? That’s curious,” she said, “Because he’s told me everything about you.”

“What? He’s told you everything about me?” I blurted in surprise.

“Oh, yes Mr. Joshi,” she said mischievously, “I know all about you. And what I don’t know, you can tell me yourself when we meet.”

“Meet?”

“At the airport.”

“Airport?” I asked, totally baffled.

“Yes, Mr. Joshi, Delhi Airport, I’m just about to board the direct flight from Singapore,” she said matter-of-factly.

“Singapore?”

“Yes, Singapore. I live and work here. You don’t know? Of course you don’t – he hasn’t even told you he’s married. Well, I was on my way to London for a conference, and, on the spur of the moment, thought I’ll stopover at Delhi and spend the weekend with Avinash.”

“How sad?” I stammered, “Gokhale Sir is on tour to Chennai till Monday.”

“Chennai? You’re totally clueless aren’t you – don’t even know where your boss is?”

I was at a loss for words, confused.

“He’s already left Chennai this morning. And right now your boss Avinash is in Pune.”

“Pune?” I exclaimed incredulously.

“Yes, Pune. I wanted him to finish off his work in Chennai and come back fast to Delhi today itself, so we could meet up, but he told me he was already in Pune as something very important and urgent suddenly came up and he wouldn’t be able to make it. So he asked me get in touch with you. He’ll be coming back to Delhi on Wednesday now.”

“Wednesday? Urgent work in Pune?” I uttered like a zombie.

“Don’t tell me he hasn’t told you!” she exclaimed in amazement.

Overwhelmed by the maze of confusion, my mind went numb, and I was struck dumb.

“Mr. Joshi, Mr. Joshi. Are you there? Please Mr. Joshi,” Vibha Gokhale said rapidly with hint of impatience, “I have to board now. It’s a six hour flight. Just find out the arrival details and make sure you are there on time. You don’t want your boss’s wife to be left high and dry, do you?”

“I’ll be there Ma’am,” I said, “but how will I recognize you?”

“Don’t worry. Just be there at the arrival lounge. I’ll recognize and find you,” she said and abruptly switched off.

I keep my cell-phone on the table beside the two letters [my unposted letter to Manisha and her shocking letter to my boss Avinash], close my eyes, and try to analyse the mystifying happenings of this most eventful day of my life.

First Manisha’s letter asking Avinash to set me up with some chic girl in Delhi so that I call off the marriage, instead of her, become the villain of the piece, take the rap from family and friends and look like a dirty jilting philandering rascal in everyone’s eyes, while Manisha looks the poor victimized wronged all-suffering sanctimonious goody-goody, besides saving her a guilt conscience.

And at the opportune moment our gallant knight in armour Mr. Avinash Gokhale rushes in to rescue the devastated inconsolable innocent damsel in distress and magnanimously proposes to marry her.

Only, this Mr. Avinash Gokhale is a dirtier rat one up on her. He’s married, and is obviously hiding this from Manisha, at least till now. And he’s not told his wife about Manisha either, or has he?

And what’s this sudden urgent work in Pune which no one in the office has a clue about? Devious cheat, making a jackass of everyone while romancing in Pune at company expense!

Suddenly I feel a premonition – that at this very moment they are together – at some secluded place, having a romantic dinner, or maybe…

I stop my train of thoughts and ring up Manisha. “Out of coverage area,” says the recorded voice. My worst fears are confirmed. Scheming scoundrels – both of them! And why the hell did Avinash give his wife my number, without even bothering to tell me?

In a flash, comprehension dawns on me. Avinash is setting me up with his own wife Vibha! In connivance with his wily lady-love Manisha. It’s truly disgusting! How low can anyone get?

“Okay friends,” I say to Avinash and Manisha in my mind’s eye, “you want to play a double game? I’m game. Let’s play!”

I reach the airport well in time and take up a strong tactical position where I can clearly observe the passengers coming out of the arrival gate without being easily seen myself.

I recognize her at once without ever having seen her. Stunningly attractive, a real beauty, smashing, sophisticated, elegant; truly chic – my type of woman – optimally designed, precisely engineered and finished to perfection. She looks so extraordinarily exquisite, so tantalizing, so sensuous, so temptingly inviting, that I cannot take my eyes off her. Suddenly she looks in my direction and realizes that I am feasting my eyes on her. At first she gives me stern look, then seeing the frank admiration in my eyes, she melts, her lovely, dark, expressive eyes begin to dance and she gives me a smile so captivating that I experience a delightful twinge in my heart.

“Excuse me,” someone is tapping my shoulder form behind. Exasperatingly I turn around, glare at the podgy pedestrian suburban unpretentious looking homely woman who has disturbed me and snap angrily, “Yes. What is it?”

“Mr. Vijay Joshi?” she says grinning like a Cheshire cat, “I am Vibha Gokhale. I told you I’ll recognize you, didn’t I?”

My Dear Reader, I have no words to describe my feelings at that moment. I’ll only say this. Deflated. Yes, deflated! I’d never felt so deflated before – or since!

Vibha Gokhale peeps past me at the object of my attention, arches her eyebrows, and says naughtily, “Aha, Mr. Vijay Joshi. So you thought that sexy dish over there is me, is it?”

I swivel round, then back, all confused, and stammer, “No, actually…”

“It’s okay. You’re not the first one to wonder how a handsome hulk like Avinash Gokhale married a Plain Jane like me,” she says, adjusting the hair pin in her bun.

“No, No…” I stammer in acute embarrassment.

“IIT,” she says.

“IIT?” I ask, confused.

“Avinash wooed me when we were classmates at IIT.”

I say nothing; try to conjure up a contrived smile of polite geniality.

“You know how ‘dry’ it used to be out there in IIT, isn’t it? The mirage! The mirage!,” she says as if it is some secret joke, “When you are starved, and thirsty, even a Plain Jane like me looks as if she is a Cleopatra…” she laughs with such frank innocence that I instantly take a liking to her.

Now I break out into a genuine friendly smile, amused in my mind’s eye about Avinash Gokhale’s penchant for Plain Janes.

“Hey, what are you thinking?” Vibha says, “Come, let’s collect my baggage and go home.”

“Yes, Ma’am,” I say, remembering she is my boss’s wife.

“Hey, don’t ‘Ma’am’ me!” she commands, “My name is Vibha. And I’ll call you Vijay.”

Soon we sit in my car and I ask her, “Where to?”

“Where to? What do you mean ‘Where to’? We’re going to your place, of course! I’m staying with you, isn’t it?” she says with childlike naiveté.

Probably seeing my shocked expression on my face, she says, “You don’t want to take me home? I thought it would be okay with you if I stayed over! Or should I stay here, at the airport, or in some hotel? I don’t want to go all the way to Avinash’s empty flat in NOIDA…”

“No, No. Of course you’re most welcome to stay with me,” I say, “Only thing is that I’m a bachelor.”

“I know,” she says matter-of-factly.

“I stay alone…” I stammer.

“Come on, shy boy, drive on. I won’t eat you up,” she says vivaciously, and I begin driving towards my house nearby in Vasant Vihar.

We reach my apartment and I open the door. I look at the wall clock – it’s almost three in the morning. She looks around my small one room studio apartment (an erstwhile decked up Barsati) and says, “A comfy, cozy bachelor’s den – I like it!”

“If you want to sleep you can sleep on the bed…”

“Hey, I’m dying for a cup of coffee, then I’ll bathe, and then we’ll see – we’ve got the full day ahead of us,” she says, walking towards the kitchenette.

“No, No, please…”

“Come on, Vijay, trust me. I make a decent cup of coffee, and I too live all alone like a bachelor girl in Singapore. Just tell me where the things are.”

Together we make coffee.

We sit down and talk. She is easy to talk to and my words come tumbling out. I tell her everything about myself, well, almost everything!

“Any love life?” she asks with a naughty conspiratorial look in her laughing eyes, at once inviting and taunting.

“No,” I say, “And you?”

“I told you – Avinash, Avinash, Avinash! Thst’s all. And a long distance marriage, pining for him, hoping that absence makes our hearts go fonder!”

I remain silent, not knowing what to say.

“Vijay, I like you,” she suddenly says with undisguised affection in her eyes.

“Like me?” I say nonplussed.

“Yes. After a long time I’ve met someone with whom I can be myself.”

“Me too,” I say, and I genuinely mean it. I feel a soft tenderness for her, a warm feeling of elation, but I quickly check my thoughts and hastily say, “You’ll like to have a nice hot shower, won’t you?” for I believe that thoughts can transmit themselves if they are strong enough.

“I’ll love to,” she says, and I show her the bathroom.

She comes out, freshly bathed, wearing a slim nightie that is so revealing that she might as well have worn nothing, but she conveys such innocence that it is obvious that she has no inkling of this. She looks so pure, so pristine, so desirable, and I realize that she’s not that plain looking at all, in fact, she is quite appealing, sensuous in a natural sort of way.

By instinct, and almost against my will, my eyes linger, travel all over her body. The transformation in her is amazing. Now she looks so wonderful, so feminine, so tender, so alluring, and so new – a woman in full bloom.

“I’ve become a little plump sitting on my haunches all day,” she says candidly, without a trace of coyness, throwing away the towel wrapped around her head, letting her luxuriant hair fall on her shoulders. She looks so tantalizing that I feel a moment of alarm. Maybe we are unthinkingly beginning something dangerous…so I blurt out, “I’ll have a shower too,” and rush towards the bathroom.

I have a soothing hot shower, and when I come out of the bathroom in my dressing gown, I see Vibha reading Manisha’s ludicrous “love letter” to Avinash Gokhale.

Oh, my God! I curse myself. What a careless fool I have been to let those letters lie on the table.

As she reads, I stare at her, dumbstruck, not knowing what to do.

Suddenly she turns and looks at me in incredulous despair.

“I can’t believe this,” Vibha moans, “It’s horrible,” she sobs, “Everything’s collapsed like a pack of cards,” she cries, “I invested my life in two things – my marriage and my career –and look what I’ve got in return? My marriage is a sham and my job – the two things I banked on, both have jilted me, and all I am left with is myself.”

“Your career? Your job? What happened?”

“It’s terrible,” she says, “I’m going through a very bad patch. Last week I was demoted, my junior promoted over my head,” she pauses, wipes her nose, “And I this so-called conference at the Head Office in London – it’s all a masquerade. I have a feeling they are going to fire me, give me termination letter, have an exit interview, settle my dues and tell me to go home.”

I listen silently, say nothing.

“I’m feeling so down,” she weeps. “I thought I’ll stop over, talk things over with Avinash, find some solace in his arms, plan our future, and see what happens! He does this!” she sobs holding out the letter.

“Maybe you can talk to him, patch up…”

“Patch up…?” she scorns mockingly, “A relationship in which the seeds of distrust have been sown – such a relationship, I think it is better to sever it, break it, terminate it permanently, than try to patch it up, isn’t it?”

I move my hands, wanting to take her into my arms, console her, but hesitate, not knowing what to do.

“I’ll never forgive him for this, for betraying me so terribly when I needed him the most,” she screams, and then suddenly her flaming red eyes look at me with such furious distress that I think she has gone raving mad.

“Please…”I say.

“Why didn’t you tell me?” she asks hoarsely, waving the letter. I see tears trickling down her cheeks. She covers her face with her hands, wildly shakes her head, disheveling her hair.

I want to comfort her. I touch her shoulder. She flashes her eyes at me through the tangled strands of her hair, and suddenly the blazing fury in her eyes collapses into incredulous despair.

“I loved him so much! Why did he do this to me, why did he do this…?” she sobs hysterically, wildly clutching my arms, totally breaking down, her knees giving way.

I grab her, hold her tight, and she slumps forward into my arms. Then she looks up into my eyes, yearning, thirsty, ravishing. And suddenly, naturally, instinctively, it happens. The most spontaneous, natural, beautiful and passionate experience of my life. Spur of the moment, unplanned, unforeseen frenzied love. Like a volcano.

It’s wonderful, lovely, exquisite. I feel good, cherished. But what about her? Vibha? Is it spontaneous love? An explosion of fiery pent up passion? Or is it an act of frenzy, rage, expiation?

I gradually come into consciousness, my eyes heavy, my body overwhelmed by the pleasurable sensation of lethargy in the aftermath of passion. Everything looks blurred and slowly Vibha’s face comes into focus.

“Vibha. I’m so…”

She gently puts her hand on my mouth and says, “It was lovely.” Then she lovingly ruffles my hair with her fingers. I close my eyes, snuggle up to her, and let her ruffle my hair. The emotion that comes to me is compassion for what we have done; never before have I felt such tenderness.

It’s almost noon by the time we are ready. We’ve still got most of the weekend ahead of us.

“What shall we do?” I ask Vibha, “Movie, shopping, sightseeing…whatever you want…”

“Let’s disappear,” Vibha says roguishly.

“Disappear?”

“Yes, Vijay, let’s just disappear, vanish into thin air, where no one will find us.”

“Where?”

“Anywhere, far away from this suffocating life,” she says, “Come Vijay, let’s head for the hills, breathe some new pure fresh air, cleanse the cobwebs, the demons from our minds.”

“Your flight? London?”

“I’ll cancel it.” She calls up, cancels her flight to London.

Then Vibha gives me her cell-phone, and says, “Switch it off and lock up this leash somewhere. Your mobile too. We don’t want to be tracked down, do we?”

“But…?”

“To hell with world – let them stew in suspense.”

I put the mobile phones in a drawer.

“What about these?” I point to the two letters lying on the table – My unposted letter to Manisha, in the envelope, and Manisha’a pathetic love letter to Avinash, tear-stained, crumpled.

Vibha opens my unposted letter to Manisha, reads it and just tears it up, shreds it to pieces.

“What…?” I shout, taken aback.

“This flotsam and jetsam; memories of betrayal – better get rid of it,” she says, shredding the other letter too. “No point carrying useless painful baggage of the past.”

“Come,” she says taking my hand, “Let’s get away from all this. Be free. We both need to breathe some fresh air.”

And so we disappear.

At sunset we sit together, all by ourselves on the precipice, relishing the breathtaking spectacle of the delightful dance of the panoply of colours on the awesome vista in front of us as the soothing orange sun plays hide-and-seek behind the snow capped peaks of the Himalayas, and then disappearing below the horizon and lighting up sky with vanishing crimson rays, streaks slowly dissolving in the enveloping grayness of twilight.

I feel wonderful, my spirits uplifted, my head in the clouds after savoring this inspiring soul-elevating feast for the eyes, I turn towards Vibha, cup her face in my hands and drown myself deep into her eyes. I can sense her finger-tips caressing the nape of my neck. The debris of the past has disappeared and a fresh new life is about to begin. I know that I have discovered my true love, my enduring 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.

vikramkarve@sify.com

vikramkarve.sulekha.com

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

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