Posts Tagged ‘travel’

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.

DON’T CALL ME AUNTY – Fiction Short Story

December 17, 2009

DON’T CALL ME AUNTY
Fiction Short Story

By

VIKRAM KARVE 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I really enjoyed the rest of my mission.

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

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

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

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

“Abort the mission?” I protested.

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

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

I told him everything.

He listened intently.

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

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

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

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

I was stunned.

‘Hello Nanda?’ This was too much!

I looked at my father, puzzled by his behaviour.

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

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

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

“No, she said.”

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

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

My father winked at me in appreciation.

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

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

VIKRAM KARVE

 

Copyright © Vikram Karve 2009

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

vikramkarve@sify.com

 

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

 

 

http://vikramkarve.sulekha.com

SMART BOY – Are Children Innocent Victims of Divorce

December 16, 2009

Dear Reader, have you read my fiction short story I posted recently on my Sulekha Creative Writing Blog titled A DAY IN THE LIFE OF A DIVORCED MAN

To read it just click on the title above or on the link below and after you have read it remember to come back here:

http://vikramkarve.sulekha.com/blog/post/2009/12/a-day-in-the-life-of-a-divorced-man.htm

Now this story highlighted the negative effects of divorce, especially in the context of children, who are supposed to be innocent victims in divorce situations for no fault of their own. It was quite a depressing open-ended story and some readers wanted a happy conclusion to that story.

Well, I did try, but could not conjure up a proper believable “happy ending” to A DAY IN THE LIFE OF A DIVORCED MAN so in order to counterbalance the situation here is a “happy ending” divorce story where the child is certainly not an “innocent victim” of a divorce situation!

Read on and tell me if you liked this story:

SMART BOY


Short Fiction – An Intriguing Conversation – A Slice of Life Story

By

VIKRAM KARVE

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

I find a smart boy sitting on my window seat talking to a handsome man sitting on the seat beside him.

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

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

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

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

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

“Me?” I ask, flabbergasted.

“My son…he’s travelling alone…”

“I always travel alone…” the boy interjects.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Your father gave it to you?”

“Yes. Papa gets me the best…”

“And your mother…”

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

“Oh dear, I am so sorry…”

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

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

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

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

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

“And now?”

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

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

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

“Really? You had two birthday parties?”

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

“Whatever you don’t want…?”

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

“That’s good…you are really lucky…”

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

“Funny? What?”

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

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

You neglect your kids when you are married together and you spoil them to glory when you are separated divorced…and I thought children were “innocent victims” in divorce situations!

Smart Boy!

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


A DAY IN THE LIFE OF A DIVORCED MAN


http://vikramkarve.sulekha.com/blog/post/2009/12/a-day-in-the-life-of-a-divorced-man.htm

vikramkarve@sify.com

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

Arm Candy – Wanderlust

December 8, 2009

ARM CANDY

Fiction Short Story

By

VIKRAM KARVE

Anonymity. That’s what I like about Mumbai. As I lose myself in the sea of humanity leaving Churchgate station in the morning rush hour, I experience a refreshing sense of solitude. I notice that I am walking fast, in step with the crowd, as if propelled by the collective momentum. I experience the tremendous advantages of obscurity as I lose myself in the huge enveloping deluge of people. That’s freedom – the power of anonymity.

But I am in no hurry. I have no office, no destination to reach. I had come here to spend some time with myself. Where no one would be watching me. And I can do as I please. That’s freedom – to be able to do what I want to do.

I stand outside the subway at Churchgate. Should I turn right, walk past Asiatic, Gaylord, and Rustoms towards Marine Drive on the Arabian Sea? Or go straight ahead, past Eros, to Nariman Point? Or walk to my left, between the Oval and Cross Maidan, towards Hutatma Chowk? I feel good. On top of the world. I am free to go wherever I please. That’s freedom!

The essence of travel is to have no destination. A good traveler is one who does not know where he is going to reach before he starts his journey. One decides on the spot. Instinctively. Intuitively. Impulsively. Spontaneously. That’s freedom! To be able to do as one likes. To go where one wants. Yes. That’s real and true freedom!

I choose the third option, leisurely walk on the pavement, looking at the boys playing cricket on the Oval to my right. The pavement booksellers near the Central Telegraph Office are gone. I cross the road and stand near the Fountain. Might as well ring up my husband. Not that he would bother. He’s not bothered, neither am I – it is mutual. Indifference. Yes, Indifference – that is the essence of our relationship – marital indifference – mutual indifference. That’s not freedom – indifference is not freedom.

But the mask of caring and sharing, the facade of conjugal conviviality has to be carefully maintained. At least for the sake of the outside world. That’s  what matters. To him, at least. And maybe for me too; at least till now.

I search for a public telephone. I am not carrying my cell-phone. I did not forget to carry my mobile phone. I purposely did not bring my it with me. That’s freedom! Unshackling myself from the manacles of my cell-phone.

I find a phone, insert a coin and dial his office number.

“I shall be late today,” I say.

“Okay,” he replies trying to suppress his irritation. But I can sense his annoyance a hundred miles away. Transmitted through the telephonic waves. He doesn’t like to be disturbed at office. Especially by me. For he is always too busy with his affairs. I wonder who his latest conquest is. Last time it was that petite girl at his office. Who looked so innocent, so pristine, so pure. An improbable paramour for a man of fifty. That’s why probably she made such a good one for so many months. There were many before. Many will be there in future.

Deep down I feel betrayed. It is terrible to love and not be loved in return. I don’t know what to do. I feel a sense of futility and helplessness. That’s not freedom.

What can I do? Walk out of the marriage. And do what? Perhaps I can have also had an affair. Tit for tat. I have the looks, but lack the guts. That is the reason why I have no choice but to continue this futile and meaningless relationship. That’s not freedom. That’s cowardice, what they also call compromise.

Everyone looks at us with envy and admiration. The successful husband. The charming wife. The ideal couple. ‘Made for each other’. And from time to time I hear myself tell everyone my biggest lie, “I’m so lucky. It’s been a lovely marriage. My life has been such a marvellous success.” Mendacity, hypocrisy, pretence – that’s not freedom.

I window-shop on MG Road opposite the university till I reach Kalaghoda. There’s a sale almost everywhere. Have a glass of refreshing cold sugarcane juice on the roadside stall. Browse at the Magna Book Store. Hear the latest music at Rhythm House. See the latest paintings at JehangirArtGallery. You can see, feel, browse, and hear whatever you want but need not buy – that’s freedom.

I decide to have lunch. Stuffed Parathas at Café Samovar. Heavenly rich tasty stuff with an abundance of calories and cholesterol. To hell with self-imposed killjoy restrictions. That’s freedom!

I sit alone in the long rectangular restaurant which reminds me of the dining cars on trains of yesteryears. I eat alone. I eat unhurriedly and consciously. It is sacrilege to eat delectable food hastily.

Nobody stares at me as I eat slowly and mindfully, relishing the piping hot stuffed parathas to the fullest, dipping them liberally in the spicy chutneys with my fingers. I indulge till I am satiated. Follow up with ice cream. A delightful delicious meal enjoyed alone. Epicurean pleasure of the highest order. That’s freedom!

Once again I realize the benefits of anonymity. Nobody knows me. Nobody’s bothered about me. The arty restaurant is full – with artists, art-lovers, office-goers, society ladies. All busy in their own world. The creative types – preoccupied with their own thoughts. No one gives a damn. This is Mumbai. Not our company township, and in it the exclusive residential campus near Pune, where my husband is the undisputed boss – the feudal lord, the ‘King’ – and I the ‘Queen’, pampered with all the comforts, fawned and flattered, by plenty of sycophants masquerading as friends, secretly envied by all, but trapped in a golden cage. That’s pseudo-freedom!

My daughter must have returned from college. She is independent. On her own trip. Having been given all the material comforts she desires. With every passing year the distance between us keeps on increasing. I telephone from the phone outside the restaurant.

“I’ll be late,” I tell my daughter.

“So shall I,” she replies. “I am going out with my friends.”

Brevity in communication. The hallmark of our family.

I spend the next few hours doing what I always liked. Aimless loafing on Colaba Causeway, a brief visit to the Museum, gazing at the ships across the Gateway of India, a movie at Regal, a walk across the Oval, invigorating Irani Style Tea at the Stadium restaurant, sitting on the parapet at Marine Drive and watching the sun being swallowed up by the sea. I lose myself in my pleasure trip, in a state of timelessness. This is freedom – not the artificial sterile synthetic life I am living.

The sky is overcast and it starts to drizzle. I walk leisurely on A-Road enjoying the weather. Mumbai is at its best in the monsoon season. I stop before my house. My old house. My parents’ house. The house of my childhood. The house where I grew up. The house my parents had to sell for my dowry. In the hope that I would enjoy a better life. And yes, they were so happy – for my parents, my marriage was a social triumph.

I feel a sense of nostalgia. I reminisce. There is no greater pain than to remember happier times when one is despondent, depressed and dejected with life. But it is also true that when one’s intractable desires are thwarted by reality, there is a tendency to hark back to happy memories. It is indeed at vicious circle. In which I felt trapped at that moment. So I turn away from my house of the past and walk into the present, back towards Marine Drive.

The sea is rough. It is windy. I can smell the rain in the distance. I look at my watch. Almost 7 PM. More than ten hours since I left my house in Pune. I am enjoying the change of routine. A break. After a long long time. Most of us have a preference for some kind of routine or rhythm in our day-to-day life. But when the rhythm becomes sinusoidal, the routine overwhelms you. That’s when you got to break it. Like I had done. Today. At precisely 6.30 AM I had left my house. As usual. But today I wasn’t wearing leotards underneath. For I wasn’t going to the health club. I went straight to the Pune railway station and caught the Deccan Queen. To Mumbai.

It’s raining now. I rush towards Churchgate station. As I cross my favourite Chinese restaurant I wonder with whom my husband would be having his “working” dinner. He wouldn’t have missed me. We never eat together now-a-days. Except breakfast on Sundays. When he would bury himself behind the newspaper nursing a hangover. On other days he would be off to office by the time I returned form the health club. And I would busy myself with my daily routine. Everything runs like clockwork. Everyone takes me for granted. There are no problems. That is the real problem. Oh yes! My problem is that I do not have any problems! Or do I? You tell me.

I catch a Volvo bus from Dadar and reach home late at night. It’s almost 11. There is no one at home. The servants ask me if I want anything and then go off to sleep.

I wake up late in the morning. My husband gives me a beautiful diamond necklace. A gift for his darling wife.  As always – a gift to compensate his guilty conscience for his misdemeanours – the bigger the misdemeanour, the larger the guilt, and the more expensive the gift. That’s not love, that’s not freedom.

We sit at the breakfast table. No one asks me where I was yesterday. Maybe I have become redundant. Or have I?

“Be ready at 12. I’ll send the car. We’ve got to go for that business lunch at the Golf Club,” my husband snaps peremptorily.

Oh yes. I’ll go along. As Arm Candy“.

“And, Mom, after that you’ve got to come with me to the jeweller,” my daughter commands. That’s all I am worth these days, isn’t it? I just have ornamental value. Soon I won’t have even that.

The moment they go away I break into a laugh. To hell with them! From now on I am going to be free! Do exactly as I want. Go wherever I wish. Do whatever I please.

Yesterday it was Mumbai. Today, where should I go – Lonavala? No, it’s too boring. Mumbai? – Not again! Bangalore ? – I’ve been there many times. Delhi? – Maybe! Why not head for the hills – Ooty, Mussoorie, Darjeeling, Shimla, Nainital, Mahableshwar? The possibilities are endless!

Hey! Why should I tell you? I’m free to do as I please. I’m off on my own trip. That’s freedom!

ARM CANDY

Fiction Short Story

by

VIKRAM KARVE

Copyright © Vikram Karve 2009

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

http://vikramkarve.sulekha.com

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

vikramkarve@hotmail.com

vikramkarve@sify.com

Outsourcing Made Simple

November 22, 2009

 

THE ART OF OUTSOURCING

 

By

 

VIKRAM KARVE

Short Fiction – One of my favourite fiction short stories…

 

One leisurely morning, while I am loafing on Main Street, in Pune, I meet an old friend of mine.

 

 

“Hi!” I say.

 

 

“Hi,” he says, “where to?”

 

 

“Aimless loitering,” I say, “And you?”

 

 

“I’m going to work.”

 

 

“Work? This early? I thought your shift starts in the evening, or late at night. You work at a call center don’t you?”

 

 

“Not now. I quit. I’m on my own now.”

 

 

“On your own? What do you do?”

 

 

“LPO.”

 

 

“LPO? What’s that?”

 

 

“Life Process Outsourcing.”

 

 

“Life Process Outsourcing? Never heard of it!”

 

 

“You’ve heard of Business Process Outsourcing haven’t you?”

 

 

“BPO? Outsourcing non-core business activities and functions?”

 

 

“Precisely. LPO is similar to BPO. There it’s Business Processes that are outsourced, here it’s Life Processes.”

 

 

“Life Processes? Outsourced?”

 

 

“Why don’t you come along with me? I’ll show you.”

 

 

Soon we are in his office. It looks like a mini call center.

 

 

A young attractive girl welcomes us. “Meet Rita, my Manager,” my friend says, and introduces us.

 

Rita looks distraught, and says to my friend, “I’m not feeling well. Must be viral fever.”

 

 

“No problem. My friend here will stand in.”

 

 

“What? I don’t have a clue about all this LPO thing!” I protest.

 

 

“There’s nothing like learning on the job! Rita will show you.”

 

 

“It’s simple,” Rita says, in a hurry. “See the console. You just press the appropriate switch and route the call to the appropriate person or agency.”

And with these words Rita disappears. It’s the shortest induction training I have ever had in my life.

 

 

And so I plunge into the world of Life Process Outsourcing; or LPO as they call it.

 

 

It’s all very simple.

Everyone is busy. Working people don’t seem to have time these days, but they have lots of money; especially those double income couples, IT nerds, MBA hot shots, finance wizards; just about everybody running desperately in the modern rat race.

So what do they do? Simple. They ‘outsource’!

‘Non-core Life Activities’, for which you neither have the inclination or the time – you just outsource them; so you can maximize your work-time to rake in the money and make a fast climb up the ladder of success.

A ring, a flash on the console infront of me and I take my first LPO call.

 

 

“My daughter’s puked in her school. They want someone to pick her up and take her home. I’m busy in a shoot and just can’t leave,” a creative ad agency type with a husky voice says.

 

 

“Why don’t you tell your husband?” I suggest.

 

 

“Are you crazy or something? I’m a single mother.”

 

 

“Sorry ma’am. I didn’t know. My sympathies and condolences.”

 

 

“Condolences? Who’s this? Is this LPO?”

 

 

“Yes ma’am,” I say, press the button marked ‘children’ and transfer the call, hoping I have made the right choice. Maybe I should have pressed ‘doctor’.

 

 

Nothing happens for the next few moments. I breathe a sigh of relief.

 

 

A yuppie wants his grandmother to be taken to a movie. I press the ‘movies’ button. ‘Movies’ transfers the call back, “Hey, this is for movie tickets; try ‘escort services’. He wants the old hag escorted to the movies.”

 

 

‘Escort Services’ are in high demand. These guys and girls, slogging in their offices minting money, want escort services for their kith and kin for various non-core family processes like shopping, movies, eating out, sight seeing, marriages, funerals, all types of functions; even going to art galleries, book fairs, exhibitions, zoos, museums or even a walk in the nearby garden.

 

 

A father wants someone to read bedtime stories to his small son while he works late. A busy couple wants proxy stand-in ‘parents’ at the school PTA meeting. An investment banker rings up from Singapore; he wants his mother to be taken to pray in a temple at a certain time on a specific day.

 

Someone wants his kids to be taken for a swim, brunch, a play and browsing books and music.

 

 

A sweet-voiced IT project manager wants someone to motivate and pep-talk her husband, who’s been recently sacked, and is cribbing away at home demoralized. He desperately needs someone to talk to, unburden himself, but the wife is busy – she neither has the time nor the inclination to take a few days off to boost the morale of her depressed husband when there are deadlines to be met at work and so much is at stake.

 

 

The things they want outsourced range from the mundane to the bizarre; life processes that one earlier enjoyed and took pride in doing or did as one’s sacred duty are considered ‘non-core life activities’ now-a-days by these highfalutin people.

 

 

At the end of the day I feel illuminated on this novel concept of Life Process Outsourcing, and I am about to leave, when suddenly a call comes in.

 

 

“LPO?” a man asks softly.

 

 

“Yes, this is LPO. May I help you?” I say.

 

 

“I’m speaking from Frankfurt Airport. I really don’t know if I can ask this?” he says nervously.

 

 

“Please go ahead and feel free to ask anything you desire, Sir. We do everything.”

 

 

“Everything?”

 

 

“Yes, Sir. Anything and everything!” I say.

 

 

“I don’t know how to say this. This is the first time I’m asking. You see, I am working 24/7 on an important project for the last few months. I’m globetrotting abroad and can’t make it there. Can you please arrange for someone suitable to take my wife out to the New Year’s Eve Dance?”

 

 

I am taken aback but quickly recover, “Yes, Sir.”

 

 

“Please send someone really good, an excellent dancer, and make sure she enjoys and has a good time. She loves dancing and I just haven’t had the time.”

 

 

“Of course, Sir.”

 

 

“And I told you – I’ve been away abroad for quite some time now and I’ve got to stay out here till I complete the project.”

 

 

“I know. Work takes top priority.”

 

 

“My wife. She’s been lonely. She desperately needs some love. Do you have someone with a loving and caring nature who can give her some love? I just don’t have the time. You understand what I’m saying, don’t you?”

 

 

I let the words sink in. This is one call I am not going to transfer. “Please give me the details, Sir,” I say softly into the mike.

 

 

As I walk towards my destination with a spring in my step, I feel truly enlightened.

 

Till this moment, I never knew that ‘love’ was a ‘non-core’ ‘life-process’ worthy of outsourcing.

 

 

Long Live LPO!


Life Process Outsourcing
!


Love Process Outsourcing
!

Call it what you like, but I’m sure you’ve got the essence of outsourcing.

 

 

 

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

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

 

THE MARRIED WOMAN AND THE YOUNG DETECTIVE

September 27, 2009

THE MARRIED WOMAN AND THE YOUNG DETECTIVE

Fiction Short Story

By

VIKRAM KARVE

A detective always remembers his first case. Let me tell you about mine.

This happened long back – more than thirty years ago – in the 1970s – when Pune was a salubrious pensioners’ paradise – a cosy laid back friendly town where everyone knew everyone.

And let me tell you – at the time of this story – I was not even a full fledged detective – but I was just a rookie part-time amateur self-styled sleuth – studying in college – skylarking in my spare time as a private detective – masquerading as a Private Investigator for my uncle who ran a private detective agency.

Dear Reader, please remember that way back then, in good old days of the 1970s, there were no cell-phones, no PCs, no mobile cameras, handy cams or digital cameras, no modern technology gadgets, not even things like email and the internet that you take for granted today and the only method of investigation was the tried and tested good old physical surveillance where one spent hours and hours patiently shadowing and tailing your target.

“A woman wants her husband watched,” my uncle said giving me a slip of paper with a name and the room number of a well-known hotel in Pune.

“That’s all?” I asked.

“He is a businessman from Mumbai…drives down to Pune very often…at least once a week…sometimes twice…ostensibly in connection with business…but she suspects there is some hanky-panky going on…”

One week later, waiting for the client to arrive at our planned rendezvous, I sat on the balcony of Café Naaz atop Malabar Hill sipping a cup of delicious Chai and enjoying the breathtaking sunset as the Arabian Sea devoured the orange sun followed by spectacular view of the Queen’s Necklace as the lights lit up Marine Drive.

She arrived on the dot at seven and sat opposite me.

I looked at my client.  She was a Beauty, a real beauty, 35…maybe 40… must have been a stunner in her college days…I tried not to stare at her.

“Okay…Tell me,” she said, getting to the point straightaway.

I started reading from my pocket-book, “Thursday morning at ten fifteen he left his hotel room…deposited key at reception telling them that he was going for work would return in the evening…started to drive down in his car towards Deccan…picked up a female who seemed to be waiting for him…she sat next to him…and as they drove off away from the city into the countryside they seemed to be getting amorous…lovey-dovey, you know, a bit of kissing, cuddling…”

“No…No…skip the details…just tell me…is he or isn’t he…?” she interrupted me.

She seemed to be in a hurry. Maybe she was not comfortable being seen sitting with me over here and wanted to get it over with as quickly as possible.

“I think he is having an affair,” I said.

“You think…?”

“Yes…I am pretty sure…”

“How can you be so sure?”

“Well we look for three things – the three key ingredients which are required to have an affair – TIME, INCLINATION and OPPORTUNITY…”

“Time…Inclination…Opportunity…” she repeated looking quite perplexed.

“Well they certainly had the Time…they spent the whole day together in seclusion…and they certainly had the Opportunity…behind the privacy of closed doors in that lonely discreet motel hidden in the back of beyond…and as far as the Inclination part is concerned…well, the way they were behaving…I have no doubt about it….”

A smile broke out on her face.

I was flabbergasted – now tell me dear reader – what would be your reaction if you came to know that your spouse was having an affair – would you just smile…

Suddenly I remembered what my uncle had told me, so I asked the woman, “Do you wish to increase coverage?”

“Coverage…?”

“Photographs…receipts…documentary evidence…round the clock surveillance…full details….” I elaborated.

Of course all this would be handled in a professional manner by my experienced uncle and his agency…maybe he’d take me along as a learning experience.

“I don’t think so…” the woman said.

“No?” I said perplexed, “but you will require all this as evidence to establish that your husband is committing adultery…”

“Husband…? Who said he is my husband…?” she said grinning like a Cheshire cat.

“You said so…to the head of the detective agency…”

“No, I didn’t….I just told him that I wanted a man followed…”

“But we assumed…”

“A good detective shouldn’t assume things, isn’t it…?

“But then why did you want that man followed…?” I asked curious.

“Well that’s my private matter,” she said, “but since I like you, I’ll tell you…It is like this… One day, fifteen years ago, the day I completed my graduation, my parents showed me two photographs…the first photo was of the man you were following…the second photo was of the man who is now my husband.”

The woman paused for a moment, had a sip of water, and continued, “My parents told me to choose one…and I made my choice…but since then…during all these years of my married life… I was always tormented by the thought that I had made the wrong choice….now…thanks to you… I know I made the right choice!”

She took out an envelope from her purse and gave it to me. “Your fee…and there is a bonus for you too for doing such a good job…” she said and then she got up and walked away into the enveloping darkness.

Later when I opened the envelope and saw that the “bonus” was more than the fee, I wondered whether she had two envelopes in her purse, one for each eventuality.

I never forgot the cardinal lesson I learnt from this case – I never assume anything…and now…before I start a new investigation…the first thing I do is to carry out a background check of the client.

THE MARRIED WOMAN AND THE YOUNG DETECTIVE

Fiction Short Story

By

VIKRAM KARVE

Copyright © Vikram Karve 2009

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


http://vikramkarve.sulekha.com

vikramkarve@sify.com

A Flirty Date at Churchgate

September 3, 2009

A FLIRTY DATE AT CHURCHGATE


[Fiction Short Story – A Romance]

By

VIKRAM KARVE

What do you do if a man looks at you with frank admiration in his eyes – in an insistent suggestive sort of way that is worth a thousand compliments?

Nothing! You do absolutely nothing.

You do nothing because you are a thoroughly bored “happily” married thirty year old housewife sitting comfortably in your favourite rocking chair, browsing through Benjamin Spock’s Baby and Child Care, at the Oxford Bookstore at Churchgate in Mumbai.

So you just look down, act as if you have not noticed his flirting, and try to concentrate on reading the book in your hands.

But you cannot read – the words just don’t focus in front of you. You think of the man, his lingering look, his eyes curiously languid, yet inviting – it’s the first time someone looked at you in such a flattering way for a long long time.

You feel a tinge of excitement.

Maybe something is going to happen. Something exciting – dangerously exciting. At long last.

Something that you secretly want to happen, but never ever happens.

Or maybe it’s just your imagination playing tricks.

So just to check up. Once. Only once.

You quickly look up – a fleeting glance.

He is still looking at you – not furtively, but brazenly, almost unashamedly, with waves of yearning flowing out of his eyes. He looks a decisive, hot-blooded and masculine man with his smart beard and piercing eyes.

You feel a flush inside. A shiver. A tremor. A tremor of trepidation – mixed with excitement. You cannot define how you feel – but it feels good. He looks at you. You look back at him in return. He begins to smile. You quickly look down and bury yourself into the pages in front of you and pretend to read.

But it’s no use. You can sense his unseen eyes locked onto you, burning into you, travelling all over your body and lingering exactly where they shouldn’t – just like a laser beam.

And now, he knows that you know.

What do you do? Best is not to react – just accept the fact of being looked at – ignore him. Keep on pretending to read.

Oh no! That may be dangerous. He may get ideas. You never know these types. He may think you are game. But are you? Or aren’t you?

Why not play on – have some fun. Flirt a bit. See what happens.

Why not have a little excitement to liven up your boring life a bit.

So you take a deep breath, brace yourself and start a dangerous game.

You look up from your book, pan your gaze slowly across the bookstore, looking at everything – the shelves of books, the people, the cha-bar, the sales counter – and finally, like a dog that has circled its bowl of food long enough, you look directly at him.

Eyes meet. His and yours. Yours and his. His appraising eyes look into yours. And then his eyes travel down and look at the book in your hands.

You spontaneously follow his gaze, and look down at the book in your hands – Benjamin Spock’s Baby and Child Care – most inappropriate for what you have in mind. You quickly put it away into the rack, run your eyes across the shelf and pick up ‘The Art of Seduction’.

You turn the pages – nothing registers – so you look up at him almost seeking approbation.

He smiles – a wry canny smile – as if he knows something you don’t. And suddenly he gets up from the chair, keeps the magazine he is holding back in the rack and begins walking towards you.

Your heart stops – you want to disappear, but he is already standing in front of you.

“Good morning Anita,” he says. “I’m Sen. Dilip Sen.”

Anita? You are not Anita. Seems to be a case of mistaken identity – but you are curious, and in a playful mood, so you say, “Oh, Hello Mr. Sen. You are late.”

“Late? No,” he says looking at his watch, a confused look on his face. “The RV is correct – as planned.”

“RV?”

“Rendezvous.”

Now you are really curious. “Why don’t you pull that stool and sit,” you say.

“Not here. Let’s go to the cha-bar. We can talk in peace there,” he says.

“Okay,” You replace the book in its place in the shelf, get up and walk towards the cha-bar.

The cha-bar – the tea lounge – it’s the best thing about Oxford Bookstore. An ideal place to relax, browse, or have a quiet flirtatious chat over a cup of exquisite tea.

As you sip, savouring the fragrance and relishing the rich flavour of premium Darjeeling Tea, you feel a shiver of anticipation. It’s your first time. You wonder what’s going to happen next.

“Well done. Let’s recap,” he says pulling out a pocket diary.

Well done? Recap? You wonder what this is all about. The man seems to be crazy. But you keep your wits about, and to calm down you say to yourself, “Relax. Just keep quiet and go along.”

And to Mr. Sen, you say confidently, “Okay. Sure. Let’s recap.”

Step 1,” he says looking into the diary in front of him, “you and I independently arrive at the previously agreed upon rendezvous. Your choice is excellent – this bookstore – easy to wait, observe and not be noticed. We just blended in. Much better cover than a railway station, park or restaurant. And the book you chose – Baby and Child Care – easily discernible – so aptly chosen. Perfect for your cover. Looked so natural in your hands.”

“Do I look pregnant?” you snap at him.

“No. No. I am sorry. I didn’t mean it that way,” he says, taken aback, “You look lovely. But the book – it suited your cover – as a bored housewife.”

Cover? What’s he talking?

A bored housewife!

That’s what you are, aren’t you?

Husband busy working, kids at school, and you – bored to death with nothing to do.

“I’m not bored,” you tease him with your eyes. Flatter him by looking steadily at him without letting your eyes stray.

Step 2 – making eye contact. We could be a bit more discreet next time, isn’t it?” he says smiling into your eyes.

Discreet? Next time? What’s going on? Who’s this guy?

Step 3 – the signal. Change of book. Okay. But ‘The Art of Seduction’?” he looks perplexed, “try something more sober – in line with your cover…..”

He goes on and on but you aren’t listening. You just look at him. He is a man who looks like a man. Solid, strong, decisive but vulnerable.

You fantasize.

Your imagination begins to run wild.

You feel his touch – he has put his hand in your arm. His touch is electric.

A shiver of anticipation rises within you.

Suddenly he is shaking you.

You snap back to reality.

“Okay Anita. Let’s get on with the tradecraft,” he says, in an almost imperative tone.

“Tradecraft?”

“Yes. And make sure you don’t grow a tail.”

“Tail? “

“Yes,” he says, “Be careful. Maybe you’ve already grown a tail – check it out and shake it off.”

“Grown a tail?” unknowingly you move your hand over your behind to check and instinctively shake your bottom.

“Not there!” he reprimands, in a voice a teacher uses to scold a careless student.

“Have you forgotten everything – counter surveillance protocol?”

“Counter surveillance protocol?” you ask credulous.

“Come on Anita. Snap out of it. Be alert. They told me you were a seasoned detective. Now get on with your mission.”

Detective? Mission? What’s he talking about?

Oh my God! Fear starts rising within you. It’s getting dangerous. This is for real – no longer fun. It’s time to run.

“Excuse me,” you say, quickly get up and start walking towards the exit. You sense he is following you. So the moment you get out of the bookstore, you deliberately avoid going to your car but walk in the opposite direction towards the Oval.

The Clock on Rajabai Tower is striking twelve – it is twelve noon.

You look back over your shoulder. Dilip Sen is following you.

You break into a run, still looking back, and suddenly bang into someone.

Oh, My God! It’s Nalini – your gossipy neighbour.

“What happened?” Nalini asks, steadying you up.

“Nothing,” you say.

“Hey. Why did you abort?” Dilip Sen asks, catching up with you, his hand clutching your arm.

“Abort?” exclaims Nalini, her eyebrows arched, a mischievous glint in her eyes.

You look at Nalini. Then at Dilip Sen. And then at Nalini again.

Nalini’s roving eyes travel all over you, look meaningfully at Dilip Sen, for that significant moment her eyes focus on his hand holding yours, taking in everything, till her gaze settles down pointedly looking at where it shouldn’t.

Everything seems frozen in silence – a terrible silence, a deafening silence, a grotesque silence.

You look at Nalini, her changing expression.

Nalini looks at you with envious awe. And you see something mischievously wicked in her large radiating eyes.

You know you are sunk.

Yes, you are truly sunk. Lock, Stock and Barrel. Up the Gum Tree, as they say.

You break out into laughter.

That’s the only sane thing left to do.

Life isn’t going to be boring any longer after this flirty date at Churchgate.

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

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