Posts Tagged ‘values’

BEST OF BOTH WORLDS – A Story of Non Resident Indian (NRI) Diaspora

September 29, 2011

BEST OF BOTH WORLDS
A Short Story
By
VIKRAM KARVE

I have noticed one thing. In the colony where I live in Pune almost everyone’s children have migrated to the USA to realize the American Dream (That’s why Computer Science, Software Engineering and IT is so popular – it is the easiest way to go abroad). But one thing is very funny about this Indian (Puneri) diaspora. In their professional lives and careers they quickly adopt “modern” western American values but in their personal lives they still cling on to traditional Indian values. This story explores this dichotomy…

A middle aged woman watches the sun set from the balcony of her tenth floor flat of one of those ubiquitous residential “townships” rapidly sprawling and proliferating around the once remote suburb of Aundh on the outskirts of the once beautiful and picturesque city of Pune in western India.

The doorbell rings. It’s her husband back home from work.

He’s tired and aching all over after the long bone-rattling, back-breaking and lung-choking commute on the terrible roads and in the polluted atmosphere.

“Good news,” his wife says exuberantly, giving him his customary cup of tea.

“What?” the husband asks nonchalantly, carefully pouring the precise amount of tea from the cup into the saucer and lifting the saucer to his lips to enjoy his tea in his usual habitual manner.

“Our daughter Nalini is pregnant,” the wife exults.

“At long last – I thought she didn’t have time for mundane things like procreation –  I am so glad she found time from her busy schedule,” the husband comments acerbically and noisily sips his tea in his customary acerbic style.

“Don’t be sarcastic. She’s a career woman. Aren’t you happy…?”

“Of course I’m happy. I’m 56 now – it’s high time I became a grandfather.”

“I’ll have to go…”

“Where…?”

“For her delivery.”

“To Seattle…?”

“Yes. Her due date is sometime in December. I better go as early as possible, maybe in October. Poor thing, it’s her first child. You better get the visas and all ready well in time. Nalini wants me to stay for at least three-four months after her delivery.”

“Three-four months after her delivery…? So you’ll be away for more than six months…?”

“Yes. I’m her mother and I have to be there to help her. Poor thing. It’s her first delivery. And that too in America… poor thing…”

“Poor thing…? Who asked her to go there…? And what about me…?”

“You also come and help out.”

“I won’t get six months’ leave.”

“Come for a month. To see the baby. In December or January…”

“I’ll see. But I don’t like it there. It’s too boring. And in December it will be freezing cold.”

“Then stay here.”

“I wish we hadn’t shifted from Sadashiv Peth.”

“Why…? Isn’t this lovely apartment better than those two horrible rented rooms we had…? And it’s all thanks to Nalini.”

“I know… I know… Don’t rub it in. But sometimes I wish we hadn’t pushed her into Computers and IT. We should have let her study arts, history, literature – whatever she wanted to.”

“And it would have been difficult to find a decent boy for her and she would be languishing like an ordinary housewife with no future… slogging away throughout her life like me.”

“And we would be still staying in the heart of the city and not in the wilderness out here… and you wouldn’t have to go all the way to America for her delivery…!”

“Don’t change the topic….” the wife says.

“I am not changing the topic,” says the husband firmly. “You are not going for Nalini’s delivery to America. Let them, she and her husband, manage on her own.”

“But why shouldn’t I go…? She is sending the ticket.”

“It’s not a question of money. The fact is I don’t want to stay all alone at this age. It is difficult. And here, in this godforsaken township full of snobs, I don’t even have any friends.”

“Try to understand. I have to be there. It’s her first delivery.”

“Tell me one thing.”

“What…?”

“Don’t the women out there have babies…?”

“Yes. So…?”

“And do they always have their mothers around pampering them during their pregnancies and deliveries…? And then mollycoddling their babies for the next few months, maybe even a year…?”

“I don’t know,” she said evading an answer, “for them it’s different.”

“Different…?”

“Our girls are najuk.”

“Najuk…?”

“Delicate…. fragile.”

“Nonsense. They are as tough as any one else. It’s all in the mind. It’s only our mindset that’s different.”

“What do you mean…?”

“Thousands of women who have migrated from all over the world are delivering babies out there every day, but it’s only our girls who can’t do without their mothers around, is it…?”

“Don’t argue with me. It’s our culture… our tradition. A daughter’s first delivery is her mother’s responsibility.”

“Culture…? Tradition…? What nonsense…? It’s not culture… it’s attitude…! Our people may have physically migrated to the modern world, but their mental make-up hasn’t changed, isn’t it…?”

“Please stop your lecturing. I’m fed up of hearing…” the wife pleads.

The husband continues as if he hasn’t heard her: “What they require is attitudinal change and to stop their double standards. Nonsense… Nobody forced them to go to America… They went there on their own and it’s high time they adopt the American way of life instead of clinging on to roots and values they themselves have cast off…”

“Please. Please. Please. Enough… I beg of you. Don’t argue. Just let me go.”

“No. You can’t go. I can’t stay alone for six months. Why should I…?”

“Try to understand. I’ve told you a hundred times. It’s our only daughter’s first delivery. I have to be there.”

“Okay. Tell her to come here.”

“Here…?”

“Yes. Here. To Pune. We’ll do her delivery right here in Pune. We’ll go to the best maternity hospital and then you can keep her here as long as you want. She’ll be comfortable, the weather will be good and you can pamper your darling daughter and her baby to your heart’s content.”

“No.”

“What do you mean ‘No’…? You went to your mother’s place for your deliveries isn’t it…? And you came back after the babies were more than three months old.”

“That was different. I wasn’t working.”

“Oh. It’s about her job is it…? I’m sure they have maternity leave out there. She can take a break. Come here to India. Have her baby. And if she wants to go back early we’ll look after the kid for a couple of months and then I’ll take leave and we’ll both go and drop the baby there.”

The wife says nothing.

“Give me the phone. I’ll ring her up and tell her to come here as early as possible. I’ll convince her she will be more comfortable here,” the husband says.

“I’ve already spoken to her and tried to convince her exactly what you suggested,” the wife says.

“And…?”

“She wants the baby to be born there. It’s something about citizenship.”

“So that’s the point…” the husband says, “She wants the best of both worlds, isn’t it…?”

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

Did you like this story?
This is a story from my recently published anthology of Short Fiction COCKTAIL and I am sure you will like all the 27 stories in COCKTAIL
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Foodie Book:  Appetite for a Stroll
If your are a Foodie you will like my book of Food Adventures APPETITE FOR A STROLL. Do order a copy from FLIPKART:
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About Vikram Karve

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

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

© vikram karve., all rights reserved.

© vikram karve., all rights reserved.

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Creative Writing by Vikram Karve: A POET AND HIS MUSE

February 3, 2011

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

“Where?”

Chotte Lal turns the paper and shows him.

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

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

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

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

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

Chotte Lal walks out in a huff.

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chotte Lal rings the bell.

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


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

“Poem…? What Poem…?” his wife asks.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I don’t want to go to the city.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

“Come,” he says to Engine.

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


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

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

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

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


They reach Ram Bharose’s Dhaba.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

VIKRAM KARVE
Copyright © Vikram Karve 2010

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

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

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

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

AGONY AUNT

August 7, 2010

AGONY AUNT.

WHY I AM GOING TO BOARDING SCHOOL

May 16, 2010

WHY I AM GOING TO BOARDING SCHOOL

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

By

VIKRAM KARVE

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


It all started when God took my baby brother away.

Poor thing!

God took him away even before he was born.

And Mamma was never the same again.

She changed forever.

We were so happy then.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It was at this moment that Mamma changed forever.

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

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

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

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

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

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

And soon she started becoming normal and happy again.

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

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

“MCP,” said everyone to Papa.

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

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

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

And so, Mamma started working.

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

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

Life was hectic now.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then there was an IT boom.

IT, IT everywhere!

That was a turning point in our lives.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And suddenly one day God took Granny away.

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

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

I sensed it was about me.

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

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

Copyright © Vikram Karve 2010

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

http://vikramkarve.sulekha.com

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

vikramkarve@sify.com

REALTY CHECK Fiction Short Story

May 4, 2010

REALTY CHECK

Fiction Short Story

By

VIKRAM KARVE

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

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

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

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

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

“Ungrateful…?” the son winces.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

VIKRAM KARVE

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

vikramkarve@sify.com

http://vikramkarve.sulekha.com

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

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

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

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

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

HONESTY IS THE BEST POLICY – A Story – Just One Seed

October 10, 2009

JUST ONE SEED

A Story

By

VIKRAM KARVE


Dear Reader, do read and reflect on this apocryphal tale, a teaching story I heard long back, from one of my teachers, I think.

Once upon a time there was a childless King who wanted to choose a worthy successor to his throne after he passed away.

He called all the young children in his kingdom to his palace one day and said: “It has come time for me to choose the next King. I have decided to choose one of you as my successor, as my Crown Prince, and groom you to be the King after I am gone.”

The amazed children listened spellbound as the King spoke: “I am going to give each one of you a seed today – Just One Seed. It is a very special seed. I want you all to go home, plant the seed, water it, nurture it, and come back here to me exactly one year from today with the plant you have grown from this one seed. I will then judge the plants that you bring to me and whoever grows the best plant will be the Crown Prince, the next King after me.”

There was one small shy boy who was there that day and he, like the others, received a seed from the King. He went home and excitedly told his mother the whole story. She helped him get a pot and some planting soil, and he planted the seed and watered it regularly and nurtured it carefully. Twice every day, in the morning and in the evening, the small shy boy would water the seed lovingly and watch to see if it had germinated and grown.

After a few days, some of the other children began to talk about their seeds and the lovely plants that were beginning to grow, but the small shy boy kept going home and checking his seed, disappointed that nothing was growing from his seed.

Days passed, then weeks, and months, but still there was no sign of a plant growing from the small shy boy’s seed. But the small boy still kept lovingly watering his seed regularly hoping that it would germinate.

By now the others were talking about their wonderful healthy plants but small shy boy didn’t have a plant and he felt like a failure, but he kept persevering and nurturing his seed with love and dedication in the optimistic hope that his seed would someday sprout a plant.

Six months went by and there was still no sign of a plant in the small shy boy’s pot.

Everyone else had exquisite tall plants, but he had nothing. Inwardly he feared that maybe he had killed his seed but the small shy boy didn’t say anything to his friends and kept on tenderly watering and nurturing his seed with dogged determination and doting devotion in the fond hope that his seed would grow and blossom into a beautiful plant.

Finally, one year passed, and all the children of the kingdom brought their plants to the King for inspection.

The small shy boy was scared and did not want to take his desolate plant-less pot with just the soil and seed to the King, but his mother encouraged him to go, to take his pot with him, and to be honest about everything.

The small shy boy felt fearful and nervous, but he listened to his mother and took his barren pot to the King.

When the small shy boy arrived at the King’s Palace, he was astonished to see the variety of beautiful and exotic plants grown by all the other children.

Totally crestfallen, the small shy boy put his desolate pot on the floor and everyone jeered in derision and mocked him. A few children felt pity for him and tried to console the small shy boy.

Suddenly the King arrived, looked around the hall appraising the plants and showered words of praise to the gathered children: “It is really amazing – you all have really grown fantastic beautiful plants, trees and flowers. I am truly impressed. Today, one of you is going to be selected as the Crown Prince to be the next King!”

The small shy boy shivered with tremors of trepidation and overcome with shame tried to hide in the back.

The King’s eyes searched all over and suddenly he saw the small shy boy at the back of the hall with his barren pot.

The King ordered his guards to bring him in front of the throne

The small shy boy was terrified. “When the King sees my pot, how badly I have failed in the task he gave me, he is sure to punish me!”

Seeing how frightened the small shy boy was, the King stepped down from his throne, walked down towards the petrified boy, lovingly put his hand on the small shy boy’s shoulders and announced: “This boy is your new King!”

The small shy boy could not believe his ears – it was unbelievable that the King should select a failure and loser like him who couldn’t even sprout his seed be the Crown Prince.

The King escorted the small shy boy to the throne and said to everyone: “One year ago I gave all of you a seed. I told you to take the seed, plant it, water it, and bring it back to me today. But what you did not know is that I gave you all boiled seeds that would not grow. Except this honest boy, all of you have brought me beautiful plants with exotic flowers and even trees with fruit. When you found out that the seed would not grow, you substituted another seed for the one I gave you. This boy was the only one with the sincerity to nurture the barren seed for one whole year with dedication, hope and perseverance and had the courage and honesty to bring me the desolate pot with my seed in it. Therefore, I select him as my Crown Prince to be the next King!”

Tell me Dear Reader – is this “teaching” story relevant in today’s world?

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

Appetite for a Stroll

A Lazy Hot Afternoon in Mumbai

July 27, 2009

Métier

[Short Fiction – A Romance]

By

VIKRAM KARVE

What is the best way to kill a lazy hot afternoon in South Mumbai?

You can go window-shopping on Colaba Causeway; enjoy a movie at Eros or Regal; loaf aimlessly around Churchgate, Fountain, Gateway of India or on the Marine Drive; leisurely sip chilled beer at Gaylord, Leopold, Sundance or Mondegar; browse at the Oxford Book Store or in the Mumbai University Library under the Rajabai clock-tower; watch cricket sitting under the shade of a tree at the Oval; visit the Museum; or, if you are an art lover, admire the works of budding artists on display in the numerous art galleries in the Kalaghoda art district.

That’s what I decide to do.

At 11 o’clock in the morning I stand at the entrance of the JehangirArt Gallery at Kalaghoda in Mumbai. I walk into the exhibition hall to my right. The art gallery has just opened and I am the first visitor.

Standing all alone in placid relaxing hall, in peaceful silence, surrounded by paintings adorning the pristine white walls, I experience a feeling of soothing tranquillity – a serene relaxing calm – and for the first time after many hectic, harried and stressed days, I experience an inner peace and comforting silence within me and, at that moment, I know what it feels like to be in harmony with oneself.

I leisurely look around at the paintings. I see a familiar face in a portrait. An uncanny resemblance to someone I know.

The face on the canvas stares back at me. Comprehension strikes like a thunderbolt. It’s me! Yes – it’s me! No doubt about it! Someone has painted my portrait, my own face.

I look at myself. I like what I see. It is a striking painting, crafted to the point of the most eloquent perfection.

I am amazed at the painter’s precise attention to detail – my flowing luxuriant black hair, delicate nose, large expressive eyes, even my beauty spot, the tiny mole on my left cheek; the painter has got everything right.

Never before have I looked so beautiful; even in a photograph. My face looks so eye-catching that I can’t help admiring myself – like Narcissus.

I look at the title of the painting on a brass tally below – My Lovely Muse. Muse?

I’ve never modelled for anyone in my life. Who can it be?

Suddenly I notice a wizened old man staring at me. He looks at the painting and then at me, and gives me a knowing smile.

“Excuse me, Sir,” I ask him, “do you know the artist who painted this?”

“I’m the painter,” a gruff voice says behind me. I turn around and look at the man. With his flowing beard, unkempt hair and dishevelled appearance he looks like a scruffy scarecrow. At first sight, totally unrecognizable.

But the yearning look of frank admiration in his eyes gives him away. No one else has ever looked at me in that way and I know he is still desperately in love with me.

“Do I see the naughty boy I once knew hiding behind that horrible shaggy beard?” I say to him.

“Do I see the bubbly and vivacious girl I once knew hiding inside the beautiful woman standing in front of me?” he responds.

“You look terrible,” I say.

“You look lovely – like a flower in full bloom,” he says.

I feel good. Aditya may be in love with me, but there is no pretence about him. I know the compliment is genuine.

“Come, Anu,” he says taking my arm, “let me show you my work.” And as we walk around he explains the themes, nuances and finer points of each painting.

Here I feel a sense of timelessness – a state of supreme bliss. I wish this were my world; sublime, harmonious, creative. I wish I’d stayed on; not burnt my bridges. Or have I?

“Let’s eat, I’m hungry,” Aditya interrupts my train of thoughts.

“Khyber?” I ask.

“No. I can’t afford it,” he says.

“I can,” I tease.

“The treat’s on me,” he asserts, pulls me gently, and says, “Let’s go next door to Samovar and have the stuffed parathas you loved once upon a time.”

“I still do,” I say, and soon we sit in Café Samovar enjoying a lazy unhurried lunch relishing delicious stuffed parathas.

“What time do you have to go?”

“I’ll collect the visa from Churchgate at four and then catch the flight at night.”

“Churchgate? I thought the visa office was at Breach Candy!”

“That’s the American visa. It’s already done. The British visa office is at Churchgate.”

“Wow! You are going to England too?”

“Of course. US, UK, Europe, Singapore. Globetrotting. The next few months are going to be really hectic. It’s a huge software development project.”

“Lucky you! It must be so exciting. You must love it!”

“I hate it!”

“What?”

“It’s unimaginable agony. Sitting in front of a computer for hours and hours doing something I don’t like.”

“You don’t like it? Then why do you do it?”

“I don’t know,” I say. “Aditya, do you know what the tragedy of my life is?”

“What?”

“My biggest misfortune is that I am good at things I don’t like.”

“Come on, be serious! Don’t tell me all that.”

“I hated Maths, but was so good at it that I landed up in IIT doing Engineering, and that too Computers.”

“But you’re damn good. A genius at computers. That’s why they are sending abroad aren’t they? The youngest and brightest project manager! You told me that.”

“Being good at work is different from liking it. You know, the thing I despise the most – sitting like a Zombie in front of the monitor for hours, discussing tedious technical mumbo jumbo with nerds I find insufferable. It’s painful, but then I am the best software expert in the company, the IT whiz-kid!”

“Yes. I know. It’s true. It is indeed a great tragedy to be so good at something you hate doing. That’s why I quit practice and am doing my first love – painting. I don’t know how good I am but I certainly love doing it.”

“But you are so good. You must be minting money, isn’t it?”

“Not at all. I told you I couldn’t afford Khyber. Just about make ends meet.”

“I thought artists make a lot of money. The art market is booming.”

“Only the established ones. Not struggling types like me!.”

“Come on, Aditya. Don’t joke. Tell me, how can you afford to have your exhibition here in Jehangir?”

“There’s a patron. An old lady. She encourages budding artists like me. She’s given me a place for my studio.”

“Just like that?”

“Yes. There are still a few such people left in this world. I present her a painting once in a while,” he pauses and says, “But today I’m going to be lucky. Looks like My Lovely Muse is going to fetch me a good price. Thanks to you!”

“Thanks to me?”

“You were the model for this painting. My inspiration. My Muse!”

“I never modeled for you!”

“You don’t have to. You image is so exquisitely etched in my mind’s eye that I can even paint you in the nude.”

“Stop it!” I say angrily, but inside me I blush and feel a kind of stirring sensation.

“Tell me about yourself, Anu,” Aditya says, changing the subject.

“I told you. About my painfullyboring work. And you won’t understand much about software. Spare me the agony. I just don’t want to talk about it.”

“You still paint?”

“No. I stopped long ago. At IIT.”

“Why?”

“No time. Too much study, I guess. And the techie crowd.”

“You should start again. You’re good. You’ve got a natural talent.”

“It’s too late. That part of me is dead. Now, it’s work and meeting deadlines. An intellectual sweatshop.”

“Come on Anu, cheer up. Tell me about your love life?”

“The company is taking care of that too! They are trying to get me hooked to some high flier Project Manager in my team.”

“Don’t tell me? What’s his name?”

“Anand.”

“Wow! Anu and Anand! Made for each other!”

“You know they set us up as per their convenience, facilitate working together all the time, encourage office romance, and even give us a dating allowance.”

“Dating allowance? Office romance! It’s crazy! Just imagine – Paying people money to fall in love!”

“Helps reduce attrition, they say; makes people stay on in the company. Nerds understand each other better; can cope better together, at work and at home. That’s what they say. Smart fellows, those guys in HR – they try and team us up as it suits them. They are dangling carrots too – like this trip abroad. They’ve even promised us a posting together to Singapore on a two year contract, if things work out.”

“It’s great!”

“Great? Are you crazy? Just imagine living full-time with a boring number crunching nerd all my life, doing nothing but being buried in software, day in and day out. I shiver at the very thought.”

“Tell me, who would you like to marry?”

“I don’t know.”

“How about marrying me?”

“Come on, be serious.”

“I’m serious. We could paint together, do all the creative stuff you always wanted to do. Live a good life.”

“Let’s go,” I say changing the topic.

“Anu. Remember. If you love flowers, become a gardener. Don’t curb your creativity. A lifetime of having to curb the expression of original thought often culminates in one losing one’s ability to express.”

“I’ve got to go, Aditya. It’s almost four. The visa should be ready by now.”

“Wait. Let me give you a parting gift to remember me by.”

Aditya calls the curator and tells him to gift wrap and pack the painting titled ‘My Lovely Muse’.

“Sir, we’ll get a good price for it. I’ve already got an offer,” the curator says.

“It’s not for sale,” Aditya says, “It’s a gift from an Artist to his Muse.”

I am overcome by emotion at his loving gesture. I look at Aditya.

It is clearly evident that Aditya is really deeply in love with me. And me?

Am I in love with him? Tears well up in my eyes. My throat chokes. My heart aches.

I find myself imprisoned in the chasm between the two different worlds – Aditya’s and mine.

But soon the rational side of me takes charge, and as we part, Aditya says, “Bye, Anu. Remember. If you can do something well, enjoy doing it and feel proud of doing it, then that’s your perfect métier. There’s no point living a lie. You’ve got to find yourself.”

I hold out my hand to him.

He presses my hand fondly and says, “Start painting. You must always do what you love to do. That’s the highest value use of time – time spent on doing what you want to do.”

“And what is the lowest value of time?” I ask.

“Doing what you don’t like just because others want you to do it.”

“Or maybe for money!”

“Money?” he asks, and then he looks lovingly into my eyes and says, “Anu, don’t destroy your talent by not using it.”

I get into a taxi and drive away form his world, my dream-world; into the material world of harsh reality.

In the evening, I sit by the sea, at the southern tip of Marine Drive and watch the glorious spectacle of sunset. As I watch the orange sun being gobbled up the calm blue sea, and crimson petals form in the sky, my mobile phone rings.

It is Anand, my Project Manager, with whom my romance is being contrived, from the airport. “Hey, Anuradha. The flight is at 10, check in begins at 8; make sure you are there on time. Terminal 2A.”

“I’m not coming,” I say.

“What do you mean you’re not coming?” Anand shouts from the other end.

“I mean I’m not coming,” I say calmly.

“Why? What’s wrong? Someone made you a better offer?”

“It’s nothing like that. I’ve discovered my métier. I’m going back to the world where I really belong,” I say.

“Where are you? How can you ditch us like this at the last moment?” he pleads.

I know if this is the defining moment of my life. It’s now or never. I have to burn my bridges now. “I have made my decision, Anand. I am not coming back. I have to discover my true self, do what I want, be happy from the inside. I’m sorry, Anand. I’m sure you’ll find someone else, your soul-mate, at work and for yourself. Best of luck!”

I switch off my cell-phone. I look at it. The last of the manacles! Deliberately, I throw the mobile phone into the Arabian Sea.

I begin walking towards the place where I know I’ll find Aditya.

And then I will return to the world where I really belong to realize my true metier and be my own Muse!

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

How I discovered the Meaning of Love

June 22, 2009

HOW I DISCOVERED THE MEANING OF LOVE

[Short Fiction – A Love Story]

by 

  VIKRAM KARVE  

  

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

            “You look so beautiful. And so young!”

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

            Anjali opened the purse and started to check the contents.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

            “Tell me,” Anjali pleaded.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

           Yes, I had discovered the true meaning of love.

  

 VIKRAM KARVE 

 

Copyright © Vikram Karve 2009

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

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