Archive for March 2007

A short story by Vikram Karve – The Right Choice

March 29, 2007

A TRAIN JOURNEY 

(a fiction short story) 

By 

VIKRAM KARVE 

  

  

          No matter how many times I begin a train journey; there is always an intriguing interest in seeing who one’s fellow-passengers area. I scanned the reservation chart pasted on the air conditioned chair-car of the Indrayani Express. I was on seat number 30. A window seat. The neighbouring seat was reserved in the name of a Master Avinash Bhide – age 10. A disappointment! There was better luck on seat number 28. Mrs. Manisha Bhide – age 35. In my mind’s eye I tried to imagine and visualise what Mrs. Manisha Bhide would be like. 

  

          Surprisingly, she did not board the train as it left Mumbai CST. I felt a pang of disappointment. Maybe she would come at Dadar. The seats were three abreast, 28 near the aisle, 30 near the window and 29 in-between. I sat down on number 28. In 10 minutes the train reached Dadar and a beautiful woman with vivacious dancing eyes with a young boy in tow entered the coach. As she walked towards me I instinctively knew that she was Manisha Bhide.         

  

 “Mrs. Manisha Bhide?” I asked, as I stood up and gave her a smile of forced geniality. Our eyes met. She looked into my eyes for that moment longer than may be considered polite greeting. I felt a sense of elation. I quickly moved out on the aisle and helped her with her luggage. Meanwhile Master Avinash Bhide had occupied the window-seat. Before Mrs. Manisha Bhide could say anything I quickly interjected, “It’s okay. Let him sit in the window-seat”. 

  

          She smiled in resignation at the fait accompli and sat down on seat number 29. My opening gambit having succeeded I closed my eyes to savour the sense of delight I was experiencing. After a long time I felt young and happy once again. This was one journey I was going to enjoy. 

  

          Suddenly she spoke, “Excuse me, but aren’t you Pratap Joshi?” 

  

          Flabbergasted, I opened my eyes in surprise wondering whether they put up reservation charts at Dadar too since the one on the coach was on the right-hand side and the platform at Dadar was on the left.  

  

          Before I could recover my wits, she said, “You are in the Merchant Navy, aren’t you?” 

  

          I was dumbstruck and stared vacuously at her. The silence was grotesque. Manisha Bhide broke the silence. “You don’t remember me, do you? But I have recognized you Mr. Joshi; or is it Captain Joshi? Why are you hiding behind that ghastly beard? It doesn’t suit you. You looked so handsome clean-shaven.” 

  

          “No ma’am,” I said meekly, “I don’t think we have met.” 

  

          That was true. Hers wasn’t a face one could forget easily. 

  

          I looked at her totally astounded. She seemed to give the impression as if we had known each other very well. “You are right,” I said, “I am indeed Captain Pratap Joshi, Master Mariner. But I don’t remember ever meeting you.” 

  

            “But then how do you know my new name?” she snapped. 

  

            “New name?” 

  

            “Yes. My new name. Manisha Bhide.” 

  

            “I saw it on the reservation chart,” I said sheepishly. 

  

          “I was Swati Gokhale before marriage,” she said. “After marriage my surname changed and my in-laws have changed my maiden name from Swati to Manisha.” 

  

          “Manisha Bhide nee Swati Gokhale!” I joked. “I don’t think we’ve met before.” 

  

          People are always little disconcerted when you do not recognize them. They are so important to themselves that it is disheartening indeed to discover of what negligible importance they are to others. I racked my brains but just could not remember meeting any Swati Gokhale. 

  

            “Are you from Pune?” I asked. 

  

            “No. I’m from Mumbai,” she answered. “But now I live in Pune. My husband works there.” She paused for a moment, looked directly into my eyes, and asked, “Do you still live in
Nasik?”
 

  

          “No. No.” I said, trying to hide my surprise. “I’ve got a flat in Mumbai. In Colaba. And I have also bought a bungalow in Lonavala. That’s where I am going right now.” 

  

          “Oh!” she said raising her eyebrows appreciatively. But I did sense that slight tinge of regret in her voice, just a trace mind you, but the nuance did not escape me. She looked at me, genuine admiration in her eyes, and said, “You must be a rich man?” 

  

            I smiled. “It’s a paying job. And then one gets paid in dollars.” 

  

            “I wish I had married you,” she said matter-of-factly. 

  

            “What?” I asked stunned and totally taken aback. 

  

          “One day my parents showed me two photographs. One was yours and the other was my husband’s – my present husband that is!” she wistfully. “I had to choose one and I think I made the wrong choice. A big mistake! I really wish I had married you, Captain Joshi!” 

  

          It took a while for her words to sink in, and as comprehension dawned on me I understood the reasons for her interest in me. 

  

           People have many reasons for snooping into others people’s lives and affairs. Everyone has a natural curiosity to know what lies beyond the closed door – especially if they have closed that door themselves. 

  

           In my mind’s eye I tried to imagine what life would have been like had she married me. I was tempted to probe a bit.” Why did you reject me?” I asked. 

  

          “Please don’t say that,” she said. “It all happened so fast, you were away sailing and I had only your photograph to go by – it was going to be six months before you would return from sea. And the Bhide’s were in a terrible hurry. Vishwas Bhide was in India for precisely one month – to find a bride, get married and go back to
America. Actually he was flooded with proposals, but he had liked me and I too wanted to go abroad, enjoy the luxury, the high standard of living.”
 

  

“When was this?” I asked. 

  

“In May 1991. I was exactly 20 years old.”  

  

“I wonder why my mother didn’t tell me about you?” I said to her quite confused. My mother was the one busy finding a girl for me then. 

  

          “It’s understandable,” Manisha Bhide said nonchalantly. “If a boy rejects a girl, it doesn’t matter; but if the girl rejects the boy, he becomes a laughing stock, an object of ridicule. 

  

          I smiled to myself at the truth of her statement. “So you live in the States do you? On a holiday here?” I asked. 

  

          “No,” she said. “We came back in 1995. My husband took up a professorship in the University. He is so qualified that he could earn millions, but is an idealist sort of chap who lacks ambition. It’s so sad. His idea of happiness is to wallow in mediocrity in every aspect of life.” 

  

          “How can you say that?” I interjected. “Teaching is an honourable profession. And surely the pay must be okay.” 

  

          “It’s no standard of living, Mr. Joshi,” he said with bitterness in her voice. “We stay in a dilapidated house in the university campus. And I am ashamed to drive in our small rickety car. All my dreams have been dashed. I too wish I could have a bungalow in Lonavala like you and live in style. I really envy your wife, Captain Joshi!” 

  

          “I don’t have a wife,” I said. 

  

           “Good God! You never got married?” she asked, confusion writ large on her face. She paused for a moment, then said tenderly, “Or is it?… Oh! I am so sorry.” 

  

          “No. No!” I said. “It’s not what you think. I am not a widower. Nor am I a bachelor. I am a divorcee. One day my wife just left me and moved in with some college-lecturer in Mumbai. Three years ago.” 

  

          “She left you for ridiculous lecturer! How silly?” 

  

          “It’s ironic isn’t it?” I said, “You wanted a standard of living, she wanted a quality of life.” 

  

          “Quality of life?” Manisha Bhide interrogated. 

  

          “That’s what she used to say. She couldn’t stand the separations, the loneliness, She wanted me to give up merchant navy and take up some job ashore, But I’d got too used to the sea and didn’t want to give up the ‘standard of living’ as you put it,” I paused and then said wistfully, “I wish I had understood! On the whole, I think an imperfect marriage is better than no marriage at all.” 

  

“I think your wife was very unfair,” Manisha said. 

  

“On the contrary I too haven’t been an angel. You see, life at sea is not all fun and frolic. One docks at exotic ports and one does get lonely at times.” I instantly regretted those words the moment they left my lips. 

  

          There was a sudden metamorphosis in Manisha Bhide. She was looking at me now as if I were a predator on the prowl. I excused myself and went to the toilet. When I returned I found Master Avinash Bhide in the centre-seat, with a scowl on his face, and Manisha Bhide in the window seat studiously reading a magazine. I sat down next to the young boy and the rest of the journey passed in interesting conversation with Master Avinash Bhide. He wanted to know all about ships! 

  

          As the train approached Lonavala I pulled down my bag and said, “Goodbye Mrs. Bhide. It was nice meeting you and, of course, your son is a delightful chap!” 

  

          Manisha Bhide turned her face and looked at me. She looked so beautiful and attractive that I stood mesmerized, unable to take my eyes off her. Then she smiled and said, “It was good I met you Captain Joshi. All these years I was always tormented by the thought that I had made the wrong choice. Now I know I made the right choice!” 

  

          As I walked away I had a canny feeling that I had probably saved her marriage. I can never forget Manisha Bhide, and sometimes when I feel lonely and melancholic, I wish Manisha Bhide nee Swati Gokhale had made a different choice. Maybe that would have been the right choice! And maybe my life would have been different. Who knows?  

  

  

VIKRAM KARVE 

Copyright 2006 Vikram Karve 

vikramkarve@sify.com 

http://vikramkarve.sulekha.com 

 

 

  

  

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Short Story – Don’t Delve Too Much

March 28, 2007

DON’T DELVE TOO MUCH 

(a fiction short story) 

By 

VIKRAM KARVE 

  

  

            The moment I see Muthu, the office-boy, standing at the door of the class room, I feel that familiar fear. I close my eyes and try to concentrate on Ms Bhalla who is reading aloud, with dramatic effect, Ruskin Bond’s story ‘The Woman on Platform 8’. It’s a moving story about a brief encounter between a woman and a motherless boy.  

  

            I love short stories, especially Ruskin Bond, and Ms Bhalla is my favorite teacher. But it’s no use. I can’t hear a word she is saying.  

  

            I open my eyes. Ms Bhalla is in a world of her own, reading away, book in her left hand and making gestures with her right. She hasn’t noticed Muthu, or the fact that almost everyone in the class are looking at him and not at her. So thoroughly is she absorbed in herself and so totally is she oblivious of her surroundings that no one dare disturb her.  

  

            “………..I watched her until she was lost in the milling crowd,” Ms Bhalla ends the story with a flourish and looks at us triumphantly only to discover that most of her students are looking towards the door. Her expression starts changing.  

  

            Before she gets angry someone says, “It is Muthu, ma’am.” 

  

            Ms Bhalla glares at poor Muthu who sheepishly walks in and gives her the chit he is holding in his hand.  

  

            I look down into my notebook trying to keep my mind blank, but even without seeing I know that Ms Bhalla is  looking at me. “Shanta, go to the principal’s office,” she says, “and take your bag with you.”  

  

            Take my bag with me? I feel scared, anxious. I hope it’s not too serious.  

  

            “Must be a big binge this time,” I hear Rita’s voice behind me. Tears start to well up in my eyes. Rita is from such a happy family. Why is she so mean and nasty?  

  

            I’m about to break down when I feel Lata’s reassuring hand on my wrist, “Let’s go, Shanta. I’ll bring your bag.”  

  

            We walk through the silent corridors. Our school is located in one of those ancient castle type buildings – cold, dark and gloomy.  

  

            “I shouldn’t have left him alone last night,” I say. 

  

            “I feel so sad for uncle,” Lata says. 

  

  

  

            “Whenever I’m there with him, he’s okay and controls himself. He loves me so much. I’m the only one he’s got in this world – after mummy died.”  

  

            “He was improving so much and looked so good last weekend,” Lata says. 

  

          Lata is my true friend who I can open my heart to. The others – they watch from a distance. With pity. And a few like Rita with an evil delight at my misfortune.  

  

            “Something must have happened yesterday,” I say. “I wish I had gone home last night. It’s in the evenings that he needs me the most.”  

  

            “Shanta, you want me to come,” Lata asks.  

  

            “Yes,” I say. I really need some moral support. Facing the cruel world all alone. I can’t bear it any longer.  

  

            Ms David, our class-teacher, is standing outside the principal’s office. I follow her in.  

  

            I nervously enter the principal’s office. The principal, Mrs. Nathan, is talking to a lady sitting opposite her. Noticing me she says, “Ah, Shanta. You daddy’s not well again. He’s admitted in the clinic again. You take the ten o’clock shuttle. And ring me up if you want anything.”  

  

            “Can I go with her?” Lata asks. 

  

            “You go back to class,” the principal says sternly, “you’ve got a mathematics test at 10 o’clock haven’t you?”  

  

            “Please Miss,” Lata pleads with Ms David, our class teacher, but  Ms David says, “Lata you are in the ninth standard now. Be serious about your studies. And today afternoon is the basketball final. How can you be absent?”  

  

            I feel pain in the interiors of my mind. No one ever tells me to be serious about studies; or even sports.  

  

            Lata gives me my school-bag and leaves quickly.  

  

            Mrs Nathan takes off her glasses and looks at me. There is compassion in her eyes. “Be brave, Shanta,” she says. “This is Ms Pushpa – an ex-student of our school.”  

  

            “Good morning, ma’am,” I say. 

  

            “Hello, Shanta.” Ms Pushpa says. “I’m also taking the train to Coonoor. We’ll travel together.”  

  

            As we leave the principal’s office I can feel the piercing looks of pity burning into me. The teachers, the staff, even the gardener. Everyone knows. And they know that I know that they know. Morose faces creased with lines of compassion. The atmosphere of pity. The deafening silence. It’s grotesque, terrible. I just want to get away from the place. These people – they just don’t understand that I want empathy; not sympathy.  

  

            I walk with Ms Pushpa taking the short-cut to Lovedale railway station. It’s cold, damp and the smell of eucalyptus fills my nostrils. A typical winter morning in the Nilgiris.  

  

            I look at Ms Pushpa. She looks so chic. Blue jeans, bright red pullover, fair creamy flawless complexion, jet-black hair neatly tied in a bun, dark Ray-Ban sunglasses of the latest style. A good-looking woman with smart feminine features. Elegant. Fashionable. Well groomed.  

  

            We walk in silence. I wait for her to start the conversation. I don’t know how much she knows.  

  

            “You’re in Rose house, aren’t you?” she asks looking at the crest on my blazer.  

  

            Polite conversation. Asking a question to which you already know the answer!   

  

          “Yes ma’am,” I answer. 

  

          “I too was in Rose house,” she says. 

  

          “When did you pass out, ma’am ?” I ask. 

  

          “1987,” she says. 

  

            I do a quick mental calculation. She must be in her mid-thirties. 35, maybe. She certainly looks young for her age. And very beautiful.  

  

            We cross the tracks and reach the solitary platform of the lonely Lovedale railway station.  

  

            “Let me buy your ticket. You’re going to Coonoor aren’t you?” she asks. 

  

            “Thank you ma’am. I’ve got a season ticket,” I say. 

  

            “Season ticket?” she asked surprised. 

  

            “I’m a day scholar, ma’am. I travel every day from Coonoor,” I say. 

  

            “Oh! In our time it was strictly a boarding school,” she says. 

  

            “Even now ma’am,” I say. “I’ve got special permission. My father doesn’t keep well. I have to look after him.”             

  

            “Oh, yes,” she says, and walks towards the deserted booking window.  

  

            Lovedale is the most picturesque railway station on the Nilgiri mountain railway but today it looks gloomy, desolate. One has to be happy inside for things to look beautiful outside.  

  

            She returns with her ticket and we sit on the solitary bench. 

  

            “Where do you stay ma’am ?” I ask. 

  

           
Bangalore,” she says. “You’ve been there?”
 

  

            “Yes” 

  

            “Often?” 

  

            “Only once. Last month. For my father’s treatment,” I say.             

  

            She asks the question I’m waiting for, “Shanta. Tell me. Your father? What’s wrong with him? What’s he suffering from?”  

  

            I’ve never really understood why people ask me this question to which I suspect they already know the answer. Each probably has their own reason. Curiosity, lip-sympathy, genuine concern, sadistic pleasure! At first I used to feel embarrassed, try to cover up, mask, give all sorts of explanations. But now I have learnt that it is best to be blunt and straightforward.  

  

            “He’s an alcoholic,” I say. 

  

           Most people shut up after this. Or change the topic of conversation. But Ms Pushpa pursues, “It must be terrible living with him. He must be getting violent?”             

  

            “No,” I say. “With me papa is very gentle. He loves me a lot.” 

  

            Tears well up in my eyes and my nose feels heavy. I take out my handkerchief. I feel her comforting arm around my shoulder and know her concern is genuine.  

  

  

            Suddenly the station bell rings, I hear the whistle and the blue mountain train streams into the platform. They still use steam engines here on the Nilgiri mountain railway. The train is almost empty. It’s off-season, there are no tourists, and in any case this train is never crowded as it returns to Coonoor after transporting all the office-goers to Ooty.  

  

            We sit opposite each other in an empty compartment. She still hasn’t taken off her dark sunglasses even though it is overcast and it begins to drizzle. 

  

            She looks at her watch. I look at mine. 10 AM. Half-an-hour’s journey to Coonoor.  

  

            “You came today morning, ma’am?” I ask. 

  

            “No. Last evening. I stayed with Monica David. Your class teacher. We were classmates.”  

  

            What a difference. Miss David is so schoolmarmish. And Ms Pushpa  so mod and chic. But I better be careful what I say. After all, classmates are classmates.  

  

            The train begins its journey and soon Ketti valley comes into view.  

  

            “There used to be orchards down there. Now there are buildings,” she says.  

  

            “You’ve come after a long time?” I ask. 

  

            “Yes. It’s been almost eighteen years. I am returning here the first time since I passed out,” she says. 

  

            “For some work? Children’s admission?” 

  

            “No, No,” she bursts out laughing, “I’m single. Happily unmarried.” 

  

            “I’m sorry,” I say, contrite. 

  

            “Come on, Shanta. It’s Okay,” she says. “I’ve come for some work in Coonoor. Just visited the school for old times’ sake.”  

  

            “You must come during Founder’s day. You’ll meet everyone,” I say.  

  

            “Yes,” she says. “All these years I was abroad. America, Singapore, Manila,
Europe. Now that I’m in
Bangalore, I’ll definitely make it.”
 

  

            “You work?” I ask. 

  

            “Yes. In an MNC.” 

  

            She must be an MBA from a top business school. Like IIM. Or maybe even Harvard. Wish I could be like her. Independent. Smart. Elegant. Successful. I certainly have the talent. But what about papa? Who will look after him?  

  

            I try not to think of the future. It all looks so bleak, uncertain. Better not think of it. I don’t even know what awaits me at the clinic. Just a few minutes more. It’s unbearable  – the tension. Why do I have to go through all this?  

  

            She’s looking out of the window. It’s grey and cold. Dark clouds. But she still wears her dark sunglasses. Hasn’t taken them off even once.  

  

            Suddenly we enter the Ketti tunnel. It’s pitch dark. The smell of steam and smoke. It’s warm. Comforting. I close my eyes.  

  

            The train whistles. Slows down. I open my eyes. She’s still wearing dark glasses. Maybe she too has something to hide. And me. What I want to hide, everyone knows; but makes a pretence of not knowing. At least in my presence.  

  

            The train stops at Ketti. On the platform there is a group of girls, my age. They are in a jovial mood; giggling, eyes dancing, faces beaming, so carefree and happy. Their happiness hurts me deep down in my heart.  

  

            The girls don’t get in. Dressed in track-suits, and Ketti valley school blazers, they are probably waiting for the up train to Ooty which crosses here. Must be going for the basketball match.  

  

            A girl with a familiar face walks up to me with her friend. 

  

            “Not playing?” she asks. 

  

            “No,” I say. 

  

            “I wish we knew. We wouldn’t have gone so early to practice,” she says. 

  

            “Who’s captaining?” her friend asks. 

  

            “Lata maybe. I don’t know,” I say. 

  

            “Where are you going?” 

  

            “Coonoor.” 

  

            “Coonoor?” 

  

            “My father’s in hospital. He’s not well.” 

  

            “Oh! Hope he gets well soon. Okay bye.” 

  

            The girls walk away whispering to each other. And I hear the hushed voice of the one I’ve met for the first time, “Poor thing.”  

  

            “Poor thing.” The words pierce through my heart. “Poor thing.” The words echo in the interiors of my mind. “Poor thing!”  “Poor thing!” “Poor thing!” The resonance is deafening. I feel I’m going mad. I feel Ms Pushpa’s hand on mine. A slight pressure. Comforting.  

  

            The up train comes, the girls get in, and train leaves towards Ooty.  

  

            Our engine’s whistle shrieks, our train starts moving. Outside it starts to rain. We close the windows. The smallness of the compartment forces us into a strange intimacy.  

  

            “I’ll come with you to the hospital,” Ms Pushpa says.  

  

            I know she means well, but nowadays I hate to depend on the kindness of strangers; so I reply, “Thank you ma’am, but I’ll manage. I’m used to it.”  

  

            “Is your father often like this?” she asks.  

  

            Why is she asking me all this? It seems genuine compassion. Or maybe she has her own troubles and talking to even more troubled people like me makes her own troubles go away.  

  

            I decide to give her every thing in one go. “When I am there he’s okay. Controls himself. He loves me more than his drink. Last night I stayed at the hostel to study for a test. And he must have felt lonely and hit the bottle. I shouldn’t have left him alone. After mummy’s gone I am the only one he’s got, and he’s the only one I’ve got.” I pause and I say, “He was improving so much. Something must have happened last evening. Something disturbing! He must have got upset – really badly upset.”  

  

            “I’m so sorry,” she says. Her tone is apologetic as if she were responsible in some way.  

  

            “Why should you feel sorry, ma’am. It’s my fate. I’ve to just find out what’s upset him. And see it doesn’t happen again. Maybe somebody visited him, passed some hurting remark. He’s very sensitive.”  

  

            Her expression changes slightly. She winces. “Does he tell you everything?” she asks.  

  

            “Of course he tells me everything,” I say, “There are no secrets between us. I’m his best friend.”  

  

            “I wish I could help you in some way,” she says.  

  

            I don’t say anything. I close my eyes. What a fool I have been, I’ve told her everything. And I know nothing about her. Not even the color of her eyes – she hasn’t even once taken off her dark sunglasses, like someone who’s blind. How cleverly she’s manipulated the conversation. Maybe people who are happy and successful feel good listening to other people’s sorrows.  

  

            I feel stifled. I open my eyes and the window. A shrill whistle and we pass through a gorge. Noise, steam, smoke, and suddenly it becomes sunny and the train begins to slow down.   

  

            “We’ve reached,” I say. We get down on the platform at Coonoor.  

  

            “I’ll come with you,” she says.             

  

            “Thanks. But it’s okay. I’ll go by myself.”  

  

            “Sure?” 

  

            “I’m sure, thanks.”        

  

             Ms Pushpa takes off her dark sunglasses and looks at me. I see her eyes for the first time. A shiver passes through me as I look into her eyes. They are greenish-grey. She’s got cat-eyes. Exactly like mine. 

  

            Suddenly she takes me in her arms and hugs me in a tight embrace. 

  

            Stunned, I struggle, feeling acutely uncomfortable. 

  

            She releases me and I just stand there feeling numb, confused.  

  

            The whistle shrieks. I come to my senses. Look up at her. Her eyes are red and tears flow down her cheeks.  

  

            Suddenly she puts on her sunglasses, turns and walks away.  

  

            As I walk towards the hospital I think about my brief encounter with Ms Pushpa, her rather strange behaviour. It’s certainly not one of those hail fellow – well met types of time-pass conversations between co-passengers. But suddenly she’s gone and I don’t know anything about her. She hasn’t even given me her card, address, phone, nothing. It all happened so fast.  

  

            I reach the clinic. Well laid-out. Neat. Spick and span. Anesthetic smell. An air of discipline. I walk through the corridor. I know where to go.  

  

            “Yes?” a voice says from behind. 

  

            I turn around. It’s a matron. I’ve never seen her before. Her eyes are hard, pitiless.  

  

            I tell her who I am. Her expression changes. Lines of compassion begin to crease her face. But still, her face has something terrible written on it.  

  

            I smile. I have learnt to smile even when I feel like weeping. 

  

            I enter the room. Papa is lying on the solitary bed. He looks okay. His eyes are closed.  

  

            “Papa,” I say softly. 

  

            He opens his eyes. “Shanta! Come to me,” he says. I rush to his bed. He hugs me tightly, “Don’t go Shanta. Don’t leave me and go away,” he cries.  

  

            “Don’t cry papa. I’ll always be with you. I’ll never leave you alone again,” I say, tears rolling down my checks.  

  

            We both cry copiously. Time stands still. I sense the presence of people in the room. Apart from the matron, there is the comforting face of Dr. Ghosh and a young doctor in white coat, stethoscope around his neck.  

  

            “Can I take him?” I ask. 

  

            “Of course,” Dr. Ghosh says.” He’s okay now.” 

  

            “But sir,” the young doctor protests and says, “He’s hallucinating….” 

  

            “It’s okay,” Dr. Ghosh interrupts giving him a sharp look. “Shanta knows how to look after him; like a mother. Isn’t it Shanta?”  

  

            “Yes,” I say.             

  

            Papa gives sheepish look. That’s what I like about Dr. Ghosh. The way he gets his message across. There is no need for him to reprimand papa. Especially in front of me. My papa’s own remorse is his own worst reprimand.  

  

            We talk in silence. I don’t ask him any thing. He’ll tell me when he wants to.  

  

            “You’re hungry?” he asks. 

  

            “Yes,” I say. It’s almost noon. 

  

            Soon we sit at the Garden Restaurant overlooking Sim’s Park. He takes his hands out of the overcoat pockets and picks up the menu card. His hands tremble. DT. Delirium Tremens. Withdrawal symptoms. Must have had a prolonged bout of drinking last night. I know what to do. Just in case. I don’t want him to turn cold turkey.   

  

            “Papa, you order,” I say and pick up my school bag and briskly walk across the road to the wine shop. On seeing me the owner puts a small bottle of brandy in a brown paper bag and gives it to me. I put in my school bag. No words are exchanged. No permit is required. It doesn’t matter that I’m a 14 year old schoolgirl. He knows. Everyone knows. Pity. Compassion. 

  

            But I know that unseen eyes see, and tongues I cannot hear will wag.  

  

            The silence. It’s grotesque. Deafening. Unbearable. 

  

            As I give him a fifty-rupee note, the owner asks, “Saab – I hope he’s okay.”  

  

            I nod. I don’t seem to have a private life anymore. Unsolicited sympathy is a burden I find difficult to carry nowadays. 

  

            Papa has ordered Chinese food. My favorite. He has a nip of brandy. His hands become steady. We start eating. 

  

            “She wants to take you away from me,” he says. 

  

            “Who wants take me away? I don’t understand,” I say perplexed. 

  

            “Yes. She’s going to take you away. She came last evening.” 

  

            “Who?” 

  

            “Your mother.” 

  

            I feel a strange sensation in my stomach. The food becomes tasteless in my mouth. It seems he’s reached the final stage. Hallucinations. Loneliness. Driving him insane. He’s seeing images of mummy now. The point of no return. Fear drills into my vitals.  

  

            “Please papa. Mummy is dead. You’re hallucinating again.” I say. 

  

            “She came last evening. Wanted your custody.” 

  

            “Custody? What are you talking?” 

  

            “Yes. She wants to take you away from me.” 

  

            “Who?” 

  

            “Your birthmother.” 

  

            “Birthmother?” 

  

            “Yes.” 

  

            “But mummy?” 

  

            “Don’t delve too much.”  

  

            In the evening we sit on the lawns of the club waiting for my birthmother. I feel like a volcano about to erupt. Daddy sits with his head in his hands; nervous, scared. Dr. Ghosh looks away into the distance, as if he’s in our group but not a part of it. I wonder what’s his role in all this.  

  

            And opposite me is that hideous woman with suspiciously black hair. Mrs. Murthy. The social worker from the child welfare department. 

  

            Social work indeed! Removing adopted children from happy homes and forcibly returning them to their biological parents who had abandoned them in the first place.  

  

            And this birthmother of mine. I hate her without even knowing her. First she abandons me. And then after fourteen long years she emerges from nowhere with an overflowing love and concern for me. ‘My papa is a dangerous man,’ she decides. It’s unsafe for me to live with him. So she wants to take me away into the unknown.  

  

            “Don’t worry,” Mrs. Murthy the social worker says,” Everything will be okay.”  

  

            Yes. Everything will be okay. Papa will land up in an asylum. I’ll be condemned to spend the rest of my life with a woman I hate. Our lives will be ruined. Great social service will be done. Yes. Everything will be okay.  

  

            Papa is silent. Scared. He’s been warmed by Dr. Ghosh. No outbursts. It’ll only worsen the case.  

  

            And me. I’m only a minor. They’ll decide what is good for me. Of course they’ll take my views into consideration. I can see my world disintegrating in front of me.  

  

            We sit in silence. Six-thirty. Seven. The longest half-hour of my life.  

  

            “She said she’ll be here at six-thirty sharp,” Mrs. Murthy  says, “I’ll check up.” She pulls out her cell phone. Signal’s weak. She walks to the reception. 

  

            We wait. And gradually, a depressing and frightening darkness envelopes. 

  

            Mrs. Murthy returns. There’s urgency in her step. “Her cell phone is switched off. I rang up the hotel,” she says, “It’s strange. She checked out in the afternoon. Hired a taxi to
Bangalore. It’s funny. She hasn’t even bothered to leave a message for me.” Mrs. Murthy is disappointed and says angrily, “After all the trouble I have taken. She just goes away without even informing me. She promised she’ll be here at six-thirty sharp.” Looking perturbed, she leaves, promising to check up and let us know.
 

  

            After she leaves, Dr. Ghosh says to my father, “Come on. Let’s have a drink.”  

  

            “No,” my papa says,” I don’t need a drink.” 

  

            “Sure?” 

  

            “Absolutely sure.” 

  

            We take leave of Dr. Ghosh and begin walking home. 

  

            “Papa?” 

  

            “Yes.” 

  

            “This woman. My ‘birthmother’. Does she have cat-eyes? Like me?” 

  

            “Don’t delve too much,” papa says. 

  

            He puts his protective arm around me and we walk together into the enveloping darkness. And I can see light in the distance.  

  

 VIKRAM KARVECopyright 2006 Vikram Karve 

 

vikramkarve@sify.com 

 

http://vikramkarve.sulekha.com 

 

Custody

March 16, 2007

CUSTODY

(a short story)by

VIKRAM KARVE

 

 

 

 

“She can take the flat, but I want custody of my son,” the man says emphatically to the marriage counselor in the family court. 

“No way,” shouts the woman, “he can keep his flat, his money, everything. I don’t want anything from him. I just want my son.” 

The marriage counselor looks at the eight-year-old boy and asks him lovingly, “Adi, tell me, what do you want?” 

“I want both of them,” the boy, whose name is Aditya, who everyone lovingly calls Adi, says softly, perplexed by the situation. 

“I think you both should give it a last try, at least for your son’s sake,” the counselor says to the couple.  

“No. I’ve had enough. It’s over. We can’t stay with this man!” the woman says. 

“We?” the man asks incredulously, “Well you are most welcome to go wherever you want, but Adi is staying with me. I’m his father!”  

“And I’m his mother! Listen,” the woman pleads anxiously to the man, “I don’t want anything from you – maintenance, alimony, nothing! Just give me Adi. I can’t live without him!” 

“He’s my son too. I love him and can’t live without him too!” the man says. 

“See,” the counselor says, “You both love your son so much! I still think you should try to reconcile.” 

“No. I want out,” the woman says. 

“Me too!” the man says. 

“Okay, let’s go in,” the counselor says, shrugging her shoulders, “Since you two have agreed on everything else, the judge will probably ask you the same things I asked you, ask the child, and then, considering the child’s age, let him stay with his mother and grant the father visiting rights.” 

“This whole system is biased in favor of women! I can look after Adi much better than her,” the man says angrily. 

“My foot!” the woman says, “You’ll ruin his life. It’s better he remains away from your influence!”   

“Please don’t fight inside,” the counselor advises, “You want an amicable mutual consent separation, isn’t it?” 

 

 And so, they separate.  

 

 

 

The separation period over, they assemble in the family court for their divorce. 

“I want to tell you something,” the woman says to the man. 

“What?” the man asks. 

 “Well I don’t know how to tell you this, but I’ve been seeing someone.” 

“And you want to get married to him?” 

“Yes.” 

“That’s great. Go ahead. Good Luck to you!” the man says, “and who is the lucky guy?” 

“A childhood friend. Now he lives in the States, is here on a vacation.” 

“So you’re off to the States?” 

“Yes. Once all this is through.” 

“Good for you.” 

“It’s about Adi…” the woman says awkwardly. 

“Adi?” 

“I want to leave him with you. As a parting gift.” 

“Parting Gift?” the man asks dumbfounded. 

“We thought we should begin life afresh. Without the baggage of the past.” 

“Baggage of the past? How dare you? Adi is your son!” the man says angrily. 

“And yours too!” the woman says, “He needs a father. Especially now.” 

The man says nothing. There is silence. And then he speaks, “A friend of mine has just moved in with me. Actually she’s more than a friend. She’s going to live in with me for some time,  to get to know each other better, and then we’ll decide. I don’t think it’s the right time for Adi to stay with me.” 

   

And so the man and the woman found their new life-partners and lived happily ever after, and their darling son Adi was packed off to boarding school. No one wanted his “custody” any longer and he was “free”. Such are the travesties of life! 

 

 

VIKRAM KARVE

 

Copyright 2007 Vikram Karve

 

 

http://vikramkarve.sulekha.com

 

vikramkarve@hotmail.com

 

vikramkarve@sify.com

 

 

 

  

 

 

  

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MY MONKEY TRAP

March 15, 2007

MY MONKEY TRAP  

By 

VIKRAM KARVE  

  

  

  

“Come, Vijay,” Captain Naik said, leading me into his study, “I’ll show you something interesting.” He opened a cupboard, pulled out a strange-looking contraption and laid it on the table. I looked at it, confused but curious. The peculiar apparatus consisted of a hollowed-out coconut attached to a solid iron chain, about two feet long, with a large metal stake at the other end.  

  

“You know what this is?” he asked. 

  

 “No,” I answered 

  

“I got this in Penang when I was cadet, almost thirty years ago,” Captain Naik said, picking up the coconut in his left hand, holding the chain in his right. 

  

 He looked at me and explained, “This is a monkey trap. The hollowed-out coconut is filled with some cooked rice through this small hole, chained to the stake which is driven firmly into the ground. Look at this hole. It’s just big enough so that the monkey’s hand to go in, but too small for his fist filled with rice to come out. The monkey reaches in, grabs the rice and is suddenly trapped. Because his greed won’t allow him to let go of the rice and extricate his hand, the monkey remains trapped, a victim of his greed, until he is captured. The monkey cannot see that freedom without the rice is more valuable than capture with it. That’s what happens to most of us. Probably it’s the story of your life too. Think about it.” 

  

I thought about it and said, “Suppose I quit the merchant navy. What will I do?” 

  

“Why don’t you join me?” Captain Naik suggested, “It’s a comfortable job. Professionally satisfying. And plenty of time for your family too. Besides, I need people like you. Of course, you won’t get your tax-free couple of thousand dollars, but the pay is good by Indian standards.” 

  

Captain Naik was the director of a maritime training institute in Goa, running various courses for merchant navy officers. It was a lovely self-contained campus on the shores of the Arabian Sea. At first I wondered whether he had a vested interest, but I knew that was not true. Captain Naik had been my mentor and well-wisher; it was he who had groomed me when I had been a cadet on his ship many years ago. And later too, when I was a junior officer. That’s why I had made it a point to visit him the moment my ship touched Murmagao port. 

  

For the next six months, as I sailed on the high seas, I could not forget the ‘monkey trap’ – in fact, it haunted me. And soon I knew what my decision would be. But first, I would have to discuss it with my wife. Truly speaking, that was not really necessary. She would be the happiest person on earth. For I could clearly recall every word of the vicious argument we had just before I left home about seven months ago. 

  

          It was our tenth wedding anniversary and we had thrown a small party. As I walked towards the kitchen door, I noticed my wife, Anjali, engrossed in a conversation with her childhood friend Meena, their backs toward me. 

  

          “Tell me, Anjali,” Meena was saying, “If you could live your life again, what would you like to change?” 

  

          “My marriage!” Anjali answered. I was stunned and stopped in my tracks, dumbstruck, at the kitchen door. 

  

          After the party was over, I confronted Anjali, “What were you doing in the kitchen all the time with that Meena friend of yours? You should have circulated amongst the important guests,” 

  

          “I feel out of place in your crowd,” Anjali answered. 

  

          “My crowd!” I thundered. “And you regret marrying me, do you?” I paused for a moment, and then said firmly, “Listen Anjali, you better stop associating with riffraff like Meena. Think of our status.” 

  

          “Riffraff!” Anjali was staring at me incredulously. “I was also what you call ‘riffraff’ once. And quite happy too! What’s the use of all these material comforts? And wealth and so-called status? None of it can compensate for the companionship and security of a husband. This loneliness, it’s corrosive; eating into me. Sometimes I feel you just wanted a caretaker to look after your parents, your house, and of course, now your children. To hold the fort while you gallivant around for months at a time. And that’s why you married a simple middle-class girl like me; or rather you bought me! That’s what you think, isn’t it?” 

  

          I winced when she said, ‘bought’. But in a certain way, I knew it was true. Which is why I lost my temper and shouted, “I don’t gallivant around – It’s hard earned money I have to slog and undergo hardship for! I do it for all of you. And yes indeed! I bought you. Yes I ‘bought’ you! That’s because you were willing to sell yourself. Remember one thing. No one can buy anything unless someone is willing to sell it.” 

  

           I instantly regretted my words realizing that they would only worsen the gaps in our relationship. Gaps I had failed to fill all these ten years by expensive gifts and material comforts. That’s what I was always doing. Always trying to use money to fill gaps in our relationship. 

  

          And now, almost six months later, I was flying home after handing over command – for the last time. My last ship. I had made my decision. It was probably the meeting with Captain Naik and the ‘monkey trap’ which clinched the issue, but my decision was final. I had even written to him and would be joining him at his maritime training institute in a month. But I did not write or tell Anjali. For her I wanted it to be a surprise – the happiest moment of her life! And mine too. 

  

          I didn’t hire a luxury air-conditioned taxi from Mumbai airport direct to my house in Pune like I always did. I knew I would have to get used to being less lavish in the future. So I took a bus to Dadar and caught the Deccan Express at seven in the morning. I was traveling light – no expensive gifts this time, and it being off-season, I was lucky to get a seat in an unreserved second-class compartment. 

  

          When I reached home at about lunch time, I was shocked to find Anjali missing. My old parents were having lunch by themselves; my children were at school. 

  

          When Anjali arrived at two in the afternoon, I was stunned by the metamorphosis in her appearance. Designer dress, fashionable jewellery, permed hair, fancy make-up –  painted like a doll; in short, the works.  

  

          “What a surprise!” she exclaimed on seeing me.” You should have rung up.”  

  

          “Anjali, I want to talk to you. It’s something important,” I said. 

  

          “Not now,” she said, almost ignoring me. “I am already late. I just came for a quick change of clothes. Something suitable for the races….” 

  

          “Races?” I couldn’t believe it. 

  

          “Don’t you know? Today is the Pune Derby. Mrs Shah is coming to pick me up. You know her? The one whose husband is working in the Gulf. And you better buy me a new car.”  

  

          “New car?” I asked dumbfounded. 

  

          “The old one looks cheap. I hate to be seen in it. Doesn’t befit our status. We must have something good – the latest luxury limousine. I know we can afford it.” 

  

          The next  few days passed in a haze of confusion. Punctuated by  one surprise after another from Anjali. She wanted a deluxe flat in one of those exclusive townships. To send our children to an elite boarding school in Mussoorie of all places, membership to time-share holiday resorts, a farmhouse near Lonavala, and on and on – her demands were endless. And in between she would ask me, “Vijay, I hope you are happy that I am trying to change myself. It’s all for your sake. You were right. It is money and status that matter. Without a standard of living, there can be no quality of life!” 

  

          I did not know whether to laugh or cry. That she was once a simple domesticated middle-class girl whose concept of utopia was a happy family life was now but a distant memory to her. To ‘belong’ was now the driving force of her life. 

  

          I wish I could give this story a happy ending. But I’ll tell you what actually happened. 

  

          First, I rang up my shipping agent in Mumbai and told him to get me the most lucrative contract to go to sea as soon as possible. Then I wrote a long letter to Captain Naik regretting my inability to join him immediately. But I also wrote asking him to keep the offer open. Just in case there was a reverse transformation in Anjali – back to her earlier self. 

  

           I am an optimist and I think it will happen someday. And I hope the day comes fast; when both of us, Anjali and I, can free ourselves from the Monkey Traps of our own making. 

  

           Dear Reader. Close your eyes and ponder a bit. Have you entangled yourself in a monkey trap of your own making? Think about it! Reflect! And in your mind’s eye visualize all your own very ‘Monkey Traps’ which you have created for yourself. 

  

          What are you waiting for? The solution is in your hands. Just let go, and free yourself.  

  

          And do let me know what you feel – Which is more important:  Freedom or golden manacles; standard of living or quality of life?   And do help me free myself from my ‘Monkey Trap’. 

  

  

VIKRAM KARVE

Copyright 2006 Vikram Karve 

http://vikramkarve.sulekha.com

 

  

vikramkarve@sify.com

 

 

http://360.yahoo.com/vikramkarve

 

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

DOUBLE GAME

March 13, 2007

DOUBLE GAME [short story] 

by 

VIKRAM KARVE  

   

   

   

Failures and Losers avoid school reunions.  But this time I decided to go.  Sucheta would be there. She had rung up from
New York.  And of course Anand was also coming with her. Maybe that’s the real reason I wanted to go. 
 

   

It was fifteen years since we passed out from school and the reunion was a grand affair in the best hotel at this picturesque ‘queen’ of hill stations on the slopes of the
Himalayas where our school was located. For ours was an elite and famous boarding school, distinguished more for its snob appeal than for its academic excellence.  ‘Bookworm’ was an exception.  He had topped the board exams and had become a distinguished scientist, always inventing something mysterious and experimenting something esoteric.
 

   

 “Hi, Bookworm!” I said genuinely happy to see him.  

   

“Moushumi, my name is Doctor Pratap Joshi.  Not Bookworm”, he said angrily, “I am a Professor.”  

   

“Professor Bookworm!” I teased him.  

   

“That’s better,” he said.  

   

“And what are you inventing nowadays?” I asked.  

   

“I’m researching in the frontiers of Psycho-cybernetics.”  

   

“Stop the mumbo jumbo, Bookworm. Tell me in simple language. Who are you and what do you do?”  

   

“Okay. I am a neurologist. A psychiatrist.  A psychologist. And I also hold a doctorate in Electrical Engineering. Currently I am researching in mind-transference,” Bookworm said proudly.  

   

“Mind-transference?” I asked confused.  

   

 “You have seen star-trek haven’t you?”  

   

  “Yes.”  

   

 “There they transfer persons in space. H G Wells’ time machine transferred entire persons in time,” he said.  

   

 “And you?” I asked.  

   

 “I can put your mind into someone else’s body and vice-versa – someone else’s brain into your body!”  

   

 “It sound spooky to me.  Is it ESP?  Some kind of occult stuff? ”  

   

 “Not at all,” Bookworm said, “Nothing supernatural, esoteric or mystical.  It’s a purely scientific technique.  I’ve developed a pilot system for trials. The machine is upstairs in my hotel room.  Why don’t you give it a try?”   

   

A strange thought crossed my mind  as I surveyed the room.  My eyes rested on Anand.  His height and his magnificent beard made him look so prominent in the crowd.  He looked a decisive, hot-blooded and dangerous man, but he also looked vulnerable.  Even now, he wore a lonely and rather perplexed expression, as though he were at the party but not a member of it.  And beside him stood his wife Sucheta radiating the natural pride of possession that any woman feels when she has the ownership and company of a man that other women desire.  

   

I reminisced. There were four of us who grew up together.  In school and in college.  Anand, Mohan, Sucheta and I.  Inseparable friends. All of us loved each other.  

   

I had the first choice since both Anand and Mohan were desperately in love with me and both had proposed to me. I opted for Mohan, leaving Anand for Sucheta.  Then I kept tormenting myself living with Mohan but longing for Anand, wondering if I had made the wrong choice, repenting, trying to imagine what my life would have been like if I had married Anand instead of Mohan.  

   

I looked at Anand, and then at Bookworm. Serendipity! Yes. I felt the adrenalin rush. This was my chance to find out what life would have been like if I had married Anand; and I was going to risk it.  

   

I waved out to Sucheta and five minutes later both of us were lying side by side on the double-bed in Bookworm’s hotel room.  There was a mesh of wires with electrode-transducers connected to our heads (like an EEG), a laptop-like special computer and a briefcase-size electronic device which Bookworm described as the ‘Electrophoresis Signal Processor’.  

   

“Good,” Bookworm said, “both your brainwave frequencies are in ‘beta’ state around 15 hertz.  I’ll give you both a high frequency burst to momentarily raise your brain-states to ‘K-Complex’ and instantaneously commence the electrophoresis.”  

   

Looking at me, he said, “Moushumi, you will be Sucheta as far as the outside world is concerned. So when you wake up, go straight to Anand.  Let’s see if he suspects.” And then to Sucheta he said, “Sucheta, you go straight to Mohan. He will think you are Moushumi.”  

   

“It’s dangerous. I’m scared,” Sucheta said.  

   

 “Come on, Sucheta. Be a sport. It’s just for fun,” I said.  

   

 “It’s not fun. We’re doing this experiment to validate my research – in vivo – to see if the concept of mind-transference it works. Just for half-an-hour,” Bookworm said, “then both of you come back and I’ll reverse the process, and you can leave as your own total selves – your same mind in your own same body.”  

   

I closed my eyes in trepidation wondering whether I was doing the right thing. Suddenly I felt my brain go blank and then there were vivid flashes in a void.  

   

Half an hour later, when I was in seventh heaven gliding in Anand’s strong arms, enjoying the dance, Bookworm suddenly appeared by my side, tugged my arm and said with urgency in his voice, “It’s time. Let’s go, Moushumi.”  

   

“Moushumi? Why are you calling her Moushumi?” an incredulous Anand asked Bookworm.  

   

“She is Moushumi,” Bookworm said pointing at me.  

   

“Are you drunk or stoned or something?” Anand snapped angrily. “Can’t you see she’s Sucheta, my wife? Moushumi must be with her husband Mohan.  I last saw them having a drink near the bar.”  

   

Instinctively we all turned and looked towards the bar. No sign of them. I hurriedly scanned the room. They had disappeared.  

   

Bookworm was in a state of panic, “Anand. Try to understand. Your wife Sucheta has gone away with Mohan.  And this here in front of you is Moushumi – Mohan’s wife. This is only Sucheta’s body. Inside it’s Moushumi’s brain – her self. Moushumi’s mind is in Sucheta’s body. My in vivo experiment was successful – it’s validated – the mind-transference!”  

   

“Mind-transference? Stop talking nonsense!” Anand shouted angrily at Bookworm and taking my arm he said to me, “Come on Sucheta. Let’s go. Bookworm has gone crazy. And it’s getting late. We’ll drive straight down to
Delhi. I’ve got a busy day tomorrow before we catch our flight back home.”
 

   

As we walked through the parking lot towards the luxury limousine Anand had hired for his visit I noticed that ‘our’ car was missing.  It was cold and I glanced at ‘our’ small cottage on the hill slope for the last time. ‘They’ were probably cuddling up in ‘our’ bedroom by now.  

   

I thought I was smart, but it was Sucheta who played the double game. For me it was only a half-hour experiment, but Sucheta had upped the ante and turned the tables on me. Will Mohan find out? And Anand? Will this mind-transference last forever? I shiver with trepidation. And what will happen then?  

   

I don’t know.  But from now on it’s going to be a tightrope walk.  Every moment I’ll have to be on my toes.  I’m excited. And a bit scared too. It’s going to dangerous fun. Now I will really know what life would have been like if had I married Anand instead of Mohan.  

   

And soon I shall know whether I made the right choice. And then, maybe, I’ll tell you about it.  

   

   

  VIKRAM KARVE 

Copyright 2006 Vikram Karve  

 

http://vikramkarve.sulekha.com 

vikramkarve@sify.com 

vikramkarve@hotmail.com  

   

 

 

   

   

   

   

DIVORCE

March 13, 2007

DIVORCE

 (a fiction short story )  by

 VIKRAM KARVE 

    The phone rings at 9 o’clock in the morning in an apartment in Pune. The husband picks up, pauses a moment as if hearing something, and says, “Don’t worry, I’ll be there on time,” and replaces the phone.   

He then shouts to his wife, who is in the kitchen: “I’m going out for some work. I’ll be back around one thirty or two for lunch.”   “Where are you going? You’ve taken leave today. Let’s go shopping; and then for lunch and a movie.”   

“Please. Not today. I’ve taken leave just for this important thing.”   “Important thing? Where are you going?” the wife persists.   

The husband knows now that he has no choice but to tell her. He knows his wife’s nature so well – she’s not going to rest till she finds out. She’ll nag him to death until he tells her.   “I’m going to the Family Court,” he says.   

“Family Court? Why?”   “A divorce case.”   

“Divorce? You’re trying to divorce me behind my back?”   “Please be quiet. It’s not us. Pooja has asked me to come for the hearing.”   

“Pooja?”   “You’ve met her. She’s my colleague at work.”   

“Oh. That Pooja! I knew you always had a soft corner for her.”   “It’s her final divorce hearing today and she’s called me.”   

“Divorce? Pooja? Called you? How are you involved? I hope the divorce is not because of you? I knew you’d do something stupid. You are so gullible you know – got trapped by her and now you are in trouble being summoned by courts. Respectable persons never see the insides of a court in their entire lives.”   “Please keep quiet! You just go on and on! Pooja’s called me just to give her emotional support.”   

“Emotional support? From you?  I knew there was some hanky panky going on. I’m coming with you. Can’t you see what she’s up to?”   “Please. Pooja’s just a colleague going through a rough patch. As a friend, I have to help her out, show her a bit of compassion and kindness.”   

“Compassion? It may soon turn into passion!” the wife says sarcastically, “Drying a divorcee’s tears is one of the most dangerous pastimes for a man, especially a married man.”   “Pastime? I’m not going there for amusement, but to help out a colleague.”   

“An attractive colleague in distress, isn’t it? And our Knight in shining armour is rushing to her aid!”   “Okay. Why don’t you come along and see for yourself,” the husband says. The moment he utters those words he instantly regrets it, but it is too late; his wife has already picked up her purse and is heading towards the door.   

“Why are they divorcing?” the wife asks, as they are driving in their car from their house towards the Family Court.    “It’s divorce by mutual consent.”   

“Mutual consent! What nonsense! There must be some other reason.”   “No. They have just agreed to separate.”   

“If they can agree to separate, why can’t they agree to stay together?”   “I don’t know. Why don’t you ask her that!” the husband says irritated.   

“Of course I will. And I’ll give a piece of my mind to her husband too. Tell him to stop harassing his wife.”   “Please. For heaven’s sake don’t say anything there. They are parting amicably, as friends.”    

“There is no such thing as amicable divorce!” “What do you mean? So many people have amicable divorces now-a-days and part as friends.” 

“Nonsense! Amicable Divorce is a big lie – an oxymoron.” 

“Oxymoron?” 

“Yes.  Tell me, how can divorce be amicable? If a marriage is really so amicable, why divorce in the first place? If they can divorce and remain friends, I’m sure they can remain married and be friends, isn’t it?” “Maybe. I don’t know.” 

“I am sure there is something fishy.”   

“Will you please keep quiet? I’m driving.”   “What’s her husband’s name?”   

“Abhishek.”   “See! Pooja and Abhishek! Even their names are compatible,” the wife says. “There must be some adultery involved. This Abhishek must be having an affair. Or it must be Pooja. Yes it’s her. I’m sure she is having an affair.”   

“Don’t be stupid. She’s not like that.”   “How do you know?”   

“I know her for so many years now. She’s quite close to me. She’s told me everything.”    “Close to you? My God! I hope it’s not you?”   

“Will you please shut up? I told you it’s mutual incompatibility.”   “Mutual Incompatibility! My foot! Let me tell you there is no one who is more incompatible than you and me! But are we divorcing?”   

“Why don’t we? At least I’ll have some peace and respite from your constant nagging.”   “Ah! So you can marry her, is it? You’ve got a hope in heaven! I’ll cling on to you till my dying day. And follow you even after that.”   

They drive in silence for a while and then the wife asks, “Has she got any kids?”   “Yes. Two. A boy and a girl. In school.”   

“Poor children. What will happen to them?”   “They’ll go off to a boarding school for a while till Pooja settles down.”   

“It’s funny. They’ve got children and are divorcing. We don’t have any children, but we are carrying on together!”   ‘Yes,” the husband says, “I really wonder! We constantly fight but we stay together; and they have such a cordial relationship but want to separate.”   

“Marriage is not supposed to be cordial and cold,” the wife says snuggling up to her husband.   “I’ve realized one thing,” says the husband.   

“What?”   “The opposite of love is not hate; it is indifference.”   

      VIKRAM KARVE

Copyright 2006 Vikram Karve 

  vikramkarve@sify.com vikramkarve@hotmail.com 

 http://vikramkarve.sulekha.com 

      

        

        

             

THE ART OF HAPPINESS

March 12, 2007

THE ART OF HAPPINESS

by

VIKRAM KARVE

 

The primary aim of philosophy and spirituality is to help ordinary people live a life of happiness, fulfillment and tranquility. Every day you ask yourself – How do I live a happy life? Is it simple to be happy? What is the art of happiness? Let us see what the Taoist philosopher Mingliaotse has to say: ” The art of attaining happiness consists in keeping your pleasures mild.”
 

You know that whenever pleasure is present you are happy – this is a fact that cannot be denied – for a pleasure is an enjoyable event or delightful emotion which is bound to make you happy, at least for that moment.

Highfalutin philosophers and spiritual gurus may prescribe various impracticable esoteric paths of renunciation, asceticism or sectarian precepts eschewing enjoyment and pleasure as the sine qua non of happiness but the fact of the matter is that to the ordinary person happiness and pleasure are inextricably intertwined.

 

Discovering enduring pleasures which you can easily and regularly achieve, realize and enjoy in your day-to-day life will produce contentment, fulfillment and happiness.

 

No pleasure is a bad thing in itself, but wanton pursuit of pleasures is counterproductive as it leads to over-indulgence and excesses which bring with them disturbances which are detrimental to our happiness and well-being.

 

In your search for happiness you indulge in extravagant parties, expensive entertainments and try to enjoy everything at once, instant gratification by over-indulgence in wining, dining and dancing, stretching yourself to the maximum limits possible; at first you enjoy yourself and feel happy but when you come to the point of satiety you begin to feel a sense of repulsion, and if you overdo yourself, next morning wake up sick and feeling miserable with a sense of sadness rather than happiness.

Grandiose, complicated, ostentatious and intemperate indulgences which you think will ostensibly make you happy , in actual fact render you stressed-out, unhappy and cause you harm and misery in the long run.

 

There is no need to overdo things in order to be happy. Just keep your pleasures mild. Enjoying a simple, tasty and healthy meal with your loved one’s and friends, or just sitting quietly and leisurely reading a good book, taking a walk enjoying melodious music, enjoying your work, leisure, hobbies are some mild pleasures which will make you happy and keep you healthy too.

 

It is simple to be happy. The first thing you must do is to introspect and list your most pleasurable activities – things that give you true joy, happiness and satisfaction – in all aspects of your life. Make your list as exhaustive as possible and from this list select those “mild” pleasures that you can enjoy every day or often. And then fit them into your daily routine. See what happens. Experiment. Delete those “pleasures” that you thought would give you happiness but actually made you stressed-out – things you think would be satisfying but turn out to be unrewarding. Do not be hesitant to add new items to your list – you can always remove them if they fail to produce the desired results. Fine tune and religiously practice your list – and experience happiness every day.

 

This prescription of keeping your pleasures mild will enable you to structure your life in way where your happiness will be in your control and you will find greater joy in your life. It will be feasible and within your control to ensure that you enjoy these mild pleasures daily or at least fairly regularly and, with only so many hours during the day, these enjoyable events will begin to crowd out the neutral, unpleasant, and irrelevant activities in your daily life and make you feel fulfilled and happy.

 

Dear reader, start today and discover the art of happiness. And do let me know your experience – did keeping your pleasures mild make you happier? And try to discover which are those mild pleasures that make you truly happy and joyful?

 


VIKRAM KARVE

vikramkarve@sify.com

 

http://vikramkarve.sulekha.com/

 

The Monkey Trap – a short story by Vikram Karve

March 12, 2007

THE MONKEY TRAP

by

VIKRAM KARVE

 

 

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

                “Let’s catch some monkeys,” he said.

                “Monkeys?” I asked excitedly.

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

 

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

                  “Why not?” my uncle said. “The monkeys here are quite small and very cute. And once you train them, they become very friendly and obedient. An ideal pet.”

 

            And so, next morning, at the crack of dawn we sailed off from

Haddo
Wharf
in Port Blair in a large motorboat. Soon we were crossing the Duncan Passage, moving due south; the densely forested Little Andaman Island to our right, the sea calm like a mirror. I began to feel seasick, so I stood on the foc’sle deck, right at the front end sea-sick, enjoying the refreshing sea-spray, occasionally tasting my salty lips.

           

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

 

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

            “Monkey-Traps?” I asked confused.

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

            We reached a densely forested island at five in the evening. It was almost dark. The sun sets early in these eastern longitudes. And soon we set up our monkey-traps.

 

 Each hollowed-out coconut was filled with a mixture of boiled rice and jaggery (gur) through the small hole. Then the coconut was chained to a stake, which was driven firmly into the ground. And then we hid in the bushes in pin-drop silence.

 

            Suddenly there was rattling sound. My uncle switched on his torch. A monkey was struggling, one hand trapped inside the coconut. In an instant, Tito had thrown a gunny-bag over the monkey and within minutes we had the monkey nicely secured inside.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

           

            I looked at my uncle. Ranjit Singh. A magnificent man! Over six feet tall.  Well-built. Redoubtable. Striking personality! Standing erect in his khaki uniform, stroking his handsome beard with his left hand, his right hand gripping a swagger stick, which he gently tapped on his thigh. As he surveyed the scenic surroundings – the moonlight sea, the swaying Causarina trees, the silver sands of the beach in between – he looked majestic, like a king cherishing his domain. Indeed he was like a king here. For he was the Chief Forest Officer, in-charge of the entire islands.

 

            Uncle Ranjit was an exception in our family—the odd-man out. My father always said that he was the most intelligent of all brothers. But whereas all of them were busy earning money in Mumbai and
Delhi
, uncle Ranjit had chosen to be different. To the surprise of everybody else, uncle Ranjit had joined the Forest Service when he could have easily become an engineer, doctor or even a business executive. For he had always topped all examinations – first class first in merit, whether it be the school or the university.

 

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

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

 

            “Why?” he asked, with curiosity.

 

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

 

            Uncle Ranjit laughed, “The Monkey Trap. They are all caught in monkey traps of their own making. Slaves of their greed! Trapped by their desires. Caught in the rat race. Wallowing in their golden cages, rattling their jewellery, their golden chains.”

 

 

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

 

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

 

            “I don’t know.”

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

            “Job prospects,” I answered.

            “Oh!”  He exclaimed. “And then?”

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

            “Why?”

            “Qualifications.”

            “And why do you want so many qualifications?”

            “To get the best job,” I answered.

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

            “Of course,” I said. “So that I can enjoy life.”

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

 

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

 

            “What?”

 

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

              When work is a duty, life is slavery.”

 

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

 

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

 

            And so, I decided to do what I wanted to experience an inner freedom. And guess what I am today?

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

 

 

VIKRAM KARVE

 

Copyright 2006 Vikram Karve

 

 

vikramkarve@sify.com

 

http://vikramkarve.sulekha.com

 

 

 

 

BUNDLE OF JOY

March 12, 2007

BUNDLE OF JOY

(a fiction short story)

by

VIKRAM KARVE

It’s a warm Sunday morning in Pune. Let’s go to the apartment of a young Double Income No Kids (DINK) couple in a posh residential complex in Aundh. The man and the woman, both in their late twenties, sit across a table in the drawing room. Let’s hear what they are talking!

“Let’s start with the house,” the man says.

“Okay,” the woman says.

“We bought it for 12. It’s worth 17 today.”

“You keep the house,” the woman says.

“Thanks. I knew you would let me keep it,” the man says with a sigh of relief and opens a folder on the table between them. “I’ve worked it out. Here’s a cheque for 5 Lakhs. I’ll take over all your EMIs and your part of the loan. Have a look at the papers and sign.”

The woman signs the papers without reading, picks up the cheque and puts it in her purse.

“The car. You want to keep it?”

“Of course. It’s on my name. I got the loan, remember!”

“Please. Let’s not start yours and mine again. We agreed the split would be as amicable as possible.”

“I’m sorry,” the woman says a bit contrite.

“It’s just that I thought you’d like to buy a new one.”

“No. I like the Santro.”

 “Okay. I’ll make do with my old bike for a few days. Then I’ll go in for the SUV I always wanted.”

The woman looks at the wall-clock. “Oh my God! It’s ten thirty already. The packers and movers will be here any moment. Let’s hurry and finish it off once and for all!”

“Okay. Let’s go room by room,” the man says. He gives the woman a notepad and a pen, “You better write it down, so you can tell the packers.”

“You write,” the woman says.

“Okay. Let’s start with the living room.”

“The TV, DVD, Music System – you can keep everything. I only want all the beautiful wrought iron furniture I’ve specially got made.”

“At least leave me a couple of chairs and a table!” the man pleads.

“Oh, come on! When will you understand? It’s a whole set! You can buy the cheap molded stuff you always liked.”

“Okay. Let’s go to the kitchen.”

“I’ll take the microwave and dishwasher; and some good crockery and cutlery. You keep the stainless steel stuff which you love for its utilitarian value.”

“Don’t be sarcastic!” the man snaps.

“I’m not,” the woman answers, “I’m sick and tired of your ‘Value For Money’ obsession. You never like anything elegant and refined.”

“I prefer to drink the best scotch in a stainless steel tumbler rather than a third rate whisky served in fancy cut-glass!”

“So go ahead Cheapie! Once I leave you can eat out of earthenware bowls and sit on straw mats for all I care! But I like classy stuff. Oh, yes; I’m taking the new carpet you’ve kept packed inside, those new lace curtains and all the curios.”

“Sure. Take anything you want. Except my books!”

“Books! I don’t want any of your books,” the woman says, “That’s all you’ve done. Buy books and wallow in them. With the money you’ve squandered on your books you could have bought me a diamond, the solitaire I wanted for my last birthday.”

“Please Anju! Let’s not start again.”

“Okay Abhi. I’m sorry. Let’s get all this over with as quickly as possible and part as good friends.”

And so they go about it, without a trace of acrimony, scrupulously and systematically, room by room, cupboard by cupboard, item by item – clothes, air conditioner, computer, washing machine, furniture, beds, linen, everything; even the playthings and investments they had diligently accumulated for the baby they had planned to have after they both were well established in their careers – each and every asset in the house is meticulously divided between the two and the woman’s items are segregated, packed and loaded in the truck by the packers.

“Thanks for making it so easy,” the woman says.

“You too!” the man says.

“No hard feelings?”

“No hard feelings! It’s best for both of us.”

“I know. We were mismatched, just not compatible, that’s all.”

“There were good times too!”

“Yes.”

“It had to happen. I’m so happy it’s happened so amicably.”

“Me too. Bye Abhi. Take care,” the woman says and calls out, “Dolly! Dolly!”

A cute and fluffy little snow-white Lhasa Apso dog, who till now was sitting quietly in the balcony, runs up to the woman, excitedly wagging its tail. The woman lovingly picks up the adorable little dog in her arms and begins to walk towards the door.

“Wait. Where are you taking Dolly?” asks the man apprehensively.

“With me, of course,” the woman says.

“No, you’re not! Dolly stays with me!” the man says firmly.

“How can she stay with you?”

“What do you mean ‘how can she stay with me’? This is her house. She will stay here like she has stayed all these days. I’ll look after her.”

“No. I’m taking Dolly with me. Look how she’s cuddling in my arms.”

“She cuddles in my arms too! Dolly stays with me.You can’t take her.”

“I’m taking her. Try stopping me!” the woman says defiantly and moves towards the door.

In a flash, the man rushes to the door and blocks her way. The dog senses the tension and stiffens.

“Look, you’re scaring her,” the woman says.

“Give her to me,” the man says, takes Dolly in his arms and begins baby-talking to her, petting her and gently fondling her neck lovingly with his hand. The dog relaxes, snuggles and begins licking his hands.

“Be reasonable, Abhi,” the woman says. “I always assumed Dolly would be coming with me. That’s why I’ve found a ground floor flat with a small garden where she can play. She feels cooped up here and you’ll find it difficult to look after her.”

“How can you assume such things? She’s staying with me. I’ll look after her. You don’t worry.”

“Don’t be stubborn, Abhi! Give her to me please.”

“No. Dolly stays here with me.”

“I’m not going without her.”

“Don’t go.”

“What do you mean ‘Don’t go’! We had agreed to the separation. That we would work out things amicably. That there would be no acrimony or rancor and we would always remain good friends. Then why this bitterness at the last moment? Please give Dolly to me.”

“No. Dolly stays with me. I can’t live without her.”

“I too can’t live without her.”

“Then stay here!”

“Okay. I’ll stay put right here,” the woman says defiantly. “I’m not moving an inch from here till such time you don’t let me take Dolly with me.”

“Fine!”

“Fine!”

In the evening, the man and the woman are playing with their cute little dog, Dolly, on the lush green lawns of their residential complex.

Epilogue

Three years ago when our protagonists, the man and the woman, newly married, were in Shillong for their honeymoon, their jolly dog-loving uncle, a retired Colonel, presented them with a beautiful month old baby female Lhasa Apso pup as a wedding gift. He had already named her Dolly. The Colonel’s wife scolded him saying that the pet would encumber the young couple’s married life. In fact, the darling pet saved their marriage. She turned out to be their bundle of joy.

BUNDLE OF JOY 
( A fiction short story)
 copyright 2006 Vikram Karve

vikramkarve@sify.com http://vikramkarve.sulekha.com

My Name is Sherry and Sherry and her “Babies”

March 4, 2007

 

MY NAME IS SHERRY

(Part 1)

By

VIKRAM KARVE  

My name is Sherry. I am a naughty young girl, I’m over seven months old and I live with my family in a lovely spacious bungalow surrounded by plenty of greenery.

 

I wake up early in the morning, jump off my sofa, go to my father’s bed, rub my cold wet nose against his hand and give him a lick. He grunts and growls and opens his sleepy eyes, and the moment he sees me his face lights up and he lovingly caresses me and says, “Good Morning, Sherry,” and gets up from bed and opens the main door to let me jump out into the garden, do my ‘little job’ at my favorite place near the mango tree, generally dig in the soft morning mud a bit and sniff around to find out if there are any new morning smells, not forgetting to run and welcome the milkman the moment he comes on his cycle.

 

When I return I find that my father is back in his bed and my mother is up and about. She pats and cuddles me and goes about her business making tea in the kitchen while I loiter around the house. She surreptitiously sneaks to the bedroom and slyly hands over a tidbit to my half sleeping father under the blanket when she thinks I am not looking. I pretend not to notice, as I do not want to spoil their fun. Earlier, when I was small and impatient, I used to snuffle out the tidbit from my father’s hand, but this spoilt his fun and he became grumpy, and now that I am a mature young girl well experienced in the ways of the human world I have realized that it is better to act dumb and let these humans think they are smarter than me. So I go outside, sit down and put on a look of anticipation towards the gate and pretend not to notice my mother hiding and peeping through the corner of the window and giggling to herself.

 

The moment the newspaperman comes on his cycle and shouts ‘paper’, I rush to the gate and fetch the newspaper in my mouth, gripping it just right between my teeth, and hold it up to my horizontal father, who gets up, takes the paper from me and gives me the dog-biscuit he’s been hiding in his hand, as my mother, who has rushed behind me, watches me with loving pride in her eyes. My brother and my sister, who till now were fast asleep in the other room, call out my name, and as I dart between their beds wagging my tail, they both hug and cuddle me all over saying, “Good Morning, Sherry. Sherry is a good girl!”   Everyone is cheerful and happy and my day has begun!

 

I love my family, even though they are humans; and I love my house, my surroundings, the place I stay, the life I live – but before I tell you all that, let me tell you where I came from.

 

My ‘ birth-mother’ is a ferocious Doberman who lives in a bungalow in Kothrud and my ‘dog-father’ is unknown, though they suspect it may be the Labrador next door (but the vet wanted proof, so in the column against breed he wrote ‘Doberman X’). I was a sickly weakling, hardly a month old, the only girl, last of the litter of eleven, and the owners were wondering what to do with me. Nine of my handsome brothers had already been selected and taken away, and the owners wanted to keep the tenth, the most beautiful and healthy of them all. They had kept me all alone separated from my ferocious Doberman mother who was growling menacingly in a cage nearby. No one wanted me and I could hear people whispering how ugly and weak I was and I wondered what fate lay in store for me. It hurt to be unwanted and when I heard people wanting to send me away to a farmhouse, or ‘dispose’ me of, I felt frightened when I wondered what was going to be my destiny.

 

One evening a few people came over and a gentle woman with kindness in her eyes looked at me, and on the spur of the moment lovingly picked me up, and the way she tenderly snuggled me I felt true love for the first time. This was my new mother. They got into a car and drove across Pune, past Aundh, across the river, till they reached a bungalow. The kind woman was wondering what her husband’s reaction would be. It was dark. I was scared and cuddled up snugly my mother’s arms to feel safer.

 

Suddenly I found a tough-looking bearded man staring at me. Shivering with fear I looked back at him in terror as he extended his hands towards me. But the moment he held me in his large cozy hands, caressed me lovingly, and put his finger tenderly in my mouth, I felt protected, loved, safe and secure. This was my new father and he had already decided my name – Sherry – the same name of his earlier canine ‘daughter’. [‘Sherry’ means ‘beloved’ – not the wine drink you are thinking about!].

 

“She was destined to come here,” my mother said.

 

“Yes,” My father said feeding me warm milk.

 

They made a nice warm bed for me in a basket and put it below theirs. And as I drifted into sleep, they both fondled me with their hands. I felt so wonderful and happy for the first time in my life. I had found my true home and my family.

 

I am feeling quite sleepy now and I’ll end here and have a nap. If you want to know more about me, my delightfully mischievous life, and the naughty things I do, please let me know and I’ll tell you all about it!

  

To be continued

 

VIKRAM KARVE

Copyright 2006 Vikram Karve

 

vikramkarve@sify.com

vikramkarve@hotmail.com

 

http://vikramkarve.sulekha.com

    

MY NAME IS SHERRY

(Part 2)

by

VIKRAM KARVE   

On Christmas Day, and when I fetched the Times of India from the paperboy early in the morning and gave it to my father, he began reading to my mother something about a new pet saloon started in Pune at Salunke Vihar where dogs are pampered, groomed, massaged, styled, pedicured and everything else like the beauty parlours you humans go to. It’s run by a girl called Pooja Karve, and that’s good, because I am a ‘Karve’ too – Sherry Karve – and I’m sure Pooja Karve will give her canine namesake special care and treatment and also a hefty discount. I’m going to tell my father and mother that I need some sophisticated exotic pampering and they must take me Pooja Karve’s grooming parlour soon for the complete works and I’m not going to tolerate their rustic style rough and tough bathing and brushing anymore. After all I’m a delicate girl and I want to look and feel good.

 

Now my father is calling me for playing the “bone-game” but before that let me tell you about my home. In front is a huge garden, or rather an orchard, with all types of trees and bushes, and a lush green lawn on which I love to frolic, prance and roll upside down, and lots of flower beds which I love digging up to my mother’s horror. I love digging up the mud – it’s so tasty – and there is plenty of it in the spacious kitchen garden behind the house where I create havoc digging up to my heart’s content, and the only thing I’ve spared are the tomatoes and some horrible tasting leaves called Alu because they itch.

 

I’m lucky – they don’t tie me up but leave me free to roam and play around as I please. And there is so much to explore and investigate, in the nooks and corners of our verdant garden with plenty of trees, bushes and hedges. There is so much to sniff, so much to dig, and so much to chase – squirrels, mongooses and birds to chase. The cats have disappeared though; ever since the day I almost caught one.

 

When I want to go out I tap the front door with my paws and they let me out, and when I want to come in I peep through the windows, and if no one notices I bang the door from the outside or make entreating sounds.

 

My father has warned me not to leave the compound, but sometimes I can’t resist the temptation, and slither under a gap I’ve discovered under the barbed wire and go across to meet my neighbour Sigmund, a five year old pure breed Golden Retriever, in case he is tied outside. He’s an old fogey, quite a boring condescending pompous fellow, and I hate his snooty and snobbish manner, but he’s the only canine company I have so I really don’t have much of a choice. Also, the poor guy is locked inside or tied up most of the time so I have to do my bit to cheer him up. If he’s inside I bark and sometimes he returns my bark, but most of the time he is quite stuck-up and gloomy. The only time he seemed to be all excited and active, and was desperately chasing me all over, was when I had my first chums a few days ago, but he had no chance as my suddenly overprotective father was guarding me like a shadow, never taking me off the leash when I was outdoors. Those were the only few days he totally restricted my freedom, and when I managed to slip away across the fence once, all hell broke loose, and I was located, chased, captured and soundly scolded for the first time. I felt miserable, and sulked, but then my father caressed and baby-talked me and I knew how much he loved and cared for me, and it was all okay. And during those sensitive days he used to specially pamper me and take me for long walks, on a tight leash, keeping an eagle eye and stick ready in his hand for those desperate rowdy rascal mongrels who suddenly appeared from nowhere and used to frantically hang around and follow me, looking at me in a lewd restless manner. Once they even had the gumption to sneak into the compound at night, and growl outside, till my father chased them away.

 

When I was small, and my gums itched, and my milk teeth began to break through, I could not resist chewing up anything I could lay my teeth upon – like shoes, slippers, clothes, toothbrushes, furniture . I especially loved my father’s favourite Kolhapuri kapshi chappals which were so soft and yummy. So my father bought me a chewy bone which, it said on the wrapper, was guaranteed to save everything else. I don’t know why, but I secretly buried the bone in a hole I dug below the Mango tree, and I used to dig it out when I thought no one was looking, chew it a bit, and bury it in some other secret place.

 

One day my inquisitive mother found out, and she dug up the bone when I was sleeping and hid in under the pomegranate tree. When I didn’t find it, at first I was confused, maybe it was my neighbour Sigmund, but then he was too old for chewy toy bones. Then I tracked the bone down with my nose, and when I spied my mother giggling and grinning like a Cheshire cat, I knew who was the culprit. This started the “bone-game”. First they (the humans – my mother and father) would give me the bone, and after I hid it they would rush out into the garden and dig it out – then they would hide the bone (after locking me in the house so I could not see) and make me find it, which I did using my nose.

 

I wondered how they found the bone so fast, and one day I caught them spying crouching behind the hedge when they thought I wasn’t looking and the mystery was solved. So now I first let them see where I’m hiding the bone, and when they complacently and confidently go inside thinking they know everything, I dig out the bone and hide it some other place which they do not know and then watch the fun as they search in vain. Then when they go inside, and my father asks me to get the bone, I run out and get it, for which I earn a tidbit.

 

The way these humans act sometimes, I really wonder who is more intelligent – they or I? Apart from my mother and father, who I’ve told you about, there are some more humans who live in my house – my sister, my brother, grandmothers, and a grandfather – and I’ll tell you all about them next time. And I’ll also tell you about the long exploratory walks I go on with my father in the jungle near Mula River, and more about my childhood pranks. And if you’ve missed my first writing about my early life, I’m putting that piece below for you to read.

 

Happy New Year,

See you soon,

Sherry

   

To be continued

 

VIKRAM KARVE

Copyright 2006 Vikram Karve

 

vikramkarve@sify.com

vikramkarve@hotmail.com

 

http://vikramkarve.sulekha.com

http://karve.wordpress.com

    

SHERRY AND HER “BABIES”

By

VIKRAM KARVE

   

“I think Sherry is pregnant!” my daughter says.

 

“What?” my wife screams aghast, in consternation.

 

We are all comfortably settled for our customary after-dinner lounge in our living room, sitting comfortably in our sofas watching TV, while Sherry sits majestically on her “throne” near the door, where she will soon curl up and go to sleep.

 

“Look at her belly, it’s swollen, and her teats,” my son says, walking up to her, turning her on her back, exposing her femininity.

 

“Don’t do that, “ my wife shouts at my son, “It looks disgusting!”

 

But I’ve had a look and I am concerned. Any father will be – if his ten month old girl gets pregnant! Doesn’t matter even if the ten month old girl is my pet Doberman Sherry. She’s just a baby. So I too walk across, examine her thoroughly, and hope that it is just not possible. She’s just finished her first heat during which I had guarded her zealously, keeping her under my eagle eye at all times.

 

“Look, Sherry is digging a hole,” my daughter says next morning.

 

“So what’s new?” I say. “She’s been digging away to hide her bones so many times.”

 

“But she used to cover it up putting soil and mud with long sweeps of her nose once she hid the bone,” my daughter says. “Look at this hole she’s digging – it’s huge, and deep, and she’s going on and on!”

 

In the evening I notice that Sherry is still digging vigorously, throwing out mud, cement pieces and soil all over the place, and the hole is so big that she has almost disappeared inside and only her tail is visible.

 

“See, Sherry is building a nest?” my daughter says.

 

“Nest?” I ask.

 

“Yes. A nesting site! I read in the library today. She is getting her den ready to deliver her babies.”

 

“She’s going to deliver?” my wife panics.

 

“Please. Hold it. Relax,” I say. “Dogs deliver more than two months after mating; 63 days I think.”

 

“She’s mated? So early? ” My wife’s dog-lover friend, appearing from nowhere asks. She’s already booked Sherry’s pups, whenever they come.

 

“No. No,” I say. “It’s not possible. We had kept her strictly indoors during her heat. And whenever she went out, I kept her on a tight leash all the time.”

 

“Except once, when she disappeared for half an hour,” my daughter says.

 

“When?” I ask.

 

“That day. Remember? When you were desperately looking around for her all over the place!”

 

I glare at my daughter, but it’s too late.

 

“It’s all your fault. I told you to be careful. Must be that Sigmund. Lecherous rascal, I knew he would do mischief, the way he was hovering around desperately,” my wife says.

 

“Sigmund?” her friend asks.

 

“The Golden Retriever next door,” my wife answers.

 

“Hey, fantastic! A Golden Retriever and Doberman cross – just imagine how cute the pups will look! You must give me one,” the dog-lover friend is exultant.

 

“Please. Sherry is not pregnant,” I assert firmly, and go inside.

 

After some time, I call Sherry for her evening walk, but she is nowhere to be seen, so I look around, and then towards the hole she has dug, and there she is, ensconced snugly deep in her “nest”, only her cute black nose and two shiny brown eyes visible!

 

She comes out of her “nest” and I look inside – it’s quite huge, and deep, T-shaped, so she can comfortable sit inside. And Sherry – she’s not behaving like her usual self whenever I call her for her walk, jumping, prancing, cavorting, and vigorously shaking her lead in her mouth. In fact her demeanor is demure.

 

At night, I’m woken up from my deep sleep by a strange whining sound. I put on the light. It’s Sherry, holding her favorite yellow crab squeaky toy, looking restless, giving me a loving compassionate beckoning look. I get up from my bed, and she indicates I follow her, and she leads me to her sleeping place in the living room. I put on the light. Oh my God! Sherry has collected all her soft toys and squeaky toys – the green frog, the red porcupine, the blue rabbit, the fluffy ball, and, of course, her favorite yellow crab – and she curls up around them and tries to mother them as if they were indeed her babies! It’s amusingly poignant to see her trying to nurse her inanimate “babies”.

 The moment I extend my hand towards them she gives me a warning growl, so I just stroke the top of her head, and baby-talk her to sleep. The moment I try to leave, she whimpers, pleads, moans, and I have no choice but to spend the rest of the night caressing and comforting her as she snugly curls around and protectively mothers her “babies”.  

We observe her with amusement as she moves restlessly, searching for her “babies”, collecting new “babies” like my socks, a tennis ball, a sneaker, carrying them to the nest she has built outside, and then back to her sleeping place inside, and to secluded corners of the house, trying to mother them. She’s changed, become more mature and lovable, acting like a true lady, and I wonder what’s happened to the naughty girl she was once. No more the playful bow pose of hers, now it’s just an affectionate tender look. No more the insatiable round-the-clock hunger, but a sophisticated food-faddiness I cannot comprehend – she wants to be pampered, fed lovingly. And her maternal instincts aroused, like a good mother she’s always protecting her “babies”. 

 

My wife is anxious, “Look, she’s filling up. I think she’s got real pups in her womb. Let’s take her to the vet.”

 

The vet examines Sherry and says, “She’s not pregnant. It’s a ‘false pregnancy’. Pseudocyesis.

 

“False Pregnancy?” my wife asks.

 

“Her body, her mind thinks she is pregnant. All the hormones are present; only the puppies are missing.”

 

“What should we do?”

 

“Nothing much. It’s best to let it run its normal course and wear out. But if you want, I’ll give her a hormone injection.”

 

“No. No,” I say. “Let nature run its course.” Actually I’m enjoying Sherry’s false pregnancy – it’s been a delightful experience so far, and am curious for more amusing things to happen.

 

I’ve read somewhere that once a dog has had a false pregnancy she’s likely to have it again. No sweat! I’m waiting for her next false pregnancy, and then when she’s had enough “dry runs” we’ll go in for the real thing.

 

Meanwhile Sherry and us are going to savor every moment of this intriguing experience with Sherry and her wonderful “Babies”.

   

VIKRAM KARVE

 

Copyright 2007 Vikram Karve

  

vikramkarve@sify.com

 

http://vikramkarve.sulekha.com