Archive for April 2007

The Turning Point

April 30, 2007

THE TURNING POINT 

by 

VIKRAM KARVE 

  

 

            Every evening at precisely 6 PM Shalini Joshi would leave her office, sit in her car, drive out of the parking lot, turn left on

Tilak Road

, and drive towards her house in Deccan Gymkhana.  

 

            Today she turned right and drove in the opposite direction. Now that was surprising. For Shalini Joshi was a stickler for routine. And that was the reason for her success. At thirty-five, Shalini Joshi was a thoroughly successful woman. She was the branch manager with independent charge of a prestigious branch of a leading bank, her promotion was due any moment and there was no stopping her from reaching the top. Her husband, Sudhir, was a doctor with an excellent practice. Everything had worked as per plan. Today Shalini had everything she wanted – a palatial flat in a posh locality, a farm-house in the outskirts of Pune, two lovely children (a boy and a girl), an ideal husband, a doting mother-in-law and all the status and prosperity she could ever hope for. Even her Sundays were planned – a family outing to their farm-house followed by an evening at the club rubbing shoulders with the crème de la crème of society. And the annual vacation – a sojourn at a hill station or a beach resort. Her life was a marvelous success – from the outside.  

 

          Shalini parked her car on

East Street

and walked quickly to the apartment block, looking around furtively like someone with a guilty conscience. She re-checked the address and rang the doorbell. Ajay opened the door. Shalini felt a tremor of trepidation. She wondered if she was doing the right thing.   

          “I normally don’t see anyone at my residence,” Ajay said beckoning her to sit down. He closed the door, turned towards her, looked directly into her eyes, and said, “But I can always make an exception in your case.”  

          “I want this visit kept absolutely confidential,” Shalini said, beads of perspiration showing on her forehead. “And whatever we discuss. Please don’t tell anyone.”  

          “Of course,” Ajay said. “I’ll make some coffee. Then we can talk.”  

          Shalini followed him into the kitchen, observing with admiration its neatness and organization. This was the home of a self-sufficient man. He hardly needed a wife.   

          After they had settled down on the sofa, coffee cups in hand, Ajay said, “What is the matter Shalini? Just get it off your chest.”  

          “I want to divorce my husband,” Shalini said. She was surprised that her words had no effect on Ajay. His manner remained relaxed and nonchalant.  

          He smiled. “I guessed so.” 

          “How? I’ve not told anyone. Not even my husband.” 

          “That’s what people come to me for. It’s my job.” Ajay paused. “Tell me, Shalini. What’s the exact problem? Is Sudhir having an affair or something?”           “No.” 

          “You?” 

          “Don’t be silly,” shouted Shalini getting visibly angry. “How can you say such an ridiculous thing ?”           “Calm down,” Ajay said. “Then what’s the reason? There have to be some grounds.”  

          “I can’t stand it any longer. Living a life of pretence, fake and hypocrisy. Just to maintain a facade of conjugal conviviality. I feel suffocated. I just want to break free !” Shalini wiped the tears from her eyes. She looked small, weak and vulnerable ; her composure shattered.   

          Ajay was ashamed to find that, inwardly, he was glad to hear of her misfortune. Did he really love her that much?   

            Ajay checked his train of thoughts and said, “Shalini, listen to me carefully. I’m a lawyer. Yes, I do take up divorce cases. But I’m the last resort. You need to see a marriage counselor first. I know a lady. Someone you can talk to, who can empathise with you.”       

          “I want to talk to you first.” 

 

          “Okay,” Ajay said. Tell me everything.” 

 

          She talked. He listened. Ajay was easy to talk to and soon Shalini began experiencing a sense of release and a strange feeling of elation. In these moods there was so much to say – the words simply came tumbling out.  

          When she had finished, Ajay said, “Your problem is that you don’t have any problems !”  

          “If you’re not going to take me seriously, I’m going. I came for your advice. And help. Not for sarcastic comments.”  

          “It’s high time you go,” Ajay said gesturing towards the wall clock. “It’s almost 8 o’clock. Your husband may be wondering what you are up to.” 

           “He comes home after ten. His consulting hours are till 9.30 and then he visits his patients in hospital.” Shalini paused. “I’ll ring up my mother-in-law and tell her to put the children to sleep. She may be worried. I’m always home by 6.30.” 

  

             Shalini made the phone call. She told her mother-in-law that she was held up in an important meeting and would be home in half an hour. 

  

          At that very moment, when Shalini was making the phone call, Dr. Sudhir Joshi was cruising down East Street after attending an emergency call at the other end of town. His clinic was near Deccan Gymkhana and it was a long drive. Dr. Joshi normally never left his clinic during consulting hours but then this had been a genuine emergency, an important patient and, not to forget, a fat fee. It had been worth it. But there would be a lot of patients waiting for him at the clinic. He would have to work late tonight. Shalini wouldn’t mind. She never did. Suddenly he saw a familiar yellow car. A rare colour – bright yellow. Just like Shalini’s. It couldn’t be? Not here, at this time. 

 

            He stopped his car behind the yellow car and looked at the number plate. Yes it was. It was Shalini’s car. Dr. Sudhir Joshi was wondering what his wife’s car was doing parked below an apartment block on East Street at 8 o’clock at night when Shalini came hurriedly out of the gate, got into her car and drove away. It was at this moment that Dr. Joshi decided to pay a bit more attention to his wife.  

  

  

VIKRAM KARVE 

Copyright 2006 Vikram Karve 

 

http://vikramkarve.sulekha.com  

 vikramkarve@sify.com 

 

  

  

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THE COUNSELOR

April 25, 2007

THE COUNSELOR  

by  

VIKRAM KARVE   

     

   

“Your relationship has become so demoralized by distrust that it is better severed than patched up.”  

   

“What?”  

   

“Yes. It is much better you two split instead of living in perpetual suspicion like this. Why live a lie?”  

   

“How can you say this? You are a marriage counselor – you’re supposed to save marriages, not break them.”  

   

“But then what can I do if you don’t change your attitude?” I said in desperation, “you have to learn to trust your wife; just stop being jealous, suspicious, possessive. Mutual trust is important in a marriage, especially a long distance marriage like yours.”  

   

I looked at the man sitting in front of me. He was incredibly handsome; mid thirties, maybe forty, well groomed, sharp features accentuated by a smart neatly trimmed beard, clean brown eyes, he looked strong and confident, and his outward appearance betrayed no sign of what was going on inside him. And he looked at me longingly, in a lingering sort of way that women secretly want men to look at them.  

   

I blushed, felt good, but quickly composed myself. In such vulnerable situations anything could happen and I had to be careful, so I said to him in a firm dispassionate tone, “I think you better go now. It’s time for your flight.”  

   

“It’s delayed.”  

   

“You’re sure?”  

   

“Of course I’m sure! I’m the bloody pilot – the commander of the aircraft. I’ve to report after an hour.”  

   

“I’ll leave? It’s almost check-in time.”  

   

“No! No! Please stay. There’s still two hours for your flight to
London. I’ll get you checked-in. There’s something I want to tell you,” he pleaded, “I’ll order some more coffee.”
 

   

The airport restaurant was deserted at this late hour and wore a dark, eerie look, with just a few people huddled in muted whispers.  

   

“I want to thank you for giving me this special appointment – agreeing to meet me here at such short notice,” he said.  

   

“It’s okay. It was quite convenient for both of us. A quick inconspicuous rendezvous enroute, catching our flights. It’s a nice quiet discreet place, this airport restaurant.”  

   

He paused for a moment, then spoke guiltily, “I did something terrible today.”  

   

“What?”  

   

“I stole my wife’s cell-phone.”  

   

“Stole? Your wife’s mobile?  

   

“Yes. Just before I left. I took it from her purse. She was fast asleep.”  

   

“This is too much! Stealing your wife’s mobile. That was the most despicable thing to do. I don’t think we should talk any more. You need some serious help,” I said, gulped down my coffee and started to get up.  

   

“No! No! Please listen. It’s those telltale SMS messages!”  

   

“SMS messages?”  

   

“From ‘Teddy Bear’!”  

   

“Teddy Bear?”  

   

“Someone she knows. She’s saved his number. She keeps getting these SMSs, which she erases immediately. This evening when she was bathing while I was getting ready to leave for the airport, her cell-phone was lying on the bed, an SMS came from ‘Teddy Bear’: “I am yearning for you. SPST.”  

   

“SPST? What’s that?” I asked.  

   

“I don’t know. I called the number. A male voice said: ‘Hi Sugar!’ Just imagine, he calls her ‘Sugar’. I hung up in disgust immediately. Then during dinner she kept getting calls and SMSs – must be the same chap: ‘Teddy Bear’.”  

   

“Your wife spoke to him?”  

   

“No. She looked at the number and cut it off. Four or five times. Then she switched her mobile to silent and put in her purse.”  

   

“You asked her who it was.”  

   

“No.”  

   

“You should have. It may have been a colleague, a friend. That’s your problem – you keep imagining things and have stopped communicating with her. Ask her next time and I’m sure everything will clear up.”  

   

“No! No! I am sure she is having an affair with this ‘Teddy Bear’ chap. Had it not been for the last minute delay in my flight, I wouldn’t have been home at that time.” he said. And then suddenly he broke down, tears pouring down his cheeks, his voice uncontrollable, he cried, “The moment I take off, she starts cheating on me.”  

   

It was a bizarre sight. A tough looking man totally shattered, weeping inconsolably.  

   

“Please,” I said, “control yourself. And you better not fly in this state.”  

   

“I think you’re right,” he said recovering his composure, “I’m in no mood to fly.” He took out a cell-phone from his shirt pocket, dialed the standby pilot and a few other numbers and told them he was unwell.  

   

He kept the mobile phone on the table.  

   

“This cell-phone? Your wife’s?” I asked.  

   

“Yes.”  

   

“She’ll be missing it.”  

   

“No. She’ll be fast asleep. I’ll go back and put it in her purse.” He got up and said, “I’ll freshen up in the washroom and come. And then I’ll check you in for your
London flight.”
 

   

I looked at the cell-phone on the table, at first hesitant; then curiosity took charge of me and I picked it up. Hurriedly I clicked on ‘names’, pressed ‘T’, quickly found ‘Teddy Bear’ and called. A few rings and I instantly recognized my husband’s voice at the other end, “Hey Sugar, where are you? Why aren’t you answering? Did you get my SMS –  SPST – Same Place Same Time. Why did you give me a blank call?…..”   

   

I couldn’t believe this. My dear own husband – ‘Teddy Bear’. Right under my nose. It was unimaginable, incredulous. And suddenly, like a pack of cards, my ‘secure’ world had come tumbling down.  

   

I cannot begin to describe the emotions that overwhelmed me at that moment, but I’ll tell you what I did.  

   

I put the cell-phone in my purse, walked briskly to the check-in counter without looking back, and I am on my way to
London to present my research paper on ‘The efficacy of counseling in the alleviation of marital discord’ at the International Conference of Counselors.
 

   

And till I return, let everyone here stew in suspense.  

   

   

   

   

VIKRAM KARVE Copyright 2006 Vikram Karve   vikramkarve@sify.com 

http://vikramkarve.sulekha.com  

   

   

RENDEZVOUS AT CHURCHGATE

April 24, 2007

RENDEZVOUS AT CHURCHGATE 

By 

VIKRAM KARVE   

 

 What do you do if a man looks at you with frank admiration in his eyes – in an insistent suggestive sort of way that is worth a thousand compliments? Nothing! You do absolutely nothing. Because you are a thoroughly bored “happily” married thirty year old housewife sitting comfortably in your favorite rocking chair, browsing through Benjamin Spock’s Baby and Child Care, at the Oxford Bookstore at Churchgate in Mumbai.  So you just look down, act as if you have not noticed, and try to read.  But you cannot read – the words just don’t focus in front of you. You think of the man, his lingering look, his eyes curiously languid, yet inviting – it’s the first time someone looked at you in such a flattering way for a long long time.  You feel a tinge of excitement. Maybe something is going to happen. Something exciting – dangerously exciting. At long last. Something that you have been secretly wanting to happen, and thought would never ever happen.  

Or maybe it’s nothing. Just your imagination playing tricks. So just to check. Once. Only once. You quickly look up – a fleeting glance.  He is still looking at you – not furtively, but brazenly, almost unashamedly, with waves of yearning flowing out of his eyes. He looks a decisive, hot-blooded and masculine man with his smart beard and piercing eyes.  You feel a flush inside. A shiver. A tremor. A tremor of trepidation – mixed with excitement. You cannot define how you feel – but it feels good. He looks at you. You look back at him in return. He begins to smile. You quickly look down and bury yourself into the pages in front of you and pretend to read.  But it’s no use. You can sense his unseen eyes locked onto you, burning into you, traveling all over your body and lingering exactly where they shouldn’t – just like a laser beam.  And now, he knows that you know.  What do you do? Best is not to react – just accept the fact of being looked at – ignore him. Keep on pretending to read.  Oh no! That may be dangerous. He may get ideas. You never know these types. May think you are game. But are you? Or aren’t you?  Why not play on – have some fun. Flirt a bit. See what happens. A little excitement to liven up your boring life a bit. So you take a deep breath, brace yourself and start a dangerous game.  You look up from your book, pan your gaze slowly across the bookstore, looking at everything – the shelves of books, the people, the cha-bar, the sales counter – and finally, like a dog that has circled its bowl of food long enough, you look directly at him.  

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

You spontaneously follow his gaze, and look down at the book in your hands – Benjamin Spock’s Baby and Child Care – most inappropriate for what you have in mind. You quickly put it away into the rack, run your eyes across the shelf and pick up ‘The Art of Seduction’. You turn the pages – nothing registers – so you look up at him almost seeking approbation.  He smiles – a wry canny smile – as if he knows something you don’t. And suddenly he gets up from the chair, keeps the magazine he is holding back in the rack and begins walking towards you.  Your heart stops – you want to disappear, but he is already standing in front of you.  “Good morning Anita,” he says. “I’m Sen. Dilip Sen.”  Anita? You are not Anita. Seems to be a case of mistaken identity – but you are curious, and in a playful mood, so you say, “Oh, Hello Mr. Sen. You are late.”  “Late? No,” he says looking at his watch, a confused look on his face. “The RV is correct – as planned.”  “RV?”  “Rendezvous.”  Now you are really curious. “Why don’t you pull that stool and sit,” you say.  “Not here. Let’s go to the cha-bar. We can talk in peace there,” he says.  “Okay,” You replace the book in its place in the shelf, get up and walk towards the cha-bar.  

The cha-bar – the tea lounge – it’s the best thing about Oxford Bookstore. An ideal place to relax, browse, or have a quiet flirtatious chat over a cup of exquisite tea. As you sip, savoring the fragrance and relishing the rich flavor of premium Darjeeling Tea, you feel a shiver of anticipation. It’s your first time. You wonder what’s going to happen next.  “Well done. Let’s recap,” he says pulling out a pocket diary.  Well done? Recap? You wonder what this is all about. The man seems to be crazy. But you keep your wits about, and to calm down you say to yourself, “Relax. Just keep quiet and go along.”  And to Mr. Sen, you say confidently, “Okay. Sure. Let’s recap.”  “Step 1,” he says looking into the diary in front of him, “you and I independently arrive at the previously agreed upon rendezvous. Your choice is excellent – this bookstore – easy to wait, observe and not be noticed. We just blended in. Much better cover than a railway station, park or restaurant. And the book you chose – Baby and Child Care – easily discernible – so aptly chosen. Perfect for your cover. Looked so natural in your hands.”  “Do I look pregnant?” you snap at him.  “Oh no. I didn’t mean it that way,” he says, taken aback, “ You look lovely. But the book – it suited your cover – as a bored housewife.”  Cover? What’s he talking. A bored housewife! That’s what you are, aren’t you? Husband busy working, kids at school, and you – bored to death with nothing to do.  “I’m not bored,” you tease him with your eyes. Flatter him by looking steadily at him without letting your eyes stray.  “Step 2 – making eye contact. We could be a bit more discreet next time, isn’t it?” he says smiling into your eyes.  Discreet? Next time? What’s going on? Who’s this guy?  “Step3 – the signal. Change of book. Okay. But ‘The Art of Seduction’?,” he looks perplexed, “try something more sober – in line with your cover…..”  He goes on and on but you aren’t listening. You just look at him. A man who looks like a man. Solid, strong, decisive but vulnerable. You fantasize. Your imagination begins to run wild. You feel his touch – he has put his hand in your arm. His touch is electric. A shiver of anticipation rises within you. Suddenly he is shaking you. You snap back to reality.  “Okay Anita. Let’s get on with the tradecraft,” he says, in an almost imperative tone.  “Tradecraft?”  “Yes. And make sure you don’t grow a tail.”  “Tail? “  “Yes,” he says, “ Be careful. Maybe you’ve already grown a tail – check it out and shake it off.”  “Grown a tail?” unknowingly you move your hand over your behind to check and instinctively shake your bottom.  “Not there!” he reprimands, in a voice a teacher uses to scold a careless student.  “Have you forgotten everything – counter surveillance protocol?”  “Countersurveillance protocol?” you ask credulous.  “Come on Anita. Snap out of it. Be alert. They told me you were a seasoned detective. Now get on with your mission.”  Detective?
Mission? What’s he talking about?
 Oh my God! Fear starts rising within you. It’s getting dangerous. This is for real – no longer fun. It’s time to run.  “Excuse me,” you say, quickly get up and start walking towards the exit. You sense he is following you. So the moment you get out of the bookstore, you deliberately avoid going to your car but walk in the opposite direction towards the Oval.  

The Clock on

Rajabai
Tower is striking twelve – it’s noon.  You look back over your shoulder. Dilip Sen is following you. You break into a run, still looking back, and suddenly bang into someone. It’s Nalini – your gossipy neighbor.  “What happened?” Nalini asks, steadying you up.  “Nothing,” you say.  “Hey. Why did you abort?” Dilip Sen asks, catching up with you, his hand clutching your arm.  “Abort?” exclaims Nalini, her eyebrows arched, a mischievous glint in her eyes.  You look at Nalini. Then at Dilip Sen. And then at Nalini again.  Nalini’s roving eyes travel all over you, look meaningfully at Dilip Sen, for that significant moment her eyes focus on his hand holding yours, taking in everything, till her gaze settles down pointedly looking at where it shouldn’t.  

Everything seems frozen. In grotesque silence.  And then, Nalini looks at you with envious awe. And you see something mischievously wicked in her large radiating eyes.  You know you are sunk. Truly sunk. You break out into laughter. That’s the only sane thing left to do. Life isn’t going to be boring any longer.  

 

 

 

VIKRAM KARVE 

copyright 2006 Vikram Karve 

 vikramkarve@sify.com 

 http://vikramkarve.sulekha.com 

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

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

  

 

Lovedale

April 23, 2007

LOVEDALE  

(a short story)  

by  

VIKRAM KARVE  

   

     

   

Lovedale. A quaint little station on the Nilgiri Mountain Railway that runs from Mettupalayam in the plains on a breathtaking journey to beautiful Ooty, the Queen of Hill Stations. On Lovedale station there is just one small platform – and on it, towards its southern end, a solitary bench. If you sit on this bench you will see in front of you, beyond the railway track, an undulating valley, covered with eucalyptus trees, and in the distance the silhouette of a huge structure, which looks like a castle, with an impressive clock-tower. In this mighty building is located a famous boarding school – one of the best schools in
India. Many such ‘elite’ schools are known more for snob value than academic achievements, but this one is different – it is a prestigious public school famous for its rich heritage and tradition of excellence.
 

   

Lovedale, in 1970. That’s all there is in Lovedale – this famous public school, a small tea-estate called Lovedale (from which this place got its name), a tiny post office and, of course, the lonely railway platform with its solitary bench.  

   

It’s a cold damp depressing winter morning, and since the school is closed for winter, the platform is deserted except for two people – yes, just two persons – a woman and a small girl, shivering in the morning mist, sitting on the solitary bench. It’s almost 9 o’clock – time for the morning “toy-train” from the plains carrying tourists via Coonoor to Ooty, the “Queen” of hill-stations, just three kilometers ahead – the end of the line. But this morning the train is late, probably because of the dense fog and the drizzle on the mountain-slopes, and it will be empty – for there are hardly any tourists in this cold and damp winter season.  

   

 “I’m dying to meet mummy. And this stupid train – it’s always late,” the girl says. She is dressed in school uniform – gray blazer, thick gray woolen skirt, navy-blue stockings, freshly polished black shoes, her hair tied smartly in two small plaits with black ribbons.  

   

The woman, 55 – maybe 60, dressed in a white sari with a thick white shawl draped over her shoulder and a white scarf around her head covering her ears, looks lovingly at the girl, softly takes the girl’s hand in her own, and says, “It will come. Look at the weather. The driver can hardly see in this mist. And it must be raining down there in Ketti valley.”  

   

“I hate this place. It’s so cold and lonely. Everyone has gone home for the winter holidays and we have nowhere to go. Why do we have to spend our holidays here every time?”  

   

“You know we can’t stay with her in the hostel.”  

   

“But her training is over now. And she’s become an executive – that’s what she wrote.”  

   

“Yes. Yes. She is an executive now. After two years of tough training. Very creditable; after all that has happened,” the old woman says.  

   

“She has to take us to Mumbai with her now. We can’t stay here any longer. No more excuses now.”  

   

 “Even I don’t want to stay here. It’s cold and I am old. Let your mummy come. This time we’ll tell her to take us all to Mumbai.”  

   

“And we’ll all stay together – like we did before God took Daddy away.”  

   

 “Yes. Mummy will go to work. You will go to school. And I will look after the house and all of you. Just like before.”  

   

“Only Daddy won’t be there. Why did God take Daddy away?” the girl says, tears welling up in her eyes.  

   

 “Don’t think those sad things. We cannot change what has happened. You must be brave – like your mummy,” says the old lady putting her hand softly around the girl. The old lady closes her eyes in sadness.There is no greater pain than to remember happier times when in distress.  

   

Meanwhile the toy-train is meandering its way laboriously round the steep u-curve, desperately pushed by a hissing steam engine, as it leaves
Wellington station on its way to Ketti. A man and a woman sit facing each other in the tiny first class compartment. There is no one else.
 

   

“You must tell her today,” the man says.  

   

“Yes,” the woman replies softly.  

   

“You should have told her before.”  

   

“When?”  

   

“You could have written, called her up. I told you so many times.”  

   

“How could I be so cruel?”  

   

“Cruel? What’s so cruel about it?”  

   

“I don’t know how she will react. She loved her father very much.”  

   

“Now she will have to love me. I am her new father now.”  

   

“Yes, I know,” the woman says, tears welling up in her eyes. “I don’t know how to tell her; how she’ll take it. I think we should wait for some time. Baby is very sensitive.”  

   

“Baby! Why do you still call her Baby? She is a grown up girl now. You must call her by her real name. Damayanti – what a nice name – and you call her Baby”  

   

“It’s her pet name. Deepak always liked to call her Baby.”  

   

“But I don’t like it! It’s ridiculous,” the man says firmly. “Anyway, all that we can sort out later. But you tell her about us today. Tell both of them.”  

   

“Both of them? My mother-in-law also? What will she feel?”  

   

“She’ll understand.”  

   

“Poor thing. She will be all alone.”  

   

“She’s got her work to keep her busy.”  

   

 “She’s old and weak. I don’t think she’ll be able to do the matron’s job much longer.”  

   

“Let her work till she can. At least it will keep her occupied. Then we’ll see.”  

   

“Can’t we take her with us?”  

   

“You know it’s not possible.”  

   

“It’s so sad. She was so good to me. Where will she go? We can’t abandon her just like that!”  

   

“Abandon? Nobody is abandoning her. Don’t worry. If she doesn’t want to stay on here, I’ll arrange something – I know an excellent place near Lonavala. She will be very comfortable there – it’s an ideal place for senior citizens like her.”  

   

“An Old Age Home?”  

   

“Call it what you want but actually it’s quite a luxurious place. She’ll be happy there. I’ve already spoken to them. Let her continue here till she can. Then we’ll shift her there.”  

   

“How cruel? She was so loving and good to me, treated me like her own daughter, and looked after Baby, when we were devastated. And now we discard her when she needs us most,” the woman says, and starts sobbing.  

   

“Come on Kavita. Don’t get sentimental,. You have to face the harsh reality. You know we can’t take her with us. Kavita, you must begin a new life now – no point carrying the baggage of your past,” the man realizes he has said something wrong and instantly apologizes, “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean it.”  

   

“You did mean it. That’s why you said it! I hate you, you are so cruel and selfish,” the woman says, turns away from the man and looks out of the window.  

   

They travel in silence. An uneasy disquieting silence. Suddenly it is dark, as the train enters a tunnel, and as it emerges on the other side, the woman can see the vast green KettiValley with its undulating mountains in the distance.  

   

“I think I’ll also get down with you at Lovedale. I’ll tell them. Explain everything. And get over with it once and for all,” the man says.  

   

“No! No! I don’t even want them to see you. The sudden shock may upset them. I have to do this carefully. Please don’t get down at Lovedale. Go straight to Ooty. I’ll tell them everything and we’ll do as we decided.”  

   

“I was only trying to help you. Make things easier. I want to meet Damayanti. Tell her about us. I’m sure she’ll love me and understand everything.”  

   

“No, please. Let me do this. I don’t want her to see you before I tell her. She’s a very sensitive girl. I don’t know how she’ll react. I’ll have to do it very gently.”  

   

“Okay,” the man says. “Make sure you wind up everything at the school. We have to leave for Mumbai tomorrow. There is so much to be done. We’ve hardly got any time left.”  

   

The steam engine pushing the train huffs and puffs up the slope round the bend under the bridge. “Lovedale station is coming,” the woman says. She gets up and takes out her bag from the shelf.  

   

“Sure you don’t want me to come?” asks the man.  

     

“Not now. I’ll ring you up,” says the woman.  “Okay. But tell them everything. We can’t wait any longer.”    

“Just leave everything to me. Don’t make it more difficult.”  

   

They sit in silence, looking out of different windows, waiting for Lovedale railway station to come.  

   

On the solitary bench on the platform at Lovedale station the girl and her grandmother wait patiently for the train which will bring their deliverance.  

   

“I hate it over here. The cold scary dormitories. At night I miss mummy tucking me in. And every night I count DLFMTC ?”  

   

“DLFMTC ?”  

   

“Days Left For Mummy To Come ! Others count DLTGH – Days Left To Go Home.”  

   

“Next time you too …”  

   

“No. No. I am not going to stay here in boarding school. I don’t know why we came here to this horrible place. I hate boarding school. I miss mummy so much. We could have stayed on in Mumbai with her.”  

   

“Now we will be all staying in Mumbai. Your mummy’s training is over. She can hire a house now. Or get a loan. We will try to buy a good house. I’ve saved some money too.”  

   

The lone station-master strikes the bell outside his office. The occupants of the solitary bench look towards their left. There is no one else on the platform. And suddenly the train emerges from under the bridge – pushed by the hissing steam engine.  

   

Only one person gets down from the train – a beautiful woman, around 30. The girl runs into her arms. The old woman walks towards her with a welcoming smile. The man, sitting in the train, looks cautiously trying not to be seen. A whistle; and the train starts and moves out of the station towards Ooty.  

   

That evening the woman tells them everything.  

   

 At noon the next day, four people wait at Lovedale station for the train which comes from Ooty and goes down to the plains – the girl, her mother, her grandmother and the man. The girl presses close to her grandmother and looks at her new ‘father’ with trepidation. He gives her a smile of forced geniality. The old woman holds the girl tight to her body and looks at the man with distaste. The young woman looks with awe, mixed with hope, at her new husband. They all stand in silence. No one speaks. Time stands still. And suddenly the train enters.  

 

“I don’t want to go,” the girl cries, clinging to her grandmother.  

“Don’t you want to stay with your mummy? You hate boarding school don’t you? ” the man says extending his hand.  

   

 The girl recoils and says, “No. No. I like it here. I don’t want to come. I like boarding school.”  

   

“Come Baby, we have to go,” her mother says as tears well up in her eyes.  

   

“What about granny? How will she stay here all alone? No mummy – you also stay here. We all will stay here. Let this man go to Mumbai,” the girl pleads.  

   

“Damayanti. I am your new father,” the man says firmly to the girl. And then turning to the young woman he commands, “Kavita. Come. The train is going to leave.”  

   

“Go Baby. Be a good girl. I will be okay,” says the old woman releasing the girl.  

   

As her mother gently holds her arm and guides her towards the train, for the first time in her life the girl feels that her mother’s hand is like the clasp of an iron gate. Like manacles.  

   

“I will come and meet you in Mumbai. I promise!” the grandmother says. But the girl feels scared – something inside tells her she that may never see her grandmother again.  

   

As the train heads towards the plains, the old woman begins to walk her longest mile – her loneliest mile – into emptiness, a void.  

   

And poor old Lovedale Railway Station, the mute witness, doesn’t even a shed a tear. It tries. But it can’t. Poor thing. It’s not human. So it suffers its sorrow in inanimate helplessness. A pity. What a pity!  

   

   

VIKRAM KARVE  

Copyright 2006 Vikram Karve  

   

vikramkarve@sify.com 

vikramkarve@hotmail.com  

http://vikramkarve.sulekha.com 

http://www.linkedin.com/in/karve 

http://www.ryze.com/go/karve 

 

   

   

   

   

   

   

   

   

   

   

True Fiction

April 23, 2007

TRUE FICTION?[Believe it or not]ByVIKRAM KARVE  

  

I never reminisce. It makes me nostalgic, poignant, and melancholic. But there is one thing that happened; quite long ago – whenever I remember it – I always burst out laughing and it makes my day. Let me tell you about it. 

This is a true story. It happened – actually happened. I saw it happen many many years ago in far-off tea-estate country, in a remote corner of
India almost in the back of beyond – then still a relic of the Raj.
 

I shall not tell you the place, and I will also change the names; for we just want to have a laugh, not embarrass someone. 

There was a handsome planter. 30. Let’s call him Roy. And his beautiful wife. Let’s call her Helen. A dashing couple, and an ideal match – at least from the outside!  

“Please. I’d like to have a word with you,”
Roy sidled up to me at the bar in the Planters Club.
 

“Sure,” I said. “Join me for a drink.” 

“Not here. In private.” 

“Okay. Let’s go outside.” I ordered two whiskies; we picked up our drinks and went out on the lawns. It was dark, desolate and cold. 

“I don’t know how to say it,”
Roy hesitated.
 

“Just say it,” I said. 

“I want you to keep an eye on my wife,” he said. 

“Something serious?” 

“I think she is having an affair,” he said, “Someone visits her whenever I go out on my weekly tours.” 

“You’re sure?” 

“Not really. But I suspect. There are those telltale signs.” 

“Telltale signs?” 

“She seems a bit too satisfied – especially when I return from a tour. And there is a strange gleam in her eyes. And now-a-days she is overly polite. I suspect she is up to some hanky-panky. ” 

“Well this is really your private matter. You know I really can’t ….” 

“Please,” he interrupted, “you’re the only one I can trust.” 

He seemed so desperate that I had no choice. “Okay,” I said, “I’ll need to see the place and meet her.” 

He told me the way to his tea-estate and next morning I was on my way, driving my jeep with my loyal Doberman, Bruno, sitting beside me. 

It was a lonely bungalow atop a hill surrounded by tea gardens.
Roy welcomed me and introduced me to his wife. “I’m Helen,” she said looking into my eyes for that moment longer than could be considered polite greeting. She looked so ravishing that it was with great effort that I could take my eyes off her.
 

No wonder he was so insecure – anyone with such a beautiful wife would be – especially a clot like him. I wondered why chaps like
Roy always got the most beautiful wives.
 

We indulged in some small-talk, and it was only after lunch that I brought up the subject. “Mrs. Roy, don’t you feel lonely out here? Especially, when he goes out on his frequent tours?” 

“Oh yes, she does,”
Roy interjected.
 

“I like my privacy,” she said. 

“Why don’t you drop her off at the club on your way and pick her up on your way back?” I suggested to
Roy. “She can make some friends, play tennis, cards, tombola, a movie – whatever she likes and then stay the night at the guestroom.”
 

“I like my solitude,” she said. 

“She even sends the servants away,”
Roy complained.
 

“I told you I like my privacy,” she said, a tinge of irritation in her voice. 

She was quite obstinate, so I changed the subject. 

“You like dogs, Mrs. Roy?” I asked her. 

“I love them,” she said excitedly. “We always had pet dogs back home. I’ve been telling
Roy to get me one.”
 

“Your prayers are answered,” I said and took them to my jeep where Bruno was sitting obediently. “A gift for the charming lady,” I said holding Bruno by the collar and making him smell her. 

She was overjoyed.
Roy apparently was not too enthusiastic but I silenced him with a stern look.
 

On my way out, when I was alone with
Roy, I told him, “We will catch him now. Bruno is the best guard dog in our kennel. I trained him myself. Just leave him in the verandah when you go out at night. He is deadly ferocious – whoever is up to hanky-panky with your wife, well, he is going to be ripped apart from limb to limb. A wicked smile appeared on Mr. Roy’s face.
 

That evening many things happened. Mr. Roy left on his tour, viciously excited, for in his mind’s-eye he was imagining what was going to happen to the unknown “lover” that night. 

Later at night, after a bout of furious lovemaking, Mrs. Roy lying fully satiated asked her lover, “How did you manage? The dog didn’t even bark.” 

Her lover gently took her to the window, drew the curtains, and said, “Look!” 

In the verandah was an exhausted Bruno, coupled with a beautiful Doberman she-dog, both interlocked pointing in opposite directions, after vigorous bout of mating. 

The lover looked at Helen Roy naughtily and said, “Which dog can resist the charms of a hot-blooded bitch in heat?” 

“You hot-dog;” Helen Roy said lovingly, “every dog has his day.” 

 

True Fiction? Dear Reader – what do you think? Did this really happen? Is it true or just a yarn? Well, it’s up to you – believe it or not! 

  

 VIKRAM KARVE 

Copyright 2006 Vikram Karve 

 

http://vikramkarve.sulekha.com

 vikramkarve@sify.com 

 

 

Pune Travels and Travails

April 19, 2007

TRAVELLING IN PUNE

byVIKRAM KARVE 

 

 

The best way to travel in Pune is to go nowhere. Just sit at home, watch the travel channel on cable TV, travel in your mind’s eye and enjoy yourself vicariously. That is if you are lucky to have electricity, and if there is no power supply due to load shedding or a routine maintenance shutdown you can do even more exciting things like meditation, playing patience, or doing nothing [doing nothing makes time pass slowly and prolongs life]. And if you are a workaholic just stay put at your workplace. 

Sorry for digressing – this piece is about traveling in Pune. The roads are dug up, there are diversions, and there is traffic chaos, so think twice before taking out your car, especially during peak hours. A friend of mine started off towards my place near Aundh yesterday morning, got stuck in a massive traffic jam, tried to take a short cut, and got lost in the maze, like in the Bhool-Bhulaiya of
Lucknow. I had to drive cross-country across the Range Hills, traversing unknown paths, taking adventurous short cuts, to reach the airport.
 

If you’re dying for a drive, head for the nearest highway – it’s easier to get to Mumbai from Hinjewadi than to get to Kharadi, Kalyaninagar, Hadapsar, or Wanowrie. And if you are lucky enough to live in the heart of the city or camp, just take out your parasol, put on your walking shoes and walk. Walk, don’t drive, is the motto of the day in Pune. But if you have made the blunder of shifting to the suburbs, it’s best to go nowhere, and languish away. 

When I was a small boy [in the 1960’s], we used to cycle all over Pune – but I dare not try it today, lest I land up in a Hospital with my bones broken or worse still in Vaikunth or Kailas crushed to pulp. There is just no place for the poor cyclist in the murderous traffic and what’s left of the roads. And if you have a motorcycle, or scooter, and have the guts to negotiate through the chaotic traffic, best of luck! Otherwise try the PMT bus, or take an auto-rickshaw and tell me all about it!  

There are just too many people traveling all over Pune. I don’t know why they don’t build living accommodation for employees in the workplace – that should reduce at least half the traffic traveling to work and back, besides enhancing productivity. Just imagine traveling from, say, your home in Kalyaninagar, Kondhwa or Hadapsar all the way to Hinjewadi and back every day. What a waste to time, fuel, and emotional energy! 

I’m fortunate – I just have to walk down to my workplace which is just a stone’s throw away! But I live far far away from the heart of Pune, and though I often pine to go there, I dread traveling to town, and try to follow my dictum – The best way to travel in Pune is to go nowhere! 

 

VIKRAM KARVE 

vikramkarve@sify.com 

http://vikramkarve.sulekha.com 

http://karve.wordpress.com 

 

Suspicion

April 17, 2007

SUSPICION

 [a fiction short story] 

by  

VIKRAM KARVE  

   

   

   

The moment I saw the telephone booth I decided to ring up my wife in Pune. I wish I hadn’t. But then you wouldn’t be reading this story. At that precise point of time I should have been just out of Mumbai harbour, sailing on the high seas, but my ship’s departure was suddenly postponed by a day as some cargo documents were not in order and whilst the ship-chandlers and agents were on the job, obtaining the necessary clearances, I decided to see a movie at the Regal cinema and then kill time window-shopping on Colaba Causeway.  

Having enjoyed the afternoon show, I was lazily strolling down Colaba Causeway when I saw the telephone booth. I wasn’t carrying my cell-phone – never do when sailing. I looked at my watch: 6.45PM.  

Priya, my wife, should be home in Pune by now. I dialed our home number. The phone at the other end started ringing. Five rings. No one picked up. Ten rings. Twenty. And suddenly it cut-off. I tried again. No one picked up. I tried her cell-phone – ten rings, cut-off, she didn’t answer.  

 

Walking towards

Marine Drive

, I wondered why Priya was late coming home. Her office finished at five, and it was just half-an-hour’s scooter drive to our home. Priya was always home by 6 PM. 6.15 at the most!  

I looked at my watch: 7.15PM. Suddenly I spotted another phone booth. There was a proliferation of these nowadays. I went in and dialed. No reply. I dialed again and again. Our home landline number, her mobile number. I must have dialed both numbers at least ten times and every time the story was the same – ten rings and cut off.  

As I walked by the sea in the enveloping darkness, strange thoughts began entering my brain. Maybe Priya had an accident. I wished I had never bought her that scooter. It was so dangerous driving a two-wheeler in the chaotic evening traffic of Pune. And Priya’s driving was so rash. I had warned her so many times about her reckless driving. But she just wouldn’t listen. Stubborn! That’s what she was. Like she insisted on buying the latest two-wheeler model with powerful pick-up, so she could zip around town. I’d suggested she use the car, but she said it was impossible for her to drive a car in the frenzied traffic on the narrow roads of Pune. And, of course, she was tired of traveling by bus. Besides it was below her dignity.  

At first I was angry with her; then gradually my anger turned to anxiety. An accident? A distinct possibility. Maybe I was imagining things. Getting worried for nothing. Priya must be home by now!  

“Please can I use your mobile phone?” I asked a stranger sitting on the parapet on the sea face.  

“Sure,” he said, “tell me the number. I’ll try.”  

I told him. He dialed. Once, twice! Then with a knowledgeable look on his face he told me what I already knew, “No one is picking up.”  I looked at my watch: 7.45PM. I felt a tremor of trepidation. Instinctively I knew that something was wrong. I tried to calm myself and think rationally.  

“Anything wrong?” the stranger asked looking intently at me.  

 “No,” I said trying to wipe out the anxiety on my face, smoothening my worried look into a grin. “I’m trying to get my wife.”  

“Why don’t you try some other number? Her friend, her office?” he said holding out his cell-phone.  

Yes. Her office. Priya’s office. How come I didn’t think of it before?  

I dialed Priya’s office number.  

“Hello,” said a male voice.  

“I want to speak to Priya Ranade,” I said. “I’m her husband speaking from Mumbai.”  

“Oh,” the voice said,” Just a minute.”  

There was long pause. The silence was killing. Then suddenly the sound of someone picking up the phone.  

 

 “Hello, Mr. Ranade, Godbole here.” Godbole was Priya’s boss. “Your wife left at five, as usual,” he said. “In fact even we are winding up now. It’s almost eight.” I could her some conversation in the background. “Just hold the line please,” Godbole said. After a few seconds Godbole spoke, “You’re speaking from Mumbai, are you? Anything wrong? Any problem?”  

“No one is picking up the phone at my house,” I said.” Even her mobile.”  

“I see,” Godbole said. “Why don’t you check up with Ashok Pandit. They left office together. Maybe your wife is at his place.”  

“Yes.” The word escaped my mouth.  

“Just a second,” Godbole said. “I’ll give you Ashok Pandit’s residence number.”  

“Thanks, sir. I’ve got it,” I said, switched off and looked beseechingly at the stranger.  

“Go ahead,” he said, got up and walked away to give me privacy.  

Almost immediately I dialed Ashok’s number. I knew it by heart. After all, Ashok was one of my best friends, besides being Priya’s colleague at office.  

Anjali, Ashok’s wife, came on the line.  

“Hi, Anjali. Vinay here.”  

 “From the ship?”  

“No. From Mumbai.”  

“Anything wrong?”  

“No. Is Ashok there?”  

“No. He’s not come back from office.”  “But it’s eight o’clock,” I said.  

“Ashok told me he’d be late,” Anjali said. “Some important business meeting. Dinner with a client or something. He told me not to wait for dinner. Why don’t you try his mobile?” She sounded so nonchalant that I decided not to delve any further.  

“I just rang up to say goodbye,” I said and hung up.    

So this was what going on the moment my back was turned. Under the garb of platonic friendship. And to think I had left Pune only yesterday, and they were having a good time already.  

   

It was only yesterday morning that Ashok had come to see me off on the Deccan Queen. I’d asked him to take care of Priya while I was away at sea. And do you know what he said? “Don’t worry. Vinay. I’ll take good care of Priya. I’ll look after her so well that she won’t even miss you.”  

   

Sure! She wasn’t missing me! I should have known. The familiar way they talked to each other; their ‘harmless’ jokes. Platonic friendship my foot! I had been a fool blinded by trust. Deep down I felt terribly betrayed. I was so angry, so full of hate, that I could feel the venom rising within me. I cannot begin to describe the intense emotions I experienced, but a strange force took charge of me impelling me to act, propelling me toward the nearest taxi. “Dadar,” I told the taxi driver, “Poona Taxi Stand.”    

Something vibrated in my hands. Shit! I had forgotten to return the stranger’s cell-phone. I should have turned back, returned the mobile, but I do not know what bizarre force overwhelmed me that I just switched it off.    

Soon I was on my way to Pune, having hired an entire taxi to myself owing to the urgency of my mission. Also I did not want any company. As I closed my eyes in self-commiseration, I saw both halves of my life, my marriage and my career, side by side, as I had never seen them before, and I tried to fathom how I could be so stupid in one and so capable in the other.    

The voice of the taxi-driver shook me out of my thoughts, “Sir, we’ll stop at the Food-Court before climbing the ghats. You can have a cup of tea or eat something.”    

I decided to give Priya her last chance. I dialed her cell number. Our home number. It was the same story. Ten rings.  No one picked up. I looked at my watch. 10 PM. I dialed Ashok Pandit’s home number. A few rings.  

“Hello,” It was Ashok’s wife Anjali again.  

“I want to speak to Ashok Pandit,” I said curtly.  “He’s not home,” Anjali said. I could sense the irritation in her voice. “Who’s speaking? Vinay? Why don’t you try his mobile?”  

I tried Ashok’s mobile. ‘Out of coverage area’: a recorded message said. Must have gone to his farmhouse in Panshet.  

 There was no doubt about it now. Too much of a coincidence.  Unfaithful Wife and Devious Friend!  Making a cuckold of me. Having a good time at the farmhouse on the very night of my departure! As if they were waiting for me to go. Just imagine what they would be up to during my six month absence away at sea. I felt tormented by the torrent of anger flowing within me. There was no going back now. I had to get the bottom of this.  

   

The taxi took two hours to reach Pune – the longest two hours of my life. As I entered my apartment block I noticed that Priya’s scooter was parked at the usual place.  

   

 So there had been no accident. My suspicions were true! I ran up the steps to my second floor flat.  

   

There was no lock on the door. So she had come back. I rang the bell. Once. Twice. Priya opened the door. She was looking at me as if she had seen a ghost. I stepped inside and quickly went to the bedroom. There was no one there.  

  “What’s wrong?” Priya exclaimed. “Why have you suddenly come back?”  “Where were you?” I asked ignoring her question. “I’ve been ringing up all evening.”  

“You were supposed to be sailing.”  

“The sailing got postponed,” I said irritably. “Answer my question. Where were you? I rang up at least five times.”  

“I was right here,” Priya said.  

 We stood facing each other. I saw a flicker in her eyes. I knew she was hiding something. Then she spoke, trying to keep her voice calm, “There is something wrong with our phone. Even Ashok said he couldn’t get me.”  

“When?” I snapped.  “He came to check in the evening. I told him to make a complaint.”  “He came here? Why? You could have rung up on your mobile.”  “I lost my cell-phone.”  “When?” 

“I don’t know. Maybe in the office. Or on the way, the market.”  “You expect me to believe that! Lost cell-phone! Phone dead! And Ashok’s mobile out of coverage.”  “Ashok? You rung up Ashok? Are you mad?”    

 “You think I am dumb. You liar, you cheat…..” I screamed incoherently in furious rage.  

   

“What’s wrong with you?” Priya shouted. “You suddenly land up at midnight and….”  

   

Before she could complete her sentence the telephone started ringing. I rushed and picked it up.    

“Priya, what’s wrong with Vinay?” It was Ashok’s voice. “He’s been ringing Anjali from Mumbai. There is a missed call on my mobile too.”    

“It’s me!” I said angrily to Ashok and put the phone down. And then I looked at Priya squarely in the eye and said, “And now what do you have to say?  This phone suddenly comes to life. With Ashok at the other end. Ringing you at midnight! Wow! What coincidence?”    

She had no answer. Adulterous cheat! Deep down I felt terribly betrayed.  

 

I did not return to my ship. Just couldn’t. Everyone tried to convince me that I was imagining things. But I am not convinced. They took me to the telephone exchange. But tell me, do they repair faults at midnight? And next day Ashok turned up with Priya’s cell-phone claiming that it was found lying in the office conference room. And expected me to believe it!   

Ashok swore that he was innocent in the presence of his wife. Priya did likewise. But deep down within me is sown the seed of mistrust, growing day by day. Proliferating. Burgeoning into a massive tree of suspicion.  

   

I have to make a decision. Soon. Once and for all. Clear everything. This way or that way!    

I’ve read somewhere. The underlying principle of decision-making in uncertainty: “Suspend judgment till all possibilities are considered.”  

   

So till this very day I am living in a state of suspension, considering all possibilities. And the more I think, the more the possibilities grow. Oh yes! The possibilities are endless!  

   

I’ve got the sack for deserting my ship. And risk being blacklisted even by other companies if don’t return to the sea fast. And worse – they’ve tracked down the stranger’s mobile cell-phone and have filed a theft case against me and I am out on bail.  

   

But I’m still waiting. Doing nothing. My judgment suspended. While I consider all possibilities. Till I reach a conclusion. Get to the bottom of it.  

   

My wife wants me to consult a therapist – get some counseling.  She thinks I’ve gone crazy. Everyone thinks I’ve gone crazy. Do you?  

   

                                     

                         

   

   

   

VIKRAM KARVE

 

copyright 2006 Vikram Karve

  

vikramkarve@sify.com

  

http://vikramkarve.sulekha.com

  

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

 

  

   

   

   

   

MY STORY (a fiction short story) by VIKRAM KARVE

April 13, 2007

MY STORY

(a fiction short story)

by

VIKRAM KARVE 

 

 

It all started when God took my baby brother away. Poor thing! God took him away even before he was born. And Mamma was never the same again; she changed forever.

 

 

We were so happy then. My Papa, my Mamma, Granny and me. We all lived in a cute little house in a place called Madiwale Colony in Sadashiv Peth in Pune.

 

 

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

Bajirao Road

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

 

 

On Sundays we would go to

Laxmi Road

for shopping, Misal at Santosh Bhavan, Amba ice cream at Ganu Shinde and, maybe, a Marathi movie at Prabhat, Vijay or Bhanuvilas.

 

 

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

 

 

It was a good life, and we were happy and content. Two things are a must for a happy home – firstly, you should love your home, and always want to go home (your home should be the best place in the world for you); and, secondly, your home should love you, want you to come, beckon you, welcome you and like you to live in it.  Our cute little house in Sadashiv Peth with all the loving people in living in it was indeed a happy home. And I had lots of friends all around.

 

 

One day they all said Mamma was going to have a baby. Being a girl myself, I wanted a baby sister to play with, but Granny scolded me and said it must be a baby brother, so I said okay – I would manage with a baby brother.

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

She looked pale and had a sad look in her eyes for many days even after leaving hospital. Most of the time she would sit alone brooding by the window or moping all alone in her room.

 

 

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

 

 

“Don’t worry, I’ll manage everything,” Granny said, so Mamma joined a Computer class nearby. And soon she started becoming normal again. “She’s a natural programmer,” everyone praised her, and when she finished the course she was offered a good job in a top software firm.

 

 

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

 

 

“MCP,” said everyone to Papa. I didn’t know what MCP meant, but it made Papa very angry.

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

And so, Mamma started working. And when she brought her first pay and gave it to Papa, he said proudly, “I’ll be the last person to touch my wife’s money, to live off my wife.” So my Mamma gave the money to Granny and Papa didn’t say a thing, he just sulked for days.

 

 

Life was hectic now. Mamma got up very early, cooked the food, did the housework, got ready and then both Papa and Mamma caught their respective company buses to their faraway workplaces – he to his factory in Pimpri and she to the IT Park. And after that Granny made me ready and I walked down

Bajirao Road

to my school.

 

 

One day my Mamma’s boss came home with Mamma. He said the company wanted to send Mamma abroad to the
US for working on a project. He had come home to convince Papa to let her go. I thought Papa would argue, and hoped he would not let her go, but surprisingly he meekly agreed, probably thinking it was futile to argue, and Mamma went away to the States for three months.

 

 

Then there was an IT boom. That was a turning point in our lives. Mamma started doing better and better. Papa felt jealous that she was earning more than him, so he took VRS and started a business selling spare parts. And then a competition started between them, and soon they were making so much money that Sadashiv Peth wasn’t a good enough place to stay in any longer as it did not befit their new found status!

 

 

So we moved to a luxury apartment in a fancy township in a posh suburb of Pune, and I was put in a school known more for its snob appeal than studies. Our new house was in a beautiful colony, far away from the city, with landscaped gardens, clubhouse, swimming pool, gym, and so many facilities. It was so luxurious, and people living there so highbrow and snobbish, that Granny and I were miserable. “It’s like a 5 star prison,” she would say. She was right in one way. For the whole day when we were away she was trapped inside with nothing to but watch soaps on cable TV.

 

 

I too missed our cute old house in Sadashiv Peth, the Bhel, the trips to Saras Baug and

Laxmi Road

and most of all my earlier friends who were so friendly unlike the snobbish people here. Oh yes, this was indeed a better house, but our old place in Sadashiv Peth was certainly a better home!

 

 

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

 

 

And suddenly one day God took Granny away. Mamma was abroad in the States on an important project and she just couldn’t come immediately. She came back after one month and for days Papa and she kept discussing something. I sensed it was about me.

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

VIKRAM KARVECopyright 2006 Vikram Karve 

http://vikramkarve.sulekha.com

 

vikramkarve@sify.com

 

 

 

 

FLASH FICTION – TAIL CHASE by VIKRAM KARVE

April 12, 2007

TAIL CHASE

[Flash Fiction]

by

VIKRAM KARVE 

 

 

 

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

 


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

 

My father is a detective and, once in a while, he sends me on undercover assignments. My father is all I have got in this world after God took my mother away.

 

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

Marine Drive

.

 

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

 

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

 

The woman walked towards Charni Road Station, crossed the over-bridge to platform No.2, and waited for the train to Churchgate. She got into the ladies compartment and I followed her in, for though I am a boy, I’m still below twelve. She sat down and I observed her, unseen, standing in the crowd. She must have been around 25, maybe 30, and with her smooth fair creamy complexion she looked really smashing in the bright yellow dress. What I liked about her the most was her huge strikingly expressive dancing eyes.

 

At Churchgate, she leisurely strolled down the platform, whilst everyone else rushed by. She browsed at Wheeler’s bookstall, and then stopped at Tibbs, bought a Frankie, and walked towards the underground exit. I too love frankies, so I quickly bought one too, and followed her, careful not to be seen. We both walked, me behind her, munching away, straight down the road towards Nariman Point, till she stopped at the Inox Multiplex.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Now I needed backup, so I called up my father. But he told me to abort the mission and to meet him at our usual favourite place in the vicinity – Stadium next to Churchgate station.

 

We chose an inconspicuous table in the middle of the restaurant and sat facing the entrance. I told him everything. He listened intently.

 

Suddenly I saw the woman in yellow standing bold as brass at the entrance of the restaurant looking directly at us. I felt a tremor of trepidation, the ground slipped beneath my feet, and when I saw her coming directly towards our table, I wished the earth would swallow me up.

 

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

 

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

 

She sat down, looked at me curiously.

 

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

 

“No, she said.”

 

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

 

“I’m sure. I never forget a face. This is the first time I am seeing him. He’s cute.”

 

My father winked at me in appreciation.

 

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

 

It was the beautiful woman with dancing eyes who looked lovingly at me and answered, “Don’t call me aunty. I’m going to be your new mother.”

 

 

 

 

VIKRAM KARVE 

Copyright 2007 Vikram Karve 

vikramkarve@sify.com

 

vikramkarve@hotmail.com

 

http://vikramkarve.sulekha.com

 

 

 

Ancient Wisdom – Enlightenment

April 11, 2007

 

ENLIGHTENMENT[Ancient Wisdom] ByVIKRAM KARVE 

 

 

A wise man seeking enlightenment, renounced worldly life, took a strict vow of celibacy which was a sine qua non for attaining enlightenment, and headed for the hills to live an ascetic existence of a hermit. He found a secluded cave and began his simple contemplative meditative life surviving on natural wild vegetation in the forest and began his journey towards enlightenment.  

One day he noticed holes in his robe and discovered that there were lots of rats in the cave who were chewing off his robes. The rats soon were nibbling at his toes disturbing his meditation. 

Perplexed, he went down to town and consulted his Guru who said, “No problem. It’s simple. Just get a cat who will take care of the rats.” So our wise man bought a cat and took it up to his cave. The cat took care of the rats and the wise man was undisturbed in his quest for enlightenment. A few days later the cat had eaten up all the rats, and famished, the cat started moaning with hunger. The constant moaning and crying of the cat again disturbed the wise man’s meditation and he again rushed to consult his Guru who advised him to acquire a cow whose milk would feed the cat and satiate its hunger. 

Now the wise man would spend some time milking the cow, feeding the cat and then settle down for his meditation. 

A few days later the cow stopped giving milk and mooed loudly. The cat too had started moaning again and disturbed by the moaning of the hungry cat and mooing of the starving cow the wise man ran to his Guru once again to seek his advice. The Guru gave him some seeds. The wise man planted the seeds which yielded food both for the cow and himself. But he now had to spend so much time tending to his garden, feeding and milking his cow, and giving milk to his cat, that he hardly got any time for meditation. 

He rushed to his Guru who once again had a ready solution, “There is a young widow – poor thing she is destitute. She will look after everything and you can meditate in peace and attain enlightenment.” 

It was a wonderful arrangement – the young widow looked after everything, the garden, cow and cat flourished, and the wise man was undisturbed in his quest for enlightenment. 

One day it began to snow, the temperature fell to sub-zero, and the young widow started to shiver owing to the biting cold. Soon she could not bear the bitter cold any longer, so she snuggled into the wise man’s bed and tightly embraced him as that was the only way for her to keep warm. 

Who can resist the tight embrace of an attractive woman in the prime of her life? 

The vow of celibacy lay shattered and there ended the wise man’s quest for enlightenment. 

And with all his new possessions [the cat, the cow, and the woman], he returned back to the material world from where he had began his journey towards enlightenment – back to square one. 

 

Moral of the story: – Less Baggage, Better Travel. 

Dear Reader.  Read the story again, close your eyes and reflect on it. Carry the story around in your mind all day and allow its fragrance, its melody to haunt you. Create a silence within you and let the story reveal to you its inner depth and meaning. Let it speak to your heart, not to your brain, and suddenly you will feel a sense of mystical epiphany when you realize the wisdom of the story. Now you are ready to apply the wisdom to your own life and experience the inner meaning of the story till it transforms you and puts you on the path to enlightenment. 

 

VIKRAM KARVE 

vikramkarve@sify.comvikramkarve@hotmail.com 

http://vikramkarve.sulekha.com