Archive for the ‘bachelor’ Category

Lovedale to Coonoor – Don’t Delve Too Much

July 5, 2007


(a fiction short story)



            The moment I see Muthu, the office-boy, standing at the door of the class room I feel a 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?”



            “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?”



            “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.”


            “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.”


            “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.”


            “Your birthmother.”



            “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.”


            “Absolutely sure.”

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



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

            “Don’t delve too much!” Papa says lovingly as he puts his protective arm around me and we walk together into the enveloping darkness. And I can see light in the distance.


Copyright 2006 Vikram Karve 



July 4, 2007



(a short story)













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.”








“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 ?”








“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!








Copyright 2006 Vikram Karve




















THE WALLFLOWER parts 1, 2 and 3

June 20, 2007





[PART – 1]

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

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

            “Manisha is coming!” my mother whispered.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

            “Let’s dance,” I had asked Manisha.

            “No,” Manisha was firm.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

            “I don’t love her,” I said.

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

            “No,” I said.

            “I don’t understand you.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

            Dear Manisha,

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


                                                                                                Yours sincerely,


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

To be continued…





[PART – 2]

[continued from Part 1]

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

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

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

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

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

“Hello,” I said into my cell-phone.

“Mr. Joshi?” a male voice spoke.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To be continued…


Copyright 2007 Vikram Karve




[Part 3]

[continued from part 2]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Soon I had Manisha letter in my hands.

Dear Avinash… she began.  Oh … great… Dear Avinash indeed! Already on first name terms – Thank God for small mercies it wasn’t Darling Avinash , Sweetie-pie or something more mushy!


[to be continued…]


Copyright 2007 Vikram Karve

LPO – Life Process Outsourcing – a short story by Vikram Karve

June 20, 2007














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




“Hi!” I say.




“Hi,” he says, “where to?”




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




“I’m going to work.”




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




“Not now. I quit. I’m on my own now.”




“On your own? What do you do?”








“LPO? What’s that?”




“Life Process Outsourcing.”




“Life Process Outsourcing? Never heard of it!”




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




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




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




“Life Processes? Outsourced?”




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




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




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




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




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




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




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




“It’s simple,” Rita says, in a hurry. “See the console. You just press the appropriate switch and route the call to the appropriate person or agency.” And with these words she disappears. It’s the shortest training I have ever had in my life.




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




It’s all very simple. Working people don’t seem to have time these days, but they have lots of money; especially those double income couples, IT nerds, MBA hot shots, finance wizards; just about everybody in the modern rat race. ‘Non-core Life Activities’, for which they neither have the inclination or the time – outsource them; so you can maximize your work-time to rake in the money and make a fast climb up the ladder of success.




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




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




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




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




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




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




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




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




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




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


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




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




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




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




“LPO?” a man asks softly.




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




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




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








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




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




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




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




“Of course, Sir.”




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




“I know. Work takes top priority.”




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




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




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




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




Long Live Life Process Outsourcing!














copyright 2006 Vikram Karve




The Perfect Wife

June 12, 2007

THE PERFECT WIFE  [A Teaching Story] By VIKRAM KARVE   There is a beautiful and bright young girl who lives in my neighborhood. She wants to get married but just can’t seem to find anyone suitable matching her requirements. She is surrounded by so many “eligible” boys, at work and as friends, and has “seen” and “rejected” a large number of boys her parents and well-wishers lined up for her. None seems to come up to her perfect standards and high expectations! But she does want to get married! I wonder whether I should tell her this apocryphal ‘Mulla Nasrudin’ Teaching story – ‘The Perfect Wife’: Mulla Nasrudin was sitting in a tea shop when a friend came excitedly to speak with him. “I’m about to get married,” his friend said, “and I’m very excited.” “Congratulations,” Mulla Nasrudin said, pokerfaced.  “Tell me, Nasrudin, have you ever thought of marriage yourself?” the friend asked Mulla Nasrudin, a chronic bachelor. Nasrudin replied, “I did think of getting married. In my youth, in fact, I very much wanted to get married.” “So, what happened?” the friend asked curious. “I wanted to find for myself the perfect wife,” Nasrudin said, “so I traveled looking for her, first to Damascus. There I met a beautiful woman who was gracious, kind, and deeply spiritual, but she had no worldly knowledge. Then I traveled further and went to Isphahan. There I met a woman who as both spiritual and worldly, beautiful in many ways, but we did not communicate well.” “Then?” the friend asked. “I kept on searching for a perfect wife and traveled all over the world meeting many women,” Nasrudin explained. “And did you find her?” the friend asked eagerly. “Yes,” Nasrudin said, “after traveling all over finally I went to Cairo and there after much searching I found her. She was spiritually deep, graceful, and beautiful in every respect, at home in the world and at home in the realms beyond it. I knew I had found the perfect wife.”  “Then why did you not marry her?” the friend asked excitedly.  “Alas,” said Nasrudin as he shook his head, “She was, unfortunately, waiting for the perfect husband.”   Tell me dear Reader, should I tell her this story now, or should I wait till she finds for herself the perfect husband?   VIKRAM KARVE     


May 30, 2007



(a fiction short story)








            The Mysore race-course is undoubtedly the most picturesque race-course in
India. The lush green grass track, the verdant expanse right up to the foot of the rugged Chamundi hills which serve as a magnificent backdrop with the mighty temple atop, standing like a sentinel. The luxuriant ambience is so delightful and soothing to the eye that it instantly lifts one’s spirit. And on this bright morning on the first Saturday of October, the atmosphere was so refreshing that I felt as if I were on top of the world!


            “I love this place, it’s so beautiful,” I said. 


            “And lucky too,” Girish added. “I have already made fifty grand. And I’m sure Bingo will win the
Derby tomorrow.”


            Girish appraisingly looked at the horses being paraded in the paddock, suddenly excused himself and briskly walked towards the Bookies’ betting ring. 


            I still can’t describe the shock I experienced when I suddenly saw Dilip, bold as brass, standing bang-on in front of me, appearing as if from nowhere. “Excuse me, ma’am,” he said. “I think you have dropped this.” In his hand was tote jackpot ticket. 


            He was looking at me in a funny sort of way, neither avoiding my eyes nor seeking them. I understood at once. I took the tote ticket he proffered, put it in my purse and thanked him. He smiled, turned and briskly walked away towards the first enclosure. 


            I felt a tremor of trepidation, but as I looked around I realized that no one had noticed in the hustle-bustle of the race-course. As I waited for my husband to emerge from the bookies’ betting ring, in my mind’s eye I marveled at the finesse with which Dilip had cleverly stage-managed the encounter to make it look completely accidental. 

             It was only after lunch, in the solitude of my hotel room that I took out the jackpot ticket and examined it. I smiled to myself. The simplest substitution cipher. A last minute resort for immediate emergency communication. That meant Dilip wasn’t shadowing me; he hadn’t even expected me at the
Mysore race-course. But having suddenly seen me, wanted to make contact. So he quickly improvised, contrived the encounter, and left further initiative to me. The ball was now squarely in my court.


            I scribbled the five numbers of the jackpot combination on a piece of paper. For racing buff it was an unlikely jackpot combination which did not win and the ticket was worthless. But for me it was contained some information since I knew how to decipher it. To the five numbers I added the two numbers of my birth-date. I now had seven numbers and from each I subtracted Dilip’s single digit birth-date and in front of me I had a seven digit combination. I picked up the telephone and dialed (
Mysore still had seven digit telephone numbers). It was a travel agency – a nice cover. I didn’t identify myself but only said, “Railway Enquiry?”



            “Oh, Yes, madam,” a male voice answered. I recognized it at once. It was Dilip, probably anxiously waiting for my call. “You are booked on our evening sightseeing tour. Seat no. 13. The coach will be at your hotel at 3 in the afternoon. And don’t carry your mobile with you. We don’t want to be tracked.” 


            I looked at my watch. It was almost 2:30. Time for a quick wash. I tore up tote ticket and scribble paper and flushed it down the toilet. It was too dangerous to keep them around once their utility was over. And should ticket fall into the wrong hands, one couldn’t underestimate anybody. For human ingenuity cannot concoct a cipher which human ingenuity cannot resolve. 


            The tourist bus arrived precisely at 3 o’clock and soon I was in seat No. 13, a window seat. I had hardly sat down when Dilip occupied the adjacent seat No. 14. He was carrying the ubiquitous tourist bag, but I knew what was inside – the tools of his tradecraft. 


            “Thanks for coming, Vibha,” he said. 

            “I was scared you’d do something stupid, indiscreet.” I scolded him. 

            “You haven’t told your husband about your past?            “No.” 


            “I don’t know.”                        “Tell him now. There’s no place for secrets between husband and wife” 


            “I can’t. I don’t want to. It’s too late now.” I was getting a bit impatient now. “Listen, Dilip. This is dangerous. What do you want? My husband…….” 

             “He’s gone to Ooty. It’s a four hours’ drive. Should be half-way by now,” Dilip interjected looking at his watch. 


            “He is coming back tomorrow.” 

            “I know. In time for the Mysore Derby. Your horse Bingo is running, isn’t it?” 

            “How do you know all this?” 

            “It’s common knowledge. Besides I make a living prying into other people’s lives.” Dilip paused for a moment. “Don’t worry, Vibha. The races start only at two tomorrow afternoon. We’ve got plenty of time together. He won’t know. I promise you.” 


            The bus stopped. We had arrived at the


            “Come, Vibha. Let me take your photo,” Dilip said, talking out his camera. 


            “No,” I snapped. 

            “Okay. You take mine. I’ll stand there. Make sure you get the Palace in the frame.” He gave me the camera and said, “Have a look. It’s a special camera. I’ll focus the zoom lens if you want.” 


            I pointed the camera in the direction of the palace and looked through the viewfinder. But the palace wasn’t in the frame. The camera had a ninety degree prismatic zoom lens. I could see the tourists from our bus crowding around the shoe-stand about fifty meters to my left, depositing their shoes. 


            “The Targets – Who?” I asked. 

            “Lady in the sky-blue sari, long hair. And the man in the yellow T-shirt and jeans, still wearing his Ray Ban aviator.” 


            I happily clicked away, a number of photos, the target couple not once realizing that it was they who were in my frame. 

                        “I don’t think they are having an affair,” I said, once we were inside the cool confines of the

Palace, admiring the wall paintings of the Dasera procession. “The boy looks so young and handsome. And she’s middle-aged and her looks- so pedestrian. A most improbable combination.” 


            “That’s why the affair is flourishing for so long!” 


            I gave Dilip a quizzical look. 

            “Three years,” Dilip said. “It’s going on for over three years. The woman is a widow. She gets a maintenance from her in-laws’ property. They want to stop it.” 


            “I don’t understand,” I said. 


            “The right of a widow to maintenance is conditional upon her leading a life of chastity.” 

                        “What nonsense!” 

            “That’s what the lawyer told me. The one who commissioned this investigation,” Dilip said. “They’ll probably use this evidence to coerce her into signing-off everything. Maybe even her children.” 


            “What if she doesn’t agree?” 

            “Then we’ll intensify the surveillance. A ‘no holds barred’ investigation. Two-way mirrors with installed video cameras, bugs with recording equipment,” Dilip paused, and said, “In fact, in this case I’m so desperate for success that I’m even considering computer morphing if nothing else works.” 


            I was shocked. “Isn’t it morally disgusting? To do all these unethical dirty things. Extortion? Blackmail? To what length does one go?”  


            “Once you have the right information, the possibilities are endless,” Dilip said softly, “It’s not my concern to worry about moral and ethical issues. I never ask the question ‘why’. I just state my fee. And even if I do know why, I’ve made it a policy never to show that I understand what other people are up to.” 


            “What are you up to Dilip? And why me?” I asked. 

            Dilip did not answer. He just smiled and led me towards our bus. I was glad I had not married Dilip. I had never known he could sink to such depths. I hated him for the way he was using me. Taking advantage of my fear, my helplessness. Shameless bully. 


            Nalini, my elder sister, had been right about Dilip. But for her timely intervention, I would have married Dilip. Even eloped with him. I shudder to think what life would have been like had I married Dilip. 




            “It’s beautiful,” Dilip said, looking at the famous painting – ‘Lady with the Lamp’ – at the



            “Yes,” I answered, jolted out of my thoughts. 

            “Remember, Vibha. The last time we were here. It’s been almost ten years.” 


            I did not answer, but I clearly remembered. It was our college tour. And Dilip had quickly pulled me into a dark corner and kissed me on the lips. A stolen kiss. My first kiss. How could I ever forget? 

                        “Vibha. Tell me honestly. Why did you ditch me so suddenly, so mercilessly?” 


            “Nalini told me not to marry you,” I said involuntarily, instantly regretting my words. 

            “And then she forced you to marry Girish, your brother-in-law.” 

            “Girish is not my brother-in-law. He is my co-brother.” 

            “Co-brother indeed! He is the younger brother of your elder sister Nalini’s husband. So he is your brother in law also isn’t it?” Dilip said sarcastically. 

                        “So what?” I snapped angrily. “It’s not illegal. Two brothers marrying two sisters. And it’s none of your business.” 


            “Business!” Dilip said. “That’s it. Two sisters marry two brothers. So it’s all in the family. The business. The money. The tea estates and coffee plantations. The industries. The property. Everything.” 


            “So that’s what you had your eyes on, didn’t you? My father’s property!” I knew it was a cruel thing to say and I could see that Dilip was genuinely hurt. Instinctively I realized that Dilip was still in love with me. Maybe he was jealous of my successful marriage, my happiness and probably my wealth, my status in society and that’s what had made him bitter. But seeing the expression on his face I knew that Dilip would not harm me, for he was indeed truly in love with me. “I’m sorry, Dilip. Forget the past and let’s get on with our surveillance,” I said looking at the ‘target’ couple. 


            And so we reached the magnificent Brindavan gardens, posing as tourists in the growing crowd of humanity, stalking the couple, taking their photographs as they romantically watched the water, gushing through the sluice gates of Krishnarajasagar dam, forming a rainbow admits the spraying surf. 


            After sunset we enjoyed the performance at the musical fountain sitting right behind the ‘couple’. Suddenly, the lights went out, everyone stood up and started moving. Trying to adjust our eyes to the enveloping darkness, we desperately tried not to lose track of target couple as they made their way, in the confusion, towards “Lovers’ Park.” 


            It was pitch dark. But through the lens of the night vision device I could clearly discern two silhouettes, an eerie blue-green against the infrared background. The images were blurred and tended to merge as the two figures embraced each other, but that did not matter since I knew that the infrared camera would process the signal through an image intensifier before recording, rendering crystal-clear photo quality pictures. 


            “Let’s go,” Dilip whispered, and we stealthily negotiated our way out, but in hindsight, there was really no need to be clandestine about it since we were just another couple ostensibly having a good time in the dense foliage of “Lover’s Park” as it was known. 


            Pondering over the day’s events I realized how right Dilip had been. Surveillance involves hours of shadowing and stalking training and tracking your target, sitting for hours in all sports of places like hotels, restaurants, parks, cars etc, hanging around airports, railway stations, bus stands or even on the streets, waiting and watching. A man and a woman would appear for less conspicuous than a single man or a pair of men. And if they look like a married couple it’s even better for the cover. 


            I wondered why I’d agreed to do all this. Maybe because I felt a sense of guilt, a sort of an obligation that I owed Dilip. Any girl always has a feeling of dept towards a decent man who she has ditched. Or maybe because I wanted to find out what life would have been like had I married Dilip. Or maybe because I was scared that Dilip would blackmail me. Dilip was the only secret I had kept from my husband – a skeleton I wanted to keep firmly locked away in the cupboard. I guess it was a combination of all the above reasons, 


            The tourist bus reached my hotel at precisely 9.30 p.m. Before getting down from the bus, Dilip handed over the bag containing the infrared device, special cameras and all paraphernalia to a man sitting right behind us. 


            “Who was that man?” I asked after the bus drove away with the man in it. 


            “Never mind,” Dilip said leading me into the foyer of the hotel. 

            “No,” I insisted. “I want to know.” 

            “It is sometimes important for an operative conducting surveillance to put himself, his own self, under observation,” Dilip said nonchalantly. 

                        At first the sentence sounded innocuous, but gradually comprehension began to dawn on me, and as I realized the import of those words I experienced a chill of panic. All sorts of thoughts entered my brain. Photographs of Dilip and me. Oh my God! The man may even have bugged our conversation. The possibilities were endless. I looked at Dilip. Didn’t he have any scruples? My impulse was to run to my room and lock myself up. But when Dilip invited me to have dinner with him in the restaurant I knew I dared not refuse. I had no choice. Dilip now had me at his mercy. He had his manacles on me. The only way to escape Dilip’s clutches was to tell Girish everything. But could I? Especially after today! I couldn’t even bring myself to imagine the consequences.  

            After dinner I invited Dilip to my room for a cup of coffee. I knew it was suicidal but I had decided to give Dilip what he wanted and get rid of him, out of my life, forever. 


            The moment we entered the room, the phone rang. It was for Dilip- a man’s voice – probably the same man sitting behind us in the bus. 



            Dilip took the receiver from my hands and spoke, “I told you not to ring up here……… What?…….. But how is that possible?……… Oh, my God! I am coming at once.” 


            “What happened?” I asked him. 

            “We got the wrong couple on the infrared camera in Lovers’ Park. Couldn’t you see properly?” 


            “No, I said. “Just blurred images.” 

            Instinctively I rushed with Dilip to his office-cum-laboratory. He told me not to come, but I did not listen, a strange inner force propelling me. 


             I looked at the blurred images on the PC monitor. Then as Dilip kept zooming, enhancing the magnification and focus, the images started becoming clear, and as I watched something started happening inside me and I could sense my heartbeats rise.  


            It was Nalini and Girish. Or Girish and Nalini. Whichever way you like it. It doesn’t matter. Or does it? Nalini, my elder sister – the very person instrumental in arranging my  marriage to Girish. And Girish – my beloved ‘faithful’ husband. Their expressions so confident, so happy, so carefree. So sure they would never be found out. So convenient. How long was this going on? Living a lie. Deep down I felt terribly betrayed. I felt as if I had been pole-axed, a sharp sensation drilling into my vitals, my stomach curdling as I threw up my dinner. 


            It was extraordinary how clear my mind became all of a sudden. “Listen, Dilip,” I said emphatically, “I want a full-scale comprehensive surveillance. Two-way mirrors, bugs, video, audio – the works. A no-holds barred investigation. And dig up the past. I want everything.” 


            “No, Vibha !” Dilip said. “I can’t do it.” 

            “You can’t do it or you won’t do it?” I asserted. “Listen, Dilip. You have to do it. I want you to do it.” 


            “Why, Vibha. Why?” 


            I smiled and said, “Dilip, remember what you said in the afternoon about your professional credo and motto: You never ask the question ‘why’. You just state your fee.” I paused. “So my dear Dilip. Don’t ask any questions. Just state your fee. And do a good job!” 


            “But, Vibha. What would you do with all this information?” Dilip protested. 

                        “The possibilities are endless,” I said, almost licking my lips in anticipation, as I could feel the venom rising within me. “Yes indeed! The possibilities are endless!” 


             Now the real chase had begun! 





Copyright 2006 Vikram Karve 























Quality Time

May 9, 2007


(A fictional short “love” story)  



    At exactly 8 PM her cell-phone rings in her hand. She’s expecting the call – that’s why she’s holding the cell-phone in her hand. She looks at the caller-id, accepts the call, moves the mobile phone near her ear and says, “I love you, darling!”   “I love you, Sugar!” says her husband’s voice from half way around the globe. On his bed beside him, sprawled with arms and legs outstretched like a fallen statue, the woman is still asleep, her breathing untroubled.   It’s a long distance marriage, and the ‘married bachelors’ have been following the same drill for quite some time now – two calls every day at exactly the same time (Eight in the morning she calls him up just before leaving for work and eight in the evening she receives his call from half way across the globe just before he leaves for work). And both of them start their conversation automatically with the words: “I love you, darling! Or, I love you, Sugar!” He’s her ‘darling’ and she’s his ‘Sugar’!)   “How was your day?” the husband asks.   “Hectic.
Lot’s of work. Deadlines!” the wife answers. She steals a glance at the handsome young man sitting beside her in the darkened lounge bar.
  “It’s terrible here too,” the husband  says. “It’s killing, the work. Too much traveling. Sales meets, seminars, conferences. One hotel to another. Living out of a suitcase. I’m feeling exhausted.”   It’s true. The husband is indeed feeling exhausted; a relaxing, satiating kind of exhaustion. He gets up and opens the window and allows the early morning air to cool his body, then turns around and looks at the marvelous body of the woman on his bed. She looks lovelier than ever before, and as he remembers the ferocity of her lovemaking, he feels waves of desire rise within him. Not for a long time has the mere sight of a woman aroused the lion in him to such an extent. He smiles to himself. He feels proud and elated; it was a grand performance. Spontaneous lovemaking at its best; not like the planned and contrived “quality” lovemaking with his wife, full of performance anxiety, each performing for the other’s gratification, and both faking pleasure thinking the other would not know.   “Yes, darling. Poor you. I can understand,” the wife says, and sips her potent cocktail. It’s her third. She wonders what it is – the mysterious but deadly intoxicating cocktails her companion is plying her with, and she is feeling gloriously high.   “I’m just waiting for this hectic spell of work to be over so we can meet,” the husband says. He sits on the edge of the bed and looks at the sleeping woman. Mesmerized, marveling. It is difficult to believe that in a few hours from now they would be addressing each other formally again.   “Oh, yes. It’s been three months and I’m dying to meet you. When are we meeting?” the wife asks.   “I’m planning a fantastic vacation. I’ll let you know soon. We’ll go to some exotic place. Just the two of us. Quality Time!” the husband says to his wife, looking yearningly at the gorgeously sexy woman on his bed.   “That’s great! We must spend some Quality Time together.” the wife says, snuggling against her strikingly handsome colleague. He presses his knee against hers. She presses hers against his. He moves his hand around her over her soft skin and pulls her gently. She feels an inchoate desire. He gently strokes her hair, and she turns towards him, her mouth partly open as he leans over her.  Fuelled by the alcohol in her veins, she can sense the want churning inside her like fire. And as she looks into his eyes, and feels the intensity of his caresses, she can sense her resistance melting.   “I love you, Sugar!” the husband says.   “I love you, darling!” the wife says.   Their lovey-dovey conversation completed, both of them disconnect their cell-phones. And carry on with renewed zeal their passionate amorous activity presently in hand. A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush!   I’ve heard somewhere: ‘Absence makes the heart grow fonder – for someone else’.   Married, yet bachelors! Forced distance and unnatural loneliness – for too long. It does take its toll, doesn’t it?   And what about the so-called much touted buzzword ‘Quality Time’? 

There’s no doubt about it! 

It’s Quality Time that sustains and nourishes long distance marriages. 

Yes. Quality Time! 

Quality Time – with someone else!  

  Dear Reader, do you agree? Or, don’t you?  

  VIKRAM KARVE   Copyright 2006 Vikram Karve 


A Healthy Date

May 1, 2007










She stands in front of the full-length mirror and looks at herself.  She cringes a bit for she does not like what she sees. 

The jeans make her look fat. And the tight top – it’s all wrong! 

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

She looks at her new high-heels – should she? They’ll make her look tall, less fat. No. Not today.  

Now it’s got to be walking shoes. A brisk invigorating walk from Chowpatty to Churchgate breathing the fresh evening sea breeze on

Marine Drive

is what she needs to cheer her up.  

She stands on the weighing machine at Churchgate station and, with a tremor of trepidation, puts in the coin. Lights flash. Out comes the ticket. She looks at it. Same as yesterday. And the day before. And the day before. No change – either in her weight or her fortune! 

Her face falls. She’s trying so much; exercising, dieting. But it’s no use. She looks longingly at the Softy Ice Cream counter. 

There is a smart young handsome man with two Ice Cream cones, one in each hand. He looks at her for that moment longer than necessary. She averts her eyes, but he walks up to her and says, “Hi! How are you?” 

She looks at him confused. His face seems vaguely familiar. 

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

She remembers him. He’s Sheena’s boyfriend from HR. 

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

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

“Take it fast. It’ll melt,” he says. 

She hesitates, confused. 

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

She takes the Ice Cream cone from his hands. 

“I’m Mohan. I work in HR.” 

She doesn’t say anything.  

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

They start walking. And as they walk slowly out of Churchgate station towards

Marine Drive

, they slowly lick the creamy yummy ice cream off their cones. 

“You walked all the way?” he asks. 

“Yes,” she speaks for the first time. 

“All alone?” 


“You come here everyday?” 


“All alone?” 

“No. On other days we come together.” 

“And today?” 

“Sheena’s gone out.” 

“For the office do at the disc?” 


“And you?” 

She’s furious. But she controls herself. No point getting on the wrong side of HR. She hastens her steps and says, “Okay. Bye. Time for me to go! And thanks for the Ice Cream.” 

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

Marine Drive

by the sea. 

“No. Please. I’ve got to go.” 

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

“What?” she goes red with embarrassment! This is too much! So he’s been stalking her – watching her every day. But inside, she secretly feels a flush of excitement. 

“Yes. Don’t get obsessed. Like Sheena.” 


“She keeps nagging me about my weight?” 

“But you’re not fat!” she says. 

“Then what would you say I am?” he asks. 

“Let’s say you’re on the healthier side?” 

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

“Oh yes. We both are on the healthier side.” She laughs. He laughs. They both laugh together. Healthy laughter! 

They sit in the sea breeze enjoying their pizza. He is easy to talk to, she has much to say, and the words come tumbling out. 

And so they enjoy a ‘healthy’ date. Relishing delicious Pizzas, and other lip smacking goodies, to their hearts’ content, capping the satiating repast with the heavenly ice creams at Rustom’s nearby. 



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

“I had a date.” 

“You? A date?”  Sheena says disbelievingly 

“Of course. At Churchgate.” 

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

“Yes. And you Sheena? How was your date?” 

“All ruined. That Mohan. He stood me up. Didn’t turn up at the disc and kept his mobile off.” 


“You’ve met him.” 

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

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

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

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


But our heroine cannot sleep. She eagerly waits for sunrise. For at six in the morning Mohan has promised to meet her on

Marine Drive

opposite the Aquarium. And then they will go together for a ‘healthy’ jog on

Marine Drive


She feels happy, full of anticipation and zest. 

Happiness is when you have something to look forward to. 




Copyright 2006 Vikram Karve 




Married Bachelors

April 9, 2007


[a fiction short story] 










Married Bachelors are proliferating all around me. Come, walk around with me in my workplace and I’ll show you what I mean. 

Let’s meet the latest entrant to the Married Bachelors’ Club. 

“Congratulations,” I say. 

“Thank you, Sir,” says the smart upwardly mobile young man standing before me. 

“How was the wedding?” 




“Wow! Come to our place in the evening. We want to meet your brand new wife,” I say. 

“Sir, she hasn’t come.” 

“Hasn’t come?” 

“She is working in
Delhi, Sir.”

“Tell her to quit.” 

“Quit her job?” he looks at me as if I have said something blasphemous. 

“She can take a year or two off, can’t she? Come on, newly married couples like you must stay together; especially in a beautiful place like this. Now is the time, when you are fresh and young.”  

“She’s very career conscious, Sir,” he says proudly, “and this a very vital phase for her – she’s on the verge of a promotion, working on an important project.” 

And it was the same for the ambitious high flier go-getter standing in front of me. He too had “heights” to scale! From a true bachelor he had become a married-bachelor. Like his wife. And now endorsed with the hallmark of marriage, both of them, husband and wife, married bachelors, were free to focus their entire efforts on climbing their respective separate career ladders to “success” and fulfill their professional ambitions. She is married to her job; he is married to his job – and, of course, they are married to each other! 

Why do people marry? For togetherness and companionship, isn’t it? Then why do they stay separately by choice, especially in the formative exciting passionate early years of marriage? I just can’t fathom this paradox. 

And here is my colleague – a charming lady – a veteran married bachelor. [I prefer to call her a married bachelor rather than married spinster! If actresses can be called actors, why not refer to spinsters as bachelors?]. She’s not the overly ambitious type. She once told me that given a choice she’d give up her monotonous backbreaking job. Then why doesn’t she do it? She’s in the EMI trap. They’ve bought an exclusive penthouse flat in the classiest posh township in the city and a weekend bungalow in the hills. And they are so busy earning to pay off their loan EMIs, she grinding herself off here and he slogging it out at sea, that they sometimes wonder whether it was all worth it – sacrificing the best years of their lives for material comforts that they may become too old and worn out to enjoy. 

And here is a similar tale. Poor chap. He bought a house in Pune as he loved the place and comfortably settled down with his family. And then he got transferred. But the family won’t move out. They love the place, and have embellished their adorable abode with such loving care, that they can’t dream of giving it on rent either. They just don’t want to move out of their comfortable existence. So the poor man will have to spend the rest of his working life as a married bachelor. Once one has tasted and savored the fruits of family life, it is difficult to live alone – you can take my word for it! 

Now look at him. Why is he a married bachelor? 

“Children’s Education,” he says. 

“What’s wrong with the schools here?” 

“I don’t want to disturb them. I want them to get the best.” 

So husband and wife sacrifice their marital happiness for the sake of their darling children, who owing to their brilliant academic accomplishments are sure to fly off to better pastures, leaving behind the “married bachelors” [parents] to endure the remains of their marital lives as strangers in their empty nest.  

I wonder why these married bachelors prefer to live miserably in self-imposed desolation and loneliness. In our twenty five years of married life I have always endeavored to be together with my wife as much as feasible. I love the warm glow of the “much-married” feeling that comes after years of togetherness and friendship. 


Ah! At last, I see the lovey-dovey couple I’ve been noticing for weeks now. 

“Good to see a lovely married couple at the workplace,” I comment. 

“Hah! Married couple? Of course they are married. But not to each other,” pipes up the office jester. 

“What do you mean? I see them together everywhere. Can’t you see – there is that distinctive togetherness about them that spouses have.” 

“Oh yes. You can call them spouses – office spouses!” 

“Office Spouses?” 

“It’s the in thing, you know, especially among married bachelors as you call them – to have an office husband or an office wife.” 

“Married Bachelors! Office Spouses! What’s the world coming to? I’ve had enough for the day!” 


As I walk home with a spring in my step eager to meet my much-married darling wife, I know that love is linked to being physically near and being married means being together. 

If you don’t want to live together, why marry? 




Copyright 2007 Vikram Karve