Archive for the ‘camp’ Category

A Pune Story

December 21, 2008

Click the link below and read on my creative writing blog:

http://vikramkarve.sulekha.com/blog/post/2008/12/spdp-at-vaishali.htm

Vikram Karve

Advertisements

The Wallflower

June 23, 2007

THE WALLFLOWER

 

By

 

VIKRAM KARVE

 

 

 

[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 expression – 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,

                                                                                                Vijay

 

 

            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…

 

 

 

VIKRAM KARVE

 

http://vikramkarve.sulekha.com

 

vikramkarve@sify.com

 

vikramkarve@hotmail.com

 

 

 

 

 

THE WALLFLOWER

 

By

 

VIKRAM KARVE

 

 

 

[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…

 

 

 

VIKRAM KARVE

 

Copyright 2007 Vikram Karve

 

 

http://vikramkarve.sulekha.com

 

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

 

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

 

 

vikramkarve@sify.com

 

vikramkarve@hotmail.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE WALLFLOWER

 

By

 

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…]

 

 

VIKRAM KARVE

 

Copyright 2007 Vikram Karve

 

 

http://vikramkarve.sulekha.com

 

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

 

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

 

 

vikramkarve@sify.com

 

vikramkarve@hotmail.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE WALLFLOWER

 

By

 

VIKRAM KARVE

 

 

[Part 4]

 

 

[Continued from part 3]

 

 

 

 

Dear Avinash,

 

The suddenness with which you popped the question left me so dumbfounded that I am still recovering from the shock. Shock? Maybe that’s the wrong word, but the swiftness of your proposal, out of the blue, on our very first date – well I am a simple girl and it really left me dazed.

 

You called once. I didn’t answer. You didn’t call again. I really appreciate that. That was very gentlemanly of you.

 

You sent me an e-mail. Explaining your feelings. Apologizing for what you did at the spur of the moment. Said sorry for having hurt my feelings. Please don’t say sorry. You haven’t hurt my feelings at all. Maybe outwardly I didn’t show it, but in fact, inside, I felt so good, so happy, that a suave man like you found a simple ordinary looking girl like me so attractive.

 

Avinash, please try to understand. I also feel the same way about you. I can’t exactly describe the emotions I experienced when we were together. Is it love? I don’t know. It’s the first time it’s happened to me that I’ve  felt so attracted to someone. I really feel like being with you, forever, spending the rest of our lives together. Thanks for proposing to me, Avinash – I accept.

 

What I want to say now I don’t want to say over the phone, or e-mail, so I am writing this letter. I am writing this because I believe that there is no place for secrets between husband and wife. Please read it carefully and destroy it. For my sake. Please. Read what I have written, think about it carefully, and I’ll wait for your reply.   

 

You know Vijay, don’t you? Vijay Joshi. Of course you do. He works with you in Delhi. You are his boss.

 

In fact, I came to Sanjiv and Swati’s party in Pune just to see what Vijay’s boss looked like. Of course, I’d also come to help out Swati, but I was more interested to know how Vijay is doing in his new job in Delhi and maybe say something good about him. But the thunderbolt struck and we ended saying sweet nothings to each other. I hope Swati didn’t notice, as she seemed the busy hostess most of the time, and I haven’t told her, or anyone, about our hush-hush dinner-date the next evening in that lovely romantic garden restaurant.  

 

Now, let’s talk about Vijay. Vijay and me were neighbors ever since I remember. Our families are very very close, deeply bonded to each other. Vijay and I are the dearest of dearest childhood friends, inseparable buddies who grew up together. Vijay has always been my most intimate confidant. I have always told him everything. Except about you – about us. It’s the first time I have hidden something from Vijay. And I’m feeling so guilty about it.

 

Avinash, I really love Vijay. But not in that way. Vijay is my friend, yes; buddy, yes; even soul mate, yes; but I just can’t imagine Vijay as my lover. Like I can visualize you!

 

Now brace your heart, Avinash!

 

I am engaged to Vijay. And our wedding date has been fixed on the 30th of May. Everyone knows about it.

 

This was fixed long back by both our families. My marriage to Vijay – a foregone conclusion and implicit happy culmination of our friendship. I too was happy. Till I met you. Now it is different.

 

What do we do, Avinash?

 

I just can’t bear to tell Vijay myself. To him it will be a terrible betrayal, a stab in his back. I can’t break his heart. He will be devastated.

 

I don’t have the guts to tell my parents; or his, either. They will be shattered, the hurt very painful and relationships will be strained forever.

 

So what do we do, Avinash?

 

I have an idea. It may sound bizarre, but let’s give it a try. Why not make Vijay fall in love with someone else?

 

Avinash, why don’t you introduce Vijay to some nice girl out there? Someone smart and chic, like Swati. I think he likes girls like that – I’ve seen him stealing canny glances at Swati when he thought I wasn’t looking. Right now he is lonely, vulnerable, and I am sure you there are many lovely, mod, savvy, attractive women out there in Delhi who are also lonely and vulnerable. You’ve just got to match them and hope for the best.

 

Avinash, try to understand. I want Vijay to call off our engagement. I want him to “break” my heart. It will be better that way, isn’t it? For me, for you, and for all of us.

 

Avinash. Am I asking too much of you? You like the idea, or is it too weird? Or can you think of anything better?

 

I am waiting for your reply. Please send me e-mails only. Don’t ring up or write – we have to very careful of hidden ears and curious eyes.

 

And remember to destroy this letter right now.

 

Yours lovingly,

Manisha.

 

 

 

[To be continued?]

 

 

 

VIKRAM KARVE

 

Copyright 2007 Vikram Karve

 

 

http://vikramkarve.sulekha.com

 

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

 

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

 

 

vikramkarve@sify.com

 

vikramkarve@hotmail.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE WALLFLOWER parts 1, 2 and 3

June 20, 2007

THE WALLFLOWER – PARTS 1, 2 AND 3

THE WALLFLOWER

By

VIKRAM KARVE

[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,

                                                                                                Vijay

            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…

VIKRAM KARVE

http://vikramkarve.sulekha.com

vikramkarve@sify.com

vikramkarve@hotmail.com

THE WALLFLOWER

By

VIKRAM KARVE

[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…

VIKRAM KARVE

Copyright 2007 Vikram Karve

http://vikramkarve.sulekha.com

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

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

vikramkarve@sify.com

vikramkarve@hotmail.com

THE WALLFLOWER

By

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…]

VIKRAM KARVE

Copyright 2007 Vikram Karve

http://vikramkarve.sulekha.com

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

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

vikramkarve@sify.com

vikramkarve@hotmail.com

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

June 20, 2007

LPO

[LIFE PROCESS OUTSOURCING]

 

by

 

VIKRAM KARVE

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

“Hi!” I say.

 

 

 

“Hi,” he says, “where to?”

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

“I’m going to work.”

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

“Not now. I quit. I’m on my own now.”

 

 

 

“On your own? What do you do?”

 

 

 

“LPO.”

 

 

 

“LPO? What’s that?”

 

 

 

“Life Process Outsourcing.”

 

 

 

“Life Process Outsourcing? Never heard of it!”

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

“Life Processes? Outsourced?”

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

“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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

VIKRAM KARVE

 

copyright 2006 Vikram Karve

 

vikramkarve@sify.com

 

http://vikramkarve.sulekha.com

 

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

 

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

 

 

 

BLOG CAMP PUNE INDIA

June 19, 2007

BLOG CAMP PUNE

 

 

We had a lovely time at the Pune Blog Camp yesterday [Saturday 16th June 2007] at the Symbiosis Center for IT in the Hinjewadi IT Park. The venue was marvelous – hats off to the “unorganizers’ for choosing such an apt venue. Being my first visit to SCIT I was really impressed by this excellent academic facility created by Symbiosis.

 

 

After introduction there was coffee followed by presentations in two threads. Among the thread I attended, I liked the presentations by the Sulekha Team and the lecture by Melody on the Negatives of the Blogosphere.

 

 

Mukundan brought out the various technological and user features of Sulekha emphasizing the distinctive niche it has carved for itself among Indians worldwide. Sudhir Syal highlighted the various blogger-oriented initiatives like BLOGPRINT and tie up with publishers to compile short stories from blogs into Sulekha anthologies, which I am sure, will be an inspiration and fulfilling reward to bloggers to see their creative efforts in print. We were delighted to meet the Sulekha Team in person and really enjoyed interacting with them, and hope Pune will soon be a featured city like Mumbai, Chennai, Delhi, Kolkata, Hyderabad and Bangalore.

 

 

Melody’s engrossing talk embellished with case studies on Flames was an eye-opener, generated a lot of interaction and was especially pertinent to the novice bloggers.

 

 

Illuminating interactions, wonderful venue, delicious lunch, friendly youthful ambiance – a superb Blog Camp. Waiting for the next one and another gorgeous T-Shirt to cherish!

 

 

 

 

VIKRAM KARVE

 

 

http://vikramkarve.sulekha.com

 

 

vikramkarve@sify.com

 

 

vikramkarve@hotmail.com