Archive for the ‘office’ Category

VOLATILE MARRIAGE AMICABLE DIVORCE

February 17, 2010

VOLATILE MARRIAGE AMICABLE DIVORCE

Fiction Short Story

By

VIKRAM KARVE

A cell-phone rings at 9 o’clock in the morning in an apartment in Pune.

The husband picks up, pauses for a moment as if hearing something, and says, “Don’t worry, I’ll be there on time,” and then he switches off the mobile phone and keeps it in his pocket.

He then shouts to his wife, who is in the kitchen: “I’m going out for some work. I’ll be back around one thirty or two for lunch.”

“Where are you going? You’ve taken leave today. Let’s go shopping; and then for lunch and a movie.”

“Please. Not today. I’ve taken leave just for this important thing.”

“Important thing…? What important thing…? Where are you going…?” the wife persists.

The husband does not want to tell her but he knows now that he has no choice but to tell her. He knows his wife’s nature so well – she is not going to rest till she finds out. She will nag him to death until he tells her.

So he decides to tell her the bare minimum.

“I am going to the Family Court,” he says.

“Family Court…? Why…?” his wife shrieks in amazement.

“A divorce case,” the husband says nonchalantly.

“Divorce case…? You are filing a divorce case…? You are trying to divorce me behind my back…?” the wife yells hysterically.

“Will you please be quiet and listen…? It’s not us. Pooja has asked me to come for the hearing.”

“Pooja…? Who is this Pooja…?”

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

“Oh. That Pooja…! I knew you always had a soft corner for her.”

“It’s her final divorce hearing today and she’s called me.”

“Divorce case…? Pooja…? She called you…? How are you involved…? I hope the divorce is not because of you…? I knew you’d do something stupid. You are so gullible you know – got trapped by her and now you are in trouble being summoned by courts. Respectable persons never see the insides of a court in their entire lives…!”

“Please keep quiet…! You just go on and on…! Pooja has called me just to give her emotional support…”

“Emotional support…? From you…? This Pooja needs emotional support from you…? Why you…? Tell me…why you…? I knew there was some hanky-panky going on. I’m coming with you. Can’t you see what she’s up to…?”

“Please…please calm down and don’t jump to conclusions. Pooja is just a colleague going through a rough patch. As a friend, I have to help her out, show her a bit of compassion and kindness…that’s all…”

“Compassion…? Comapssion, my foot…! This compassion may soon turn into passion…!” the wife says sarcastically, “I tell you…Drying a divorcee’s tears is one of the most dangerous pastimes for a man, especially a married man…!”

“Pastime…? I’m not going there for amusement. I’m going just to help out a colleague…”

“Oh, yes. An attractive colleague in distress, isn’t it? And our Knight in shining armour is rushing to her aid…!”

“Okay. Why don’t you come along and see for yourself,” the husband says exasperated.
The moment he utters those words he instantly regrets it, but it is too late. His wife has already picked up her purse and is heading towards the door.

“Why are they divorcing…?” the wife asks, as they are driving in their car from their house in Aundh towards the Family Court in city.

“It’s divorce by mutual consent.”

“Mutual consent…? What nonsense…! There must be some other reason.”

“No. They have just agreed to separate.”

“Agreed to separate…? If they can agree to separate, why can’t they agree to stay together…?”

“I don’t know. Why don’t you ask Pooja that…!” the husband says irritated.

“Of course I will. And I’ll give a piece of my mind to her husband too and tell him to stop harassing his wife.”

“Please…I beg you…for heaven’s sake don’t say anything stupid and embarrasing to them over there. He is not harassing her. They are parting amicably, as friends. I told you, it is an amicable divorce by mutual consent…”

“What nonsense…? Amicable divorce by mutual consent…! There is no such thing as amicable divorce…!”

“What do you mean…? So many people have amicable divorces now-a-days and part as friends.”

“Nonsense…! It’s all nonsense, a cover up… Amicable Divorce is a big lie – an oxymoron.”

“Oxymoron…?”

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

“I don’t know. Please let’s talk something else.”

“I am sure there is something fishy…”

“Will you please keep quiet and let me drive the car in peace…?”

“What’s her husband’s name…?”

“Abhishek.”

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

“Don’t be stupid. She’s not like that.”

“How do you know…?”

“I know her for so many years now. She’s quite close to me. She’s told me everything…”

“Close to you…? She is close to you…? Oh, My God…! I hope it’s not you…?”

“Me…? Will you please shut up…? I told you it is mutual incompatibility…!”

“Mutual Incompatibility my foot…! Let me tell you there is no one in this world who is more mutually incompatible than you and me…! But are we divorcing…?”

“Why don’t we…? At least I’ll have some peace and respite from your constant nagging…”

“Ah…you want to divorce me so you can marry her, is it…? You’ve got a hope in heaven…! I’ll cling on to you till my dying day… And then I will follow you as a ghost and even to heaven after that…”

They drive in silence for a while and then the wife asks, “Has she got any children…?”

“Yes. Two. A boy and a girl. In school…”

“Poor children. What will happen to them…?”

“They’ll go off to a boarding school for a while till Pooja settles down…”

“It’s funny. They’ve got children and are divorcing. We don’t have any children, but we are carrying on together…!”

“Yes,” the husband says, “I really wonder…! We constantly fight but we stay together; and they have such a cordial relationship but they want to separate…”

“Marriage is not supposed to be cordial and cold,” the wife says lovingly, snuggling up affectionately to her long-married husband.

“I’ve realized one thing,” says the husband dotingly hugging his much-married wife.

“What…?”

“The opposite of love is not hate – it is indifference.”

VIKRAM KARVE

Copyright © Vikram Karve 2010

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

http://vikramkarve.sulekha.com

vikramkarve@sify.com

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

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DATING and MATING

May 18, 2009

DATING and MATING

 

[Short Fiction – A Love Story]

 

By

 

VIKRAM KARVE

 

(Earlier I had posted this story in parts. Here is the full story. If you’ve read the parts, do enjoy the full story once more.)

 

I am busy working in my office on the morning of the First of April when my cell phone rings. It is Sudha, my next door neighbour, so I take the call. 

 

“Vijay, you lucky dog, your life is made,” Sudha says excitedly.

 

“Lucky Dog? Please, Sudha, I am busy,” I say, a trifle irritated.

 

“Don’t switch off your cell phone,” Sudha says, “you are going to get a very important phone call.”

 

“Important call?”

 

“From the hottest and most eligible woman in town,” Sudha says with exuberance, “She’s fallen head over heels for you, Vijay. She wants to date you.”

 

“Date me? Who’s this?”

 

“My boss.”

 

“Your boss?”

 

“Come on, Vijay, I told you, didn’t I, about the chic Miss Hoity Toity who joined last week…”

 

Suddenly it dawns on me and I say to Sudha, “Happy April Fools Day…”

 

“Hey, seriously, I swear it is not an April Fools’ Day prank. She is really going to ring you up…she desperately wants to meet you…”

 

“Desperately wants to meet me? I don’t even know her…haven’t even seen her…”

 

“But she’s seen you…”

 

“Seen me…where…?”

 

“Jogging around the Oval Maidan…I think she is stalking you…”

 

“Stalking me…?”

 

“She knows everything…your routine…where you stay…that you are my neighbour…so she called me to her office and asked for your mobile number.”

 

“I’ve told you not to give my number to anyone…”

 

“I told her…but she said it was very urgent…I think she wants to come over in the evening…”

 

“This evening…?… I am switching off my mobile…”

 

“No you don’t…You’ll like her…she is your type…”

 

“My Type?… What do you mean?…Sudha please…”

 

“Bye, Vijay…I don’t want to keep your mobile busy…She’ll be calling any time now…Remember, her name is Nisha…All the Best…” Sudha cuts off the phone.

 

As I wait for the mysterious lady’s call, let me tell you’re a bit about Sudha. 

 

Ever since she dumped me and married that suave, slimy, effeminate, ingratiating sissy Suhas, Sudha probably felt so guilt ridden that she had taken upon herself the responsibility for getting me married.

 

Sudha was my neighbour, the girl next door; my childhood friend, playmate, classmate, soul-mate, confidante and constant companion. I assumed we would get married but she suddenly fell for Suhas who she met at a training seminar.

 

I hated Suhas – he was one of those glib, smooth-talking, street-smart, slick characters that adorn the corporate world – a clean-shaven, soft-spoken, genteel, elegantly groomed metrosexual type with an almost feminine voice and carefully cultivated mannerisms as if he had been trained in a finishing school.

 

At first, I was devastated and could not understand why Sudha had betrayed me, but when Sudha gently explained to me that she always saw me as a friend and never as a husband, I understood and maintained cordial relations with her, though I loathed her husband who had shamelessly moved into her spacious apartment after relocating from Delhi to Mumbai.

 

Probably Sudha thought I had remained unmarried because of her (which may have been true to an extent) so in order to allay her guilt conscience she kept on setting up dates for me hoping for the best.

 

The ring of my cell-phone interrupts my train of thoughts.

 

“Mr. Vijay…?” asks a sweet mellifluous feminine voice.

 

“Yes,” I say my heartbeat slightly increasing.

 

“Nisha here,” she says, “Is it a good time to talk.”

 

“Of course,” I say.

 

“I want to meet you…Is it okay if I come over to your place this evening…”

 

My My My! She comes to the point pretty fast isn’t it?

 

“Today evening…?” I blurt out a bit incredulous.

 

“It’s a bit urgent,” she says.

 

“Sure. You are most welcome,” I stammer recovering my wits.

 

“Six-thirty…before you go for your jog…or later after you return…or maybe we can meet up at the Oval…”

 

I am truly stunned… this Nisha is indeed stalking me…meet up at the Oval…as brazen as that… I have never experienced such blatant propositioning…Tocsins sound in my brain…

 

“Mr. Vijay…” I hear Nisha’s soft voice in the cell-phone earpiece.

 

“Yes, Yes, six-thirty is absolutely fine…I’ll wait for you in my house…you know the place…” I stutter recovering my wits.

 

“Yes, I know your place,” Nisha says, “I’ll be there at six-thirty,” and she disconnects.

 

I go home early, shower, deodorize, groom, titivate, put on my best shirt and wait in eager anticipation for this mysterious woman who is coming onto me so heavily.

 

Precisely at six-fifteen the bell rings. 

 

I open the door.

 

“Hi, I’m Nisha,” the stunningly attractive woman in front of me says.

 

Sudha was right…Nisha is certainly very hot… oh yes, Nisha is indeed my type of woman.

 

“I’m sorry I’m a bit early, but I noticed you were in, saw your car below…”she says.

 

‘Noticed I was in’… My, My…She knows my car…about my daily jogs on the Oval…my routine…everything…she’s really hot on my trail…isn’t she?

 

I look at her. She comes closer towards me.

 

She looks and smells natural. No attempt to camouflage her raw steamy physical self behind a synthetic mask of make-up and artificial deodorants.

 

Her persona is tantalizingly inviting and temptingly desirable; her tight-fitting pink T-shirt tucked into hip hugging dark blue jeans accentuate the curves of her exquisite body and she radiates a captivating aura, an extraordinary magnetic attraction, I have never experienced before.

 

I cannot take my eyes off her, her gorgeous face, her beautiful eyes, her lush skin, so I feast my eyes on her, let my eyes travel all over her shapely body.

 

The frank admiration in my eyes wins a smile. She lets her eyes hold mine.

 

 “Aren’t you going to ask me to come in?” she smiles as if reading my mind.

 

“Oh, yes, sorry, please come in,” I say, embarrassed at having eyed her so openly.

 

I guide her to the sofa and sit as near her as politely possible.

 

We sit on the sofa. She looks terribly attractive, very very desirable.

 

Our closeness envelops us in a stimulating kind of intimacy.

 

Overwhelmed by passion I inch towards her.

 

She too comes closer.

 

I sense the beginnings of an experience I have dreamt about in my fantasies.

  

“Actually, I have come for mating,” she says.

 

“Mating…?” I exclaim instinctively, totally shocked, stunned beyond belief.

 

I look at her tremendously excited, yet frightened, baffled, perplexed, wondering what to do, how to make my move, as the improbability of the situation makes me slightly incredulous and bewildered

 

I notice her eyes search the drawing room, then she looks at the bedroom door, and asks, “Where is your daughter?”

 

“Daughter? I’m not married,” I say, completely taken aback.

 

“I know,” she says, “I’m talking about your lovely dog…or rather, bitch…” she laughs tongue-in-cheek.

 

“I’ve locked her inside. She is not very friendly.”

 

“I know. Hounds do not like strangers…but don’t worry…soon I won’t be a stranger…” Nisha says, gets up and begins walking towards the closed bedroom door.

 

“Please,” I say anxiously, “Angel is very ferocious and aggressive.”

 

“Angel…what a lovely name,” Nisha says, “I have been seeing you two jogging and playing at the Oval. That’s why I have come here…to see your beautiful hound Angel…” and then she opens the door.

 

Angel looks suspiciously as Nisha enters the bedroom and as she extends her hand towards her to pat her on the head, Angel growls at Nisha menacingly, her tail becomes stiff, and the hackles on her back stiffen, since, like most Caravan Hounds, she does not like to be touched or handled by anyone other than me, her master.

 

“Please…please…” I plead to Nisha, but she moves ahead undaunted and caresses Angel’s neck and suddenly there is a noticeable metamorphosis in the hound’s body language as the dog recognizes the true dog lover. All of a sudden Angel licks Nisha’s hand, wags her tail and jumps lovingly at Nisha who embraces her.

 

I am really surprised at the way Nisha is hugging and caressing Angel as not even the most ardent of dog lovers would dare to fondle and take liberties with a ferocious Caravan Hound.

 

“She’s ideal for Bruno. They’ll love each other,” Nisha says cuddling Angel.

 

“Bruno?”

 

“My handsome boy… I was desperately looking for a mate for Bruno…and then I saw her…they’re ideally suited…a perfect made for each other couple.”

 

“You’ve got a hound?”

 

“A Mudhol.”

 

“Mudhol?”

 

“Exactly like her.”

 

“But Angel is a Caravan Hound.”

 

“It’s the same…a Caravan Hound is the same as a Mudhol Hound …in fact, the actual name is Mudhol…”

 

“I don’t think so.”

 

“Bet?”

 

“Okay.”

 

 “Dinner at the place of my choice.”

 

 “Done.”

 

“Let’s go.”

 

“Where?”

 

“To my place.”

 

“To your place?”

 

“To meet Bruno…doesn’t Angel want to see him?”

 

“Of course… me too.”

 

And so, the three of us, Nisha, Angel and I, drove down to Nisha’s home on Malabar Hill. The moment we opened the door Bruno rushed to welcome Nisha…then gave Angel a tentative look…for an instant both the hounds stared menacingly at each other…Bruno gave a low growl…then extended his nose to scent…Angel melted…it was love at first sight.

 

Nisha won the bet…we surfed the internet…cross checked in libraries…she was right… Mudhol Hound is the same as Caravan Hound…but not the same as a Rampur, Rajapalyam or  Chippiparai Hound.

 

But that’s another story.

 

Here is what happened to our “Dating and Mating Story”. 

 

Angel and Bruno had a successful mating and Nisha and Bruno would visit my pregnant girl every day, and then, on D-Day,  Nisha stayed through the night to egg on Angel in her whelping.

 

Angel gave birth to four cute little puppies, and every day the “doggie” parents and “human” grandparents would spend hours doting on the little ones.

 

Since Nisha and I could not agree as to who should take which puppy we solved the problem by getting married – strictly a marriage of convenience – but Sudha, her aim achieved, tells me that Nisha and I are the most rocking couple madly in love.

 

And so now we all live together as one big happy family – ours, theirs, mine and hers.

 

 

VIKRAM KARVE

 

Copyright © Vikram Karve 2009

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

 

http://vikramkarve.sulekha.com

 

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

 

vikramkarve@sify.com

A Mumbai Story

May 20, 2008

Click the link below to read a Mumbai story

 

http://vikramkarve.sulekha.com/blog/post/2008/05/a-lazy-hot-afternoon-in-mumbai-a-leisurely-story.htm

 

All the Best

vikram Karve

The Day After I Quit Smoking

January 18, 2008

THE DAY AFTER I QUIT SMOKING 

 By

 VIKRAM KARVE

One of the things that deters smokers from quitting decisively in one go is the fear of withdrawal symptoms. This results in smokers resorting to half-baked remedies like gradual reduction, nicotine patches, low tar cigarettes and various other futile therapies. In my opinion this exaggerated importance given to withdrawal symptoms is just a big myth, a ploy, an excuse by addicts to avoid giving up smoking. The so-called withdrawal symptoms are nothing but craving. The best and most effective way of quitting smoking is to just stop smoking, totally, in one go, and then never to smoke again. Don’t be afraid of the so-called “withdrawal symptoms” – you can easily tackle the craving. You can take my word for it – I successfully did it and conquered the craving for smoking once and for all.

I’ve written earlier and described how I quit smoking. I’m sure you must have read it in my blog.

 [In case you haven’t read it just click the link below – but remember to come back to this article!]

 http://vikramkarve.sulekha.com/blog/post/2006/12/how-i-quit-smoking.htm

 Now let me describe to you the day after I quit smoking. I woke up early, at five-thirty as usual, made a cup of tea, and the moment I took a sip of the piping hot delicious tea, I felt the familiar crave for my first cigarette of the day. I kept down the cup of tea, made a note of the craving in my diary, had a glass of hot water (quickly heated in the microwave oven), completed my ablutions, and stepped out of my house, crossed the Maharshi Karve Road, and began a brisk walk-cum-jog around the verdant tranquil Oval Maidan, deeply rinsing my lungs with the pure refreshing morning air, which made me feel on top of the world. The Clock on MumbaiUniversity’s RajabaiTower silhouetted against the calm bluish gray sky, was striking six, and I felt invigorated.

I had overcome my craving, and not smoked, what used to be my first cigarette of the day. I then went on my daily morning walk on Marine Drive to Chowpatty and on my way back I spotted my friends ‘N’ and ‘S’ across the road beckoning me for our customary post-exercise tea and cigarette at the stall opposite Mantralaya. I felt tempted, but my resolve firm, I waved to them, looked away and ran towards my house. They must have thought I’d gone crazy, but it didn’t matter – I had avoided what used to be my second cigarette of the day.

 I made a note of it my diary, as I would do the entire day of all the stimuli that triggered in me the urge to smoke – what I would call my “smoking anchors” which could be anything, internal and external, tangible or intangible – people, situations, events, feelings, smells, emotions, tendencies, moods, foods, social or organizational trends, practices, norms, peer pressure; and most importantly how I tackled and triumphed over these stimuli.

After breakfast, I didn’t drink my usual cup of coffee – a strong “smoking anchor” which triggered in me a desperate desire to smoke, and drank a glass of bland milk instead, thereby averting what used to be my third cigarette of the day. It was nine, as I walked to work, and I hadn’t smoked a single cigarette.

It was a long day ahead and I had to be cognizant, observe myself inwardly and devise strategies to tackle situations that elicited craving for smoking – recognize and neutralize my “smoking anchors”, so to speak. Anchoring is a naturally occurring phenomenon, a natural process that usually occurs without our awareness.

An anchor is any representation in the human nervous system that triggers any other representation. Anchors can operate in any representational system (sight, sound, feeling, sensation, smell, taste).

You create an anchor when you unconsciously set up a stimulus response pattern. Response [smoking] becomes associated with (anchored to) some stimulus; in such a way that perception of the stimulus (the anchor) leads by reflex to the anchored response [smoking] occurring. Repeated stimulus–response action, reinforces anchors and this is a vicious circle, especially in the context of “smoking anchors”.

The trick is to identify your “smoking anchors”, become conscious of these anchors and ensure you do not activate them.

The moment I reached office I saw my colleague ‘B’ eagerly waiting for me, as he did every day. Actually he was eagerly waiting to bum a cigarette from me for his first smoke of the day [“I smoke only other’s cigarettes” was his motto!].

I politely told him I had quit smoking and told him to look for a cigarette elsewhere. He looked at me in disbelief; taunted, jeered and badgered me a bit, but when I stood firm, he disappeared. I removed from my office my ashtray, declared the entire place a no-smoking zone and put up signs to that effect.

The working day began. It was a tough and stressful working day. I was tired, when my boss called me across and offered me a cigarette. I looked at the cigarette pack yearningly, tempted, overcome by a strong craving, desperate to have just that “one” cigarette. Nothing like a “refreshing” smoke to drive my blues away and revitalize me – the “panacea” to my “stressed-out” state! It was now or never!

I politely excused myself on the pretext of going to the toilet, but rushed out into the open and took a brisk walk rinsing my lungs with fresh air, and by the time I returned I had lost the craving to smoke and realized, like in the Oval early in the morning, that physical exercise is probably the best antidote.

 People may think I’m crazy, but even now I rush out of my office once in a while to take a brisk walk in the open and not only do I lose the craving for a smoke but I feel distressed and invigorated as well. Conversely, once I rushed into a “no-smoking” cinema when I desperately felt like a smoke while strolling in the evening. Often, after dinner, when I used to feel like a smoke, I rushed into the Oxford Bookstore next door, for a long leisurely browse till my craving dissipated.

And, of course, one has to change his lifestyle, activities, and, maybe, even friends. Always try to be with likeminded people who you would like to emulate – if you want to quit smoking try to be in the company of non-smokers. It was simple after that, but my diary for that defining day makes interesting reading of smoking anchors – saunf or supari after lunch, afternoon tea, the company of smokers, paan, coffee…

But the crucial test came in the evening. My dear friend ‘A’ landed up for a drink. Now ‘A’ is a guy who doesn’t smoke in front of his kids and wife (I’m sure she knows!). So since he doesn’t smoke in his own home he makes up in other people’s houses. But mind you, he doesn’t bum cigarettes – in fact he gets a pack and generously leaves the remaining behind for the host.

We poured out a rum–paani each, clinked our glasses, said cheers, and sipped.

‘A’ lit a cigarette and offered the pack to me. At the end of a hot, humid and tiring day, the fortifying beverage induced a heavenly ambrosial sensation which permeated throughout the body and what better way to synergise the enjoyment than to smoke a cigarette along with the drink and enhance the pleasure to sheer bliss.

Till that moment, for me, drinking and smoking were inextricably intertwined – they complemented, accentuated each other and accorded me the ultimate supreme pleasure. I enjoyed my smoke the most along with a drink.

I realized that drinking was my strongest “smoking anchor” and if I had to quit smoking permanently I would have to give up drinking forever.

 So that’s what I did. At this defining moment of my life, I quit drinking forever. It’s been almost four years now and I do not smoke and I do not drink. I will never smoke again – I have quit smoking forever.

I may be tempted, but I know I can overcome the urge, for I have mastered the art of taking charge of my “smoking anchors”. And from time to time, I shall look at my old diary to remember and cherish that cardinal day of my life – ‘the day after I quit smoking’.

 Dear Reader, do comment and give me your feedback. Did this work for you?

 VIKRAM KARVE

 Copyright © Vikram Karve 2008 Vikram Karve has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work

vikramkarve@sify.com

 http://www.linkedin.com/in/karve

 vikramkarve@hotmail.com

 http://vikramkarve.sulekha.com

THE AFFAIR by VIKRAM KARVE

September 30, 2007

Click the link below and read a fiction short story THE AFFAIR by Vikram Karve

http://vikramkarve.sulekha.com/blog/post/2007/09/the-affair.htm

If you like it do read my fiction on my creative writing blog

http://vikramkarve.sulekha.com

Regards

Vikram Karve

Life Process Outsourcing – LPO

September 30, 2007

Just click on the link below and read my story on LPO – Life Process Outsourcing:

http://vikramkarve.sulekha.com/blog/post/2007/09/life-process-outsourcing-pure-fiction.htm

Do read all my creative writing on my sulekha creative writing blog:

http://vikramkarve.sulekha.com

Regards

Vikram Karve

QUALITY TIME

July 10, 2007

QUALITY TIME

(A fictional short “love” story)

 

by

 

VIKRAM KARVE

 

 

 

 

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

 

vikramkarve@sify.com

 

http://vikramkarve.sulekha.com

 

 

 

 

 

Freedom

July 9, 2007

FREEDOM

 

By

 

VIKRAM KARVE

       

                Anonymity. That’s what I like about Mumbai. As I lose myself in the sea of humanity leaving Churchgate station in the morning rush hour, I experience a refreshing sense of solitude. I notice that I am walking fast, in step with the crowd, as if propelled by the collective momentum. I experience the tremendous advantages of obscurity as I lose myself in the huge enveloping deluge of people. That’s freedom – the power of anonymity.

   

                But I am in no hurry. I have no office, no destination to reach. I had come here to spend some time with myself. Where no one would be watching me. And I can do as I please. That’s freedom – to be able to do what I want to do.

 

                I stand outside the subway at Churchgate. Should I turn right, walk past Asiatic, Gaylord, and Rustoms towards Marine Drive on the Arabian Sea? Or go straight ahead, past Eros, to Nariman Point? Or walk to my left, between the Oval and Cross Maidan, towards Hutatma Chowk? I feel good. On top of the world. I am free to go wherever I please. That’s freedom!

 

                The essence of travel is to have no destination. A good traveler is one who does not know where he is going to reach before he starts his journey. One decides on the spot. Instinctively. Intuitively. Impulsively. Spontaneously. That’s freedom! To be able to do as one likes. To go where one wants. Yes. That’s real and true freedom!

 

                I choose the third option, leisurely walk on the pavement, looking at the boys playing cricket on the Oval to my right. The pavement booksellers near the Central Telegraph Office are gone. I cross the road and stand near the Fountain. Might as well ring up my husband. Not that he would bother. Indifference is the essence of our relationship. But the facade of conjugal conviviality has to be carefully maintained. At least for the sake of the outside world. That’s  what matters. To him, at least. And maybe for me too; at least till now,

 

                I search for a public telephone. I am not carrying my cell-phone. I didn’t forget it. I deliberately did not bring it with me. That’s freedom! Unshackling myself from my cell-phone.

 

                I find a phone, insert a coin and dial his office number.

 

                “I shall be late today,” I say.

 

                “Okay,” he replies trying to suppress his irritation. But I can sense his annoyance a hundred miles away. Transmitted through the telephonic waves. He doesn’t like to be disturbed at office. Especially by me. For he is always too busy with his affairs. I wonder who his latest conquest is. Last time it was that petite girl at his office. Who looked so innocent, so pristine, so pure. An improbable paramour for a man of fifty. That’s why probably she made such a good one for so many months. There were many before. Many will be there in future. Deep down I feel betrayed. It’s terrible to love and not be loved in return. I don’t know what to do. I feel a sense of futility and helplessness. That’s not freedom.

 

                What can I do? Walk out of the marriage. And do what? Perhaps I can have also had an affair. Tit for tat. I have the looks, but lack the guts. And that’s why I have no choice but to continue this futile and meaningless relationship. That’s not freedom. That’s cowardice, what they also call compromise.

 

                Everyone looks at us with envy and admiration. The successful husband. The charming wife. The ideal couple. ‘Made for each other’. And from time to time I hear myself tell everyone my biggest lie, “I’m so lucky. It’s been a lovely marriage. My life has been such a marvelous success.” Mendacity, hypocrisy, pretense – that’s not freedom.

 

                I window-shop on MG Road opposite the university till I reach Kalaghoda. There’s a sale almost everywhere. Have a glass of refreshing cold sugarcane juice on the roadside stall. Browse at the Magna Book Store. Hear the latest music at Rhythm House. See the latest paintings at JehangirArtGallery. You can see, feel, browse, hear whatever you want; need not buy – that’s freedom.

 

                I decide to have lunch. Stuffed Parathas at Café Samovar. Heavenly rich tasty stuff with an abundance of calories and cholesterol. To hell with self-imposed killjoy restrictions. That’s freedom!

 

                I sit alone in the long rectangular restaurant which reminds me of the dining cars on trains of yesteryears. I eat alone. I eat unhurriedly and consciously. It is sacrilege to eat delectable food hastily.

 

                Nobody stares at me as I eat slowly and mindfully, relishing the piping hot stuffed parathas to the fullest, dipping them liberally in the spicy chutneys with my fingers. I indulge till I am satiated. Follow up with ice cream. A delightful delicious meal enjoyed alone. Epicurean pleasure of the highest order. That’s freedom!

 

                 Once again I realize the benefits of anonymity. Nobody knows me. Nobody’s bothered about me. The place is full – with artists, art-lovers, office-goers, society ladies. All busy in their own world. Preoccupied with their own thoughts. No one gives a damn. This is Mumbai. Not our company township, and in it the exclusive residential campus near Pune, where my husband is the undisputed boss – the feudal lord, the ‘King’ – and I the ‘Queen’, pampered with all the comforts, fawned and flattered, by plenty of sycophants masquerading as friends, secretly envied by all, but trapped in a golden cage. That’s pseudo-freedom!

 

                 My daughter must have returned from college. She is independent. On her own trip. Having been given all the material comforts she desires. With every passing year the distance between us is increasing. I telephone from the phone outside the restaurant.

 

                “I’ll be late,” I tell my daughter.

 

                “So shall I,” she replies. “I am going out with my friends.”

 

                Brevity in communication. The hallmark of our family.

 

                I spend the next few hours doing what I always liked. Aimless loafing on Colaba Causeway, a brief visit to the Museum, gazing at the ships across the Gateway of India, a movie at Regal, a walk across the Oval, invigorating Irani Style Tea at the Stadium restaurant, sitting on the parapet at Marine Drive and watching the sun being swallowed up by the sea. I lose myself in my pleasure trip, in a state of timelessness. This is freedom – not the artificial sterile synthetic life I am living.

 

                The sky is overcast and it starts to drizzle. I walk leisurely on A-Road enjoying the weather. Mumbai is at its best in the monsoon season. I stop before my house. My old house. My parents’ house. The house of my childhood. The house where I grew up. The house my parents had to sell for my dowry. In the hope that I would enjoy a better life. And yes, they were so happy – for my parents, my marriage was a social triumph.

 

                  I feel a sense of nostalgia. I reminisce. There is no greater pain than to remember happier times when one is despondent; dejected with life. But it is also true that when one’s intractable desires are thwarted by reality, there is a tendency to hark back to happy memories. It is indeed at vicious circle. In which I felt trapped at that moment. So I turn away from my house of the past and walk into the present, back towards Marine Drive .

 

                The sea is rough. It is windy. I can smell the rain in the distance. I look at my watch. Almost 7 PM. More than ten hours since I left my house in Pune. I am enjoying the change of routine. A break. After a long long time. Most of us have a preference for some kind of routine or rhythm in our day-to-day life. But when the rhythm becomes sinusoidal, the routine overwhelms you. That’s when you got to break it. Like I had done. Today. At precisely 6.30 AM I had left my house. As usual. But today I wasn’t wearing leotards underneath. For I wasn’t going to the health club. I went straight to the railway station and caught the Deccan Queen. To Mumbai.

 

                It’s raining now. I rush towards Churchgate station. As I cross my favourite Chinese restaurant I wonder with whom my husband would be having his “working” dinner. He wouldn’t have missed me. We never ate together now-a-days. Except breakfast on Sundays. When he would bury himself behind the newspaper nursing a hangover. On other days he would be off to office by the time I returned form the health club. And I would busy myself with my daily routine. Everything ran like clockwork. Everyone took me for granted. There were no problems. That was the real problem. Oh yes! My problem was that I didn’t have any problems! Or did I?

 

                I catch a Volvo bus from Dadar and reach home late at night. It’s almost 11. There is no one at home. The servants ask me if I want anything and then go off to sleep.

 

                I wake up late in the morning. My husband gives me a beautiful diamond necklace. A gift for his darling wife.  As always. A gift to compensate his conscience for his misdemeanors – the bigger the misdemeanor, the larger the guilt, and the more expensive the gift.

 

                We sit at the breakfast table. No one asks me where I was yesterday. Maybe I have become redundant. Or have I?               

               

                “Be ready at 12. I’ll send the car. We’ve got to go for that business lunch at the Golf Club,” my husband snaps pepremptorily.

               

                Oh yes. I’ll go along. As ‘Arm Candy’!

 

                “And, Mom, after that you’ve got to come with me to the jeweler,” my daughter commands. That’s all I am worth these days, isn’t it? Just ornamental value.

 

 

                The moment they go away I break into a laugh. To hell with them! From now on I am going to be free. Do exactly as I want. Go wherever I want. Do whatever I please. Yesterday it was Mumbai. Today, where should I go – Lonavla? No, it’s too boring. Mumbai? – Not again! Bangalore ? – I’ve been there many times. Delhi? – Maybe! Why not head for the hills – Ooty, Mussoorie, Darjeeling, Simla?

 

                 Hey! Why should I tell you? I’m free to do as I please. I’m off on my own trip. That’s freedom!

       

FREEDOM – a short story

by

VIKRAM KARVE

 

Copyright 2006 Vikram Karve

   

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

   

http://vikramkarve.sulekha.com

   

vikramkarve@sify.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

 

 

 

THE WALLFLOWER

June 12, 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 

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     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

  

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