Archive for the ‘short story’ Category

Love and Joy

May 8, 2008

Please click the link and read the love story

http://vikramkarve.sulekha.com/blog/post/2008/05/a-bundle-of-joy.htm

regards

Vikram Karve

A Short Story – A Dog’s Life

January 15, 2008

Please click on the link below and read the short story

http://vikramkarve.sulekha.com/blog/post/2008/01/a-dog-s-life.htm

Vikram Karve

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

The Visitor – Fiction Short Story

September 25, 2007

Click the link below and read my short story – The Visitor

http://vikramkarve.sulekha.com/blog/post/2007/09/the-visitor-fiction-short-story.htm

VIKRAM KARVE

Lovedale – a short story

August 20, 2007

LOVEDALE

 

(a short story)

 

by

 

VIKRAM KARVE

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

“Yes,” the woman replies softly.

 

 

 

“You should have told her before.”

 

 

 

“When?”

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

“How could I be so cruel?”

 

 

 

“Cruel? What’s so cruel about it?”

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

“She’ll understand.”

 

 

 

“Poor thing. She will be all alone.”

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

“Can’t we take her with us?”

 

 

 

“You know it’s not possible.”

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

“An Old Age Home?”

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

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

       

“Not now. I’ll ring you up,” says the woman.

  “Okay. But tell them everything. We can’t wait any longer.”

 

 

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

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

“DLFMTC ?”

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

“Next time you too …”

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

That evening the woman tells them everything.

 

 

 

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

   

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

 

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

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

VIKRAM KARVE

 

Copyright 2006 Vikram Karve

 

 

 

vikramkarve@sify.com

 

vikramkarve@hotmail.com

 

 

http://vikramkarve.sulekha.com

 

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

 

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

   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Wallflower [parts 1,2,3,4,5]

July 19, 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 by VIKRAM KARVE  [Part 5]    I read the letter once again, slowly, carefully, word by word, till the last line – “And remember to destroy this letter right now”.  It was unbelievable – this bolt from the blue from Manisha. I laughed to myself. I thought I was smart, but it was Manisha who was playing the double game. I put the letter on the table, closed my eyes, and tried to think clearly. It was crazy – a classy snob like Avinash Gokhale falling for a pedestrian Plain Jane like Manisha Patwardhan! Yes, Love is blind – Love is truly blind! Or, is it?    Instinctively I picked up my cell-phone and called Manisha. “Hi, Vijay,” Manisha said, “what’s up?” “Just thought of you, so called to say Hi,” I said. “How’s life out there?” “Good. I like Delhi. You’ll like it too – when you come here.” “Come there?” “You’re going to come here and stay with me in Delhi after we get married, aren’t you?” “Of course,” Manisha said smoothly – so smoothly, so slickly, so effortlessly, so glibly, without even the slightest demur or trace of dither, that, for a moment I was struck dumb. “Hey, Vijay, what happened?” Manisha asked. “Nothing,” I answered, “everything okay out there?” “Oh, yes, I’d gone to your place this morning – everyone is fine.” “Your parents?” “My Mum and Dad are fine. Everyone is okay – just waiting for you to come. When are you coming to Pune?” “I don’t know. There’s lots of work.” “Come on, Vijay. Don’t tell me you can’t come for a day or two, at least on a weekend. I’m sure there’s not that much work that the heavens will fall if you are not there.” “It’s not that – my boss here is a funny guy.” “Funny Guy?” “A painful killjoy called Avinash Gokhale,” I said, and listened carefully, but I couldn’t even detect even the slightest gasp or tremor in her voice as Manisha continued talking smoothly and glibly as ever, “Never mind, Vijay, you just work hard,” and then she effortlessly changed the subject to the latest happenings in Pune and started off with mushy ‘sweet nothings’ about how much she missed me. Listening to her, for a moment, I thought the letter in front of me was a forgery, but then I knew Manisha’s handwriting too well. I was too flabbergasted to continue the conversation so I quickly said bye and kept the cell-phone on the table. I never imagined Manisha could be so secretive, so mendacious. It was strange – how close one can be to a person and yet know nothing about her. And Avinash Gokhale? I worked with him every day, spent hours together, yet knew nothing about him, except that he was brilliant workaholic and a recluse – a most boring and private person who always kept to himself, never mixed around, never socialized or attended parties, a pain in the neck who everyone avoided and the only thing he ever talked was about work. Made for each other – two secretive loners – Manisha Patwardhan and Avinash Gokhale. But why was I so bothered? Good Luck to them! My problem was being solved. I had to just quietly wait and watch, do nothing, till my boss found some nice smart chic girl for me. Can anyone be luckier? Life was going to be exciting! I carefully put Manisha’s letter back into the envelope and resealed it meticulously with a glue-stick. No one could have suspected that it had been steamed open. Now all I had to do was to quietly put it in the mail folder of Avinash Gokhale before he reached office on Monday morning.  Suddenly, I was jolted out of my thoughts by the ring-tone of my cell-phone. “Hello!” I said. “Is that Mr. Joshi?” a sweet mellifluous feminine voice said. “Yes. Vijay Joshi here,” I said. “I’m Vibha speaking.”  “Vibha?” I asked surprised. I didn’t know any Vibha.   “Oh I’m sorry Mr. Joshi, we haven’t met. I’m Vibha Gokhale. Avinash Gokhale’s wife.”   [ 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          

A SMALL GIRL’S TALE

July 11, 2007

A SMALL GIRL’S TALE

 

(a fiction short story)

 

by

 VIKRAM KARVE        It all started when God took my baby brother away. Poor thing! God took him away even before he was born. And Mamma was never the same again; she changed forever.     We were so happy then. My Papa, my Mamma, Granny and me. We all lived in a cute little house in a place called Madiwale Colony in Sadashiv Peth in Pune.     In the morning Papa caught the company bus to his factory in Pimpri and Mamma walked me down to my school nearby on Bajirao Road. And the evenings we all went to the Talyatla Ganpati temple in Saras Baug, played on the lush green lawns, and if Papa was in a good mood he would treat me to a yummy Bhel prepared by the man with the huge flowing beard at the Kalpana Bhel stall on the way back.     On Sundays we would go to Laxmi Road for shopping, Misal at Santosh Bhavan, Amba ice cream at Ganu Shinde and, maybe, a Marathi movie at Prabhat, Vijay or Bhanuvilas.     And once in a while, Papa would take us on his Bajaj scooter to Camp, or a ride on the Jangli Maharaj Road, or to picnic spots like Khadakvasla and Katraj lakes, or up Sinhagarh Fort, and once we even went all the way to Lonavala; Papa, Mamma and me, all riding on our beloved and hardy scooter.     It was a good life, and we were happy and content. Two things are a must for a happy home – firstly, you should love your home, and always want to go home (your home should be the best place in the world for you); and, secondly, your home should love you, want you to come, beckon you, welcome you and like you to live in it.  Our cute little house in Sadashiv Peth with all the loving people in living in it was indeed a happy home. And I had lots of friends all around.     One day they all said Mamma was going to have a baby. Being a girl myself, I wanted a baby sister to play with, but Granny scolded me and said it must be a baby brother, so I said okay – I would manage with a baby brother.     And suddenly one day, when Mamma’s tummy was bloating quite a bit, they rushed her to hospital, and God took my unborn baby brother away. And Mamma changed forever.     I sat beside Mamma in the hospital and consoled her, “Don’t worry. God will send another baby brother.”     And on hearing this Mamma started crying and said she would never have a baby again and I was her only baby.   She looked pale and had a sad look in her eyes for many days even after leaving hospital. Most of the time she would sit alone brooding by the window or moping all alone in her room.     “She’ll go crazy sitting in the house all day. She must do something!” everyone said, but Papa was adamant: “Who’ll look after the house, my mother, my daughter?” he asked.     “Don’t worry, I’ll manage everything,” Granny said, so Mamma joined a Computer class nearby. And soon she started becoming normal again. “She’s a natural programmer,” everyone praised her, and when she finished the course she was offered a good job in a top software firm.     “No way,” said Papa, “I’m the breadwinner. I don’t want my wife to work. I want her to look after the house.”     “MCP,” said everyone to Papa. I didn’t know what MCP meant, but it made Papa very angry.     “Let her work. I’ll manage the house,” Granny said.     “Don’t worry, Papa. I’m a big girl now and can look after myself. I’ll study regularly and come first,” I promised.     And so, Mamma started working. And when she brought her first pay and gave it to Papa, he said proudly, “I’ll be the last person to touch my wife’s money, to live off my wife.” So my Mamma gave the money to Granny and Papa didn’t say a thing, he just sulked for days.     Life was hectic now. Mamma got up very early, cooked the food, did the housework, got ready and then both Papa and Mamma caught their respective company buses to their faraway workplaces – he to his factory in Pimpri and she to the IT Park. And after that Granny made me ready and I walked down Bajirao Road to my school.     One day my Mamma’s boss came home with Mamma. He said the company wanted to send Mamma abroad to the US for working on a project. He had come home to convince Papa to let her go. I thought Papa would argue, and hoped he would not let her go, but surprisingly he meekly agreed, probably thinking it was futile to argue, and Mamma went away to the States for three months.     Then there was an IT boom. That was a turning point in our lives. Mamma started doing better and better. Papa felt jealous that she was earning more than him, so he took VRS and started a business selling spare parts. And then a competition started between them, and soon they were making so much money that Sadashiv Peth wasn’t a good enough place to stay in any longer as it did not befit their new found status!     So we moved to a luxury apartment in a fancy township in a posh suburb of Pune, and I was put in a school known more for its snob appeal than studies. Our new house was in a beautiful colony, far away from the city, with landscaped gardens, clubhouse, swimming pool, gym, and so many facilities. It was so luxurious, and people living there so highbrow and snobbish, that Granny and I were miserable. “It’s like a 5 star prison,” she would say. She was right in one way. For the whole day when we were away she was trapped inside with nothing to but watch soaps on cable TV.     I too missed our cute old house in Sadashiv Peth, the Bhel, the trips to Saras Baug and Laxmi Road and most of all my earlier friends who were so friendly unlike the snobbish people here. Oh yes, this was indeed a better house, but our old place in Sadashiv Peth was certainly a better home!     But Granny and me – we managed somehow, as Mamma increased her trips abroad and Papa was busy expanding his flourishing business.     And suddenly one day God took Granny away. Mamma was abroad in the States on an important project and she just couldn’t come immediately. She came back after one month and for days Papa and she kept discussing something. I sensed it was about me.     And tomorrow morning, I’m off to an elite boarding school in Panchgani.     I don’t know whether what has happened is good or bad, or what is going to happen in future, but one thing is sure: If God hadn’t taken my baby brother away; I wouldn’t be going to boarding school!        

VIKRAM KARVE

 Copyright 2006 Vikram Karve    http://vikramkarve.sulekha.com   

vikramkarve@sify.com

  vikramkarve@hotmail.com  

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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