Creative Writing Weblog of Vikram Karve

Creative Writng, fiction, food, philosophy and my thoughts.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

My Story

MY STORY
(a fiction short story)
by
VIKRAM KARVE


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

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

In the morning Papa caught the company bus to his factory in Pimpri and Mamma walked me down to my school nearby on Bajirao Road. And the evenings we all went to the Talyatla Ganpati temple in Saras Baug, played on the lush green lawns, and if Papa was in a good mood he would treat me to a yummy Bhel prepared by the man with the huge flowing beard at the Kalpana Bhel stall on the way back.

On Sundays we would go to Laxmi Road for shopping, Misal at Santosh Bhavan, Amba ice cream at Ganu Shinde and, maybe, a Marathi movie at Prabhat, Vijay or Bhanuvilas.

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

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

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

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

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

And on hearing this Mamma started crying and said she would never have a baby again and I was her only baby.
She looked pale and had a sad look in her eyes for many days even after leaving hospital. Most of the time she would sit alone brooding by the window or moping all alone in her room.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That was a turning point in our lives. There was an IT boom and 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 area 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 elite 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

vikramkarve@sify.com

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

I Love You ( a short story ) by Vikram Karve

I LOVE YOU
(a fiction short 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 naked woman is still asleep, her breathing untroubled.

It’s a long distance marriage, and they’ve 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. “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 lovemaking with his wife, each performing for the other’s pleasure and both faking pleasure thinking the other would not know.

“Yes, darling. Poor you. I can understand,” the wife says, and sips her cocktail. It’s her third. She wonders what it is – the mysterious but deadly potent 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. 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 standard routine scheduled communication completed, both of them disconnect their cell-phones. And carry on with renewed zeal their respective amorous interests presently in hand.

I’ve heard somewhere. Absence makes the heart grow fonder – for someone else.

Unnatural loneliness; for too long. It does take its toll, doesn’t it?

And as far as ‘Quality Time’ is concerned. There’s no doubt about it. It’s Quality Time that sustains and nourishes long distance marriages. Yes. Quality Time – with someone else!

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



I LOVE YOU
(a fiction short story)
by
VIKRAM KARVE

vikramkarve@sify.com

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

A short story by Vikram Karve - The possibilities are endless

THE POSSIBILITIES ARE ENDLESS
(a fiction short story)
by
VIKRAM KARVE


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Thanks for coming, Vibha,” he said.
“I was scared you’d do something stupid, indiscreet.” I scolded him.
“You haven’t told your husband about your past?”
“No.”
“Why?”
“I don’t know.”
“Tell him now. There’s no place for secrets between husband and wife”

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

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

“He is coming back tomorrow.”
“I know. In time for the Mysore Derby. Your horse Bingo is running, isn’t it?”
“How do you know all this?”
“It’s common knowledge. Besides I make a living prying into other people’s lives.” Dilip paused for a moment. “Don’t worry, Vibha. The races start only at two tomorrow afternoon. We’ve got plenty of time together. He won’t know. I promise you.”

The bus stopped. We had arrived at the Mysore Palace.
“Come, Vibha. Let me take your photo,” Dilip said, talking out his camera.

“No,” I snapped.
“Okay. You take mine. I’ll stand there. Make sure you get the Palace in the frame.” He gave me the camera and said, “Have a look. It’s a special camera. I’ll focus the zoom lens if you want.”

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

“Who?” I asked.
“Lady in the sky-blue sari, long hair. Man in the yellow T-shirt and jeans, still wearing his Ray Ban aviator.”

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

“I don’t think they are having an affair,” I said, once we were inside the cool confines of the Mysore Palace, admiring the wall paintings of the Dasera procession. “The boy looks so young and handsome. And she’s middle-aged and her looks- so pedestrian. A most improbable combination.”

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

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

“I don’t understand,” I said.
“The right of a widow to maintenance is conditional upon her leading a life of chastity.”

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

“What if she doesn’t agree ?”
“Then we’ll intensify the surveillance. A ‘no holds barred’ investigation. Two-way mirrors with installed video cameras, bugs with recording equipment,” Dilip paused, and said, “In fact, in this case I’m so desperate for success that I’m even considering computer morphing if nothing else works.”

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

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

“What are you up to? With me?” I asked.
Dilip did not answer. He just smiled and led me towards our bus. I was glad I had not married Dilip. I had never known he could sink to such depths. I hated him for the way he was using me. Taking advantage of my fear, my helplessness. The bastard.

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

“It’s beautiful,” Dilip said, looking at the famous painting - ‘Lady with the Lamp’ - at the Mysore Museum.

“Yes,” I answered, jolted out of my thoughts.
“Remember, Vibha. The last time we were here. It’s been almost ten years.”

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

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

“Nalini told me not to marry you,” I said involuntarily, instantly regretting my words.
“And then she forced you to marry Girish, your brother-in-law.”
“Girish is not my brother-in-law. He is my co-brother.”
“Co-brother indeed! He is the younger brother of your elder sister Nalini’s husband. So he is your brother in law also isn’t it?” Dilip said sarcastically.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Never mind,” Dilip said leading me into the foyer of the hotel.
“No,” I insisted. “I want to know.”
“It is sometimes important for an operative conducting surveillance to put himself under observation.”

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

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

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

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

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

“No, I said. “Just blurred images.”
Instinctively I rushed with Dilip to his office-cum-laboratory. He told me not to come, but I did not listen, a strange inner force propelling me.

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

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

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

“No, Vibha !” Dilip said. “I can’t do it.”
“You can’t do it or you won’t do it?” I asserted. “Listen, Dilip. You have to do it. I want you to do it.”

“Why, Vibha. Why?”
I smiled and said, “Dilip, remember what you said in the afternoon; your motto : You never ask the question ‘why’. You just state your fee.” I paused. “So Dilip. Just state your fee!”

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

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


THE POSSIBILITIES ARE ENDLESS
(A fiction short story)
by
VIKRAM KARVE

vikramkarve@sify.com

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

The Journey

THE JOURNEY
(a fiction short story)
by
VIKRAM KARVE


What I am about to tell you happened last week. I am twelve years old, I’m a girl and my name is Pooja. I was traveling from Mumbai to Pune by train. I’ve traveled by train so many times before, but this was the first time I was traveling alone.

My father came to see me off in the AC Chair Car on the Deccan Queen at Mumbai. He seemed anxious and kept on saying the same things again and again, ‘Pooja, take care. Don’t get down at any station. It’s only a three hour journey. She’ll come to pick you up at Pune. I’ve told her your coach and seat number. And I’ve told uncle to look after you.”

‘Uncle’ was a young man of about twenty-five on the seat next to mine. “Don’t you worry, sir,” he said to my father, “she’ll be delivered safe and sound.” He gave me a friendly smile. It was a genuine warmhearted smile, not a patronizing one of forced geniality. He looked quite smart and handsome. I liked him and felt happy to have him as a companion. And of course I had the window seat in case he turned out to be a bore.

Now my father was talking to the train-conductor, probably telling him the same things. To look after me. Make sure I reached safe and sound. Repeating the same thing again and again. I felt embarrassed but didn’t say anything. For I knew my father genuinely cared for me. After all, he had no one else in this world, except me.

I felt worried about Papa. That’s why when he kissed me on the cheek just before the train started, I whispered in his ear, “Papa, don’t drink too much.” I knew how much he hated being all alone and lonely and now I wouldn’t be there to look after him.

The train moved. I looked at my watch. 5:10pm. The Deccan Queen started speeding towards Pune. We would be there by dinner-time.

The young man next to me took out a book from his bag and kept it on his knees in front of him. It was a ‘Mills & Boon’ romance! I smiled to myself. He seemed to be an interesting character. Young men in their twenties surely don’t read Mills & Boon. Or do they? Well this one was! Actually he should been inside the Mills & Boon, as the Hero, rather than outside, just reading it!

I was curious and wanted to know more about him. So I looked at him and said, “Hello, uncle. I’m Pooja.”

“Oh yes! Pooja Ranade! Age 12!”

“How do you know all this?” I asked taken aback.

“I read the reservation chart,” he said. “No matter how many times I begin a train journey, I always have an intriguing interest in finding out who my fellow-passengers are.”

“Are you a detective or something?”

“No,” he said smiling. “I’m in the Navy. The Merchant Navy.” He held out his hand,” Girish Pradhan. And don’t call me uncle. Just call me Girish.”

We shook hands. His grip was firm, strong. He really looked handsome and strong – a manly man!

The Mills & Boon paperback fell off. He picked it up and put it back on his knees. It seemed funny. A manly man like him reading Mills & Boon.

He spoke, “Been to Pune before?”

“Oh yes,” I said. “My father worked in Pune there before we came to Mumbai. But it’s the first time I’m traveling alone by train.”

“Then you can help me out,” he said. “You know a restaurant called Vaishali?”

“Don’t tell me you don’t know Vaishali?” I asked surprised.

“No,” he said. “It’s the first time I’m going to Pune. But she told me it was a famous restaurant and I’d find it easily.”

“She?”

“My friend.”

“Girlfriend?” I asked curious.

“Okay. You can call her that. She’s a girl and she’s a friend. She’s told me to meet her at Vaishali. Tomorrow at 10 o’clock in the morning. She promised she would be there.”

“At Vaishali?”

“Yes,” he said. “She told me that the Dosa at Vaishali is even better than the one at Shompen.”

“Shompen.?”

“It’s the best restaurant in Port Blair.”

“Port Blair! That’s where you met her, is it?” I asked. This was getting interesting.

“Yes. Last December. We were sailing to Singapore and unexpectedly had to dock in Port Blair for some emergency repairs. Just three days. And there I met her.”

Wow! A real life romantic story! And this was like a fairy tale. It was getting more and more exciting and I wanted to ask him so many things.

Who was she? Her name? What happened? How did they fall in love? And what about the Mills & Boon on his lap?

But before I could speak, he suddenly said, “Hey! Why am I telling you all this? It’s supposed to be secret.”

“I promise I won’t tell anyone. She’s more than a friend isn’t she?”

“That’s what I’m going to find out. Tomorrow morning. In Vaishali.”

“Now come on, don’t tell me you haven’t met for her one year!”

“Really. We haven’t met after that. I was sailing. And she didn’t give me her number, address or even e-mail id. Just told me to come and meet her at Vaishali in Pune at 10 tomorrow.”

“So exciting, and mysterious,” I said, “I wish I could come too.”

“Sure. I’d love if you come.” he said. “But before that you must tell me more about yourself. Why are you going to Pune?”

“To see my new mother,” I blurted out without thinking. I love to talk to someone who loves to talk, he was so easy to talk to, and my words just came tumbling out. My mother’s sudden death. My father sinking into depression. His drinking problem. Everyone advising him to remarry. His refusal. Just for my sake. And this proposal. My father insisting that I see her first and like her. I told him everything.

“You mean your father hasn’t even met her?” Girish asked.

“No. Only relatives. Papa has only spoken to her on the phone,” I said. “Actually Papa is worried. About me. He wants me to meet her first and like her. He loves me so much. So he sent her a long letter and she too sent a letter to me asking me to come to Pune , stay with her for a few days and we could get to know each other.” I couldn’t speak any longer. Tears had welled in my eyes.

For some time there was silence.

I felt embarrassed at having told everything to a complete stranger. But I felt good too. Why? I do not know.

I wiped my tears and nose with my hankie and said, “I’m sorry, uncle.”

“Uncle? Hey, come on. I’m not that old. Call me Girish. I told you, didn’t I? And don’t worry. I’m sure everything will work out and you will be happy. I’ll pray for you!”

“I’ll pray for you too! I’m sure she will marry you!” I said.

“I hope so,” he said. I’m just about making it to this appointment at Vaishali. Almost by a hair’s breadth. I signed off from my ship in Japan yesterday. Reached Mumbai today morning. And here I am on the train. She told me if I didn’t keep my appointment with her tomorrow, she’d go ahead and marry someone else.”

“So romantic!” I said. “I’m dying to meet her.”

“So am I,” he said. “It’s more than one year since we said goodbye to each other at Port Blair on the fifteenth of December last year promising each other to meet tomorrow – the 24th December this year at 10 a.m. at Vaishali restaurant in Pune.”

“Why 24th of December?”

“It’s her birthday”

“But you must have written to each other. At least spoken on the phone. E-mail.”

“No. I told you didn’t I? She didn’t give me anything; her address, e-mail, phone number nothing! She was in Port Blair on a holiday. And me. I’ve been sailing since.” He paused, picked up the Mills & Boon book from his lap and said, “This was the only thing she gave me. This Mills & Boon book she had in her purse.”

“Can I see it?”

“No. You are too small for Mills & Boon.” He kept the book in the plastic book-rack in front of his seat, turned to me and said,” Pooja, you must come with me to Vaishali tomorrow. I’ll pick you up and we’ll get a surprise cake. We’ll celebrate her birthday together.”

“But you haven’t even told me her name.”

“You’ll find out tomorrow,” he said. And if she doesn’t come, I’ll be heartbroken. Then you can console me. But I’m sure she will be there waiting for me. She promised. Whatever her decision, she said she won’t ditch me. She’ll definitely be there for our appointment.”

I looked out of the tinted-glass window. The sun was about to set. Outside it was getting dark. Inside it was cold. The Deccan Queen slowed down. 6:45. The train entered a station. I read the name – it was Karjat.

I turned to Girish and said, “Let’s get down. You get good batata-wadas here.”

“How do you know? The first time you are going to Pune isn’t it?

“It’s the first time I’m traveling alone,” I said. “We used to go up and down between Pune and Mumbai so many times when Mama was there.”

“I’ll get the Batata-Wadas.Your father said you’re not to get down.”

“Please?”

“Okay.”

We strolled on the platform eating the delicious batata-wadas and suddenly Girish said, “I’m nervous. I really hope everything works out.”

“Me too,” I said. “Papa is so lonely. He needs someone. But he’s so worried for me. He keeps worrying whether I’ll like her or not.”

“Of course, she will like you. I’m sure it will work out. For both of us. Why don’t you bring her to Vaishali tomorrow along with you?” he said.

“I’ll try. It’ll be good. I can see your future wife and you can see my future mother.”

“Okay, try. But you must come.”

“I will,” I said. “Like a kabab-me-haddi.”

We laughed and got inside the train. The Deccan Queen began its climb up the Western Ghats.

“Hi, Girish!” a loud voice said.

I looked up. It was a young bearded man. A boisterous type!

“Oh, Hi Sanjiv. What a surprise? What are you doing here?” Girish getting up from his seat.

“I’m going to see a girl in Pune,” the man called Sanjiv said.

“And you, Girish? What brings you to Pune,” Sanjiv asked.

“I’m looking to buy some real estate; an apartment, plot, bungalow or something,” Girish lied shamefacedly. I suppressed a giggle.

“Real estate? Great. Hey, why don’t you have a look and the Row House I bought just a month ago in Lonavala. It’s ideal for shippies like us. If you like it, you can book one. The scheme is still open.”

“No, No,” Girish said, “I’ve got an appointment in Pune. With the builders.”

“When?”

“Tomorrow morning. At ten.”

“And where are you going to spend night?”

“I don’t know. Some hotel or someplace.”

“Oh come on Girish. Why don’t you spend the night with me instead of hunting for some dreadful hotel at night? We’ve so much to talk. I’ve got your favourite single malt stocked up. And once you see my awesome Row House you’ll forget about buying a house in Pune. And I’ll drop you first thing in the morning. It’s only an hour’s drive to Pune. I’ve got to go and see that girl too!”

I could sense that Girish wanted to go so I said, “It’s okay. I’ll manage. She’s definitely coming to pick me up.”

Sanjiv looked at me in a curious manner, so Girish said, “This is Pooja. My co-passenger. I promised her father I’d deliver her safely.”

“Hi, Pooja, “Sanjiv said. “Girish and me are batch mates and shipmates. We were cadets together. We’re meeting after five years. Please tell him to come.”

I knew that both of them were dying to talk to each other, have a good time, so I told Girish, “ You get down at Lonavala. I promise I’ll look after myself. I’ve got my mobile with me and I’ve got her phone number also. And suppose you were not here – I would have reached anyway isn’t it? ”

I insisted, and egged on by Sanjiv, Girish got down at Lonavala but not before requesting the lady across the aisle to look after me. He also gave me his cell phone number and making me promise I would ring him up and also my Papa the moment I reached Pune .

It was only after the train left Lonavla on its final run to Pune did I notice that Girish had forgotten his Mills & Boon. I took out the book from the rack and opened it. On the first page was written in beautiful cursive handwriting:

“Dear Girish,

I shall always cherish the lovely time we had together in Port Blair. But remember there’s a thin line between pity and love.
Swati”



I recognized the exquisite distinctive handwriting at once. It was exactly the same as the handwriting in the letter I was carrying in my purse.

I knew I had to ask Swati just one question : “Had she ever been to Port Blair?”

And to Girish I sent an SMS asking him to be on time for his appointment in Vaishali at 10 in the morning.




VIKRAM KARVE

vikramkarve@sify.com

Monday, June 05, 2006

Happenstance by Vikram Karve

HAPPENSTANCE
(a fiction short story)
by
VIKRAM KARVE


“Excuse me, are you Urvashi Mukherjee by any chance?” a feminine voice said on my right.

I turned my face and looked at the smart young woman wearing a red top and dark blue jeans. Though not ‘fair and lovely’ in the conventional sense, she looked very desirable, in a sensual kind of way. Chic and sexy, flowing hair, just the right amount of make-up, she exuded confidence, and as she looked at me with those wonderfully radiant, large and expressive dancing eyes, I felt a strong attraction towards her, even though I myself was a woman.

“Yes. I’m Urvashi Mukherjee,” I said.

“Hi! I’m Babita. Babita Khanna,” she said.

“Sorry Ms. Khanna, but I don’t think we’ve met before.”

“Sad isn’t it? But I know everything about you Urvashi!” she gave a vivacious laugh and reached out to my arm displaying a rather impulsive and gratuitous intimacy and said, “I recognized you instantly, the moment I saw you. You look exactly like you do in your photograph!”

“My photograph?” I asked, pulling away my arm.

“Yes. You look lovely. Exactly as in the photo Milan keeps in wallet.”

Milan! I didn’t like the way she casually referred to my husband by his first name. She’d called me Urvashi too! I was truly flabbergasted. Who was this woman? Acting so intimate, talking on first name terms. And how had she seen my photo in Milan’s wallet?

“You know Milan?”

“Of course. We work in the same office. Hasn’t he told you about me?”

“No. I don’t think so. At least I don’t remember.”

“That’s surprising! I know everything about you but you know nothing about me!” she paused, and then said, “ Milan should have told you about me. He’s told me everything about you!”

“Milan’s told you everything about me?” I repeated. Bewildered I turned my face away from her and looked straight ahead at the painting in front of me.

“Hey, Milan didn’t tell me you were an art-buff! I never imagined I would run into you here - at the Jehangir Art Gallery.”

“I’m no aficionado,” I said, trying to sound sarcastic, “I’m just killing time here till it stops raining.”

“Aficionado! That’s a good one! I never imagined you’d speak such highbrow English considering you’ve studied in the vernacular.”

This was too much! Anger began to rise inside me, but the woman persisted, “You know Urvashi, Milan keeps telling me of your hilarious malapropisms when you were newly married!”

“I’m sure he’s told you about our honeymoon too?” I blurted out in anger instantly regretting the words the moment they left my mouth.

“Of course,” she said with a mischievous smile, “the way you got all sozzled on your first night on the beach in Goa when he mixed Feni in your juice trying to remove your inhibitions!”

Now I was really furious. I didn’t want to talk with this woman any longer, so I said, “Bye Ms. Khanna. It must have stopped raining. Time for me to go. I’d hate to come in between the beautiful paintings and a true connoisseur of art like you!”

“Hey! Come on! I’m no connoisseur of art. I too ran in here to take shelter from the heavy rain,” the woman laughed and said, “and listen – don’t call me Ms. Khanna, just call me Babita. I’m calling you Urvashi isn’t it?”

“Okay. Nice talking to you,” I said and walked out of the gallery to the foyer of Jehangir Art Gallery. It was still raining so I stood at the entrance looking out towards Kalaghoda waiting for the rain to stop.

To my horror I noticed that the woman had followed me and was standing next to me which made me feel quite uneasy and uncomfortable. She was a real mystery. How come Milan had never mentioned her? He always told me everything. At least that’s what I thought. Till now!

I had plans for the afternoon and didn’t want her clinging to me like a parasite.

“Let’s go shopping she said as if reading my mind through clairvoyance. What will you do all alone at home? So she knew! Milan had told her even that!”

“I’m really not keen on shopping right now,” I said. “Besides I have to get home early. We’re going out for a movie and dinner tonight.”

“No, you aren’t.”

“What do you mean we aren’t? He’s already bought the tickets.”

“Maybe, but he’s not going to turn up before midnight. You can take my word for it.”

“He promised me!” I said defiantly.

“Promises are meant to be broken! He won’t come. He’ll be busy doing my work since I’ve taken the day off. And then he has to go to a business dinner.”

“Business Dinner?”

“Don’t delve too much!”

“What nonsense! I’ll ring him up right now,” I said and took out my mobile.

“No point,” she said, “his mobile will be switched off right now. He’ll be in a meeting. But don’t worry. Milan will ring you up at around 6 to call off your movie and dinner programme. He’ll tell you he has to work late. He won’t mention the ‘business dinner’ part though.”

“How do you know all this?”

“I told you. Milan tells me everything. There are no secrets between true friends.”

Friends? This was getting murkier. First she was a colleague; now she’d become a friend! Oh yes! How bizarre? No secrets between friends; but plenty of secrets between husband and wife!

The rain was down to a drizzle and she said, “Come let’s go shopping. And then we’ll enjoy ourselves. We’ll go to all your favourite places. And do all the things you like.”

I wondered why she was doing this to me? What was her motive? Was this really a chance meeting, a coincidence, happenstance, serendipity, or was it a contrived coincidence? I had to get to the bottom of it all, so I said, “Okay Babita. Let’s go. I want to find out whether Milan has really told you everything about me!”




VIKRAM KARVE

vikramkarve@sify.com

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Book Review

Book Review

The Autobiography of Maharshi Karve : “Looking Back” by Dhondo Keshav Karve (1936)

Reviewed by Vikram Waman Karve




The Book : Looking Back
The Author : Dhondo Keshav Karve
First Published in 1936

Looking Back ( The Autobiography ) by Dhondo Keshav Karve
( Maharshi Karve ) with a preface by Frederick J. Gould.


Dear Reader, you must be wondering why I am reviewing an autobiography written in 1936. Well, till recently I stayed on Maharshi Karve Road in Mumbai. I share the same surname as the author. Also, I happen to be the great grandson of Maharshi Karve. But, beyond that, compared to him I am a nobody – not even a pygmy.

Maharshi Karve clearly knew his goal, persisted ceaselessly throughout his life with missionary zeal and transformed the destiny of the Indian Woman. The first university for women in India - The SNDT University and educational institutions for women covering the entire spectrum ranging from pre-primary schools to post-graduate, engineering, vocational and professional colleges bear eloquent testimony to his indomitable spirit, untiring perseverance and determined efforts.

In his preface, Frederick J Gould writes that “the narrative is a parable of his career” – a most apt description of the autobiography. The author tells his life-story in a simple straightforward manner, with remarkable candour and humility; resulting in a narrative which is friendly, interesting and readable.

Autobiographies are sometimes voluminous tomes, but this a small book, 200 pages, and a very easy comfortable enjoyable read that makes it almost unputdownable. Dr. DK Karve writes a crisp, flowing narrative of his life, interspersed with his views and anecdotes, in simple, straightforward style which facilitates the reader to visualize through the author’s eyes the places, period, people and events pertaining to his life and times and the trials and tribulations he faced and struggled to conquer.


Dr. Dhondo Keshav Karve was born on 18th of April 1858. In the first few chapters he writes about Murud, his native place in Konkan, Maharashtra, his ancestry and his early life– the description is so vivid that you can clearly “see” through the author’s eye. His struggle to appear in the public service examination ( walking 110 miles in torrential rain and difficult terrain to Satara), and the shattering disappointment at not being allowed to appear because “he looked too young”, make poignant reading.

“Many undreamt of things have happened in my life and given a different turn to my career” he writes, and then goes on to describe his high school and, later, college education at The Wilson College Bombay (Mumbai) narrating various incidents that convinced him of the role of destiny and serendipity in shaping his life and career as a teacher and then Professor of Mathematics.

He married at the age of fourteen but began his marital life at the age of twenty! This was the custom of those days. Let’s read the author’s own words on his domestic life: “ … I was married at the age of fourteen and my wife was then eight. Her family lived very near to ours and we knew each other very well and had often played together. However after marriage we had to forget our old relation as playmates and to behave as strangers, often looking toward each other but never standing together to exchange words…. We had to communicate with each other through my sister…… My marital life began under the parental roof at Murud when I was twenty…” Their domestic bliss was short lived as his wife died after a few years leaving behind a son… “Thus ended the first part of my domestic life”… he concludes in crisp style.

An incident highlighting the plight of a widow left an indelible impression on him and germinated in him the idea of widow remarriage. He married Godubai, who was widowed when she was only eight years old, was a sister of his friend Mr. Joshi, and now twenty three was studying at Pandita Ramabai’s Sharada Sadan as its first widow student.

Let’s read in the author’s own words how he asked for her hand in marriage to her father – “ I told him…..I had made up my mind to marry a widow. He sat silent for a minute and then hinted that there was no need to go in search of such a bride”.

He describes in detail the ostracism he faced from some orthodox quarters and systematically enunciates his life work - his organization of the Widow Marriage Association, Hindu Widows Home, Mahila Vidyalaya, Nishkama Karma Math, and other institutions, culminating in the birth of the first Indian Women’s University ( SNDT University).

The trials and tribulations he faced in his life-work of emancipation of education of women (widows in particular) and how he overcame them by his persistent steadfast endeavours and indomitable spirit makes illuminating reading and underlines the fact that Dr. DK Karve was no arm-chair social reformer but a person devoted to achieve his dreams on the ground in reality.

These chapters form the meat of the book and make compelling reading. His dedication and meticulousness is evident in the appendices where he has given datewise details of his engagements and subscriptions down to the paisa for his educational institutions from various places he visited around the world to propagate their cause.

He then describes his world tour, at the ripe age of 71, to meet eminent educationists to propagate the cause of the Women’s University, his later domestic life and ends with a few of his views and ideas for posterity. At the end of the book, concluding his autobiography, he writes: “Here ends the story of my life. I hope this simple story will serve some useful purpose”.

He wrote this in 1936. He lived on till the 9th of November 1962, achieving so much more on the way, was conferred the honorary degree of Doctor of Letters ( D.Litt.) by the Banaras Hindu University in 1942 followed by Poona in 1951, SNDT in 1955, and Bombay(LL.D.) in 1957. Maharshi Karve received the Padma Vibhushan in 1955 and the nation’s highest honour the “Bharat Ratna” in 1958, a fitting tribute on his centenary at the age of 100.



Epilogue

I was born in 1956, and have fleeting memories of Maharshi Karve, during our visits to Hingne Stree Sikshan Samstha in 1961-62, as a small boy of 5 or 6 can. My mother tells me that I featured in a films division documentary on him during his centenary celebrations in 1958 ( I must have been barely two, maybe one and a half years old ) and there is a photograph of him and his great grand children in which I feature. It is from some old timers and other people and mainly from books that I learn of his pioneering work in transforming the destiny of the Indian Woman and I thought I should share this.

I have written this book review with the hope that some of us, particularly the students and alumni of SNDT University, Cummins College of Engineering for Women, SOFT, Karve Institute of Social Sciences and other educational institutions who owe their very genesis and existence to Maharshi Karve, read about his stellar pioneering work and draw inspiration from his autobiography.

Two other good books pertaining to the life of Maharshi Karve which I have read are : Maharshi Karve by Ganesh L. Chandavarkar, Popular Prakashan (1958) and Maharshi Karve – His 105 years, Hingne Stree Shikshan Samstha (1963).



VIKRAM WAMAN KARVE

vikramkarve@sify.com

Friday, April 28, 2006

Banter

BANTER
(a fiction short story)
by
VIKRAM KARVE



It’s late and the bar at the Savoy is almost empty. There are just three people – a couple, a man and woman, in their thirties, sit together on a sofa; and on the sofa just behind them sits a solitary man, unseen, in the shadows.

It is quite dark as the lights are dim; in fact the lights are so dim that the man and woman can hardly see each other’s face. They have been drinking for quite some time, and, in fact, the woman appears pleasantly drunk as she engages the man in some lighthearted banter, slurring loudly as she speaks.

“She dumped you, isn’t it?” the woman says.

“No. That’s not true. Leena didn’t dump me. It was I who left her!” the man says emphatically.

“Come on, Anil. You think I don’t know everything about you two?”

“You don’t. You know nothing. It was I who left her. I told you once; I’m telling you again! She didn’t dump me. I didn’t want to live with her, so I left her.”

“Don’t fib!”

“Fib? Why should I?”

“Masculine pride!”

“Masculine pride? What nonsense!”

“When a man ditches a woman she gains sympathy; but when a woman dumps a man he becomes a laughing stock, a subject of ridicule.”

“So?”

“That’s why you ran away from Bangalore after spreading lies all around that you were the one who had split up with her, when actually it was Leena who had dumped you unceremoniously,” the woman jeers loudly.

“Talk softly,” the man says.

“Why? Afraid of the truth, is it?”

“I told you it’s not true. We had our differences. And I wanted a change of job.”

“You know why she dumped you? Because you are a bloody ‘loser’. A born loser!”

“Who told you that?”

“She did. You want to hear Leena’s exact words : ‘Anil is a born loser who is content to wallow in the gutter and see others climb mountains’. That’s why she left you. She didn’t want to ruin her life with a man without a future, a namby-pamby who had no ambition, no drive – a good for nothing geek.”

“Namby-pamby! Good for nothing geek?”

“That’s what she told me.”

“She told you? When? Where?”

“Last year. In Hyderabad. During this same annual IT Seminar. She’d flown down from the States. She even presented a paper – I’m sure it was plagiarized from something you had written or from the notes you kept giving her about your work and research.”

“I’m not interested!”

“Leena is real smart. A real scheming bitch. Mesmerizes you with her wily charms, uses you and then jettisons you, just throws you away when she’s got what she’s wanted. Like toilet paper! Or you know what?” the woman starts giggling, “She treated you like a sanitary napkin! Use and throw straight into the dustbin.”

“Shut up, will you?” the man shouts angrily, “Let’s go now. You’re drunk.”

“I still remember our Bangalore days. When you used to grovel at her feet, your tongue drooling like a lapdog. And now look where she’s reached – the hot shot CEO of a top IT company while you wallow in shit as a nobody in some nondescript place.”

“Please, Nanda! Let’s go,” the man says exasperated.

But the woman is in no mood to go, ignores him, and continues talking loudly: “Leena is smart! She told me she’d managed to hook some NRI Head Honcho. He’s an American citizen too. Her life is made!”

“Maybe, she’ll use him and dump him too!” the man says sardonically.

“Hey! You’ve accepted it! You’ve accepted that she dumped you. I was right! That calls for a drink.”

“No. You’ve already had three big bottles of beer.”

“Who’s counting?” the woman says happily, lurching from her seat, “Okay. If I’ve had too much beer, now I’ll have whisky!” She picks up the man’s glass, drinks it bottoms up in one go, and exclaims at the top of her voice: “Cheers! Down the hatch!”

“What’s wrong with you?” the man scolds her. Don’t you know, “Beer and whisky – it’s risky.”

“And frisky! I want to feel frisky.”

“You mustn’t drink so much.”

“Why?”

“Someone may take advantage of you!”

“Ha! Maybe I want to be taken advantage of? Come, take advantage of me,” she says loudly and snuggles up to him, “Come. Cuddle me. Do something naughty to me. Like you used to do to Leena.”

“Shut up. Someone will hear!”

“There is no one here.”

“There is,” Anil says, noticing the solitary figure in the shadows for the first time. He moves close to Nanda and whispers into her ear, “don’t look behind you.”

“Where?” she shouts in surprise and turns around. She sees the silhouette of the man and calls to him, “Hey eavesdropper, why don’t you join us?”

“Thanks. But it’s okay. I’m fine here,” the stranger says.

“No! No! Come on. Have a drink with us. Don’t be a snob!” the woman shouts drunkenly, tries to get up and reels towards him, and seeing her swaying, the stranger quickly joins them, pulling up a chair opposite the sofa.

“I hope we have not been disturbing you,” Anil says, “We’re sorry. We thought we were all alone in the bar.”

“Not at all!” the stranger says, “in fact, I’ve been enjoying your banter.”

“Good. That calls for a drink!” the woman says.

“Certainly. It’s on me,” the stranger says.

“Nanda. Please. I think we’ve had enough,” Anil pleads.

“I insist,” the stranger says, “just one last drink.”

“Just one last drink!” Nanda repeats drunkenly, “and then the real surprise!”

“Surprise?” Anil asks.

“We’ll all go and wake up Leena!”

“What? Leena? She’s here? In Mussoorie?” Anil asks incredulously.

“Yes, my dear. She’s coming for the seminar too. Must have arrived in the evening when we had gone out for our romantic walk to Lal Tibba.”

“How do you know?”

“E-mail! I was the one who called her for this seminar.”

“You didn’t tell me!”

“Of course not. And I didn’t tell her that I had called you either.”

“I’m going back!” Anil says.

“You still desperately love her, don’t you? After all that she’s done to you; destroyed you. You’re scared of her aren’t you?”

“No.”

“Then why are you afraid of facing her? Come on, Anil, be a man! Ask her why she dumped you,” Nanda says. She pulls Anil’s hand and lurches towards the entrance, “Come. We’ll go to the reception and find out in which room Leena is staying.”

“She’s in room 406,” the stranger says.

“How do you know?” Nanda asks wide-eyed, trying to focus on the stranger.

“I’m Leena’s husband,” the stranger says matter-of-factly. He keeps his glass on the table and silently walks out of the bar.





VIKRAM KARVE

vikramkarve@sify.com