Creative Writing Weblog of Vikram Karve

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

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Freedom - A short story by Vikram Karve

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.

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 Jehangir Art Gallery. 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 me, 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.

Oh yes. I’ll go along. As ‘Arm Candy’. That’s all I am worth these days. Ornamental value.

“And, Mom, after that you’ve got to come with me to the jeweler,” my daughter says.

The moment they go away I break into a laugh. To hell with them! I am going to do exactly as I want. Go wherever I want. Yesterday it was Mumbai. Today, where should I go – Lonavla? No, it’s too boring. Mumbai? – not again! Bangalore? – been there many times. Delhi? – maybe! Why not head for the hills – Ooty, Mussoorie, Darjeeling, Simla – Hey! Why should I tell you? I’m off on my own trip. That’s freedom!



VIKRAM KARVE

vikramkarve@sify.com

Freedom - A short story by Vikram Karve

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.

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 Jehangir Art Gallery. 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 me, 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.

Oh yes. I’ll go along. As ‘Arm Candy’. That’s all I am worth these days. Ornamental value.

“And, Mom, after that you’ve got to come with me to the jeweler,” my daughter says.

The moment they go away I break into a laugh. To hell with them! I am going to do exactly as I want. Go wherever I want. Yesterday it was Mumbai. Today, where should I go – Lonavla? No, it’s too boring. Mumbai? – not again! Bangalore? – been there many times. Delhi? – maybe! Why not head for the hills – Ooty, Mussoorie, Darjeeling, Simla – Hey! Why should I tell you? I’m off on my own trip. That’s freedom!



VIKRAM KARVE

vikramkarve@sify.com

Looking Back by Dr. DK Karve - Book Review of the autobiography of Maharshi Karve

Book Review by Vikram Waman Karve


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

Looking Back by Dhondo Keshav Karve.
(The Autobiography of 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, I stay 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. He saw 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 1958. 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 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 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 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 at the age of 100.

Epilogue

I was born in 1956, and have fleeting memories of Maharshi Karve, during our visits to Hingne 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 where I feature. It is from 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, men and women, particularly students of SNDT, Cummins College of Engineering for Women, Pune, SOFT, Karve Institute of Social Sciences and other educational institutions related to Maharshi Karve, read about his stellar pioneering work and draw inspiration from his autobiography. I trust that SNDT and Cummins College of Engineering have included a module on the life and work of Maharshi Karve in their course curriculum for the benefit of their students to facilitate them to learn and imbibe some of his sterling values and consolidate his work.

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
vwkarve@sify.com

Freedom

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.

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 Jehangir Art Gallery. 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 me, 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.

Oh yes. I’ll go along. As ‘Arm Candy’. That’s all I am worth these days. Ornamental value.

“And, Mom, after that you’ve got to come with me to the jeweler,” my daughter says.

The moment they go away I break into a laugh. To hell with them! I am going to do exactly as I want. Go wherever I want. Yesterday it was Mumbai. Today, where should I go – Lonavla? No, it’s too boring. Mumbai? – not again! Bangalore? – been there many times. Delhi? – maybe! Why not head for the hills – Ooty, Mussoorie, Darjeeling, Simla – Hey! Why should I tell you? I’m off on my own trip. That’s freedom!



VIKRAM KARVE

vikramkarve@sify.com