Tuesday, June 23, 2015

FREEDOM – a Lazy Story

FREEDOM
A Short Story
By
VIKRAM KARVE

From my Creative Writing Archives:

FREEDOM is a Story from COCKTAIL - my anthology of short stories about relationships.

FREEDOM is one of my “Lazy Mumbai Stories”.

One morning – almost 15 years ago – in the year 2000 to be precise – as I watched the sea of humanity near Churchgate – hurrying to their workplaces like robots – the idea of this story germinated in my mind.

Sometime later – I wrote this “philosophical” introspective story FREEDOM.

I am posting the story below – updated and abridged – once more – for you to read.

I am sure you will enjoy reading it – and feel a sense of “Freedom”…

FREEDOM  a story 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 have come here to spend some time with myself.

Here – no one would be watching me.

And – I can do as I please.

That’s Freedom – to be able to do as I please.

I stand outside the subway at Churchgate.

Should I turn right – walk past Asiatic Store, Gaylord Restaurant and Rustoms Ice Cream Parlour towards Marine Drive on the Arabian Sea?

Or should I go straight ahead – past Eros Cinema – to Nariman Point?

Or should I walk to my left – between the Oval and Cross Maidan – towards Hutatma Chowk – Flora Fountain?

I feel good.

I feel as if I were on top of the world.

I am free to go wherever I please.

That’s Freedom – to be able to go wherever I want to.

The essence of travel is to have no destination.

 A good traveller is one who does not know where he is going to reach before he starts his journey.

You decide on the spot – instinctively – intuitively – impulsively – spontaneously.

That’s freedom – to be able to decide on the spot – to do as one likes – to go where one wants.

Yes.

That’s real and true freedom!

I choose the third option.

I turn left and 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 setting up shop.

I cross the road – and I stand near Flora Fountain.

I might as well ring up my husband.

Not that he would bother.

He’s not bothered about me – and neither am I bothered about him.

It is mutual – the indifference.

Yes – indifference – that is the essence of our relationship – marital indifference – mutual indifference.

That’s not freedom – indifference is not freedom.

But the mask of caring and sharing – the facade of ‘conjugal conviviality’ – it has to be carefully maintained – at least for the sake of the outside world.

That is 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 did not forget to carry my mobile phone.

I purposely did not bring my mobile phone with me.

That’s freedom – unshackling myself from the manacles of my cell-phone.

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

“I shall be late today,” I say.

“Okay,” my husband 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.

She looked so innocent, so pristine, so pure – and improbable paramour for a man of 50.

Maybe that’s why she was such a good mistress – and they continued their affair for so many months.

There were many before.

There will be many in future.

Deep down I feel betrayed.

It is 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?

Should I walk out of the marriage?

And do what?

Perhaps I can also have an affair – tit for tat.

I have the looks – but I lack the guts.

That’s the reason why I have no choice but to continue in this futile and meaningless relationship.

That’s not freedom.

That’s cowardice – what they also call compromise.

Everyone looks at us with envy and admiration.

The successful husband – the charming wife – the ideal couple – ‘Made for Each Other’.

And from time to time – I hear myself tell everyone my biggest lie: “I’m so lucky. It’s been a lovely marriage. My life has been such a marvellous success.”

Mendacity, hypocrisy, pretence – that’s not freedom.

I window-shop on MG Road opposite the University till I reach Kalaghoda.

There’s a sale almost everywhere.

I have a glass of refreshing cold sugarcane juice on the roadside stall.

I browse at the Magna Book Store.

I hear the latest music at Rhythm House.

I see the latest paintings at Jehangir Art Gallery.

You can see, feel, browse, and hear whatever you want but need not buy – that’s freedom.

I decide to have lunch.

I eat ‘Stuffed Parathas’ at Café Samovar.

It is 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.

Then – I 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 is bothered about me.

The arty restaurant is full – with artists, art-lovers, office-goers, society ladies.

All busy in their own world.

The creative types – preoccupied with their own thoughts.

No one gives a damn.

This is Mumbai.

Not our company township 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 – but secretly envied by all.

It is like being 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 keeps on increasing.

I telephone my daughter from the public 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 – but – is it freedom?

 I spend the next few hours doing what I always liked doing.

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 at Churchgate – then 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 – my parents were happy – they were so happy – because – for my parents – my marriage to a business tycoon 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, depressed and 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.

Yes – it is a vicious circle in which I felt trapped at that moment.

So I turn away from my house of the past – and I 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.

It is almost 7 PM.

It is more than ten hours since I left my house in Pune.

I am enjoying the change of routine.

It is good to have 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’ve got to break it.

Like I did today.

Early in the morning – at precisely 6.30 AM – I had left my house.

As usual.

But – today I wasn’t wearing leotards underneath.

Because – I wasn’t going to the health club.

I went straight to the Pune 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.

My husband wouldn’t have missed me.

We never eat together nowadays.

Except breakfast on Sundays – when he buries himself behind the newspaper – nursing a hangover.

On other days – he would be off to office by the time I return from the my health club.

And I would busy myself with my daily routine.

Everything runs like clockwork.

Everyone takes me for granted.

There are no problems.

That is the real problem.

Oh yes!

My problem is that I do not have any problems!

Or do I?

You tell me.

I catch a Volvo bus from Dadar and reach home late at night.

It’s almost 11 PM.

There is no one at home.

The servants ask me if I want anything.

I say “No” – so they go off to sleep.

I too go off to sleep in my lonely bed.

I wake up late in the morning.

My husband gives me a beautiful diamond necklace.

He has got a gift for me – his darling wife – yes – as always – a gift to compensate his guilty conscience for his misdemeanors.

The worse the misdemeanor – the larger the guilt – and the more expensive the gift.

A gift to compensate guilt - that’s not love – that’s not freedom.

We sit at the breakfast table.

I was missing for the whole day yesterday.

But – 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 peremptorily.
              
Oh yes.

I’ll go along.

I’ll deck up and go along with my husband – as “Arm Candy”.

“And, Mom – after that you’ve got to come with me to the jeweller,” my daughter commands.

That’s all I am worth these days.

I just have ornamental value.

Soon – I won’t have even that.

The moment they go away – I break into a laugh.

To hell with them!

From now on I am going to be free!

I will do exactly as I want.

I will go wherever I wish.

I will do whatever I please.

Yesterday – it was Mumbai.

Today – where should I go?

Lonavala?

No – it’s too boring.

Mumbai?

Not again!

Bangalore ?

I’ve been there many times.

Delhi?

Maybe!

Why not head for the hills – Ooty, Mussoorie, Darjeeling, Shimla, Nainital, Shillong…?

The possibilities are endless!

Hey!

Why should I tell you?

I am free to do as I please.

I am off on my own trip.

That’s freedom!

I have discovered the true meaning of freedom!

VIKRAM KARVE
Copyright © Vikram Karve 
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Disclaimer:
This story is a work of fiction.  Events, Places, Settings and Incidents narrated in the story are a figment of my imagination. The characters do not exist and are purely imaginary. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

Copyright Notice
No part of this Blog may be reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical including photocopying or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the Blog Author Vikram Karve who holds the copyright.
Copyright © Vikram Karve (All Rights Reserved)

Copyright © Vikram Karve (all rights reserved)

This story FREEDOM was written by me Vikram Karve in the year 2000 and posted online earlier by me in my creative writing blogs a number of times including at urls: http://creative.sulekha.com/arm-candy_80938_blog  and  http://karvediat.blogspot.in/2010/08/wanderlust-story-discovering-freedom.html  and  http://karvediat.blogspot.in/2012/10/the-meaning-of-freedom.html  and  http://karvediat.blogspot.in/2013/11/freedom.html  etc
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