Friday, June 19, 2015


A Story

Every morning – on my way to work – I see a hoarding.

It is a huge hoarding – and it can be seen prominently from the road.

The hoarding has an advertisement for a posh luxury residential complex – a top class luxurious gated community – many of which are proliferating all over Pune – to cater for the increasing number of newly affluent upwardly mobile home-buyers.

On that hoarding is the picture of a happy family – a traditional ‘Indian Joint Family’.

It is a large picture.

In fact – the picture of the ‘happy family’ is the centerpiece of the advertisement.

In the picture – there is a smart good looking middle aged couple in their 30’s – a handsome husband and a beautiful wife.

Both husband and wife appear to be upwardly mobile successful career-persons – maybe they are ‘IT Techies’ – or ‘investment bankers’ – or ‘corporate executives’ – or ‘entrepreneurs’ – or in some such ‘successful’ profession.

Along with the husband and wife – there are two adorable children – a boy – around 10 – and a girl – around 7 or 8 – the bright kids are obviously the smart children of the elegant couple.

Then – there is a distinguished looking ‘senior citizen’ couple – probably the parents of the husband – who look very healthy and happy.

And – of course – to complete the ‘perfect family’ picture – there is a happy friendly looking dog – a handsome Labrador retriever.

Yes – it is a picture of a ‘perfect joint family’ – a ‘successful’ charming young couple – ‘cute’ gorgeous children – doting grandparents – and – their lovely dog.

In today’s trend of ‘nuclear families’ – where everyone lives separately – it is very rare to see a happy and harmonious ‘joint family’ like the one shown in the picture.

Everyone in the ‘picture-perfect joint family’ looks very happy.

They say that the foundation of advertising is ‘happiness’.

And – the ‘USP’ of this advertisement is certainly ‘happiness’.

To recap – let us “look” at the picture of the ‘happy family’ once more.

A young charming couple – maybe in their 30’s – a ‘metrosexual’ dapper man and a chic graceful career woman – the elegant ‘Senior Citizen’ Parents – retired – maybe in their 60’s – glowing with happiness and contentment – two smart bright kids – a boy and a girl – of school going age – and – of course – the handsome Labrador Dog – to complete the picture of a “happy family”.

The advertisement seems to imply that if you purchased and moved into an apartment in this residential complex – your family will automatically become ‘happy’ too – like the ‘picture perfect happy family’ on the hoarding – since – this gated community is a place where ‘happiness’ is infectious – because only ‘happy’ families live there.

Surprisingly – instead of making me ‘happy’ – this advertisement has the opposite effect on me.

Every morning – when I see that hoarding – I feel a tinge of regret.

I wish that I too had a ‘picture-perfect happy family’ like the one in the picture.

Every morning – as I cross the hoarding – I have such depressing thoughts.

One morning – I ask my driver to stop the car near the hoarding.

On my ‘Smartphone’ – I take a photo of the hoarding.

Then – I tell my driver to take the car to the address of the Real Estate Firm mentioned in the hoarding.

On entering – at the reception – I show the picture of the hoarding on my ‘smartphone’ to the receptionist – who immediately calls a chic saleswoman.

The saleswoman – takes me inside her office – shows me a model of the residential project – then gives me a glossy brochure which has complete details of the project.

On the cover of the brochure – is the same picture of the ‘happy family’ – as is there on the hoarding.

I give the saleswoman a patient hearing as she explained the floor plans and costing details and the advantages of living in a gated community.

Then – I point to the picture of the ‘happy family’ on the brochure cover – and I say to the saleswoman: “I want to meet this family…”

The saleswoman looks bewildered.

It is evident that no one has made this strange request before.

Everyone must have asked her about the residential project – but I must be the first person asking to meet the family in the advertisement of the housing project.

Lest she think that I was flirting with her – I take out my wallet from my pocket – I extract my visiting card – and I give it to her.

She looks at my visiting card.

Then – she looks at me with trepidation.

And then – she asks me to follow her.

She takes me to her Manager’s cabin.

The Sales Manager looks at my visiting card.

He motions for me to sit down – and he asks me what he could do for me.

I point to the picture of the ‘happy family’ on the top of the brochure and say: “I want to meet this family…”

“Sir – is there any trouble…?” the Sales Manager asks.

“No trouble – I just want to meet this family…” I say.

“Sir – I will have to check with the ‘ad agency’ that made this brochure…” he says.

“Okay – go ahead and check…” I say.

“Sir – just excuse me for a moment – I will check with the Marketing Head…” the Sales Manager says – and he leaves the room.

After a few minutes – the Sales Manager returns along with another Gentleman who introduces himself as the General Manager (Marketing) – and he says: “Sir – we got this brochure made from an advertising agency – so – most probably – the persons in the picture must be models…”

“Including the dog…?” I ask.

“Yes – Sir – many dog owners give their dogs for modelling assignments…” he says.

“So – you are saying that all these persons in the picture are strangers – and I thought it was one nice happy family…” I say.

“Ad agencies always use models – Yes – Sir – it is most likely that all the persons in this advertisement are models posing as a ‘happy family’ in this picture…” the General Manager Marketing says.

“It does not matter if they are models posing as a family – I would like to meet them – all of them…” I say.

“Sir – normally we don’t…” he pauses – then he looks at my visiting card – and he seems to have changed his mind – and he says: “Okay – Sir – I will call the ‘ad agency’ and get the details of the models…”

“Including the dog…” I interrupt, “…you get me complete details of all the models – contact details – address – everything…”

“I will – Sir…” the General Manager Marketing says.

“Good – I’ll wait for your call…” I say.

On the way to my office – I look at the picture of the ‘happy family’ and think – maybe I should buy an apartment in this complex – then – maybe my scattered family will come together – and we will be one happy joint family like the ‘perfect family’ in the picture.

The General Manager Marketing of the Real Estate Firm calls me after 3 hours.

He seems quite excited as he says to me: “Sir – you were right – the persons in the photo are not models – they all belong to one family – in fact it is a picture of a joint family…”

“Really…?” I say – this is getting interesting.

“Yes, Sir – the ‘ad agency’ hires a photographer for such work – and he had this picture in his stock – the ‘ad agency’ wanted the photo of a ‘happy joint family’ – they liked the photo – so they used it in the advertisement…” the General Manager says.

“What do you mean the photographer had this picture in his stock…?”

“Sir – this family had their portrait taken a few years ago…”

“Okay – give me the address of this family…”

“Sir – we don’t have the address…”

“What do you mean you don’t have the address…?”

“Sir – I asked the photographer myself – he said that he did not have the address of the family…” the General Manager says.

“How is that possible…? Hasn’t he kept a record of his customers…? Also – he must have taken their consent before using their photo in an advertisement – isn’t it…? Tell me – can you use anyone’s photo in an advertisement without even bothering to ask them…?” I say angrily.

“Sir – I don’t know – the photographer is not…” the General Manager stutters nervously.

“Okay – just give me the photographer’s address…” I say to the General Manager of the Real Estate Firm.

“Sir – I will SMS you the contact details of the photographer…” he says.

The SMS arrives within a minute.

The address of the photo studio is near my office.

I call my deputy to my office – I ask her to sit down – and I explain to her what I want done urgently.

“Sir – you want me to go to the photographer and get the address of this family in the picture. Then you want me to go to the address – meet the family – and give you a call…?” my deputy confirms with me.

“That’s right…” I say to her, “…and you better take someone along – if the photographer acts funny and hesitates to give the address – you know what to do…”

“Yes, Sir – I will complete the job today itself,” she says.

Then – my deputy gets up from the chair – she salutes me – and she smartly walks out my office.

30 minutes later my deputy calls me on my mobile phone.

“Sir – the family portrait was taken 3 years ago – I have got details of the family and their address – it is a bungalow on Prabhat Road – I am proceeding there now…” my deputy says.

“Very Good…” I say, “…I will wait for your call…”

One hour later – my deputy calls me on my mobile phone again.

“Sir – the bungalow has been demolished for re-development – there is construction work going on here – a multistoried building is coming up…” she says.

“But what about the family…?” I ask.

“Sir – I am trying to find out – do you want to come here…?”

“No – I have to go for an important meeting – you find out all the details and give me a detailed report in the evening…” I say.

“Yes, Sir – I will have all details for you by evening…” my deputy says.

I switch off my mobile phone and proceed for the official meeting.

As usual – the meeting lasts more than 3 hours.

I return to my office – switch on my mobile phone – and send an SMS to my deputy that I am back in my office.

My deputy acknowledges my SMS – and she replies that she is on the job – and that she will personally report to me in the evening.

I get busy with my work.

It is 7 o’clock – most of the staff has gone home – but I decide to wait for some more time – and try to finish off some pending work.

Suddenly – there is a knock on the door – and my deputy comes into my office.

I ask her to sit down – I offer her a glass of water.

She sips some water – and then she says: “Sir – it is a very sad story…”

“Sad story…? Tell me everything…” I say.

“Sir – the ‘happy family’ in the picture – all of them lived in the bungalow till around 2 years ago…” she says.

“What happened…?” I ask.

“The old man suddenly died of a heart attack…”

“The young man’s father…?”


“The bungalow was ancestral property – and the old man’s daughter staked her claim and she wanted her share of the property…”

“The old man’s daughter…? That means the young man’s sister…? She is not in this picture…?”

“Yes Sir – the old man’s daughter is not in this family picture – she is an NRI – she lives in America…”

“She lives in America – then why did she want a share of the property here in Pune…?”

“Sir – who doesn’t want a house in a prime locality of like Prabhat Road…?”

“I see – but what about the mother – I mean – the old man’s wife…?”

“The NRI daughter convinced her mother that it would be best to demolish the old bungalow and get it re-developed – since all of them would get one spacious 3 BHK flat each – the mother – the son – and the daughter…”

“And the son agreed to this…?”

“Yes – the son agreed to re-develop the bungalow – and this infuriated his wife – she wanted to live in the bungalow – and she was totally against demolishing the bungalow for making flats…”

“Oh – so the old man’s daughter-in-law wanted the bungalow for herself…”

“I believe that the old man had promised the daughter-in-law that he would be giving the bungalow to them – his son and her – after his death – since it was they who were looking after him and his wife in their old age…”

I looked at my deputy and asked her, “By the way – how do you know all this…?”

“Sir – do you think I am making up this story – you know me for so many years – I have conducted a proper investigation – I have spoken to everyone personally – the mother – the son – the daughter-in-law…”

“Okay – okay – I am sorry – please continue…” I say – feeling contrite.

“Well – as I said – the old man had promised the son and daughter-in-law the bungalow – and the daughter-in-law felt that it was the right thing for him to do – since it was they – her husband and her – who lived here in Pune and looked after the old parents. Now – she would have to look after her husband’s widowed mother. So the daughter-in-law felt that her sister-in-law – who lived in America – did not deserve a share in the property…”

“Quite right – only those children who look after their parents must get a share in their property…”

“Yes Sir – that is what the daughter-in-law felt. So the daughter-in-law told her mother-in-law not to re-develop the bungalow – but instead – she told her mother-in-law to give the entire bungalow on the son – her husband – as the old man had promised…”


“As is usual with mothers – the old woman had a soft corner for her own daughter…”

“So she wanted to give a share in the property to her NRI daughter…?”

“Yes – and – of course – her NRI daughter’s shrewd husband had already done the necessary homework – he had already talked to a builder to re-develop the bungalow…”

“But what about the son – he could have objected…”

“Sir – I told you before – the son is a ‘Momma’s Boy’ – so he meekly agreed to whatever his mother said – and so – when the agreement for re-development was put before him – he signed on the dotted line …”

“And this infuriated his wife…?”

“Yes Sir – in fact – the daughter-in-law had a big fight with her mother-in-law – and she told her mother-in-law that – from now on – her own darling daughter could look after her…”

“So – the old woman went to America with her NRI daughter…?”

“No Sir – after the deal was done – the shrewd NRI daughter went back to America with her husband – and the old woman shifted to a flat nearby that the builder had given them temporarily till the re-development work was over…”

“And the son – and his wife…?”

“At first – they too moved in with the old woman – but then the already bitter relationship between daughter-in-law and mother-in-law got worse day by day – and – one day the daughter-in-law told her husband that they should live separately…”

“So – the young couple moved out…?”

“Sir – I told you that the man was a ‘Momma’s Boy’ – so he wanted to live with his mother – so his wife walked out of the house along with the two children and went to her parents’ place…”

“This sounds like a fiction story…”

“Sir – sometimes – truth is stranger than fiction…”

“It seems so – and the way you are narrating this story – I am convinced that you would have been better off as a creative writer – I wonder why you became a cop…?”

“Please – Sir – you always joke. You told me to investigate – so I did a thorough job…”

“I am sorry – I did not mean to hurt you…”

“It’s okay Sir – if you want – I will skip all the details and get to the end…”

“Yes – I think that is a good idea – just tell me what the status of the family is right now…”

“Sir – the old woman is in an ‘old age home’ – the son is in ‘rehab’…”

“The young man is in ‘rehab’…?”

“Yes Sir – the young man in your ‘picture-perfect family’ is in ‘rehab’ getting treated for alcohol dependence…”

“Alcohol dependence…?”

“Sir – I told you that his wife left him taking away the children – and went off to her parents’ place. Later – she gave him an ultimatum to shift out of his mother’s flat – take his share of money from the builder instead of the flat – and buy a house for them to live separately. But – since he was a ‘Momma’s Boy’ – he refused – so she gave him a divorce notice…”


“Well – all this was too much for the young man to bear – so he took solace in alcohol – and he started drinking heavily – and it became so bad that doctors advised ‘rehab’…”

“Bloody hell…! And why did the old woman go to an ‘old age home’…?”

“Sir – I really don’t know – but the people at the ‘old age home’ said that her NRI daughter had come down from America and got her mother admitted in the ‘old age home’…”

“This is getting crazy – just 3 years ago – this ‘happy joint family’ was living harmoniously together in a bungalow – and now – the old man is dead – the old woman is in an ‘old age home’ – their son has become an alcoholic and is in ‘rehab’ undergoing treatment – and their daughter-in-law has got estranged bitterly…”

“Sir – you won’t believe what I am going to tell you next…”

“What more now…?”

“The ‘cute’ children have been sent to a boarding school…”

“Boarding school…? Why…?”

“Well – that daughter-in-law fought with her sister-in-law – not her husband’s sister – but the other one – her brother’s wife – who did not appreciate her sudden intrusion along with the children…”

“Okay – so this young woman in the picture – her brother and his wife were living with her parents – and they threw her out…”

“Yes – so now she lives in a working women’s hostel where she got a job as warden – and the children have been packed off to boarding school…”

“I cannot believe it – just look at this portrait of the ‘picture-perfect happy family’ so happy together – and now – old man is dead and in heaven – old woman in ‘old age home’ – young man in ‘rehab’ – young woman in a working women’s hostel – and the kids in boarding school…”

“Sir – you forgot the dog in the photo…” my deputy says.

“The dog…? Oh yes – what happened to their lovely Labrador dog…?”

“Sir – they don’t allow dogs in the ‘old age home’ – or in ‘rehab’ – or in the ‘working women’s hostel’ – so they abandoned the dog – and they sent him to the animal rescue home – to the dog care shelter where they keep abandoned dogs…”

“That handsome dog was sent to the dog pound…? That is sad – poor dog – he became an innocent victim for no fault of his…”

“Yes Sir – I too felt very bad when I heard that the adorable dog had been abandoned – so I went to the animal rescue shelter – and when I saw how miserable the dog was feeling – I felt great pity for him – I could not bear to see him in so much distress – so I brought the dog here…”

“You brought the dog here…?”

“Yes Sir – the dog is sitting outside your office – with your orderly…”

“The dog is sitting outside…?”

“Yes Sir – I thought the dog will be a good companion for you...”

“For me…?”

“Yes Sir – you are so lonely – you live all alone in that big bungalow – and you have so many people – your orderly, your staff – to look after the dog…”

My deputy gets up – she walks to my office door – opens the door – and she tells my orderly to bring the dog inside.

It is the same handsome Labrador dog in the picture – no doubt about it.

The dog comes running to me – and I pat him. The Labrador seems to be very friendly.

“See Sir...” my deputy says, “…the dog likes you…”

In the evening – I pour a drink – and I relax in the verandah of my bungalow.

The Labrador dog who is exploring the lawn - comes running to me and sits at my feet.

I always envied the ‘happy family’ on the hoarding advertisement – and now I realize that I am better off than them.

So what if my wife works in Mumbai – at least we have a ‘weekend marriage’.

So what if my son is in the Army – at least he comes home on leave once in a while.

So what if my daughter is abroad in the US – at least she comes to meet us once a year during her vacation.

I realize that our family is much happier than the “happy family” in the picture.

Yes – we may not be a “picture-perfect” family – but we are certainly a happy family.

And now I have a delightful new addition to my family – this lovely dog – as my constant companion.

Copyright © Vikram Karve 
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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.

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