Wednesday, August 5, 2015

THE GIFT – A Love Story

THE GIFT 
Fiction Short Story 
By
VIKRAM KARVE

From my Creative Writing Archives:

I wrote this story around 25 years ago  in the early 1990s. 

It is a story written in a leisurely manner  and in a quite an old-fashioned style. 

Do tell me if you like it.

THE GIFT –  short story by Vikram Karve

I do not know how the idea entered my brain in the first place  but once conceived  it haunted me with such urgency that a strange force took charge of me  impelling me to act.

I tucked the packet under my arm and walked towards my destination  looking around furtively  like someone with a guilty conscience.

It all started when I saw her photograph.

The moment I saw her photograph  I knew that I had to see her.

A man’s first love fills an enduring place in his heart.

10 years. 

Ten long years.

She had married money.

And status.

I was heartbroken.

Yet  I bore her no pique  and in my heart  there was no rancour.

I never will have any ill will or bitterness towards her.

How can I...?

I had truly loved her. 

I still love her. 

I will always love her  always  till my dying day.

I was desperately eager to impress her.

To give her a gift would be too obvious.

I did not know how much she had told her husband about me  about us...

Her children should be the same age as mine.

Maybe slightly older.

They say that the best route to a married woman’s heart is through her children.

I looked at the packet under my arm.

A gift.

Yes  the “Gift”  it was the deluxe set of children’s encyclopaedias I had promised my son  and my daughter  year after year  for the last three years  and did not buy  because it was too expensive.

And now I was going to present the same expensive encyclopaedias as a Gift to Anjali’s children  just to impress her.

As I rang the doorbell  I felt a tremor of anticipation.

Suddenly  I realized  that I did not know whether Anjali would be happy to see me  or would she pretend that she did not recognize me.

The door opened.

Anjali looked ravishing.

She gave me her sparkling smile  and she welcomed me with genuine happiness: “Sanjiv  after so many years  what a delightful surprise  how did you manage to find me...?

We looked at each other.

Anjali had fully blossomed.

She looked stunning.

She looked so exquisite  so dazzling  that I cannot begin to describe the intense emotion I felt as I looked intently into her radiating eyes  totally mesmerized by her beauty.

“Stop staring at me,” Anjali said  her large expressive eyes dancing mischievously.

“You look so beautiful. And so young...” I said.

“But you look old. Even your beard has becoming grey...” Anjali paused  probably regretting what she had said.

Then  Anjali suddenly held out her hand to me  and said, “I am so happy to see you, Sanjiv. Please come inside.”

Her house was extravagant. 

Wealth and opulence showed everywhere.

Anjali carried herself majestically with regal poise  her demeanour slick and confident. 

No wonder  to belong had always been the driving force of her life. 

Money, status, social prestige, success – she had got everything she wanted. 

I could not help feeling a pang of envy  and a sense of failure.

“You like my house...?” she asked.

“Yes – it is a very beautiful house...” I said.

“Sit down. And you don’t look so lost...” she said.

I sat down on a sofa.

I kept the gift wrapped packet on the side-table.

Anjali sat down opposite me. 

“How did you know I live here...? We shifted to Mumbai only a month ago...” Anjali said.

I took out the wallet from my pocket.

I gave the wallet to Anjali  and I said to her: “Your husband’s purse. I saw your photograph in it...”

Anjali opened the purse.

She started to check the contents.

“You don’t trust cops, do you...?” I smiled.

Anjali blushed. 

She kept the wallet on the table. 

She looked at me with frank admiration in her eyes. “IPS...? That’s fantastic. I never thought you would do so well! What are you...? Superintendent...? Deputy Commissioner...?”

Now it was my turn to blush. 

“No,” I said sheepishly. “I am only a sub-inspector.”

“Oh...” she said  trying to hide her disappointment.

But  I had read the language of her eyes.

The nuance wasn’t lost on me.

Suddenly  she had changed.

“Is Mr. Joshi at home?” I asked.

“He is still at the office...” Anjali said.

“Oh...? I thought he would be home...” I said.

“I’ll make you some tea,” she said  and she started to get up.

“Please sit down, Anjali. Let’s talk,” I said looking at my watch, “It’s already 6:30. Let’s wait for Mr. Joshi. Maybe he will offer me a drink. And maybe he will ask me to wait for dinner.”

“My husband comes home very late,” Anjali said. “After all, he is the Managing Director. There is so much work. And conferences. Important business meetings. He is the top boss – a very successful and an extremely busy man.”

She couldn’t have spelt it out more clearly.

I got the message loud and clear.

Anjali changed the topic  and she asked me, “Where did you find the purse...?”

“It was deposited in the lost-and-found section last evening,” I lied.

“It’s strange,” Anjali said, “He didn’t mention anything to me.”

“He may not have noticed,” I said, tongue-in-cheek, “After all Mr. Joshi is a very busy man to notice such minor things like a missing purse.”

“Yes,” she said, giving a distant look.

Anjali opened the purse once more and examined his credit cards and driving license.

At first – she appeared confused.

Then  she gave me a cold hard look. 

But  she did not say anything.

There was a long period of silence. 

Grotesque silence.

Anjali kept staring at me – looking directly into my eyes.

A distant look – almost dismissive.

I began to feel uneasy.

Suddenly I remembered the gift wrapped packet I had brought  and I exclaimed enthusiastically: “Anjali  where are your children...? I have got a Gift for them. Just a small present for your kids...” 

From the look on her face  I immediately sensed that I had said something terribly wrong.

I saw tears well up in her eyes.

All of a sudden  Anjali looked small, weak and vulnerable.

I felt a sense of deep regret  as comprehension dawned on me. 

Poor thing  she had no kids.

And  I had rubbed salt in her wounds.

I looked at her helplessly  pleading innocence  but it was of no use.

Some day Anjali might understand my actions  but at that moment  it was hopeless to try and explain.

The hurt was deep  and I had to let it go in silence.

We just sat there in silence  not knowing what to say to each other. 

A deafening silence. 

A grotesque silence.

It is strange  that how moments for which you have rehearsed  end up with a different script.

I could not bear it any longer.

I quickly got up  and I started walking swiftly towards the door.

Suddenly  I realized that I had forgotten to pick up the gift wrapped packet – the Gift.

But I did not turn back.

Why...?

I do not know.

“Don’t go, Sanjiv. I want to talk to you,” Anjali spoke coldly.

I stopped in my tracks.

I could hear Anjali’s footsteps behind me.

I turned around to face her.

She seemed a bit composed.  

“You lied to me, Sanjiv,” Anjali said. “I want to know where you found my husband’s wallet.”

I did not know what to say. 

I tried to avoid her eyes.

“Tell me,” Anjali pleaded, “Please tell me where you found this purse...

When in doubt  I speak the truth.

So  I said to Anjali: “We raided one of those exclusive classy joints last night – a posh call-girl racket...”

I could not continue  so I said apologetically, “I am very sorry – I did not know...”

“I know  Oh yes  I know – you found my husband’s wallet in a whore joint...” Anjali said mockingly.

Then  she shouted: “I hate him – that impotent creep  trying to prove his virility to himself...” 

With those few words  Anjali had bared the secret of her marriage.

I looked at her.

Her manner was relaxed and nonchalant – but her fury was visible only in her eyes.

I was nonplussed.

Suddenly  I blurted out, “Don’t worry Anjali. I have dropped the charges. I will hush up the matter.”

I still do not know why I uttered those words  but on hearing them  there was a visible metamorphosis in Anjali.

Suddenly  she became flaming mad.

She looked so distraught and angry  that I felt very frightened.

Terrified that she would go berserk and attack me, slap me, or beat me up  I instinctively stepped back.

But  Anjali suddenly turned and left the room.

I stood still  frozen like a statue  for a moment.

Then – after regaining my composure  I decided to leave  and I started to move towards the door.

“Wait... ” I heard her scream.

I stopped in my tracks.

I turned around. 

Anjali quickly walked towards me.

She thrust out her right hand.

In her hand there was a big bundle of 500 Rupee notes.

“So this is what you have come for, isn’t it...? You want a bribe to hush up the case...? Even from me...? You unscrupulous bastard  I did not expect you to fall so low. Here  take the money and get out. This is all I have at home. If you want more money  you know where to find my husband  don’t you...?”  

“No  Anjali – No...” I recoiled, “Please don’t...”

“Cheap...” Anjali spat out – there was contempt in her eyes as she shouted at me: “Cheap riffraff  that’s what you always were, Sanjiv. Now you get out of my house  you filthy blackmailer  and I do not want to see your face again...”

Anjali threw the bundle of notes at me.

The bundle hit my chest and fell on the ground  the money scattering near my feet.

“I love you, Anjali,” I said  trying to sound sincere.

“Love,” she exclaimed  her radiating eyes burning with anger, “So you have come to see how your barren old flame is flourishing  isn’t it...?”

“No – No...” I said.

Anjali paused  then she said sarcastically to me: “So you are pleased  aren’t you...? You must be so happy to see my "success"...?”

Her vicious and sarcastic suggestion  that I might be happy at her misfortune  hurt me more than anything else.

I turned around  and I walked out of the house.

As I started walking towards the gate  something hit me on my back.

I winced in pain.

The three volumes of the expensive Children’s Encyclopaedias were scattered on the ground  their silver gift wrapping paper was torn.

I knew that Anjali had thrown the books at me.

I knew that was standing in the door  looking at me.

But  I did not look at her.

I bent down – I gathered the books  and I walked away into the darkness.

As I gradually came into consciousness from my drunken stupor  I realized that I was at home in my bed.

Though sunlight filtered in through the open windows  everything looked blurred.

Slowly  things began to come into focus.

My daughter was sitting beside me on the bed.

She touched my arm with tenderness.

There were tears in her eyes.

My son stood aloof on the other side of the bed.

There was fear in his eyes.

My wife looked at me with loving pity  and she said, “The children want to thank you for the lovely gift. They are so happy...”

My wife was holding the set of encyclopaedias in her hands.

I smiled.

I reached out to my children – my daughter and my son.

They held my hands  and they smiled back.

I looked at the pure unadulterated joy in their eyes.

For the first time in my life  I experienced a deep genuine true love for my wife and children.

A love which I had never felt before.
         
Tears of joy welled up in my eyes.

I had discovered love.

Yes  I had discovered the true meaning of love.

I had discovered the gift of love.

VIKRAM KARVE
Copyright © Vikram Karve 
1. If you share this post, please give due credit to the author Vikram Karve
2. Please DO NOT PLAGIARIZE. Please DO NOT Cut/Copy/Paste this post
© vikram karve., all rights reserved.

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)
     
© vikram karve., all rights reserved.
 

This is a revised version of my Story THE GIFT which I wrote 25 years ago in 1990 and earlier posted online on my creative blog first in 2006 at url: http://creative.sulekha.com/the-gift-by-vikram-karve_32154_blog  and many times later including at urls: http://creative.sulekha.com/the-gift-of-love_81467_blog  and  http://karvediat.blogspot.in/2014/10/diwali-gift-gift-of-love.html  etc
Post a Comment