Friday, October 9, 2015

“Bombay Revolutions” and “Stealing Affections”

I love reading short stories – but more than that – I love writing short stories.

But – a funny thing happens every time I write a story.

First – I write the story – but – after some time – the story starts writing itself.

This is exactly what happened to the story you are about to read.

I had planned a compact 500 word story – suitable for online reading as ‘Blog Fiction’.

But – like I said – you cannot ‘plan’ creative writing in the same way as you can ‘plan’ non-creative writing.

So – once I realized that things were not going as per my ‘plan’ – I let go – and – I let the story write itself.

This is what I wrote yesterday – and as you can see – brevity is not one of my strong points – and I do not know how long the story will finally turn out to be.

So – I thought – whatever I have written so far – Parts 1 and 2 of the story – maybe I should post it for you to read.

Meanwhile – I will continue to write the story – and I hope I will be able to post Part 3 by this evening…

LOVE and LUCK
Short Fiction  A Story
By
VIKRAM KARVE

Part 1 – “Bombay Revolutions”

Mumbai
Circa 1977

There was an unexpected change in our ship’s program and our ship was ordered to sail back to Mumbai (or Bombay – as it was then called).

We were scheduled to return to Mumbai the next month – but all of a sudden we were detached and asked to go to Mumbai.

God knows what the reason was – but no one was interested in that.

The crew was delighted.

Mumbai was our home port – and we had been out for a long time – first – on a 3 month deployment to the east – and then – this never-ending exercise in the west.

And suddenly – we were heading home.

The married were looking forward to reuniting with their families.

The bachelors were excited about having a good time in the “maximum city” after a wearying time at sea punctuated by most boring visits to some lackluster ports.

But – I was most delighted of all – for I would be meeting my fiancée after more than 3 long months.

I stood in the bridge wings watching the fo’c’sle of our ship slice across the cool blue sea.

It was evident that the Engineers were generously adding a few “Bombay Revolutions” to the Engine Orders – because the ship was moving much faster than it should have – and I was sure the Captain noticed this – but then – it was all in the game – and he too was keen to get back to Mumbai.

We reached Mumbai just after noon – around 12:30 – and I was the first one ashore – the moment the gangway was placed.

It was a Saturday – and though it was a “make and mend” – it would take some time to secure all the sailing gear – and by the time “liberty” would be announced – it may be 2 or even 2:30 in the afternoon.

My fiancée Menaka had a half-day on Saturdays – and I wanted to give her a surprise – before she left at 1:30.

So – the moment the gangway was placed – I left the ship in uniform – telling the OOD that I was going for some urgent work in the Dockyard.

I quickly walked to Menaka’s office in Fort – walking the fastest mile of my life.

“Menaka has already left,” the receptionist in Menaka’s office said.

“Already left…?” I asked, “But it is not even 1 o’clock…”

“Menaka said she had some urgent work – and she left around half an hour ago – say 12:30 or so…” the receptionist said.

I noticed that the receptionist was looking at me in a curious sort of way – maybe – because I was in white Navy uniform – but then – I had come here before in uniform – and she surely knew that Menaka and I were seeing each other.

I thanked her – and walked down the staircase – into the street.

I called a Taxi – and asked the driver to take me to the Working Women’s Hostel in Colaba.

But – to my disappointment – I did not find Menaka over there too.

“Well – her room key is here – so it seems that Menaka hasn’t come back from office,” the hostel warden said, “but today is Saturday – she should be back by 1:30 or 2 – why don’t you wait in the visitors’ room…”

I sat in the visitors’ room of the working women’s hostel – time passed slowly – as I anxiously waited for Menaka – wondering where she had gone from office.

(Remember – this happened 38 years ago – in the year 1977 – when there were no mobile phones – and there was no way I could contact Menaka – so I had no option – but to wait patiently for her…).

The dining hall was next to the visitors’ room – and many girls were staring at me – since I was looking conspicuous in my uniform – and started feeling a sense of irritation and embarrassment.

I waited – an excruciating wait.

And then – my patience ran out.

I looked at my watch – it was 2:30.

“Might as well pick up my bike from the Mess,” I thought to myself.

Since I would be out at sea on long sailing – I had left my motorcycle in the care of my course-mate and best friend Anand who was posted ashore and lived in the Command Mess.

Anand did not have a bike – so he was quite happy to use mine.

Today being a Saturday – Anand too would have had a “make and mend” half-day routine – and would be back in the Mess by now.

I took a taxi – and reached the Mess.

I could see my bike in the parking lot.

I looked at my watch – it was nearly 3 o’clock – Anand must have had his lunch and would be in his cabin.

Being a fitness fanatic – I briskly walked up the staircase to the 3rd floor – where Anand’s cabin was located.

The corridors were deserted.

I knocked on the door of his cabin.

There was no response.

I knocked again – louder.

Still – no response.

Maybe – Anand was in deep slumber after some “elbow bending” on Saturday afternoon – guzzling beer.

So – I banged on the door.

“Who is it…? I am sleeping now – come later…” I could hear Anand’s voice – full of irritation.

“It’s me…” I shouted, “I have come for my bike keys…”

There was silence.

After some time – I banged the door again.

“Wait – I am coming…” Anand said.

A few moments later – Anand opened the door.

He did not open the door fully – but just a little bit – and in his hand he had my bike keys.

“You were supposed to come back next week, isn’t it…?” Anand said.

“We came back early…” I said.

“Oh – take the keys – your bike is below…” Anand gave me the bike keys – and he began closing the door.

“Hey – what’s wrong – won’t you call me in…?” I said, surprised at his strange behavior.  

“Not now – I will come to your ship in the evening…” Anand said.

I was bewildered at the mysterious way in which he was behaving with me.

Something was wrong.

As he began to close the door – on a sudden impulse – I pushed open the door.

I looked past Anand – into the room.

I saw the handbag at once – the black shoulder bag that I gifted Menaka – her favourite handbag – the one she always took to office.

Menaka’s black handbag was resting on a chair.

On the ground – were a pair of high-heels – ladies shoes – I recognized them too – I had bought them for Menaka when we had gone out shopping in Colaba.

On the peg table there was an empty bottle of beer and two glasses…

Even a blind man could see what was going on – and I was certainly not blind.

“You please go now – I have given you your bike keys…” Anand said, putting his arm on my shoulder and trying to guide me out of the room.

I pushed him aside roughly – and I asked him: “Is Menaka inside…?”

“It is none of your business…”

“It is very much my business,” I interrupted, “Menaka is my fiancée…”

“I told you to go – please leave my cabin…” Anand said – trying to shove me out.

I lost my temper and I hit him hard – a strong right handed punch straight on his nose.

It was a knock-out punch.

Anand staggered – and collapsed on the ground.

I pushed open the bedroom door.

The bed was crumpled – and – scattered all over the floor – were garments of Menaka’s dress – the same green dress which I had bought for Menaka on her last birthday.

The bathroom door was closed.

I pushed the door – but it was locked from inside.

I kicked open the bathroom door.

Menaka was inside the bathroom – trying to cover her naked body with a towel.

I wanted to kill her.

I raised my hand and started moving towards her.

Menaka started screaming hysterically: “Please…Please…Please don’t hit me – please go away…”

Menaka cowered against the wall – and she was shivering with fear.

It was a disgusting sight – repugnant – horrid – and I was overcome by a sickening sensation.

I could bear it no longer – so I just walked out of the room – and fled down the stairs.


20 Years Later...


Part 2 – “Stealing Affections”

Pune
Circa 1997

“Hi,” she said.

I did not recognize her.

“It looks like you haven’t recognized me,” she said.

“I am sorry…” I began to say.

But – she interrupted me – and she said: “I am Mala – your coursemate Arun’s sister.”

“Oh – I am so sorry – I really didn’t…”

“You don’t remember Arun…? Arun Roy…?” she asked.

“Yes – I do remember Arun – he was in my Squadron in the Academy – then he went to the Army – and we lost touch…”

“So – you remember Arun – but you don’t meeting remember me…?”

“Frankly – I really don’t recall…”

“Didn’t we meet at the Ordnance Club in Calcutta – your ship had come to Kolkata – it was called Calcutta those days – don’t you remember…?”

“That must have been long back…”

“So you have forgotten – doesn’t matter – I have quite a ‘forgettable’ face – so how will you remember a ‘Plain Jane’ like me – but how can I forget a handsome face like yours – you look just the same – with your majestic beard…”

I felt most embarrassed.

This must have happened 20 years ago – in 1977 – during our east coast deployment – before the heartbreaking incident with Menaka.

I remembered the ship visit to Kolkata.

I remembered going to ordnance club – drinking away with my shipmates – there were so many ‘pongos’ too – we met so many people – maybe Arun and his sister were there too – but it must have been a fleeting meeting – and I must have been quite drunk – so – I really did not remember her.

“My Dad was in the Army those days – a Brigadier – and Arun had come on leave – so we were all sitting in Ordnance Club playing Tombola – and when I went with Arun to pick up drinks from the bar – he saw you drinking away with your shipmates – so we walked across – and Arun said ‘Hi’ to you – and he introduced me to you – and we even called you to come and sit with us – but you said that you hated Tombola – and when we came to find you after the Tombola was over – you had already left…”

“I must say you have a terrific memory…” I said.

“Actually I liked you so much – you looked so handsome with your Navy style beard and all – that I fell for you – love at first sight – and I told Arun that I wanted to marry you – and he told my Dad and Mom…”

“What…?”

“So – my Dad visited your ship the next morning – and he spoke to your Captain – and enquired about you…”

“I can’t believe this…”

“But – your Captain told my Dad that you were already engaged to some girl in Mumbai…”

“He said that…?”

“Yes – so my Dad said that ‘stealing affections’ was not a good thing and that I should forget about you…”

“So…?”

“So – my parents found me a ‘suitable match’ – a nice Army Officer – and I got married to him…”

“Oh – that’s great…”

“My husband was also your course-mate – like Arun…”

“Really…? Who…?”

“Dipankar…”

“Oh – ‘Dippy’ – we were in the same squadron – so you married ‘Dippy’ – I must meet him…”

“I am afraid you can’t…”

“I can’t meet him…? Why…?”

“He passed away 3 years ago…”

“Oh My God – I am very sorry…”

“Actually – that’s why I am here in the bank – to settle some family pension issues…” she said.

“Oh – I am really very sorry…”

“You seem to have lost track of everyone – and everyone seems to have lost track of you – they said that you left the Navy early and disappeared into thin air…”

“Yes – I quit in 1978 – and went abroad – ‘burnt my bridges’ – so to speak – I worked all over the world – all sorts of jobs – I have earned enough – and now I have come back after so many years to settle down in Pune – I have invested my money well – and I am financially quite comfortable – so I intend to enjoy the rest of my life…”

“You quit in 1978…? They allowed you to quit so early…? After just 5 years of service…?”

“Yes – I resigned on compassionate grounds…”

“Oh…”

“Your wife – kids – all have them have come back…”

“I don’t have a wife…”

“Oh – I am sorry…”

“No – No – I am a bachelor – I never got married…”

“And – why is that…?”

“I told you – I had quite a nomadic existence – working in all sorts of jobs – all over the world – so it was easy to remain a bachelor…”

“But now – you have decided to settle down…?”

“Yes…”

“Any marriage plans…?”

“Maybe – if someone is available…”

“I am available…” she said, tongue-in-cheek.

I was stunned.

I could never imagine a woman propositioning me so openly.

She must have seen the shocked look on my face – so she said to me: “Hey – I was just joking – I am sorry if I have not annoyed you…”

“No – No – it’s okay…”

“I am such a big blabbermouth – we are meeting for the first time – and I am boring you with all my talk…”

“No – No – I am enjoying talking to you…” I said.

“Really – so you finish your work in the bank – and we will go somewhere where we can talk – let’s go to RSI – we can have a drink – and then some lunch…”

“Okay,” I said, “I just have to collect an FD Receipt – and then we will go…”

Half an hour later – we – the woman and I – we were sitting the cool environs of the RSI club bar – drinking beer – and from her demeanour – I had a distinct impression that she was flirting with me.

To Be Continued...

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.
Post a Comment