Monday, April 18, 2016

The Girl Next Door – Can I Take Her For Granted...?

From my creative writing archives:

Here is one of my earliest stories, abridged and updated. 

I wrote this story around 15 years ago.

It is a simple old-fashioned Love Story. 

Do tell me if you like this simple love story. 
  

THE GIRL NEXT DOOR
I CAN ALWAYS TAKE HER FOR GRANTED 
Short Fiction  A Love Story
By
VIKRAM KARVE 


THE GIRL NEXT DOOR – A Love Story by Vikram Karve


“You must not take anyone for granted,” my mother said.
“Of course I can take Anju for granted...!” I said while picking up the phone.
 
I dialled Anju’s office number and told her almost peremptorily to book my tickets to Mumbai on the Deccan Queen. 

Then I rattled off a couple of odd jobs and errands I wanted done before I left for the Chief Mate’s course at Mumbai. 
I felt a bit guilty for having taken her for granted.

So I suddenly said, “Hey, Anju, put on your dancing shoes. We’ll go out in the evening.” 

With those words I abruptly put down the phone without even giving Anju a chance to reply. 

I knew I could take Anju for granted. 
After all, she was the girl next door. 

She was my best friend, confidant, alter ego, call it what you want.

Anju was an inseparable part of my life.  
Anju and I. 

We grew up together in Pune. 

She followed me to school, and then to college. 

All our living moments we spent together. 

She wanted to follow me to sea too, but way back then, many years ago, they did not take girl-cadets in the merchant navy.
The first time we really separated was when I went to sea for my sea-training to the merchant marine as a Deck Cadet.    
While I was busy becoming an officer in the Merchant Navy, Anju finished her Masters in Computer Science and was now working in a leading IT company in Hinjewadi near Pune.

Luckily my ship visited Mumbai often and we kept on meeting whenever possible.

Yes, I would rush off to Pune the moment I got shore leave to meet Anju.
Years passed.

But nothing much changed between us.

Anju was still the girl next door.

I knew I could always take her for granted.

When I returned late that night after a delightful evening with Anju, I found my mother still awake.

“How was the evening...?” my mother asked me.

“Good,” I said. “You should have slept by now. It’s past midnight.”

“I wanted to talk to you before you go to Mumbai for your course tomorrow morning,” she said.

“What...?” I asked.

My mother paused for a moment, looked me in the eyes and said softly but firmly, “You two. Anju and you. When have you decided to get married...?”

“When...? Did you say When’...?” I remarked with a smile. 

“Yes. I asked you when you and Anju want to get married,” my mother said.

“Now it is you who is taking things for granted...”
 
“Is there some other girl ...? In Mumbai ...? Or somewhere else ...?” my mother asked with undisguised consternation on her face.

“No,” I laughed, “You know I am not that sort of sailor who has a girl in every port.”
“Anju is almost 23,” she said.
“And me. I’m only 26. Let me at least qualify my chief mate’s,” I said.

Then I paused and looked at my mother. 
I took my mother’s hands in mine and said, “You know Anju and me. We don’t have to talk these things. Who else will she marry...? It’s bound to happen, isn’t it...? Just wait and watch. It will happen naturally. It is just a matter of time.”
My mother remained silent but her eyes said it all. 
 
“Okay,” I said. “I’ll ask Anju tomorrow morning when she drops me on the Deccan Queen. I will propose to her. Happy?”
That night I could not sleep. 

Nagging doubts filled my brain. 

I wondered what was bothering my mother. 

She seemed genuinely worried. 

It was the first time she had spoken like this about Anju and me.  
I thought about the delightful evening I had enjoyed with Anju. 

She had been her usual bubbly and vivacious self.  
Anju and I.  
We both knew it.  
Marriage was the natural culmination of our friendship.  
Or was it...?
 
For the first time I felt the pain of being in love.
It was 7:10 in the morning by the time we reached Pune railway station. 

Just five minutes for the Deccan Queen to begin its journey to Mumbai.
 
“Anju,” I said, “I want to ask you something.”

“Ladies first...” she said, “I have a surprise for you.”

“Surprise...?” I said, “I thought we kept no secrets from each other.” 
“That’s why I am telling you first. No one knows yet. Not even my parents. I wanted you to be the first one to know. The email came in late last night. After you dropped me home from the party.” 
 
“E-mail...? What email...?” I asked.
“I am going to the United States of America. USA. Stanford. On a three-year fully paid-up scholarship. For my Ph.D. in Computer Science.” 
 
“Three years...? Ph.D...? You never told me about it,” I said surprised and a bit miffed.

“I’m sorry, but everything happened so suddenly,” she said apologetically.
 
I just stood there dumbfounded.

“I’m so confused, Sanjiv. You’ll really have to help me out,” Anju said.

“Help you out...?” 
“I know I can depend on you Sanjiv,” Anju said, “There is so much spadework to be done in Mumbai. Passport. Visa. Air tickets. Running around to the consulate, the banks. I am leaving everything to you, Sanjiv. You are the one person in this world I can take for granted.”  
Deep down my heart ached. 

Three years...! 

I could not bear the thought that we would be separated – for three years. 

I do not know why, but I had a premonition that we were going to be separated forever. 

I felt a pain in my heart.

But the moment I looked into her large dancing eyes I realized that true love meant letting go. 

I must happily let her go on to realize her aspirations. 

I can’t begin to describe my emotions as I said, “Come on, Anju. Of course you can count on me. You know that you can always take me for granted.”  
She pressed the palm of my hand. 

I pressed back and gave her a warm smile.
 
The engine whistled. 

The train started moving. 

The distance between us started increasing. 

I looked at her wistfully and wondered if the distance between us would ever be bridged or would it keep on increasing more and more. 


10 YEARS LATER

It’s been ten years since. 

Yes – 10 long years have passed.

Now  as I manoeuvre my ship into the port of Galveston, near Houston, my Chief Officer asks me: “Captain, are you sure she’ll come all the way from Seattle...?”
 
“Of course she will come. I know Anju will come. I can always take her for granted...!” 

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.

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