Thursday, October 20, 2016

Second Honeymoon – Love in the Blue Mountains

SECOND HONEYMOON 
Love in the Blue Mountains
Short Fiction – A Romantic Love Story
By  
VIKRAM KARVE  
 
The Nilgiri Mountain Railway celebrated its Centenary in 2008. 

Actually it’s the second time they celebrated the centenary [this second one in 2008 pertains to the Coonoor - Udagamandalam (Ooty) section].

The earlier centenary of the Mettupalaiyam – Coonoor section was celebrated in 1999. 

I cherish fond memories of enjoying travelling by this delightful heritage train – the adventurous journey from Mettupalaiyam speeding to the foothills of the Blue Mountains to Kallar  and then on the steep gradient on the rack-and-pinion railway track curving and climbing past stations with lovely quaint names like Adderley, Hill Grove, Runnymede and Kateri, laughing at the witty slogans on the walls, through tunnels, over bridges, all the way to Coonoor  a halt for tea – followed by the breathtakingly picturesque journey onto Wellington, Aravankadu, Ketti, Lovedale and Ooty.  

Permit me  Dear Reader  for old times’ sake to pull out from my creative writing archives  one of my earliest fiction short stories written by me long long ago – more than 25 years ago in the early 1990s  and set on the Nilgiri Mountain Railway. 

I have revised and abridged the story to make it suitable for easy reading on the digital screen.

Do let me know if you liked it. 

SECOND HONEYMOON – A Travel Romance by Vikram Karve

Winter.

Early morning.

Chill in the air.

I stand alone on the metre gauge side of the lonely island platform of Mettupalayam Railway Station.

I stare at the peaks of the Blue Mountains (the Nilgiris) silhouetted in a veil of mist in the distance.

Nothing much has changed here since the last time I came here on my way to Ooty.

It was almost 30 years ago  and even now  the place, the things, the people – everything looks the same – as if frozen in time.

But for me there is a world of difference.

Then  I was a young bride  full of inchoate zest  in the company of my handsome husband  eagerly looking forward to the romantic journey on the mountain train  on my way to our honeymoon at Ooty.  

And now everything is so different.

The same place which then felt so exciting then, now feels so gloomy.

Strange.

But true.

What’s outside just doesn’t matter 
 what’s inside does.

I try not to reminisce.

Remembering good times when I am in misery causes me unimaginable agony.

I look at my watch.

7.30 A.M.

The small blue toy train pushed by its hissing steam engine comes on the platform.

Dot on time.

As it was then.

The same chill in the air.

Then  I had the loving warmth of my husband’s arm around me.

Now 
 I feel the bitter cold penetrating within me.

I drag my feet across the platform towards the mountain train.

Then – they called it The Blue Mountain Express.

Now – I don’t know.

Scared, anxious, fear in my stomach  I experience a strange uneasiness  a sense of foreboding – a feeling of ominous helplessness  wondering what my new life would have in store for me.

I sit alone in the First Class compartment right in front of the train  and  I wait for the train to start. 

Yes  I sit in the train which is going to take me to the point to no return.

I wish that all this is just a dream.

But 
– I know it is not.

And suddenly  Avinash enters.

We stare at each other in disbelief.

Time stands still.

There is silence, a grotesque silence, till Avinash speaks: “Roopa! What are you doing here?”

I do not answer.

Because 
 I cannot answer.

I am struck dumb 
 swept by a wave of melancholic despair.

My vocal cords numbed by emotional pain.

I look ineffectually and forlornly at Avinash. 

He looks at me with a curious expression on his face.

I realize that there is no greater pain than to remember happier times when in distress.  

“You look good when you get emotional...” Avinash says sitting opposite me.

In the vulnerable emotional state that I am in at this moment  I know that I will have a breakdown if I continue sitting with Avinash.

I want to get out of the compartment – I want to run away  but suddenly  the train moves.

I am trapped.

So I decide to put on a brave front 
 and I say to Avinash, “Coming from Madras?” 

“Yes,” he says, “I’d gone for some work there.”

“You stay here? In Ooty?” I ask with a tremor of trepidation for I do not want to run into Avinash again and again. I do not want to let him know that I had made a big mistake by not marrying him  that I had made the wrong choice by dumping him  the man I loved  because I was in search of a better life.

“I stay near Kotagiri,” Avinash says.

“Kotagiri?” I ask relieved.

“Yes, I own a tea-estate there.”

“You own a tea estate?”

“Yes. I am a planter.”

Now – I really regret my blunder 30 years ago. 

Indeed  I had made the wrong choice.

“Your family – wife, children?” I probe, curious.

“I didn’t marry,” he says curtly. “There’s no family  only me. I am a confirmed bachelor – just me – I live all by myself.”

“Oh, Avinash. You should have got married. Why didn’t you?”

“It is strange that you should be asking me why I did not marry...?” he says.

“Oh my God! Because of me...? You did not marry because I dumped you...?” 
 
Avinash changes the subject and he says: “I’ll be getting off at Coonoor. My jeep will pick me up.” 

I say nothing.

He pauses 
– then he asks me, “And you, Roopa? Going to Ooty? At the height of winter! To freeze over there?”

“No,” I say, “I am going to Ketti.”

“Ketti...?” he asks with derisive surprise.

“Yes. What’s wrong with going to Ketti...?” I protest.

“There are only two places you can go to in Ketti – the boarding school and the old-age home. And  the school is closed in December...” Avinash says nonchalantly, looking out of the window.

I say nothing.

Because I cannot say anything.

So 
– I suffer his words in silence.

“Unless of course you own a bungalow there!” he says sarcastically turning towards me and mocking me once again.

The cat is out of the bag.

I cannot describe the sense of humiliation I feel sitting there with Avinash.

The tables seem to have turned.

Or have they?

There are only the two of us in the tiny compartment.

As the train begins to climb up the hills 
 it began to get windy and Avinash closes the windows.

The smallness of the compartment forces us into a strange sort of intimacy.

I remember the lovely moments with Avinash.

A woman’s first love always has an enduring place in her heart.

“I am sorry if I hurt you,” Avinash says, “but the bitterness just came out.”

We talk.

Avinash is easy to talk to 
– and I am astonished how effortlessly my words come tumbling out. 

I tell him everything. 

Yes  I tell him everything – the entire story of my life.

How I had struggled, sacrificed, planned and taken every care.

But still 
 everything had gone wrong.

Widowed at 28.

Abandoned by my only son at 52.

Banished to an old-age home 
 so that “they – my son and daughter-in-law  they could sell off our house and migrate abroad.

They  yes  they  those two who ruined my life, betrayed my trust - my only son who I doted upon and lived for and that scheming wife of his. 

“I have lost everything,” I cry, unable to control my self. “Avinash, I have lost everything.”

“No, Roopa,” Avinash says, “You haven’t lost everything. You have got me! I have got you. We have got each other. Maybe – we can begin a new life together.

Avinash takes me in his comforting arms – and I experience the same feeling, the same zest, the same warmth, the same lovely emotion, the same love  that I felt 30 years ago  on my first romantic journey  on this same mountain toy train  on my way to my first honeymoon  into the lovely blue mountains. 

It seems like I am going on my second honeymoon. 

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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Copyright © Vikram Karve (All Rights Reserved)

Copyright © Vikram Karve (all rights reserved)

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