Sunday, January 15, 2017

The “Threesome” Date

A “THREESOME” DATE
Short Fiction Story – A Love Story
By
VIKRAM KARVE

After retirement – once in a while – I hark back to my wonderful Navy days – like I did this morning – while on my morning walk – and – I recalled this delightful “memoir” – which happened 40 years ago – in early 1977 to be precise – when I was a raw “Subbie” on my first sea tenure on a frontline warship based at Mumbai

At the time of the story (1977) – “Mumbai” was called “Bombay” – so I shall use the old name “Bombay” in the story – and – so will I use the old city names Madras and Calcutta prevalent at that time – now called Chennai and Kolkata respectively.

So – the moment I returned from my walk – I sat down on my laptop to write this love story – my first piece of creative writing in the year 2017.

Enjoy the Love Story….

Mumbai (then called Bombay)
Circa 1977

I stepped off the ship onto the ship’s gangway – I saluted – and – I walked down to the jetty.

After nearly a month at sea – I stood on solid ground – wondering what to do on my first evening ashore in Mumbai.

I saw Lieutenant “Q” walk down the gangway to the jetty – he was carrying a packet in his left hand.

I saluted Lieutenant “Q”  (Yes – in the Navy – we saluted in “Civvies” too)

Lieutenant “Q” returned my salute – and – he said to me: “So – you’re off to paint the town red…?”

“No, Sir…” I said.

“So – what are your plans for the evening…?” Lieutenant “Q” asked me.

“I don’t know, Sir…” I said.

“If you’ve got nothing better to do – why don’t you come with me…?” Lieutenant “Q” said.

“Thank you, Sir…” I said – and I started walking with Lieutenant “Q” – careful to keep in step with him – since he was the senior officer.

Yes – Lieutenant “Q” was the senior-most in-living officer on our ship – a “specialist” officer who was more than 6 years senior to me.

(Those days – after being commissioned as an Officer in the Navy – it took you 3 years to become a Lieutenant – and then – you remained a Lieutenant for 8 long years – before being promoted to the rank of Lieutenant Commander after a total of 11 years of commissioned service – unlike today – when you see “greenhorns” – who haven’t yet fully grown their whiskers – strutting around wearing “two and a half stripes” of a Lieutenant Commander after just 6 years of commissioned service – thanks to the benevolent Ajai Vikram Singh Cadre Review Report aka AVS 2006 – which has reduced the value of senior ranks to subaltern status…)

Soon – we – Lieutenant “Q” and me – we were out of the Dockyard – and – I kept pace with Lieutenant “Q” as crossed the road and walked towards Kalaghoda.

“Sir – if I may ask – where are you going…?” I hesitatingly asked Lieutenant “Q”.

“I am going to meet my ‘girlfriend’…” Lieutenant “Q” said.

“Oh – you have a “date” with your girlfriend…?” I asked.

“Yes – you can say that – I have a “date” with my girlfriend…” he said.

“Oh – you have a date with your girlfriend – Sir – in that case – I will like to excuse myself…” I said. 

“Why…?”

“Sir – I don’t want to be a “Kabab Mein Haddi” – a “Threesome”…” I said.

Lieutenant “Q” burst out laughing: “Ha Ha – “Threesome” – Ha Ha. Your imagination seems to be running wild. Don’t worry – it’s not that type of “date” – you come along – my girlfriend would love to meet you…”

We walked past the Wayside Inn, Rhythm House (opposite the Jehangir Art Gallery) – crossed the road – walked ahead on the street between the Sessions Court and the University – turned right on Mayo Road (adjacent the Oval Maidan) – and soon – we were outside the Bombay University Library below the iconic Rajabai Tower.

From the foyer – a girl waved out to Lieutenant “Q”.

Lieutenant “Q” waved back at the girl.

The girl came running towards us.

The girl was quite pretty – and – she seemed very excited to see Lieutenant “Q”.

“I am so happy to see you after a long time…” she said.

“Yes – it’s been 3 months – we had quite a long stint in the East…” Lieutenant “Q” said to her.

“I was so happy when you called this morning – I was waiting for you – and – I knew you would be dot on time – as always…” the girl said.

“Yes – the moment we tied up alongside and the shore-phone got connected – the first person I called was you – and luckily – you picked up – not your Library In-Charge…” Lieutenant “Q” said to her.

“That’s good – she’s quite a nosey-parker – she would have guessed why I wanted the “half-day” off…”

“It’s good we had a “make and mend” too – we deserved it – returning to harbour after a really long and arduous sailing…”

“Where all did you go…?”

“All over the Indian Ocean and the Bay of Bengal – and we touched Madras (Chennai), Port Blair, Vizag, Calcutta (Kolkata) – even some small ports like Pondicherry, Tuticorin, Paradip etc…”

“Wow – it must have been exciting…?”

“Actually – it is quite a relief to be back in Bombay…” Lieutenant “Q” said.

Then – Lieutenant “Q” gave her the packet he was carrying – and he said to the girl: “I have got your books…”

The girl opened the packet – and – as she saw the books – her face was filled with joy.

The girl held a book in her hand – looked at Lieutenant “Q” with curiosity – and – she asked him: “How did you manage to get this rare “gem”…? It’s an “out of print” book – I never imagined that I would ever get to read this book. Where did you get it…?”

“College Street – Calcutta...” Lieutenant “Q” said, “You can get any book over there – if a book exists – you will find it at ‘College Street’…”

“Wow – look at this…” the girl said excitedly, holding another book, “It’s a “first edition” – I must say that you are really great – thank you so much for getting me all these books that I so desperately wanted…”

“Come on – don’t say “Thank You” and all that – it is the least I could do for my favourite girlfriend – and – this is a gift from me – so…”

“Okay – you are a real darling…” the girl said lovingly to Lieutenant “Q”.

All this while – I was standing like a “mute spectator”.

Lieutenant “Q” must have realized his gaffe – so he quickly introduced us – me and the girl – to each other. 

The girl – who had just joined as a Librarian – said to me: “I always loved books – so – after my graduation – I followed my passion – I did my ‘Library Science’ Course – and now – I am among books all day…”

“So – what are the plans for the evening…?” Lieutenant “Q” asked the girl.

“Let’s go “Bookshop Crawling”…” she said.

I had heard of “Pub Crawling” – but this “Bookshop Crawling” was a new experience for me.

But – I quite enjoyed it.

We walked out of the University gate – turned right – passed the resplendent Gothic Style High Court Building – and then – started browsing books on the pavement book-stalls near the Central Telegraph Officer (CTO) on the road from Churchgate to Flora Fountain. 

Then – we “bookshop crawled” – from Bookstore to Bookstore – on DN Road, PM Road, opposite VT – till we landed up at the iconic Secondhand Bookshop at Dhobi Talao on Kalbadevi Road.

It was a unique date – and – like the cliché saying – Lieutenant “Q” and his Girlfriend – they “walked” books and they “talked” books – and – I tried to get in a word too – whenever I got a chance.

In one of the book-stores – I noticed that the Girl liked a book – but – when she saw the price – she hesitated.

So – like a chivalrous “Knight in Shining Armour” – with a flourish – I pulled out my wallet – I bought the book – and – I presented it to her.

“No. No. How can I take this…” the girl protested.

“Oh – so you are “bribing” her with a book…? Are you trying to steal my girlfriend…?” Lieutenant “Q” said to me – looking miffed.

I blushed red with embarrassment.

“Ha Ha – it’s okay…” Lieutenant “Q” said to the girl, breaking into a smile, “Take the book – he’s a nice guy – he really wants you to have it…”

Lieutenant Q’s Girlfriend gave me a loving smile and said to me: “Thank you so much…”

We were enjoying “Book Crawling” so much – that – time passed in a jiffy – and – I did not realize that almost 4 hours had passed.

Suddenly the girl looked at her watch and said: “Oh My God – it’s past 8 – I have to go home…”

We walked via Metro – to Marine Lines – turned left – and walked towards Churchgate Station where she would catch a local to her home in Bandra.

“Hey – remember – I told you on the phone – we have got a “date” next week – on Saturday…” the girl said to Lieutenant “Q”.

“Of course I remember – the “Book Fair”…” Lieutenant “Q” said to her.

“We’ll really have a good time…” the girl said – then – she looked at me – and – she said to me: “Why don’t you come along too…? You like books – don’t you…? We all will have a good time at the Book Fair…”

“I would love to come – if…” I hesitated – and I looked at Lieutenant “Q”

“You are most welcome to join us…” Lieutenant “Q” said to me, “I am sure you will enjoy the Book-Fair…”

“Yes, Sir…” I said.

Then – we waved good-bye to Lieutenant Q’s Girlfriend at Churchgate.

After she left – we walked back to our ship.

“So…” Lieutenant “Q” said to me, “did you like my Girlfriend…?”

“Yes…” I said, “She is cute…”

“Ha Ha – ‘cute’…” Lieutenant “Q” laughed.

“She is really passionate about books…” I said.

“Yes – she is a true ‘bibliophile’…” Lieutenant “Q” said.

“Sir – I never imagined that you would be such a ‘booklover’…” I said.

“Really…? Why…?” Lieutenant “Q” asked me.

“You look so ‘rough and tough’…” I said.

“Ha Ha – well – things are not always as they look from the outside…” Lieutenant “Q” said, “There are many facets about me that you do not know…”

For some time – we walked in silence.

Then – as we approached our ship – Lieutenant “Q” said to me: “It was good of you to gift her that book. I hope you remember that we have got a “threesome date” next week…”

“Of course I remember, Sir – we are going to the “Book Fair”…” I said.

To Be Continued… 

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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