Wednesday, June 7, 2017

The Reunion

THE REUNION
Fiction Short Story
By
VIKRAM KARVE

I did not want to attend the reunion.

“Failures” avoid reunions.

And – I was the biggest “failure” in our class – the “loser” of the batch.

But – it was the “Silver Jubilee” Reunion of our class.

We had completed our MBA exactly 25 years ago from a premier Business School – a huge alumni get-together had been organized – and – my classmates from all over the world had come down to attend.

I lived in the same town as our prestigious Business School – and – there was so much “peer pressure” to attend – that – I could not give any excuse – so – here I was – attending the “Silver Jubilee Reunion” of our “Class of 1992”.

On the first evening – there was an “alumni only” fellowship function – so there were no spouses – and – I was quite happy to attend alone – since I did not want my wife to see what a “failure” I was – compared to my classmates – who had reached great heights of “success”.

Maybe – I would skip the family picnic on the next day.

Our batch had done exceptionally well.

We had passed out from the Business School in 1992 – just after the economic “liberalization” heralded in 1991 – when business opportunities had been opened up.

India was “liberalized” and “globalized” – and – our class greatly benefited from it – getting lucrative placements – many overseas – and – most of my classmates had achieved great career success.

And – the most successful classmate of all was “Menaka” – who had been awarded the “Distinguished Alumni Award”.


I looked at Menaka in awe – as she accepted the award from the Director of the “B-School” – and then – I listened with rapt attention as Menaka delivered her acceptance speech.

Once the formal function was over – we proceeded to the lawns for “fellowship” – over cocktails and dinner.

Listening to everyone brag about their “success stories” filled me with depression – so – I walked towards the bar.

I sat down all alone at a table near the bar – and – I proceeded to get drunk.

“Hello…” a feminine voice woke me up from my solitary drunken reverie.

It was Menaka.

“Oh – Hello…” I said – trying to stand up unsteadily.

“You are the only one who hasn’t congratulated me…” she said, “Tell me – aren’t you happy at my achievement…?”

“No – No – it’s not that…” I stammered in embarrassment, “you are a “celebrity” now – and – you were surrounded by so many people – so I thought I would congratulate you later. Come – let’s celebrate with a drink…”

“Actually – I think I have had too much to drink – and I am feeling quite “high”…”

“Come on Menaka – do you remember – you could drink all of us under the table…”

“Okay – if you insist – I’ll have a drink with you…” she said.

“Whisky…?”

“Yes – “on the rocks”…”

I walked unsteadily to the bar – and – I got two stiff pegs of whisky – one for Menaka – “on the rocks” – and – one for me – with soda.

We “clinked” our glasses – and – we began to sip our drinks.  

I looked around – almost everyone seemed to have gone home – and the few remaining were also having up their dinner at the buffet tables.  

We two – Menaka and I – we were the only ones still drinking.

“Would you like to sit…?” I asked her.

“No – it’s fine…” she said, “Talk to me – say something…”  

“You have lived up to your name – “Menaka” – yes – you have lived up to your name…” I said.

“What do you mean…?” she asked.

“Menaka means “born of the mind”…” I said.

“Really…?”

“Yes. That’s why you have so much talent and ambition to excel – especially in business and the material world. And – you have proved it by your tremendous achievements and outstanding success in your career. Today’s “Distinguished Alumni Award” bears testimony to this fact that you have lived up to your name – isn’t it…?

“Well – I thought that “Menaka” means an “Apsara” – a beautiful “celestial dancer”…”

“Well – even in that sense – you are a true “Menaka”…”

“Really…? You think I am beautiful…?”

“Of course you are beautiful – you were always very beautiful – you were the most beautiful girl in our class – and – even now – you look so beautiful – in fact – you were the most beautiful woman in today’s gathering…”

“Then – you tell me – if I was really so beautiful – why didn’t anyone fall in love with me…?”

“Because – yours is a different type of beauty…”

“What do you mean “a different type of beauty”…?”

“You exude an imperious beauty – like a Queen – a beauty to be admired from a distance…”

“Are you saying I look haughty and “cold”…?”

“Do you know what your nickname was…?”

“What…?”

“We called you “Ice Maiden”…”

“That’s not fair. Do you think I am a hard-hearted unemotional person…?”

“Well that’s the impression you give – the “touch-me-not” vibes you radiate…”

“That’s rude – “touch-me-not” vibes – what do you mean…? I don’t look that hideous…”

“Who said that you look hideous…? You look very beautiful.  But – your imposing persona overshadows your beauty…”

“Imposing persona…? Am I really like that…? I thought I was the most polite person with all the social graces…”

“Well – maybe I used the wrong term – but – it is a combination of all factors – your aura, your persona, your success – to put in a nutshell – even now – I feel that are “out of my league”…”

“No wonder…”

“No wonder what…?”

“Many boys dated me – and then – they went and married someone else…”

“You’re not married…?”

“You didn’t know..?”

“No – I really didn’t know – I am sorry…”

“Yes – I may have broken the “glass ceiling” – but – I am not married – not even once…”

“You are financially independent – in fact you are so well-off – you don’t need a man to look after you…”

“I don’t need a man to feed me – but – I need a man to love me…” she said – and tears welled in her eyes.

I remained silent.

Menaka looked at me for some time – right into my eyes.

Then – she said to me: “Do you know what I want the most right now…?”

“What…?”

“I want to be cuddled – please cuddle me...”

“What are you saying…? This is a public place…”

“But now – there are only the two of us here…”

“But – how can I “cuddle” you…?”

“Okay – just a hug – come – give me a hug – please – hug me…” she pleaded.

So – I gave her a warm hug.

Then – I said “goodbye” to Menaka – and – I went home to my wife. 

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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