Friday, November 24, 2017

The Girl

THE GIRL
Fiction Short Story
By
VIKRAM KARVE

Circa 1979 – Mumbai (then called Bombay)

PART 1 – The Girl I “Rejected”

The TASO’s wife looked angrily at me and said:

“Why did you tell Nisha that “she is not attractive”…? That is the most insulting thing you can say to a girl…”

“I did not tell Nisha that “she is not attractive” – I told her that “I was not attracted to her”…”

“It is the same thing…”

“No – it is not the same thing. I did not feel “attracted” towards her…”

“Nisha may not be a “ravishing” beauty – but she is quite charming. In fact – she is quite beautiful in her own way…”

“Did I say that she is not beautiful…?

“Yes – she may be a bit plump – but – you are no “Adonis” either. You may have a high opinion about your looks – but let me tell you that you are quite ordinary looking – and you don’t have a great physique either…”

“Why are you telling me all this…?”

“Because you “rejected” the girl…”

“I did not “reject” her – I told her that I did not want to get married…”

“It’s the same thing…!!! Poor Girl – Nisha – she is so devastated by the “rejection” – she has sunk into “depression”…”

“Shall I speak to her…?”

“Yes. You do that. And – you tell her that you want to get married to her…”

“I told you that I don’t want to get married – it’s not a question of “this girl” or “that girl” – I just don’t want to get married – that’s all…”

“So – you want to remain a bachelor for your entire life…?”

“I don’t know – maybe I will feel like getting married later – but right now – I don’t want to get married…”

The TASO’s wife looked angrily at me and said:

“You have caused me great embarrassment – it was me who had suggested your name as a “prospective groom” to the girl’s mother – yes – I strongly recommended your name – and – you have let me down like this…”

“Did you ask me – before suggesting my name…?”

“Even now – it is not too late...”

“What do you mean…?”

“If you don’t want to get married right now – we will not hurry you into marriage – you can get engaged now – then – we can wait for a year or so – till you are ready for marriage…”

“No…”

“Don’t be so impatient. The girl is very good – I know the family very well – her parents are really very decent people – the girl – Nisha – she is their only child…”

“Please…”

“Listen to me – you say “YES” – that’s all – we will see about the engagement later – this girl is ideal for you…”

“No…”

“But why…? I am just asking you to “YES” – that’s all…”

“I don’t like the girl…”

“What…? I am telling you again and again – this girl is really very good…”

“She may be “good” – but she is not “my type”…”

“What do you mean “she is not my type”…?”

“She is too “schoolmarmish”…”

“Schoolmarmish…? She certainly doesn’t look like a “schoolmarm”…”

“I didn’t mean it that way – maybe I used the wrong word – but – as I told you before – I am not “attracted” to her – she is not my type of girl…”

“You keep saying again and again “she is not my type of girl” – I just don’t understand what you mean – Nisha is quite good-looking – she has got a nice “homely” personality…”

“Ah – “homely” – that was the word I was looking for – yes – she is homely – rather “matronly” if I may say so…”

“What’s wrong with that…”

“She doesn’t “excite” me – I don’t feel a “stirring” inside me when I see her…”

“I agree that she is no “sexy siren” – but then – you are no “macho man” either…” 

“Please – let’s stop discussing this topic…”

“No. I want you to talk to the girl. I will call Nisha to the Jehangir Art Gallery tomorrow evening. You come there at 5 PM after your work. I will leave the two of you alone. You talk to her – get to know her better – you two spend some time together – go out for a movie – for dinner – talk to each other – understand each other better – and – you will realize that this girl Nisha is the best “match” for you…”

“No. It’s final. I do not want to get married. And – I do not want to get married to this girl Nisha…” I said firmly to the TASO’s wife.

After saying this – I walked away.

The TASO’s wife gave me an angry look that she had never given me before.

I knew that our friendship had been spoilt forever. 

THREE DAYS EARLIER

Circa 1979  – Mumbai (then called Bombay)

PART 2 – Return to Harbour

It all started three days ago – when we returned from a long sailing.

Since I was the junior-most bachelor with a “watch-keeping ticket” – I was rostered on “Officer of the Day” (OOD) duty.

The married officers would go home to their wives and families.

The other bachelors would paint the town red – while I spent a lonely time on board.

The moment the shore-telephone was rigged up – I tested it – I got the number from the exchange – and – I told the Duty Gangway Quartermaster to make an announcement on the ship’s broadcast – that the “shore telephone” was operational.

Within seconds – the “TAS Officer” appeared – as if from nowhere.

The “TAS Officer” aka TASO (Torpedo Anti-Submarine Officer) – he was the senior-most ‘in-living’ officer.

[With our penchant for changing names – and – in consonance with the increasing “Americanization” of our Naval Culture – TASO was later re-designated as ASWO (Anti-Submarine Warfare Officer)…]

The TASO called up his neighbour from the ship’s shore-telephone and said:

“Please call my wife – I will ring again after 5 minutes…”

(This story happened 40 years ago – in the 1970’s – before the advent of mobile phones – and – those days – in the Navy – even landline phones were a luxury – and only a select few officers were entitled to telephones at their residence)

The TASO’s neighbour was a “Secretary” to an Admiral – hence he had a residential phone.

The TASO “guarded” the shore-telephone – looking at his watch – while the newly-married “Senior Engineer” – who had also appeared on the Gangway – waited for his turn to use the phone and talk to his newly-wedded wife.

I smiled at the TASO.

He smiled back.

The TASO was a good guy – and – despite the fact that he was 5 years senior to me in the rank of Lieutenant – we were good friends.

(Those days – in the 1970’s – 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.

Today – 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…)

One more reason for my friendship with the TASO was that he was married to a cousin sister of mine – who lived near our home in Pune. In fact – the TASO’s wife and I had been classmates at school.

I watched the TASO as he anxiously waited for 5 minutes to pass – by which time his wife would have arrived at their neighbour’s house.  

The TASO did not wait for the full 5 minutes – around 3 minutes later – he picked up the shore-telephone and re-dialled his neighbour’s number.

His wife was waiting for him at the other end.

After speaking for some time to his wife – the TASO said: “Really…?”

Then – he looked at me and said:

“Hey – my wife wants to speak to you…”

And – he gave me the receiver of the shore-telephone.

“You come for dinner tonight…” the TASO’s wife said to me.

“But Ma’am – I am on duty as OOD…” I said.

“Stop calling me “Ma’am” – just call me “Alka” like before…” she admonished me, “and listen – you tell my husband – he will put someone else on duty…”

“I will come for dinner some other time…” I said.

“No. You have to come for dinner tonight. It is very important. You come at 7:30 PM – don’t be late…” the TASO’s wife said to me in a firm voice.

“Okay…” I said – and I handed over the phone to the TASO.

The TASO talked to his wife for a minute or so.

Then – the TASO looked at me – and he said to me:

“You come for dinner tonight – I will tell Lieutenant “XXX” to “hold the deck” for you…”

“Aye Aye, Sir…” I said.

The TASO was the “senior watch-keeper”.

He called Lieutenant “XXX” (the other “in-living” officer on board our ship besides me).

The TASO told Lieutenant “XXX” to “hold the deck” for me in the evening – but – the shrewd Lieutenant “XXX” preferred to exchange OOD duties with me – I would now do his duty on Sunday – so that he would be able to attend the Races at Mahalaxmi Race Course on Sunday. 

(Lieutenant “XXX” was an avid “punter”) 

So – I handed over charge of the ship to Lieutenant “XXX” – and I went down to the wardroom for a beer.

SAME DAY EVENING

Circa 1979  – Mumbai (then called Bombay)

PART 3 – The Marriage Proposal

At sharp 7:30 PM in the evening – I rang the doorbell of the TASO’s Flat in Colaba.

The TASO’s wife opened the door – she was very happy to see me.

I walked into the drawing room.

There were three persons seated on the sofa – a man – a woman – both middle-aged – and a girl – she seemed to be my age – in her early 20’s.

The girl was very “prim and proper”.

She smiled at me – a rather formal shy smile.

I smiled back at her – a “social graces” synthetic smile of forced geniality.

I looked at the girl.

She was a bit chubby – with a pleasant face – dressed in a sari – a rather “homely” type.

In the Navy – the “junior” (younger) is always introduced to the “senior” (older) person.

The TASO’s wife introduced me to the middle-aged gentleman – who was a Brigadier in the Army.

“Brigadier “YYY” – this is Lieutenant “ZZZ” (me)…”

Brigadier “YYY” shook hands with me – and he said to me:

“Good to meet you…”

Then – Brigadier “YYY” pointed towards the ladies and said to me:

“Please meet my wife  Jyotsna  and my daughter  Nisha…”

I smiled at the ladies – they smiled back at me.

The Brigadier’s wife  Jyotsna – she was looking at me in an appraising sort of way.

I gave her a smile of forced geniality – and then looked at the Brigadier and said to him:

“Sir – are you posted here – in Mumbai…?”

“No, No…” the Brigadier said, “I am commanding a Brigade in the field – but I should be moving to Pune soon – on promotion…”

“Oh. Congratulations, Sir. By the way – I am from Pune…” I said.

“I know – we know all about you – Alka has told us everything…” he said.

(Dear Reader: As I told you earlier – “Alka” was the TASO’s Wife – my School Classmate)

I was wondering why the TASO wasn’t offering me a drink. 

I saw that both the TASO and the Brigadier were drinking Whisky – and – the ladies were having “soft” drinks.

The TASO’s wife said to me:

“Why don’t you take Nisha out for a drive…?”

“Drive…?”

“On your Bike…” the TASO’s wife said to me, “take Nisha to the Mess – to the US Club – the seaside promenade – show her around – and you two can talk to each other…”

Now – I was beginning to get an inkling why I had been invited for dinner.

Story to be continued… 

VIKRAM KARVE
Copyright © Vikram Karve 
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Disclaimer:
1. This story is a fictional spoof, satire, pure fiction, just for fun and humor, no offence is meant to anyone, so take it with a pinch of salt and have a laugh.
2. This Story and all Stories in this Blog are a work of fiction. Events, Places, Settings and Incidents narrated in the stories 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)


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