Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Equations – A Love Story


While browsing through my rough notes – I came across a fiction short story I had written many years ago – in the early 1990’s – after a tour of Dehra Dun and Mussoorie.

It seems this story was “rejected” by the print magazine which regularly published my short stories.

In the early 1990’s – the social culture was quite conservative – and maybe – this story was ahead of its times.

Today – more than 25 years later – things have changed – and the culture is much more progressive and broadminded.

Here is the story – suitably abridged and edited for easy reading on the digital screen…

EQUATIONS
A Love Story
By
VIKRAM KARVE

Dehra Dun (Circa 1992)

There was just one retiring room available at Dehra Dun railway station.

The attendant opened the door and switched on the light.

The only furniture was a bed, a chair and a small table.

“It’s a single-room. Only one bed…” the attendant said.

“It’s okay. We’ll manage…” I said.

But – we really had no choice.

The Dehra Dun Express had reached 8 hours late – and it was past midnight.

The next bus to Mussoorie was at 6 AM in the morning – and there was no question of a taxi at this unearthly hour.

It was cold – the platform was desolate – so we decided to spend the night in the retiring room.

After keeping our bags on the double-bed – the retiring-room attendant gave me the key to the retiring room.

I tipped the attendant.

“Thank you, madam…” he said and went away.

“I’m tired. Let’s go to bed…” Nisha said.

We lay on our backs in the darkness.

I reached out and touched her hair.

At first touch – she shuddered.

But – as I caressed gently – she relaxed.

I took her hand in mine.

I gently squeezed her palm.

“I haven’t been in the same bed with a woman since you…” Nisha whispered.

I turned her gently so we were face to face.

Nisha didn’t resist – but she said to me:

“I don’t know how to react. I’m not sure I want to find out, right now.”

I pulled back my hands and said to her:

“We were lovers in the past. It doesn’t mean that we must be lovers again.”

There was a moment of silence.

And then – Nisha said to me:

“Anjali – I would like you to hold me. No more than that. Just hold me.”

Nisha fell asleep in my arms.

I lay there – intensely aware of her.

Until – I drifted into sleep.

Next evening – in Mussoorie – there were two separate beds in the hotel room.

Without discussion – we turned back the covers on just one of them.

And – for the second consecutive night – we fell asleep in each other’s arms.

But – Dear Reader – let me tell you what happened during the day.

After spending the night with Nisha’s arms in the warm comfort of the retiring room – I woke up early in the morning.

I gently disentangled myself from Nisha.

I gently stroked her hair – and I tucked her back into the blanket.

I looked at her – as she slept on her side like a cocoon.

I could not take my eyes off her.

I thought I had never seen anyone so beautiful, so virginal, so vulnerable.

I felt like taking her in my arms and kissing her.

But – I fought off the sudden impulse – I restrained myself – I got dressed – and – I went out into the coolness of the morning – on the platform of Dehra Dun railway station – to get a cup of tea.  

The Mussoorie Express from Delhi had just arrived.

I was trying to negotiate my way through the crowd – when suddenly – I ran bang into Mohan.

Mohan seemed surprised to see me.

“What are you doing here…?” Mohan asked me, “You should have been in Mussoorie by now.”

“Our train was 8 hours late due to some derailment. I missed the last bus – so I spent the night in the retiring room…” I said to Mohan.

“Oh…”

“And you – what are you doing in Dehra Dun…? You didn’t say anything yesterday…”

“There is an urgent meeting in Mussoorie today afternoon – about a project – they called up yesterday evening – so – I caught the Mussoorie Express at night….”

“Oh…”

“You can come with me to Mussoorie…” Mohan said, “Come – let’s get your luggage from the retiring room. And – I’ll freshen up a bit in your retiring room.”

“No…” I said instinctively.

I felt a tremor of trepidation – a chill of fear.

There is no fear like the fear of being found out.

Especially – for “us”.

“I’ll get the luggage myself. You don’t come to the retiring room…” I said to Mohan.

“Why…? What’s wrong…?” Mohan asked, looking perplexed.

“There is someone else with me…” I said.

Mohan looked at me incredulously, dumbstruck.

“It’s not what you think…” I interjected hastily, “It’s Nisha – my classmate – and my hostel roommate.”

“Oh. She too is going for the reunion – is it…?”

“Yes. We met at Delhi railway station. We travelled together...”

“Is she from Delhi…?”

No. She is from Pune. She did her MBA and works in Pune...”

“Okay Anjali. We can talk later. You go and get her. I’ll fix up a taxi...” Mohan said to me.

I walked back to the retiring room.

I pushed open the door.

Nisha was sitting on the bed.

“You look lovely…” I said.

It was true.

Nisha really looked lovely – her flawless complexion.

Even without a trace of make-up – Nisha looked very beautiful – absolutely captivating.

There was something mesmerizing about her – something intangible – something I couldn’t define.

I held out my hand to her.

She took it.

I pulled lightly.

She countered it with a pull of her own.

I pulled harder.

I was tempted.

But – I remembered Mohan waiting outside – so – I said to Nisha:

“Let’s go. We are getting a lift to Mussoorie.”

Mohan was waiting for us at the Taxi stand.

“Mohan – I’d like you to meet Nisha Kapoor. My classmate, my roommate and my friend…” I introduced Nisha to Mohan.

“Hello…” Nisha murmured.

She did not extend her hand.

Then – I introduced Mohan said to Nisha:

“Nisha – this is Mohan – my brother...”

“Step-brother…!!! I am Anjali’s step brother…” Mohan interjected rudely.

“Foster-brother – to be precise…” I said coldly, the venom rising in me.

“Yes. Anjali is my foster-sister – but we get along great… “Mohan said smiling.

It was a redundant statement – rude – totally uncalled for.

But maybe – Mohan was probably trying to press home the point that it was I who was the adopted child.

From the look in her eyes – I knew Nisha was aghast by our conversation.

But – she maintained her warm smile – and – she said to Mohan:

“Anjali used to talk about you so much – she adores you. She told me your success story – she really admires you...”

Admire – yes – I admired Mohan.

But – “adore” – no – I don’t like “perfect” people who never falter or stumble – it’s frailties that makes one lovable and human.

We – Nisha and I – we sat on the rear seat of the Ambassador Taxi – while Mohan sat in front – next to the driver.

I looked at Mohan.

Viewed from the outside – there was much to admire about him.

He was young, slim, well-built and clean-faced – with bright eyes and thick black hair – confident – successful – go-getter – a “prima donna”.

“Hey, Mohan – did you get the laptop – that latest notebook computer you wanted…?” I asked him.

(Dear Reader – this story happened in the 1990’s – when Laptops were a luxury – and notebook computers were quite rare in India)

“Did you get the laptop – that latest notebook computer you wanted…?” I asked Mohan.

“No…” Mohan said, “The one I wanted was too expensive…”

Suddenly Nisha spoke: “I have a notebook computer I want to dispose of...”

“No thanks, Nisha…” Mohan said.

“At least, have a look at my laptop. It is right here in my bag. It is one of the latest models, with all the best features…” Nisha said.

“I want a new one…” Mohan said.

“My laptop is as good as new...” Nisha said.

“Then why do you want to sell it…?” Mohan asked her.

“My uncle who is in the USA gifted it to me. I really don’t require it. I just want to dispose it off…” Nisha said, “Look here, Mohan – I’ll give it to you real cheap – as a favour – since you are Anjali’s….”

“I don’t need any favours from anyone…” Mohan snapped, losing his temper.

He quickly composed himself, and contrite, he said: “I’m sorry, Nisha.”

“Kapoor…!!! Nisha Kapoor…!!!” Nisha said coldly.

“Yes – Ms. Kapoor – I am really very sorry, Ms. Kapoor…” Mohan said softly, “I didn’t mean to be rude. It is just my philosophy. As a matter of principle – I do not like to have anything “second-hand”. I like everything “brand-new” – “first-hand” – unused – untouched – unspoilt…”

Nisha was listening to him intently.

“I hate “secondhand”, “hand-me-down”, “used” things…” Mohan continued. “I would rather wait till I can afford it. For me – everything has to be brand-new…!”

There was silence in the car.

I closed my eyes in self-commiseration.

Mohan was right.

Mohan always got everything “brand-new” – unspoilt – virginal – like I was – on that New Year’s Eve night – three years ago – when he had raped me.

His words still echo in the innermost recesses of my mind.

“Don’t be scared, Anjali...” Mohan had whispered to me in the dark. “Come on – spread your legs – you’ll feel good.”

And then – he had pushed my legs apart – and – he had forced himself into me.

For me – it was unimaginable agony.

The next few moments were vivid flashed in a void.

It was terrifying.

And after raping me that one time – he never come to me again.

“Bastard…” I thought about him – but – the irony not lost on me – for it was me who was probably one…!!!

That evening – in Mussoorie – the school reunion dinner was a success.

Since ours was an “All–Girls” school – parents, brothers, husbands – men had not been invited.

They would attend the Founders’ Day Lunch next afternoon.

At night – during the reunion dinner – we girls reminisced.

It was an atmosphere of warmth and intimacy.

A unique lifelong intimacy had evolved during those years of forced togetherness during the most delicate and inchoate period of one’s life.

After dinner we – Nisha and I – we cuddled together on our favorite bench.

The snow-capped Himalayas looked resplendent in the moonlight.

It was quiet, secluded, romantic.

Nisha broke the silence.

“Anjali – tell me everything…” she said.

“My foster-parents didn’t have a child. So – they adopted me from an orphanage – when I was a small baby…” I said.

“And Mohan…?”

“He was born to them after a year or so. I must have been a about one-and-a-half years’ old when Mohan was born...”

“It’s strange – isn’t it…? You adopt a child because you don’t have children. And then – you have your own children….”

“It’s known to happen…!”

“When did you come to know that you are adopted…?”

“They told me when I was around 12 years old…”

“But they aren’t supposed to tell you till you are a “major” – till you are 18 years old – isn’t it…?”

“It was the relatives. They told Mohan.”

“And then…?”

“My world turned topsy-turvy…” I said, “suddenly – I felt as if all equations had changed – especially with Mohan.”

“So – they packed you off to boarding school…?”

“Yes. And – I met you...” I said to Nisha.

Without warning – Nisha clung to me – her body pressed tightly to mine – her face buried in my shoulder.

I stroked her head – I caressed her neck – I fondled her back – in silence – a delicious silence – oblivious to the world.

It was better move to the privacy of our room, I thought, where no one would chance upon us “in flagrante delicto”

We walked slowly in the dark, our fingers intertwined.

“Anjali, I want to ask you something…” Nisha whispered.

“Ask…”  I said.

“Have you ever been to bed with a man…?” she asked me.

I stiffened.

“Was it that bad…?” Nisha asked.

“No. No…” I said hurriedly, trying to loosen my grip on her hand.

But – Nisha squeezed my hand – holding tightly.

“Did you…?”

“Nisha – I haven’t slept with a man. Even the very thought of it is repulsive to me…” I said to her.

(The first part of my statement was a lie – I had “slept” with a man – though it had been just that once with Mohan – when he had raped me.

The second part was true – after that traumatic nightmare – for me – the very thought of sleeping with a man seemed repulsive.)

Nisha looked at me and said: “I don’t feel that way about men…”

“Have you, Nisha…? Have you slept with a man…?” I asked her.

“No…” she said.

“Why…?”

“It just didn’t happen…” Nisha said, “But I want to. Just to experience what it’s like.”

“Not tonight…” I said, gently caressing her wrist, “Tonight – there is just you and me – just “us”…”

“Tell me, Anjali. Have you..? With some other woman…?” Nisha asked me.

“No…” I said, as we entered our hotel room, “only you, Nisha – no one else.”

And – we went to bed – together – for the second consecutive night.

And then – we spent a third night together in each other’s arms.

Next morning – it was time to part.

I had to get back to Delhi.

Nisha was staying back in Mussoorie – she had planned a tour of the hills.

Mohan was exuberant.

He had bagged the contract to build a luxury hotel at Dhanoulti, near Mussoorie.

And there were two more projects in the offing – a tourist complex – and an elite residential project.

Mohan said to me:

“Anjali – I have decided to shift to Mussoorie – to be on the spot for these projects. There is money to be made out here in the hills – this is the place to be…”

“And me…?” I asked.

“You stay on in Delhi and look after the Delhi office. There will be a lot of loose ends to be tied up at that end…” Mohan said.

Mohan paused for a moment – then – he said to me:

“By the way – Anjali – you can have my old car. I am going to buy a “brand-new” car – a deluxe model…”

“Thanks…” I said.

That’s what I always got – Mohan’s secondhand used “hand-me-downs” – like his used car which he was so generously giving me.

“I am going to build a “brand-new” cottage out here in Muussorie – facing the Himalayas – on the slopes of Lal Tibba…” Mohan said.

“Won’t it be cheaper to buy one…? Someone told me that “The Anchorage” is for sale – the old “Sea-Dog” wants to settle in Mumbai with his children…” I said to Mohan.

The moment I spoke those words – I instantly regretted them – as I saw the look on Mohan’s face started changing.

Nisha saved the day.

“It is best to build a “brand-new” cottage…” Nisha said affirmatively, “there is no point living in a dilapidated secondhand bungalow.”

“Exactly…” Mohan said warming up to her, “I am so glad you see my point. Anjali just doesn’t understand.”

Of course – I understood.

For Mohan - everything – “brand-new”.

For me – I got everything “secondhand” – hand-me-downs.

That was the equation.

THREE MONTHS LATER

Three months later – I stood in the foyer of Mussoorie’s most exclusive hotel –welcoming the guests at Mohan’s wedding reception.

It had happened so suddenly that I was a still trying to recover from the surprise.

Mohan was introducing his “brand-new” bride to everyone.

I cannot begin to describe my emotions as I looked at Mohan’s “brand-new” bride – Nisha.

Yes – my “brother” Mohan and my “friend” Nisha were getting married.

Nisha looked so beautiful – so virginal - so unspoilt – indeed – she looked absolutely “brand-new” – yes – very much a “brand-new” bride.

Towards the end of the reception – I walked down to Nisha – and – I looked into her eyes.

I held out my hand.

She took my hand and squeezed lightly.

An “innocent” squeeze – which no one else can ever understand.

Not even Mohan.

Nisha turned towards Mohan and said to him:

“I want to freshen-up. I’ll go along with Anjali.”

“Of course, darling…” Mohan said to Nisha, “but don’t be too long.”

“Just half-an-hour…” Nisha said, “I’ll shower and change for dinner too.”

The moment we entered the “Honeymoon-Suite” – I locked the door and took Nisha into my arms.

She responded with a passion I had never experienced before.

As we lay on her bridal-bed – satiated – but still entangled – I smiled to myself.

In my mind’s eye – I could visualize Mohan boasting to everyone about his “brand-new” bride.

In my imagination – I said to Mohan:

“No, Mohan – this time you’ve got it all wrong – your bride is not “brand-new” – yes – Mohan – your bride Nisha is certainly not “brand-new”. Dear Mohan – for the first time in your life – you are getting a second-hand “hand-me-down” from me. The equations have changed. And you don’t even know it.”

Yes – indeed – the equations had really changed – forever. 

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. 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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