Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Realty Check - Short Fiction - A Story of Changing Values and Relationships

Fiction Short Story
“I want to go home...!” the father, a redoubtable intrepid tough looking old man, around seventy, shouts emphatically at his son.  
“Please Baba. Don’t create a scene,” the son, an effeminate looking man in his mid-forties, says softly.  
“What do you mean don’t create a scene...?” the old man shouts even louder, waving his walking stick in a menacing manner.
“Please calm down...! Everyone is looking at us...!” an old woman, in her mid-sixties, pleads with her husband.  
“Let them look...! Let everyone see what an ungrateful son is doing to his poor old parents...” the old man says loudly, looking all around. 
“Ungrateful...?” the son winces.  
“Yes, ungrateful...! That’s what you are. We did everything for you; educated you, brought you up. And now you throw us out of our house into this bloody choultry.”  
“Choultry...! You call this a choultry...! Please Baba... This is a luxury township for Senior Citizens...” the son says.  
“It’s okay,” the old woman consoles her husband, “we’ll manage in this Old Age Home.” 
“Mama, please...!” the son implores in exasperation, “How many times have I told you. This is not an Old Age Home. It’s such a beautiful exclusive township for Senior Citizens to enjoy a happy and active life. And I’ve booked you a premium cottage – the best available here.”  
The mother looks at her son, and then at her husband, and feels trapped between the two, not knowing what to say as both are right in their own way. So she says gently to her husband, “Try to understand. We’ll adjust here. See how scenic and green this place is. See there – what a lovely garden.”  
“I prefer Nana-Nani Park at Chowpatty. All my friends are there,” the old man says.  
“You’ll make friends here too,” she says.  
“Friends...! These half-dead highbrow snobs...?” the old man says mockingly.  
“Okay,” the son intervenes, “you both can take long walks. The air is so pure and refreshing at this hill station.”  
“Listen you...! Don’t try all this on me. I’ve been walking for the last fifty years on Marine Drive and that’s where I intend walking the rest of my life...” the old man shouts at his son. Then the old man turns to his wife and says peremptorily to her, “You pack our bags and let’s go back to Mumbai. We are not staying here...!”  
“Try and adjust,” his wife beseeches him, “you’ll like the place. Look at the facilities here – there’s a modern health club, gym, library, recreation... everything is here.”  
“Gym...? You want me to do body building at this age...? Library...? You know after my cataract I can hardly read the newspaper...! And I can get all the recreation I need watching the sea at the Chowpatty...”  
“Please Baba, don’t be obstinate,” begs his son. “This place is so good for your health. They give you such delicious nourishing food here.” 
“Delicious...? Nourishing...? The bloody sterile stuff tastes like hospital food. I can’t stand it – where will I get Sardar’s Pav Bhaji, Kyani’s Kheema Pav, Vinay’s Misal, Satam’s Vada Pav, Delhi Durbar’s Biryani, Sarvi’s Boti Kababs, Fish in Anantashram in Khotachi wadi next door…”  
“Please Baba...! All you can think of is horrible oily spicy street-food which you should not eat at your age...! With your cholesterol and sugar levels, you’ll die if you continue eating that stuff...”  
“I’d rather die of a heart attack in Mumbai enjoying the tasty good food I like rather than suffer a slow death here trying to eat this insipid tasteless nonsense,” the old man shouts at his son, then looks at his wife and commands, “Listen. Just pack up. We are not staying here like glorified slaves in this golden cage. One month here in this godforsaken place has made me almost mad. We are going right back to our house in Girgaum to live with dignity...!”  
“Please Baba. Don’t be difficult. I have to leave for the states tonight,” the son pleads desperately. “I’m trying to do the best possible for you. You know the huge amount of money I’ve paid in advance to book this place for you...?” 
“You go back to your family in America. I’m going back to my house in Girgaum...! That’s final...!” the old man says firmly to his son. Then he looks at his wife, the old woman, and says, “You want to come along...? Or should I go back alone...?”  
“Mama, please tell him...” the son looks at his mother.  
The old woman looks lovingly at her husband, puts her hand on his arm and says softly, “Please try to understand. We have to live here. There’s no house in Girgaum. Our tenement chawl has been sold to a builder. They are building a commercial complex there.”  
“What...?” the old man looks at his wife, totally stunned, as if he is pole-axed, “you too...!”

And suddenly the old man's defences crumble and he disintegrates... no longer is he the strong indefatigable redoubtable man he was a few moments ago -- the old man seems to have lost his spirit, his strength, his dignity, his self-esteem, even his will to live...!

The metamorphosis in the old man's personality is unbelievable as he meekly holds his wife’s hand for support and, totally defeated, the once tough and redoubtable old man obediently leans on his frail wife for support and walks with her towards their cottage where they both will spend the last days of their lives... lonely... unwanted... waiting for death.

Copyright © Vikram Karve 2010
Vikram Karve has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work

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