Wednesday, January 25, 2012

JAYASHREE - My Favourite Short Stories Part 86

My Favourite Short Stories Part 86
A Love Story

Here is a story from my creative writing archives.
I wrote this "old fashioned" romance long long back, sometime in the 1990s perhaps, so you may find the writing style a bit archaic and amateurish.
Dear Reader, indulge me, please read the story and do tell me if you liked it.

Jayashree entered my life the moment I saw her photograph on Sanjay’s desk.
And my life changed forever!
Till that moment, I had never wanted anything belonging to anyone else.
I stared transfixed at her photo, enthralled, totally captivated by her beauty. 
“Sir, this is Jayashree, my wife!” Sanjay said, getting up form the swivel chair.
He picked up the framed photograph and showed it to me.
I took her picture in my hand and looked intently at her, totally mesmerized.
What a stunning beauty!
Never before had the mere sight of a woman aroused such strong passions, and a yearning desire in me to this extent. 
Sanjay was talking something, but it didn’t register.
I hastily said, “Cute!” for I believe that thoughts can transmit themselves if they are strong enough! 
I thought Sanjay seemed just a trifle taken aback, but he smiled, and pulled out a photo-album from the drawer.
He began showing me the photographs and started describing his home, his family, his wedding, his honeymoon – the wonderful days they had spent together in Goa. 
I took the album from him and looked at a photograph of Jayashree in a bathing suit which was so revealing that she might as well have worn nothing, but she conveyed such innocence that it was obvious that she had no inkling of this.
She looked ravishing. Absolutely Breathtaking! Her exquisite body was boldly outlined under the flimsy fabric and she radiated a tantalizing sensuousness with such fervour that I could not take my eyes off her.
“Cute,” I instinctively and unthinkingly said again, and bit my lip; it was the wrong word, but Sanjay didn’t seem to mind; he didn’t even seem to be listening. 
Dear Reader, before I proceed further with my story, let me tell you something about myself.
My name is Vijay. At the time of this story I was the Master of a merchant ship - an oil tanker. Sanjay was my Chief Officer – my number two!
He had joined recently and it was our first sailing together.
I had not met him earlier, but in due course he proved to be an excellent deputy. He was young, just thirty, he ran the ship efficiently and I liked him for his good qualities.
But there was something in his eyes that I could not fathom. I shut my mind to it.
It’s extraordinary how close you can be to a man and still know nothing about him.
Sometimes I wondered whether he was much more na├»ve or a lot more shrewd than I thought. 
“Captain, may I ask you a personal question?’ Sanjay asked me one evening, the first time we went ashore. 
“Sure,” I said. 
“Captain, I was wondering, why didn’t you get married so far?” Sanjay said with childlike candour.
I sipped my drink and smiled, “I don’t really know. Maybe I am not marriage-material.” 
“You tried to get married, find someone?” 
“You loved someone?” 
I didn’t answer. 
And as I thought about it, I felt depressed.
Life was passing me by.
I looked around the restaurant.
The atmosphere was gloomy-dark and quiet. It was late; almost midnight. 
Sanjay offered me a cigarette.
His hands were unsteady.
He seemed to be quite drunk.
As we smoked, he lapsed into silence – his eyes closed.
When he opened his eyes, I observed a strange metamorphosis in his expression.
He looked crestfallen; close to tears.
Suddenly, he blurted out, “I wish I had never got married.” 
With those few words, Sanjay had bared the secret of his marriage.
As I attempted to smoothen my startled look into a grin, I was ashamed to find that, inwardly, I was glad to hear of his misfortune.
I wondered how I could desire and yearn for Jayashree to this extent without ever having met her in flesh and blood, merely by seeing her photograph?
But it is true; my heart ached whenever I thought of her. 
We sailed from Chennai port next morning, and headed for Singapore.
It was the monsoon season and the sea was rough.
As the voyage progressed, the weather swiftly deteriorated.
The ship rolled and pitched feverishly, tossed about by the angry waves.
As we neared the Strait of Malacca, I began to experience a queer sensation - a strange foreboding.
Though I was moulded in a profession where intellect habitually meets danger, I felt restless and apprehensive. I had felt and fought occasional fear before, but this was different – a premonition – a nameless type of fright; a strange feeling of dread and uneasiness.
I tried my best to dispel my fear, thrust away the strange feelings. But all my efforts failed. The nagging uneasiness persisted and soon took charge of me.
It was so dark that I couldn’t even see our ship’s forecastle. The incessant rain and treacherous sea created an eerie atmosphere. I was close to panic as we negotiated the treacherous and hazardous waters of the Strait. 
As I stared into the pitch blackness which shrouded the hour moments before the breaking of dawn, a strange tocsin began sounding in my brain – a warning I could not fathom.
The ship was pitching violently. I felt sick with fear and stood gasping for air, clutching the telegraph. I had to get outside, into the fresh air, or I’d suffocate.
As I groped my way along the rail in the bridge-wing, I heard a shrill voice behind me, “Don’t go away, Captain! Please stay. I can’t handle it alone. I can’t. Please, Sir. Don’t go!” 
I turned around. It was Sanjay. He looked at me beseechingly with terror and fright in his eyes. 
It penetrated to me in flash of revelation what I’d done.
I had transmitted my own fear into my crew. Sanjay was the Chief Officer. For him, to confess in front of the crew, that he could not handle it, brought home to me the fact of how desperate he was. 
I had to take control at once.” You are not supposed to handle it as long as I’m around,” I shouted. “Go down to your cabin and catch up on your sleep. I don’t want passengers on the bridge. Get out from here.” 
The moment those words left my mouth, I instantly regretted what I had said; but it was too late now. Sanjay was close to tears, humiliated in front of the crew. He shamefacedly left the bridge and went down to his cabin. 
Suddenly, a searchlight was switched on, dead ahead. Instinctively I shouted an order to the quartermaster to swing the ship across the ship across to starboard. I crossed my fingers, desperately praying to avoid a collision. It was a near-miss, but the searchlight kept following our sheer to starboard.
I was angry now. I stopped the engines, picked up the loudhailer, rushed out the bridge-wing, leaned over, and shouted, “You stupid fools. Are you crazy? What the hell do you think you are doing?” 
“We are in distress,” a voice answered. “Throw us a rope.”
I called the boatswain and told him to throw over the monkey-ladder. “Be careful, and report quickly,” I told him. 
Ten minutes must have passed but there was no report. The silence was disquieting, ominous. I decided to go to the deck.
Before I could move, four men entered the bridge. They were wearing hoods. As I started at the nozzle of a carbine pointed at me, comprehensive dawned on me pretty fast. This was piracy on the high seas.
Incredible, but true. I had never imagined it would happen to me.
Undecided as to my next move, I stood there feeling far from heroic. There was no question of resistance. After all, this was a merchant ship, not a man-o’-war. Saving the lives of the crew was of paramount importance. The man pointing the carbine at me said softly, “Captain, we are taking over. Don’t try anything foolish. Tell the crew.” 
Suddenly, there was deep shuddering sound followed by a deafening roar. The ship rose on top of a steep quivering hill and slithered down its slope. There was a resounding thud followed by reverberating screeching vibrations. We had run aground.
Suddenly the ship lurched wildly, throwing everyone off-balance. Sanjay suddenly appeared out of nowhere, made a running dive and grabbed the carbine from the pirate.
It happened too quickly, and so unexpectedly that I was totally dumbstruck. Everyone seemed to have opened fire. Bullets wildly straddled the bridge.
There was pandemonium, as crew members joined the melee, grappling with the pirates. I hit the deck and froze. 
I don’t know who pulled me up, but by then everything was calm and quit. “The pirates have been overpowered,” said the boatswain, “but the Chief Officer...”
I followed his gaze.
Sanjay lay on the deck, in a pool of blood.
I knelt down beside him. 
His face was vacant, but he tried to focus his eyes on me, whimpering, “Jayashree, Jayashree...” I shook him, he tried to get up, but slumped back – Sanjay was dead!

Six months later I knocked on a door.
There was long wait.
Then Jayashree opened the door.
Her gorgeously stunning dazzling face took my breath away.
She was even more beautiful than her photographs.
Dressed in white sari, she looked so proud in her grief that I felt embarrassed.
I had myself not yet recovered from the shock of Sanjay’s sudden death. 
I said, awkwardly, “I am Captain Vijay.” 
She looked directly into my eyes and said, “So I see.” Her dark eyes were hostile. 
“I am sorry about what happened. Sanjay was a brave man, and we are all proud to have known him.” My words sounded insincere and I felt acutely uncomfortable. 
“Proud!” she exclaimed, her magnificent eyes flashing. “Some people might feel grateful, especially those whose life he saved.” 
I was stunned by the sting of her bitterness.
Never had I felt such a burning shame; the shame of being held responsible for someone’s death.
I looked at Jayashree helplessly, pleading innocence, but it was of no use.
It was hopeless now to try and explain.
The hurt was deep, and I had to let it go in silence. 
Jayashree excused herself, turned and went inside.
It was then that I remembered the real reason for my visit.
I wanted to hand over what remained of Sanjay’s personal effects; an unfinished letter, a dairy, a framed photograph. 
I would first give Jayashree the unfinished letter.
Once she read the letter - probably then she would understand the real reason for Sanjay’s reckless bravery, his suicidal heroics; his desperate concern about proving his masculinity. 
When Jayashree returned, she was composed.
I gave her Sanjay’s unfinished letter.
She took the letter in her dainty hands and started reading it.
As she silently read on, I saw tears well up in her eyes. 
I do not know whether I did the right thing by giving her Sanjay’s unfinished letter.
Probably it would have been wiser to destroy the letter and the diary – better to leave things unspoken and unhealed.
But I had thought it would be better to exorcise the sense of guilt and shame.
Better for me.
Better for Jayashree.
Best for both of us.
It was not easy, but we both had to come to terms with ourselves.
Jayashree finished reading the letter and looked at me, her eyes cold.
I looked at Jayashree, deep into her intoxicating eyes, and she looked into my eyes too.
We looked into each other, transfixed, in silence, a deafening silence.
And suddenly Jayashree’s frozen eyes melted and she smiled.

Copyright © Vikram Karve 2012
Vikram Karve has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work. 
© vikram karve., all rights reserved.

Did you like this story?
I am sure you will like the 27 short stories from my recently published anthology of Short Fiction COCKTAIL
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About Vikram Karve

A creative person with a zest for life, Vikram Karve is a retired Naval Officer turned full time writer. Educated at IIT Delhi, ITBHU Varanasi, The Lawrence School Lovedale and Bishops School Pune, Vikram has published two books: COCKTAIL a collection of fiction short stories about relationships (2011) and APPETITE FOR A STROLL a book of Foodie Adventures (2008) and is currently working on his novel and a book of vignettes and short fiction. An avid blogger, he has written a number of fiction short stories, creative non-fiction articles on a variety of topics including food, travel, philosophy, academics, technology, management, health, pet parenting, teaching stories and self help in magazines and published a large number of professional research papers in journals and edited in-house journals for many years, before the advent of blogging. Vikram has taught at a University as a Professor for almost 15 years and now teaches as a visiting faculty and devotes most of his time to creative writing. Vikram lives in Pune India with his family and muse - his pet dog Sherry with whom he takes long walks thinking creative thoughts.

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