Monday, May 14, 2012

FLIRTING ON THE TRAIN


A few days ago I received a wedding invitation card and I wondered who had sent it as I was clueless when I read the names.
Soon a classmate of mine who I had lost contact with rang me up saying that she had found my whereabouts from the net and that she had sent an invitation card of the wedding of her daughter.
I read the bride’s mother’s name from the card and the lady on the phone confirmed it was the name was hers.
As was the custom in earlier days, she had changed her maiden name after her marriage and in her new name there was no trace of her earlier name.
I will give you a fictitious example: suppose her earlier name before her marriage wasSwati [her maiden name given by her parents] Laxman [her father’s name] Gokhale [her father’s surname]... and her name was transformed post marriage into Manisha [new name given by her husband] Madhav [husband’s name] Bhide [husband’s surname].
The new name has no trace of the earlier name...!
I don’t think this happens too often nowadays as girls retain their identities, including both the maiden surname as well, but here is a story I wrote long ago on the name game. I think I wrote this story more than 15 years ago on a train journey from Mumbai to Pune
By the way this is pure fiction, a figment of my imagination…there are no such persons and no such thing ever happened…so just sit back and enjoy the story…

FLIRTING ON THE TRAIN
Fiction Short Story
By
VIKRAM KARVE

No matter how many times I begin a train journey, I always have an intriguing interest in seeing who my fellow-passengers are. 

I stood on the platform of Mumbai Station in the early morning chill and scanned the reservation chart pasted on the air conditioned chair-car of the Indrayani Express. 

I was on seat number 30.

A window seat.

The neighbouring seat number 29 was reserved in the name of Avinash Bhide – male... age 10.

A disappointment...!

There was better luck on seat number 28 ... Manisha Bhide – female... age 35.

In my mind’s eye I tried to imagine and visualise what Manisha Bhide would be like.

Surprisingly, she did not board the train as it left Mumbai CST.

I felt a pang of disappointment.

Maybe she would come at Dadar.

The seats in the airconditioned chair car were three abreast, 28 near the aisle, 30 near the window and 29 in-between.

I sat down on seat number 28.

In 10 minutes the train reached Dadar and a beautiful woman with vivacious dancing eyes with a young boy in tow entered the coach.

As she walked towards me I instinctively knew that she was Manisha Bhide.

“Manisha Bhide?” I asked, as I stood up and gave her a smile of forced geniality.

Our eyes met.

She looked into my eyes for that moment longer than may be considered polite greeting.

I felt a sense of elation.

I quickly moved out on the aisle and helped her with her luggage.

Meanwhile young Avinash Bhide had occupied the window-seat.

Before Manisha Bhide could say anything I quickly interjected, “It's okay. Let the young gentleman sit in the window-seat”. 

She smiled in resignation at the fait accompli and sat down on seat number 29.

My opening gambit having succeeded I closed my eyes to savour the sense of delight I was experiencing.

After a long time I felt young and happy once again.

This was one journey I was going to enjoy. 

Suddenly she spoke, “Excuse me, but aren’t you Vijay Joshi...?”

Now I was really surprised.

Flabbergasted, I opened my eyes in surprise wondering whether they put up reservation charts at Dadar too, since the one on the coach was on the right-hand side and the platform at Dadar was on the left.

Before I could recover my wits, she said, “You are in the Merchant Navy, aren’t you...?”

Stunned and dumbstruck, I just stared vacuously at her.

The silence was grotesque.

Manisha Bhide broke the silence. “You don’t remember me, do you...? But I have recognized you Mr. Joshi ... or is it Captain Joshi...? Why are you hiding behind that ghastly beard...? It doesn’t suit you. You looked so handsome clean-shaven.”

I caressed my beard lovingly with my right hand and said, “No ma’am... I don’t think we have met.”

That was true. She was really beautiful... a face one could not forget easily... and her vivacious eyes... if I had seen her I would have remembered her...!

"But you are Vijay Joshi aren't you...?" she said.

I looked at her totally astounded. She seemed to give the impression as if we had known each other very well.

“You are right,” I said, “I am indeed Captain Vijay Joshi, Master Mariner. But I don’t remember ever meeting you.”

“But then how do you know my new name...?” she snapped.

“New name...?”

“Yes. My new name... Manisha Bhide...”

“I saw it on the reservation chart,” I said sheepishly.

“I was Swati Gokhale before marriage,” she said. “After marriage my surname changed to Bhide and husband changed my maiden name from Swati to Manisha.”

“Manisha Bhide nee Swati Gokhale...!” I joked. “Well, I am quite sure. I don’t think we’ve met before.”

People are always little disconcerted when you do not recognize them. They are so important to themselves that it is disheartening indeed to discover of what negligible importance they are to others. I racked my brains but just could not remember meeting any Swati Gokhale.

“Are you from Pune...?” I asked.

“No. I am from Mumbai,” she answered, then paused and said, “But now I live in Pune. My husband works there.”

She paused for another moment, looked directly into my eyes, and asked, “Do you still live in Nasik...?”

“No...No...” I said, trying to hide my surprise. “I’ve got a flat in Mumbai. In Colaba. And I have also bought a bungalow in Lonavala. That’s where I am going right now.”

“Oh...really...?” she said raising her eyebrows appreciatively.

But I did sense that slight tinge of regret in her voice, just a trace mind you, but the nuance did not escape me.

She looked at me, genuine admiration in her eyes, and said, “You must be a rich man...?”

I smiled. “It’s a paying job. And then one gets paid in dollars.”

“I wish I had married you,” she said matter-of-factly.

“What...?” I asked totally stunned and taken aback.

“One day my parents showed me two photographs. One was yours and the other was my husband’s – my present husband that is...” she said wistfully.

Then she looked directly at me and said, “I had to choose one and I think I made the wrong choice. It was a big mistake, a real big mistake. I really wish I had married you, Captain Joshi...!”

It took a while for her words to sink in, and as comprehension dawned on me I understood the reasons for her interest in me.

People have many reasons for snooping into others people’s lives and affairs. Everyone has a natural curiosity to know what lies beyond the closed door – especially if they have closed that door themselves.

In my mind’s eye I tried to imagine what life would have been like had she married me.

I was tempted to probe a bit so I asked her, “Please tell me. I am curious. Why did you reject me...?”

“Please don’t say that... I never rejected you... I just selected him... actually it all happened so fast... you were away sailing and I had only your photograph to go by and it was going to be six months before you would return from sea. And the Bhide’s were in a terrible hurry. Vishwas Bhide was in India for precisely one month – to find a bride, get married and go back to America. Actually he was flooded with proposals, but he had liked me and I too wanted to go abroad, enjoy the luxury, the high standard of living...” she said.

“When was this...?” I asked.

“Fifteen years ago... when I was exactly 20 years old....” she said.

“I wonder why my mother didn’t tell me about you...?” I said to her, quite confused.

My mother was the one busy finding a bride for me then while I was away at sea.

“It’s understandable...” Manisha Bhide said nonchalantly. “If a boy rejects a girl, it doesn’t matter... but if the girl rejects the boy, he becomes a laughing stock, an object of ridicule... at least in those days... "

I smiled to myself at the truth of her statement.

“So you live in America do you...? On a holiday here...?” I asked.

“No,” she said. “We came back seven years ago. My husband took up a professorship in the University. He is so qualified and talented that he could earn millions, but he is an idealist sort of chap who lacks ambition. A man who values high thinking and simple living... a thrift and frugality sort... you know he even lacks the drive to do well in that teaching job too. It’s so sad. His idea of happiness is to wallow in mediocrity in every aspect of life. It’s pathetic...I tell you...it's just pathetic...!”

“How can you say that?” I interjected, “Teaching is an honourable profession. And surely the pay must be okay.”

“Maybe... but with his thrift and frugality values, he just doesn't want to enjoy life, have a decent standard of living, Mr. Joshi,” he said with bitterness in her voice. “We stay in a dilapidated house in the university campus. And I am ashamed to drive in our small rickety car. All my dreams have been dashed. I too wish I could have a bungalow in Lonavala like you and live in style. I really envy your wife, Captain Joshi...!”

“I don’t have a wife...” I said.

“Good God...! You never got married...?” she asked, confusion writ large on her face.

She paused for a moment, then said tenderly, “Or is it...? Oh... I am so sorry...”

“No... No...” I said. “It’s not what you think. I am not a widower. Nor am I a bachelor. I am a divorcee. One fine day my wife just left me and moved in with some school teacher. Three years ago.”

“Your wife left you for school teacher...? How silly...!”

“It’s ironic isn’t it?” I said, “You wanted a standard of living, she wanted a quality of life.”

“Quality of life...?” Manisha Bhide said.

“That’s what she used to say. She couldn’t stand the separations, the loneliness, She wanted me to give up merchant navy and take up some job ashore... but I’d got too used to the sea and didn’t want to give up the so called ‘standard of living’ as you put it...” I paused for a moment and then said wistfully, “I wish I had understood... On the whole, I think an imperfect marriage is better than no marriage at all.

“I think your wife was very unfair,” Manisha said.

“On the contrary I too haven’t been an angel. You see, life at sea is not all fun and frolic. One docks at exotic ports and one does get lonely at times and then one is tempted to sow one’s wild oats...” I instantly regretted those words the moment they left my lips.

There was a sudden metamorphosis in Manisha Bhide.

She was looking at me now as if I were a lusty lecherous predator on the prowl.

I excused myself and went to the toilet.

When I returned I found Master Avinash Bhide in the centre-seat, with a scowl on his face, and Manisha Bhide in the window seat studiously making a pretence of reading a magazine.

I sat down next to the young boy and the rest of the journey passed in interesting conversation with Master Avinash Bhide. He wanted to know all about ships...!

As the train approached Lonavala I pulled down my bag and said, “Goodbye Mrs. Bhide. It was nice meeting you and, of course, your son is a delightful chap...!”

Manisha Bhide turned her face and looked at me.

She looked so beautiful and attractive that I stood mesmerized, unable to take my eyes off her.

Then she smiled, looked into my eyes and said to me, “It was good I met you Captain Joshi. All these years I was always tormented by the thought that I had made the wrong choice. Now I know I made the right choice...!”

As I walked away I had a canny feeling that I had probably saved her marriage.

I can never forget Manisha Bhide, her mesmerizing beauty and vivacious dancing eyes, and sometimes when I feel lonely and melancholic, I wish she had opted for me and married me instead of that Vishwas Bhide.

Maybe we would have a rocking marriage.

Maybe I would have been her right choice.

Maybe for her. Surely for me.

One thing is for sure.  I wouldn’t have changed her name – I prefer Swati. 

Swati Joshi sounds much better than Manisha Joshi, isn't it?

VIKRAM KARVE
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.

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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.

Vikram Karve Academic and Creative Writing Journal: http://karvediat.blogspot.com
Professional Profile Vikram Karve: http://www.linkedin.com/in/karve
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Vikram Karve Creative Writing Blog: http://vikramkarve.sulekha.com/blog/posts.htm
Email: vikramkarve@sify.com
      

© vikram karve., all rights reserved.


4 comments:

indu chhibber said...

Very captivating story.It is much more than a mere name that changes for a girl after marriage.Even if the name does not change,all else changes.

Dr Sneha Rahatekar said...

wow!!!!!!!!!!! :) its all a gamble.... isn't it? finding the right partner.. finding the perfect lifestyle!!

Jayashree Srivatsan said...

Ha ha! Thoroughly enjoyed the post!!

When my parents were madly hunting for a groom there was one proposal from the parents of twin brothers...one an engineer and one a naval officer...They initially came for the first...No horoscope match.,..,and six months later for the twin..horoscope still did not match...ha ha...Surprisingly they had different horoscopes as they were born a few mins apart :D

That stopped at the proposal stage itself ha ha...Got reminded of that....

Bhavana said...

lol!!!! That is the best flirting story I have read!!! Yeah, I have no clue why in Maharashtra they change a girl's complete identity.