Saturday, August 22, 2015


One good thing about the Navy is that you get an opportunity to spend many years in Mumbai.

And – since I am from Pune – during these Mumbai tenures – I frequently travelled from Mumbai to Pune (and back) by Train – whenever I got leave – and on weekend visits.

(Those days there was no Mumbai Pune Expressway and the road journey was arduous and time-consuming – and – also we did not own cars – so Mumbai Pune had to be done on a bike – and hence preferred train travel)

These train journeys gave me ideas for many of my stories.

Here is one I wrote around 25 years ago – in the early 1990s – duly abridged updated and revised for the digital screen – and with an explanatory epilogue added.

Do tell me if you like this old fashioned romance...

Flirting on the Train
A Love Story


Sometime ago  I received a wedding invitation card.

I wondered who had sent it  as I was clueless  when I read the names.

Soon  a classmate of mine – with whom I had lost contact  with rang me up – and she said that she had found my whereabouts from the internet  and that she had sent me the 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 that the name on the card was her new name.

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.

For illustrative purposes – I will give you a fictitious example:

Suppose her earlier name before her marriage was Swati [her maiden name given by her parents] Laxman [her father’s name] Gokhale [her father’s surname] – now – after her marriage  her new name was transformed into Manisha [new name given by her husband] Vishwas [husband’s name] Bhide [husband’s surname].

Please observe that her new name Manisha Vishwas Bhide has absolutely no trace of her earlier name Swati Laxman Gokhale.

I do not think this happens too often nowadays  as girls retain their earlier identities after marriage  including both the maiden name and surname as well  but here is a story I wrote long ago on the name game. 

I think I wrote this story around 25 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…

Fiction Short Story

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.

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 – Manisha Bhide 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 air-conditioned 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.

A beautiful woman with vivacious dancing eyes entered the coach – and she had a young boy in tow.

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

“Manisha Bhide?” I asked  as I stood up.

I 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 I helped her with her luggage.

Meanwhile young Avinash Bhide had occupied the window-seat – seat No. 30 – my seat.

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

Now she would have to sit next to me.

Manisha Bhide smiled in resignation at the fait accompli – and she 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 – Manisha Bhide spoke, “Excuse me  but aren’t you Vijay Joshi...?”

I was taken aback – a bit bewildered.

Flabbergasted  I opened my eyes  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  Manisha Bhide said, “You are in the Merchant Navy, aren’t you...?”

Stunned and dumbstruck  I just stared at her – vacuously – perplexed into silence.

The silence was grotesque.

Manisha Bhide broke the silence – and she said to me: “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...? The beard doesn’t suit you. You looked so handsome clean-shaven...”

I caressed my beard lovingly with my right hand  and I said, “No Ma’am  I don’t think we have met  maybe you are mistaking me for someone else – and had we met – I would never have forgotten you...”

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 certainly remembered her...

"But you are Vijay Joshi  arent you...?" she said.

I looked at her.

I felt totally astounded. 

She seemed to give me 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...?” I said.

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

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

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

“Manisha Bhide nee Swati Gokhale...!” I joked – and I said to her, “Well  I am quite sure. I don’t think we have ever met before.”

People are always little disconcerted when you do not recognize them. 

They are so important to themselves  that it is disheartening for them 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 she paused  and she said, “But now I live in Pune. My husband works there.”

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

“No...No...” I said, trying to hide my surprise. “I have got a flat in Mumbai. In Colaba. And I have also bought a bungalow in Lonavala. That is 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 with genuine admiration in her eyes  and she said, “You must be a rich man...?”

I smiled. “Well – it is 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 she 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 on the high seas  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 – to get married  and to go back to America. Actually he was flooded with proposals  but he had liked me  and I too wanted to go abroad  and enjoy the luxury  the high standard of living...” she said.

“When was this...?” I asked.

“15 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, “Well – 15 years ago – I was only a Second Officer – and I did not know that my mother was busy finding a bride for me  while I was away at sea. But she should have told me about you...

“It’s understandable...” Manisha Bhide said nonchalantly, “If a boy rejects a girl  it does not matter  but if the girl rejects the boy  he becomes a laughing stock, an object of ridicule  at least in those days – 15 years ago...

I smiled to myself at the truth of her statement.

“So you live in America do you...? On a holiday here...?” I asked, trying to change the topic.

“No,” she said. “We came back 7 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 type  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 – its 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 does not want to enjoy life – or have a decent standard of living, Mr. Joshi,” she said  with bitterness in her voice, “We live 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.

Then she paused for a moment  and she 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 she moved in with some school teacher. It happened 3 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 had got too used to the sea and did not want to give up the so called ‘standard of living’ as you put it...” I paused for a moment  and then I 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 Bhide 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 said.

I instantly regretted those words  especially the “...sow one’s wild oats...” bit.

On hearing my words – there was a sudden metamorphosis in Manisha Bhide.

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

I excused myself  and I went to the toilet.

When I returned  I found Master Avinash Bhide in the centre-seat  with a scowl on his face.

Manisha Bhide had now shifted to the window seat – and was 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 I said, “Goodbye Mrs. Bhide. It was nice meeting you  and  of course  your son is a delightful chap...!”

Manisha Bhide turned her face  and she looked at me.

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

Manisha Bhide smiled – she looked into my eyes  and she said to me, “It was good that I met you Captain Joshi. All these years  I was always tormented by the thought that I had made the wrong choice – that I had selected the wrong photograph – and I wished that I had selected you. But 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 her 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 the right choice for her.

Maybe for her – Surely for me.

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

Swati Joshi sounds much better than Manisha Joshi  doesnt it...?

Copyright © Vikram Karve 
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© vikram karve., all rights reserved.

This story is a work of fiction. Events, Places, Settings and Incidents narrated in the story 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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No part of this Blog may be reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical including photocopying or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the Blog Author Vikram Karve who holds the copyright.
Copyright © Vikram Karve (All Rights Reserved)
© vikram karve., all rights reserved.

This is a revised version of my story THE RIGHT CHOICE written by me Vikram Karve 25 years ago in the year 1990 and earlier posted online by me an number of times in my various creative writing blogs including at urls:  and and  and  and  etc

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