Thursday, April 26, 2018

The Wedding Gift


THE WEDDING GIFT
Fiction Short Story
By
VIKRAM KARVE

New Delhi
Circa 1982  

(NB: This Story happened 36 years ago in 1982. At that time – there were no mobile phones, no internet, no email – nothing. Even landline phones were not given to junior officers like me – and – even in the office – we shared a phone kept in the centre of the office – so there was no privacy at all. So – in the absence of the communication facilities we have today – those days – the best way to communicate with friends was to meet and talk to each other)

Part 1

My “girlfriend” was getting married – to someone else.

It was expected.

We – my “girlfriend” Nisha and Me – we knew that our “worlds” were different – and – it was impractical for us to get married to each other – so – we did not have any unrealistic expectations from our friendship.

So – we kept our friendship at the “platonic” level.

Yes – we are happy as we were – just pure friends – and we did not want to take our relationship to the “next level”.

But – Nisha and Me – we were good friends.

We met every Saturday morning – in the Library – on Curzon Road (now known as Kasturba Gandhi Marg).

We browsed book in the library for a few hours – and then – after our browsing was over – we would go out for lunch to some place in Connaught Place (CP) which was nearby.

One Saturday morning – the moment she saw me – Nisha said excitedly:

“I am getting married…”

“When…?” I asked.

“My wedding is on the 3rd of next month…” she said.

“So fast…?”

“Yes – everything happened very fast – the “Boy” and his parents came over on Wednesday – and the marriage was fixed…”

“You met the “Boy” only once…?”

“Yes. You know how it is in our society. The elders decide everything…”

“Yes…” I said.

“At least one thing is good – I won’t have to live in a joint family in his town. My “would-be-husband” has managed to get transferred to Delhi – so we will live in Delhi…” she said.

“That’s good…” I said.

I wondered whether Nisha would continue her friendship with me after her marriage – it all depended on how “broadminded” her husband was.

We met again the next Saturday – and Nisha gave me her wedding invitation card.

“I am sorry – but I won’t be able to attend your wedding…” I said to Nisha.

“Why…? You have to come. The wedding is here in Delhi…” she said.

“I have to go outstation on duty for a training course. I have to leave on the 1st – just 2 days before your wedding…” I said.

“Do you have to go…?” she asked – her disappointment was visible on her face.

“You know how it is in the Navy – I tried my best – but I have to go. But – it’s only for 3 months – I’ll meet you here in the library on the first Saturday after I come back…” I said.

“Yes – I will be back from my honeymoon by then – and hopefully well-settled…” she said.

“Honeymoon – already planned…?”

“Just a week in the hills – he has to join duty on the 10th here in Delhi…” Nisha said.

“Okay…” I said.

We browsed in the library for some time – and then – we had lunch at Gaylord in CP – followed by a movie at Regal.

In the evening – as I said “good bye” to Nisha – I somehow got the feeling that it was the end of our beautiful friendship.  

Part 2

I wondered what would be an ideal “wedding gift” for Nisha.

Should I give her a good “Book”…?

No – it was too trivial as a wedding gift.

A piece of jewelry…?

I really did not know her taste – I had absolutely no idea what she liked.

It is funny – you can be so close to a person – yet know nothing about her.

I walked around CP – window shopping.

Suddenly – I passed a Television (TV) showroom – with the latest brands of Colour TV Sets in the showcase.

Colour TV was a novelty – a new arrival in the market. 

(Dear Reader: Remember – this story happened in 1982 – the year in which Colour Television was introduced in India – thanks to the 9th Asian Games which were to be held in Delhi – and live telecast in colour…)

I looked at the Colour TV Sets – and – on the spur of the moment – I made my decision – I would give Nisha a Colour TV set as a Wedding Gift – a rather expensive wedding gift – but something Nisha would always remember me by – whenever she switched on the TV.

I would have to adjust my budget a bit – but it was okay – for Nisha was a close friend.

I went inside the showroom.

There were 3 brands of Colour TV.

After seeing a demonstration – I liked two of them.

I stood undecided – wondering which one to buy.

The owner of the shop was observing me – and he understood my predicament.

He walked towards me and said to me:

“Sir – I will do one thing – I will send both the Colour TV Sets to your house – you watch both of them for 3-4 days – then – you can keep the one you like – and you can return the other one…”

“Are you sure…?” I asked.

“Of course, Sir – we want our customers to be fully satisfied…” he said.

He gave me a diary and asked me to write down my name and address.

He looked at the address and smiled:

“Sir – you are a “Fauji”…?”

“Yes – I am in the Navy…” I said.

That evening – both the Colour TV Sets were positioned in my house.

Three days later – I called up the TV Store and told the owner that I had made my choice.

“Okay, Sir – I will send someone in the evening…” he said.

“Actually – I want the Colour TV Set to be gift wrapped and delivered at a wedding – is it possible…?” I said.

“Of course, Sir – I will come personally after the shop closes – you can offer me a drink also…” he said.

The shopkeeper arrived at 9 PM along with an assistant.

Since I was drinking Whiskey-Soda – I offered him a drink.

“Sir – I will have Rum – I like “Military” Rum…” he said.

I poured him a large peg of Rum.

I showed him the Colour TV which I had liked.

Then – I showed him Nisha’s Wedding Invitation Card.

I told him that I wouldn’t be able to attend the wedding as I would be away on duty.

“Sir – you don’t worry – I will personally see to it that the TV is delivered on time – the venue of the wedding reception is very near my shop…” he said.

“Are you sure…?” I asked him.

“Sir – you be rest assured – I will go myself and give the wedding gift on your behalf to the newly-married couple. We will get the TV nicely gift-wrapped. You just write the message you want written on the gift-card…” he said, pulling out a diary from his pocket.

I wrote the message.

He noted down the date/time of the wedding reception and address of the venue from the wedding card.

Then – the shopkeeper took out a permanent marker pen – and he said to me:

“Sir – you put your initials on the rear cover of the TV Set you have chosen…”

We turned the TV around.

He gave me the red permanent marker pen – and he pointed a place at the bottom left corner of the rear cover – and he said to me:

“Sir – you can put your initials here…”

I put my initials in red colour at the place he indicated.

“Thank you, Sir…” the shopkeeper said, “this is just to make sure that there is no mix-up. And later – when you visit the newly-married couple – you can check that we have delivered the same TV Set…”

The shopkeeper told his assistant to pack up both the TV Sets and put them in the Van parked below.

Then – he had two quick pegs of Rum – “down-the-hatch” – and he left in quite a “happy” mood.

Part 3

Three months later – the moment I returned to New Delhi – on the very first Saturday – I went to the Library.

I was delighted to see Nisha there.

She looked lovely.

“Marriage seems to have suited you, Nisha – you are looking really beautiful – and – there is a glow on your cheeks…” I complimented her.

“Stop teasing me…” she said, “you better finish your browsing quickly – we are going home for lunch today…”

“Home…?”

“Curzon Road Apartments – walking distance from here – we’ve got a tiny one room flat…”

“That’s great – I would love to meet your husband…”

“He has gone outstation on tour – but he will be back next week – you can meet him then…”

“Let’s have lunch at Gaylord…”

“No. No. Today – I am going to cook you lunch. And – I want you to see my home…” she said.

Two hours later – I sat in Nisha’s small one room flat in Curzon Road Apartments.

I noticed that there was no TV in the flat.

“Don’t you have a TV…?” I asked Nisha.

“No. We don’t have a TV…” she said, “but we are planning to buy one soon…”

“But I thought you would have a TV…” I said.

“Come on – we are newly married – we need to save some money – don’t we…?” she said.

“But surely – someone would have given you a TV as a wedding gift…” I said.

“TV…? As a wedding gift…? Are you crazy…?” she said.

“Why…?”

“You do one thing…” she said, “You still haven’t given me my wedding gift. Why don’t you present me a good colour TV…?”

I was dumbstruck.

After lunch – I went straight to the TV Showroom.

The owner recognized me.

“Did you deliver the TV to the Wedding Reception as I had told you…?” I asked him.

“Of course, Sir…” he said.

“Well – there seems to be some mistake – I hope you didn’t deliver the TV to the wrong place…? I said.

“No mistake, Sir. I personally delivered the gift wrapped TV to the address you gave me…”

“I just visited the newly married couple’s house – the TV is not there…”

“Sir, they may have given it to someone else…”

“Why should they give a wedding gift to someone else…? The wife told me that they did not receive any TV as a wedding gift…”

“Sir – please believe me – I personally handed over the TV to the lady who was collecting the wedding gifts…”

“A lady…?”

“Yes, Sir – there was a big rush on the stage – so they asked us to give the wedding gifts to a lady on the side of the stage who was collecting all the gifts…”

“Well – something seems to be wrong – I will try to find out – I only hope someone didn’t steal the TV…” I said.

“I don’t think so, Sir – that lady was very meticulously guarding the wedding gifts…” the shopkeeper said.

I felt disappointed – but - there was nothing I could do now.

Maybe – when I met Nisha next – I would have to tell her to find out where the TV had vanished.

Part 4

Next morning – my boss asked to meet a Mr. “X” regarding some official matter:

“Mr. “X” is not free right now – but he said that you can meet him at his home on your way back from work – take his address from my PA…”

In the evening – after work – I went to the address.

I looked at the name-plate on the door.

Yes – I was at the right address – Mr. “X” lived here.

I pressed the doorbell.

A young lady opened the door.

I introduced myself – I told her that I had come to meet Mr. “X”.

“Please come in. I am Mrs. “X” – my husband should be back from office anytime now…” Mrs. “X” said to me.

Mrs. “X” welcomed me into her home.

She asked me to sit down on the sofa – and she said to me:

“I’ll just finish off some work in the kitchen. You can watch TV if you want – till my husband comes home…”

Those days – there was only one TV channel – “Doordarshan” – and TV’s did not have a remote – so she walked towards the TV and switched it on.

I looked at the TV Set.

The TV seemed familiar.

Was it the same TV set which I had given to Nisha as a Wedding Gift…?

It was the same brand – the same model.

Of course – many people would have the same model – but – my “inner voice” told me that it was the same TV set which I had bought from the shop in CP and given as a gift to Nisha on her wedding day.

So – I decided to make sure.

I looked at Mrs. “X” and asked her:  

“Your TV looks really good. May I have a look at it…?”

“Sure…” she said.

I walked to the TV and I switched it off.

Then – I unplugged the TV wire from the socket.

Mrs. “X” was looking at me curiously – so – I said to her:

“I am looking at some “technical” things…”

I turned the TV around.

I looked at the bottom left corner of the rear cover.

The marking was there.

Yes – I could see my initials – in red – they had faded a bit – but the marking was clearly visible.

So – this was the same TV set which we had given to Nisha as a wedding gift.

I replaced the TV to its original position – plugged it in – and switched it on.

Then – I asked Mrs. “X”: 

“I hope I am not being too inquisitive – but – can you please tell me where you bought this TV…?”

“It came in my dowry…” she said.

“Dowry…?” I asked, surprised.

“Well – I know – no one uses the word “dowry” nowadays – but – my parents gave me this TV as a “wedding gift” – so – I guess it is “dowry” – isn’t it…” she said.

“Oh – so your parents gave you this TV as a wedding gift…?” I remarked.

“Yes…” she said.

“Tell me – by any chance – do you know anyone by the name “Nisha”…?” I asked her.

“Of course – my sister-in-law – her name is “Nisha”…” she said.

“Your “sister-in-law”…?”

“Yes – my brother’s wife – her name is “Nisha”. My brother and Nisha – they got married almost at the same time as us – just a few days before we got married…” Mrs. “X” said.

“What is your brother’s name…?” I asked her.

“Arun – my brother’s name is Arun. By any chance – did your “Nisha” get married to a man called “Arun”…” Mrs. “X” asked me.

I remembered the name on Nisha’s wedding card.

Yes – the groom’s name was “Arun”.

So – Nisha had got married to this woman’s brother Arun.

Comprehension began to dawn on me.

My “wedding gift” had been transferred.

I smiled to myself.

“Anything the matter…?” Mrs. “X” asked me.

“No. No. I was just thinking – it is such a small world – isn’t it…? Yes – it is the same “Nisha” that I was talking about – she is married to your brother Arun…” I said.

Then – Mrs. “X” looked at me – and she said to me:

“I am just curious. How do you know my sister-in-law “Nisha”…?”

“We were friends…” I said.

“Oh. But – we didn’t see you at the wedding – didn’t Nisha invite you…” she said.

“Of course, she invited me to her wedding. But – I had gone outstation – on duty…” I said.

“Oh…” she said.

Suddenly – the doorbell rang.

Mr. “X” had arrived home.

After we had finished our official “shop talk” – I said to Mr. “X”:

“You have a good TV. I really liked this model…”

“Yes. This TV is a wedding gift from my “in-laws” – my wife’s parents…” he said.

“Dowry…?” I said, jokingly.

“Ha – Ha – “Dowry”…!” Mr. “X” said – and he broke into a laugh. 

Part 5 – Epilogue

The mystery was solved.

The TV which I had given as a “wedding gift” to Nisha – had been collected by her mother-in-law – who had given the same TV to her own daughter as “dowry”.

And – Nisha was clueless…!!!

Also – Nisha thinks that I never gave her a wedding gift.

Should I have told Nisha the truth…?

I did not.

Because I thought that wouldn’t be prudent to do so at that point of time – since it could cause misunderstandings and spoil relationships.

So – I kept the secret in my heart for all these years.

And now – 36 years later – I am writing this story – and posting it on my blog.

I hope Nisha reads the story – and has a laugh – at the shrewdness of her mother-in-law – who so cleverly transformed her daughter-in-law’s “wedding gift” into her daughter’s “dowry”. 

VIKRAM KARVE
Copyright © Vikram Karve 
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. 

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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Copyright © Vikram Karve (All Rights Reserved)
     
© vikram karve., all rights reserved.
 

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