Archive for September 20th, 2016

Romancing on a Train

September 20, 2016

One good thing about the Navy is that you get an opportunity to spend many years in Mumbai – ashore and afloat on ships based at 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.

Also – we did not own cars – so Mumbai Pune had to be done on a motorcycle/scooter.

Hence – we preferred train travel.

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

Here is one I wrote around 26 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…

 

EPILOGUE  

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 26 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.

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 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: “It’s okay. Let the young gentleman sit in the window-seat”.

Now – the beautiful Manisha Bhide 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-hand side of the coach.

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 – aren’t 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 – 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 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 had 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 – doesn’t it…?

VIKRAM KARVE

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Disclaimer:

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.

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© vikram karve., all rights reserved.

This is a revised version of my story THE RIGHT CHOICE written by me Vikram Karve 26 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: http://creative.sulekha.com/the-right-choice-a-story-by-vikram-karve_31342_blog  and  https://vikramwkarve.wordpress.com/2007/03/29/ and https://vikramwkarve.wordpress.com/2007/03/29/a-short-story-by-vikram-karve-the-right-choice/  and  http://karvediat.blogspot.in/2010/09/just-flirting-beautiful-woman-with.html  and  http://karvediat.blogspot.in/2012/05/flirting-on-train.html  andhttp://karvediat.blogspot.in/2015/08/flirting-on-train-travel-romance.html etc

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