Archive for September 4th, 2018

A Lazy Hot Afternoon in Mumbai

September 4, 2018

“A Lazy Hot Afternoon in Mumbai” is a romance story I wrote during my unforgettable Mumbai days – the six best years of my life – my last stint in Mumbai – from 2000 to 2006.

Many of my readers think this is the best short story that I have ever written.

So – let me delve deep into my Creative Writing Archives and pull out this story for you.

I wrote this story more than 12 years ago, in January 2006, when I lived in Mumbai.

This short story features in my book  COCKTAIL  my anthology of short fiction

Like I said earlier – many of my friends say that this is the best short story I have ever written.

So – here is the story – abridged, revised and suitably edited for reading on the digital screen.

Dear Reader:

Please read this rather old-fashioned leisurely romance – and do tell me if you liked the story.

Remember – I wrote this story more than 12 years ago in January 2006 – during the days of the “IT Boom” – when “Techies” were pampered – and – things may have changed now – and – maybe – the IT Sector is experiencing a slowdown – and “Techies” may not be pampered as much as they were then.

Even Mumbai has changed now – and – some of the places mentioned may not exist today – and – some may have relocated.

So – you will have to go back in time more than 12 years to the year 2006 – when you read the story…

STORY OF A LAZY HOT AFTERNOON IN MUMBAI

A Leisurely Romance By Vikram Karve

Mumbai (Circa 2006)

What is the best way to kill a lazy hot afternoon in Mumbai…?

Or – to be specific – what is the best way to spend a lazy hot afternoon in South Mumbai…?

You can go window-shopping on Colaba Causeway.

Or – you can enjoy a movie at Eros or Regal.

Or – you can loaf aimlessly around Churchgate, Flora Fountain, Gateway of India or on the Marine Drive.

Or – you can leisurely sip chilled beer at Gaylord, Leopold, Sundance or Mondegar.

Or – you can browse books at the Oxford Book Store or in the Mumbai University Library under the Rajabai clock-tower or see secondhand books on the pavements near Flora Fountain (now known as Hutatma Chowk)

Or – you can watch cricket sitting under the shade of a tree at the Oval Maidan.

Or – you can visit the Museum.

Or – if you are an art lover – you can admire the works of budding artists on display in the numerous art galleries in the Kala Ghoda art district.

That’s what I decide to do.

At 11 o’clock in the morning I stand at the entrance of the Jehangir Art Gallery at Kala Ghoda in Mumbai.

I walk into the exhibition hall to my right.

The art gallery has just opened and I am the first visitor.

Standing all alone in placid relaxing hall, in peaceful silence, surrounded by paintings adorning the pristine white walls – I experience a feeling of soothing tranquillity – a serene relaxing calm – and for the first time after many hectic, harried and stressed days – I experience an inner peace and comforting silence within me – and – at that moment – I know what it feels like to be in harmony with yourself.

I leisurely look around at the paintings.

I see a familiar face in a portrait.

An uncanny resemblance to someone I know.

The face on the canvas stares back at me.

Comprehension strikes like a thunderbolt.

It’s me…

Yes – it’s me…

Yes – it is my face in the painting.

I look once again – carefully – just to make sure.

No doubt about it – it is ME in the painting

Yes – it is my face in the painting.

Someone has painted my portrait – my own face.

I look at myself on the canvas.

I like what I see.

It is a striking painting, crafted to the point of the most eloquent perfection.

I am amazed at the painter’s precise attention to detail – my flowing luxuriant black hair, delicate nose, large expressive eyes, even my beauty spot, the tiny mole on my left cheek – the painter has got everything right.

Never before have I looked so beautiful – even in a photograph.

In the painting – my face looks so eye-catching that I can’t help admiring myself – like Narcissus.

I look at the title of the painting on a brass tally below – “My Lovely Muse

Muse…?

I have never modelled for anyone in my life.

So – who is the woman in the painting – the woman who looks just like me…?

Suddenly – I notice a wizened old man staring at me.

He looks at the painting – and then he looks at me – and he gives me a knowing smile.

“Excuse me, Sir…” I ask him, “do you know the artist who painted this…?”

“I am the painter…” a gruff voice says behind me.

I turn around – and I look at the man.

With his flowing beard, unkempt hair and dishevelled appearance – he looks like a scruffy scarecrow.

At first sight – he is totally unrecognizable.

But – the yearning look of frank admiration in his eyes gives him away.

No one else has ever looked at me in that way – and I know that he is still desperately in love with me.

“Do I see the naughty boy I once knew hiding behind that horrible shaggy beard…?” I say to him.

“Do I see the bubbly and vivacious girl I once knew hiding inside the beautiful woman standing in front of me…?” he responds.

“You look terrible…” I say.

“You look lovely – like a flower in full bloom…” he says.

I feel good.

Aditya may be in love with me – but there is no pretence about him.

I know the compliment is genuine.

“Come, Anu…” he says taking my arm, “let me show you my work.”

And – as we walk around – he explains the themes, nuances and finer points of each painting.

Here – in the art gallery – I feel a sense of timelessness – a state of supreme bliss.

I wish this were my world – sublime, harmonious, creative.

I wish I had stayed on.

I wish I had not burnt my bridges.

Or have I…?

“Let’s eat – I am hungry…” Aditya interrupts my train of thoughts.

“Khyber…?” I ask.

“No. I can’t afford it…” he says.

“I can afford it…” I tease.

“The treat is on me…” he asserts.

Aditya pulls me gently – and he says to me:

“Let’s go next door to Samovar and have the stuffed parathas you loved once upon a time.”

“I still do…” I say to him.

And soon – we sit in Café Samovar – enjoying a lazy unhurried lunch – relishing delicious stuffed parathas.

“What time do you have to go…?”

“I’ll collect the visa from Churchgate at four and then catch the flight at night.”

“Churchgate…? I thought the visa office was at Breach Candy…”

“That’s the American visa. It’s already done. The British visa office is at Churchgate.”

“Wow…!!! You are going to England too…?”

 “Of course. US, UK, Europe, Singapore. Globetrotting. The next few months are going to be really hectic. It’s a huge software development project.”

“Lucky you… It must be so exciting. You must love it…”

“I hate it…!”

“What…?”

“It’s unimaginable agony. Sitting in front of a computer for hours and hours doing something I don’t like.”

“You don’t like it…? Then why do you do it…?”

“I don’t know,” I say, “Aditya, do you know what the tragedy of my life is…?”

“What…?”

“My biggest misfortune is that I am good at things I don’t like…” 

“Come on, be serious! Don’t tell me all that.”

“I hated Maths – but I was so good at Maths – that I landed up in IIT – doing Engineering – and that too – Computer Engineering.”

“But you are damn good. A genius at computers. That’s why they are sending abroad aren’t they…? The youngest and brightest project manager…! You told me that.”

“Being good at work is different from liking it. You know – the thing I despise the most – sitting like a Zombie in front of the monitor for hours – discussing tedious technical mumbo jumbo with nerds who I find insufferable. It’s painful – but then – I am the best software expert in the company – the IT whiz-kid…!”

“Yes. I know. It’s true. It is indeed a great tragedy to be so good at something you hate doing. That’s why I quit practice – and I am doing my first love – painting. I don’t know how good I am but I certainly love doing it.”

“But you are so good. You must be minting money, isn’t it…?”

“Not at all. I told you I couldn’t even afford Khyber… I barely make my ends meet…”

“I thought artists make a lot of money. The art market is booming.”

“Only the established ones – not struggling types like me.”

“Come on, Aditya. Don’t joke. Tell me – how can you afford to have your exhibition here in Jehangir Art Gallery…?”

“There is a patron. An old lady. She encourages budding artists like me. She’s given me a place for my studio.”

“Just like that…?” I ask, quite curious.

“Yes. There are still a few such people left in this world. I present her a painting once in a while,” Aditya pauses – and then – he says to me, “But today I am going to be lucky. Looks like my painting “My Lovely Muse” is going to fetch me a good price. Thanks to you.”

“Thanks to me…?”

“You were the model for this painting. My inspiration. My Muse…!”

“Me…? Your Muse…? But I never modelled for you…!”

“You don’t have to. You image is so exquisitely etched in my mind’s eye that I can even paint you in the nude.”

“Stop it…” I say angrily – but inside me I blush – and I feel a kind of stirring sensation.

“Tell me about yourself, Anu…” Aditya says, changing the subject.

“I told you. About my painfully boring work. And you won’t understand much about computer software. Spare me the agony. I just don’t want to talk about it.”

“You still paint…?”

“No. I stopped long ago. At IIT.”

“Why…?”

“No time. Too much study, I guess. And – the “Techie” crowd.”

“You should start painting again. You are a creative person. You have got a natural talent.”

“It’s too late. That part of me is dead. Now – it’s work and meeting deadlines. An intellectual sweatshop.”

“Come on Anu, cheer up. Tell me about your love life…?”

“The company is taking care of that too…! They are trying to get me hooked to some “high flier” Project Manager in my team.”

“Really…? What’s his name…?”

“Anand.”

“Wow…! Anu and Anand…! Made for each other…!”

“You know – they set us up as per their convenience – they facilitate working together all the time – they encourage office romance – and – thet even give us a “dating allowance”…”

“Dating allowance…? Office romance…! It’s crazy…! Just imagine – Paying people money to fall in love…!”

“Marriage of co-workers helps reduce attrition – that’s what they probably feel – that it makes people stay on in the company. Nerds understand each other better – they can cope better together – at work and at home. That’s what they say. Smart fellows – those guys in HR – they try and team us up as it suits them. They are dangling carrots too – like this trip abroad. They have even promised us a posting together to Singapore on a two year contract – if things work out between us.”

“It’s great…!”

“Great…? Are you crazy…? Just imagine living full-time with a boring number crunching “IT Nerd” all my life – doing nothing but being buried in software – day in and day out. I shiver at the very thought.”

“Tell me – who would you like to marry…?”

“I don’t know.”

“How about marrying me…?”

“Come on – be serious.”

“I’m serious. We could paint together – we could do all the creative stuff you always wanted to do. We could live a good life together.”

“Let’s go…” I say, changing the topic.

“Anu. Remember. If you love flowers – become a gardener. Why are you curbing your creativity…? I read somewhere: “A lifetime of having to curb the expression of original thought often culminates in one losing one’s ability to express”…”

I think about what Aditya has just said.

It’s true:

“If you love flowers – you should become a gardener…” 

Then – suddenly – I break out of my trance – I look at my watch – and – I say to Aditya:

“I have got to go, Aditya. It’s almost 4 PM. The visa should be ready by now.”

“Wait. Let me give you a “parting gift” to remember me by.”

Aditya calls the curator and tells him to gift wrap and pack the painting titled “My Lovely Muse”.

“Sir – we will get a good price for it. I have already got a very good offer for this painting…” the curator says.

“Well – now – this painting “My Lovely Muse” is not for sale…” Aditya says, “This painting is a gift from an Artist to his Muse.”

I am overcome by emotion at his loving gesture.

I look at Aditya.

It is clearly evident that Aditya is really deeply in love with me.

And me…?

Am I in love with Aditya…?

Tears well up in my eyes.

My throat chokes.

My heart aches.

I find myself imprisoned in the chasm between the two different worlds – Aditya’s creative world – and my material world.

But soon – the rational side of me takes charge – and – as we part – Aditya says to me:

“Bye, Anu. Remember – if you can do something well, if you enjoy doing it and you feel proud of doing it – then – that’s your perfect métier. There’s no point living a lie. You have got to discover yourself…”

I hold out my hand to him.

Aditya presses my hand fondly – and he says to me:

“Start painting. You must always do what you love to do. That’s the highest value use of time – time spent on doing what you want to do.”

“And – what is the lowest value of time…?” I ask.

“The lowest value of time is doing what you don’t like – just because others want you to do it…”

“Or maybe – doing something for money…?”

“Money…?” Aditya asks.

“Yes. Doing something you don’t like – for money – that’s what I am doing – isn’t it…? The lowest “value” of time…?” I say.

Aditya looks lovingly into my eyes and says to me:

“Anu – please don’t destroy your talent by not using it.”

I get into a taxi.

I drive away from his world.

I drive away from my “dream-world” – into the material world of harsh reality.

In the evening – I sit by the sea – at the southern tip of Marine Drive – and I watch the glorious spectacle of sunset.

As I watch the orange sun being gobbled up the calm blue sea – and crimson petals forming in the sky – my mobile phone rings.

It is Anand  – my Project Manager  – with whom my romance is being “contrived”.

He is speaking from the airport.

“Hey, Anuradha. The flight is at 10 PM – check in begins at 8 PM – you make sure you are there on time. Terminal 2A…” Anand says.

“I am not coming…” I say.

“What do you mean you are not coming…?” Anand shouts from the other end.

“I mean that I am not coming…” I say calmly.

“Why…? What’s wrong…? Did someone made you a better offer…?”

“It’s nothing like that. I have discovered my métier. I am going back to the world where I really belong…” I say.

“Where are you…? How can you ditch us like this at the last moment…?” he pleads.

I know that this is the defining moment of my life.

It’s now or never.

I have to burn my bridges now – so I take a deep breath and I say to Anand:

“I have made my decision, Anand.

I am not coming back.

I have to discover my true self – I have to do what I want to do – I want to be happy from the inside.

I am sorry, Anand.

I am sure you will find someone else – your “soul-mate” – at work and for yourself.

Best of luck…!!!”

I switch off my mobile phone.

Then – I look at my mobile phone.

My mobile phone – the last of the manacles…!!!

Deliberately – I throw my mobile phone into the Arabian Sea.

Then – I begin walking towards the place where I know I will find Aditya.

And once I find him there – I will return to the world where I really belong – to realize my true metier.

I want to be my own Muse.

VIKRAM KARVE

Copyright © Vikram Karve
1. If you share this post, please give due credit to the author Vikram Karve
2. Please DO NOT PLAGIARIZE. Please DO NOT Cut/Copy/Paste this post
© vikram karve., all rights reserved.

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.

Copyright Notice:

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) 

Link to my source post in my Blog Academic and Creative Writing Journal Vikram Karve: http://karvediat.blogspot.com/2017/09/my-lovely-muse-story-of-lazy-hot.html

© vikram karve., all rights reserved.

I wrote this story more than 12 years ago in January 2006 and I have posted it online a number of times, in my various academic, fiction and creative writing blogs, like here in my Creative Writing Blog in the year 2006 at url: http://creative.sulekha.com/a-lazy-hot-afternoon-in-mumbai-a-leisurely-story_62673_blog  and  http://creative.sulekha.com/a-leisurely-romance-a-lazy-hot-afternoon-in-mumbai_488150_blog and http://karvediat.blogspot.in/2015/11/a-lazy-hot-afternoon-in-mumbai.html and http://karvediat.blogspot.in/2016/12/lazy-hot-afternoon-in-mumbai.html etc

%d bloggers like this: