Archive for January 14th, 2020

The Happiest Day of My Life – a Love Story

January 14, 2020

Do you remember the happiest day of your life…?

I do…!!!

Yes – 44 years may have passed – but I clearly remember what happened on the happiest day of my life.

Here is the story…

Dear Reader – Let me take you back in time to the 1970’s – 44 years back – to the year 1976 to be precise…

Remember – Dear Reader – 44 years ago – in 1976 – there were no mobiles – no internet –  no email – no Social Media – no Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp etc

We had nothing that you take for granted nowadays – even PCs and Laptops did not exist – and – for communication – you wrote letters and sent them by postal “snail mail”.

And – if there was someting very urgent – you could send a “telegram” – or make a landline “trunk-call” – which was very costly…

THE HAPPIEST DAY OF MY LIFE

My Very Own Love Story By Vikram Karve

Part 1 – THE HAPPIEST DAY OF MY LIFE

(Mumbai – Thursday – 14 October 1976) 

Do you remember the happiest day of your life…?

I do…!

Yes – 44 years may have passed – but I clearly remember what happened on the happiest day of my life.

Here’s how it began…

“Excuse me…” a feminine voice said from behind me.

I turned around.

“Mr. Avinash…?” she asked.

I stared blankly at the smart young woman, tongue-tied.

“I am Sheetal…” she said with a lovely smile.

“Oh, Hi…” I stammered, quickly gathering my wits.

I looked at her.

Avinash had been terribly wrong in describing how Sheetal looked like.

The Sheetal standing in front of me – she was no podgy pedestrian suburban unpretentious “back-home-type behenji girl” – as Avinash had imagined.

She was a real beauty – chic, smart, ravishing, a stunner – and I could not take my eyes off her.

Her eyes were extremely beautiful – enormous, dark, expressive eyes.

And suddenly – her eyes began to dance.

Sheetal must have seen the frank look of genuine admiration in my eyes.

So she gave me smile so captivating – that I experienced a delightful twinge in my heart.

“You are Mr. Avinash – aren’t you…?” she asked mischievously.

I was about to say “No”.

But – I remembered that I was masquerading as Avinash – so I lied to her and said:

“Yes. I am Avinash. How did you recognize me…?”

“You were the only person looking totally “lost” and “out of place” out here – the odd man out…” she laughed vivaciously.

“Oh…” I said unconsciously.

I stood still – mesmerized by her gorgeousness – and by my natural instinct – I let my eyes linger – and travel all over her exquisite body.

“Hey – are you going to stare at me all day – or should we grab a bite…? I am hungry…” she said playfully.

“Yes…Yes…” I said.

“Okay – come – let’s go to “Samovar” – we can talk there in peace…” she said.

Sheetal led me from the art gallery to Samovar – the restaurant in the veranda.

Thus began – the happiest day of my life.

Part 2 – LIFE IN THOSE “GOOD OLD” DAYS

(Pune – Circa 1976)

Dear Reader – please permit me to tell you a little bit about how it all started.

In order to tell you this story – I am going to transport you back into time 44 years into the past.

Yes – we are going 44 years back in time to 1976 – when Pune was a Pensioners’ Paradise.

Believe it or not  Dear Reader  but  in the 1960’s and 1970’s  Pune  the Queen of the Deccan  with its lovely climate  pure fresh air, lush green environs  salubrious, spacious and friendly laid back atmosphere  was indeed a “paradise”.

Yes  those days, Pune was indeed the best city to live in.

In fact  44 years ago  in 1976  Pune was not even a “city” in the literal sense.

Imagine a Pune without Malls and the Multiplexes  with hardly any traffic on the roads  when the bicycle was the popular mode of travel.

The nearest “city” was Mumbai.

Those days  in the 1970’s  Mumbai was called Bombay – and much earlier  in the 1960’s  Pune was called Poona.

The best way of going to Mumbai was to travel by the Indian Railways  travelling by charming trains like the Deccan Queen  enjoying the scenic beauty of the lush green Sahyadri Ghats while savouring the delicious piping hot breakfast served by the restaurant car.

There was no expressway  and the “Bombay – Poona Road”  as it was called  was quite terrible  and it took around six hours to drive down to Mumbai  as the winding road through the Khandala Ghats was quite treacherous.

Just imagine – there were no mobile cell-phones, no internet, no Smartphones, no PCs, even no STD.

If you wanted to talk to someone outside Pune – you had to book “trunk-calls” on a landline telephone – and wait for hours for the call to materialize – or if you were in a hurry – then you had to make expensive “lightening” calls.

Black and White Television had just arrived and was a novelty which very few lucky prosperous people possessed.

And everyone in the neighborhood barged into their homes to watch popular TV programmes like chitrahaarchayageet, or a cricket match.

The main thing was that there was no internet – and hence – there was no email – and one had to write letters – and send them via post as there were no courier services either.

Of course – gadgets like mobiles and smartphones were a long way off – so you could not even imagine things like SMS or Social Media like Facebook or Twitter or applications like “WhatsApp”.

Social interaction was face to face – relishing yummy Bhel in the numerous picturesque parks – or over tea – in the Amrutatulayas, Irani Cafes and Kattas – as there was no Facebook, no Twitter, no Google, no Blogging, no cell phones, no blackberry, no iphones, no smartphones, no SMS, no MMS, no nothing – and as I said – way back then – 44 years ago – the concepts of “cyberspace” and wireless mobile technology just did not exist.

Those days – a B. Tech. from an IIT did not get you a huge pay packet.

Yes – an IIT degree surely ensured that you got a good job.

But – once you were in the job – you were on par with the other guys from various Engineering Colleges.

Yes – only “guys” did engineering those days – maybe there were a few “gals” – the rare exceptions – but – 44 years ago – in 1976 – I hardly met any girl pursuing a career as an engineer – maybe most of them got married – or shifted to “softer” professions.

Both of us – my IIT Classmate Avinash and Me – we joined a leading engineering company located in the suburbs of Pune.

Well – that was the trend at IITs those days.

Either you went abroad – to America – to pursue higher studies.

Or – you got a good job in the campus interview in a prestigious engineering firm.

Unless – you were one of those few who preferred to be a white-collared manager via the MBA route.

Way back then – there were hardly any Management Institutes (“Business Schools” – as they are called nowadays).

I think maybe there was just one IIM – at Ahmedabad – or maybe there were two – and there was FMS at Delhi – and Jamnalal Bajaj (JBIMS) at Mumbai (then called Bombay).

The majority of engineers studied engineering to practice engineering – so we were quite happy to hit the shop floor doing hard core engineering.

We worked hard – for six days a week including Sundays – and we had our weekly off on Thursdays – the industrial holiday in Pune.

We rented a house near Deccan Gymkhana – from where we commuted to work and back by the company bus.

Life was good.

It was easy to be happy.

The threshold of happiness was so low – that small things made us happy.

Yes – simple things like a relaxed chat over a cup of tea made you happy.

I can never forget those happy moments.

Yes – every evening after work – we would get down from the bus at Deccan Gymkhana bus stop – relax over a Bun-Maska and Chai at Café Good Luck or Lucky – and then walk down to our rented apartment on Bhandarkar Road nearby.

One of our most enjoyable highlights was our weekly Thursday visit to Pune Camp – to see the latest Hollywood Movie in royal style relaxing on those unique easy chairs at the inimitable West End Cinema  relishing tasty mouth-watering bites and soothing thirst-quenching sips at the Soda Fountain during the interval  followed by delectable Mutton Samosas, Bun Maska and refreshing Irani style Chai at Naaz  then a leisurely stroll on Main Street (now called MG Road) and East Street  window-shopping  “bird-watching” – and snacking  sandwiches, chicken rolls and cold coffee at Marz-o-rin  maybe a browse at Manney’s bookstore  and then  a hearty Chinese meal at Kamling or Chung Fa  or a Mughlai repast at Latif’s  or Punjabi Food at Kwality  Biryani at Dorabjee or George  or Sizzlers at The Place (which boasts of being the first Sizzler Place in India) next to Manney’s.

And then – we would end the day with a Meetha Masala Paan at George Pan Shop – to carry home the lingering flavour and fragrance of the delightful evening.

Part 3 – AVINASH ASKS ME A FAVOUR

(Pune – Wednesday Evening – 13 October 1976)

When there are two close friends – one assumes the role of a leader – and the other becomes a de facto follower.

Amongst the two of us – Avinash was a tall, strapping, confident, flamboyant, handsome man endowed with an excellent physique with a dominating personality – and he was the natural leader.

“Shekhar – can you do me a favour…?” Avinash said to me one Wednesday evening – while we were sipping chai at Cafe Good Luck in Deccan.

“Favour…?” I asked.

“I want you to go down to Mumbai tomorrow and see a girl in my place…” he said nonchalantly.

“See a girl…?” I looked at him, confused.

“Let me explain to you. There is some back-home-type behenji girl.”

“Back-home-type behenji girl…?”

“Yes. Someone visited my parents in my hometown with a marriage proposal for me. They want me to marry their daughter. She works in Mumbai. My parents want me to see her – but I am least interested in getting involved with any back-home-type behenji female.”

“So?”

“So – you go to Mumbai – you pretend to be me – you meet her – and you come back. And – I will tell my parents that I did not like the girl…” Avinash said.

“You want “Me” to go to Mumbai and meet “Her” – masquerading as “You”…? Are you crazy…? Tell me – why don’t you go to Mumbai and meet her yourself…?” I asked Avinash.

“Listen yaar – I have managed to “patao” a “solid cheez – I met her during that management seminar which I attended last week…” he said.

“But you didn’t tell me anything…” I said.

Arre Bhai –first let something happen– kuch hone to do – but uske liye – you will have to help me out. This new girl I met at Seminar – I have fixed up a solid date with her tomorrow – I am taking her for a drive on my bike around Lonavala and Khandala – we planned it during the seminar – she agreed after lots of my pleading. And – suddenly this morning – my mom calls up in the office and tells me to go to Mumbai tomorrow to meet this “marriage proposal girl”. I told my mother that I was not interested – but my mother said that she had given her word – so she insisted that I go to Mumbai and meet the girl tomorrow as a formality. Please Shekhar – help me out. Just go to Mumbai tomorrow and meet the girl. I told you that it is just a formality. Then – we can all forget about it…” Avinash said.

“But how…?” I protested.

“I have already booked your ticket both ways by Deccan Queen. Just go to Mumbai in the morning – and come back to Pune in the evening. This girl I am supposed to see is called Sheetal – and she will meet you in the Jehangir Art Gallery at 11 o’clock. It’s a working day for her. The girl told my mother that she would take some time off – and she would be there to meet me at Jehangir Art Gallery which is near her office.”

“But how can I masquerade as you…? She must be having your photo. I will get caught – and it will be very embarrassing…” I said.

“There is no photo, nothing – she doesn’t know how I look like – and I even don’t know how she looks like. It all happened so suddenly. Our parents got talking back home last evening – my mother spoke to the girl by trunk-call. My mother knows I have Thursday off – so she fixed up the meeting with the girl – and then – my mother rang me up in the office this morning – and she told me to go to Mumbai and see the girl tomorrow.”

“But what is the crashing hurry…? You can meet the girl next Thursday…” I said.

“It seems that the girl is going back to her hometown near our place – in the mofussil – by the Friday evening train. She is going away for a month’s leave and there are some boys lined up there for her to see – apparently my mother is quite keen on this girl – her family is good – she is the only child – so maybe – they promised plenty of dowry. But – I am just not interested. She is seeing so many boys back home – I am sure she will like someone – and she will forget about me – I mean – “you” – she’ll surely forget “you” pretty soon – because you are quite “forgettable”…” he said.

“NO NO. NO. I am not going – the whole thing is preposterous – I can’t do this…” I protested.

Yaar please – don’t ditch me – I have already told my mother that I will meet the girl at 11 AM tomorrow in Jehangir Art Gallery…” he said.

“I don’t understand all this…” I said.

“I have told you all this before. My mother said that the girl’s office is in Kalaghoda – so Jehangir Art Gallery is the nearest and best place – out there in Mumbai. She works on Thursdays – only we here in Pune have industrial off on Thursdays – so they fixed up tomorrow as the girl has to leave for her place on Friday evening on a holiday. Don’t argue – just get it over with. You have to meet her for 10-15 minutes – that’s all. Then she will go back to her office. You loaf around in Colaba – have some Biryani at Olympia or Delhi Darbar – and see a movie at Regal, Eros or Sterling, New Empire, Metro or somewhere – there is so much to do out there in Mumbai. Then you catch the Deccan Queen at 5 o’clock in the evening. I will come to pick you up at Pune railway station. And – after you come back – we will go to the Telephone Exchange – and from there – I will call up my mother – and I will tell her I did not like the girl – and – the whole thing will be a closed chapter…” Avinash said.

“No. I don’t like all this…” I protested.

Then Avinash put his arm around my shoulder and pleaded with me:

“Please Shekhar – I have to go for this Lonavala date – the female is too good yaar and it is a solid opportunity. I promise you Shekhar – agar woh pat gayee – if things work out and my Lonavala romance succeeds – I will give you a big treat – whatever you want.”

So – for the sake of friendship – early next morning – I boarded the Deccan Queen to Mumbai masquerading as Avinash – and travelled to Mumbai – for my rendezvous with Sheetal.

Part 4 – RENDEZVOUS IN JEHANGIR ART GALLERY

(Mumbai – Thursday Morning – 14 October 1976)

The Deccan Queen reached Mumbai at 10:30 AM.

I walked down DN Road – past Hutatma Chowk (or Flora Fountain as it is popularly known) – and by the time I reached Jehangir Art Gallery at Kala Ghoda it was almost 11 AM.

For a few moments I stood in the foyer – looking around at all the girls – searching for someone looking like a back-home-type behenji female who may be Sheetal.

Dear Reader – I know it will be difficult for you to imagine how different and archaic things were in those days – 43 years ago – in 1976.

Today – if you want to find out about a girl – you can just Google her name – and – presto – so many details will show up about her – you can easily see everything about her – her present – her past – her family and friends – her relationships – the places she has visited – where she has studied – worked – you can even see her pictures – her entire web identity.

Today – pictures can be instantly clicked and sent on mobile phones – even photos can be scanned and sent instantly on mobiles and by email.

But – in the 1970’s – the only way to send a photograph was by post – and a letter took many days to reach.

That is why it was not possible for Avinash and Sheetal to exchange photos.

And – that is why I could masquerade as Avinash.

So – that is why – at 11 AM on the 14th of October 1976 – I was standing in Jehangir Art Gallery waiting to meet a girl called “Sheetal” – but I was totally clueless about how Sheetal looked like.

After a few moments – I went into the exhibition hall and started admiring the paintings.

“Excuse me…” a feminine voice said from behind me.

I turned around.

“Mr. Avinash…?” she asked.

I stared blankly at the smart young woman – I was tongue-tied.

“I’m Sheetal…” she said with a lovely smile.

“Oh, Hi…” I stammered – quickly gathering my wits – remembering that I was masquerading as Avinash.

I looked at her.

Avinash had been terribly wrong in describing how Sheetal looked like.

The Sheetal standing in front of me was no podgy pedestrian suburban unpretentious “back-home-type behenji female”.

She was a real beauty – chic, smart, ravishing, a stunner – and I could not take my eyes off her.

Her eyes were extremely beautiful – enormous, dark, expressive eyes.

And suddenly – her eyes began to dance.

Sheetal must have seen the frank look of genuine admiration in my eyes.

Yes – I was genuinely admiring her beauty – with the unspoken language of the eyes – which was worth more than a thousand spoken compliments.

Sheetal must have sensed my admiration – so she gave me smile so captivating – that I experienced a delightful twinge in my heart.

“You are Mr. Avinash, aren’t you…?” she asked mischievously.

“Yes – I am Avinash…” I lied, “How did you recognize me…?”

“You were the only person looking totally “lost” and “out of place” over here – like an “odd man out”…” she laughed vivaciously.

“Oh…” I said unconsciously.

I stood still – mesmerized by her gorgeousness – and following my natural instinct – I let my eyes linger on her – travel all over her exquisite body.

“Hey – are you going to stare at me all day – or should we grab a bite…? I am hungry…” she said playfully.

“Yes…Yes…” I said.

“Okay – come – let’s go to “Samovar” – we can talk there in peace too…” she said.

Sheetal led me from the art gallery to Samovar – the restaurant in the veranda.

Part 5 – A ROMANTIC DATE WITH THE “BACK-HOME-TYPE BEHENJI FEMALE”

(Mumbai – Thursday Afternoon  14 October 1976)

“Samovar” restaurant was situated next to the art gallery  in a long rectangular veranda – and ot resembled a Railway Dining Car.

We sat down opposite each other  on the comfortable cane chairs – and I looked at the expansive green lawns of adjoining Museum.

The moment we sat down – a waiter came and asked us what we wanted to eat.

“I am hungry..” she said  and she ordered stuffed Parathas and Dahi Wada.

“I’ll have a cutlet…” I said, “and some Pudina Chai after that.”

“You’ve come here before…” she asked.

“Just once  a few years ago  when I was at IIT…” I said.

“Oh Yes  you studied at IIT Powai – but that’s quite far away.”

“We sometimes came down from Powai to South Mumbai on Sundays – to have a loaf around Fort, Colaba and Churchgate – and maybe see a movie.”

“I come here quite often. My office is nearby. That’s why I suggested this place – we can sit here and talk undisturbed for as long as we want and get to know each other better. This is a nice place for a relaxed chat over lunch…” she said.

I was in no mood for a relaxed chat over lunch.

In fact – I was feeling nervous.

The more I talked to her  the more was the chance of me being unmasked. Suppose I slipped up  and if she came to know that I was not the “Avinash” she was expecting  but a “phony” masquerading as Avinash – it would be terrible – I could not even imagine the consequences.

I also felt qualms of conscience.

I had taken a liking to this girl Sheetal – sitting in front of me – and I felt I was not doing the right thing by pretending to be Avinash.

I could not bear the mendacity – I felt terribly guilty telling a blatant lie and cheating this decent girl.

So – I blurted out:

“Hey, Sheetal. I think I need to go. I cannot do this any longer. Bye – I must go now.”

“You want to go now…? Is anything wrong…? Are you feeling okay…?” she asked me.

“No – I am not okay. And – everything is wrong…” I said.

“What happened…?” she asked looking surprised, and worried.

“I want to tell you something. I want to confess…” I said.

“Confess…? What…?” she asked.

“I am not who you think. I am not Avinash. My name is Shekhar…” I said.

She gave me a puzzled look – and then she said to me:

“You are not Avinash…? You are Shekhar…? Why don’t you tell me everything.”

I told her everything.

Yes – I told her everything – from the beginning to the end – each and every thing.

I felt relieved – once I had got it off my chest.

I thought she would get angry.

But she smiled and said to me:

“So you are Shekhar who has come to “see” the “marriage proposal” for Avinash – that is me – the “prospective bride”…”

“Yes…” I said sheepishly.

“And the real Avinash is having a good time with the “hot-chick” in Lonavala…?”

“Yes…”

“So you will make a fool of me by masquerading as Avinash – and pass some time with me – and go back to Pune…?”

“Yes.”

“And the moment you reach Pune – Avinash will ring up his mother – and he will tell her that he did not like the girl – that is “Me”…”

“Yes.”

“What was the need to for this “charade”…?”

“I don’t know – Avinash said it has something to do with your conservative families – if he refuses to see you – then relations between your famlies may get spoiled. But please – I don’t want to discuss all this – I am feeling very bad doing this to you – I am very sorry.”

“You don’t be sorry – it is your friend Avinash who should be sorry…”

“I will go now…”

“You are booked by the evening Deccan Queen – isn’t it…?”

“Yes.”

“So – now that we are stuck with each other – why don’t we make the most of it…?” she said.

“I don’t know…”

“Don’t worry – I am not going to eat you up. We will do whatever “time-pass” you were planning to do – after getting rid of me…”

“But you have got office – that is what Avinash told me.”

“I have taken the day off. Come – let’s spend some time together – then you can catch the Deccan Queen – and I will go back to my hostel on Marine Drive.”

Our food order arrived.

Sheetal asked for extra plates – and we shared the stuffed parathas and the cutlet.

“Now what…?” Sheetal asked, after we had finished eating.

“Let’s see the Museum…” I said – looking out towards the imposing Museum building.

“The Museum…?” she asked, looking surprised.

“You don’t want to go to the Museum…? Okay – whatever you say…”

“No. No. Today you are taking me out on a “Date”. I will come with you wherever take me…” she smiled – and she said politely to me, “just imagine – I have been in Mumbai for 6 months – I work so close by – and I have not seen the Museum as yet…”

I must say that Sheetal was really beautiful – and as we walked side by side – I realized that all the men were looking appreciatively at her – in fact – some men were giving her quite yearning looks.

For the first time in my life – I felt the natural pride of possession – that any man feels – when he has the company of a woman that other men desire.

After we came out the Museum – Sheetal asked me:

“Now what…?”

“Let’s walk down Colaba Causeway. We can go to Olympia for a Biryani – and then have Gulab Jamun or Falooda at Kailash Parbat…”

“Okay. But – I am not hungry yet. So – what should we do now…?” she asked.

“Let’s browse books…”

“Browse books…?”

“Yes – we can browse books on the pavement bookstalls near the CTO – sometimes you get good books there quite cheap…”

“And how are we going there…? I hope you are not going to march me down on foot…!”

“Yes – I was thinking it will be a good walk…”

“Please – I am feeling quite tired – my legs are aching – and – the high heels I am wearing are not exactly made for cross country walking…!!!”

“Okay – let’s take the bus…”

“Bus…? You want to take me – your lovely “Date” – in a bus…?”

“Why…? Is something wrong…? I have no experience in these sorts of things…”

“Haven’t you dated a girl before..?”

“No.”

“Okay – let’s go by bus.”

Soon – we reached CTO – and walked to the pavement book-stalls.

We browsed books.

Then we went to a quaint Maharashtrian restaurant opposite VT called “Kelkar Vishranti Gruha” – and we ate Sabudana Usal and Kanda Thalipith – and washed it down by a delicious Piyush.

Sheetal looked at me and said:

“I have gone out with so many boys – but you are different…”

“Different…?”

“No one wanted to march me down in the hot sun – no one took me by bus – no one made me browse books on pavement stalls – and no one has taken me to these quaint food joints – which I didn’t know even existed.”

“You didn’t enjoy…?”

“Of course I did – but what I am saying is that I have never seen anyone like you – you are different from the rest – you are so simple ” you act so natural – I have met all kinds of men – but you are truly an original…” she said.

I felt good – I blushed – but maybe – she was just being kind to me.

We strolled in Fort – window-shopping.

I lost all track of time.

The day had passed in a haze of delight – for the first time in my life – I experienced the joy that a girl can bring in a man’s life.

We passed a shop selling clocks.

Sheetal looked at the clocks and said to me:

“Hey it is already 4:45 PM – you have to catch the Deccan Queen – isn’t it…? I think we better head to the station…”

“Okay – Bye…” I said.

“What do you mean – “Bye”…? I am coming to see you off on the train…” she said.

I did not refuse.

I yearned for a few more moments of her delightful company.

Part 6 – THE CLIMAX OF THE STORY

(Mumbai – Thursday Evening  14 October 1976)

It was 5 o’clock in the evening.

The blue-and-cream Deccan Queen stood beside the platform waiting to start its evening journey from Mumbai to Pune.

We – Sheetal and Me – we stood on platform outside my coach.

“You are the first boy I have met who did not try to impress me… Sheetal said.

“I know. But what can I do…? I told you that I have no experience of dating girls. But – I should have tried and treated you better. I am sorry…” I said.

“Hey – why are you sorry…? You are really nice decent guy. I really enjoyed your company…”

“You are just saying that to console me. I am such a bore – and such a “cheapie”. I am sure I ruined your day…” I said apologetically.

“No. No. I really enjoyed your company. I have never gone a “date” like this before. It was real fun…” she said with a smile.

“Thank you, Sheetal. I am feeling so good that you said that…”

“It is true, Shekhar. You make me feel good. No one has made me feel so good before. I really enjoy your company. You are one person with whom I can be myself. Yes – with you I can be my own self. I don’t have to fake it. I don’t have to put on an act. I don’t have to wear a mask. I don’t have to be someone else. I can just be myself and forget about all those social graces…”

“Me too…” I said.

“Maybe we should see more of each other. I think I will come down to Pune next weekend.”

“What…? You want to come to Pune…?”

“Why…? Don’t you like my company…?”

“No. No. Of course I like you. But Avinash will be there in Pune. It will be very awkward…”

“Avinash…? To hell with him…!!! In any case – I am not getting married to Avinash now. In fact – by tomorrow he would have told his parents that he has rejected me. That is what he told you – isn’t it…?”

“Yes. In fact – Avinash told me that he would call up his parents tonight only – the moment I reach Pune.”

“Shekhar – you make sure Avinash calls up his parents tonight. Because I am going to call up my parents from the CTO the moment the Deccan Queen leaves – I am going and tell them that I don’t want to marry such a dope like Avinash…”

“Dope…? But – Avinash is not a “dope”. He is not like me…” I said.

“And suppose – just suppose – I told you that “Sheetal” is not like me…” she said, looking at me directly in the eye.

“Sheetal is not like you…? What do you mean…? You are “Sheetal” aren’t you…?”

“You still think I am “Sheetal” – don’t you…?” she looked at me mischievously.

“Yes. Aren’t you “Sheetal”…?” I said, a bit bewildered.

“You know, Shekhar – I like you so much – you make me feel so good – and – you were so frank and honest with me – that – I can’t cheat you any longer…” she said.

“Cheat me…?”

“Yes. I have been deceiving you – and I have been making a fool of you. But you are such a good guy – that I have to be honest with you. I am going to come clean…”

“Come clean…?”

“Shekhar – in the morning you told me the truth that you are not Avinash – now it is my turn to tell you the truth. I want to confess…”

“Confess …?”

“I am not “Sheetal”…” she said.

“What…? You are not Sheetal…? You are not the girl Avinash was supposed to see for marriage…?” I asked – I was totally taken aback, feeling puzzled and perplexed.

“Yes, Shekhar – I am not Sheetal…” she repeated.

Then who are you…?” I asked her, trying to recover my wits.

“Shweta – my name is “Shweta”. I am the girl Avinash was supposed to meet in Lonavala…” she said.

“Lonavala…? Don’t tell me that you are that “hot-chick” who Avinash was so desperate to patao…!” I blurted out, instantly regretting my words.

She laughed.

She gave a hearty laugh.

I looked at her dumbstruck, feeling embarrassed.

Then she said to me:

“Yes – I am the “hot-chick” your friend Avinash met last week at the Management Seminar…”

“You’ve not gone to Lonavala to meet him as planned…? Poor Avinash. He must have waited for you all day. Why did you ditch him…?”

“Don’t worry. I have sent Sheetal to Lonavala to meet Avinash.”

“What…? Sheetal…? You have sent Sheetal to Lonavala to meet Avinash…?”

“Yes – the same Sheetal – well – she happens to be my best friend.”

“Oh…?”

“Sheetal told me that her mother was forcing her to see a boy called Avinash who was coming down from Pune. She told me that she did not want to see any boy – in fact – Sheetal is not interested in getting married so fast…”

“So…?”

“When she told me details of the boy – I got a bit suspicious – could it be the same Avinash who had called me to Lonavala…? How could Avinash be in Lonavala and Mumbai at the same time…? Was he “two-timing” me…? Or – was he going to stand her up…? I was curious – very curious…”

“So you decided to swap dates…?”

“Yes. And – we wanted to get to the bottom of things – to find out who is who – and – what is what – doodh ka doodh aur paani ka paani – as they say in Hindi…”

“So you came to meet me masquerading as “Sheetal”…?” I said.

“Yes – and the actual “Sheetal” has gone to Lonavala by the same morning train on which I was supposed to travel. Sheetal must have been there on time at the rendezvous point where Avinash was going to meet me. I am sure Sheetal and Avinash have met each other…”

“Oh, My God…”

“Why…? How do you know that they won’t like each other…? We liked each other didn’t we…? I am sure they are spending some “quality time” together. You never know – Sheetal and Avinash may even decide to get married…” Shweta said, with a mischievous smile and twinkle in her eyes.

Suddenly – I heard the guard blow his whistle.

It was almost 5:10 PM – time for the Deccan Queen to leave.

“The train is going to start. I have to go now…” I said to Shweta.

“Let the train go…” she said.

“What…?”

“I want to spend some more time with you. Let’s walk on Marine Drive – watch sunset together. Then we’ll go to Chowpatty. Let’s walk on the sand by the sea – let’s eat some yummy bhel by the seaside. And then – you can treat me to that “green chilly ice cream” you were telling me so much about…” she said.

Suddenly – the train jerked and started moving.

“Hey – the train is leaving…” I said

“Let it go…” Shweta said – and she pressed my hand.

I pressed her hand back – as I watched the Deccan Queen leave without me.

The evening passed in a haze of delight.

Never before had I enjoyed the company of a person so much.

For the first time in my life – I experienced a new emotion – a kind of thrilling happiness and blissful joy that the right girl can bring in your life.

And – Shweta was certainly the right girl for me.

I realized the meaning of love – I knew what it was like to be in love.

We sat on the parapet enjoying the cool night sea breeze on Marine Drive – opposite the working women’s hostel where Shweta lived.

Time flew.

I looked at my watch – it was 11:15 PM.

The last train for Pune – the overnight Passenger – it left Mumbai at 11:45 PM.

It was time to say goodbye – at least for now.

I called a Taxi.

“Bye…” I said to Shweta.

“Bye…” she said.

“I want to ask you something…” I said.

“I know what you want to ask me – and my answer is “YES”…” she said.

My heart ached as the taxi moved away – and the distance between us kept on increasing till she disappeared into the distance.

But I knew that this was the beginning of a long and lovely relationship.

EPILOGUE – All’s Well That Ends Well 

Shweta and I got married.

And – by the way – Sheetal and Avinash got married too.

Two best friends married two best friends.

What an irony of life – the conservative Me – I got married to the “hot-chick” Shweta.

And – the “mod-guy” Shekhar – he got married to the “back-home-type behenji girl” Sheetal.

We got married in 1977 – and it has been a long time since – 43 years have passed – and till this day – we all live happily ever after.

All’s well that ends well.

We always taunt them – Avinash and Sheetal – that ours is a “Love” Marriage – and theirs is an “Arranged” Marriage.

We have all relocated to Mumbai.

Dear Reader:

Do you want to meet us…?

Okay – try your luck on Sunday evenings at Bachellor’s opposite Chowpatty – and you may chance upon us enjoying “Green Chilly Ice Cream”.

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 original post in my Blog Academic and Creative Writing Journal Vikram Karve: http://karvediat.blogspot.in/2017/06/the-happiest-day-of-my-life-love-story.html

This is a revised, updated and abridged version of my story THE HAPPIEST DAY OF MY LIFE written by me Vikram Karve 19 years ago in the year 2000 and earlier posted online by me Vikram Karve in my blog a number of times including at 10/14/2013 08:19:00 PM at url: http://karvediat.blogspot.in/2013/10/the-happiest-day-of-my-life.html  and  http://karvediat.blogspot.in/2014/11/my-very-own-love-story-happiest-day-of.html etc  and  http://karvediat.blogspot.in/2015/09/alls-well-that-ends-well.html and  http://karvediat.blogspot.in/2015/11/my-first-date-love-story.html and https://karve.wordpress.com/2018/01/08/a-happy-ending-love-story/ and  https://karve.wordpress.com/2018/05/28/the-happiest-day-of-my-life-my-very-own-love-story/and  http://karvediat.blogspot.in/2016/07/my-first-date-happiest-day-of-my-life.html

The Ghostwriter

January 14, 2020

THE GHOSTWRITER

Story By Vikram Karve

Circa August 2015 – At a Literary Festival

Unforgettable tête-à-tête at the Literary Festival

“Is it you…?” I asked.

“Of course – it is ‘Me’…” she said.

“It is so nice to meet you after so many years…” I said.

“Yes – it’s great to meet you too after so many years – it’s been 15 years – isn’t it…?” she said.

15 years ago – in the year 2000 – we had met at a Creative Writers’ Workshop in Mumbai.

In the workshop – at 45 – I must have been the “oldest” participant – and – she – barely 20 – still a college student – was surely the youngest.

During the workshop we were asked to read out our creative writing – the fiction short stories we had written – and – I remembered her the most among all participants – because she had a unique ‘peppy’ writing style – she wrote a lot of ‘dialogue’ – in fact – some of her stories were entirely in dialogue – and this made her writing very lively and a joy to read.

Once – when we were asked to form ‘pairs’ – to evaluate each other’s writing – she chose me as her ‘partner’.

“Why did you choose an ‘old fogey’ like me…?” I said to her, surprised.

“Well – you seem genuinely interested in my writing – the others seem to be more interested in me than my writing…” she said, pithily.

As it happens most of the time – after the workshop – all of us participants promised to keep in touch with each other – but – soon – we got busy in our day-to-day affairs and we lost contact with each other.

But – I always remembered my young ‘partner’ – especially her lively writing style – and – in fact – I tried to emulate her sprightly storytelling style in my own writing – and I wrote plenty of ‘dialogue’ in my stories.

Now – 15 years later – it was a pleasant surprise to run into her at a Literary Festival in Pune.

“I am really delighted to see you…” I said.

“Me too…” she said.

I looked at her and said:

“I don’t know whether it is a coincidence – or serendipity – but just last week – I was browsing in a bookstore in Mumbai – and there was a book-launch – a celebrity ‘autobiography’…”

Celebrity ‘autobiography’…?” she interrupted.

“Yes – a book authored by ‘XXX’ – I am sure you have heard of her…” I said.

“Of course – I have heard of ‘XXX’ – who doesn’t know her…?” she said.

“Yes – it was the book-launch of the autobiography written by ‘XXX’ – and – I don’t know why – but they gave away free copies of the book to all of us who attended the book-launch…” I said.

“Really…? That is quite generous of them. Maybe the book isn’t selling…” she commented.

“Not at all – the book is selling very well. In fact – this book has become a highly successful ‘bestseller’…” I said.

“Wow – but what was the ‘coincidence’ you were talking about…?” she asked.

“Oh yes – about the ‘coincidence’. Well – I read the book on the Deccan Queen that evening on the way back to Pune. And while reading it – do you know what I discovered…?” I said.

“What…?” she asked me.

“Her writing style is exactly like your unique writing style. This celebrity – ‘XXX’ – she writes exactly like you used to write – plenty of ‘dialogue’. Just imagine – it is an ‘autobiography’ – but instead of ‘description’ – the ‘celebrity’ has written plenty of ‘dialogue’ – just like you used to write – and this makes his life-story so ‘lively’ – just like your writing style – like you used to write during those Creative Writers’ Workshop days…” I said.

“Really…? Are you trying to say that this ‘celebrity author’ is trying to imitate me…?” she asked with a naughty smile.

“Come – I will show you – the book is for sale at the bookshop they have set up in the literary festival near the entrance to the main hall…” I said.

I took her to the bookshop display – and I pointed out the book to her.

“Oh – that book …” she said, with a wry smile.

“Yes – the way it is written – it is so much like your distinctive style – when I read it – I almost thought that you have written the book…” I said.

“I have written that book…” she said, nonchalantly.

“What…” I asked, bewildered.

“Yes – I have written the book…” she repeated, coolly.

“You have written the book…? How is that possible…? It is the ‘autobiography’ of a ‘celebrity’…” I said, puzzled.

“I have ‘ghostwritten’ the book…” she said.

“Ghostwritten…?” I said, perplexed.

“Yes – the entire book was written by me – and the ‘celebrity’ ‘XXX’ is credited as the author…” she said.

“Really…? Well – the ‘celebrity’ has expressed her gratitude to so many persons – but I did not see your name anywhere – she hasn’t even bothered to mention your name in the acknowledgements…” I said.

“Why should she take the risk mentioning my name anywhere in the book…? Surely – she doesn’t want to let the cat out of the bag – if the truth gets known – she will be exposed as a ‘fake’ author. Just imagine – if people come to know that her ‘autobiography’ has been ‘ghostwritten’ – what will happen to her carefully cultivated image as an ‘accomplished author’…?”

“But you can always tell the world that it is you who wrote the book. Why don’t you tell everyone that you are the actual author of the book – and not ‘XXX’ – why should she take credit for your work…?” I asked her.

“I have signed a nondisclosure contract that legally forbids me to mention my role in the writing project…” she said.

“A contract…? For writing a book in someone else’s name…?” I asked.

“Yes – there is a ‘confidentiality clause’ in the contract that obligates me to remain ‘anonymous’. Well – the ‘XXX’ is the ‘credited author’ and I have signed off all my rights to her – this is what all ghostwriters have to do – a ‘ghostwriter’ has to give away all her rights and copyrights to the ‘credited author’…” she said.

“But – don’t you feel bad about it – someone else taking credit for your creative work…” I asked.

“I need the money…” she said.

“Money…” I asked her.

“Do you how much money “XXX” paid me for ghostwriting her ‘autobiography’…?” she said.

“How much…?” I asked her.

She told me the amount.

I was stunned when I heard the figure.

It was a staggering amount of money – well beyond my imagination – she was paid more money for ghostwriting the book than I earned in an entire year.

“I know what you are thinking…” she said.

“What…?” I asked.

She looked at me – and she said to me:

“You are wondering why I am ‘selling my soul’ for easy money – aren’t you…?”

“You must be feeling terrible, isn’t it – someone else taking full credit for your creative efforts…” I said.

“Of course it feels bad – after all – creative recognition has its own intrinsic value…” she said, “but then – I told you that I need the money…”

I looked at her – confused – wondering whether I should despise her for her unethical conduct – or admire her for her pragmatic attitude.

For sometime – we sat in silence.

Then – suddenly – she said to me:

“Hey – when is your session…?”

“Session…” I asked.

“Have you become ‘absent minded’ or what…?” she said, “It is already 3 o’clock and you are supposed to conduct a workshop on ‘Blogging’ at 3:30…”

She opened the program schedule – and pointed it out to me:

“Here it is – ‘Workshop on Blogging’ – by you – at 3:30 – in Hall No. 3…”

“Oh yes…” I said, “in fact – I have come to the literary festival mainly for that…”

“Even I have come to the literary festival today mainly for your ‘Blogging Workshop’…” she said.

“Really – I can’t believe it – I am no great writer…” I said.

“Well – you are a top ‘Blogger’ – you are so prolific – you write on so many topics – fiction – ‘non-fiction’ – technology – management – food – book reviews – self-help – philosophy – education – so many varied genres – and you post a blog every day – do you even know the huge number of ‘page-views’ your blog gets every day…?” she asked.

“No – I just blog and forget about it…” I said.

She looked at her watch and said:

“Hey – let’s go – you don’t want to be late for your session – do you…?”

After the workshop – we went to the café for a cup of tea.

“Well – you landing up at the book-launch of my ‘ghostwritten’ book may have been serendipity – but my meeting you here is no coincidence – as I told you – I came here to the Literary Festival specifically to meet you…” she said.

“Really…” I asked.

She pulled out a business card from her purse – and she gave it to me.

“Wow – you are the ‘Director’ of a ‘PR Consultancy Firm’…” I said.

“Well – I can’t call it a ‘Ghostwriting Consultancy’ – can I…?” she said, “…PR is a ‘catch-all’ euphemism for everything – ‘ethical’ and ‘not so ethical’…”

I looked at the business card and said:

“So – you do all types of ‘ghostwriting’ – even ‘professional articles’, ‘research papers’, ‘dissertations’ and ‘thesis’…”

She said to me:

“You name it – and we ‘ghostwrite’ it.

Well – I look after the ‘creative writing’ assignments.

But – for other more specialized technical ‘projects’ we commission appropriately qualified ‘ghostwriters’ – or – ‘researchers’ – as we call them.

Let me tell you that there are many persons in the corporate sector and industry who want to masquerade as “experts” – but they do not have the requisite professional knowledge – nor do they possess good writing skills – so they come to us to do ‘research’ and ‘ghostwrite’ – for articles and books – which are published under their names to build up their professional credibility.

And – of course – there are the “rich and famous” celebrities who want to build a façade of a “literary image” and wish “show off” their “literary achievements” as “successful authors” by “writing” bestseller books which are hailed as “literary classics…”

I listened awestruck – and then I said to her:

“Hey – you didn’t tell me why you wanted to meet me…?”

“I have been following your blog for quite some time now – and I really admire the way you blog so passionately – and now – after I saw the way you conducted the ‘Blogging Workshop’ – I am really impressed…” she said.

“Thanks…” I said.

Then – she looked at me – directly into my eyes – and she said to me:

“Well – if you want to ‘sell your soul’ – do give me a call…”

“Sell my soul…?” I asked, puzzled.

“We need a ‘Blog Ghostwriter’ – and who better to ‘ghostwrite’ blogs than you…?” she said.

“But…” I stammered.

“Think about it…” she interrupted, “you can earn a substantial amount of money if you ‘encash’ your talent…”

“…‘encash’ my talent…” I mumbled, incoherently.

She looked at her watch – and said to me:

“Hey – it is already 5:30 – time for me to go…”

She typed out an SMS on her jazzy ‘Smartphone’ – and sent it.

“Come…” she said, “I have called my car…”

We walked to the foyer.

A chauffeur driven SUV car appeared at the foyer – and stopped before us.

Before I could react – the smartly dressed chauffeur got out and opened the door for her.

Before she got into her luxury car – she said to me:

“I will wait for your call. There is a tremendous market for ‘Blog Ghostwriting” – and – with your talent – the sky’s the limit – you cannot even imagine the amount of money you will be able to earn – your life will change…”

After she drove off in style – I trudged towards the bus stop.

I stood in the queue waiting for a bus – and I thought about the eventful day at the literary festival – especially the unforgettable tête-à-tête with the ‘Ghostwriter’.

EPILOGUE

At night – I sat in front of my laptop – to write a blog post about my day at the literary festival.

I took out the business card my ‘Ghostwriter’ friend had given me – and I looked at it.

I asked myself – what did I want in life…?

What was more important for me – ‘intrinsic satisfaction’ and ‘creative recognition’ by writing under my own name – or – ‘extrinsic reward’ by ‘selling my soul’ and ‘ghostwriting’ in anonymity…

My ‘inner voice’ spoke to me – clearly and distinctly.

I was not going to “sell my soul”.

I was not going to sell my creativity.

So – I tore up the business card – and I threw it in the dustbin.

Then – I started writing this blog post – under my very own name.

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 this 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 original post in my Blog Academic and Creative Writing Journal Vikram Karve: http://karvediat.blogspot.in/2016/07/creativity-on-sale-ghostwriter.html

Repost of my Story GHOST WRITER posted online by me Vikram Karve around four years ago in Dec 2015 (and reposted a few times) at url: http://karvediat.blogspot.in/2015/12/ghost-writer.html and https://karve.wordpress.com/2017/08/12/how-to-sell-your-soul/and http://karvediat.blogspot.in/2016/02/pr-girl-in-corporate-communications.html

The “Fishing Fleet” – Part 1

January 14, 2020

THE “FISHING FLEET”

Story By Vikram Karve

HUSBAND HUNTING – Part 1 

I learnt the term “Fishing Fleet” – when – many years ago – I read a novel called THE RAJ by Donald H Robinson.

The book is set in British India – in the early 1930’s – in the backdrop of “Colonial Life” – prevalent in the days of the “British Raj”.

The story is about an Englishwoman – a schoolteacher at a renowned boarding school for ladies.

She is now 38 years old – single – and – she has not been able to find a suitable husband in England for all these years.

She is worried that she may remain a spinster all her life.

She desperately wants to get married.

So – she quits her job – and – she decides to sail to India on the “Fishing Fleet” – to “hunt” for a suitable husband.

Dear Reader – let me tell you a bit about the “Fishing Fleet”.

During the days of the “British Raj” – a large number of Englishmen served in India – in the Civil Services – in the Military – and – at other places.

So – there were a large number of “eligible” Englishmen – but hardly any suitable Englishwomen “brides” for them.

On the other hand – for “middle class” Englishwomen – it was difficult to find a “status” match in England.

So – after exhausting all opportunities for finding a good husband in England – the women would take the “fishing fleet” to India in search of a prospective husband.

The Civil Services and the Military discouraged marrying before the age of 30 – the age at which it was thought the Officer had “settled down” in his job and it was feasible for him to support a family – so – even age-wise – women in their late 20’s and early 30’s had a good chance of bagging a prize catch husband.

During those “Colonial Days” of the “British Raj” – the “Social Season” in India was in winter – from December to February – and the “Fishing Fleet” arrived in India at the beginning of the social season – during which – all efforts were made to facilitate “coupling” of the prospective husbands and brides.

The women had a distinct advantage – the gender ratio was skewed heavily in their favour – there were 3 to 4 men “available” for every woman.

So – in view of this huge gender advantage – it was quite easy for most of “fishing fleet” women to acquire a husband.

If you were lucky – you could get a “Bada Sahib” (Civil Services or Military Officer) husband.

Otherwise – you would have to settle for a “Chota Sahib” Englishman working in other jobs in India – like in the Railways (or other Government Services) – a Tea Planter – or a “manager” in the numerous business/trading companies/firms/industries set up in India.

Well – most “fishing fleet” women did manage to find a husband – so – they got married – and they remained in India with their husbands and lived “happily ever after”.

And – those unfortunate “fishing fleet” women who failed to find a husband – they sailed back to England – as “Returned Empties” – probably destined to remain a spinster all their lives.

The genesis of the “fishing fleet” was in the year 1671 – when the East India Company sent 20 single women to Bombay (now called Mumbai) – each given an allowance of 300 Pounds Sterling – and – a new set of clothing.

The women were given a simple objective – to find a “company-approved” mate within a year.

It seems that this experiment was successful – and – this resulted in establishing a practice of transporting a steady “cargo” of potential brides by sea all the way to India every year.

Colloquially – in Naval Parlance – this was nicknamed as the “Fishing Fleet” – and – the potential brides were known as “Fishing Fleeters”.

What happened to the “fishing fleeter” heroine of the novel…?

Was her “husband hunting” mission a success…?

Did she have any romances – any passionate affairs …?

Did she find a “suitable” husband and settle down in India to a happy married life…?

Or – did she return back to England – desolate – as a “Returned Empty”…?

For all that – you will have to read the book.

Now – Dear Reader – in Part 2 – let me tell you a few stories which happened much later – during my delightful days in the Navy. 

To Be Continued in Part 2…

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.

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 blog post in my Blog Academic and Creative Writing Journal Vikram Karve: http://karvediat.blogspot.com/2020/01/fishing-fleet-husband-hunting-part-1.html

© vikram karve., all rights reserved.

Humor in Uniform – The “Alcoholic” who was a Teetotaller

January 14, 2020

The “Alcoholic Teetotaller”

Humor in Uniform

The Navy is a great place – and – I am sure – so are the Army and the Air Force.

You come across all types of individuals.

During my long service in the Navy – I met a number of unforgettable characters.

How can I forget the unforgettable “Alcoholic” who was a Teetotaller – who I encountered during my glorious IAT Pune days.

STORY OF THE “ALCOHOLIC” TEETOTALLER 

Hilarious Memories of My Navy Days

A Spoof By Vikram Karve 

Dear Reader – here is a story about an “Alcoholic” who was a Teetotaller – a most interesting character I came across long back – around 35 years ago – in the 1980’s – yes – believe it or not – I indeed met an unforgettable character – ‘An “Alcoholic” who was a Teetotaller.

Now – Dear Reader – before I tell you this hilarious “memoir” – let me give you a backdrop.

JACK OF ALL TRADES – AND MASTER OF ONE

In the Navy – “regimentation” requires that you have to obediently do everything that they tell you to do.

Also – in the Navy – an Officer is supposed to be:

“Jack of all Trades – and Master of One…”

The one “Trade” in which you are supposed to be a “Master” is your professional job at sea and ashore (what they call “core competency” in the corporate world and industry) – but beyond that – you can be tasked with anything and everything – including “bum jobs”.

So – in addition to your professional “tradecraft” (your primary duty in which you are supposed to be a “Master”) – in the Navy – you are given a lot of “bum jobs” (euphemistically called “secondary duties”) – which you are supposed to perform to the best of your ability.

For civilian readers uninitiated with life in uniform – let me explain that in the Army, Navy or Air Force – you can be asked to do any “bum job” – which can include almost anything and everything – irrespective of your qualifications or specialization.

Hence – during my career in the Navy – I had to do a lot of “bum jobs”.

Yes – I have performed “bum jobs” ranging from running poultry farms, piggeries and milk dairies, managing catering and liquor bars in wardroom officers’ messes, running officers’ clubs, administering schools and libraries, doing Audit and Accounts, conducting a wide range of so-called “welfare” activities – and – organizing all sorts of Events – ranging from Sports Tournaments, Social Parties and Dance Balls – to Navy Melas (fêtes and carnivals) and Fleet Family Days – you name it – we did it.

As I said before – these “bum jobs” were in addition to our professional duties – and we were expected to excel in both our professional and extra-curricular duties (“bum jobs”).

And – by the way – in the military – you have to do all this extra work for free.

Unlike Civilians – who are paid “extra duty pay” – or are given “overtime” money – for such extra-curricular tasks – in the Navy – you do not get paid for all the “bum jobs” you do.

“CHAIRMAN – CSD CANTEEN”

The story I am going to tell you happened more around 35 years ago – in the mid 1980’s.

I had just assumed my new appointment as Teaching Faculty in IAT Pune as a newly promoted Lieutenant Commander.

My primary job was “instructional duties” – to teach, guide and conduct a post graduate course leading to a Master’s degree in Engineering.

Of course – those days it took 11 years of commissioned service to become a Lieutenant Commander – unlike today – when you see greenhorns who haven’t yet fully grown their whiskers – strutting around wearing two and a half stripes – thanks to the benevolent Ajai Vikram Singh Cadre Review (AVS 2006).

The Institute of Armament Technology – or IAT – as it was called – was a unique institution whose Faculty was composed of Officers from the Army, Navy and Air Force – and there was also a peculiar species called “Scientists” – who were civilians.

The irony was that most uniformed service officers on the IAT faculty were more highly qualified than the “scientists”.

(In keeping with our penchant for changing names – IAT was later renamed DIAT Deemed University – and I believe it is now called MILIT – but it is still remains the same lovely place nestled in its sylvan surroundings in the verdant hills of Girinagar near Pune) 

But let me get back to the 1980’s – when this story happened.

I was sinking my teeth into my new appointment – when I was summoned by my boss – who ordered me in typical Navy peremptory style:

“Take over the CSD Canteen immediately. You have been appointed Chairman CSD Canteen…”

Before you get ideas that I was being elevated to a prestigious assignment as a “Chairman” – let me explain.

This was no great appointment.

This was a “bum job” – a sundry duty that I had to do in addition to my primary job.

And the high-sounding “Chairman” meant nothing – it was IAT parlance for what we in the Navy called “Officer-in-Charge”.

And – I was being appointed “Chairman” CSD Canteen – because I was most recently joined faculty member without a “bum job”.

If you are familiar with Army or Military Life – you will know that a CSD Canteen is a “departmental store” for all kinds of provisions and liquor which are available at discounted rates.

I took over as “Chairman” CSD Canteen – and – in typical Navy “Carry on Chief” Style – which I had learnt and successfully implemented on board ship – I adopted a “hands off” policy – 100% delegation – so – I delegated everything to the Canteen Manager (an Air Force Warrant Officer) – and let the Manager run the Canteen.

MILITARY LIQUOR QUOTA

If you are familiar with Military Life – you will know that the only unique and worthwhile perk you get in the Defence Forces is concessional liquor aka “CSD Liquor Quota”.

In the Military – ‘Rank Has Its Privileges’ – RHIP – so this Liquor Quota also varies with rank – on the cardinal principle:

“The Higher your Rank – the more Booze you are required to Drink”.

Frankly speaking – the only “attractive” item in the “Liquor Quota” was Rum – which was heavily “subsidized”

Yes – Rum being a “soldier’s and sailor’s drink” – was heavily “subsidized” – and was sold very cheap.

As far the other liquor like Beer, Whisky, Brandy, Gin, Vodka etc were concerned – there was hardly any significant difference in price between “military rates” and “civil rates” – at least in those days.

So – Rum was in high demand.

I don’t know why – but the monthly quota of Rum was restricted to 6 bottles – whereas there was no restriction for other types of booze – subject to the maximum quota.

I noticed that most Military Personnel drew their full “Rum Quota” – and they did not bother too much about whisky, brandy, beer etc

RUM QUOTA RESTRICTION

One morning – the Canteen Manager came to my office and wanted me to take a decision.

I tried to bullshit him.

“What decision…? I told you that you have my full authority to take whatever decisions you like to run the CSD canteen…” I admonished him.

“Sir – this is a very sensitive issue. As “Chairman” – you will have to decide, Sir…” he said.

“What is the matter…?” I asked.

“I got a call from the CSD Depot Manager that there is going to be no issue of Rum for the next 2 or 3 months…” he said.

“Why…?” I asked.

“Sir – there is some pricing and taxation dispute – so – till that is sorted out – the distilleries are not going to supply Rum to the CSD…” he said.

“Is the problem only for Rum…?” I asked.

“Yes, Sir – we can draw as much Whisky, Brandy, Gin, Beer etc as we want – in fact – the CSD Depot Manager said they are overstocked with these Liquors – but there is going to be a shortage of Rum for the next few months…”

I put on a “thinking look” – as if I were doing some profound calculations in my mind (after all – I was an Officer and I was supposed to have more brains than him).

After some time, I gave my decision to the Canteen Manager:

“Restrict Rum Quota to only 2 Bottles a Month…”

“Yes, Sir…” the Canteen Manager said.

“And – as far as other types of booze is concerned – whisky, brandy, gin, beer etc – let them have as many bottles as they want – no limit…” I said.

“Yes, Sir…”

“Good – this is a good opportunity to get rid that horrible whisky which no one wants to buy – the whisky that tastes like country liquor – tell the staff to push sales of that cheap whisky in lieu of Rum…” I opined.

“Yes, Sir…”

“You can go now…” I said.

“Sir…?”

“What…?”

“There are some “hardened Rum Drinkers” who will create trouble – they will insist on their full quota of Rum…” the CSD Canteen Manager said.

“Hardened ‘Rum Drinkers’…? If anyone asks for more than 2 bottles of Rum just send him to me…” I said.

“Yes, Sir…” the CSD Canteen Manager said, looking relieved.

“Do you know what I will do with these “hardened rum drinkers”…? I will send each one of these chaps who want more than 2 bottles of Rum to the MI Room and ask the Medical Officer to certify that he is a “Rum Alcoholic” – and – only those who get the “Rum Alcoholic Certificate” – we will give them extra bottles of Rum…” I said – and I smiled at my own brilliant idea.

“Yes, Sir…” the Canteen Manager said, smiling.

“Okay – now just go an implement my orders strictly – only 2 bottles of Rum Quota every month. That solves your problem – isn’t it…?” I said.

“Yes, Sir – if we restrict Monthly Rum Quota to 2 bottles – we have enough Rum Stock for 3 months – and by that time – the issue should be resolved…” the CSD Canteen Manager said.

“Excellent – now make sure my orders are implemented strictly with immediate effect – no exceptions – do you understand…?” I said firmly.

“Yes, Sir…” the Canteen Manager said – he saluted and left my office.

In the evening – during our customary jog-cum-walk – I told “Doc” (our Medical Officer) regarding the “Rum Alcoholic Certificate”.

“Doc” laughed and said:

“If anyone comes to me for the “Rum Alcoholic Certificate” – I will fill up an AFMS-10 Form for “Alcohol Dependence” and send the bugger to the “Psycho” Ward for Rehab…”

The “ALCOHOLIC TEETOTALLER”

That very evening – there was a party in the Officers’ Mess – and I was summoned by the Dean – a Major General.

“The ‘OC Adm’ seems to be annoyed with you. What is all this about ‘Liquor Quota Restrictions’…?” the Dean asked me.

“Sir – only ‘Rum Quota’ has been restricted…” I said – and I told him the whole story.

Now – the Dean was one of those rare Generals with a sense of humor.

The General smiled and said to me:

“Do you know why the ‘OC Adm’ is annoyed with you…?”

“No, Sir…” I said.

“Well – ‘OC Adm’ sent his ‘batman’ to collect his Rum Quota of 6 bottles – and when the ‘batman’ returned with only 2 bottles – the ‘OC Adm’ rang up the Canteen Manager – and your Air Force Warrant Officer told him to get a “Rum Alcoholic Certificate” from the Medical Officer. Well – this had made the ‘OC Adm’ furious. He is a senior Colonel – why don’t you just give him what he wants…” the Dean said.

“Aye Aye, Sir…” I said.

Sometime later – emboldened with “Dutch Courage” after I had imbibed a few drinks – I saw the ‘OC Adm’ in conversation with the ‘Dean’ and a few bigwigs.

I saw a steward carrying a drinks tray.

I motioned the steward to follow me.

We walked up to the ‘exalted’ group.

I looked at the ‘OC Adm’ and said to him:

“Sir – what are you drinking – I have got some Rum for you – I was told that you are a “hardened rum drinker”…”

I ordered the steward:

“Jaldi – ‘OC Adm’ Sahab ko Ek Large Peg Rum do…” 

(Quick – Give ‘OC Adm’ One Large Peg of Rum…)

Accordingly – the steward served one large peg of rum to the ‘OC Adm’ .

“What is this nonsense…? I don’t drink Rum. In fact – I don’t touch alcohol – I am a strict “Teetotaller” – don’t you know this…?” the ‘OC Adm’ said angrily to me.

“Sir – if you are a “Teetotaller” – why do you want your full quota of 6 bottles of Rum – won’t 2 bottles of Rum do…?” I said to the ‘OC Adm’, tongue-in-cheek.

The Dean gave me a stern look – so I quit the scene immediately.

Within a few days – at the behest of the ‘OC Adm’ – I was “sacked” as CSD Canteen Chairman.

I was delighted.

Who wants to waste his time doing a thankless “bum job”…?

EPILOGUE

Dear Reader:

Do you think this is a true story…?

Or – do you think I am spinning a yarn…?

Well – why don’t you ask some of the ‘protagonists’ – or someone who was in IAT Pune at that time…?

And – do you think I am capable of doing what I did in the story – especially after “topping up” with a generous quantity of alcohol…?

Why don’t you ask some of my coursemates…?

There is saying in the Navy:

“If you want to know the true character of an officer – ask his coursemates…”

Cheers..!!!

Have a Good Day…!!!

VIKRAM KARVE

Copyright © Vikram Karve
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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. This story isa 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 blog post in my Blog Academic and Creative Writing Journal Vikram Karve: http://karvediat.blogspot.com/2017/07/alcoholic-teetotaller-humor-in-uniform.html

Revised re-post of my story THE “ALCOHOLIC” WHO WAS A TEETOTALLER written by me 4 years ago in 2015 and posted by me Vikram Karve online earlier in my Academic and Creative Writing Journal Vikram Karve Blog at url: http://karvediat.blogspot.in/2015/10/humor-in-uniform-alcoholic-who-was.html  and http://karvediat.blogspot.com/2016/03/humor-in-uniform-rum-quota-story-of.html  and  http://karvediat.blogspot.com/2016/05/humor-in-uniform-tale-from-my-iat-pune.html  and https://karve.wordpress.com/2017/09/26/liquor-quota-tales-the-alcoholic-teetotaller/ etc

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