Wednesday, October 22, 2014

DIWALI GIFT – THE GIFT OF LOVE

DIWALI GIFT – THE GIFT OF LOVE
Fiction Short Story 
By
VIKRAM KARVE

From my Creative Writing Archives:

I wrote this story around 24 years ago, in the early 1990s. 

It is a story written in a leisurely manner and quite an old-fashioned style. 

Do tell me if you like it.

Wish you a Happy Diwali

DIWALI GIFT –  short story by Vikram Karve

I do not know how the idea entered my brain in the first place, but once conceived, it haunted me with such urgency that a strange force took charge of me, impelling me to act.

I tucked the packet under my arm and walked towards my destination, looking around furtively like someone with a guilty conscience.

The moment I saw her photograph I knew that I had to see her.

A man’s first love fills an enduring place in his heart.

Ten years. Ten long years.

She had married money.

And status.

I was heartbroken.

Yet I bore her no pique or rancour.

I never will.

How can I...?

I had truly loved her. I still love her. I will always love her, always, till my dying day.

I was desperately eager to impress her.

To give her a gift would be too obvious.

I did not know how much she had told her husband about me... about us...

Her children should be the same age as mine.

Maybe slightly older.

They say the best route to a married woman’s heart is through her children.

I looked at the packet under my arm.

A gift.

Yes, the “Diwali Gift”... it was the deluxe set of children’s encyclopaedias I had promised my son... and my daughter... year after year... for the last three years... and did not buy... because it was too expensive.

And now I was going to present the same  expensive encyclopaedias as a Diwali Gift to Anjali’s children... just to impress her.

As I rang the doorbell, I felt a tremor of anticipation.

Suddenly I realized that I did not know whether Anjali would be happy to see me or pretend she did not recognize me.

The door opened.

Anjali looked ravishing.

She gave me her sparkling smile and welcomed me with genuine happiness, “Sanjiv... after so many years... what a delightful surprise... how did you manage to find me...?"

We looked at each other.

Anjali had fully blossomed and looked stunning.

She looked so exquisite, so dazzling, that I cannot begin to describe the intense emotion I felt as I looked intently into her radiating eyes, totally mesmerized by her beauty.

“Stop staring at me, “Anjali said, her large expressive eyes dancing mischievously.

“You look so beautiful. And so young...”

“But you look old. Even your beard has becoming grey.” Anjali paused, probably regretting what she had said.

Then suddenly she held out her hand to me and said, “I am so happy to see you, Sanjiv. Come inside.”

Her house was extravagant. Wealth and opulence showed everywhere.

Anjali carried herself majestically with regal poise; her demeanour slick and confident. No wonder... to belong had always been the driving force of her life. Money, status, social prestige, success – she had got everything she wanted. I could not help feeling a pang of envy, and failure.

“You like my house...?” she asked. “Sit down. And you don’t look so lost.”

I sat down on a sofa and kept the gift wrapped packet on the side-table.

Anjali sat down opposite. “How did you know I live here...? We shifted to Mumbai only a month ago.”

I took out the wallet from my pocket and gave it to her. “Your husband’s purse. I saw your photograph in it.”

Anjali opened the purse and started to check the contents.

“You don’t trust cops, do you...?” I smiled.

Anjali blushed. She kept the wallet on the table. She looked at me with frank admiration in her eyes. “IPS...? That’s fantastic. I never thought you would do so well! What are you...? Superintendent...? Deputy Commissioner...?”

Now it was my turn to blush. “No,” I said sheepishly. “I am only a sub-inspector.”

“Oh...” she said, trying to hide her disappointment.

But I had read the language of her eyes.

The nuance wasn’t lost on me.

Suddenly she had changed.

“Is Mr. Joshi at home?” I asked.

“He is still at the office,” Anjali said.

“Oh... I thought he would be home,” I said.

“I’ll make you some tea,” she said and started to get up.

“Please sit down, Anjali. Let’s talk,” I said looking at my watch, “It’s already six-thirty. Let’s wait for Mr. Joshi. Maybe he’ll offer me a drink. And dinner.”

“My husband comes home very late,” Anjali said. “After all, he is the Managing Director. There is so much work. And conferences. Important business meetings. He is the top boss – a very successful and extremely busy man.”

She couldn’t have spelt it out more clearly.

I got the message loud and clear.

Anjali changed the topic and asked, “Where did you find the purse...?”

“It was deposited in the lost-and-found section last evening,” I lied.

“It’s strange,” Anjali said, “He didn’t mention anything.”

“He may not have noticed,” I said, tongue-in-cheek, “After all Mr. Joshi is a very busy man to notice such minor things like a missing purse.”

“Yes,” she said, giving a distant look.

Anjali opened the purse once more and examined his credit cards and driving license.

At first she appeared confused.

Then she gave me a cold hard look. But she did not say anything.

There was a long period of silence. Grotesque silence.

Anjali kept staring at me. Looking directly into my eyes.

A distant look. Almost dismissive.

I began to feel uneasy.

Suddenly I remembered the gift wrapped packet I had brought and exclaimed enthusiastically: “Anjali, where are your children...? I have got a Diwali Gift for them. Just a small present for your kids...” 

From the look on her face, I immediately sensed that I had said something terribly wrong.

I saw tears well up in her eyes.

All of a sudden, Anjali looked small, weak and vulnerable.

I felt a sense of deep regret as comprehension dawned on me. 

Poor thing, she had no kids.

And I had rubbed salt in hr wounds.

I looked at her helplessly, pleading innocence, but it was of no use.

Some day Anjali might understand my actions, but at that moment it was hopeless to try and explain.

The hurt was deep, and I had to let it go in silence.

We just sat there in silence, not knowing what to say. A deafening silence. A grotesque silence.

It is strange how moments you have rehearsed for end up with a different script.

I could not bear it any longer.

I quickly got up and started walking swiftly towards the door.

Suddenly I realized that I had forgotten to pick up the gift wrapped packet – the Diwali Gift.

But I did not turn back.

Why...?

I do not know.

“Don’t go, Sanjiv. I want to talk to you,” Anjali spoke coldly.

I stopped in my tracks.

I could hear Anjali footsteps behind me.

I turned around to face her.

She seemed a bit composed.  

“You lied to me, Sanjiv,” Anjali said. “I want to know where you found this wallet.”

I did not know what to say. I tried to avoid her eyes.

“Tell me,” Anjali pleaded. "Please tell me where you found this purse..."

When in doubt, I speak the truth.

So I said: “We raided one of those exclusive classy joints last night,” I stammered. “A posh call-girl racket……….”

I could not continue, so I said apologetically, “I’m sorry... I didn’t know...”

“I know... Oh yes I know... You found my husband’s wallet in a whore joint...” Anjali said mockingly.

Then she shouted: “That impotent creep... trying to prove his virility to himself...” 

With those few words, she had bared the secret of her marriage.

I looked at her.

Her manner was relaxed and nonchalant... her fury was visible only in her eyes.

I was nonplussed.

Suddenly I blurted out, “Don’t worry Anjali. I have dropped the charges. I’ll hush it up.”

I still don’t know why I uttered those words, but on hearing them there was a visible metamorphosis in Anjali.

Suddenly she became flaming mad.

She looked so distraught and angry that I felt very frightened.

Terrified that she would go berserk and attack me, slap me, or something, I instinctively stepped back.

But Anjali suddenly turned and left the room.

I waited, as if pole-axed, frozen like a statue for a moment and after regaining my composure I decided to leave and started to move towards the door.

“Wait... ” I heard her scream.

I stopped in my tracks and turned around. 

Anjali quickly walked towards me and thrust out her right hand.

She held a bundle of five hundred rupee notes. “So this is what you have come for, isn’t it...? A bribe to hush up the case, isn’t it...? Even from me...? You unscrupulous dog... I didn’t expect you to fall so low... here - take the money and get out. This is all I have at home. If you want more, you know where to find my husband, don’t you...?”  

“No, Anjali,” I recoiled. “Please don’t ………..”

“Cheap...” Anjali spat out. There was contempt in her eyes. “Cheap riffraff... that’s what you always were, Sanjiv... Now you get out of my house you filthy blackmailer... and I don't want to see your face again...”

She threw the bundle of notes at me.

It hit my chest and fell on the ground, the money scattering near my feet.

“I love you, Anjali,” I said, trying to sound sincere.

“Love,” she exclaimed, her radiating eyes burning with anger. “So you have come to see how your barren old flame is flourishing, isn’t it...?”

Anjali paused and said sarcastically, “So you are pleased aren’t you...? You must be so happy to see my "success"...?”

Her vicious and sarcastic suggestion that I might be happy at her misfortune hurt me more than anything else.

I turned around and walked out of the house.

As I walked towards the gate something hit me on my back.

I winced in pain.

The three volumes of the expensive Children’s Encyclopaedias were scattered on the ground, their silver gift wrapping paper was torn.

I knew that Anjali was standing in the door looking at me.

But I did not look back at her.

I gathered the books and walked away into the darkness.

As I gradually came into consciousness from my drunken stupor, I realized that I was at home in my bed.

Though sunlight filtered in through the open windows, everything looked blurred.

Slowly things began to come into focus.

My daughter was sitting beside me on the bed.

She touched my arm with tenderness.

There were tears in her eyes.

My son stood aloof on the other side of the bed.

There was fear in his eyes.

My wife looked at me with loving pity and said, “The children want to thank you for the lovely Diwali gift. They are so happy...”

She was holding the set of encyclopaedias in her hands.

I smiled and reached out to them.

They held my hands and smiled back.

I looked at the pure unadulterated joy in their eyes.

For the first time in my life I experienced a deep genuine true love for my wife and children.

A love which I had never felt before.
         
Tears of joy welled up in my eyes.

I had discovered love.

Yes, I had discovered the true meaning of love.

On Diwali Day – I had discovered the gift of love.

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)
     
© vikram karve., all rights reserved.
 

This Story written by me 24 years ago in 1990 and posted on my creative blog first in 2006 at url: http://creative.sulekha.com/the-gift-by-vikram-karve_32154_blog

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

WHY MILITARY CAREER IS UNPOPULAR – “IZZAT” – No Longer USP of the DEFENCE SERVICES

“IZZAT” – No Longer USP of the “FAUJ” 
Is there “IZZAT” in the Defence Services (Army Navy Air Force)?
Ramblings of a Retired Veteran
By
VIKRAM KARVE


WHY MILITARY CAREER IS UNPOPULAR
For the past few years, we keep seeing media reports that there is a huge shortage of officers in the Army, Navy and Air Force.

Despite all the jingoistic hype and glitzy recruitment advertisements, there are very few takers for a career in the Armed Forces.

Being an Officer in the Defence Services is no longer a preferred career choice.

Why are bright young men and women reluctant to join the Defence Services?

Sometime ago, during an interaction with young engineering students, I asked the students, boys and girls, if anyone was was keen on joining the navy, or the defence services.

I thought that there would be at least a few young boys and girls keen on a career in the technical branches of the navy, or maybe in the army or air force.

But, I was quite shocked to hear that no one wanted to join the defence services. 

Yes, not even a single student, boy or girl, wanted to opt for a career in the army, navy or air force.

Since the students were talking to me in a frank and friendly manner, I decided to delve a bit more and explore the reasons for the unpopularity of a career in the defence services among the smart young people of today. 

During my interaction, I discovered that the students were well-informed about the career prospects and way of life in the defence services, especially about the army, and were fully aware of the pros and cons.

I was also surprised to see that quite a significant number of students were children of defence service officers and personnel, while many others had relatives or friends in the armed forces.


SOME WELL KNOWN DRAWBACKS OF A MILITARY CAREER

My question as to why no one wanted to join the army, navy or air force evoked the standard responses (which I expected to hear):

Lifetime Employment (you can’t leave once you join – no opportunity to job hop for greener pastures)

Frequent Transfers (unstable family life, problems of long distance marriage in case of a working spouse or for children’s education)

Regimentation (modern youngsters do not like curbs on their lifestyle)

Restrictions (freedom of speech, marriage, appearance)

Modest Career Prospects (slow seniority based promotions, no incentives for high achievers, moderate salary, early retirement)

There was nothing new in all this. 

I am sure you have heard all these reasons too.


LIMITED MARRIAGE PROSPECTS

One boy said that nowadays most girls were career oriented and because of this the marriage prospects of army officers got limited since working girls do not prefer an army boy (and maybe vice versa too).

One girl even went on to say that, in order to avoid a long-distance marriage and to have a good family life with her husband, an army wife had only two choices:

1. To be a homemaker (and help her husband’s career by being a good army wife).

2. To work as a  teacher (and that too in the cantonment military school).

The girl was an “army brat” and did not want to marry an army officer.

She was studying computer engineering.

She was interested in a serious full-time career in the IT Industry where there was a good chance of going abroad for work and she even had the option to settle down abroad if the opportunities were good.

But all this was not feasible if she married an army officer.

So Limited Marriage Prospects was another reason for the unpopularity of a career in the defence services.

There was nothing new in all this. 

I am sure you have heard all these reasons too.

Then, suddenly one smart young boy said something I had not expected to hear.

He said: “Sir, there is no izzat in the defence services any more. Nobody respects defence officers any longer. That is why I don’t want to join the army.”

For a moment I was taken aback.

Then, as I thought about it, I realized that the youngster did have a point.


NO “IZZAT” IN CIVILIAN SOCIETY FOR ARMY OFFICERS

There was a time when “Izzat” was the USP of the defence services.

I cannot define it precisely, but we know what “izzat” means.

Translated in English, “izzat” is a combination of status, respect, prestige, honour, dignity, power, reputation, social status, standing in civilian society etc

I do not know about other places, but at least in urban metros like Pune and Mumbai, which have been overwhelmed by the post-liberalization wave of consumerism and materialism, there has certainly been a decline in the high izzat that defence officers used to once enjoy in civilian society. 

Nowadays, only money speaks - and an honest fauji certainly does not stand a chance.

“Sir, there is no IZZAT in the defence services any more. Nobody respects defence officers any longer…”

That is what the smart youngster said.

Do you agree?

Is declining IZZAT the main reason why youngsters are reluctant to join the Defence Services (Army Navy Air Force)? 

Or are there some other reasons that youngsters do not prefer a military career?

Do comment and tell us your views.

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:
All stories in this blog are 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)
     
© vikram karve., all rights reserved.