FALLING IN LOVE
Short Fiction - A Love Story
From my Creative Writing Archives: One of my earliest mushy romantic stories
Sanjay stared blankly at the TV set, never so frightened, never so alone. He couldn’t believe the news. The plane had crashed. There were no survivors. His wife was dead. This was one contingency that he had never reckoned with.
Sanjay had spent a good deal of time worrying about what would happen to Shalini, if he had died. In fact, he had always presumed, and even taken for granted, that he would die first and had accordingly planned meticulously and made elaborate and adequate financial provisions for her in case something should happen to him.
But he had never for a moment considered what would happen to him if Shalini died. She had been an integral part of him and he couldn’t even imagine living without her. He felt emotionally shattered. He wanted to cry but tears refused to come in his eyes and his throat felt dry. He lapsed into a zombie-like state of shock.
His recollections of the next few days were just vivid flashes in a void. At first, in desperate hope he had rushed to the airport to check the passenger list, hoping that by some miracle she had not been on board. Little realizing that it was he who had seen her off. Then there were condolence visits, and the airlines insurance forms. He didn’t want any money, or condolences. He wanted his wife back. Heartbroken with grief and a strange fear of loneliness, Sanjay had sunk into a state of suspended vacuum, devoid of cognizance.
As he gradually came into consciousness from his drunken stupor, Sanjay realized that he had lost control over his life. He opened his eyes with trepidation. Everything looked blurred. Slowly things began to come a little more into focus. He was in a train – lying down on the lower berth in a first class compartment. On the opposite berth sat a family – a young man, his wife and their small daughter. The man was looking at him in disgust, the wife with pity, and the daughter with fear. Sanjay felt ashamed of himself and closed his eyes, in embarrassment, trying to escape from reality. As he lay on the berth indulging in self-commiseration, Sanjay had the lonely realization that there is indeed a moment when a man has no friend. There was no one to share his grief. Wallowing in a mood of self-pity in his private self-created hell, Sanjay had developed acute social phobia. He was afraid of meeting people, attending social gatherings. He had internalized his feelings to such an extent that he had even become a victim of agoraphobia - a fear of being in open or public places. It was a crippling illness. He was scared of leaving his home, afraid of even going to his office and meeting his colleagues. Sanjay was rapidly sinking into the depths of a loneliness induced melancholic depression – to the point of no return. The end of the road was in sight.
“The most important thing is the ability to loosen and get rid of something that is worrying you, and forget your sorrow,” advised Anand, Sanjay’s boss. “Life must go on. What you need is break, a change of scene. There is a technical seminar in Chennai next week. I am sending you to attend it. It should be of professional interest to you – in fact, I have intimated the organizers that you shall be giving a lecture regarding the successful project you completed last year. Get busy and banish your sorrow.”
“It’s easy to mouth platitudes,” thought Sanjay. He tried to prepare the lecture but could not concentrate. He had been totally overcome by feelings of hopelessness and a sense of failure. He had lost his self–confidence. He looked at his watch – it was six o’clock in the evening; his train was at eight o’clock . The thought of traveling, facing so many people at the seminar and delivering the lecture – all these induced a strange fear in him. He was overcome by phobia. In his frustration, for the first time in his life, he began to drink. Trying to escape from reality, he drank quite a lot – almost the whole bottle of whisky. He could vaguely remember Anand taking him to the railway station and helping him to the train. Anand’s parting words had an ominous ring about them, “It’s your last chance Sanjay. To get hold of yourself.”
Sanjay entered the auditorium and stood near the door, his eyes adjusting to the darkness. Slowly things began to come into view. He was late. The seminar was already in progress. The auditorium was small and compact. It was shaped like a quadrant of a circle, with a raised podium in the central. The rows of seats were arranged in the fashion of curved arcs, split radially in the centre by the aisle. Each row was raised behind the one in front, in elevated steps, thereby affording each member of the audience a clear view, not only of the speaker, but also of each person sitting in the audience. Sanjay sat down on a vacant seat in the last row and surveyed his surroundings. His eyes had adjusted themselves to the subdued lighting and he could see clearly now. Most of the participants appeared to be professionals, smartly dressed in formal suits, with a sprinkling of academics easily distinguishable by their patent attire of bush-shirts and sandals. There was also small group of women, dressed in formal saris, sitting diagonally opposite across the aisle.
As he surveyed the group, his eyes suddenly lit upon a stunningly attractive woman wearing a blue sari. She was a real beauty. She radiated an extraordinary sensuousness; of such a degree that Sanjay just could not take his eyes off her. He felt as if his eyes had locked on to her face. She exuded a captivating aura about her, which ravished his now hungry eyes. He feasted his eyes on her lovely face. She looked pristine – so fresh, so pure. He was oblivious of his surroundings; he only had eyes for her. Sanjay was in a haze of delight. For the first time since his wife’s death did Sanjay feel completely relaxed; once again, he was in harmony with himself.
At first, didn’t notice the lights being switched on. He had been completely absorbed by her radiant sensuousness, almost in a trance. As she got up from her seat, the woman turned and looked at him. Their eyes met. He hoped that his genuine adoration had not gone unnoticed. She gave him a glance that could have meant anything. No response. He was disappointed. But he was not going to give up so easily.
He caught her eyes again, looking steadily and directly: passionate admiration and yearning radiating from his eyes. She held his gaze in a kind of challenge, there was a lengthy pause and then she smiled. He felt relieved, and elated. The frank admiration in his eyes had won him a smile. Her large youthful eyes were now fastened on his. There was a language in her eyes, which Sanjay could not fully fathom. Happy and gay, her eyes conveyed a certain naïveté tinged with curiosity, possibly approval. For Sanjay, it was a moment of supreme satisfaction. He felt renewed and refreshed. Suddenly, contact was broken as somebody blocked his line of sight.
Everyone was walking towards the exit for the tea break. Sanjay had now lost sight of her. She had gone out for tea. Sanjay kept sitting. The auditorium was now empty. He closed his eyes in introspection. He felt calm and serene. In his mind’s eye he could clearly visualize her exquisite face and magnetic eyes. And her tantalizing smile – teasing, almost naughty. Sanjay could not begin to describe the sensation. She evoked in him. Certainly it was pleasurable and had a soothing effect on his frayed nerves. A much needed palliative.
When Sanjay opened his eyes he noticed that the woman had shifted her seat and was sitting alone, across the aisle, much closer than before, affording a better view. She was looking at him in a canny manner, and when he caught her eye, she quickly turned her gaze towards the podium. Sanjay experienced an encouraging flush of self-confidence. He got up from his seat, moved forward, and took up a strong tactical position. He now had an unobstructed, clear view of her from the most favorable aspect. He noticed that her eyes had been tracking him. He looked into her eyes and smiled. There was a conspiratorial look in her expressive eyes, at once inviting, and taunting. She was teasing him with her eyes, as if her stimulus had evoked a response; or was it vice – versa.
Encouraged by her enthusiastic response, Sanjay indulged himself lavishly. He made love to her with his eyes. She responded with unrestrained zeal, genuine exhilaration pouring out of her eyes. As their mutual visual interplay became intense, Sanjay was transported to an ecstatic state of supreme bliss.
Mesmerized in her enchanting eyes, Sanjay was in a delightful trance, oblivious of his surroundings, forgetting his grief. This immensely enjoyable experience had, at least momentarily, liberated him from his inner tyranny.
As he walked back to his hotel in the evening Sanjay was bubbling with joy. He experienced a unique state of awareness and self–confidence. Renewed and invigorated, he felt on top of the world. His lecture was scheduled the next day. His would work hard and make it a success. He had to do it, at least for her.
She was his inspiration. He felt confident. He was going to give an impressive performance; make a lasting impression on her. She would never forget him. Luckily he had got his chance and he was going to make the most of it. As his thoughts ran on, he felt charged with energy. Sanjay had bounced back into life again. He felt buoyant, as though he had traveled through a long dark tunnel and, suddenly, burst out into the bright open countryside again.
Rajashree lay on her bed, sleep eluding her. She was in a state of pleasurable excitation. She felt good; on top of the world. The day had passed in a haze of delight. Rajashree had never imagined that such a seemingly trivial experience would give her so much pleasure and bring happiness into her life. But this was no synthetic experience. It had been genuine and real – had actually happened to her – and was profoundly affecting her. She explored her own feelings, the stimulus of the welter of events and her response.
When she had first noticed the handsome, bearded man staring at her, she had uncomfortable but had resigned herself to his ogling – what she believed was a masculine propensity in Indian society. Maybe he was just looking in her direction, since she was sitting with a group of women. She decided to ignore it. In any case, she couldn’t do anything about it.
But curiosity got the better of her. After some time she looked in his direction through the corner of her eyes. He was still looking at her. She got confused. “What was his motive?” she wondered. Was he trying to seduce her? She dare not smile back or appear too friendly lest he misinterpret it as a sign of easy availability. Rajashree felt irritated at the invasion of her private space. His visual intrusion was disturbing the equilibrium of her personal inner zone.
Suddenly the lights came on. As she got up she came into eye contact with him. She tried to avoid his gaze. But she could not avert the magnetic pull of his eyes. She looked straight into his eyes, trying to project defiance. But when she saw the genuine ardor and frank admiration in his eyes, her defenses broke down and she smiled.
At the tea break, as she picked up a cup of tea, Rajashree searched for him. He had not come out. Rajashree sat down in a remote corner. Sipping her tea, she explored her feelings. The seemingly trivial encounter had definitely raised her spirits. She felt good. Fresh, buoyant and youthful, Rajashree was no clairvoyant to look into the province of Sanjay ’s mind, but she was curious to know the extent of his feelings.
“What does he want from me? “ she wondered. “Is he really attracted to me or is it my vicarious imagination titillating me?”
Rajashree made a spontaneous decision, trusting her intuition. If he was playing a game, she too would join in. A bit of harmless flirtation never hurt anyone. She went into the auditorium and sat on a vacant seat much closer to him. She noticed that the man was sitting silently with his eyes closed, as if he were meditating. Even as she was feeling a flush of disappointment, he suddenly opened his eyes. The astonishment evident in his surprised eyes made her realize that she had been ogling at him unabashedly. She quickly turned her eyes away in momentary sense of guilty embarrassment, and then recovered.
He had shifted to a better position and was smiling at her. She felt a tremor of anticipation at his positive response and teased him with her eyes. She surrendered herself and her inhibitions to the mysterious rhythm of their spontaneous interaction and locked her eyes into his, radiating unconcealed feelings of joy. As they made ethereal love to each other with their eyes, she experienced immense enjoyment and unparalleled pleasure. It was the first genuine physical attraction she had felt for anyone since her bitter divorce. It had been a long time ago, and not since then had the mere sight of a man aroused the womanhood in her to such an extent.
Sanjay delivered the lecture with newfound verve, radiating self-confidence and professional competence. Rajashree was sitting in the first row. From time to time, Sanjay looked at her. She was directly concentrating on him; the language of her eyes clearly projecting approbation, assurance and encouragement. Silently, she cheered him on. She was Sanjay’s inspiration, his motivation and, at that moment, his raison d’etre.
“As the applause died down, Sanjay sat down on the stage. He looked at Rajashree. She gave him a canny look of congratulation, got up from her seat and left the auditorium. Sanjay, desperately wanted to follow her, but he was helpless. The chairman was delivering the vote of thanks for him and Sanjay couldn’t possibly leave the stage.
Time crawled. Sanjay became anxious. The chairman was going on and on with his long-winded speech. Sanjay looked at his watch. He realized that the chairman had spoken only for five minutes. But these five minutes were the longest five minutes of Sanjay’s life.
He was desperate to meet her; afraid he would lose her, forever. She was the one bright spot in his present life. He did not want to lose her. In his frustration, he mentally cursed the speaker for taking so long. Finally, he could take it no longer. He excused himself and left the auditorium.
Outside, he frantically searched for her. But there was no joy – he drew a blank wherever he looked for her. Sanjay was crestfallen. His mind went blank. Suddenly he felt a tap on his shoulder. He turned around in anticipation. He was disappointed. It was some other woman – one of the seminar delegates. Probably wanting to compliment him on his lecture.
“Mr. Sanjay Kulkarni?” the woman delegate queried, her eyes arched.
He nodded in affirmation.
“A letter for you,” she said, giving him a synthetic smile; and before he could react, quietly walked away.
Sanjay tore open the envelope and began to read the letter. His pulse had quickened and it was only with difficulty that he could concentrate and focus his eyes.
“Dear Mr. Kulkarni,” the letter began, “or shall I call you Sanjay? Don’t wonder how I have found out your name. It was announced before your lecture. I cannot express in words, or begin to describe, the sentiments and feelings you have evoked in me. The language of our eyes was something that surpassed the language of words and speech.
I want to cherish those wonderful moments - the sublime experience. It was the one bright spot in my depressingly vapid life. I never imagined that such a seemingly trivial occurrence would have such a profound influence on me. The appreciation and love in your eyes aroused the dormant woman in me. For years, after my bitter divorce, I had repressed my natural feelings, forgotten the simple joys of living.
I saw true love in your eyes and that is why I am afraid of meeting you. I do not want our beautiful sublime relationship degenerate into something physical. I feel as if I am caught between two fires – my sense of values and my emotions. I am experiencing the conflict between the practical and poetic vision of life. Our strange and brief encounter has awakened the womanhood in me. I feel youthful and invigorated, but also lonely and vulnerable. I have fallen in love with you. That is why I am scared of facing you. I am afraid I shall ruin everything by succumbing to temptation. It may lead to something that we both may later regret.
It may sound strange but the lively experience has also awakened the motherhood in me. It may appear irrelevant and trivial, but it is true. I had put my daughter in a boarding school in Ooty. Maybe I wanted to shield her. Maybe I felt I had no time for her. Only my ambitions, my career mattered. I had got my priorities wrong. I was chasing rainbows.
Thanks again for the wonderful and enchanting experience. I enjoyed it thoroughly. I now feel in harmony with myself; don’t want to hide from myself.
I shall always remember this wonderful encounter and cherish the simple joys of living. As we made love to each other with our eyes, it appeared as if I had journeyed inwards to explore my true feelings and discover myself. It has been an enjoyable romance – for this once. Let’s keep it that way.
With love and best wishes,
Sanjay felt jubilant. Rajashree had fallen in love with him. He rushed to find the woman who had given him the letter. Rajashree was staying in the guesthouse – about a mile away. Sanjay was tired, exhausted, but he walked his fastest mile to the guesthouse. He saw Rajashree standing at the entrance, a suitcase beside her. As she saw him, she blushed with surprise. She felt like a prisoner being caught while escaping.
“Where are you going?” he asked her.
Rajashree had recovered enough to smile back, “I am going to Ooty to meet my daughter in boarding school – to bring her home.”
“I am coming with you,” said Sanjay, and he took Rajashree in his arms held her tightly and whispered in her ear, “From now on, we shall make our journey together.”
FALLING IN LOVE
Short Fiction - A Love Story
Copyright © Vikram Karve 2010
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 educated at IIT Delhi, ITBHU and The Lawrence School Lovedale, is an Electronics and Communications Engineer by profession, a Human Resource Manager and Trainer by occupation, a Teacher by vocation, a Creative Writer by inclination and a Foodie by passion. An avid blogger, he has written a number of fiction short stories and creative non-fiction articles in magazines and journals for many years before the advent of blogging. His delicious foodie blogs have been compiled in a book "Appetite for a Stroll". Vikram lives in Pune with his family and pet Doberman girl Sherry, with whom he takes long walks thinking creative thoughts.
Writing of Vikram Karve - http://vikramkarve.livejournal.com
Vikram Karve Creative Writing Blog - http://vikramkarve.sulekha.com/
Academic Journal Vikram Karve – http://karvediat.blogspot.com/
Professional Profile of Vikram Karve - http://www.linkedin.com/in/karve
Foodie Book: Appetite for a Stroll http://books.sulekha.com/book/appetite-f