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Monday, June 19, 2006

Kaavya: Episode VI (Finale)

VI

After we returned from the park, Kaavya was anxious to get through all that was tormenting her. She told me that she tried to be cheerful around Rishi that evening, but he carried a steady swollen look on his face. “I just went to my room, for I did not wanted to spoil my mood after such a pleasant evening with Videshi. Rishi talked to Ruchi for a bit and left and then came Varun. He looked extremely distraught. I was scared by the anger he displayed. His fist was taut; his six feet frame held tremors of rage and his words fell like whip lashes. He was particularly cruel in his choice of accusations and I just froze, entranced by the ferocity in his body language. Now I know why they say, passion can turn men into beasts.

I have had known Varun as this delightful person, whose jokes are measured, words are well chosen and actions reveal an innate goodness. I have heard you used to call him girl shy, though I know that he is the best company a girl can have. Maybe having two sisters, made him so particular about knowing and attending to the needs of girls. Actually, I guess I never even thought about how much better I felt around him compared to other people. His presence always had this sense of security and sensibility about it.”

“Exactly, my point Kaavya! How many times have I asked you to give at least sometime between meeting acquaintance A and B and C? How would you ever figure at the end of the day who made you happy or miserable? More so, when you have Rishi breathing on your neck like a dragon in heat, unable to contain his fire, seeks to burn the very thing he cherishes by bring it in direct contact with his irresponsible passion.” I guess as soon as I got an opportunity to say what I had often repeated to Ruchi and suggested to Kaavya, I jumped the gun. It backfired.

“Well Vivek, if you want to listen, listen. I don’t want either your witticism or satire at present. If you really think you can fix anyone’s life’s romances, fix your own.” She paused for a moment or two, while I was tired enough of it all and anger was building up inside me. She continued, “I am sorry, Vivek. I am not in the best of my moods to be courteous right now. But you should have seen Varun. Varun was angrier than anyone I have ever, ever known. He couldn’t stand still. His fists pounded his hands and kept shouting at me.”

She told me, some of the things that Varun said were: “You are only concerned about having a good time. All you care about is having your dance, your dinner, your imaginary romances. It is only about you, the whole world must think about you, work for you. I am such a joke for you. My words have no meaning for you. If I help you in shopping or watch a movie with you, I do it because I like spending time with you. But you don’t give two hoots about who is with you, for if it wasn’t me, it would be Rishi, Gandharav, Mahadev, Pathan, Kulkarni. If not these, you would pick some Jamaican rag seller or I don’t know, any prick on the street would work. You let those lechers feed on you, take advantage of you and talk of you as if you were a shameless whore, and you don’t even notice. Don’t you know what a woman who spends so much time with so many men is called? I know that Rishi has spent five nights here in last two weeks, and I know he slept on this couch. How do I argue with Gandharav when he says what proof I have that you are sleeping alone? Even Sita was not pardoned by this world. How do I silence them when they talk about the curves they savor when you decide to look pretty in your skimpy skirts or sleeveless tees?

But well, I very well realize now that you cannot tell between apples or oranges. I realize now why Vivek says that every female has a Madhu-Makhi (Honey bee) in her, and one must always be ready to be stung. O how I have adored you so far, and how I despise you now. I should have known it is not worth the trouble. I have too many things in my life to take care of anyways. You are just like the tricycle I never owned, and now I don’t care about you or the cycle anymore.

I ask you to not dance with someone and you just don’t get it. I have known this person for eight years and I know what goes on in his head. He has no shame, no respect for woman. But why blame him? When my words, my being, my presence has no meaning to you, why am I even bothered with this bull crap? I guess I might regret saying this later. (Kaavya had been sobbing for a while when he was uttering all this, but like a tornado, he couldn’t have stopped before the damage was complete.) But I need to end it here today. You are not worth my craving or attention or time. You can never appreciate what I have to offer, and I don’t think you can change, or at least I am not willing to wait till you realize my worth. You have too many admirers for you to realize that you are not as perfect as their compliments make you seem to be.

Honestly, I never told you, but Kaavya, I really have pined for you. Remember the poem “If I were to live only one day more”. It was written about you. I loved you, but I now see how pointless it is to care for someone who is too busy to notice and appreciate it. I don’t have heart to see you cry like this, and I cannot change whatever I just said. O why is this so hard?” According to Kaavya, his words came with a lot of effort, for by now his anger had subsided and his immense heartbreak ceased him. At that moment entered Gandharav and Mahadev, who were let in by Ruchi.

Gandharav was dressed nicely, as was Mahadev. They were leaving with Ruchi, who had changed into jazzy black trousers and a light pink shirt with frills. As soon as Gandharav saw Varun, he guessed something was up. Varun stared at Gandharav with all his anger that resurfaced now on seeing his nemesis. Gandharav made a small talk with Mahadev saying, “Bloody beer was too warm man. If Ruchi hurries up, we will get a good table at the tavern, and then I will win tonight’s drinks from her at the pool table.”

Gandharav basically looked everywhere except in the direction of Varun, and even before Ruchi came out again, he had walked out of the door on excuse of going to get gas filled in the tank. You know how even after Ruchi is seemingly ready, she walks back into her restroom and spends extra fifteen minutes of the finishing touches. Vivek could visualize the scene, and had never understood the importance of curling eye lashes, almost invisible lip gloss, a brush of little color that Ruchi explained formed the last rites in her dressing up. While Gandharav was gone, Mahadev went out for a smoke and Varun said, “Kaavya, I’ll see to it that our paths don’t cross again. It was good knowing you, and I guess it is a goodbye. I won’t wait for your words, for they will make me weak or stay. Tell them to Vivek later, if you wish. Before leaving, he was nearly crying, and like so, he slipped a note into my hands. As he did so, a saw a tear tumble down his face, running down from lowered eyes, and here is that piece.” I read Varun’s nearly illegible handwriting on a crumpled piece of paper:

“Many sparrows will chirp on your porch,
Many will fly in and away,
But forget not him who loved and loved
But forgive him who migrated away.”

Kaavya sobbed for a bit, and said, “See, Varun had come prepared for it. I am sure I missed on many things he said. He said something about Gandharav’s way of treating these foreign women he dated and mated with. He said something about how ridiculous Rishi’s face and demeanor is when he is about me. O Vivek! He said more mean things but neither can I recollect them in right order, nor do I have the heart to repeat them. Plus as we know him, he is gone forever. The one guy I could have liked to love is gone forever. But Vivek, never mention this to him. Tell him from my side, to have a good life.” The rest of the story is known to people. After Varun left, Gandharav and Mahadev came back, took Ruchi away, met me on the way, when Gandharav’s swerving car scared the daylights out of me and then rest of the night I talked to Kaavya, while Ruchi was missing. Yes, at this point of time, Ruchi is missing, Kaavya has just gone into her room, and I am sleepless on their couch.

I was thinking about the repercussions of what happened today. I knew Varun loved this girl, and I knew what agony unrequited love can bring. More so if the person is in the same town, and is seen happy in anothers company.

***

I had often talked to Varun about how Kaavya was one of those highly self conscious females, who would not stand a moment of criticism. If exposed to some, they just lash out back at you with whatever fangs they hide. It was only a week ago that during a similar conversation, Varun rationalized this by saying, “Come on Vivek! Don’t be so harsh on her. She is a nice girl with a male ego. Perhaps therein lays her biggest charm.”

I put my arm around his shoulder, drew the last, prolonged puff of my cigarette, and released the smoke facing away from him, while my foot was mercilessly pressing the stub that I was kissing just a moment ago. “Charm or harm, time will tell. I don’t know if I burn the cigarette or the cigarette burns me, but at least I get to extinguish it and throw it away. Ah! Women with ego, in the beginning they are like a cigarette, but somehow the smoker becomes the stub and find himself being minced by the heel of the same woman.”

Varun was smiling now, and said, “Madhu-makhi again. Sometimes I think she got all your nectar, and don’t know who gets the honey now.” He knew how I still despised myself for a childhood fancy that had unsettled me absolutely.

If I hadn’t got the rude shock in X grade, when I was too sick to even write the board examination, I would have ruined my life completely. My smoking, capacity to drink six pack of beer without flinching and an avalanche of useless giggle at every opportunity were infused into me at fifteen. She wasn’t the prettiest face in the class, and I wasn’t so bad looking either. In fact, she was the one who was like a house-fly that buzzed about me all the time, “Vivek, help me with this drama please? OR Vivek, why don’t you reply to my letters? Or Come home someday. I’ll make tea and pakoras.” I never understood why she wrote me those sugary letters, even though we met everyday in school. She had this everyday wink as a salutation for me, and followed it with some typical high-school sigh, saying, “You look so tushiony today. Ah! There you go, shattered a heart!”

With some encouragement from my friends, I finally managed to fall for her. Perhaps she just wanted that to happen, for within a two week she turned into a cold stone-hearted female. She stopped talking to me, made faces if she saw me staring at her, and what was most painful to me was the way she maligned me in front of all classmates when I gave her that birthday card.

She tore it without opening, and said in the loudest voice, “I don’t like you, and I don’t want to have anything to do with you. Is it so hard to understand?” For weeks our class surmised what was going on, no one still knows why she changed that way. Everyone suspected that I had done something, and hell, I should have, to deserve that trauma I went through. The class episode was trivial compared to the later events.

The icing on the cake was her clumsy romance with a guy, nicknamed Makhi by his parents (what vision parents have) who had passed out of the school four years ago. This loser was now a shopkeeper, and left his shop twice a day, for spending the half hour in bus with Madhu. The bus was usually overcrowded, and these two would stand facing each other, letting crowd push them closer and closer. The guy would steal a kiss every so often, and sometimes his hand would be seen at a place that allowed all the school children to talk about the Madhu-Makhi.

My parents left me in care of house servant and went away to Saudi Arabia for six months, where my father had worked for fifteen years, while my mother went there every two years for six months. So I was all alone, and heartbroken, and had enough money with me to savor every cheap rum and whiskey in that time. The worse my state got, the stronger Madhu’s romance became. In October, my friends started advising me to stop drinking, in November all my teachers took turns to talk to me about it. By December, I had received warning from the principal, but my drinking continued unabated, as did her bus travel. I memorized whole of Harivansh Rai’s Madhushaala, and I talked in shers (couplets) I picked from Jagjit Singh’s Ghazals (songs).

By the beginning of February, I had lost ten kilograms in four months, my parents were returning two months early for they received too many phone calls urging them to come and save their son. Thankfully before they arrived in shock and anger, I was in hospital diagnosed with jaundice and stayed there for nearly two months. I had killed my one kidney, my liver and digestion were strained to their limit, and of course, the question of writing exams in that condition never arose.

On Fools day, I was released from the hospital. I went home, cried like a new born baby for hours, and vowed to my parents in front of small temple in prayer room, that whatever happens, I will never ever let them find me in that situation ever again. The day Madhu turned eighteen, she eloped with the shopkeeper, and soon after Madhu-Makhi have left the country to work in Kenya. Her twenty or so emails and several phone calls that I missed tell me that she regretted whatever happened. I pity her now, and the memory still sends shivers down my spine.

*****
The noise at the door was followed by Ruchi’s stumbling in. I covered my face, and lay still. Mahadev was saying, “One quick kiss before I go.” Ruchi said, “Sshh! Rishi is sleeping here. He’ll wake up.” I was amused by the thought that Ruchi thought I was Rishi and for some reason, it did not sink in that Mahadev asked for a kiss and Ruchi did not say anything. I heard a loud kiss, and it was followed by two more long lasting kissing noises and “umm, ummm” from Ruchi. My whole body was trying to lurch out of my throat, and I heard Gandharav’s voice, “ Oh Ruchi, You will easily give Mallika Sherawat run for money.” Ruchi laughed aloud and said, “What Mallika? Is she even a competition?”

Gandharav jumped the gun, “But yaar (friend), why not drive Vivek away? Why have him around you when you don’t love him?” Ruchi growled, “Who said I don’t love him? Ok yes, I haven’t made love to him. Man, I am so drunk, and Mahadev is so sexy. Vivek fulfils me spiritually and emotionally like no other. He is the take to home, make the parents happy, kind of person. Mahadev, like you, is only a good fuck, though don’t you dare tell Vivek anything about this and don’t you dare laugh at me.” Gandharav said, “I’ll leave you two along, but don’t make too much noise. Even walls have ears.” Ruchi said, “Run along with him Mahadev. You had enough fun on dance floor already.” I heard another quick kiss and then a dead silence mingled with drumming of rage ran through my heartbeat. I waited till I was certain that Ruchi has dozed off, got up and left.




Epilogue

This was the story of one night that changed the course of our lives. I raced home, and woke Varun up. We talked for two or three hours. By then, my anger had subsided, Varun’s had tired him out. Gandharav came into the room then yawning, saying, “Vivek, I thought you were sleeping on the couch in Kaavya’s home?”

“You son of a mother, you saw me there.” Gandharav smiled, and said, “You have more body mass than Rishi, and you sleep lying straight. Rishi is always coiled up like a baby in the womb. But that’s not what I noticed first. What I saw was the shoe that Ruchi stumbled upon as she entered, and I have seen this rotten sneaker for so long, that I could tell.” I looked at him in awe, while he just shrugged his shoulders.

I asked him to sit down and after some effort on my part, Varun and Gandharav hugged each other. Varun proposed we needed to celebrate our new found singlehood. Gandharav suggested we go to the beach. Two hours later, we were on the road to one of the most enjoyable trips I have ever been on. At night we had camped on the beach, and after getting dead drunk, cried and laughed for hours. It actually took us months to recover and forget the agony of it all, but that one night had changed our lives.

Whatever happened with Madhu had nearly destroyed me. Somehow, the Ruchi episode made me stronger. It also took away some anger I had against Madhu, and I became more peaceful within. My catharisis was unusual, but I am happy that it came about.

***
What happened to Kaavya? I stayed in touch with her for a few years. That is till she got married. Rishi actually changed quite a lot in the months that followed. He looked lot happier as he got to spend much more time with Kaavya. But Kaavya insisted that the relationship with him was a platonic friendship. After graduating in next summer, she found work on the other coast. The time difference and the distance, plus appearance of new characters in Kaavya’s life slowly, but surely killed Rishi’s hopes and dreams. He underwent a brief alcohol problem, but later moved to New York and became a reporter with India Abroad.

Kaavya eventually married a person she met at work, and her parents approved of. The fated meeting was part of the dealing through which her dad had found this job for her. I still don’t see why it happened so, that eventually the sexiest person I met in graduate school, went on to marry this corpulent, bald person. She was pretty, and she was smart. And yet, when it came to marriage, she chose him, who appeared so boring in conversation, never did any outdoor activity and wasn’t the richer or smarter option either. I asked Kaavya if she knew why she married him. Kaavya’s response, “He loves me and I respect him for all he knows and for how much he cares about me. In any case, marriage is about more than having a spouse who is picture perfect. It is about having a spouse who makes you complete, who makes you happy.”

Varun went on to do a PhD. After figuring that Varun was trying to graduate fast, his advisor offered him the opportunity of doing a one year co-op internship that paid him handsomely. This took care of his financial worries and provided him money for his sister’s marriage. Gandharav and his family insisted on paying for the marriage reception. The internship brought in money for him to buy an used car. Also, it kept him on the other coast, which helped as Kaavya graduated before he returned back. I graduated about the same time as Kaavya, for having been in graduate school for five years, I was too eager to get on with my life.

Gandharav was later instrumental in my marrying Varun’s younger sister. He himself settled down with a Japenese female, and we still tell him that just having a Yoko Ono is not enough to make him into a John Lennon. She is an excellent cook and I often joke that she is a perfect example of idealized Indian wife. Ruchi’s relationship with Mahadev went into a charismatic climax, and ended like most one night stand’s do. Theirs had lasted a year, primarily due to the ecstasy the hide and seek she played with me provided her. Once a fear of my catching them was gone, the fun was reduced to a fleshy endeavor and after a series of interesting twists, Ruchi married the Videshi. But that is another story.

5 comments:

Vivek said...

From Dud Sea Scrawls:

hey!
By ano on Tue, 2006-06-20 11:27

this was great fun to read. though it was a bit confusing at first, i think it captures the emotional turbulence and ups-and-downs experienced during these years quite well!
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Vivek...
By Funnycide on Tue, 2006-06-20 16:48

nicely written and captivating and stimulating till the end.. I liked the way the story was not about right or wrong, good or evil about the various characters, but rather a potrayal of the emotions, heartbreaks, revelations that one goes through at that age and time. no ones the loser, maybe only wiser!! isnt grad school the time when most of us mature so much with matters of the heart? Smiling

the subtle college humor, the roommate relationships and friendships were also well captured. I could relate quite a few of the characters and incidents to my grad life friends too [almost uncannily].. and coincidentally they ended with the protagonist marrying the most ‘dullest’ of the boys!! Big Grin
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Funnycide/Ano
By Vivek on Wed, 2006-06-21 11:59

Ano: feel free to write more about what worked and what didn’t. If it starts in confusion and goes through turbulence, I guess it captures how most of the life-stories are. But please CRITICIZE:)

Funnycide: “coincidentally they ended with the protagonist marrying the most ‘dullest’ of the boys” Well, haven’t we seen too many of those in our lifes already? Smiling

Somehow the Prince Charming and the Prince Marrying are always different, at least whenever there is enough time to girl or guy to know and judge the other.

School and College is fun. Well! Do I need more justification for still being a student?Smiling The miserable imbalance in engineering male/female ratio ensures the limitless supply of Kaavyas;)
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Vivek said...

From Sulekha.com

shrawan_sharma comments:
on Jun 19 2006 9:19PM
interesting post....


Vivek Sharma comments:
on Jun 20 2006 12:25AM
Thanks Shrawan:)

It was a really long episode, and I hope it tied things together.



UnEngaged comments:
on Jun 21 2006 3:13AM
Yes - things are wrapped up now:-) Interesting how in the throes of love/heartbreak, we can never see beyond it. But time goes on, life goes on and you move on...Nice storytelling.


Vivek Sharma comments:
on Jun 21 2006 8:04AM
Unengaged:) If we were to have as much patience with people as we have reading long pieces by authors like me, we would have a much happier world:) I am glad that you, who has been posting comments, thought the story was complete. Much thanks for reading my novella.

ruchinasa said...

nice!i liked the way it ended.

Vivek said...

From DudSeaScrawls.com

6 fully fleshed out parts ???
By ssm on Thu, 2006-06-29 22:17

wow, vivek - all power to you. will check back in a couple of days to read the story at a stretch.
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ah!
By Fizo on Wed, 2006-06-28 20:26

Sharm ji,
First of all hearty applause for finishing a series. You did it in style. And a great one at that.

Now for my critique..if you could call it that. As I had said earlier, so many characters did tend to confuse me a little bit. I was like Gandharv, Mahadev, Videshi…aaaaaaaaaaaaah! Aur kitne mere bhai!
But I guess a story about graduate students will have that many characters. But it was kinda distracting from the main plot though. Or maybe that was the effect you wanted. If so, it came out very well. Going into details about some of their lives and stuff. But I wanted you to get on with the story sometimes instead of dwelling so much on sidey’s roles. Sometimes I was like Just tell me why Kaavya is crying!
Well I was not so happy to know that the reason was what it was. I was like how juvenile until ofcourse I read her monologue with the protagonist at the park. I was like ‘Hey! She did grow up fast!’ Why was there such a conflict in her personality in 2 different episodes? Somehow I did not find that very convincing…
The best episode was the one in which you provided some comic relief. It had the part I liked the best in the series. Episode IV I think wherein she walks towards Vivek with her hand held in front of her. You described his emotions very very well. I could feel his heart beating faster as I read that para.
These are some of the lines I picked up from the story as I read it.

“and I knew what agony unrequited love can bring. More so if the person is in the same town, and is seen happy in anothers company.”

Ah! That is so true. You are on your way Sharm ji….

I had often talked to Varun about how Kaavya was one of those highly self conscious females, who would not stand a moment of criticism. If exposed to some, they just lash out back at you with whatever fangs they hide. It was only a week ago that during a similar conversation, Varun rationalized this by saying, “Come on Vivek! Don’t be so harsh on her. She is a nice girl with a male ego. Perhaps therein lays her biggest charm.”

I was ROTFL at this one. Esp with whatever fangs they hide line. Very funny! But I wont let go of you without a chide…somehow this did not gel in with the character of the protagonist. He seemed very level headed until he started generalizing here. Maybe it was his hurt speaking?

I don’t know if I burn the cigarette or the cigarette burns me, but at least I get to extinguish it and throw it awayAh! Women with ego, in the beginning they are like a cigarette, but somehow the smoker becomes the stub and find himself being minced by the heel of the same woman.”

Liked the Metaphor here very much!

and I talked in shers (couplets) I picked from Jagjit Singh’s Ghazals (songs).

Ah! So that is why! Eye-wink

Ruchi married the Videshi. But that is another story.

woaaaaaaaaaah! tell tell bolo bolo!

[uff! have been wanting to do that for a while now! hurray! btw this is a work of fiction right?]
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Vivek said...

From DSS

Thanks Fizo:)
By Vivek on Fri, 2006-06-30 03:37

You were really kind in the critique Fizo. Here is my deleted blog, written as afterthoughts to Kaavya:

“The most recent experiment was in writing a melodrama in episodic form. Kaavya turned out to be quite a challenge. I started with a certain sense of story, but the details showed up as I typed along. After an episode was served, there was no way for me to go back and change any events or dialogues. Maybe I will spend some weeks with the novella, bind things together better and add more humor and more meat to it. The story had too many flashbacks, and I am not sure how well those transitions work in the present form. Also, I need to change how each new episode starts, and maybe give some physical features to guys: add flesh and skin to their thoughts and emotions. I felt Rishi deserved a little more material, a short side story of his own, for Varun, Gandharava and Vivek had their pasts built in. I had planned to include stuff about Ruchi, which I did not manage to get into first five episodes, and then it was too big a last episode to make her characterization complete. As writing exercise, I figured, writing a novel is like building a house, and I am sure this being the first real house I built, means I’ll built better ones later. On a lighter note, just in case you are a publisher or literary agent, contact me after August, and maybe Kaavya would look her polished best by then.”

It is a work of fiction. I definitely don’t know any Vivek, Varun, Gandharava or Kaavya or Ruchi that fit the descriptions or share a common story. I’ve had my share of unrequited love stories, and my share of friends who poured their own stories into my ear, but I cannot revisit those while writing this.

By the end, I was sweating and tired and I had to be away for ten days . So I had to end the story. I wonder how you, Fizo-ji managed to write those long stories that were always well-connected and nicely paced.

I realize I need to introduce characters slowly. One at a time. Transitions between times need to be well marked. Smaller paragraphs. Clarity in style. Simple language. Revision. More revision. Give examples to illustrate strengths and weaknesses of characters. Provide occassional humor.

I may have overlooked many things. Ano and Fizo were the only two who had some advice to offer. Maybe it is unfair to expect criticism on such a long piece, but I write to get better at the craft. And I know I have a long way to go.

I liked the MadhuMakhi idea:) and of course, Kaavyas and Ruchis abound. I downplayed the heartbreak part and ended up making Gandharava less of a villian than I intended initially. I guess we all have our shortcomings, be it guys or gals.

Lastly, I needed to make it more clear that the same Kaavya was capable of rational thought when she used her head and irrational actions when she went with her enthusiasm or emotion.

A long analysis (I guess a long series demands that)Smiling
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