Monday, May 22, 2006

Bundle of Joy - a short story by Vikram Karve

(a fiction short story)

It’s a warm Sunday morning in Pune. Let’s go to the apartment of a young Double Income No Kids (DINK) couple in a posh residential complex in Aundh. The man and the woman, both in their late twenties, sit across a table in the drawing room. Let’s hear what they are talking!

“Let’s start with the house,” the man says.

“Okay,” the woman says.

“We bought it for 12. It’s worth 17 today.”

“You keep the house,” the woman says.

“Thanks. I knew you would let me keep it,” the man says with a sigh of relief and opens a folder on the table between them. “I’ve worked it out. Here’s a cheque for 5 Lakhs. I’ll take over all your EMIs and your part of the loan. Have a look at the papers and sign.”

The woman signs the papers without reading, picks up the cheque and puts it in her purse.

“The car. You want to keep it?”

“Of course. It’s on my name. I got the loan, remember!”

“Please. Let’s not start yours and mine again. We agreed the split would be as amicable as possible.”

“I’m sorry,” the woman says a bit contrite.

“It’s just that I thought you’d like to buy a new one.”

“No. I like the Santro.”

“Okay. I’ll make do with my old bike for a few days. Then I’ll go in for the SUV I always wanted.”

The woman looks at the wall-clock. “Oh my God! It’s ten thirty already. The packers and movers will be here any moment. Let’s hurry and finish it off once and for all!”

“Okay. Let’s go room by room,” the man says. He gives the woman a notepad and a pen, “You better write it down, so you can tell the packers.”

“You write,” the woman says.

“Okay. Let’s start with the living room.”

“The TV, DVD, Music System – you can keep everything. I only want all the beautiful wrought iron furniture I’ve specially got made.”

“At least leave me a couple of chairs and a table!” the man pleads.

“Oh, come on! When will you understand? It’s a whole set! You can buy the cheap molded stuff you always liked.”

“Okay. Let’s go to the kitchen.”

“I’ll take the microwave and dishwasher; and some good crockery and cutlery. You keep the stainless steel stuff which you love for its utilitarian value.”

“Don’t be sarcastic!” the man snaps.

“I’m not,” the woman answers, “I’m sick and tired of your ‘Value For Money’ obsession. You never like anything elegant and refined.”

“I prefer to drink the best scotch in a stainless steel tumbler rather than a third rate whisky served in fancy cut-glass!”

“So go ahead Cheapie! Once I leave you can eat out of earthenware bowls and sit on straw mats for all I care! But I like classy stuff. Oh, yes; I’m taking the new carpet you’ve kept packed inside, those new lace curtains and all the curios.”

“Sure. Take anything you want. Except my books!”

“Books! I don’t want any of your books,” the woman says, “That’s all you’ve done. Buy books and wallow in them. With the money you’ve squandered on your books you could have bought me a diamond, the solitaire I wanted for my last birthday.”

“Please Anju! Let’s not start again.”

“Okay Abhi. I’m sorry. Let’s get all this over with as quickly as possible and part as good friends.”

And so they go about it, without a trace of acrimony, scrupulously and systematically, room by room, cupboard by cupboard, item by item – clothes, air conditioner, computer, washing machine, furniture, beds, linen, everything; even the playthings and investments they had diligently accumulated for the baby they had planned to have after they both were well established in their careers – each and every asset in the house is meticulously divided between the two and the woman’s items are segregated, packed and loaded in the truck by the packers.

“Thanks for making it so easy,” the woman says.

“You too!” the man says.

“No hard feelings?”

“No hard feelings! It’s best for both of us.”

“I know. We were mismatched, just not compatible, that’s all.”

“There were good times too!”


“It had to happen. I’m so happy it’s happened so amicably.”

“Me too. Bye Abhi. Take care,” the woman says and calls out, “Dolly! Dolly!”

A cute and fluffy little snow-white Lhasa Apso dog, who till now was sitting quietly in the balcony, runs up to the woman, excitedly wagging its tail. The woman lovingly picks up the adorable little dog in her arms and begins to walk towards the door.

“Wait. Where are you taking Dolly?” asks the man apprehensively.

“With me, of course,” the woman says.

“No, you’re not! Dolly stays with me!” the man says firmly.

“How can she stay with you?”

“What do you mean ‘how can she stay with me’? This is her house. She will stay here like she has stayed all these days. I’ll look after her.”

“No. I’m taking Dolly with me. Look how she’s cuddling in my arms.”

“She cuddles in my arms too! Dolly stays with me.You can’t take her.”

“I’m taking her. Try stopping me!” the woman says defiantly and moves towards the door.

In a flash, the man rushes to the door and blocks her way. The dog senses the tension and stiffens.

“Look, you’re scaring her,” the woman says.

“Give her to me,” the man says, takes Dolly in his arms and begins baby-talking to her, petting her and gently fondling her neck lovingly with his hand. The dog relaxes, snuggles and begins licking his hands.

“Be reasonable, Abhi,” the woman says. “I always assumed Dolly would be coming with me. That’s why I’ve found a ground floor flat with a small garden where she can play. She feels cooped up here and you’ll find it difficult to look after her.”

“How can you assume such things? She’s staying with me. I’ll look after her. You don’t worry.”

“Don’t be stubborn, Abhi! Give her to me please.”

“No. Dolly stays here with me.”

“I’m not going without her.”

“Don’t go.”

“What do you mean ‘Don’t go’! We had agreed to the separation. That we would work out things amicably. That there would be no acrimony or rancor and we would always remain good friends. Then why this bitterness at the last moment? Please give Dolly to me.”

“No. Dolly stays with me. I can’t live without her.”

“I too can’t live without her.”

“Then stay here!”

“Okay. I’ll stay put right here,” the woman says defiantly. “I’m not moving an inch from here till such time you don’t let me take Dolly with me.”



In the evening, the man and the woman are playing with their cute little dog, Dolly, on the lush green lawns of their residential complex.


Three years ago when our protagonists, the man and the woman, newly married, were in Shillong for their honeymoon, their jolly dog-loving uncle, a retired Colonel, presented them with a beautiful month old baby female Lhasa Apso pup as a wedding gift. He had already named her Dolly. The Colonel’s wife scolded him saying that the pet would encumber the young couple’s married life. In fact, the darling pet saved their marriage. She turned out to be their bundle of joy.

BUNDLE OF JOY – A fiction short story by VIKRAM KARVE

Monday, May 15, 2006

Empress Court


The next time you visit South Mumbai, go to Churchgate, admire the beautiful Art Deco style façade of the Eros Cinema, an architectural landmark, which marks the beginning of the Art Deco district of Oval Precinct; and start walking southwards down Maharshi Karve Road, passing Eros, Sundance cafe to your right, the verdant Oval Maidan across the road to your left.

Keep walking past splendid Art Deco buildings like Court View, Queens Court, Greenfield, Windsor, Rajesh Mansion; stop at the T-junction with Dinsha Vachha Road, look across the road and you will see the most magnificent of them all – Empress Court.

Pause for a moment to appreciate the splendid pista green building with its exquisite façade. Then cross the road, walk through the elegant entrance, climb up the wooden spiral staircase to the second floor and ring the doorbell. If you had come just a few days earlier, I would have opened the door – for this is the place where I spent the six best years of my life. Oh yes! How can I ever forget Empress Court – the best house I have ever lived in!

Let’s go in. A huge hall, dining room to the left, drawing room to the right, airy windows and a cute circular balcony. Stand in the balcony and admire Mumbai University’s Rajabai Clock Tower right in front of you across the Oval, the High Court to its left and Old Secretariat to the right; all Gothic style majestic structures in stone.

Walk through the airy cool rooms, each with a balcony with excellent views. Open the doors and windows and enjoy the refreshing sea breeze. It’s heavenly. Words cannot describe the blissful delight I felt when I lived here. Close your eyes and think of GB Mhatre, the architect who crafted and designed this elegant apartment house.

Empress Court, facing the Rajabai Clock Tower, on the western side of the Oval, is a part of the heritage Fort precinct. The lush green Oval Maidan, a Heritage Grade I precinct, an open space colonial pattern esplanada of scenic beauty, acting as a buffer between two architectural period styles – the Gothic buildings of the Mumbai University, Bombay High Court and Old Secretariat to the east and Art Deco district to its west.

The location of Empress Court is ideal. There is the Oxford Bookstore next door where I spent delightful hours browsing books on elegant orange rocking chairs, refreshing myself with delicious cups of invigorating teas in the Cha Bar. Just a short walk and you are at Marine Drive. The Business and Art districts, education, museums, sightseeing, shopping, good food, entertainment, night life, clubs, sports, bus and railway stations – everything is so nearby. You’re right in the centre of everything that’s happening in Mumbai.

I shall never forget the clock atop Rajabai Tower which woke me up at six every morning, the metamorphosis at sunrise as the sun rose every morning between the tall BSE building and the Clock Tower, the soothing green Oval maidan, football matches at the Cooperage, and the calm tranquil sunsets on Marine Drive.

Thank you Empress Court. I shall always cherish the six years I spent with you - the best years of my life in the best place I have ever lived in.


Thursday, May 11, 2006

Book Review - The Autobiography of Maharshi Karve

Book Review

The Autobiography of Maharshi Karve : “Looking Back” by Dhondo Keshav Karve (1936)

Reviewed by Vikram Waman Karve

The Book : Looking Back
The Author : Dhondo Keshav Karve
First Published in 1936

Looking Back ( The Autobiography ) by Dhondo Keshav Karve
( Maharshi Karve ) with a preface by Frederick J. Gould.

Dear Reader, you must be wondering why I am reviewing an autobiography written in 1936. Well, till recently I stayed on Maharshi Karve Road in Mumbai. I share the same surname as the author. Also, I happen to be the great grandson of Maharshi Karve. But, beyond that, compared to him I am a nobody – not even a pygmy.

Maharshi Karve clearly knew his goal, persisted ceaselessly throughout his life with missionary zeal and transformed the destiny of the Indian Woman. The first university for women in India - The SNDT University and educational institutions for women covering the entire spectrum ranging from pre-primary schools to post-graduate, engineering, vocational and professional colleges bear eloquent testimony to his indomitable spirit, untiring perseverance and determined efforts.

In his preface, Frederick J Gould writes that “the narrative is a parable of his career” – a most apt description of the autobiography. The author tells his life-story in a simple straightforward manner, with remarkable candour and humility; resulting in a narrative which is friendly, interesting and readable.

Autobiographies are sometimes voluminous tomes, but this a small book, 200 pages, and a very easy comfortable enjoyable read that makes it almost unputdownable. Dr. DK Karve writes a crisp, flowing narrative of his life, interspersed with his views and anecdotes, in simple, straightforward style which facilitates the reader to visualize through the author’s eyes the places, period, people and events pertaining to his life and times and the trials and tribulations he faced and struggled to conquer.

Dr. Dhondo Keshav Karve was born on 18th of April 1858. In the first few chapters he writes about Murud, his native place in Konkan, Maharashtra, his ancestry and his early life– the description is so vivid that you can clearly “see” through the author’s eye. His struggle to appear in the public service examination ( walking 110 miles in torrential rain and difficult terrain to Satara), and the shattering disappointment at not being allowed to appear because “he looked too young”, make poignant reading.

“Many undreamt of things have happened in my life and given a different turn to my career” he writes, and then goes on to describe his high school and, later, college education at The Wilson College Bombay (Mumbai) narrating various incidents that convinced him of the role of destiny and serendipity in shaping his life and career as a teacher and then Professor of Mathematics.

He married at the age of fourteen but began his marital life at the age of twenty! This was the custom of those days. Let’s read the author’s own words on his domestic life: “ … I was married at the age of fourteen and my wife was then eight. Her family lived very near to ours and we knew each other very well and had often played together. However after marriage we had to forget our old relation as playmates and to behave as strangers, often looking toward each other but never standing together to exchange words…. We had to communicate with each other through my sister…… My marital life began under the parental roof at Murud when I was twenty…” Their domestic bliss was short lived as his wife died after a few years leaving behind a son… “Thus ended the first part of my domestic life”… he concludes in crisp style.

An incident highlighting the plight of a widow left an indelible impression on him and germinated in him the idea of widow remarriage. He married Godubai, who was widowed when she was only eight years old, was a sister of his friend Mr. Joshi, and now twenty three was studying at Pandita Ramabai’s Sharada Sadan as its first widow student.

Let’s read in the author’s own words how he asked for her hand in marriage to her father – “ I told him…..I had made up my mind to marry a widow. He sat silent for a minute and then hinted that there was no need to go in search of such a bride”.

He describes in detail the ostracism he faced from some orthodox quarters and systematically enunciates his life work - his organization of the Widow Marriage Association, Hindu Widows Home, Mahila Vidyalaya, Nishkama Karma Math, and other institutions, culminating in the birth of the first Indian Women’s University ( SNDT University).

The trials and tribulations he faced in his life-work of emancipation of education of women (widows in particular) and how he overcame them by his persistent steadfast endeavours and indomitable spirit makes illuminating reading and underlines the fact that Dr. DK Karve was no arm-chair social reformer but a person devoted to achieve his dreams on the ground in reality.

These chapters form the meat of the book and make compelling reading. His dedication and meticulousness is evident in the appendices where he has given datewise details of his engagements and subscriptions down to the paisa for his educational institutions from various places he visited around the world to propagate their cause.

He then describes his world tour, at the ripe age of 71, to meet eminent educationists to propagate the cause of the Women’s University, his later domestic life and ends with a few of his views and ideas for posterity. At the end of the book, concluding his autobiography, he writes: “Here ends the story of my life. I hope this simple story will serve some useful purpose”.

He wrote this in 1936. He lived on till the 9th of November 1962, achieving so much more on the way, was conferred the honorary degree of Doctor of Letters ( D.Litt.) by the Banaras Hindu University in 1942 followed by Poona in 1951, SNDT in 1955, and Bombay(LL.D.) in 1957. Maharshi Karve received the Padma Vibhushan in 1955 and the nation’s highest honour the “Bharat Ratna” in 1958, a fitting tribute on his centenary at the age of 100.


I was born in 1956, and have fleeting memories of Maharshi Karve, during our visits to Hingne Stree Sikshan Samstha in 1961-62, as a small boy of 5 or 6 can. My mother tells me that I featured in a films division documentary on him during his centenary celebrations in 1958 ( I must have been barely two, maybe one and a half years old ) and there is a photograph of him and his great grand children in which I feature. It is from some old timers and other people and mainly from books that I learn of his pioneering work in transforming the destiny of the Indian Woman and I thought I should share this.

I have written this book review with the hope that some of us, particularly the students and alumni of SNDT University, Cummins College of Engineering for Women, SOFT, Karve Institute of Social Sciences and other educational institutions who owe their very genesis and existence to Maharshi Karve, read about his stellar pioneering work and draw inspiration from his autobiography.

Two other good books pertaining to the life of Maharshi Karve which I have read are : Maharshi Karve by Ganesh L. Chandavarkar, Popular Prakashan (1958) and Maharshi Karve – His 105 years, Hingne Stree Shikshan Samstha (1963).