BUNDLE OF JOY
(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.”
“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