[Short Fiction - An Inspirational Story]
“How was your day?” she asks.
“Terrible,” he says.
“Everything is rotten out here! This country is going to the dogs because of this bloody corruption! They must do something about it.”
“They? What they? Who is this ‘they’?”
“I don’t know. And I don’t care, because I am getting out of here once and for all.”
“Sanjiv, come on, how can you be so sure things are better out there? At least here, in our country, we are treated properly.”
“Treated properly? My foot! Only the corrupt and powerful, the rich and wealthy, are having a ball. If you’re honest, life is hell. They treat you like dirt. But one thing is sure. Once I’m an NRI, I’ll be treated better. Look at way they pamper these NRI chaps – the top jobs, the dough, the recognition, the honors – it’s pathetic, the way we put them on a pedestal - they enjoy best of both worlds and we even bestow them with all sorts of accolades and awards!”
“What rubbish! They must have done something for the country.”
“Oh, yeah! Sure. But which country? All they’ve done is make money for the company they work for over there, earned glory for themselves. But what have they done for India ?”
“Come on, don’t be so bitter. Just forget all this Sanjiv and think positively; you’ve got a chance to stay here and do something, haven’t you? Sanjiv. Don’t go. Please!”
“Don’t go? Please? Come on, Nalini. What’s wrong with you? Why the hell should I stay here?”
“The IAS is the best thing in the world.”
“Oh yeah! Tell me. What’s so great about rotting away in some back of the beyond town like Jhumri Talaiya, or Beed, or Marwar Mundwa, which you only hear about on Vividh Bharati?”
“Come off it, it’s not all that bad.”
“And the bloody groveling and kowtowing the powers that be all your life?”
“The pay, the perks…”
“Pay, Perks? What are you talking about? I’ve told you about the mind-boggling amount I’m going to get out there, haven’t I?
“So it’s Seattle, not Mussoorie?”
“Yes. It’s final. I’ve nothing left here now.”
“Nothing?” tears start to well up in her eyes.
He puts his arms around her and says, “Please Nalini… don’t make it difficult for me.”
“I’m thirsty. Come, let’s have some chilled milk.”
Hand in hand, the man and the woman cross Marine Drive , and amble to the Jai Jawan stall, and order some chilled milk.
Suddenly a cop arrives, bangs his lathi on the counter and shouts rudely at the old man inside the stall, “Abe Saale, Hafta kyon nahi deta?”
“I am a war veteran disabled soldier,” the jawan says proudly stamping his crutch on the ground in anger.
“So what? Just pay up, you one-legged cripple, or I’ll shove that crutch up your…”
Something suddenly snaps inside Sanjiv and he is filled with rage. He suddenly turns, catches the cop’s collar, shoves him roughly, and shouts, “Just get out…”
The stunned cop slowly recovers, talks on his cell phone, and within seconds a police jeep appears and they are all whisked away to the police station.
“Saale,” the inspector says menacingly, “assaulting a policeman on duty…”
“Sir,” a constable interrupts, “this was in his pocket.” He hands a paper to the inspector.
The inspector reads it, looks at Sanjiv, and goes inside to his superior’s office. They discuss and reach a conclusion: No point taking punga with IAS types – even if he is just going to be a probationer.
“You are going to be IAS. You shouldn’t do these things,” the inspector says politely to Sanjiv, undergoing a total metamorphosis in his demeanor and sends his jeep to drop them back at the Jai Jawan Stall on Marine Drive .
“Thank you, saab. We need young people like you to sort things out,” the soldier at the Jai Jawan says gratefully, as they sip the deliciously soothing chilled milk.
“Hey, let’s watch sunset,” Nalini says.
They cross Marine Drive , run to the parapet and watch the breathtakingly beautiful spectacle as the tranquil blue sea begins to swallow the orange ball and the crimson rays dancing in the sky slowly dissolve into twilight.
“Your last sunset in India, isn’t it?” she says, tears in her eyes.
He takes her in his arms, and they kiss, slow and prolonged, as if it were there first and last kiss.
And when it is finally over, he looks into her eyes and says, “Nalini, I’m not going. I’ve decided to stay. Join the IAS.”
“Really? Why? What happened…?” Nalini exults in incredulous delight.
Sanjiv does not answer. He looks into Nalini’s eyes, then he tenderly puts his arm around her and together they watch the awesome metamorphosis at sunset.
Copyright © Vikram Karve 2009
Vikram Karve has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.