Dear Reader: I had written this story in April 2006 and posted it on my Sulekha Blog on 20 April 2006. The links to the blog post are given above. While surfing the net, reading blogs, I was aghast to see that this story ALKA AND ULKA had been copied and pasted on a few blogs without even mentioning my name as author or giving me any credit. Maybe they wanted to portray as if they had written this story. I wonder what one can do to prevent such unethical acts of blatant plagiarism. Should one stop blogging - or posting creative work on one's blogs...? Maybe one solution is to for the author to keep reposting his work at suitable intervals to ensure the author's creative claim to his piece of work.
So, Dear Reader, here is the story once more. I am sure you will enjoy reading it.
ALKA and ULKA
(Fiction short story)
“Ulka. It’s Ulka – U. L. K. A. – that’s my name, not Alka,” screamed the furious lady.
“I’m sorry Ma’am. It’s just a small mistake,” the ticketing clerk, a young girl, said apologetically.
“Small mistake...? You spell my name wrongly and call it a small mistake...?” the beautiful lady fumed.
“I must have heard wrongly on the phone.”
“It’s carelessness. Anyway change the ticket.”
The ticketing clerk took the ticket from the lady and with her pen overwrote ‘U’ in place of the ‘A’ changing Ulka to Alka.
“What nonsense is this?” flared the lady, livid.
“How does it matter, Ma’am...? It’s just a minor change of spelling. Besides your surname is spelt correctly.”
“Minor change...? You need an attitudinal change...!”
“Excuse me, Ma’am...!”
“What do you mean ‘excuse me’...? Just cancel this ticket and issue a new one with my correct name.”
“You’ll have to pay cancellation charges.”
“Cancellation charges...? What nonsense! Why should I pay...? It’s your mistake. You think I’m a fool?” the lady shouted beginning to lose control of herself..
Till this moment I was just watching from the sidelines, but now it was time for me to intervene.
“What’s the matter...?” I asked the ticketing girl.
“She’s creating a big fuss over a minor issue.”
“Big fuss! You change my name and it’s a minor issue? Suppose the plane crashes, what happens to the insurance...? You are incompetent. I’ll have you fired! Who’s the top man here...?” the lady said, trembling with fury.
“Excuse me, Madam,” I said, “may I help you...?”
“I want to see the top man here,” she shouted, her enormous brown velvety eyes flaming, her flawlessly smooth cheeks flushed, her slender upturned nose luminous, almost translucent, her deliciously juicy lips quivering – in her anger she looked devastatingly beautiful .
“I am the top man here,” I said to her, and turning to the ticketing clerk I said firmly, “Issue a fresh ticket with the proper name. Don’t make any mistakes...!”
“Just do what I say,” I snapped at the hapless ticketing girl, and turning to the angry lady I said politely, “Ma’am, please come to my cabin.”
A glass of water, a freshen up, and a cup of coffee later, composed and appearing a bit contrite, fresh ticket with her correct name on the table in front of her, the beautiful lady said, “I’m sorry for creating a scene, but I get very upset when I’m called Alka instead of Ulka.”
“I can understand,” I said. “One’s name is important and people do get touchy if there’s a mistake. But then, Alka and Ulka, both names suit you.”
“What do you mean...?” she asked, confused.
“‘Alka’ means a girl with curly hair. Just like you...!”
She blushed, and asked, “And ‘Ulka’...?”
“Well, 'Ulka’ means a meteor, a star falling on the earth from the heavens, fire, a torch or a firebrand.”
“Now don’t tell me I’m a hothead firebrand or look like a meteor...” she smiled mischievously. The ice had broken. Her anger melted.
“Ulka and Alka. They sound so similar that one can easily confuse Ulka with Alka which is a more common name,” I said.
“I know. But because of this Alka-Ulka slipup – I’ve paid a heavy price for it,” she said, and told me her story. I am easy to talk to, and her words came tumbling out.
“Around ten years ago, when I was in my final year at college, a boy saw me in our college canteen and fell head over heels in love with me.”
“Wow...!” I said.
“He was so desperate that, after we left, he asked a waiter my name and the stupid waiter made the same mistake – he told the boy my name was Alka.”
“But the boy was in your college isn’t it...?”
“No. No. I never noticed him. Must be one of those rich types just hanging out in our college ogling at girls. He had fallen so madly in love with me that he tried to find out my address from our college office.”
“Then what happened...?”
“He asked for ‘Alka’ and unfortunately there was an ‘Alka’ in my class, so they gave him Alka’s address. Then the guy goes to his parents, gives them the address, and asks them to meet Alka’s parents and ask for her hand in marriage.”
“They saw each other. The boy realized his goof-up and told her, and described me accurately to her, but Alka’s smart; she wasn’t going to let go of such a prize catch. I don’t know what she did. Maybe she told him there was no one like me in her college or that I was from some other college or some such yarn, but she must have sure worked on him with all her wily charms and finally they did get married. And now she’s having a ball of a time loaded in dough, the wife of a wealthy businessman, while I slog it out alone day in and day out.”
“You never met the boy, haven’t you...?”
“No. I don’t even know how he looks. I told you I hadn’t even seen the boy looking at me. I didn’t even know all this till yesterday.”
“Yesterday...? Then how did you come to know...?”
“Alka told me.”
“Alka...? Here. In
“I ran into her at Abids last evening. At the jewelers. I was just looking at a string of pearls. Too expensive for me. But Alka bought a lovely pearl necklace and an exquisite diamond studded watch.”
“A diamond studded watch...?”
“I told you she’s loaded.”
“She took me out to dinner in a restaurant. Remember I told you that the boy told her everything, accurately described me to her. She teased me that her husband still remembers me.”
“She didn’t invite you home...? To meet her husband.”
“I asked her. I wanted to meet him. But she made up some excuses. She’s scared. After all, a man’s first love always has an enduring place in his heart.”
“Yes. Just one small Ulka-Alka goof-up and look at the consequences. She, glowing in matrimony in the lap of luxury, and me, in the abyss, all alone.”
“All alone? You didn’t marry...?”
“Still haven’t found a suitable guy, I guess...!”
“Well, let me tell you that what you’re imagining isn’t that true.”
“What do you mean...?”
“Alka’s husband - the ‘boy’ who fell head over heels in love with you – he’s no hot-shot businessman. He’s just the owner of a modest travel agency.”
“You know him...?”
“Of course I know him. That boy is me. I am Alka’s husband.”
She froze. Then melted. Broke into a smile. We looked wistfully into each other’s eyes in silence for a long long time.
After she left, there were just two thoughts perambulating in my mind.
Firstly, I wondered what life would have been like had I married Ulka.
Secondly, whereas my darling wife Alka had gleefully shown me the lovely pearl necklace the moment I reached home last night; I wondered why she hadn’t told me about the exquisite diamond studded watch she had bought along with the necklace at Abids last evening...!VIKRAM KARVE
Copyright © Vikram Karve 2006
Vikram Karve has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.