THE HAPPIEST DAY OF MY LIFE
Short Fiction – A Love Story
Do you remember the happiest day of your life…?
Here’s how it began…
“Excuse me,” a feminine voice said from behind me.
I turned around.
“Mr. Avinash…?” she asked.
I stared blankly at the smart young woman, tongue-tied.
“I’m Sheetal…” she said with a lovely smile.
“Oh, Hi…” I stammered, quickly gathering my wits.
I looked at her.
Avinash had been terribly wrong. This was no podgy pedestrian suburban unpretentious behenji. She was a real beauty, chic, smart, a stunner, and I could not take my eyes off her.
Her eyes were extremely beautiful – enormous, dark, expressive eyes.
And suddenly her eyes began to dance, and seeing my frank look of genuine admiration, she gave me smile so captivating that I experienced a delightful twinge in my heart.
“You are Mr. Avinash, aren’t you…?” she asked mischievously.
“Yes…” I lied, “How did you recognize me…?”
“You were the only person looking lost and out of place out here…the odd man out…” she laughed vivaciously.
“Oh…” I said unconsciously, mesmerized by her gorgeousness, and by instinct, and almost against my will, I let my eyes linger, travel all over her exquisite body.
“Hey…are you going to stare at me all day or should we grab a bite…I am hungry…” she said playfully.
“Yes…yes…” I said.
“Okay…come…let’s go to Samovar…we can talk there in peace too…” she said, and led me from the art gallery to the restaurant in the veranda.
Thus began the happiest day of my life. Dear Reader, please permit me to tell you a little bit about how it all started and to tell you this story I am going to transport you backwards into the past, yes, we are going more than 30 years back in time, to the late 1970s, when Pune was a Pensioners’ Paradise.
Yes, my Dear Reader, Pune, the Queen of the
Deccan, in the 1960s and 1970s, with its lovely climate, pure fresh air, lush green environs, salubrious, spacious and friendly laid back atmosphere, was indeed a “paradise” – the best city to live in.
Imagine a Pune without Malls and the Multiplexes, with hardly any traffic on the roads, when the bicycle was the popular mode of travel; the nearest “city” was Mumbai and the best way of getting there was by the railways, by charming trains like the Deccan Queen, enjoying the scenic beauty of the lush green Sahayadri Ghats while savouring the delicious breakfast served by the restaurant car, since there was no expressway and it sometimes took six hours to drive down as the road through the Khandala Ghats was quite treacherous.
Just imagine – there were no mobile cell-phones, no internet, no PCs, no STD [one had to book trunk-calls] and Black and White Television had just arrived and was a novelty.
The main thing was that there was no internet, and hence no email, and one had to write letters and send them via post as there were no courier services either.
And of course, social interaction was face to face, relishing yummy bhel in the numerous picturesque parks, or over tea, in the Amruttulayas, Irani cafes and Kattas, as there was no facebook, no orkut, no chatting, and no blogging, nothing…and by the way, back then, the concept of “cyberspace” did not exist…
Those days, a B. Tech. from an IIT did not get you a huge pay packet – yes, it sure ensured that you got a good job, but once you were in the job you were on par with the other guys from various Engineering Colleges.
Yes, only guys did engineering then, maybe there were a few gals, the rare exceptions, but I hardly met any pursuing a career as an engineer, maybe most of them got married, or shifted to softer professions.
My IIT Classmate Avinash and I joined a premier engineering company located in the suburbs of Pune.
Well that was the trend at IITs those days – either you went abroad, to America, to pursue higher studies, or got a good job in the campus interview in a prestigious engineering firm, unless you were one of those few who preferred to be a white-collared manager via the MBA route [way back then there were hardly any management institutes, I think maybe there was just one IIM or maybe two, and FMS at Delhi and a Jamnalal Bajaj at Mumbai].
But the majority of engineers studied engineering to practice engineering, so we were quite happy to hit the shop floor doing hard core engineering.
We worked hard, for six days a week including Sundays, and had our off on Thursdays – the industrial holiday.
We rented a house near Deccan Gymkhana from where we commuted to work and back by the company bus.
Life was good.
It was easy to be happy. Our threshold of happiness was so low that small things made us happy. Like a relaxed chat over a cup of tea.
Yes, every evening after work, we would get down from the bus, relax over a Bun Maska and Chai at Café Good Luck or Lucky, and then walk down to our place on
Bhandarkar Road nearby.
One of our most enjoyable highlights was our weekly Thursday visit to Pune Camp – to see the latest Hollywood Movie in royal style relaxing on those unique easy chairs at the inimitable West End Cinema, relishing tasty mouth-watering bites and soothing thirst-quenching sips at the Soda Fountain during the interval, followed by delectable Mutton Samosas, Bun Maska and refreshing Irani style Chai at Naaz, then a leisurely stroll on Main Street [MG Road] and East Street, window-shopping, bird-watching and snacking, sandwiches and cold coffee at Marz-o-rin, maybe a browse at Manney’s bookstore, and then a hearty Chinese meal at Kamling or Chung Fa, or a Mughlai repast at Latif, or Punjabi Food at Kwality, Biryani at Dorabjee or George, or Sizzlers at The Place [arguably the first Sizzler Place in India] next to Manney’s. And then a Meetha Masala Pan at George to carry home the lingering flavour and fragrance of the delightful evening.
When there are two close friends, one assumes the role of a leader and the other a follower. Amongst us, Avinash, a tall, strapping, confident, flamboyant, handsome man endowed with an excellent physique with a dominating personality, was the natural leader.
“Shekhar,” Avinash said to me one Wednesday evening while we were sipping chai at Good Luck, “Shekhar…I want you to do me a favour…”
“What…”? I asked.
“Go down to Mumbai tomorrow and see a girl in my place…” he said.
I looked at him, confused.
“It’s like this yaar…there is some behenji type girl from my place my parents want me to see…she is working in Mumbai…I am least interested… so you go and see her and come back…and I’ll tell my parents I didn’t like her…” he said.
“But why don’t you go…?” I asked.
“Listen yaar…I’ve managed to patao a solid cheez… I met her during that management course in Lonavala I’d gone for last week…” he said.
“But you didn’t tell me…” I said.
“Arre Bhai…kuch hone to do…but uske liye you’ll have to help me out…I’ve fixed up a solid date with her tomorrow taking her for a drive on my bike around Lonavala and Khandala…we planned it during the course…and suddenly my mom rang up in the office this morning... please yaar Shekhar …just go to Mumbai tomorrow and see the girl…” Avinash said.
“But how…?” I protested.
“I have already booked your ticket both ways by Deccan Queen…just go in the morning and come back in the evening…this back home type is called Sheetal and she will meet you in the Jehangir Art Gallery at eleven…”
“But how can I masquerade as you…she must be having your photo…I’ll get caught…” I said.
“There is no photo, nothing…she doesn’t know how I look like and I don’t know how she looks like...it all happened so suddenly…just our parents got talking back home last evening and my mother rang up this morning to go and see the girl tomorrow as the girl is going back to her hometown in the mofussil near our place by tomorrow evening’s train…” he said.
“No…No…I am not going…the whole thing is preposterous…I can’t do this…” I said.
“Yaar please…don’t ditch me…I have already sent her a telegram to meet at 11 AM in
…” he said. Jehangir Art Gallery
“I don’t understand all this…” I said.
“My mother said her office is in Kalaghoda…so this is the nearest and best place…there they work on Thursdays… only we here have industrial off…so they fixed up tomorrow…as she has to leave for her place in the evening on holiday…don’t argue…just get it over with…after you come back I’ll ring up my mom tomorrow evening and tell her I didn’t like the girl and the whole thing is a closed chapter…” Avinash said, putting his arm around my shoulder, “aur Shekhar, agar mera Lonavala wali se jugad fit baith
to I’ll give you a big treat…” gaya
So, next morning I boarded the Deccan Queen to Mumbai….
To be continued…
Copyright © Vikram Karve 2010
Vikram Karve has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.http://www.linkedin.com/in/karve