Friday, October 27, 2006
If you are ravenously hungry on a busy afternoon in the heart Mumbai, head for Bhagat Tarachand (BT). To get there, walk up Kalbadevi Road from Metro, turn right at the Cotton Exchange, and to your left you will see a series of eateries named Bhagat Tarachand. All are equally good and serve similar food, so you can sample them one by one on your numerous visits and decide which one you like. You can also walk up from Crawford Market, through Zaveri Bazar, past the Gold Exchange and Mumbadevi Temple; or from Bhendi Bazar via Pydhonie down Kalbadevi Road. In case you live in the suburbs, get down at Charni Road station, walk down Thakurdwar Road and turn right at Bhuleshwar and walk past the Cotton Exchange. Don’t try to drive down – you’ll go crazy negotiating your way – and besides a brisk walk on a hot and humid Mumbai afternoon will build up a voracious appetite and rapacious thirst – sine qua non for total enjoyment of a delicious nourishing meal.
The first thing to do is to order a “beer bottle” of chilled chaas (buttermilk) to quench your thirst and soothe your parched throat. On your first visit sample the delectable thali comprising varied vegetable dishes, dal and melt-in-the-mouth chappaties. Once you are hooked on, on subsequent visits you can experiment with the variety of rotis and vegetarian delights in Bhagat Tarachand’s culinary repertoire. Each and every dish – the dal fry, paneer bhurji, methi malai mutter, bhindi, even baingan – is superb. Both tastewise and pricewise, Bhagat Tarachand is unmatched – it’s the best value for money vegetarian food in Mumbai.
Once you have relished your hearty meal, leisurely stroll down (digestive walk) past the Cotton Exchange and Panjrapole towards Bhuleshwar, turn right on VP Road towards CP Tank and soon you will reach Bhaishankar Gaurishankar which serves the most delicious lip-smacking rasgullas in Mumbai. As the luscious heavenly syrupy delights melts in your mouth you will experience such a fantastic blissful ecstasy that words cannot describe. A perfect ending to a perfect meal!
Institute of Technology
Banaras Hindu University
On what basis do you judge an educational institution – an Engineering College or a B-School? In today’s world there is just one criterion – market value – the starting salaries and campus placement the students get. For today’s students it’s all about money, ambition and careerism – the more exorbitant the astronomical pay packets, and the greater the percentage of lucrative campus placements, the better the institution. And with the increasing commercialization of education, many institutes blatantly compete, advertise and focus on these materialistic aspects to attract students – it’s a rat race.
I feel the cardinal yardstick for appraising the true merit of an educational institution is the value-addition it instills in its students – and I’m not talking of utility value alone; but more importantly the inculcation and enhancement of intrinsic values. The student should feel he or she has changed for the better, professionally and personally; and so should other stakeholders observing the student from the outside be able to discern the value enhancement.
I studied engineering at ITBHU from 1972 to 1977 (first batch IIT JEE) and I experienced the well-rounded value addition I have mentioned above. I did my post graduation at a premier IIT and later taught at a prestigious university, but I cherish my days at ITBHU the most. I knew I was a better man, in my entirety, having passed through the portals of ITBHU, and I’m sure those scrutinizing me from the outside felt the same way.
ITBHU was amalgamated by integrating three of the country’s oldest and best engineering colleges: BENCO (Banaras Engineering College) – the first to introduce the disciplines of Electrical and Mechanical Engineering in India, MINMET – the pioneer in Mining and Metallurgy, and College of Technology – the first to start Chemical and Ceramic Engineering.
In my time it was indeed a center of excellence and a lovely place to be in.
Learning from dedicated Professors, who were authorities in their subjects, amidst excellent academic facilities and ambience, elaborate labs and workshops, lush green campus, comfortable hostels, delicious food, expansive sports fields and beautiful swimming pool, the unique library, and the exquisite temple that added a spiritual quality to the scholarly ambiance – it was an unparalleled experience. One could learn heritage and foreign languages, fine arts, music, indology, philosophy, yoga, pursue hobbies like numismatics – the avenues for learning were mind-boggling. The idyllic environs and sanctimonious atmosphere of BHU were ideal for reflection and contemplation and helped one develop a philosophical attitude to life.
Like all premier institutes ITBHU was fully residential, which fostered camaraderie and facilitated lifelong friendships amongst the alumni. I can never forget those delightful days in Dhanrajgiri, Morvi, Vishwakarma, Vishveswarayya and CV Raman hostels.
Way back then, ITBHU was a wonderful place to study engineering. I wonder what my dear alma mater is like now!
Thursday, October 26, 2006
THE BEST OF BOTH WORLDS
(a short story)
A middle aged woman watches the sun set from the balcony of her tenth floor flat of one of those ubiquitous residential “townships” rapidly sprawling and proliferating around the once remote suburb of Aundh on the outskirts of the once beautiful and picturesque city of
“Good news,” his wife says exuberantly, giving him his customary cup of tea.
“What?” the husband asks nonchalantly, carefully pouring the precise amount of tea from the cup into the saucer and lifting the saucer to his lips to enjoy his tea in his usual habitual manner.
“Nalini is pregnant,” the wife exults.
“At long last! I’m so glad she found time from her busy schedule,” the husband comments acerbically and noisily sips his tea in his customary style.
“Don’t be sarcastic. She’s a career woman. Aren’t you happy?”
“Of course I’m happy. I’m over 50 now – it’s high time I became a grandfather.”
“I’ll have to go?”
“For her delivery.”
“Yes. Her due date is sometime in November. I better go as early as possible, maybe in September. Poor thing, it’s her first child. You better get the visas and all ready well in time. Nalini wants me to stay for at least three-four months after her delivery.”
“Three-four months after her delivery? So you’ll be away for nearly six months.”
“Yes. I’m her mother and I have to be there to help her. It’s her first delivery. And that too in
“What about me?”
“You also come and help out.”
“I won’t get six months’ leave.”
“Come for a month. To see the baby. In December.”
“I’ll see. But I don’t like it there. It’s too cold.”
“Then stay here.”
“I wish we hadn’t shifted from Sadashiv Peth.”
“Why? Isn’t this lovely apartment better than those two horrible rented rooms we had? And it’s all thanks to Nalini.”
“I know. I know. Don’t rub it in. But sometimes I wish we hadn’t pushed her into IT. We should have let her study arts, history, literature – whatever she wanted to.”
“And it would have been difficult to find a decent boy for her and she would be languishing like an ordinary housewife with no future; slogging away throughout her life like me.”
“And we would be still staying in the heart of the city and not in the wilderness out here. And you wouldn’t have to go all the way to
“Don’t change the topic.”
“I’m not,” says the husband firmly. “You are not going for Nalini’s delivery to
“But why? She is sending the ticket.”
“It’s not the money. The fact is I don’t want to stay all alone at this age; it’s difficult. And in this godforsaken place full of snobs I don’t even have any friends.”
“Try to understand. I have to be there. It’s her first delivery.”
“Tell me one thing.”
“Don’t American women have babies?”
“Yes. Of course they do.”
“And do they always have their mothers around pampering them during their deliveries? And then mollycoddling their babies for the next few months, maybe even a year?”
“I don’t know,” she said evading an answer, “for them it’s different.”
“Our kobra girls are najuk.”
“Nonsense. They are as tough as any one else. It’s all in the mind. It’s only our mindset that’s different.”
“What do you mean?”
“Thousands of women who have migrated from all over the world are delivering babies in
“Don’t argue with me. It’s our culture, tradition. A daughter’s first delivery is her mother’s responsibility.”
“Culture? Tradition? What nonsense! It’s not culture. It’s attitude! Our people may have physically migrated to
“Please stop your lecturing. I’m fed up of hearing…” the wife pleads.
The husband continues as if he hasn’t heard her, “What they require is attitudinal change and to stop their double standards. Nonsense! Nobody forced them to go to
“Please. Please. Please. Enough! I beg of you. Don’t argue. Just let me go.”
“No. I can’t stay alone for six months. Why should I?”
“Try to understand. I’ve told you a hundred times. It’s our only daughter’s first delivery. I have to be there.”
“Okay. Tell her to come here.”
“Yes. Here. We’ll do her delivery right here in Pune. We’ll go to the best maternity hospital and then you can keep her here as long as you want. She’ll be comfortable, the weather will be good and you can pamper her and her baby to your heart’s content.”
“What do you mean ‘No’? You went to your mother’s place for your deliveries isn’t it? And came back after the babies were more than three months old.”
“That was different. I wasn’t working.”
“Oh. It’s about her job is it? I’m sure they have maternity leave out there. She can take a break. And if she wants to go back early we’ll look after the kid for a couple of months and then I’ll take leave and we’ll both go and drop him there.”
The wife says nothing.
“Give me the phone. I’ll ring her up and tell her to come here as early as possible. I’ll convince her she will be more comfortable here,” the husband says.
“I’ve already spoken to her,” the wife says.
“She wants the baby to be born there. Something about citizenship.”
“So that’s it,” the husband says, “She wants the best of both worlds, isn’t it?”
Copyright 2006 Vikram Karve
Friday, October 13, 2006
TRY FORCE FIELD ANALYSIS.
Many years ago, at work, I used to employ a Management Technique called Force Field Analysis in Project Management. Now I improvise the Force Field Analysis Model to great effect and success, in my personal life too for self improvement, to break bad habits – to change my life for the better. So can you. Let me give you an example.
It was a tough and stressful working day. It was hot and humid, I was tired, sweating profusely, my throat parched with thirst, and as I walked home late in the evening, I found myself opposite my favorite bar. I looked yearningly, tempted, overcome by a strong craving, desperate to have a glass of chilled beer. Nothing like a glass of cold beer to drive my blues away – the “panacea” to my “stressed-out” state!
But I didn’t go into the bar. Instead, I rushed to the nearest Chaatwala and had some pani-puri. The moment I put the first pani-puri in my mouth, the intense overpowering medley of sweet and sour, pungently hot, fiery and spicy flavor of the chutneys, jal jeera and “pani” overwhelmed me and made my craving thirst for beer disappear pretty fast and enabled me to stick my resolve of giving up drinking.
I had suitably improvised the concept of “Force Field Analysis” to break my drinking habit and then keep it that way. Long back, I had quit smoking too, and to stay that way, make sure I didn’t start again, I used force field analysis with great success.
Force field analysis provides a framework for looking at the factors or forces that influence a situation or activity. Restraining Forces are those which inhibit or discourage the occurrence of a particular activity and Driving Forces are those which promote, facilitate and encourage the occurrence of the same activity.
Let’s take the case of drinking. Sit down, close your eyes, and introspect. Can you identify the stimuli, the triggers, the situations, the driving forces, which create in you the desire and give rise to the urge to drink? These driving forces can be anything, internal and external tangible or intangible – people, situations, events, parties, tendencies, moods, foods, social or organizational trends, practices, norms.
Do a simple exercise. For the next week, or even a month, be yourself, live as you do, but mindfully record all the occasions on which you had alcohol and carefully list the driving forces that motivated you to drink. Was it a social event, party, friends, as an appertif before some gourmet food, smoking, dancing, “creativity”, for reducing inhibitions or enhancing excitement as a prelude to sex, tiredness, happiness, celebration, depression, boredom, the company or memories of some people, sad memories, self pity, jealousy, inner craving, addiction…? Do it thoughtfully and make an exhaustive list of the driving forces.
Now make a list of restraining forces that discourage or inhibit you from drinking. Concern for health, Wife’s nagging? Physical Exercise? Values, religious and cultural taboos, regulations like prohibition and no drinking zones, work and hobbies, social encouragement of temperance. Some types of foods too are effective restraining forces [for me, pani-puri, bhel, jal jeera, lassi are quite effective. Also I lose the urge to drink after a good meal]. Through mindful living and personal experience, record the restraining forces meticulously.
Now all you have to do is to strengthen the restraining forces, mitigate and weaken the driving forces and most importantly, where possible, change direction of some driving forces and convert them into restraining forces by using techniques from concepts like NLP, 4T etc or, best of all, your own improvised techniques [like the in lieu substitution method I have evolved for myself].
Learn how to tactfully and effectively avoid drinking. Suppose your friends try to force you, taunt you saying you are a sissy, spoil sport etc simply say, "I really must go," and leave the place. Remember what Epictetus said: If you want to do something make a habit of it; if you want not to do something refrain from doing it. I’ve also read somewhere: If want to be happily married, remain in the company of happily married people. Always be with likeminded people whom you want to emulate. If you want to stop drinking try to be in the company of non-drinkers.
Avoid situations which elicit craving. Substitute drinking for physical exercise, recreation and creative hobbies. Change your lifestyle, your friends, and your activities.
Identify your stimuli, triggers, situations, people and anchors, internal and external, tangible and intangible – the driving forces that facilitate drinking and mitigate them by improvising force field analysis as suits you best. And do let me know if it worked for you!
(a book review)
I’ve got a wonderful book in my bookcase. It’s called The Art of Living: The Classic Manual on Virtue, Happiness, and Effectiveness, a new interpretation by Sharon Lebell. The compact book encapsulates in a nutshell the salient teachings of Epictetus, the great Stoic philosopher.
Whenever I buy a book I write my name, the date and place of purchase on the first page. I bought this book from one of my favorite bookstores Gangaram’s Bangalore on 18 August 1999. There was a time, in the nineties, when I used to visit Bangalore very often. I ensured I stayed somewhere near MG Road, and spend the evenings strolling in the delightful area around MG Road and Brigade Road. A delightful meal of the scrumptious Kerala delicacies like Stew, Appams, Parotta and the Ghee Rice at Imperial on Residency Road, baked delights at Nilgiri, Rosogullas at KC Das and Book Browsing at Gangarams Book Bureau were an absolute must. It’s been six years now, I cherish those memories and hope I get a chance to visit Bangalore soon.
Now let’s have a look at a few gems from this witty and wise book which delves on two basic questions pertaining to the art of living: How do I live a happy, meaningful, fulfilling life? How can I be a good person?
Approach life as a banquet, Epictetus advises. Think of your life as if were a banquet where you would behave graciously. When dishes are passed to you, extend your hand and help yourself to a moderate portion. If a dish should pass you by, enjoy what is already on your plate. Or if a dish hasn’t been passed to you yet, patiently wait your turn… there is no need to yearn, envy, and grab. You will get your rightful portion when it is your time.
Happiness and freedom begin with a clear understanding of one principle: Some things are within our control, and some things are not... and once you learn to distinguish between the two inner tranquility and outer effectiveness become possible.
Events don’t hurt us, only our attitude towards them. Don’t demand or expect that events happen as you would wish them to. Accept events as they actually happen. That way peace is possible.
Create your own merit. Never depend on the admiration of others. Personal merit cannot be derived from an external source. There is no such thing as vicarious merit.
Whereas society regards professional achievement, wealth, power, and fame as desirable and admirable, Epictetus views these as incidental and irrelevant to true happiness. What matters most is what sort of life you are living; a life of virtue, caretaking the present moment. Authentic happiness is always independent of external conditions…your happiness can be found within.
This captivating book has had a profound effect on me; my way of thinking and living, and motivated me to delve into the life and works of Epictetus in more detail and it was heartening to see the congruence and harmony of the teachings of Epictetus with Eastern philosophical wisdom and precepts.
I’m glad I bought this splendid book. It cost me only ninety five rupees. Go down to your neighborhood bookstore and browse through it. I’m sure you will love to have a copy in your bookcase.
Thursday, October 12, 2006
I’ve just relished a bowl of “green chilli ice cream” and the zestful taste still lingers on my tongue. Never before had I enjoyed eating ice cream so much. It was indeed a unique and passionate eating experience. Let me tell you about it.
I love ice cream. Today morning a friend of mine told me that there is a place opposite the Chowpatty Sea Face in Mumbai India that serves “green chilli” ice cream. I didn’t believe him. I have savored myriad flavours of ice cream but “green chilli ice cream” seemed a bit far fetched. On questioning, my friend confessed that he had only heard about it, not eaten it himself.
The very concept of green chilli ice cream whetted my curiosity so much that at sunset I was standing in front of Bachelorr’s (that’s the spelling on the menu card) Ice Cream and Juice Stall, my appetite fully stimulated by a long brisk walk.
It was there on the menu card – Green Chilli Ice Cream. I ordered it and walked with the bowl to a lonely bench nearby to enjoy the eating experience in glorious solitude.
The ice cream looks a creamy pink (not chilli green as I had expected it to be). I close my eyes and smell the ice cream – a nice sweet milky fragrance, a bit fruity; certainly no trace of the piquant penetrating sting of chillies. With a tremor of trepidation I spoon a bit of the green chilli ice cream on my tongue.
My taste buds are smothered by a sweet mellifluous sensation as the cold creamy ice cream starts melting on my tongue. I am disappointed, feel conned – it seems it was just hype. This is run of the mill stuff. Or is it? Wait a moment. As the ice cream melts away I suddenly feel a sharp piercing fiery taste that sizzles my tongue, stings through my nose and penetrates my brain. My tongue is on fire and, like instant firefighting, I instinctively spoon a blob of ice cream onto my tongue. The cool ice cream quenches my burning tongue with its almost ambrosial taste but the moment it melts away I am zipped like a rocket with the sharp punch of the green chillies.
So that was the art of eating green chilli ice cream. Hot and cold. Scorch and quench. Sting and soothe. Contrasting sensations. Like alternating current. Sharp tangy kicks burning through the cool syrupy sweetness till your system is fully perked up. And a trace of the biting tangy flavour of the green chilli remains within me for a long long time as I walk away.
Green chilli ice cream doesn’t satiate – it excites, stimulates, gives you a “kick”, zests you up. It’s a truly passionate delight.
The next time you are in Mumbai, head for Chowpatty and relish a bowl of green chilli ice cream. And let me know if you liked it.
Monday, October 09, 2006
(a fiction short story)
It’s a lazy Sunday morning and I sit languidly in my balcony reminiscing the good old days of my wonderful past, melancholically mourning the gloomy and depressing present, and speculating with foreboding about what the ominous future may hold in store for me.
The doorbell rings. Cursing at being disturbed from my reverie, and wondering who it is on a Sunday morning, I open the door. It’s Monica, my wife Anjali’s friend and colleague, who lives across the street.
“Anjali is not at home,” I say.
“I know,” she says, “I’ve come to see you.”
“Me?” I stare at her baffled.
“Yes. You. I’ve come to see you. I want to talk to you alone.”
“Alone?” I am curious. We’ve never been alone before.
“Yes. Alone. Won’t you ask me to come in?”
“Of course. Please come in. Shall we sit in the balcony?”
“No. We’ll sit here, so no one will see us and we can talk in private.”
Monica looks chic and ravishing, in tight jeans and a close fitting pink T-shirt. I try not to stare at her.
The moment we sit down on the living room sofa, she says, “Suppose you found out that your wife was being unfaithful. Tell me, Ajay, what would you do?”
Taken aback, I say, “What?”
“Suppose you caught her having an affair.”
“What nonsense!” I say angrily, but inside me there germinates a small seed of doubt. Does Monica know something? Why is she saying all this? Trying to hide my fears, I put up a solid face and say, “Come on Mrs. Kumar. You know Anjali. How much she loves me.”
“Hey, stop calling me Mrs. Kumar. I’ve told you before, haven’t I?” Monica says, looks provocatively into my eyes, and asks, “Suppose, just suppose, you caught your wife having an affair, cheating on you, betraying your trust with infidelity…”
“I’ll kill her,” I say instinctively.
“How? What do you mean ‘How’?”
“I mean ‘How’. How will you kill your wife?”
“Well, I don’t know,” I say getting up from the sofa, not wanting to continue this conversation.
“Let’s hypothesize. Would you shoot her? Strangle her? Stab her to death? Suffocate her with a pillow? Push her over the balcony or shove her off a cliff? Electrocute her? Drown her? Douse her with kerosene and set her on fire? An ‘accidental’ gas cylinder explosion?”
“What do you want from me? Why are you harassing me? Please go. Anjali will be here any moment,” I beseech her.
“No, she won’t. I know she’s gone to the health club and parlour. She’ll be back after twelve. We have enough time together, haven’t we?” Monica says mischievously and adds, “Okay, you tell me how you would kill you wife if you caught her having an affair and I’ll go away!”
“I’d probably use poison,” I say and start walking towards the entrance door.
Monica remains seated in silence for some time, and then she looks at me intently and says, her words clear and deliberate, “Poison! The way you finished Nisha, your first wife?”
I stop dead in my tracks. Pole-axed, I can sense a sharp, cold fear drilling into my vitals. I look at Monica, into her shining eyes. She knows! And she wants me to know, that she knows! And now I know that I have no choice. I walk back to my sofa, sit down and say to her, “So you want to kill your husband. Just because you think he is having an affair.”
“You killed Nisha, didn’t you?” she asks, looking directly into my eyes.
I feel very frightened, scared. How much does Monica know? Or is she just speculating, guessing? A shot in the dark. But seeing the venom in her eyes, I realize that I dare not take any chances, so I smile and say, “Well, Monica, you have got your manacles on me, haven’t you?”
“Listen, Ajay,” Monica says, her voice soft, as she speaks in measured tones, “I don’t want a scandal, that’s why I haven’t given him even the slightest hint that I suspect. But I can’t live a lie any longer pretending I am happy. The flimsy façade of our successful marriage, the veneer of pretence – it’s all going to blow-up sooner or later as he is becoming more and more indiscreet and careless.” She pauses for a moment and says, “He’s got to go. Quickly. Quietly. As ‘normal’ a death as you can arrange.”
“Why don’t you leave him? Ask him for a divorce.”
“It’s much better to be a widow than a divorcee, isn’t it?”
I think about what she says. She’s right. It is much better to have all the sympathy of a widow than the stigma of being a divorcee; inherit all her husband’s riches, money, property rather than the paltry alimony. Her husband is rich and successful, and her marriage a social triumph.
“Tell me, who is he having an affair with?” I ask out of sheer curiosity.
“It’s none of your business,” she says angrily. “Just do what I tell you and don’t delve too deeply.”
“I thought maybe…”
“What’s the use? He’ll get another one – bloody philanderer,” Monica says with contempt. “It’s he who has betrayed me and I want to get rid of him fast. You do this for me, Ajay, and my lips remain sealed about Nisha forever. I promise!”
“I’ll clear all your gambling debts, your loans, the mortgages – with the bookies, financers…”
Inside I tremble with indescribable terror; outside I try to be calm and say, “You know all about me, don’t you?”
“I’ve done my homework. Now you execute a foolproof plan. And after it’s all over there’ll be plenty more to come for you. So much money, you can’t even imagine!”
“Okay, let’s brainstorm. You tell me everything about your husband. All details. His food habits. His routine. His programme for the next few days. About both of you. Absolutely everything.”
“I’m thirsty,” Monica announces.
“How about a beer?”
I get two cans of chilled beer from the fridge.
“Hey,” Monica exclaims holding up a beer can, “you know what? Kumar drinks the same brand of beer as you do! It’s his favorite beer.”
“That’s a good start,” I say and clink my beer can with hers, “Cheers! To our success! Now tell me everything.”
She tells me everything. I listen carefully and make notes. And by the time she finishes, in my mind’s eye I am already evaluating the pros and cons of various options how Kumar is going to die.
“How do you want him to die? Instantaneous, or prolonged illness?” I ask Monica.
“I want to finish it off as quickly as possible. Painless. Fast. When he is far away from here. Like maybe during his trekking trip to Mussoorie next week,” she pauses for a moment and says, “but make sure it’s a perfect foolproof job – not even an iota of doubt or needle of suspicion.”
My mind races, exploring and weighing all the options. An Exotoxin which leaves no trace, excretes itself from the organism within a few hours? I keep on thinking, my brain cells working at lightning speed, and all of a sudden I know what I’m going to do!
“We’ll give him something in his favorite beer,” I say.
“What? Tell me, please!” Monica says excitedly.
“Now you don’t delve too much!” I say haughtily. “Just do what I say. Lips sealed. No questions!”
I look at the notes I had made when she was telling me about her husband and ask, “His weight is only 70?”
“That’s right. Seventy kilograms. Five feet ten. Thirty Eight years of age. Ideal, isn’t it? He’s a fitness freak.”
“And he leaves for Mussoorie on Thursday?”
“Yes. Early in the morning.”
“Okay,” I say, “I’ll have the beer can ready by Wednesday evening. Make sure you collect it by six before Anjali comes back from office and see that he drinks it…”
“No. No. You serve it to him. Let him have it here. In front of you. Right here.”
“He’s never come here to our place before!”
“He will. If you invite him.”
“Fine. I’ll tell Anjali to invite you all for dinner on Wednesday evening. She’s been wanting to call you over for a long time.”
“I’ll make sure your Kumar drinks the special beer. He’ll be off to Mussoorie on Thursday, and you should have the ‘good news’ by Sunday morning.”
“He shouldn’t pop off here.”
“He won’t. I’ll calculate everything precisely – make sure there’s at least a 36 hour incubation and proliferation period.”
After Monica leaves, I realize three things. Firstly, murder is a rather lucrative business. Secondly, from an amateur, I am going to become a professional. And thirdly, infidelity is not only reason why Monica wants to get rid of her husband.
Everything works as per my plan. I meticulously keep the vacuum microencapsulated ‘special’ can of beer firmly in its designated place in the fridge on Wednesday morning the moment Anjali leaves for work and before I do.
When I open the fridge the moment I return from work on Wednesday evening I notice that the particular beer-can is missing. My heart skips a beat, I feel a tremor of trepidation and soon I’m in a state of total panic. After a frantic search I find the empty beer can in the kitchen dustbin.
I pick up the can and check. Oh yes, no doubt about it – it is the same beer-can; and it is empty! I try to think, steady my confused mind. Who can it be?
Everything becomes clear all of a sudden and I find myself shaking in sheer terror. I rush to the bedroom, run around the house like a crazy animal. Anjali is not at home. I dial her mobile. An excruciating wait. She answers.
“Anjali where are you?”
“In the mall. Picking up some stuff for the evening.”
“I took half a day off. Came home for lunch, got things tidied up and ready for the evening and am just getting a few things from the market. I’ll be back soon.”
“Anjali. The beer! The beer!” I stutter.
“You want me to get more beer? I thought we had enough.”
“No. No. There is a beer-can missing in the fridge. I found it in the dustbin.”
“Oh, that. I drank it in the afternoon,” Anjali says.
“What? You drank that beer?” I shout.
“Yes. I drank it. I came home in the afternoon. It was hot. I felt thirsty. So I opened the fridge, picked up a can of beer and I drank it. It’s that simple.”
“You stupid fool! Why did you drink that can?” I scream into the phone.
“Stupid fool? How dare you? Ajay, have you lost your mind? I just can’t understand your behavior now-a-days!” Anjali says and disconnects.
It was extraordinary, how my mind became clear all of a sudden. There was no known antidote to the stuff I had synthesized. Clinically, there was nothing I could do. Logically, there was no point in doing something stupid in desperation. It was a question of my own survival. Having sunk to the depths of depravity, all I could do was helplessly wait and watch Anjali die. She was less than sixty kilos, much lighter than Kumar. By Saturday evening it would all be over!
The evening passes in a haze. My heart sinks as I watch Kumar enjoy beer after beer, but what’s the use – that beer-can, the one I specially prepared for him, is lying empty in the dustbin. There is a gleam in Monica’s eye. What excuse am I going to give her? She does not know what’s happened and I shudder to think what she may do when she realizes. At best she may forget everything; but knowing her vindictive streak, anything is possible! Inside I tremble with fear in unimaginable agony; outside I try to present a happy and cheerful façade and make pretence of enjoying the dinner.
Time crawls. I feel wretched and suffer in painful silence the longest and most agonizing hours of my life. Thursday. Friday. Saturday. Nothing happens. Anjali seems normal, in fact, quite hale and hearty.
Sunday. Anjali is still going strong! She sits across the dining table devouring her favorite idli-chutney-sambar Sunday breakfast. Maybe her constitution, her liver, is super-strong; or maybe I’ve goofed up!
My cell-phone rings. It’s Monica. My heart skips a beat.
“Hello,” I say with trepidation.
“You’ve done it! Kumar is dead. I just got a call from Mussoorie,” Monica says excitedly.
“How?” I mumble perplexed in consternation.
“Exactly like you said. In the early hours of Sunday morning. He died in his sleep. They say maybe it was heart failure. Painless, instantaneous death.”
“I’ll come now?” I ask.
“No! No! Not now. We can’t take chances. I’m rushing to Mussoorie now. I’ll finish off everything; make sure the paperwork is done okay. And when I return, you can come and offer your condolences…” I hear Monica’s voice trail away.
I disconnect, put my mobile phone in my pocket and look at Anjali.
“Who was it?” she asks.
“Someone from the office,” I lie.
“No. A man died. That’s all,” I say nonchalantly.
“A man died? That’s all?” Anjali looks at me in bemused bewilderment.
And as I focus my eyes on her, my mind races, twisting and turning like a kaleidoscope, my brain-cells work at lightning speed, and all of a sudden I know what I’m going to do!
Copyright 2006 by Vikram Karve