Thursday, May 24, 2007

Khichdi Samrat




I’ve just had some Khichdi – no, not the yummy lip smacking sabudanya chi khichadi my wife gorges and devours by the plateful whenever she is “fasting” – but the Khichdi one is given to eat when one is convalescing. It’s supposed to be light on the stomach, gives you strength and helps you recuperate. My daughter is ill; hence the Khichdi. The Khichdi I just ate was awful – it was fatless; there was no pure ghee in it, as desired by my darling daughter. In fact, it was so tasteless and insipid that it brought back nostalgic mouthwatering memories of wholesome Khichdi I had savored at Khichdi Samrat on near CP Tank in Mumbai.

To get there, walk up Kalbadevi Road from Metro, turn left at the Cotton Exchange, walk past Panjrapole towards Bhuleshwar, turn right on VP Road towards CP Tank, and soon on your right you will see Khichdi Samrat – an unpretentious down-to-earth eatery. In fact it’s so humble and modest that make sure you don’t miss it and walk on to CP Tank! It is a small place, but I always found a seat; maybe they send out more parcels than have patrons eating in situ.

You can also walk up from Crawford Market, through Zaveri Bazar, past the Gold Exchange and Mumbadevi Temple, to Cotton Exchange; or from Bhendi Bazar via Pydhonie down Kalbadevi Road and turn right at the Cotton Exchange. In case you live in the western suburbs, take a train and get down at Charni Road station, climb the overbridge at southern [Churchgate] end, turn left, walk staright down Thakurdwar Road, cross Girgaum (JSS) Road, continue past Vinay [you’ll be tempted to hop in for a Misal!], turn left at Bhuleshwar on VP Road towards CP tank.

When I used to stay at Churchgate, I used to walk down Marine Drive towards Chowpatty, cross the road near Taraporewala Aquarium, take the lane between Kaivalyadhama Yoga Centre and Savitribai Phule Ladies Hostel, (the lane is called Income Tax Lane), cross the railway overbridge at the southern end of Charni Road Station on the Western Railway, walk briskly on to my destination. Don’t try to drive down – you’ll go crazy negotiating your way – and besides a brisk walk on a hot and humid Mumbai evening will build up in you a voracious appetite – quite conducive, in fact sine qua non, for total enjoyment of, and to do full justice to, the delicious nourishing fare you are going to partake of in Khichdi Samrat. Besides, your march through the crowded gritty bustling streets will prepare you for the gastronomic adventure.

You’ll be surprised, but the first time I went to Khichdi Samrat, one Sunday evening, I didn’t have Khichdi [maybe because of my mental map associating Khichdi as convalescence-food, or maybe because “Dal Bati” was listed on the menu board as a Sunday special and I was curious to sample this dish which I had never tasted till that day]. Tasty wheat flour balls in scrumptious dal with plenty of pure ghee – it was indeed delicious and satiating.

There are ten varieties of Khichdi, ranging from the bland plain khichdi to the special dry fruit kichdi, and I have tried all of them, one on each visit, and I liked the Masala and Vrindavan Khichdis. Do embellish your khichdi with a papad of your choice. There is an impressive array of papads to choose from.

To my delight, I found the other dishes on the menu like the Methi Malai Mutter, Koftas, Kurmas and Paneer gravies very delicious too, and so is the excellent satisfying thali with a medley of dishes. So, if you go there in a group, don’t restrict yourself to Khichdi. And don’t forget to try different rotis and parathas including those made of maka [corn], bajra and the delicious stuffed versions.

Start off with a jal jeera, have chaas to accompany your meal, and end with a Gulab Jamun or Rabdi; or better still walk down to Bhaishankar Gaurishankar nearby to end your repast with some chilled soothingly-sweet rasagullas.

The next time you’re in the heart of Mumbai, do have a meal at Khichdi Samrat, and tell us all about it.


Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Quality Time

(A fictional short “love” story)



At exactly 8 PM her cell-phone rings in her hand. She’s expecting the call – that’s why she’s holding the cell-phone in her hand. She looks at the caller-id, accepts the call, moves the mobile phone near her ear and says, “I love you, darling!”

“I love you, Sugar!” says her husband’s voice from half way around the globe. On his bed beside him, sprawled with arms and legs outstretched like a fallen statue, the woman is still asleep, her breathing untroubled.

It’s a long distance marriage, and the ‘married bachelors’ have been following the same drill for quite some time now – two calls every day at exactly the same time (Eight in the morning she calls him up just before leaving for work and eight in the evening she receives his call from half way across the globe just before he leaves for work). And both of them start their conversation automatically with the words: “I love you, darling! Or, I love you, Sugar!” He’s her ‘darling’ and she’s his ‘Sugar’!)

“How was your day?” the husband asks.

“Hectic. Lot’s of work. Deadlines!” the wife answers. She steals a glance at the handsome young man sitting beside her in the darkened lounge bar.

“It’s terrible here too,” the husband says. “It’s killing, the work. Too much traveling. Sales meets, seminars, conferences. One hotel to another. Living out of a suitcase. I’m feeling exhausted.”

It’s true. The husband is indeed feeling exhausted; a relaxing, satiating kind of exhaustion. He gets up and opens the window and allows the early morning air to cool his body, then turns around and looks at the marvelous body of the woman on his bed. She looks lovelier than ever before, and as he remembers the ferocity of her lovemaking, he feels waves of desire rise within him. Not for a long time has the mere sight of a woman aroused the lion in him to such an extent. He smiles to himself. He feels proud and elated; it was a grand performance. Spontaneous lovemaking at its best; not like the planned and contrived “quality” lovemaking with his wife, full of performance anxiety, each performing for the other’s gratification, and both faking pleasure thinking the other would not know.

“Yes, darling. Poor you. I can understand,” the wife says, and sips her potent cocktail. It’s her third. She wonders what it is – the mysterious but deadly intoxicating cocktails her companion is plying her with, and she is feeling gloriously high.

“I’m just waiting for this hectic spell of work to be over so we can meet,” the husband says. He sits on the edge of the bed and looks at the sleeping woman. Mesmerized, marveling. It is difficult to believe that in a few hours from now they would be addressing each other formally again.

“Oh, yes. It’s been three months and I’m dying to meet you. When are we meeting?” the wife asks.

“I’m planning a fantastic vacation. I’ll let you know soon. We’ll go to some exotic place. Just the two of us. Quality Time!” the husband says to his wife, looking yearningly at the gorgeously sexy woman on his bed.

“That’s great! We must spend some Quality Time together.” the wife says, snuggling against her strikingly handsome colleague. He presses his knee against hers. She presses hers against his. He moves his hand around her over her soft skin and pulls her gently. She feels an inchoate desire. He gently strokes her hair, and she turns towards him, her mouth partly open as he leans over her. Fuelled by the alcohol in her veins, she can sense the want churning inside her like fire. And as she looks into his eyes, and feels the intensity of his caresses, she can sense her resistance melting.

“I love you, Sugar!” the husband says.

“I love you, darling!” the wife says.

Their lovey-dovey conversation completed, both of them disconnect their cell-phones. And carry on with renewed zeal their passionate amorous activity presently in hand. A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush!

I’ve heard somewhere: ‘Absence makes the heart grow fonder – for someone else’.

Married, yet bachelors! Forced distance and unnatural loneliness – for too long. It does take its toll, doesn’t it?

And what about the so-called much touted buzzword ‘Quality Time’?

There’s no doubt about it!

It’s Quality Time that sustains and nourishes long distance marriages.

Yes. Quality Time!

Quality Time – with someone else!

Dear Reader, do you agree? Or, don’t you?


Copyright 2006 Vikram Karve

Monday, May 07, 2007

Lip Sympathy and Crocodile Tears


[a short story]



The doorbell rings. The woman called Manjula opens the door.

“We’ve come to fit the air-conditioner,” the man outside says.

“What? We haven’t ordered any AC,” the woman says and begins to close the door.

“Wait!” her husband’s voice says from behind the man. He’s come home early from work. He guides the man inside while his wife Manjula looks on in bewilderment.

“AC? You gone crazy? You just go and order an AC without even telling me?” Manjula asks her husband.

“Mother told me to get it. Smita and her family are coming,” the husband explains.

“Oh! So all this is for your darling sister and foreign husband, is it? When we ask for a cooler you crib, and for them it’s an AC!”

“He’s not a foreigner. He’s of Indian origin settled there.”

“So why does he need an AC?”

“Mother said they wouldn’t be able to stand the heat here, especially the kids.”

“Listen, Houston is much hotter and humid than here.”

“Maybe. But they are used to air conditioning.”

Please don’t argue with me – as it is the heat is driving me crazy!”

The bell rings again.

“It must be the commode,” her husband says and goes to open the door.


“Yes. Western Style.”

“This is too much! I’ve seen her shitting in the open, in the fields near our village, when she was a kid. And now she’s an NRI and wants to defecate western style? Bloody snobs, I don’t know why they come here and try to show off. And you, the perfect dutiful Mamma’s boy – no guts of your own!”

“What’s the matter? Is everything ready?” she hears her mother-in-law’s stern voice from behind, so Manjula lowers her face and slips away into the kitchen.

“Her name is Manjula [sweet voiced] but she speaks so uncouthly,” her mother says sarcastically.

“Her name is Smita [cheerful] but have you ever seen her smiling or laughing – just carps and cribs all the time,” Manjula mutters to herself.

The NRI guests arrive from Houston, and the next few days are hell for Manjula, physically and mentally. She dies a thousand deaths in her heart seeing the favoritism of her mother-in-law towards her sister-in-law and her family and is unable to bear the patronizing attitude of her guests and the subservient groveling of her husband before his mother. And all the time Smita make sarcastic barbs at Manjula and her incompetence, offering lip sympathy and shedding crocodile tears at old woman’s ‘agony’. And Manjula’s dear husband remains silent, a mute spectator! Why can’t he stand up for her?

One evening, they’ve invited a large number of guests to dinner, and while Smita is reveling in the paeans of praise being showered by her mother and her cronies, Manjula slogs it out in the kitchen.

“See Smita’s house in Houston,” the old woman boasts, showing everyone a photo album [which all NRI’s invariably bring with them to impress us ‘natives’!]. “It’s got a swimming pool, and her children, they are so accomplished, and her husband…” she goes on and on till Manjula can’t take it any more and she interrupts rudely, “ Mummyji, if you like it so much here, why don’t you go and stay there with your darling daughter?”

“What?” her mother-in-law asks disbelievingly.

“I mean, Smita is your own darling daughter after all, and I am sure she will look after you much better than me, isn’t it? After all, they are so well-off, and caring and loving. I’m sure it’s better for you to go there and live in luxury like a Maharani rather than suffering it out here with us!” Manjula says instinctively, but seeing the fiery look in her mother-in-law’s eyes, she starts to tremble.

Time freezes. Manjula feels tremors of trepidation wondering what is going to happen next. She has gone too far this time.

There is silence. A grotesque silence! And suddenly Manjula hears her husband’s voice, “I think Manjula is right.”

“What are you saying?” Smita asks astonished.

“I am saying that Manjula is right. It would be much better is mother stayed with you at Houston for some time. You’ve also got to take some responsibility and look after her, isn’t it?” her husband says firmly to his mother, and then he turns towards Manjula and looks at her in a way she has never seen before.


Copyright 2007 Vikram Karve

Friday, May 04, 2007





I do not remember the precise moment I started smoking. Maybe it was sometime in college, in the seventies, when egged on by my friends I had my first puff. Just for the heck of it.

But what I do remember is the precise moment when I decided to stop smoking – a defining moment of my life.

A friend of mine came to my home in Mumbai late at night from the airport, to spend the night and catch next morning’s early train to Pune. It was late, I was tired after a hard day at work, so I gave him a cup of coffee and hit the sack and crashed out.

Suddenly someone was waking me up from my deep slumber – it was my friend asking for cigarettes.
“There’s a pack on the writing table,” I told him.
“It’s empty,” he said.
“Okay. I’ll get one in the morning,” I said.
“I need a smoke now. I’ll go out and get some,” he said.
I looked at him through my sleepy eyes and said, “Go to sleep. It’s late – there won’t be any shops open now.”
“There must be someplace. Please,” he said desperately, “I haven’t had a smoke since I left Delhi. It’s been four hours. I’m dying to have a cigarette. Just one. I can’t sleep if I don’t get a smoke.”
Seeing his desperate craving, I had no option but to drive out with him in search of cigarettes at the unearthly hour.

Later, lying in bed, I thought about it. Poor chap. We had probably started smoking at the same time. If this could happen to him it could happen to me too if I didn’t wake up. He had become an addict. I didn’t want to become one. There was only one way. Stop smoking. Yes, I had to quit smoking. And I did it. I quit smoking. It’s been three years now, and I know I shall never smoke again. Let me tell you how I quit smoking. Maybe someone out there may benefit from my experience.

The first step towards quitting smoking is to learn how to enjoy smoking. Seems absurd - a paradox - isn’t it? But that’s what I did and I’ll tell you all about it. I realized that in order to fully learn how to enjoy smoking one must first know the art of smoking. I got my clue from a teaching story as I reflected upon it carrying it my mind for a long time until I fathomed the story’s inner depth and meaning.

A seeker asks the master, “Can I smoke while meditating?”
“No,” scolds the master angrily.
Another seeker then asks, “Can I meditate while smoking?”
“Yes,” says the master knowingly realizing that this seeker is on the path to enlightenment.

This is the key, the first step – if you really want to stop smoking. First learn to meditate while smoking. Here is how I did it.

One evening, I take one cigarette, just one, and walk down to Marine Drive and sit down on the parapet in the cool sea breeze watching the sun being swallowed up by the Arabian Sea, crimson-yellow petals being thrown high up in the distant sky gradually devoured by the enveloping twilight. Soon it is dark, quiet and tranquil and I feel calm and relaxed.
I take out the cigarette from my pocket and hold it in front of me, look at it lovingly and close my eyes. You must close your eyes – it accentuates your other senses, makes you more conscious of what’s going on inside you. I hold the cigarette near my nose and breathe in the rich aroma of the tobacco, gently moving the cigarette as I take deep breaths, savoring the sweet fragrance of the tobacco tinged with the fresh scent of the paper and filter, until my olfactory system is truly and fully satiated.

I then put the filter between my lips, taste it and suck in air deeply through the unlighted cigarette. It feels good. I then open my eyes, light the cigarette, close my eyes, get ready and take a deep drag, focusing on my breath as I inhale, allowing the smoke to permeate deep within me, infusing a sensation I cannot describe, and watching carefully with my inner eye as I exhale - slow, long and relaxing.

Is my system being energized or depleted – I do not know – but I continue my unhurried meditative smoking, eyes gently closed, my inner senses fully conscious, aware, observing attentively, till the cigarette is over. I open my eyes, come out of my trance and instinctively I gulp in a huge amount of the fresh sea breeze and rinse my lungs and system.

As I walk back I decide that this is how I shall smoke each and every cigarette from now on – meditative smoking – the only way I shall smoke.

Most of us “smokers” haven’t learnt how to enjoy a smoke. We keep puffing away every waking moment of their lives without even noticing it. You grab a quick smoke in a hurry, you smoke when you are bored, you smoke while talking, while working, while doing something - smoking and multitasking: You smoke unconsciously, cigarette after cigarette, without even realizing it. Is it worth it? Why smoke if you don’t enjoy it?

I decide. Whenever I feel like smoking I shall stop everything and prepare myself for a meditative smoke. Go to some quiet place where I can sit undisturbed, alone. Yes I must be alone. Meditative smoking is a solitary activity. And I shall only smoke – no multitasking. No more smoking with friends, with tea or coffee, no more smoking in the office feeling a guilt conscience that non-smokers don’t like it or at home with my wife nagging me, no more hurried puffs, no more mindless unconscious smoking. Only meditative, mindful, conscious smoking in glorious solitude, maintaining inner calm and tranquility, and total awareness.

I follow this religiously and soon I am smoking only one cigarette a day – every evening, at sunset, just as I described it. For me smoking is a special occasion requiring solitude and a congenial ambience and if I cannot create the right atmosphere, both internally and externally, I shall not smoke.

When you have mastered something it’s time to let go and move on to something new. One day I feel I have mastered the art of smoking, derived all the enjoyment possible and reached a state of contentment and satiety. It’s time to let go. At sunset I go to my favourite place on Marine Drive, enjoy my final meditative smoke and toss the cigarette butt into the sea.

It’s been more than three years now and I haven’t had a smoke nor have I ever felt the urge to smoke. I know I will never smoke again – I have quit smoking forever.

Quitting is easy. You must ensure you don’t start smoking again. You have to break the habit forever. For this it’s best to use a technique like Force Field Analysis which I have described in my article on How to Quit Drinking [link below]:

And if you are worried about withdrawal symptoms, read what happened on the day after I quit smoking:

Dear Smokers and Drinkers who want to quit. Why don’t you try these techniques and tell me if they worked for you.

And Dear Reader, please comment and send me your feedback.


Thursday, May 03, 2007



[The yummy place in Pune on Main Street]



In our younger days we used to frequent three value-for-money eateries on Main Street [MG Road] in Pune – Greenfields for a nourishing fulfilling satiating continental Breakfast, Mona Food for finger licking zesty Chana Bhatura, Marz-o-rin for delicious Rolls, Sandwiches and Cold Coffee, and Naaz for delectable non-veg samosas and stimulating Irani tea. Greenfields has disappeared leaving no trace, Naaz has transformed into a Barista, Mona Food is no longer the simple, unpretentious, no-nonsense value-for-money eatery it once was, but luckily, Marz-o-rin still retains its friendly character.

The signature “dish” of Marz-o-rin is the Chicken Roll – it is matchless – I have tasted Chicken Rolls all over the place but there is nothing like the lip smacking one served by Marz-o-rin. Generous boneless pieces of delicious chicken, the lip smacking mayonnaise, and the soft mellifluous roll – yummy treat – I love it. If you’re vegetarian, try the slightly tangy tomato and green chutney vegetable sandwiches. And wash it down with a cold coffee.

Well that’s what we “old fogies” always did in the “good old days” and still do whenever we visit Marz-o-rin. Now there are many more delightful options, and comfortable seating upstairs and friendly atmosphere in the balcony where you can sit and observe the goings on below while enjoying your snack. I like the hot bakes, especially the Bean Bake Chicken or Cheese, Macaroni, and Spaghetti with the zesty sauces. And, of course, there are all kinds of excellent Burgers, Rolls and Sandwiches, including whole wheat versions for the “health-conscious” foodies. [“Health-conscious Foodie” – now that’s a nice oxymoron, isn’t it?].

The chillers are exciting too – Kool-Blue or Green Apple on a hot and sultry afternoon. And there a variety of juices, shakes, and ice creams to choose from. You can try what you want, everything is appetizing and tasty, but remember, in Marz-o-rin you must relish the Chicken Rolls, vegetable sandwiches and Cold Coffee – for old times’ sake. And don’t forget to take a yummy parcel for the folks at home!


Tuesday, May 01, 2007

The Turning Point




Every evening at precisely 6 PM Shalini Joshi would leave her office, sit in her car, drive out of the parking lot, turn left on Tilak Road, and drive towards her house in Deccan Gymkhana.

Today she turned right and drove in the opposite direction. Now that was surprising. For Shalini Joshi was a stickler for routine. And that was the reason for her success. At thirty-five, Shalini Joshi was a thoroughly successful woman. She was the branch manager with independent charge of a prestigious branch of a leading bank, her promotion was due any moment and there was no stopping her from reaching the top. Her husband, Sudhir, was a doctor with an excellent practice. Everything had worked as per plan. Today Shalini had everything she wanted – a palatial flat in a posh locality, a farm-house in the outskirts of Pune, two lovely children (a boy and a girl), an ideal husband, a doting mother-in-law and all the status and prosperity she could ever hope for. Even her Sundays were planned – a family outing to their farm-house followed by an evening at the club rubbing shoulders with the crème de la crème of society. And the annual vacation – a sojourn at a hill station or a beach resort. Her life was a marvelous success – from the outside.

Shalini parked her car on East Street and walked quickly to the apartment block, looking around furtively like someone with a guilty conscience. She re-checked the address and rang the doorbell. Ajay opened the door. Shalini felt a tremor of trepidation. She wondered if she was doing the right thing.

“I normally don’t see anyone at my residence,” Ajay said beckoning her to sit down. He closed the door, turned towards her, looked directly into her eyes, and said, “But I can always make an exception in your case.”

“I want this visit kept absolutely confidential,” Shalini said, beads of perspiration showing on her forehead. “And whatever we discuss. Please don’t tell anyone.”

“Of course,” Ajay said. “I’ll make some coffee. Then we can talk.”

Shalini followed him into the kitchen, observing with admiration its neatness and organization. This was the home of a self-sufficient man. He hardly needed a wife.

After they had settled down on the sofa, coffee cups in hand, Ajay said, “What is the matter Shalini? Just get it off your chest.”

“I want to divorce my husband,” Shalini said. She was surprised that her words had no effect on Ajay. His manner remained relaxed and nonchalant.

He smiled. “I guessed so.”

“How? I’ve not told anyone. Not even my husband.”

“That’s what people come to me for. It’s my job.” Ajay paused. “Tell me, Shalini. What’s the exact problem? Is Sudhir having an affair or something?”



“Don’t be silly,” shouted Shalini getting visibly angry. “How can you say such an ridiculous thing ?”

“Calm down,” Ajay said. “Then what’s the reason? There have to be some grounds.”

“I can’t stand it any longer. Living a life of pretence, fake and hypocrisy. Just to maintain a facade of conjugal conviviality. I feel suffocated. I just want to break free !” Shalini wiped the tears from her eyes. She looked small, weak and vulnerable ; her composure shattered.

Ajay was ashamed to find that, inwardly, he was glad to hear of her misfortune. Did he really love her that much?

Ajay checked his train of thoughts and said, “Shalini, listen to me carefully. I’m a lawyer. Yes, I do take up divorce cases. But I’m the last resort. You need to see a marriage counselor first. I know a lady. Someone you can talk to, who can empathise with you.”

“I want to talk to you first.”

“Okay,” Ajay said. Tell me everything.”

She talked. He listened. Ajay was easy to talk to and soon Shalini began experiencing a sense of release and a strange feeling of elation. In these moods there was so much to say - the words simply came tumbling out.

When she had finished, Ajay said, “Your problem is that you don’t have any problems !”

“If you’re not going to take me seriously, I’m going. I came for your advice. And help. Not for sarcastic comments.”

“It’s high time you go,” Ajay said gesturing towards the wall clock. “It’s almost 8 o’clock. Your husband may be wondering what you are up to.”

“He comes home after ten. His consulting hours are till 9.30 and then he visits his patients in hospital.” Shalini paused. “I’ll ring up my mother-in-law and tell her to put the children to sleep. She may be worried. I’m always home by 6.30.”

Shalini made the phone call. She told her mother-in-law that she was held up in an important meeting and would be home in half an hour.

At that very moment, when Shalini was making the phone call, Dr. Sudhir Joshi was cruising down East Street after attending an emergency call at the other end of town. His clinic was near Deccan Gymkhana and it was a long drive. Dr. Joshi normally never left his clinic during consulting hours but then this had been a genuine emergency, an important patient and, not to forget, a fat fee. It had been worth it. But there would be a lot of patients waiting for him at the clinic. He would have to work late tonight. Shalini wouldn’t mind. She never did. Suddenly he saw a familiar yellow car. A rare colour – bright yellow. Just like Shalini’s. It couldn’t be? Not here, at this time.

He stopped his car behind the yellow car and looked at the number plate. Yes it was. It was Shalini’s car. Dr. Sudhir Joshi was wondering what his wife’s car was doing parked below an apartment block on East Street at 8 o’clock at night when Shalini came hurriedly out of the gate, got into her car and drove away. It was at this moment that Dr. Joshi decided to pay a bit more attention to his wife.


Copyright 2006 Vikram Karve

Healthy Dating




She stands in front of the full-length mirror and looks at herself. She cringes a bit for she does not like what she sees.

The jeans make her look fat. And the tight top – it’s all wrong!

So she wears a loose dress – Churidar, Kurta and Dupatta – to hide her bulges.

She looks at her new high-heels – should she? They’ll make her look tall, less fat. No. Not today.

Now it’s got to be walking shoes. A brisk invigorating walk from Chowpatty to Churchgate breathing the fresh evening sea breeze on Marine Drive is what she needs to cheer her up.

She stands on the weighing machine at Churchgate station and, with a tremor of trepidation, puts in the coin. Lights flash. Out comes the ticket. She looks at it. Same as yesterday. And the day before. And the day before. No change – either in her weight or her fortune!

Her face falls. She’s trying so much; exercising, dieting. But it’s no use. She looks longingly at the Softy Ice Cream counter.

There is a smart young handsome man with two Ice Cream cones, one in each hand. He looks at her for that moment longer than necessary. She averts her eyes, but he walks up to her and says, “Hi! How are you?”

She looks at him confused. His face seems vaguely familiar.

“You are Sheena’s roommate, aren’t you?” he asks.

She remembers him. He’s Sheena’s boyfriend from HR.

“Here,” he says, coming close, proffering an Ice Cream cone.

She steps back awkwardly, perplexed and taken aback with the man’s audacity.

“Take it fast. It’ll melt,” he says.

She hesitates, confused.

“Come on. Don’t be shy. I know you love Ice Cream. Sheena told me.”

She takes the Ice Cream cone from his hands.

“I’m Mohan. I work in HR.”

She doesn’t say anything.

“Let’s walk,” he says, “and hey, eat your ice cream fast before it melts”.

They start walking. And as they walk slowly out of Churchgate station towards Marine Drive, they slowly lick the creamy yummy ice cream off their cones.

“You walked all the way?” he asks.

“Yes,” she speaks for the first time.

“All alone?”


“You come here everyday?”


“All alone?”

“No. On other days we come together.”

“And today?”

“Sheena’s gone out.”

“For the office do at the disc?”


“And you?”

She’s furious. But she controls herself. No point getting on the wrong side of HR. She hastens her steps and says, “Okay. Bye. Time for me to go! And thanks for the Ice Cream.”

“No. No. Wait. Let’s have a Pizza over there,” he says pointing to the Pizzeria on Marine Drive by the sea.

“No. Please. I’ve got to go.”

“Come on. Don’t count your calories too much. And don’t weigh yourself every day.”

“What?” she goes red with embarrassment! This is too much! So he’s been stalking her - watching her every day. But inside, she secretly feels a flush of excitement.

“Yes. Don’t get obsessed. Like Sheena.”


“She keeps nagging me about my weight?”

“But you’re not fat!” she says.

“Then what would you say I am?” he asks.

“Let’s say you’re on the healthier side?”

“Healthier side? That’s great!” he says amused. “Then you too are on the healthier side, aren’t you?”

“Oh yes. We both are on the healthier side.” She laughs. He laughs. They both laugh together. Healthy laughter!

They sit in the sea breeze enjoying their pizza. He is easy to talk to, she has much to say, and the words come tumbling out.

And so they enjoy a ‘healthy’ date. Relishing delicious Pizzas, and other lip smacking goodies, to their hearts’ content, capping the satiating repast with the heavenly ice creams at Rustom’s nearby.

“Where were you?” Sheena asks when she returns to their room in the working women’s hostel late at night.

“I had a date.”

“You? A date?” Sheena says disbelievingly

“Of course. At Churchgate.”

“A date at Churchgate? Wow! Things are looking up for you yaar!”

“Yes. And you Sheena? How was your date?”

“All ruined. That Mohan. He stood me up. Didn’t turn up at the disc and kept his mobile off.”


“You’ve met him.”

“Mohan? You’ve not introduced me to any Mohan.”

“Of course I have. He’s come here to pick me up so many times. He comes over to meet me at our office too. He works in HR.”

“Oh the guy from HR - the chap on the healthier side! That’s your darling Mohan, is it?”

“Darling? My foot! Bloody ditcher, that’s what he is - to hell with him!” Sheena says angrily and goes off to sleep.

But our heroine cannot sleep. She eagerly waits for sunrise. For at six in the morning Mohan has promised to meet her on Marine Drive opposite the Aquarium. And then they will go together for a ‘healthy’ jog on Marine Drive.

She feels happy, full of anticipation and zest.

Happiness is when you have something to look forward to.


Copyright 2006 Vikram Karve