Creative Writing, Fiction, Stories by Vikram Karve

A literary and creative writing weblog by Vikram Karve of Pune India

Monday, June 26, 2006

The Miscalculation ( a fiction short story) by Vikram Karve

THE MISCALCULATION
(a fiction short story)
by
VIKRAM KARVE



If you decide to murder your husband you must never act in concert with your lover. That’s why I didn’t tell Raj. Or involve him in any way. Not even in a hint. I made my plans alone and with perfect care. An “accident” so coolly and meticulously designed.

Precisely at 12:50 in the afternoon, the ghastly accident would occur. And then my phone would ring. To convey the “bad” news. And I would be a widow. Free. Then all I had to do was to keep cool, maintain a solemn façade, and patiently wait for Raj to return after completing his project in Singapore.

And after the customary condolence period was over, Raj would propose - an act of chivalry, of sympathy, or even “self-sacrifice”. First I would demur, then “reluctantly” succumb to the pressure from my friends and relatives, and accept - just for my children’s safe. And there would be nods of approval all around.

The phone rang. I panicked. There is no fear like the fear of being found out. I looked at the wall-clock. It was only 10.30 am. Had something gone wrong? I felt a tremor of trepidation. The phone just wouldn’t stop ringing. I picked up the receiver, and held it to my ears with bated breath. The moment I heard Anjali’s voice I felt relieved.

“Why didn’t you come to the health club?” Anjali asked.
“I’m not well,” I lied.
“Anything serious? Should I come over?” she asked.
“No!” I tried to control the anxiety in my voice. “It’s a just a slight headache. I’ll take a tablet and sleep it off,” I said cautiously.

“I hope Manish and you are coming over in the evening,” Anjali asked.

“Of course,” I said and put down the phone. I smiled to myself. That was one party Manish was going to miss. Probably they would cancel it and would be right here offering their condolences and sympathy. I would have to be careful indeed. And to hell with the health club and the painful weight loss program. I didn’t need it any more. Raj accepts me as I am - nice and plump. Not like Manish - always finding fault with me. I know I can always depend on Raj. He really loves me from the bottom of his heart.

I looked at my husband’s framed photograph on the mantelpiece. Soon it would be garlanded. My marriage to Manish had been a miserable mistake, but soon it would be over and I would be free to live the life I always wanted. I wish I didn’t have to kill Manish, but there was no way out – Manish would never give me a divorce, and if he came to know about me and Raj, he would destroy both of us, ruin our lives; for he was a rich and powerful man. Also, I prefer to be a pitied widow rather than a stigmatized divorcee.

The plan was simple. I had programmed a Robot to do the job. The huge giant welding robot in Manish’s factory. At exactly 12:45, when the lunch-break started, Manish would enter his pen drive into the robot control computer to carry out a maintenance troubleshooting check. And then he would start inspecting various parts of the robot – the manipulator, end effectors and grippers – to cross-check their programmed movements. It was a routine exercise, and I knew Manish had become complacent as the robot had never developed any faults so far.

But today it would be different. Because I had surreptitiously reprogrammed the software last night. This is what was going to happen. At precisely 12:50 all safety interlocks would be bypassed, and suddenly the robot would activate and the welding electrode would arc 600 Amperes of electric current into Manish’s brain. It would be a ghastly sight – his brain welded out and his body handing like a pendulum, lifeless. Death would be instantaneous. Manish had been a fool to tell me everything and dig his own grave.

It was a foolproof plan and no one would suspect since the program would erase itself immediately. I had ensured that. It would be an accident, an unfortunate accident. Condolences, compensation, insurance – soon I would be a rich widow. Pitied by all. And then I would wait for Raj to come back from Singapore. And after a few days I knew he would propose to me, and I would ‘reluctantly’ accept and everything would happy ever after.

I looked at the wall clock. It was almost 11 O’clock. Suddenly I began to have second thoughts. May be I should give Manish a last chance. All I had to do was pick up the phone and ask Manish to rush home. Feign a sudden illness or something. But no! I tried to steel my nerves. I had crossed the Rubicon, and there was no going back. The tension of waiting was unbearable, but I must not lose my head.

I tried to divert my thoughts to Raj. The first time I suspected that Raj loved me was when he didn’t attend my wedding. Then he disappeared abroad for higher studies and I almost forgot him. And one fine day, after almost fifteen years, Raj suddenly reappeared to take up a job in my husband’s factory.

And when I learnt that Raj had still not married I realized how deeply in love with me he was. At that point of time I was so disillusioned with my marriage that my daily life was rather like sitting in a cinema and watching a film in which I was not interested. Raj and I began spending more and more time together, and somewhere down the line emotions got entangled and physical intimacy followed.

Did Manish suspect? I do not know. Was that the reason he had sent Raj to Singapore? I don’t think so. We had our affair absolutely clandestine.

11.45 am. An hour to go. I began to have a feeling of dread and uneasiness, a sort of restlessness and apprehension - a queer sensation, a nameless type of fear. So I poured myself a stiff drink of gin. As I sipped the alcohol, my nerves calmed down. Today was the last time I was going to have a drink, I promised myself. Once I married Raj I would never drink ; there would be no need to.

In my mind’s eye I could almost visualize my husband sitting in the vacant chair opposite getting steadily drunk every evening. He was an odd creature with effeminate mannerisms that became more pronounced when he was drunk. He was always picking at an absurd little moustache, as though amazed at himself for having produced anything so virile. How I hated the mere sight of him. The very though of my husband made me gulp down my drink. I poured myself one more. And then one more. And one more, when my cell-phone rang.

I shook out of my stupor and picked up my mobile phone. It was an unknown number. I rejected the call. The cell phone rang again; same number. I looked at the number. 65….. - it was from Singapore. Raj? I answered urgently.

“Hello,” I said.

“Hi Urvashi, how are you?” It was Raj.

“Where are you speaking from? Is this your new number?” I asked.

“No. This is Rajashree’s cell-phone,” Raj said.

“Rajashree?”

“Speak to her,” Raj said.

“Hi Urvashi,” a female voice said, “Raj has told me so much about you.”

Strange. I knew nothing about her! So I said, “But Raj has told me nothing about you!”

“I know,” Rajashree said, “it all happened so suddenly. Love at first sight, whirlwind romance, swift wedding.”

“Wedding?” I stammered, shocked beyond belief.

“Yes. We got married yesterday and are on our way to our honeymoon, on a cruise liner.”

“You bitch! Give the phone to Raj,” I shouted, losing control, the ground slipping beneath me.

“Hey, chill out. What’s wrong with you?” Rajashree said calmly, paused for a moment, and spoke, “Raj’s gone to the embarkation booth. Hey, he’s waving to me. I’ve got to go now. Bye. We’ll see you when we come there.” And she disconnected.

I stared at my cell-phone, never so frightened, never so alone. I felt as if I had been pole-axed. I looked at the wall-clock. 12.55. Too Late! My blood froze.

The telephone rang. I picked it up, my hands trembling.

“There’s been an accident, madam,” said the voice. It was the company doctor. “We are rushing Manish Sahib to the government hospital. I am sending someone to pick you up.”

“Government hospital? Tell me the truth,” I shouted hysterically. “Is he dead?”

“No. He’ll survive.”


Manish did survive. I wish he hadn’t. For his sake. And for mine. For till this day he is still in coma. And I know I will have to live with a ‘vegetable’ all my life.

It was a small miscalculation. 600 Amperes wasn’t enough. But then the Robot is a machine. The real miscalculation was about Raj!





VIKRAM KARVE

vikramkarve@sify.com

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