After a few minutes, Ramesh suddenly turned to Mohanaswamy and asked, “Mr Mohan, what about you? Are you in love? I mean...I suppose...you are not married yet?”
Mohanaswamy’s throat felt parched, he had not quite expected this question. He looked at Ramesh’s face for a while and asserted, “Yes, I am in love.”
“May I know the name of the lucky girl?”
“Kaar...thi...kaa,” he said, drawling out the syllables, so that it sounded like a girl’s name.
He did not want to tell a complete lie.
“Sweet name,” Ramesh said.
“Thanks,” said Mohanaswamy and smiled. You don’t have a car, you have only thikaa, bum...but you are still called Karthika, Mohanaswamy would often tease Karthik.
“How long have you been together?”
“Um...it’s been five years now.’”
“Where did you meet her first?’”
“We met in a train. Both our reservations were termed RA/C, which meant that we had to share a berth during the entire journey. This first acquaintance eventually turned into love.”
The memory of that first meeting, a night’s train journey suddenly heated up Mohanaswamy’s body. How easily Karthik had accepted him on such a short acquaintance and made love to him that night!
“Oh! So romantic! Have you informed your parents?”
“Yeah...we introduced ourselves to each other’s parents in just three months.”
Karthik had taken him to his town within three months of their friendship and introduced him to his father and mother. “Please...let’s not sleep together in one room, it unnecessarily gives way to suspicion,” Mohanaswamy had pleaded, but Karthik would not listen. That night, Karthik copulated with him in the room, without making noise. Karthik’s parents had taken a liking to Mohanaswamy for his modesty and unassuming manner.
“That means they have accepted you?’”
“Certainly...her parents are very fond of me.”
“How lucky! Then you must be seeing each other often.”
“Uh huh...we roam around a lot on my bike. She loves riding pillion with me. During weekends, she insists we go out. We keep going to different places – like Mysore, Beluru-Halebidu, Ooty and so on – Karthika doesn’t like to stay back in Bengaluru during weekends.”
“That means...you both stay in the same room in the hotel?” Ramesh asked nervously.
“Of course. How can we, being lovers, stay in separate rooms?” said Mohanaswamy with a laugh.
Will Karthik ever agree to it? Never.
“That means, physical relation between you two...sorry, don’t misunderstand me for asking this,” Ramesh said hesitantly.
Mohanaswamy laughed again.
Now he had began to enjoy spinning these yarns.
“Yeah... In fact, she is keener on it than me. If we don’t do it at least twice a week, she will not be happy.”
Not twice a week, Karthi’s libido is so high, he wants it twice a day.
“Oh! But being older, I have some advice for you. Please be very careful to avoid untoward events. Life is very unpredictable, you never know what course it will take next,” Ramesh said.
“I keep telling her the same thing, but she is stubborn. She is not in favour of using condoms. She says condoms reduce pleasure.”
Will Karthi ever agree to buy a condom? No, never. We have never bought one.
“Is she careful at least?”
“She tells me nothing will happen to her and not to worry.”
And what can happen to Karthik? Mohanaswamy smiled as he visualised Karthik carrying around a full-blown pregnant belly!
“Even then, please be careful.’
“Where does she stay? Close to your house?’
“No, no...We stay in the same house. Living together.”
“Oh my god ... nobody raises any objection?”
“No...in fact her parents are happy with it. They only advise us to avoid bickering with one another and live amicably.”
“What about the landlord who has let out the house to you?”
“Oh...My landlord’s family is very fond of us. They sometimes even give us homemade sweet dishes.”
“I did not know that Bengaluru has moved so far forward...I used to read in newspapers, but somehow never believed it.”
“Do you see anything wrong in this?”
“No, no... absolutely not...I can understand...But still my advice to you both is, please get married soon. It is not good to stay unmarried for long.”
“But we have never thought of marriage!”
Ramesh was stumped once again. “Are you serious?”
“To be honest, it is only pleasure that is on our minds right now. We don’t want to take the hassle of getting married and raising kids.”
“Don’t say that. There’s so much pleasure in family life as well. You must not deprive yourselves of it.”
“Okay, let’s see. May your blessings be on me.”
“In fact, I can personally come over and assist you in your wedding preparations. Just give me a call,” he said enthusiastically.
“Many thanks, sir. I will definitely call you when the time comes.”
Ramesh pondered over what Mohanaswamy had said and found it incredulous. How different are the ways of the younger generation! Though I was deeply in love with Smitha, it took me one long year to be bold enough to kiss her. But these youngsters! They have the courage of their conviction.
Mohanaswamy immersed himself in his Kannada book again. His heart was overflowing with inexpressible joy. It had been a great pleasure to be able to converse about his love life and fantasies with someone – though a stranger – during this journey.
After lunch, Ramesh mentioned Karthika yet again. “Mr Mohan, if you don’t mind, can I see her photo? From what you have told me about her, she seems to be a bold girl. I am curious to see how she looks. You must be carrying her photo in your wallet.”
This caught Mohanaswamy unawares.
Soon he would have to face the consequences of fabricating so many lies!
Nevertheless, he gathered courage and decided to handle the situation cleverly.
“I don’t keep her photos in my wallet,” he said, even though two copies of Karthik’s photo were always there in his wallet. “She doesn’t like it. She tells me, ‘I should be in your heart and not in your wallet.’”
“Oh!” Ramesh was disappointed.
Mohanaswamy felt sorry for puncturing the man’s excitement and decided to come out with another lie. He probably had photographs of some woman in his laptop. One of them could surely pass off for Karthika.
“Oh...I forgot...I have her photo in my laptop. I will show you,” he said.
“Oh, superb! Please do,” Ramesh insisted.
“Just give me five minutes.’”
He retrieved his laptop case from the locker overhead and went and sat on another seat to avoid Ramesh’s gaze. He shuffled through the image files but they were full of his and Karthik’s pictures, taken from their digital camera at different locations. Then there were posters of handsome film heroes from Bollywood movies – Akshay Kumar in Dhadkan, Hritik Roshan in Kahon Naa...Pyaar Hai, Salman Khan in Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam and the debutant Kannada hero Sudeep in Sparsh. Not a single photo of a woman. Finally, he spotted a girl in a photo which had been clicked when Karthik and he had gone for a trek.
Karthik had a craze for trekking, but Mohanaswamy never really enjoyed it. Once, after coming back from a trek to Kumaraparvatha, he had developed an excruciating pain in his legs. Karthik had tenderly kneaded his legs to relieve the pain.
A couple of girls had taken part in the trek, whose names Mohanaswamy had now forgotten. He saw them in the pictures – in which Karthik was also present – one girl was taller than him and another one matched his height. Mohanaswamy decided to present her as Karthika. He went back to his seat and held out the laptop to Ramesh. “Here you go...”
Excerpted with permission from Mohanaswamy, Vasudhendra, translated from the Kannada by Rashmi Terdal, Harper Perennial.