KALPNA IN RAIPUR: Short Fiction by Stephen Gill


Kalpna in Raipur by Stephen Gill is an engaging and thought-provoking short fiction about love between a woman professor from India and an Indian Diaspora in Canada. One believes in love and another in the theory of detachment. The result of these two views is the base of the 8th chapter under the Chhattisgarh Series that raises a question if the theory of detachment was responsible for slavery of India and now corruption?
All the characters of KALPNA IN RAIPUR are products of the author's imagination. Resemblance to any person or place is coincidental.
CHHATTISGARH SERIES: KALPNA IN RAIPUR, the eighth short fiction in the Chhattisgarh Series by Stephen Gill, is about love between a woman professor from India and an Indian Diaspora writer in Canada.
The fiction is based on five thousand years old theory of detachment. The first about Kalpna and detachment was the seventh and the next would be the ninth short fiction.
Short Fiction by Stephen Gill
The theory of detachment was originally to fight evil without expecting any reward and to escape cycles of rebirth. Many variations appeared from to time. All supported commitment and detachment. The latest prominent advocate of the detachment theory was Dhirindera Bramchari who owned a gun factory in Jammu in India. He was a rich baba who piloted his own aircraft. He died in a crash.
The meditation that Reghu supported was to tap the healing source for rejuvenation to face challenges by letting the stress go, not the problems unless these problems were imaginary or exaggerated. Reghu supported the meditation that encourages to cooperate consciously with the real self to bathe in the relaxing rays of love to permit them to touch every part of the body. Such a meditation involved listening to the music of the body and letting it permeate every virtuous and secret place.
Reghu believed that the detachment on which Kalpna had practiced was in the citizens’ routines to dissociate them from natural desires and to alienate them from life. Kalpna’s meditation for detachment had clouded the rose-colored glasses of Reghu’s thinking. He planned to discuss this cloudiness with her in Raipur, face-to-face. Reghu was not sure if Kalpna would come, because she had cancelled their dates at the last moment in the past. They had argued over the phone about the cancellations. She often blamed Reghu saying those dates had been his plans which he had made without consulting her. Reghu used to say that his plans were to invite her either to modify them or just disagree because she never came up with her own, except that to be careful in a narrow-minded Indian society. Kalpna’s excuses forced him to see her differently. To avoid suspicions, Reghu suggested that he would introduce her as his biographer. This made it easier for them to move around in India. He was spending money and time on his visits, and life in India was not friendly, he often thought.
It was December when Reghu reached New Delhi from Canada. He was excited to visit the Great Palace of India, a shopping mall, because it was a pride of Delhi. It was an opportunity for Reghu to buy books, a brief case, and a pair of leather shoes as well as to exchange his money into local currency and to take a relaxed tour. Reghu grew even more excited when he repeatedly heard the psalms about the beauty of the Great Palace. Hearing these psalms, Reghu’s eagerness to be with Kalpna grew.
One day, his niece dropped him off, promising to pick him up when he phoned after finishing his shopping. Once in the mall, Reghu phoned Sharon, another niece, to ask her to meet him at McDonald’s on the first floor for company. Unfortunately, the battery in his cell phone was low and he could make only one call. It was fully charged when he had left home. To be sure that he was not mistaken, he had asked the male servant at the home of his niece’s home to check his cell phone and be sure it was completely charged. He had checked and re-checked it. Reghu was now puzzled-- Search for a charger became his first priority.
Reghu went from shop to shop. He must have contacted 7 to 10 cell phone shops, explaining his problem. Most of the salespeople were unconcerned. Reghu was worried
because without his cell phone he would be out of touch with everyone. A security guard suggested him to go to Savitri Market, which faced the Great Palace of India.
Reghu almost hesitated to cross two streets jammed with cows, dogs, donkeys, bicycles, taxis, and men and women of all ages. It took around 30 minutes to cross the two streets and visit shop after shop. Nobody knew where Savitri Market was, though he discovered he was already there when a passer-by informed him so. Reghu was not able to convince any store employee to help him. His cell phone was a popular brand, so he went to that store. The salespeople there were the most difficult to deal with. Frustrated, he returned to Great Palace. He was again screened at the entrance, as passengers were at the airport with their luggage.
Reghu was tired and thirsty, yet most of the time Kalpna was on his mind. He remembered the days when he and Kalpna used to go out, and sometimes with her roommate, on Mall Road of Simla, talking about mythologies and literature. Thinking about Kalpna, he reached McDonald’s. There was a long line. Reghu asked a garbage collector the price of a Coca Cola. He said it would be 19 to 20 rupees; the cashier, a young girl, asked 34 rupees for a medium Coca Cola. He asked for a small Coca Cola, because he had only twenty-four rupees on him. Still, he was short of the exact change. He offered his credit card, as well as American and Canadian currency, but she expected rupees. A man standing behind Reghu, either in a hurry or to help, asked Reghu if he could do him a favor. He offered to pay the amount. Reghu wanted to give him whatever rupees he had, but the man would not accept any payment.
While roaming within the India Palace, Reghu thought of how the practice of detachment was Kalpna’s absolute favorite. To him, detachment was a self-centered practice. The India Palace itself was the result of cooperation among people with different skills and concerns. It was the manifestation of cooperation in action, not detachment. Then Reghu saw a book store on the ground floor. It was small in comparison with Coles and others in Canada. As he entered, a security guard stopped and asked him to leave his brief-case with him. Reghu did not feel comfortable doing so, because his passport, and other necessary documents were inside the case. Looking around, Reghu saw a slim, boyish man who appeared to be the store manager. Reghu explained his concern about leaving his brief-case with a stranger, even if he was a security guard, so the manager let him carry his brief-case in the store.
Reghu headed to the reference section for English to Hindi and Urdu dictionaries. Interestingly, these expensive dictionaries were from Oxford and Cambridge. He saw another person, also boyish-looking, browsing books. Reghu asked if he worked there. Reghu told him that he wanted to buy a directory of the news media, as well as, for universities and colleges. The young man informed Reghu that they had some directories about the United States, but nothing about India. So Reghu settled for a dictionary. The cashier did not accept his credit card for less than a purchase of 300 rupees. He came back to the reference section and bought one more book though he did not need it.
Reghu realized that most stores in the Great Indian Palace were small, and nearly every store had at least one security guard who looked like a sort of a show piece. There must be an information booth in such a prominent place where he could ask if there was facility, where he could charge his cell phone, and exchange his dollars. Someone directed him to the information bureau located in a corner that was almost empty. Shortly three or four boys arrived. She started answering everyone. There was no line and one who could shout louder had his question answered. Reghu was still there and his questions were not answered because she was attending everyone at the same time. It was unusual for Reghu.
Reghu thought he did not come to the mall to spend the entire evening at the information booth. He left to buy the brief case and pair of leather shoes for which he was also there. He roamed for two hours, also asking if there was a way to charge his cell or a bank or somewhere he could exchange his dollars. He was also thinking of how to get back. His cell phone was dead, and he did not have enough money to pay for even the cheapest transportation. He went back to McDonald’s to relax and to see if Sharon was there. After a few minutes he started walking towards the entrance. Nearly everyone had a cell phone. Reghu found a gentleman, who helped him to phone his niece. She arrived in minutes.
“I have seen the Palace of India, the pride of the capital of India. It should have a bank at least.”
“I thought there was one,” she replied.
“Perhaps they don’t need a bank. I did not see any white tourist there. Tourism is a productive industry these days. We learn from each other through exchanges. Indians do not need to go abroad to learn. India should do something to attract foreign exchange and learn through visitors. ” Reghu suggested.
When he entered the house, the first thing Reghu did was charge his cell phone. He found out that Kalpna had phoned him twice. He read her email message in which she agreed to come to Raipur from Indore. Within a week, Reghu boarded Rajdhani Express, a fast and clean train from New Delhi. Once cozy in his reserved seat, Kalpna’s round, smiling face emerged before him.
She had told Reghu that the college did not grant her leave to come to Delhi to visit him. She invited Reghu to come to his home to stay with them. When he was in Canada it was decided that she would come to Delhi and then they would decide the next step. He did not feel like going to her home. Moreover, he had never met her husband in person.
Reghu began to think of the day he saw Kalpna for the first time in a conference at Meerut University. That was thrilling. Then he remembered being frustrated. That led him to think of another frustration when she volunteered to book a room in Simla, but failed. Kalpna knew Simla because she had been there for her refresher courses before. Reghu believed that when a person offers to help someone, especially without even being asked, then that person should honor it, except in case of an emergency. Kalpna could not imagine a foreigner with luggage. Though Reghu was born in India, it was a foreign land for him. Then her behavior at Kaligarh University was bizarre.
While Reghu was in Canada, Kalpna used to email him that she would walk with him. She wanted to walk, but in her latest correspondence she wanted distance, and no pressure of any kind-- Reghu argued with himself while on the train. Gradually, he asked her to write to him whenever she wanted him to phone. This became the norm. Reghu had spent most of his life abroad and therefore at times it became difficult for him to understand India even though he appeared to be from India and spoke the language.
His most recent visit to India had been about two and a half years ago. Prior to that he had not visited India in about 20 years. That visit was 15 years after another visit and that visit was 12 years after another visit. Over the years, he had noticed changes around Delhi. Older generations and neat-looking people were addressed as “babuji” when he was growing up in Delhi. Now, they were addressed as “uncles” and “aunties”, expressions which appeared more polite to Reghu. Also there was now more traffic and noise every where and Delhi remained alive the whole night. Moreover, he saw more crowds everywhere.
He had heard that taxi drivers cheated visitors from abroad. He decided to speak in Punjabi, a language he seldom spoke in Canada, but still spoke with confidence. He also avoided using words such as “OK”, “Bye”, and “Ya” to avoid being detected as from North America. He was shocked on his first day when the Sikh driver knew that he lived in Canada. He had hired a taxi from the airport to take him to his niece’s home in Noida. When they reached Reghu’s niece’s house after an hour or so, the driver asked Reghu, “Uncle how long have you been in Canada?”
It was scary, because Reghu was speaking Punjabi in a Punjabi way. He asked, surprised, “How do you know this?”
“Uncle, instead of asking how many rupees, you asked how many dollars?”
Reghu had practiced not using the word “dollar”, but this was an unintentional error that was hard to avoid.
Reghu’s thoughts went to Kalpna, who claimed to be liberated and wrote against the literature that bogged women down. She condemned particularly Manu Smriti and Panchtantra because they degraded women.
Reghu had booked a room in a hotel in Raipur. It had been a week since he was last there when he and Kalpna met in a restaurant. Their talk centered on mythology, a discipline in which Kalpna had published scholarly papers and a book.
Reghu asked, “You have visited Raipur often because your sister is here. You must know about temples which display scenes from Panchtantar.”
Kalpna answered, “Panchtantar is a book of fables that promotes female-biased ideology. Its author, Vishnu Sarma, exploits the myths of Sita, Sati and Savitri. In Panchatantar a woman is presented as dumb and as a seductress. Vishnu Sarma denounces women because he believed they personified frailty, ignorance, weakness and unreliability. At one place, its author advises his disciples from the royal families to avoid the war which cannot bring land and women. He quotes seven evils and woman is the first and at the top of them. Scenes from Panchtantar are found at Sirpur temple also.”
“Has Panchtantra influenced India in any way?” Reghu was inquisitive, though he believed it did.
“Panchtantar is responsible for social wrongs, including child marriage, female infanticide, and honor killing, but it has also opened doors for more awareness programs to inform women of their rights and governments to set up special women’s shelters and telephone help lines for victims,” Kalpna said.
“I believe,” Reghu interrupted, “that democracy has brought a new light for repressed classes, but sorrowfully it has not kept its promise for a promised land for women. On the one hand, some women are at the peak of their success, like Indira Gandhi, who became Prime Minister of India. On the other hand, a vast majority is suffering silently. Violence and prejudice against women are dying, but the rate is painfully slow, largely because of the elite that has been producing corrupt political leaders who have been corrupting the media and police.
Reghu continued. “Women are bones of the same body. If a part of any bone suffers, the whole body suffers. The main source of this suffering is the electoral ethics. Presently, India has more or less the democracy of the elite. To change this elitism, it is necessary to eliminate the law-makers who exploit their caste, religion or language to come to power. The electorate should elect those who are the best for the job. They should read the pages of their past to know if they had been involved with corruption.
“There cannot be peace and prosperity unless there are justices. The political representatives are obliged to speak for the Divine authority that is just in the distribution of His gifts to rich and poor, sinner and sinless, black and white, old and young, male and female and the list can go on and on. The political shepherds are elected with the votes of every citizen. They ought to represent them without discrimination.”
Kalpna argued, “Vishnu Sarma, the author of Panchtantra, fabricated animal tales to teach discrimination to his disciples who had been from royal families.
Kalpna continued, “another book that degrades and discriminates against women is Manu Smriti-- It is a book of laws. It belongs to oral tradition of India.”
“How does it degrade and discriminate against women? You have written about them both. Being a knowledgeable woman, your ideas are important in the India of today.” Reghu tried to be sincere in his assessment.
“Sarma says that women are insatiable and unreliable.” Kalpna replied.
“How did he reach the conclusion about the physical hunger of women?” Reghu asked.
Avoiding answering directly, Kalpna said, “According to a mythology, Manu Smriti is the word of Brahma and Brahma is Creator. It may have been written around 1500 years before Christ. It is full of venom against women and the lowest casts. It says that women lead men astray. Therefore, wise men should avoid being alone with even his mother, daughter, or sister. Also, they should not marry women from low casts and under no circumstances should women be allowed to be independent. Women should worship their husband, even if the husband is sexually perverted and without great qualities.”
Kalpna continued. “Conservative groups pick up gems when Manu Smriti says that the society that respects women prospers and a family in which women are unhappy due to their men are bound to be destroyed. Also, it discourages polygamy and allows her to marry a man of her own choice when she attains maturity.”
“It reminds me our own relationship,” Reghu interrupted.
“What is that?” Kalpna asked, smiling.
“I have pointed it out often that you always hide behind the bushes of perspective. This is the main irritant in our relationship. There are observable abrupt changes in your attitude.” Reghu also informed Kalpna, while sipping tea.
Reghu continued. “Since we met, I have never seen you the same for more than a few days. You are as charming as is the full moon, and keeps changing as the moon does. When I discuss this changing aspect of your personality, you do not consider it worth discussing. You say you are constant in your love, though you take refuge in the view of perspective. When you do not find logic to admit a cover-up or a change in your attitude, you say you were not able to understand why you behaved that way. The ugliest example is your behavior at the Kaligarh University conference.”
“You have not seen much of me,” Kalpna added.
“It is not that easy to see or talk to you, except over the phone. I live in Canada and you in India. There are oceans between us. Let us make use of the modern technology.” Reghu suggested.
“Which one?”
“The situation in which I live is not suitable. I rent a two-bed-room apartment. When I come home after teaching at the college my husband is there. He keeps an eye on my correspondence. He often asks questions. When I return from Raipur, he is sure to ask questions and questions. It is a nuisance. I give him my passwords for every email ID. I am weak. I cannot keep my privacy, as women do in the West, though I fight for the rights of Indian women.”
“You must have more than one ID.”
“I had one for us, which we used for our personal communication. I am still afraid because he is always around.”
“Does he have any hobbies or go out? He must have friends.”
“He has no hobby or friends. He teaches Mathematics at a school and comes straight home after the school hours.”
“Does he drink?”
“Why don’t you suggest that he take an interest in something else also or do some volunteer work. We all owe to society. Volunteering is good also for the mental health.” Reghu argued.
“His only interest is to be around the house and be critical.”
“What does he criticize?” Reghu asked.
“Everything. He blames me when a male looks at me while walking or traveling on a bus.”
“He seems to be a disciple of Vishnu Sarma, who wrote Manu Smriti which says that a woman is a seductress.”
“The other day, he blamed me for wearing a sari of a certain color. He approved it before going out shopping when I asked. When he saw a male looking at me, he started criticizing me for wearing that sari and the matching blouse.”
Reghu began to think as she paused going in deep thoughts. Suddenly Kalpna smiled and said, “His only interest is using me as a toy.”
“It is mainly because he has no other interests. He needs a toy to pass the time.” Reghu said.
Kalpna smiled and said, “I cannot engage him in any intellectual conversation, because he does not read newspapers, books and he does not have even one master’s degree, though he told me before marriage that he had two. After marriage, when I wanted to see them, he covered up his fabrication by saying he lied to win me over. That lie, and a few others, has tortured me for 13 years. He is around, always critical and finds nothing good in me. He does not make enough to take care of the family. ” Kalpna’s eyes became tearful. “My sister advises me to leave him, but I am weak.”
Trying to change the subject, Reghu proposed, “Let us talk of the religion of love and the politics of peace. We will meet here tomorrow. ”
“I am a secular Hindu. I believe in your philosophy of “live and let live,” because it generates peace.”
Reghu responded. “But live and let live and your meditation on detachment do not go together. Modern psychology stresses that attachment is important even during infancy. Right from the time infants come into the world, they develop attachment with their parents. As infants develop, their needs also develop. They extend the boundaries of their attachments to the objects around them, including their toys. Their attachments keep developing in myriad shapes. They develop codependency which is the ability to nourish a mutually satisfying relationship. One sided relationships are emotionally destructive. Doing something for someone makes the doer feel good. Such actions should be appreciated which is a way to participate in the joys and woes of others genuinely.
Reghu continued. “Love and detachment are incompatible because one leads to the region of concerns and the other to the cave of aloofness and withdrawal from that region. Even if detachment becomes active, it remains an inward-looking eye. It does not produce real emotions, as love does. To control the flow of the attachment, some people practice detachment. I have discussed Osho or Rajneesh in my story Bastar. He was a product of a loveless atmosphere. Immediately after the Second World War, the orphaned children presented problems. The children who were deprived of love did not know how to express their own love if they had any. They had no source and, therefore, their emotions had been artificial. They turned rebellious and reckless, and many lied profoundly. Such children who experienced a detached atmosphere rarely could keep a friend,” Reghu argued.
“Meditation is to relax,” Kalpna said.
“I am not against meditation. In this jittery life, we all need time to relax, focusing on one point. Some meditate on breathing, or a flower or anything. The idea is to forget the feverishness, to breathe slowly, and let the heart pump without strain. The ideal form of meditating is to focus on the supreme power because He is the source of wisdom and energy and both give courage and power to overcome fears. Instead of running away from
fear, it is better to understand its origin and find ways to overcome it through wisdom. To find a way to be detached is the way to forget the origin of fear. The origin remains there and anxieties keep multiplying.”
“Who advocated the ideology of detachment?” Kalpna asked.
“You know it better than I do.”
“Those advocates lived in a different era and had different duties and obligations,” Kalpna said.
“We are living in the era of a global village, where non-violence and love should be free from the brain-rattling forces, and the blueprint to “live and let live” should be transparent. Any individual, no matter where he or she is born, who believes in unconditional love, has mystical ties with India. They see the world with the binoculars of the Vedas. Such persons belong to India in spirit, and it is the spirit that matters. If the spirit is gone, the body is lifeless. ” Reghu paused for a second to resume,
“Indian philosophy is for love. Brahma did not create humans to close their eyes to the beauties around them. The sun, air, water and the earth are free for humans to use for their benefit, not to run away from them. Brahma loves humans through His gifts and humans must accept these gifts. If there is problem, it is best to ask Him to give them energy and wisdom to solve it. Without love, a human is blind. The world turns into a dandakarnya of fear for a blind being. Infants begin inhaling and exhaling love as soon as they enter the world. Love itself is God and God is love and love is Truth and Truth is the embodiment of the Vedas. Meditation on love is the anecdote of evils. Such meditations uproot ego to bring peace, and Jesus said “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.”
Reghu continued. “Love is the pillar of peace. The self-anointed representatives should exemplify love to create peace to save their electorate from perishing in the war for justice. Oppressed citizens under the wheels of injustice do not love their oppressors.”
“Detachment is the way to peace,” Kalpna emphasized.
“Detachment is the way for inaction,” Reghu retorted.
“Krukshetra War was an action and also because of detachment.” Kalpna replied.
“Detachment drugged the descendants of the panduas to sleep when the Moguls ruled India for about 700 years and a handful of killers from Afghanistan invaded the Temple of Somnath 17 times. Vedantic advice is to seek Truth and to me God is love and love is Truth and Truth is peace. Look up and see how this bulb is burning itself to give light. What happens if the light hides itself in the comforting cocoon of detachment. Love is the light that is in action. I have talked about it in my short fiction Jagdalpur and elsewhere.”
“I was busy. I will read Jagdalpur when I get back.”
“You were the first to read it. It is your love with detachment.”
Kalpna laughed. “We will talk more tomorrow,” she said, walking with Reghu out of the restaurant.
Reghu went on. “Because it is in the interest of the elite, they always advocated--- that there would not be peace in the world unless a person is at peace with her or himself first because contaminated vibrations accumulate in the mind to break out in the form of war. How could detachees spread peace and shape the global situation if they were not concerned? Instead of peace, there would be chaos if detachees become desireless and free from love. They would continue meditating in a woodland of refuge from concerns. It is a way to be homeless-- to stop the overflowing of joy.
“Detached citizens are not obliged to perform any action because they gain nothing and lose nothing. They live for themselves. Recently I was corresponding with a professor of English who meditated for detachment. I asked her to elaborate on her practice and belief because I was writing on this topic. She stopped writing to me. She must have thought that she was passing on her knowledge for the benefit of someone else. It is a typically Indian trait to die with the knowledge instead of sharing. It is selfish. We all know this Indian trait, but resent when we disapproves of it publicly. Mind you, government cannot be everywhere. Citizens should take pride in helping one another. This is ideal in everyday life. Faith without action is dead. According to the dictionary, duty is a legal, moral or ethical obligation or accountability to some one who has the right to demand. These duties and accountabilities differ from person to person, culture to culture and religion to religion. Citizens in some Islamic nations have different duties in the light of their blasphemy laws. Their duty-based ethics are focused on the reason for doing. The difference here is in perception. Some religious groups, who considered themselves the soldiers of the Almighty, have killed themselves, even children and housewives when their Almighty was alleged to have been disgraced. Where those brave Indians had been, who belonged to the caste of warriors, when these soldiers of the Almighty butchered innocents to get an easy visa to enter paradise?
“Then there are Christians and a vast number of the Hindus, Jains and Buddhists who are duty-bound to nonviolence and unconditional love. How are they going to coexist with the followers of detachees and the soldiers of the Almighty? There will be chaos if everyone is allowed to perform his or her brand of duty.
Reghu continued. “I am convinced that it was the ideology of detachment that smoothed the way of the Moguls to rule India for so long and let criminals, including Nadir Shah from Persia and the Khiljis, loose their depravities. There was Amir Timur who killed the Hindus to reserve a spot for him in paradise and also to plunder their temples. He directed his soldiers to build a mountain with the skulls of infidels. In one hour 10,000 were butchered. The defenders fell to the earth like sparrows before the hawk-- It is documented.
“Then came the whites, who saved India from letting it turn entirely into a Muslim nation. They banned the burning of widows at the pyre of their husbands, called sati. They made laws against early marriage, and allowed widows to marry. As a result several social activists started doing the same work. However, India’s inability to defend against the plunderers was due to detachment. Most of the population of modern Afghanistan is from the Hindu women who had been taken as slaves. Look into their laws and culture even today. A woman does not have the right to say no to her husband for the satisfaction of his physical hunger any time. Constitutionally, women are still slaves in Afghanistan.
“If everyone is allowed to perform his duty to kill allegedly evil persons, then these soldiers of the Almighty had been doing their duty, as were the Mogul kings and soldiers who killed and converted the local population to their faith. Most of the local population, overdosed on detachment and belief in the previous birth, were silent, even when a handful of Afghans were enslaving young girls, plundering temples, and butchering alleged kefirs. This is happening even now though in a different manner. Brothers still kill brothers, nephews and uncles in the Krukshetra of greed.
“There had been no united Panduas who could stop a handful of maniac messiahs. Theories of detachment and the previous births had seeped into the psyches of the masses, generation after generation, so that they would be silent when the elite deposit their wealth in overseas banks. It is detachment, soaked into the subconscious of the citizens that allows corruption to flourish. India has everything, except the will to leave the dungeon of these theories.”
“What else?” Kaplna asked.
“These babas who preach detachment have become rich. Some have even done community service though, to silence their critics, ” Reghu replied.
“How about Dhirindra Brahmchari?’
“Ask Indira Gandhi, if you can? Was Dhirindra Bahmchari a brahmchari-- a celibate? It is a personal matter to lead the life of a celebate. Why did he advertise it? In what way did his celibacy help the state and other individuals?”
“They are humans and therefore weak.” Kalpna tried to defend them.
“Your argument supports my conviction that they had no real faith in detachment, because a meditation for detachment is hollow.” Reghu was candid.
While returning to his room, Reghu thought they had been living in a world of communication and how the post office played a major role in widening the role of communication. A friend of Reghu, a retired university professor and writer, did not receive a copy of her book, which was published in Europe. Reghu had warned her that most of the time when he had sent books from Canada, they did not reach their destination. This was why he used Indian book publishers, most of whom viewed royalties as a foreign concept.
Even now, customers wait to see if their envelopes and parcels have actually been stamped in post offices. Some dishonest post office clerks remove stamps and sell them under the table. For Reghu such corruption was primarily due to detachment.
Reghu believed that Kalpna’s detachment did not seem to let her plan anything on her own. She used to accept Reghu’s suggestions, but often failed at the last moment to honor them. For Kalpna, these failures were merely from the point of perspective. For Reghu, they had been insulting gestures which indicated a lack of sincerity. Reghu was bewildered how a highly educated professor like Kalpna could be so thoughtless. It was painful to think about why she did not let the stream flow smoothly. At times Reghu felt he was not able to understand India because he had been away for decades. There must be something that he was not doing right, he often thought. He felt, Canadian girls were much more straightforward. To understand Kalpna better, Reghu began asking other Diaspora, as well as the whites. He was concerned for Kalpna and wanted to know the truth, in case he was wrong about her. The only way to truly know Kalpna was to meet her again.
A week after Reghu arrived in Raipur, Kalpna told him that her sister had arranged a house for him at a reasonable rent. “Why spend money on a hotel that does not allow freedom? Let’s move to a new location. It is behind my sister’s house. Neither her children nor neighbors would know. ”
“Are you talking about Amita?”
“Yes. She works for a cell phone company.”
“She appears to be considerate and worldly wise, though I never met anyone from your side. You must ask her advice when you need.” Reghu suggested.
“We are like friends. She is bolder than I am.” Kalpna said.
Reghu looked into her eyes and started packing. He was going to order a snack. Kalpna said, “Today is Tuesday. I am fasting, but you can order for yourself.”
He did not want to force the issue. He ordered an Indian snack, tea, and a bottle of mineral water and then resumed packing his luggage, phoning the receptionist to send the bill.
Meanwhile, Reghu looked for money to make payments. He searched every pocket. Then he opened the zipper of his luggage and checked the pockets of the shirt he wore the day before. He searched his jacket pockets. Kalpna helped him, asking all sorts of questions. She asked him if he kept his money in his suitcase or on the counter.
There were five notes, each worth 500 rupees. He did not use them because he had kept them to pay his hotel bill. By this time, Reghu was sure he had dropped them while taking out the money to pay the taxi or to buy something. Since they were in one bundle, he must have dropped in a rickshaw, taxi or at a shop. He was not terribly upset because it had happened to him before.
Reghu took out his traveler’s cheques and examined them, in case the rupees were stuck to them. He had separate Canadian dollars. He checked them step by step. He opened his brief case, taking out everything one by one until the brief- case was entirely empty. Then he put everything back, checking each item carefully again. He checked the dollars once more, thinking the rupee and dollar currencies might have been mixed up, and searched the bed again. Kalpna was busy helping him. Shortly, an attendant came with the bill.
(to be continued)
About the author:
Multiple award winning Stephen Gill has authored more than twenty books, including novels, literary criticism, and collections of poems. He is the subject of doctoral dissertations, and research papers. Eleven books have been released by book publishers and two more are to be released shortly on his works. (Websites: www.stephengill.ca; www.stephengillcriticism.info; Manag. Ed. www.writerslifeline.ca )

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