Romance Story : Woman at the Book Fair

Vikram Karve
11 min readApr 1, 2024



There is a saying:

The best kind of friendship is one where two people love the same books



Story by Vikram Karve



Circa — January 2003


I reached my home opposite the Oval — after work — as usual — at 5 PM in the evening.

I was opening the door to my house — when my neighbour opened his door — and — he said he wanted to speak to me.

“Sure…” I said — and — I invited him to come in.

I closed the door — I asked him to sit on the sofa — and — I sat opposite him.

“Anything urgent…?” I asked him.

“Who was that woman with you last evening…?” my neighbour asked me.

“Woman…?” I said — confused.

“I saw both of you entering the building at 7 PM and I saw her leaving alone at around 9 PM…” he said.

“Oh — her…? I met her at the book fair…?” I said to him.

“Book Fair…?” he asked me — with a clueless look.

“Don’t you know…? The “Strand Book Fair” — it’s held every year in January near Churchgate…” I said to him.

“I was asking you about the woman who with you in your house last evening…” he said — with a questioning look.

“I told you — I met her at the Book Fair…” I said to him.

“And — you brought her home — you spent two hours with her all alone — just the two of you…” he said — in a suspicious tone of voice.

“What are you trying to imply…?” I asked him — a bit miffed.

“You wife is away — and you are having a “good time” with other women…” he said — his voice full of sarcasm.

“Well — if browsing books together is your interpretation of a “good time” — we certainly were having a “good time” together…” I said to him.

“Browsing Books…? Who are you trying to fool…? You and that “dubious” female — you spend two hours shacked up together in your house — and you are making up all sorts of stories to cover up your hanky-panky…? Do you think I am a dimwit…?” he said — in a jeering tone of voice.

“What nonsense are you talking…? Dubious Female…? She is a respectable person — a decent lady…” I said to him.

My neighbour smiled — a derisive smile — and spoke in a sarcastic tone.

“Respectable…? Decent…? Are you sure…?” he asked me.

“Of course — she is a book lover — she has been coming to the book fair for the last 3 days — we were browsing similar books — literature, fiction, short stories — so — we got talking — I told her about my book collection — she wanted to see it — so — I invited her home to see my books…” I said — truthfully.

“Are you telling me that she was looking at your books for over 2 hours last evening…?” he asked me.

“Yes — we browsed books together — she showed interest in short fiction — so — I told her about my favourite short stories — we discussed literature — that’s all…” I said — trying to convince him.

“You pick up a woman at the book fair — you bring her home — you spend two hours with her in private — do you even know who the woman is…?” my neighbour asked me.

“She is a counsellor…” I said to him.

“Counsellor…!!!” my neighbour exclaimed — with a laugh.

“Yes — she told me she is a personal counsellor and therapist — in fact — she told me she had an appointment at 9 PM nearby…” I said to him.

“Appointment…? At 9 PM at night…?” he said — looking incredulous.

“Yes — she told me she does private therapy at home for some special patients…” I said — telling him what the woman had told me.

“Private Therapy…? At Home…? Special Patients…?” he said breaking into a laugh, “instead of making up tall stories — why don’t you admit the truth — that you picked up this woman — brought her home — and you fucked her…”


Till now — I had been tolerating his nonsense because he was my neighbour — and — my wife and his wife were close friends — but now — he was getting on my nerves — so — I decided to end the conversation.

“I think you should go now…” I said to him, “I have to go for my evening walk on Marine Drive…”

“And — I am sure you are going to visit the Book Fair — on your way back…” he said sarcastically.

“Yes — I may browse books…” I said to him.

“And you will pick up that female and bring her over here for a special therapy session in your bedroom…” he said with a sneer — and then — he said to me with a wicked smile, “but — hats off to you — I never imagined you could pick up females at a Book Fair…!!!”

“Please go…” I said angrily.

“I will go — but — before I go — let me tell you — this book-lover woman friend of yours — she not a counsellor or therapist — and she is certainly not a “respectable” lady — she is a “dirty” woman…” he said — with disdain.

“Dirty Woman…?” I said — with a questioning look.

“She is a woman of “ill repute” — do you understand…?” he said — in a firm voice.

“She is a woman of “ill repute” …? What do you mean by that…?” I asked him

“Don’t act dumb — she is a woman of “easy virtue” — but — since you will feign ignorance — I will put it more bluntly — that woman is a “call girl” — an “escort” — a bloody “whore” — do you understand…?” he said — contemptuously.

“That’s not possible…” I said, “I found her to be a decent woman — quite well-read, erudite and refined…”

“That I will concede…” he said, “she is a refined and polished “hooker” — a high class “prostitute” — I wonder how you could afford her…”


I couldn’t believe what my neighbour was saying — also — I was feeling uncomfortable with the conversation — so — I decided to get rid of my neighbour.

“Please go now — I don’t want to discuss all this…” I said to my neighbour.

“I hope you are not bringing her home for a “therapy” session this evening…” he said — sarcastically.

“Of course, I am going to bring her home…” I said to my neighbour, “we are going to meet at the book fair at 6 PM — and then — I will bring her home — I have already decided the short fiction anthology I want to tell her about — and she has to return the book she borrowed yesterday and take this one…” I said to him.

“She won’t be coming…” my neighbour said.

“What do you mean “she won’t be coming” …?” I asked him.

“I meant “she won’t be coming to meet you today” …” my neighbour said — unequivocally.

“Well — let me tell you that I am sure she is going to come to meet me — she promised me that she would return my book today — when I told her that I normally don’t lend my books because people forget to return them — she said she would 100% meet me at the book fair at 6PM — and then she would come home to browse my books — return my book — and maybe — borrow a new one …” I said to my neighbour.

“You seem to be so sure of her…? Do you even know her name…?” he asked me.

“Nisha…” I said, “she told me her name is Nisha…”

My neighbour gave me a sardonic smile.

“Nisha…? This is the first time I am hearing this. As far as I know — her name is Rita — but even that may be a fake name — I wonder how many names she has — one for each client — perhaps…” he said to me.

I looked at him — a bit befuddled — wondering what to say.

But — before I could speak — he started talking.

“I warned her not to come here again — or to meet you again…” he said.

“What…? You told her not to meet me…? Why…?” I asked him — feeling miffed.

“For your sake…” he said.

“For my sake — what do you mean…?” I asked him — curious.

“You are a married man — with a nice wife and grown-up children. Is it proper of you to indulge in hanky-panky with such wanton women…? Why do you want to ruin everything due to your peccadillos with such sleazy women…?” he said.

“Hanky-Panky…? Peccadillos…?” I said — peeved.

“Don’t worry — I won’t tell anyone about your fucking her in your house yesterday evening — after all — you are my neighbour — our wives are close friends — I am your well-wisher — so — I will overlook your one indiscretion yesterday — but — I don’t want you getting entangled with that filthy whore…” he said, “that’s why I called her last night and told her not to meet you…”

I looked at him — wondering how my neighbour had that woman’s number — so — I questioned him about it.

“You called her…? You have her number…? How do you know her…? You called her a filthy whore — you say she is a woman of ill-repute — a sleazy woman — how do you so much about her…?” I asked him.

“Don’t delve too much…” he said.

“Ah — so you are jealous — and possessive — tell me — are you having an affair with her…?” I asked him.

“Don’t talk nonsense…” he said angrily, “I have nothing to do with her — our company hires her once in a while — to service some of our top clients and business associates — and officials who we have to please…”

“And — how are you involved in all this…?” I asked him.

“Well — in our business — we have to do all sorts of things…” he said — nonchalantly.

“So — that’s the job you do — pimping…!!! It is disgusting…!!!” I said to him, “under your high-sounding title — all you are is a bloody pimp…”

“Be careful what you say…” he said — in a threatening tone.

“I thought you were a respectable man — but you are worse than a prostitute — you are a slimy pimp — that’s what you are…” I said to him in a most disparaging tone of voice.

“How dare you compare me with than dirty woman…?” he said — giving me an accusing look.

I looked at him — and — I gave him a piece of my mind.

I said in a stern voice to my neighbour:

“You keep calling her a “dirty” woman…?

Well — even if — as you say — she is a “dirty woman” — her thoughts are certainly much “cleaner” than yours.

You put on an act of being a “clean man” — but you have a “dirty mind” — you masquerade as a moral puritan — but your mind is full of lecherous thoughts.

We were browsing books together — but you were fantasizing that we were fucking each other — weren’t you…?

You are a disgusting man with a perverted mind — don’t you talk to me ever again…”


After admonishing him — I gripped his hand — I literally forced him out of my house — and — I closed the door.


That evening — I waited for Nisha at the Book Fair.

But — she didn’t come.

I couldn’t call her as I didn’t have her number.


Of course — after my tiff with my nasty neighbour in the evening — there was no question of asking him for her number.


I wish I had asked Nisha for her number the previous evening — but — she had left in a hurry — and — she hadn’t given me her number — nor — had she asked for mine.


I waited for Nisha till the closing time of the Book Fair — hoping against hope that Nisha would come.

But — she didn’t come

So — at night — I came home — disappointed.


It was the end of a short and sweet friendship — all because of my nasty neighbour.


Next evening — a courier arrived — a packet.

I opened the packet.

It was the book she had borrowed — and inserted inside — there was a note written in cursive feminine handwriting.

I read the note:

“You must have come to know about me from your neighbour.

It is true — but — with you — I wanted a nice clean relationship — a friendship based on books — but — sadly — that was not to be.

And yes — I told you my name is “Nisha”.

Yes — Nisha is my real name — you are one of the few persons who knows my real name.

Thank you for lending me your book.

I felt good when you lent me the book — though you said that you normally don’t lend your books.

I really wish we could become “bookish friends” — but it is not destined.

It was so nice talking to you.

Wish you All the Best in your life.

Good Bye Forever.

Your Bookish Friend, Nisha…”




A few months later — I saw Nisha in the lobby of a posh hotel — where my wife and I had gone for dinner.

I looked yearningly at Nisha — wondering if I should say “Hello” to her.

Nisha glanced at me — no trace of recognition — and — she looked away.

My wife seemed to have noticed everything.

She pressed my hand and smiled at me.

“Is that the same woman you had told me about — the woman you met at the Book Fair…?” my wife asked me — as we walked towards the restaurant.


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This story is a work of fiction. Events, Places, Settings and Incidents narrated in the story are a figment of my imagination. The characters do not exist and are purely imaginary. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

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Vikram Karve

A creative person with a zest for life, alumnus IIT Delhi, Lawrence School Lovedale, Vikram Karve is a retired Navy Officer turned full time Writer and Blogger