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Crossing the Mirage - Passing through Youth
When they returned after relieving themselves, Sathya resumed the saga of his intriguing relationship with Kala.
“The next day however, she came to the office ashen and I was shaken to see her thus,” said Sathya, seemingly confused as Chandra lit his Berkeley for exhilaration. “What followed gave an unexpected twist to my own destiny and perhaps to hers as well. She said that she hadn’t had a wink the whole night unnerved by my tentative move to leave her and that made her realize that no one loved her more than me. When she tried to visualize her life without me she said that she found it would be but a void. She said she knew how badly she needed me.”
“Oh what twists and turns!” exclaimed Chandra.
“When I reiterated my offer to marry her, she said she needed time to make up her mind,” said Sathya with a sense of resignation. “I agreed to wait and she said she couldn’t promise at that stage and even warned me that I might even end up with the wrong end of the stick. I told her I would take a chance, for I wanted nothing more than her hand.”
“This twist in our tale gave me hope and caused despair like never before,” he continued, filling his glass all again while Chandra was yet to drink the previous dose. “I tried in every way to influence her decision and suffered all the more for that. Believe me, the devotion I showed in espousing her cause bordered on tapasya. I sought the blessings of every deity to help me become her man to make a difference to her troubled life. Oh, can I ever portray my suffering as I prayed for her happiness and how stupid had I turned in my mission to rescue her? Imagine my going to a tantrik for guidance in making her my wife! Oh, how I became insane and smart that she is, she once said the kumkum I gave her could be a talisman! But still she applied it on her forehead saying such things won’t affect her. What a shame I brought it upon myself.”
“Oh. God! What suffering!” said Chandra truly affected, and as if to lighten the pain he felt for Sathya, he emptied his glass at one go.
“Well, suffering seems to be the bane of unrequited love,” continued Sathya dejectedly. “But still I wonder how I endured the countless humiliations she meted out to me rather unremittingly. Came a holiday, for hours on end I used to stay rooted near her house just to have a glimpse of her at the balcony, and she knew that. But what to say, every time I used to return without seeing her, though I used to hang on there till my legs could hold no longer. Why, after that memorable evening, she seldom invited me to her house, leave alone going out with me for a treat. That was even when her uncle was out of town.”
“Oh God,” said Chandra, “how unfair to love itself.”
“Well, Gopal felt the same way,” said Sathya, “why he said it was cruel on her part to treat me so shabbily. Oh, what fuss she used to make before accepting my loving presents in keeping with her tastes! Why, she left the Kashmir shawl I gave her in the office drawer for days together and I had to go on my knees to make her take that home.”
“Why, it’s like the police syndrome!” said Chandra. “Harass and then ask to pass under the table.”
“Once I said as much to her and she made a friend of hers to talk to me,” said Sathya in a trance. “Her friend, Gomathi, said Kala has a golden heart with a troubled mind. She said that given her state of mind, Kala can be expected to act quite cranky and she needs all my sympathy and understanding. She said she believed that with my abiding love, I could wean Kala away from her self-defeating love and provide substance to her empty life. Gomathi said she was confident that my love and perseverance would save the day for her friend in the end. Wasn’t it just what I wanted to hear all along? Gomathi’s testimony only strengthened my resolve to make Kala my wife. Whatever I fail to understand her and she remains as much a puzzle to me as the city she lives in.”
“Keep in the limbo sort, isn’t it?” said Chandra in apparent suspicion.
“Isn't it possible given her confusion?” said Sathya after deliberating for a while. “And to add to my woes, my boss, who detested me, had his own agenda to fix me. My brewing involvement with Kala, that was a common knowledge at the office by then, came in handy for him to blow it into a full-fledged scandal. To settle his scores with me, he pressurized her to lodge a complaint of sexual harassment against me. Well, she refused to oblige him and I put in his chamcha’s ears that he better minded his business or else. Well, there seems to be some poetic justice in life’s reactions to our actions! Shortly thereafter, Amala the fresher, bowled him on the same wicket, and that cost him his place in the team. That’s a different story, anyway.”
“Oh, how unfairly fair?” said Chandra.
“But with me life is fairly unfair,” said Sathya as his sense of bitterness began to overpower even his feeling of love. “Oh, how she made living a hell for me! Why blame her, as I allowed myself to be taken for granted and toyed with me as she pleased. You know, she even nicknamed me ‘mud head’.”
“Isn't it said that one can't be in love and remain wise at the same time,” said Chandra.
“How true,” said Sathya, “once she said that I better go into some business instead of pestering her. She theorized that money brings status to men and power over women, and that if I became moneyed, she would be on her knees, begging to be taken as my mistress. She's wont to maintain that if she fails to make it with me, it would be worse for her as she would miss me having received so much love from me. She always felt that I would forget her soon enough as she gave me nothing but her indifference for remembrance.”
“Femme fatale plus and no less she is!” said Chandra, feeling Sathya's exasperation.
“Well said,” said Sathya. “Once I told her that I better enquire about her at her previous workplace. Stung to the quick, she extracted a promise from me that I wouldn’t do anything like that. Though it was apparent that she had something to hide, my sense of decency didn’t allow me to spy on her. But I thought it didn’t make any sense to go along with her any longer. It had been a year’s fruitless wait by then. Also, the trauma of the unrequited love began to take its toll on my health abused by my chain-smoking, I became weak and weary. It was then that she came up with the suggestion that I get transferred to our Hyderabad Office and leave Cal for good. Once I was away from her, she reasoned, she would be in a better position to appreciate what I meant to her. She said she would not take more than six months to decide one way or the other and I managed to come here on transfer.”
“What a kind-edged cruelty!” said Chandra distressed at what Sathya underwent.
“Why, you've the words to capture ironies!” said Sathya appreciatively. “But, before I left Cal, she called me home for lunch and wanted me to bring my horoscope along. She sought the opinion of her father, an amateur astrologer, about my future in a pragmatic manner; whether it would be average or less. Well he predicted that my life would hover around the average and as she promised to write to me regularly, I bade her goodbye with mixed feelings. When the Madras Mail moved out of the Howrah Station that evening, I experienced a peculiar sense of relief coming out of a cauldron of stress under a vacuum.”
“Is it any better now?” asked Chandra.
“I realized soon enough there was no escaping from love,” said Sathya wryly. “Either you’re in it or out of it. In some ways, it was worse than ever. If it was the distance she kept then that pained me in Cal, it’s the pain of her absence that’s hurting me here but the only thing that keeps me going is the correspondence with her. To be fair to her, she is prompt in her replies that are comforting for their contents.”
“Glad it's some concession after all the negation,”
“But as luck would’ve it,” continued Sathya with a sense of delusion that Chandra could discern in his demeanor, “sometime back my work kept me at a remote project for four months at a stretch. Such was my passion for her, or whatever feeling I can’t really make out what it is, that I used to go to the nearest town, fifty km away, to post my letters. Believe me, four times a week at that! Oh, how I wanted them to reach her early as if her life depended on them, even as her letters conveyed warmth that sustained my hopes. Once she cited the famous ‘success quote’ attributed to Ralf Waldo Emerson and added that she believed every word of it is true in my case. It was shortly thereafter that she wanted me to meet her at Coimbatore. Sensing the import, I rushed there in anticipation.”
“What a turn!”
“Coming straight away to the point, she said, she had made up her mind to marry me,” said Sathya seemingly in single breath, “But, she insisted that I must know about her past before I decided about our future. When I said her past wouldn’t in any way matter to our future, she said that I should be privy to it all.”
“In a way,” said Chandra growing suspicious all the while, “won’t that explain her past behavior?”
“Unfortunately that’s true,” sighed Sathya and continued. “See how her story makes its own revelations. That 'uncle' was neither her uncle nor their love any platonic. Her father’s insensitivity made her his kept woman and everyone in the family was in the know of it. He was rich and resourceful, and was the scion of a well-known family in Madras, though of a lower caste. Wanting to ensure a secure future and a proper position for herself, she began pestering him to make her his second wife. But being averse to its fallout on his family life, or whatever, as he prevaricated at every turn, at the pain of leaving him, she made him promise to marry her. And soon, sensing that he was only buying time and had no intent to keep his word, she felt miserable and was at loss as to what to do. It was then that I happened to come into her life.”
“Oh God, what life can be up to really.”
“That’s life merciless!” said Sathya animatedly. “Obviously, testing the waters and seeing my sincerity, she came to see me as a viable second to her evasive best. But as matters came to a head, when transferred to Madras, he wanted her to follow him in status quo. While refusing to join him as mistress, she reminded him about her resolve to leave him if he were to dodge the issue any longer. After inducing me to leave Cal, she told him if he wouldn’t marry her in six months, she would walk out on him. When she was convinced that he wouldn’t oblige her, and being certain that I wouldn’t ditch her, she opted to marry me. And to be fair to her, she said that it’s up to me to decide, and she won’t take my ‘no’ as a breach of trust.”
“What a self-serving attitude that is?” said Chandra.
“Well, I was not shocked but I was surely benumbed for a while,” said Sathya filling their glasses. “When I recalled the bruises on her back I used to notice day in and day out, I wondered how I gave credence to her averments of platonic love. Oh, how I got carried away too far to lose my faculties and all. And it surprises me still that I don’t feel betrayed by her disclosure. What matters to me is that God had answered my prayers, and finally I would be able to make a difference to her life. I told her rather boisterously that I would marry her even if she were a mother of half a dozen children. Then she said that if she were to leave him, she had to pay him twenty thousand bucks. I didn’t ask why but agreed to arrange that amount.”
“What does it mean?” asked Chandra, growing suspicious. “Is it to insure her future against your failure?”
“No, I can't credit her with such meanness?” continued Sathya. “At her mother’s bidding we’d been to a couple of temples for blessings. Seeing her pray along with me in the sari I took along for her, I felt she belonged to me though she aired her reservations about my slimness, which made me say that fed by her hand, I would be rotund soon. Whatever, it felt nice when she wished that we got married in Palani, for its religious sanctity.”
“But why didn’t you reject her,” asked Chandra skeptically, “knowing fully well you’re but the second string to her bow?”
“As I told you, my love for her by then had acquired a spiritual dimension.”
“Oh, Sathya, you’re just divine!”
“I don't know if I deserve your praise,” continued Sathya. “Shortly after she returned to Cal, she got panicky that my parents might prevail upon me. Well, my father, who was ever opposed to my marrying her, wrote a discouraging letter to dissuade her from marrying me. Well, to calm her nerves I went to Cal and at a friend’s place I slipped that safety ring in her ring finger. You would know which one. What's more, I'd arranged for a marriage certificate as my fidelity guarantee to her though her father promised to get us married at Palani in February. Oh, how I was moved by her sensitivity when she told me that she didn’t feel like wearing the saris given by him. What a moment it was for me when we shopped together to purchase saris and dresses she needed, to be on her own.”
“By the way,” asked Chandra, “have you consummated your marriage?”
“Maybe that we didn't consummate our marriage symbolizes the nonentity of our relationship,” said Sathya reminiscently. “That night, though she came to me and offered herself, knowing what our marriage in the offing at Palani meant to her, I told her that I didn’t want to rob her of the conjugal experience of a proper nuptial. Appreciating my sensitivity, when she said she had no right to deny me any longer, I told her as sex was neither new to her nor to me, we should start our sexual life on a spiritual note. But I did fondle her in love and felt ecstatic in my soul. I named her Sanda long ago for the sandal-like color of her skin. But the feel of her body that night made me realize how wonderfully smooth-skinned she is. When she had left me after a while, I slept thinking about the amorous times in store for us.”
“How sublime love can make one!” said Chandra emotively hugging Sathya.
“Thanks for your understanding of a loving heart,” said Sathya equally touched. “The next day, she took me to Gomathi's place and introduced me to her family as her fiancé. Seeing the joy in her face and the ease in her bearing, I thought all my trouble was worth her happiness. But the applause at the office was the crowning glory of my love. Though I did take her to the Victoria Memorial for a stroll as if to vindicate myself to the world, I didn’t venture to romance with her for her heart was still in a state of flux.”
“Oh, how we think alike Sathya!” said Chandra. “Why you'll know that when I tell my tale.”
“It's clear you've a great story to tell and I'm no less eager to hear that,” said Sathya, “but to stay with mine, I had walked out of our home by then for my father would not have Kala for a daughter-in-law. But when I returned here, after a week’s stay in Cal, my mother’s letter gave a fillip. She wrote to me that she understood how I loved Kala for I had left all of them for her. Well, she wanted me to know that she was praying for the fruition of my love and happiness in marriage. She asked me not to worry over the home front, as my father would anyway reconcile in the end. I thought only a mother can feel that way, and felt nice for being her son.”
“Oh, what a capacity a woman and her son have to love! Remarkable!’ said Chandra in admiration. “I’ve come to admire you a lot and would love to be your friend.”
“Don’t I feel privileged to be your friend?” said Sathya. “But you can’t fault my father either for he believed that Kala was not right for me!”
“Maybe, fathers tend to be a misunderstood lot,” said Chandra. “Well, what’s the next on the agenda?”
“Waiting for Feb,” said Sathya crossing his fingers. “I hope you would make it to Palani with your family.”
“Why not?” said Chandra rising to leave. “But for now I better leave, for my wife would be missing me.”
“Thanks for your patient hearing,” said Sathya taking Chandra’s hand. “You don’t know how I wanted to blurt out all this for a long time. I hope you would keep it to yourself.”
“But for sharing it with my Nithya” said Chandra, “who wouldn't be sharing with any.”
“That's fair I suppose,” said Sathya as he bade Chandra goodbye.
“Good luck,” said Chandra. “I await your invitation.”
“You will be the first invitee,” said Sathya waving goodbye as Chandra reciprocated.
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