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Crossing the Mirage - Passing through Youth
When an excited Vasu left on tour, a vengeful Nithya opened the closet to seal his fate. Retrieving his letter from its recess, she gave it the kiss of death and stooping to conquer, she gave it to Chandra for Prema’s perusal. Being on her errand though, Chandra was bogged down with a troubled mind, yet he placed the fatal letter before Prema after briefing her about the problem posed by her husband to his wife.
“So you’re privy to my proclivities in bed,” said Prema finally in disgust. “What’s left of me to bare more?”
“I’m sorry. It wasn’t my intention to hurt you,” he said embarrassedly. “But I don’t want him to mess up with my life either. I love my wife and don’t want her to get involved again. And there was no way for me than to alert you of his designs.”
“I appreciate that,” said Prema shamefacedly.
“I know all that was cooked up to curry Nithya’s favor,” he said feeling hurt for having caused her hurt.
“See what life could come to!” she said nonplussed at the development.
“Oh, how I've hurt you!” he said in hurt. “Now, I realize it’s a mistake showing that to you.”
“Why do you think,” she said, “when you’ve opened my eyes.”
“How to close his eyes to my wife’s charms?” said Chandra. “That’s still a problem.”
“I wish I could turn him blind,” she smiled impishly, “with some sort of a magic wand.”
“Jokes apart,” he said sounding serious, “won’t you speak to him?”
“That might avert your threat,” she said contemplatively, “but would it remove my hurt?”
“I think it’s time we soften life’s blows.”
“I too thin so,” she said contemplatively. “You know I’ve come to admire you. I know Nithya had a great escape thanks to you, while I remain entrapped with him. I've to admit that what all he wrote about me is true. I’m really cold to him. How can it be otherwise when I’m not even warm to myself?”
“But why,” he said surprised, “if I may ask you?”
“Honestly, I myself was thinking of telling you my story,” she said turning nostalgic. “But I held myself out of delicacy. It’s all so different now and I feel like poring out to you. What an irony it is that Vasu should’ve put me at the cross-roads of life for the second time. I tell you that you’ve many things in common with the man I loved and lost, having been spurred on to err by this man.”
“I think your tone betrays the magnitude of your loss.”
“So your face shows your concern,” she said animatedly. “I wouldn’t have found a better man to tell my tale and ironically not a more appropriate occasion for the narration. Don’t ask for his name and all, after all, the world is small, and one day, for all I know, you may even come across him. Who knows, he may even become a celebrity some day and why compromise him, should either happen.”
“Oh what sensitivity!” he said moved. “I love you for that.”
“Know it gives me hope,” she said. “I’m the only child of my parents who happen to be rich. As my father doted upon me, he gave me every plaything I fancied. That made all the children hang around in our house and how we used to turn it into a playground! My mom didn’t mind that but Vasu, who was one among them, used to be fussy whenever he was at the receiving end. I knew he was a bad loser from the beginning. Come Diwali, and my father used to spend a fortune on fire-crackers and everything else but while goading the boys to light them for me, I always used to close my ears. I grew up enjoying the attentions I received from the neighbors and it was much to do with my father’s exalted status that made everyone fete me.”
“When we first met he was twelve, you know who, and I was ten,” she said after a pause. “His family rented our neighborhood house and that’s how we happened to meet. All of us were eager to befriend him as he was handsome and agreeable and he too readily mixed with all of us, the young and the old alike, my father included. My father, a learned man with varied interests, and who had the talent to spot talent, lost no time in taking him under his wings to help him widen his horizons. Soon, he began to treat him as if he were his own son and opened his study for him, and drawn by his looks whenever he was with my father I used to hang around there. Oh, I became fond of him, though he took no note of my liking for him.”
“As we entered adolescence,” she continued as her face glowed, “my underlying fondness for him came to the fore and I began to notice his persona in all its youthful charm. Well, I cherished his face and admired his gait, why, every inch of his frame excited me even as every nuance of his persona enamored me! Why, I just couldn’t take my eyes off him whenever he was around, near or far and aware as they were of my obsession for him, my devoted eyes developed and printed his fascinating pictures on my mental screen. Oh, what a romantic face he had and to help me relive his presence in his absence, my dedicated memory animated them to cater to my craving. What was it if not being in love but still I didn’t dare dream to own him as he had given me no hope by way of reciprocity.”
“Do you know how the fillip for my hope came from an unexpected quarter?” she said turning excited. “An uncle of his on a visit to our house sugared my love by opining that I made a hit pair with him and my father said he too felt the same way. That casual remark of his uncle and my father’s reaction to it made me envision him, in school final then, as my man-in-the-waiting and so I began to dream, the dream of my life. And that Diwali it was the bareness of our knees that provided the first substance to my adolescent dreams. While helping him prepare flowerpots at his place, as I bent over him to pick up an empty pot, our bare knees came in touch and the pulsations of that reached the core of my heart. Well, he was in his knickers and I wore skirts and as I was back in my posture, he moved closer to me making our knee-contact. Oh, what a pleasure it was experiencing the pressure of his knee on mine, well the sensuality of that touch etched in my flesh sustained my dreams for long.”
She paused as if she was reliving her dreams and seeing her thus, Chandra felt she looked like an angel.
“Believe me,” she resumed with a newfound vigor, “even the subsequent sex life with Vasu failed to erase that sensual feeling from my consciousness. Why, as I talk to you, hard though to believe, I feel that touch that's so fresh in my memory even now. If only I were an artist, I would’ve painted that on the widest of canvases, the entire spectrum of it, in its myriad colors and varied shades.”
“Oh, you make me envious of the unknown him!”
“And as he joined college,” she continued in the same vein, “he became scarce what with his focus on studies, sports taking his spare time. Knowing that his performance in PUC would decide his future, I kept my love on hold, confining myself to the fringes of his life all the while dreaming about our future together. Oh, how I could avoid his company and lullaby my love for nearly a year I would never know!
But, as he was through with his exams, feasting my eyes he resumed his visits to our place. It was when my love craved for expression, and as he failed to see its manifestations, I decided to be forthright. But, as hard as I tried, I couldn’t bring myself to voice my love to him though it rang in my ears all the while. At last, as though he understood my predicament, he himself provided the opportunity.”
She paused in the manner of an orator before a dramatic disclosure.
“That summer afternoon,” she began as her face lighted up, “as I lay lost in his thoughts, he came to my room and before my eyes could take possession of him from my mind’s eye, he took his position on the edge of my bed. What followed was the scripture of my love that I remember verbatim.”
Overwhelmed by her recollection of the momentous event of her life, so it seemed to Chandra, she lost herself before resuming.
“Are you in love with someone?” I asked him tentatively, after inviting him to make himself comfortable.
“Not really,” he replied.
“But I love you,” I told him, taking his hand.
“You know,” he said warmly, “I like you.”
“I know that,” I said fondling his hand, “and that’s what made me express my love to you.”
As he reached for my lips, I went with my heart.
“You don’t know for how long I’ve been scanning your eyes to see your love for me,” I began to pour out what I brewed in my heart. “But I found none and how disappointed I was. But still I didn't stop conveying my love through body language. But as you’ve failed to grasp it, I didn’t know what more I could do to let you know about my love for you without being forthright about it--I was worried of rejection and feared ridicule even. But then, I thought that I owed it to my love to convey it to you, even if you make light of it. That’s the least I can do to my love, that’s what I thought.”
“I value you even more now,” he said, reaching for my lips even as I was eager for that uttered those words.
“I live by my love,” I told him, feeling one with him, “and die for that.”
She paused again in the manner of an orator to let his remark sink in the audience.
“As he took me,” she continued in her dream mode, “I pressed him closer fondling his hair that I loved so much. We necked and petted for long but he didn’t seek sex, though I was prepared to give. When, I lay in bed, lost in heaven after he left, my mother came looking for me and feeling shy, I folded my palm over my eyes. I can't tell you how the fragrance of Keo-Karpin that he uses made me recall him making me coyer in her presence. Oh, how romantic it feels whenever I recall it and I do recall it more than I can recall now.”
“Well at the cost of repetition,” said Chandra, “you are making me envious of him.”
“Hope he doesn't burn in your envy,” she said managing a smile. “Well that summer became a lyrical stanza in the exotic verse of our euphoric romance! What a joy it was stealing kisses behind everyone’s back at every turn and in every nook and corner. Dreaming about the future while being in his arms was like being in heaven for me. Oh, how my love made my life all that precious! What hopes I nursed for my love and what picture I made of it in a wedding frame?”
“Won’t all love pale before your love!” said Chandra in admiration.
“And as if to prove that all good things would come to an end,” she said melancholically, “fate had willed that he would leave me for his higher studies, which was untimely for me, as in spite of our romance, he hadn’t formulated his love for me by then. Oh, how destiny had put me back into square one, where I remained pining for him unsure about my future as I had no heart to suggest that he write to me to put me at ease fearing our correspondence could compromise him. So, but for his memories for a company, I was leading a lonely life all along then.”
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