Crossing the Mirage – Passing through Youth, Chapter 6
Continued from “Respite by Death”
Chandra’s tentative forays into the Princely Pearls soon acquired the spirit of apprenticeship. Finding his son grappling with the ropes of marketing, the pleased father began guiding him to hone his technical skills as well. When Chandra began exhibiting his business acumen, Yadagiri took him to the recess of the trade secrets.
Soon, seeing his son on course, the father made way for him to manage the show on his own only spending the evenings at the shop, more to gloat over his prowess than to supervise his progress. And urged by his newborn aptitude and catalyzed by his zeal to excel, Chandra became a businessman possessed. But, what with his own attitude to life having changed, the about-turn in his son’s orientation began to bother the father.
“The art of living is an act of balancing,” said Yadagiri to Chandra so as to put him on the true course of life. “Nothing upsets life more than a stilted view of it. Was it not my obsession with status that played havoc with your sister’s life? Enough is enough, now I won’t allow you turn a workaholic. You should explore youth so that you may understand life by middle age.”
Chandra was relieved of the post-lunch chores, and soon, he came to temper his work culture on the anvil of his father's fresh philosophy. With the change in attitude to work came the urge to live life to the hilt. What with plenty of time to spare and the money to make use of it, he began to have a go at life, with gusto. Moreover, as by then, the shadows of gloom were far behind him, the urges of youth came to the fore all again; those Kamathipura exploits drove him to the Mehendi.
With his new-found ability to look at life in a detached manner, Chandra began to grasp the vulnerability of the sexes to sexual impulses. What wondered him was that the whores, mollified though by the madams, had enough spirit left in them to exploit their clientele. What amused as well as irritated him was that they sought the extra buck for foreplay as though the deal was only for the final favor! The tendency among some of them to feign orgasm, though he was hardly in, embarrassing though, infused in him pity for them. Vexed with the falsity of paid sex, he ceased seeking gratification in the inane recesses of those crass places.
When he was on the lookout for alternate outlets, a pimp on the prowl accosted him at the Purana Phul.
“Rare housewife, sir, rarely indulges,” he whispered into Chandra’s inquisitive ears, “very cooperative at that,” he winked at him.
And Chandra turned tentative.
“Classy maal sir,” he said finding “only when her man is on tour, she takes a detour.”
“How old is she?”
“Randy thirty,” the pimp paused for a calculated effect on his prey, “but Spencer sir.”
“How much is that?”
“Hundred sir,” said the pimp with a wink, “ for each fling.”
“Show me then.”
“Why forget me,” said the pimp in smile, “Well, I know you're in a hurry.”
“It's nothing like that,” said Chandra embarrassed, “Tell me.”
“Not much sir," said the pimp as if to lighten Chandra's burden, “Just twenty bucks.”
“Come on sir,” he said leading him into a nearby mohalla,
Asking Chandra to wait nearby a paan shop, the pimp said that he would go and sound her. By the time he returned, finding Chandra impatient, the pimp whispered into his ears that the woman would soon pass them by.
“Why all this fuss?” said Chandra in vexation.
“She seeks the man in man sir,’ said the pimp affecting admiration, “and scents his stuff in the street, so to say from a mile. If you catch her eye, you know what I mean sir, you'll have one hell of a time in her bed.”
Nauseated as he was with the ways of the whores, Chandra was bowled over by the part-timer's novel way of soliciting. Wondering all the same whether she could reject him on face value, crossing his fingers, he waited in anticipation. And soon the pimp pinched him as a pretty dame neared them.
“How about her sir?” said the pimp in an undertone, “had you ever been with a better one?”
“She signaled her 'yes' sir,” said the pimp, as she passed them by.
Relieved of his apprehension and whetted by his desire, Chandra's enamored eyes followed her till she turned the bend. Pocketing his twenty bucks, the pimp led Chandra to a nearby street corner and asked him to proceed forthwith to the fourth house on the left.
“You better take me to her,” said Chandra having thought better of it.
“Didn't I tell you, it’s all discreet with her, as discreet as it could be,” said the pimp sounding intolerant. “Why there is no way could every Tom, Dick and Harry knock at her door. Thank your stars that she would be waiting for you, having gone home through the back alley; don't waste time.”
As the pimp retracted spiritedly into a by road of that mohalla, Chandra put his tentative step forward for the dream rendezvous. But greeted by a padlock on the door, it dawned on him that he was taken for a ride. Oh how frustrated he was, not only on account of his insatiate urge but also at the ease with which he had allowed himself to be fooled.
‘What a way to get cheated!’ Chandra thought, amused all the same. ‘For all I know, she could’ve been a mere passer-by. How smart of the fellow to have devised this ruse to deceive the unsuspecting! It’s all due to the hush-hush ways of the paid sex that one tends to give allowances to secretiveness. If only to eliminate the scope for cheating, given that it is no less a crime, isn’t that a reason to legalize prostitution? But then, is not cheating a grassroots phenomenon that makes us a nation of cheats, what with the leaders and the led alike cutting corners?’
‘Coming to the paid sex,’ he thought as he dragged his feet in disappointment, ‘what’s the hitch if women opt for sex work when it’s okay with men making money on the sly? What’s wrong if women choose the calling on their own? Let need or greed be the driving force why should that bother any? Why not let them use their allures to make a living or whatever? Won’t licensing sex workers dampen the recruiting agents? What with the availability of the willing for the asking, where would be the need for the pimps to go to lengths to lure the gullible? Won’t then flesh trade be conducted on a level playing ground? But, sadly the unscrupulous lure the hapless into it to untold misery and depravity?’
‘Well, it won’t happen in a hurry in our society,’ he sighed for the plight of the women he frequented, ‘for we make a hypocritical bunch of a people. What an irony indeed that the very brothel-mongers assume politically correct postures from the pulpits. What to say about the so-called public opinion? Why, isn’t it the biases of the masses stemming from their collective ignorance? Worse still, it is the outcome of the cumulative frustration of the deprived who cannot afford what life offers. Don’t all men like to have a fling or two with women and where else can they lay their eager hands on women than in brothels? But then, it’s either the lack of the means or the fear of the decease that keeps men away from the whores. And it is they who are at their vociferous best when it comes to condemning sex scandals! Oh, how the indignation of hypocrisy comes to shape the policy of the State! Well, that’s what politics is about and so God save the whores. And as things won’t change in a hurry, it is as well that I’m on my guard meanwhile. But oh, what a woman she is!’
After a rendezvous or two with the alleged housewives, he thought he discerned the difference between the amour for hire and the sex for sale. ‘The part-timers enjoy being enjoyed,’ he reasoned, ‘and the whores neither enjoy nor give joy.’
As if to back his reasoning, his networking led him to Prathima the fascinating.
A fabulous woman in her mid-twenties, she was married to a lout of a clerk albeit the sole heir to a sizeable estate. And as his widowed father-in-law treated her as a daughter, she didn’t have any inkling of the marital fate in store for her. But having been reared on a diet of discipline, the death of his father, a couple of years after their marriage, made her husband go wayward. Well, he gave up his job for a permanent place at the gambling table, leaving her high and dry at home.
Well, it was not long before he had lost all, including his aptitude to work. And that forced her to take up a job to make both ends meet for her and her parasitic man. Soon, distressed by the detestable husband, she was distracted by the attentions of her boss to lose her balance.
But it was not long before the peon at the office got wind of the affair pointed out that while the boss was making merry with her allures, she had to bear the brunt of the rough and tough. Why not she let him line up men who would pay for what the boss got it free. And it was up to her to fix the toll for her sex passes that he would be issuing on her behalf. When she protested, he said it was useless pretending to be Sita, having herself crossed the lakshman rekha and driving home her vulnerability, he hinted at blackmail in case she failed to fall in line. Lacking the needed moral rectitude to brush him aside, she agreed to go along at last. Besides, she felt that in a way, those escapades might recompense for her exploitation by her man and boss alike. When she took the plunge the fact that she was childless helped her in her abandonment.
Her husband didn't fail to figure out her wayward ways soon enough - not from the wear and tear of her frame but from the bulge of her purse. Though irked by the thought that other men came to enjoy her, he came to see that without them there was no way he could be a parasite on her and in spite of them, he still had all her body for his use. What with her man acquiescing to her frequent outings, she had no qualms to suffer from in her wantonness and that enabled her to bestow her amorous best on men she came to entertain. Since that fetched her better price for her amorous services, ironically, it helped her serve her man’s cause even better. And it was at this juncture that Chandra came into her life.
While Prathima found him odd to look at, she was truly fascinated by his prowess at lovemaking. As she turned eager towards him, so he sought her at every turn and that made them feel that both needed each other for their gratification. So, she signed off the peon and came to be tied up to him. Devoid of the distractions, she began to enjoy his lovemaking even more and soon enough to his delight turned a devil in the bed. Thus, while he found an admiring lover in her, she felt valued by his constancy to her company. As the intimacy of their union made her throw caution to the winds in their coition, it was only time before she missed her periods.
“I’m carrying,” she said that evening.
“Congrats, though that would leave me starving,” he said, and counting on his fingers added in mock desperation. “Let me see from when to when…”
“You don’t seem to get it,” she said hesitantly. “You are its father.”
“How do you feel about it?” he asked tentatively.
“I would rather abort it.”
“After all, you’re married,” he said in surprise. “What’s the problem then? I’ll provide for you both for the rest of your life.”
“Thank you, but …”
“What is the hitch?”
“It’s risky still.”
“Why, of its exposure.”
“I don’t get you.”
“What if the child is after you,” she said sinking into his embrace as though to soothe his hurt from her comment, “given your features, it won’t pass, and that’s my predicament.”
“Oh, I see.”
“Don’t be upset,’ she said turning amorous. ‘No one deserves better to be the father of my child than you, physically and emotionally speaking, that is. If only I'm your wife, it would’ve been different.”
“Well,” he said, turning melancholic.
And for once, he failed to respond to her eager advances. That night, as his old doubts, till then overshadowed by his exploits, resurfaced, Chandra went into contemplation.
‘Her comment hurts, but how can I fault her for that?’ he thought. ‘It’s not about the abortion; it’s her affair, after all. But her reasoning is disconcerting, isn’t it? Well, what if, justifying her fears, the child turns out to be ungainly? Though her husband may turn a blind eye, won’t that compromise her with others? As she herself said, had she been my wife it would have been a different matter. Why, we met rather late for that, have we not? It won’t be long before I take a wife, and what if, as feared, my children were to be born ugly?’
What with that very thought repulsing him, he ceased to think about it. But, as his habit took over, soon he resumed his soliloquy in melancholy.
‘Why then it would be the same old story of misery to my progeny and me, not to speak of my wife,’ he began to think. ‘And burdened, I shall live with guilt for the rest of my life. No, I shan’t allow that to happen. No way. What about being unmarried? Well, it’s not always that some Prathima would find her way into my life. Why won’t I get fed up being single sooner than later like my sister? Well, won't I need a relationship that only a wife can provide? I need a wife, yes, but children, no. Is it in any way possible that I can have the cake and eat it too?’
And contemplating on this, he racked his brains all night and hit upon a brainwave at length.
‘What if I opt for pre-nuptial vasectomy?’ he thought in relief. ‘Can’t I manage that though the law prohibits it? What can’t be done with money and manipulation in this world?’
As his thoughts turned to his bride-to-be, his conscience was seized by his qualms.
‘Oh, it won’t be fair to her,’ he thought. ‘Any woman would want to be a mother, is it not so? What’s worse, being barren for no fault of hers, she might even feel inadequate all her life. And won’t that make it worse for me morally speaking? And if ever the cat were to be out of the bag, it would be hard on our relationship too. No welcome prospect, either way. That’s not workable anyway, so I’m back to square one. Well, let me think about that when it’s time to cross the bridge.’
The realization that even ingenuity cannot find ways to impact certain facts of life made him morose. Affected as he was, he turned lukewarm to Prathima’s charms, though she warmed up to him by going out of her way in every way. When he finally ceased meeting her altogether, she felt sad for both of them.
‘Can’t I understand his hurt?’ she reasoned. ‘He too should’ve appreciated my situation. Oh, how the best of relationships skate but on thin ice. But was it not a satisfied life with him as along as it lasted? Now let me get on with my life as he would be getting on with his.’
While she had to put her pimp back into circulation for solicitations, Chandra continued to remain embittered. Soon, however, to console himself in solitude, in the evenings, he began frequenting the Public Garden. Even as the ambience of the place brought back the post-Kamathipura equanimity to his harassed soul, wading through the sprawling park to abandon himself to hope became his pastime. However, as though to aid his solitude, he spotted a secluded spot, and in that nook that he began to nurse his hope of his future wife.
But, fed up by her son’s prevarication over the wedding proposals, one day Anasuya threatened to fix one on her own. Then, Chandra could see the writing on the wall and so he ran to his favorite spot as if for cover. There he began applying his mind to arrive at the final solution.
‘What sort of a wife could I possibly get?’ he thought. ‘Given my appearance, it’s hard to get a beauty. And going by my inclinations, some plain woman wouldn’t go well either. What a Gordian knot for my nuptial knot!’
But, when he saw a commonplace character with an uncommonly beautiful woman peep over the shrubs, he felt as though he had a revelation. ‘So, it’s not as if all the pretty women get tied up only with handsome guys,’ he reasoned. ‘It seems the impulses of the heart have to play second fiddle to the realities of life at times. It appears that in the shadow of fate, life makes a conundrum of confusion as well as contradiction.’
‘Were I to land up in a pretty lap, what could possibly come out of it?’ he tried to picture his future as he had seen rays of hope for his married life. ‘Won’t I lap up her beauty greedily? Oh, I would for sure, but what about her? Being laid blaming her fate, she might as well nurse remorse for me, wouldn’t she? Who knows, she might curse herself for having to live with me. But probably, she too would reconcile herself to her destiny and to me as well. It seems that if only a man is lucky to marry a woman of his liking, nature would mould her to be glued to him. Force of habit and the bondage of offspring would only cement the relationship further. Won’t it seem marriage boils down to mere chance?’
As the theory of hope excited him, so the theorem of apprehension pulled him down.
‘But in my case, even if chance induces its dice to show up its full face,’ he began to think, ‘for all that, my vas could still play the spoilsport. Why not I neutralize its potential for mischief before all else? Oh, it’s like cheating my vas before it could cheat me! As for my bride, what if she herself is infertile? Who ever knew the proclivities of fate! Isn’t it the final solution?’
Shortly thereafter Chandra rested for a week to get over his ‘weariness’.
Continued to “Naivety of Love”