Crossing the Mirage – Passing through Youth, Chapter 24
Continued from “Poetic Justice”
“I was born in Konaseema,” began Sathya as they had their first sip of Old Monk for a change. “It was where I spent much of my childhood and as for my adolescence it was coursed in Kakinada. When I was twelve, my father was transferred there and we were set up in a neighborhood dominated by a well-heeled man with varied interests with a sprightly daughter, two years my junior. It sounds like the beginning of a fairy tale isn't it, well, but for my conceit, the end would have been no different.
As he took a liking for me, I used to spend a lot of time with him and he used to enlighten me about everything under the sun as his daughter used to hang around a lot. When I was in the school final, it was through the accidental touch of our bare knees that exposed us to the sensations of adolescence, but that was that, at least for then.
That summer, a relative of mine, who was close to me, came visiting us. When we were passing that neighbor’s house, as she hailed ‘hello’ from her first floor room, my relative asked me whether she was my lover. When I said it was not the case, he said her warmth in her manner was oozing with love for me. When I sought to dismiss him saying that he must be imagining things, he said that it only showed that I didn’t reach the stage to scan the picture of affection the eyes of maidens hold for their lovers. You can imagine how curious and expectant that could have made me, a boy of barely fifteen that I was then. Oh how tempting it was to verify the veracity of his surmise or finding whatever then and there but it was only in the evening that I got my chance.
I found her lying in her room and as I sat on the edge of her cot, she asked me whether I was in love with someone. Courtesy my relative, I could read the statement of her love in her enquiry but not wanting to lose out on the fun in the offing I replied evasively. When she narrated how she had loved me all along though unsure about my feelings for her, I assured her of my liking her but came to admire her for her conviction of love. When I reached to kiss her eagerly, she parted her lips impulsively and, oh, how divine she tasted! After necking and petting her to my heart’s content, I left her, satisfied and excited as well. It was the first time I had ever got so close to a girl, and it was such a thrill! But somehow I didn’t fall in love with her, maybe because she bestowed her affections much before I started valuing them. Whatever, till that night of poetic justice, I thought I was very smart in dealing with her that day.
“And from then on, on and off, I used to meet her, to steal some memorable moments. But never did I allow myself to press her for the final favor. Maybe, I was too young to want sex, or I didn’t wish any complications for either of us. Yet, I made tentative enquiries with some classmates about contraceptives, but to no avail. And you know the level of our sexual awareness at that age in those days.
“But as I got into the PUC, I developed a calf-love for my classmate, well, nothing came out of it but still that pushed that girl farther on the backburner. Then I went to Ranchi after my PUC to join the BIT, and we were further distanced, even when I went home for the Dasara, bogged down with friends, I ignored her by and large. Sadly, as I feel now, I didn’t even bother to tell her about the date of my return journey but when I went again for Christmas, she told me that the last time she had been awake to see me leave for the railway station at two in the morning. Moved by that, I realized how I took her love for granted and it was then that my liking for her transformed into an adoration leading to love, well, by then I was through that calf-love. You can imagine how we both would've been moved as we looked at each other at the dead of that night as I left for the railway station after the vacation. Oh, how her eyes glowed as she waved me goodbye. But, as fate had willed it, literally it turned out to be the goodbye from her.
“Oh, God,” Chandra blurted out.
“When I came back for the summer recess,” Sathya resumed animatedly, “it was as if the heat had turned on me. Even as I was rushing to see her, someone told me, on purpose, that she got close to a boy of our locality and that she had been to the movie Ave Kallu with her beau the other day. Disturbed at what I heard, I enquired with her about the veracity of it all.”
While she owned up her affair with that character, she told me that she too was privy to the affairs of my heart. When I said that we could make a new beginning, she told me she didn’t love me any more but what pained me more than her rejection was her averment that as long as she was in love with me, she had great hopes about her life and after what had happened, she wouldn’t care two hoots about her own life. While I wanted to keep all that behind us, sadly, she told me she was not worthy of me anymore, having already given herself to that guy. It was a great blow to me too, as by then; I began loving her like as an adult as insensibly her devotion to me dwarfed my calf-love for another. You can imagine how wretched it could be losing her not only for my sake but for hers as well and so feeling guilty and being helpless, I stepped aside as she carried on with him.”
“How wrenching could be that feeling?” said Chandra having got a clear picture of it all by then.
‘It was of my own making for I failed to make her see the depth of my love for her,’ said Sathya remorsefully. ‘But, given my nature, I got on with my life, and the whole thing went into the backyard of my memory. Anyway, we remained friends, though we never talked about our past and it was my argument that made her father to relent in his objection to her marrying that guy. Since my parents too shifted out of Kakinada shortly thereafter, I lost contact with her altogether. As we do have some common friends, now I’m in the lookout for them. Oh, how all these years I treated that as a missed opportunity at the best, and a failed affair at the worst. Never did I realize that I was the villain of her life. But, that night, in the hour of my ruin, while visualizing the source of her trauma I had a measure of mine own meanness.”
“What about her pain?” Chandra couldn’t help but say. “Could you ever visualize it?”
“Why, it's my grasp of her pain that's the source of my shame,’ said Sathya holding back his tears that had filled his eyes by then. ‘If only I was honest to tell her about my infatuation for my classmate, she wouldn’t have nursed false hopes on me, would she have? If only she knew about my love for another, what if it's a calf-love, she wouldn't have hoped to convert my tentative interest in her into an abiding love for her, and had I been truthful, she would’ve reined in her heart to keep her nascent love a sweet memory of youth to be cherished on occasion in life. And what happened instead? I’d furthered her love to fuel her passion, only to wound her psyche in the end! And then, how I failed to give her the picture of my own love when I really started loving her genuinely. Oh, how I’ve wronged her! What did I give her in return for her love? It dawned on me too that while I was patting myself for so long for being smart, she found herself smarting from my duplicity. Oh how distressing it is to think of that now and am I not ashamed of myself for being so crass with her. My inexperience of life is no excuse really. The fact that I could be so insensitive for that long, about something so apparent, makes me appear mean in my own eyes. As I fell in my own esteem, I crave for her pardon and though she got it even with me in the end, I think, it’s no consolation for her for what all she had suffered at my hands.”
“I’m sure your meeting her helps,” said Chandra.
“That’s again a dilemma,” said Sathya resignedly. “I’m dying to apologize to her telling the telling affects of poetic justice on my life but I'm afraid my trespass on her life might open up her old wounds making her even sorer about it now. At least, I can spare her that, shouldn’t I? I feel it is better that I wait till we grow older by which time she would’ve put the memory of my deceit in the vault of her forgotten past, which means that I've to bear my cross that long or may even die with my burden of guilt intact. That's about the uncertainty of life and death.”
“It's no choice of love?”
“Sadly we both took turns to let down our love when life gave us the choice,” said Sathya
“Is it your guilt alone that’s urging you to see her?” said Chandra probing further.
“I’m craving to see her more than ever,” said Sathya, lamenting about his loss, “and to put it in Kala's words, I’m the one who lost her love. As I told you, I was blind to her charms in the beginning, but after losing her I realized what a desirable woman she is. The irony of our love was that she came into my life as a kaccha girl and got out of it as a pucca woman, making it a premature affair either way. Had she not disclosed her love to me then, I would’ve fallen for her as she grew up anyway. The ironical tragedy of our love-less life is that she courted me when I was half-hearted and banished me when I craved for her heart and soul.”
“I think,” said Chandra, “it’s time we moved.”
“If you don’t mind,” said Sathya, “I would freshen up.”
‘Oh, how small the world really is,’ thought Chandra in wonderment, ‘why, smaller than Prema would’ve ever imagined! But then, hasn't Sathya thrown me into a dilemma? Left to us, won't Prema's path of divorce take us to ménage á trios sooner or later? Maybe, sooner than later, that is. What a wonderful woman she’s to have, that too with Nithya’s prop up! Oh, how that would enliven my own life even more! But, having known it all, won’t it be cruel to keep the wronged lovers apart that too when they need each other more than ever before. What if I'm caught at some point of time, Nithya might be sympathetic but can I ever show my face to Prema? Oh, how saddened she would be to know that she was fated to have tricksters for mates. More so, if I fail them, won't I have to live in guilt all my life? Well, let me render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s.’
“What are you thinking about?” said Sathya, who got ready by then. “Let’s go, you'll know.”
Powered by a sense of goodwill, Chandra drove Sathya towards his destiny.
“Wait. I shall open it,” said Sathya, as Chandra stopped the Fiat at that gate.
“Why not,” said Chandra to Sathya, “the calling bell is on the left.”
“What about you?”
“I'll join you in time,”
As Sathya pressed the button tentatively, Chandra drove away assuredly.