Continued from “Pats and Slights”
“If that cousin of mine exemplified the falsity of perception, the one who used to ingratiate himself with her spouse was the personification of falsity itself,” he began the remarkable recap of his life. “But as the world reckons, he was an eligible bachelor as far as eligibility could take a middleclass guy; well he was an IITian with a MNC career and a four-wheeler to convey his corporate eminence-in-the-making. As my position, rather lack of it, failed to impress him, he was won’t not to reciprocate my greetings, and soon to avoid being slighted by him I was not taking cognizance of his presence, in other words I used to ignore the would-be ignorer. Surely, it is stupid to expect hosannas from any, leave alone all, and so I would’ve still respected him had he remained indifferent to me as ever for all have their own likes and dislikes. But when he sensed that his own mentor, husband of my indifferent cousin, held me dear, he tried to warm up to me, but by then I had learned how to judge people and so I wasn’t moved by his attempts to befriend me. Another relative though, impressed by his status and all made up her mind to marry her daughter to him and that put paid to our voicing the objections we all have had about him. It’s another matter that I had a crush on the girl.”
“Well I too see the big picture of man’s character in his small gestures; but you and your crushes, don’t they seem unceasing?”
“Didn’t Stendhal opine that for a woman to love a man at first sight, he should have at the same time something to respect and something to pity in his face,” he continued. “Maybe in my youth, my visage had that dual character, which, as I told you, endeared me to many a woman, and that was why without the fear of rejection, I could make a pass at every woman I had ever fancied; well, my weakness had always been the lightly darkish women with a tinge of sadness on their faces, and I was all too brotherly to those who failed to connect with my roving eye. Once, such a one told me that she was enamored of me for my romanticism and as her persona didn’t trigger my passion, I realized that its woman’s sex appeal that brings man’s innate romanticism into play to provide the cutting edge for lovemaking, and unless combined by male passion and female amorousness, coition is mere sexual motion.”
He had yet another sip of Laphroaic from his glass before he continued.
“Coming back to the ill-fated girl, the cousin who rescued me from the embarrassment of my life I told you about, abhorred the eligible bachelor in equal measure for his conceited ways, was not prepared to voice her apprehension lest her dissent should be construed as an envy for the girl’s glorious fortune-in-the-making; well I too kept mum for I knew that I wouldn’t have been deemed as a viable alternative by the mother of the bride and so, sadly for others’ decency of silence and her mother’s blinkers of falsity, the daughter had to suffer him as her man to her lifelong dismay. But when it came to my relationship with Raju, my faculty of judgment deserted me; it was like the accursed Karna losing his fighting prowess in the combat with Arjuna that had cost his life; but though I lost my soul, my fate had to wait to undo me as my destiny had other ideas for my life. At that time, I lived in a rented portion of a house owned by an eminent family that fell afoul of fate; while the girl was reduced as a makeup woman of a B - grade film heroine; her brothers were compelled to run odd errands to sustain the joint family. As love would have it, she had taken to a man who was not of her ilk and as his parents were not so helpless or as progressive as these days, their inter-caste affair was a non-starter in every way; the social space too was constricted for them to find a place for indulging in premarital sex; if only Cupid had reckoned with that when he kindled love in their hearts; whatever, they remained lovelorn till she prevailed upon him to marry a girl from his caste. But the rumor of her liaison that never was, put paid to her parental quest to find a suitable boy for her from their own caste and it was at that juncture that I entered into her life.”
“If only Cupid were not blind, love may have a better vision.”
“Well, I was sure at the very first sight that she was not my kind of girl,” he said seemingly contemplating what I had said before he continued his story. “So with no romantic leanings on her, I was free in my manner, and she too was open with me without being flirty. Slowly but steadily, we had struck a beautiful relationship, and, so to say, she took charge of my life; by the time I returned from work, she used to wash and press my clothes besides setting my bed right; how her brothers used to protest in jest that she washed my undergarments even as she refused to touch theirs; well she was wont to aver that I was her very special one, and once, when I was down with typhoid, my benevolent cousin came to take me along with her, but as my caretaker would have none of that, I had no heart to go against her wish; oh, how she rolled the roles of a mother, sister and wife into that womanly care! But later, when I decided to leave the place in search of better pastures, how upset she was; she seemed as if she were bereaved but she was reconciled to the dictates of fate as she put it. You may know that she didn’t let me carry much of my meager possessions as she wanted to have them as keepsakes! When her promised memento was not forthcoming even as I was all set to go, I went on reminding her about it and she kept on telling me that I hadn’t gone still; and as I was about to board the city-bus at their gate to reach the railway station, she took my hand and planted a kiss on it; as our moist eyes blurred our vision, I waved at her as much in sorrow as in joy but she was seemingly immobilized for any reciprocation.”
“I know how uplifting affection could be, won’t that kiss last a lifetime?”
“And possibly into the eternity for platonic love, unlike its sexual cousin, could never wane,” he said as his eyes turned moist. “Maybe, that’s the character of motherly love and sisterly affection; yet it would seem that it’s in the lovemaking that the divinity of love manifests itself in its truest mode. But then sexual liking, with or without love, too could hold on its own; I used to see a ravishing woman in the bus stop, and once we chanced to stand together in a jam-packed city bus; as I tentatively pressed myself against her back, she deliberately pushed herself closer to me; and seemingly unconcerned of each other, we let our declivities rub against each other until male biology brought our delight to a close. Maybe, attractive women tend to celebrate their femininity in the small pleasures that male eagerness ensures, but what a scene the plain things create from a shake-hand distance in crowded places; why, it’s as if they want to attract attention to themselves by insinuating that man’s forced proximity to her was but his indecent approach. Whatever, if not for the love of that girl and the warmth of my cousin, there was no way I could’ve continued with the drudgery of my job, and years later, when all were critical of my brother for having given up a job that didn’t suit his aptitude, I wanted to know how many had had to endure the like hardships at the start of their careers; the problem with us is that we tend to judge others without an iota of an idea of their compelling circumstances; well, my brother made the grade in a job that went well with his genius. But given the changeability of man, my once inimical cousin’s spouse, who had professed his support for me, failed to further my career when he was in a position to do so. But as I see it now, his relevance to my life was his support for me when I was laid low by fate but not in his disregard for me when I learned to be on my own; that’s why; I made it a point to pay my last respects to him, though by then I was out of his mind for long.”
“How contrasting it is compared to your reaction to Raju’s death?”
“Don’t you see that it symbolizes the contrasting phases of my life?” he said in remorse. “Maybe, adoration is borne out one’s perception of his being the object of appreciation, which the sense of deprivation of the same results in a state of disaffection, but censure is an inimical product of one’s sense of superiority over the other that is afflicting, oh how these things come to shape the fates of men; though I let censure steel my nerve, I let applause weaken my will, but that was much later.”
He paused as if to pick up the reins of his scattered thoughts.
Continued to “The Harlot Zone”