Continued from ‘Daring the Fate’
Chapter 16, Book One, Artha and Kama, Jewel-less Crown: Saga of Life
Gautam’s gambit sent shock waves across the Atlantic. The US fertilizers major, Continental Chemicals Inc., became jittery over the Dutch breakthrough. They saw in Kassenbouw's entry into the captive Indian market the beginning of the end of their global monopoly. And it seemed ironical to them that an unheard of Global Facilitators should bring about that! So to safeguard their interests, Continental sought to turn the tables on the Dutch. Thus, the US leader abetted their Indian agent to rope in someone from Global to sabotage the Dutch.
Meanwhile, Manian’s envious nature ensured that he wouldn’t stomach the idea of Gautam being in the 'Who’s who' of New Delhi. More so, that it should be a fellow South Indian made it all the more galling to his frustrated mindset. All the same, he was at a loss as how to spoil Gautam’s party by double-crossing Global. It was thus, when approached, he needed no persuasion to play ball with the Continental to stop the upstart of a Gautam in the tracks. Yet, the wily Tamilian did extract his price to turn into a quisling.
Aware that Global was on the verge of clinching the deals for the Dutch, Manian knew it was an uphill task though. After all, with the backing of Raghukul Yadav, the minister who held the key to the party’s safe as well, Gautam seemed invincible. So, he realized that to play a spoilsport, he needed to look for the chinks in Gautam’s amour. And so to spot Gautam’s soft spots, Manian found applying his mind with all its malice. Thus, as jealousy kept his sleep at bay, his cunning had a chance to work overtime.
When Manian saw in Vivek, the son of Raghukul Yadav, the only means block Gautam’s race to fortune, he lost no time in plotting Sneha’s fall. He knew that though Gautam ingratiated himself with the senior Yadav, he overlooked the junior who came to wield some power in the party as its youth leader. Besides, with the indulgence of his father, he came to wield extra constitutional power as well. With the matter already on the agenda of the Cabinet Committee headed by the senior Yadav, Manian realized he had no time to lose.
So, Manian began turning Vivek against Gautam by first appealing to the brat’s vanity by insinuating that Gautam had all along been slighting him being heady with his father’s patronage. Seeing the vainglorious youth veering round, Manian worked on his fears as well. He could readily convince Vivek that if Gautam could snatch the Dutch deals behind his back, his own image as a power broker was bound to take a beating.
What with his ego having been hurt and boggled by his future irrelevance, Vivek vowed to stop Gautam in his tracks. Yet, Manian did not want to leave things to the vacillations of Vivek’s youth. He knew only too well that hurt egos could be massaged after all. Besides, couldn’t the worst of fears be readily addressed to win over the recalcitrant? Committed as he was to Gautam’s cause and sensing his son’s apathy, the minister would advise Gautam to assuage his brat to ease his way. If humored, so reasoned Manian, Vivek would join the chorus to sing Gautam’s tune.
To avert that from ever happening, Manian saw the need to add fuel to the fire to sustain Vivek's heat of an anti-Global campaign. And he knew that nothing hurts any like the sexual hurt to sustain personal animosity. After all, it’s the sexual apathy that would build a barrier against rapprochement. Based on the premise, the strategy thought out by Manian was to make Vivek get interested in Gautam’s wife, and then to further his craving for her. And Gautam was bound to pour water over the brat’s passion for his wife’s possession. Manian knew only too well how Gautam adored Sneha. Spurned thus, reckoned Manian, Vivek could be expected to fight until the very end to see Gautam’s end.
Convincing Vivek, that in spite of his opposition, his father might still go along with the Global, Manian opened his gambit. Even if Vivek were to block Global that might only hurt Gautam’s businesses interests and not redress his slight as such. Would it not be in order for Vivek to extract his pound of Gautam’s dear flesh and make him pay for his daring? As pride comes before a fall would not Gautam’s pride portend his fall? Was not his wife the source of his pride after all? Why, was there ever a more desirable woman in all of Delhi?
As envisaged by the rogue, the brat fell for the bait and wanted to have a look at the beauty. Gleeful about the development, Manian led an eager Vivek to Sneha Travels as the penultimate act of his crooked plot. Even as Vivek was lost to Sneha’s charms, Manian whetted his appetite by stating that she could be had after all. Why, wasn’t Gautam known to lease her body whenever it was warranted? As the possibility of her availability enabled Vivek visualize the prospect of her possession, he saw her favors as a quid pro quo for the Kassenbouw contracts.
When Manian conveyed Vivek’s demand, Gautam was aghast as expected. Having recovered his wits soon enough, Gautam went to Vivek to sort out the issue. Though Gautam explained the absurdity of the proposition and offered to line up dames by the dozen to choose from, Vivek remained steadfast in his passion for the fancied woman. When Gautam, in exasperation, blamed Vivek for trying to hit below the belt, the latter put it across to him by wanting to know how it was different when he had spared his wife for others before. When Gautam protested and demanded to know who had spread that canard, Vivek suffered no qualms in naming Manian.
Shocked by his lieutenant’s deceit, Gautam explained his position and begged Vivek not to ruin his married life. Hell-bent as he was by then to have Sneha, Vivek sensed his chance and decided to press on regardless. Just the same, considering the nature of the conflict, he thought it fit to hit Gautam with a velvet glove. So he said he was not indecent to covet married women but he was misled into believing that Sneha was available after all. With the possibility of her possession having whetted his appetite, he allowed his fascination for her to develop into a grand passion. He was dying to possess her and came to love her even. Though he understood how hard it was for man to spare his wife, Gautam should also realize that a lover would be no less miserable pining for his beloved’s bed.
When in desperation, Gautam tried to divert Vivek’s desire to the glamour girls of the tinsel world, the latter made it clear that the barter was for the woman he fancied. Even as Gautam said, what if Sneha would have none of that, Vivek retorted that it was his business to get her around. And to let Gautam know the magnitude of his own misery, Vivek said that he would block Global unless he facilitated his wife’s favors. And, as though to drive the final nail into Gautam’s married coffin, Vivek said if he failed to have Sneha, courtesy her man, he knew how to have her on his own.
Stung to the quick by Vivek’s audacity, while the man in Gautam felt like retorting, the businessman in him sought to humor him even more. And to prevent his wife’s fall, Gautam offered to fly down a couple of blondes from Paris for Vivek or the other way round. But, the higher the price Gautam was prepared to pay to keep his wife’s chastity intact; all the more it furthered Vivek’s resolve to rob her of the same. While Gautam realized that he was up against a brat who would not give up until he had had his way with his wife, seeing him cornered, Vivek sensed he had his prey. All the same, he was apprehensive whether Sneha would play ball, and that dampened him a little. As Gautam rose to leave, Vivek assured him, as though to pin him down, that he would not rest until he had Sneha by hook or by crook.
Once out of his tormentor’s sight, Gautam felt an irresistible urge to finish off Manian to avenge himself. Why not he get that bastard killed? But, on second thoughts, he felt it wise not to make matters worse at that juncture. Well, that would only snowball into a scandal hurting his image and damaging his business. Oh, what hurdle Manian had placed in the way, the son of a bitch! Briefing Raghukul wouldn’t help either, as Vivek would prevail upon him in the end. After all, blood was thicker than water, wasn’t it? What’s worse, the old fox might like to fish further in the troubled waters. It was wise to sort out the issue with Vivek when his passion for Sneha had cooled down.
In that state of hope and despair, Gautam reviewed his position with premonition. With the disbursement of the final installment to the minister, Global’s bank balance was on the verge. Were he to stumble at the threshold, Global would go bust making him bankrupt. The air would turn thick with ridicule with ‘I told you so’ tongues wagging all over. Where would he hide his head then? Wouldn’t Sneha too blame him for blowing away that insurance largesse in an irrational enterprise? How could she be faulted for that as she had tried her best to desist him from venturing from the beginning? Wouldn’t she then end up disregarding him even? After all, whoever bothered about the failed?
But, the moot point was, would it rest at that? Would it take long for her to be disenchanted with him? And what would follow in its wake? Would a disgruntled woman make a faithful wife? Were she to cuckold him, wouldn’t that be a double jeopardy for him? What would be left for him to live after that? If she were to start serving her paramours, what else he would have for the menu than the bullet to swallow? What to do than to hope that Vivek on second thoughts would opt for a white whore or two in Sneha’s place?
Shortly thereafter, when Raghukul Yadav advised Gautam to contact his son to clear the decks for the contracts, he knew who held all the aces. When his last ditch attempt failed to persuade Vivek to leave his wife alone, Gautam was left stranded in the fast track of his racing ambition. Plagued by the reality of the present, he pictured the possibilities of the future. Given his ardency for Sneha, the brat was bound to court her till he succeeded. Of course, he had said the same in so many words, hadn’t he?
What about Sneha then? Oh, how she had raised the bar of her ambition? And he had abetted her no less. Were he to fail to lay his hand on the Dutch deals then Global would sink without a trace. Where that would leave him to! Sure, she might give him a role in her office, but what a climb down that would be for him! Wouldn’t that make her devalue him sooner than later? Why that would only make her dissatisfied to begin with ending up frustrated in time. Were Vivek to persist, wouldn’t she give in then to him? Wouldn't his youthful exuberance attract her in her state of dejection? More so, how long could she resist his overriding passion?
Well, even if she were to resist him, wouldn’t the desperate Vivek think in terms of bumping him off to make his way clear to her? Wouldn’t his death remove the hurdle of her fidelity? How could he rule out the possibility, after all? Would it be wise to hang on in a crumbling edifice only to perish in the debris? In the end, as resistance seemed foolhardy, Gautam decided to salvage his position by sacrificing his wife’s fidelity, all the while cursing Manian’s perfidy.
That night, when he placed all the cards before her, Sneha was too confounded to comprehend whether to scoot or carry on. Goaded by Gautam to apply her mind, she thought for long and was candid in her response. She said that while Vivek’s proposal was devoid of morality, Gautam’s proposition was an affront to her dignity. After all, it was one thing for a woman to take a lover and another for her man to act as a pimp for her. And with her husband turning a pimp, wouldn’t she be reduced to a prostitute? So, for her to bed with an unknown character even at his behest would be demeaning. What was the guarantee that her debauchery could be confined to a one-night stand to be put behind in due course? What if Vivek were to insist on an encore every time? Would Gautam be able to put his foot down, at least till the contracts were signed? By then, wouldn’t she have crossed the lakshman rekha of her fidelity? Who knew, she might find it difficult to imbibe Sita’s psyche after all that.
Answering his fears about their future relationship, she said she believed in being faithful to him because she loved him and that he was considerate to her. So, she was sure that his failure by itself wouldn’t drive her into another’s arms as she valued him as a man and lover as well. At any rate, she wouldn’t like to prostitute herself even for his sake. But, should he let his deprivation affect him and thus turn into an awkward individual, then she wouldn’t know what the future held in store for her chastity.
Admiring her sense of loyalty, Gautam gnashed his teeth at Manian’s deceit. While the prospect of their ruin frightened him, her refusal to fall raised her in his esteem. Thus, having seen the beauty of her soul, he set out to savor the body that held it to the hilt. In his emotivity, he perceived her frame as the temple of his love and paid his obeisance to it through prolonged lovemaking. But, as his new admiration for her came in conflict with his old ambition, he tossed in bed all night. Thus, trying to find a solution to the vexed problem, he veered from one end to another. In the end, having visualized the true magnitude of his loss in either eventuality, he was urged to go after Manian’s neck to direct the fatality on his own.
But, soon his sense of history gave him solace as he recalled those who had lost their lives owing to the treachery of the trusted. When it dawned on him that Manian’s deceit did not put his head on the block and instead placed the chastity of his wife on the line, he wondered whether fate was considerate or cruel towards him. At length, when he saw the virtue of sailing with the wind than swimming against the current, he felt that his fate had inexorably placed his wife’s fidelity on a sticky wicket. Well, for her favor to favor Vivek, he had a premonition that eventually her fate too would extract its price from him. So be it.
Amidst her disturbed sleep, Sneha too applied her mind to his predicament.
‘By the way, am I reading too much into the script?’ she thought at length. ‘Wouldn’t a chance rape rob me of my chastity any way? Then, how could a one-night stand with his consent dent my fidelity! Besides, won’t it be stupid for us to go back to square one to uphold a questionable virtue nurtured by notion? Anyway, it’s up to him to decide. Is that so? No, it’s the sanctity of our marriage that’s at stake. Once the marital thread that binds woman to her nuptial bed is sapped, won’t that tend her to turn loose? If it comes that, won’t that damn my character? Moreover, what’s the guarantee that my rendezvous with Vivek wouldn’t affect my future relationship with Gautam? After all, all men are possessive about their women. The nagging thought that I enjoyed another man might leave Gautam cold in our marital bed. Who knows, branding me loose, he might even show me the door. Oh, it’s too great a risk for me to run for any money.’
Having resolved thus, she sank into a tired sleep only to be confronted by her man at dawn. While Gautam took over from where he had left, she showed him how his proposition would jeopardize her future. When he sought to assuage her fears, she clung on to her apprehensions. Cornered thus, he thought of Houdini. Why not open up her old family wounds to enable him to take her to Vivek for dressing them. Thus he reminded her about her obsession to see her people prosper and make Suresh’s cousins his poor cousins. When life brought them to the verge of victory, how stupid it would be to throw in the Kassenbouw towel?
At that, she seemed to need no more persuasion, save her apprehensions about the after affects
“How can I be certain that you won’t put me in others’ beds as well,” she said as though seeking his assurance. “What if I seek more of the one-night stands on my own? Who knows, I might fancy this very guy. Won’t that usher in our liaison? With no burden of guilt, what if I turn loose in time?”
When he granted her freedom of sexual conduct, they both felt as if their marital good faith gave way to unfettered infidelity.
Shortly thereafter, even as the Business Monitor anointed him as the king of lobbyists, Gautam felt as though fate ordained a jewel-less crown for his coronation. Whatever, the media made him the most talked about man in New Delhi and as the word about his Dutch success spread across the business world, Global Facilitators became the most sought after lobbyists in India.
Though Gautam knew that he had an unfinished business with Manian, he felt that firing him would send the wrong signals in the bureaucratic circles about his own cussedness. Besides, he reckoned that it would provoke Manian to bad mouth him. Deciding to sidetrack him, Gautam dispatched him post-haste to Madras as the In-charge of Global’s southern operations in the offing. And to add insult to injury, he was asked to report to a fresh recruit at Global’s Corporate Office. Thereafter, when he was eased out for non-performance, Manian, as the saying goes, became history.
As Global’s lobbying in the industrial arena seemed to run at breakneck speed on the Dutch steam, Gautam desisted from using Sneha’s charms to clinch arms deals. And in spite of the appetite for her, no one dared to think in terms of a quid pro quo for facilitating multi-million contracts. Anyway, backed by the sexual thrust that Sneha’s girls provided to the fire-power of its clientele’s armaments, Global Facilitators spread its wings into the murky world of lucrative defense deals.
As Gautam paid a blind eye to her escapades, Sneha became the fair sex guru of free sex. And Gautam too could not resist for long the allure of the women who came into his life drawn by his looks peppered by his power and pelf. Thus, in a remarkable adjustment of emotional togetherness, the Gautams did not allow their moral transgressions to affect their marital equation.
Continued to ‘Baring the Soul’