Benign Flame: Saga of Love - 10
Continued from “Sathyam’s Surrender”
That December evening, Sandhya came home dancing to the tune, ‘Soon I’m going, to see my darling.’
‘When is she coming?’ at length, Damayanthi interrupted Sandhya in her mirth.
‘No mummy darling,’ said Sandhya still dancing, ‘It’s me that’s going.’
‘What’s the matter?’ asked Damayanthi.
‘It’s the NCC thing,’ Sandhya said excitedly, ‘I’ve made it to the state level, and God willing, from there to New Delhi for the Republic Day parade.’
‘Congrats,’ said Damayanthi hugging her daughter.
‘I’m proud of you my darling,’ said Kamalakar who came by then.
‘Oh, if only,’ said Sandhya dreamily, ‘I make it to the contingent.’
‘We’re sure,’ said both the parents, ‘you would.’
‘Surely you’ve already posted the news to Roopa’ said Damayanthi. ‘How thrilled she would be!’
‘No way,’ said Sandhya rolling her eyes, ‘I want to surprise her.’
Soon, Sandhya landed at Hyderabad’s Langar Hauz camp for the girl cadets, and having gone through the rigorous regimen for a week, she made it to the Andhra contingent. However, that Saturday evening, before decamping to Delhi, she left the camp to spend the weekend with Roopa.
Though Sandhya was all eager to reach for Roopa’s arms, she chose not to hire an auto-rickshaw for she couldn’t resist the temptation to relive her childhood days by hopping in and out of the city buses. Alighting at Lakdi-ka-pul from the bus she boarded at the Langar Hauz, she awaited a connecting service to Chikkadapally with the idea of picking up some bandar laddus on the way. ‘Oh, how she would have loved those Kotaiah’s kaajahs even more - but then they aren’t sold here,’ she thought fondly reminiscing her amour.
However, she became impatient waiting for the right bus that was late in coming. At that, she leaned on the railing of the road bridge as though to relieve her anxiety. And soon, she noticed four youths crossing the road towards her. As they came nearer, she thought one of them was quite handsome. It soon dawned on her that they joined the group of waiting commuters only to ogle her on the sly. When she instinctively glanced at the attractive guy, she found him staring at her searchingly. As the intensity of his gaze tickled her senses, she felt insensibly drawn towards him.
When the city bus barged into the traffic of their admiring looks, languidly boarding it from the front, she gave him a longing look that seemed inviting to him. Pulled by the passion in her stare, he plunged into the bus on the move, leaving his friends gaping behind. Wading his way up the aisle, he reached where she was seated. As though his proximity induced a magnetic force in her body, she rose from her seat impulsively and stood beside him in the packed aisle. Though she made it appear as a courtesy to an old woman, he got the message and so posited himself behind her. While she felt the pressure of his exciting, her inviting manner made him eager. Without much ado, he ardently pressed against her while she found herself enjoying his exertions. Galvanized by her acquiescence, he laced her from behind and caressed her midriff that sent her into a rapturous trance.
When the conductor announced the arrival of the stage, she pulled herself in spite of it all, thus ending their mutual excitation. Alighting from the bus dreamily, she sensed that he too got down behind her. As she walked towards the sweetmeat shop, she noticed he was following her. It was then that she realized the import of her impulsiveness and blamed herself for her indiscretion. Nevertheless, as he kept pace with her, she came to be worried about his intentions, and after picking up some bandar laddus, as she hurriedly hired an auto, she heard him hailing another. Feeling nervous and fearing that she might have got herself into a mess, when she got down at the dead end of that side lane in Domalaguda, she saw him staring at her from the thoroughfare. Then, alarmed at his persistence, she ran up to Roopa’s penthouse.
When Roopa opened the door, Sandhya swooned into her embrace.
‘Oh dear,’ Roopa kept repeating amidst a shower of kisses, ‘what a windfall!’
‘Close the door,’ said Sandhya gasping for breath.
‘Where’s the luggage?’ enquired Roopa, lugging at Sandhya, as she tried to move towards the door.
‘I’ll tell you,’ Sandhya persisted. ‘But first close the door.’
With the door closed behind them, Sandhya opened her mind to her friend.
‘I just can’t believe,’ Sandhya concluded in confusion, ‘how did I let all that happen?
‘Why, I’ll tell you,’ said Roopa in jest. ‘It’s the malady of the maidenhood, and I know the medicine for its remedy. Shall I post the prescription to your father?’
‘I am scared to death,’ said Sandhya in mock anger, ‘and you are joking.’
‘Let me see,’ said Roopa, herself turning curious, ‘if your Prince Charming is still there.’
‘Find out at your own peril,’ said Sandhya having recovered her wits by then. ‘If he sees you, I’m sure he would shift his glare and get glued to your gate.’
Nevertheless, Roopa peeped out of the window and found someone at beat near the gate.
‘Is he the one?’ Roopa asked Sandhya.
‘Yes,’ said Sandhya peeping out from over Roopa’s shoulder.
‘Oh,’ Roopa half raised her hand in zest, and teased, ‘he’s quite handsome. No wonder you lost yourself. I think you should call him in and give your dad’s address.’
‘Why,’ Sandhya said in jest, holding her hand impulsively, ‘do you want to make it worse for me?’
As though to stimulate her friend further, Roopa led Sandhya into the kitchen for coffee, and putting all that behind, the mates focused themselves on the endearments of their meeting. When they returned into the hall, Sandhya peeped through the window and exclaimed, ‘He’s still there!’
‘It looks like you gave him,’ said Roopa contemplatively, ‘enough scope to hope for a date, and more.’
‘I shouldn’t have,’ said Sandhya nervous all again, ‘got into this mess at all.’
‘Why get upset about it?’ said Roopa, and narrated her own encounter with Ravi in Tara’s house. ‘It was one of those small pleasures of life, isn’t it? We must enjoy them for what they’re worth.’
With the sound of the buzzer then, as her heart missed a beat Sandhya ran inside. However, she went back into the hall in relief as she heard Roopa exclaim, ‘Guess, who has come?’
‘Namaste,’ Sathyam greeted Sandhya.
‘Namaste,’ said Sandhya, all smiles.
‘Has he gone?’ Sandhya whispered to Roopa as Sathyam went in.
‘Yes,’ Roopa whispered back, ‘probably to fetch a stool for himself.’
‘Give him a chair if you wish,’ said Sandhya in jest, ‘Anyway, once I leave, it’s going to be your problem.’
‘I envy your friendship,’ said Sathyam to Sandhya, as he joined them, having changed into a lungi.
‘You’re a part of us,’ said Sandhya affectionately.
‘Thanks for saying that,’ he said warmly. ‘I wish I were your brother.’
‘I would have loved that,’ she said extending her hand.
‘Then you be my raakhi sister,’ he said taking her hand.
‘Is it a gang-up on me?’ said Roopa as she came with some snacks for them.
‘Sandhya, I’ve a complaint,’ said Sathyam to Sandhya, ‘against your friend of course.’
‘I will go out then,’ said Roopa in jest.
‘You know,’ he said, ‘that I keep no secrets from you.’
‘Neither do I,’ said Roopa, ‘that is, in all that matters to you.’
‘See Sandhya,’ said Sathyam as Sandhya and Roopa looked at each furtively, ‘she’s always cut up with me.’
‘I’m a little crazy,’ said Roopa as though she was clarifying her position all the same. ‘That’s all.’
‘Give her some time,’ said Sandhya to Sathyam. ‘She grows close slowly but steadily.’
‘All said and done,’ he said affectionately, ‘I couldn’t have hoped for a better wife than her.’
‘A loving husband,’ said Sandhya ‘is rare indeed, isn’t it?’
‘Thanks for the compliment,’ said Sathyam beamingly. ‘Why don’t we go out for eats?’
‘You should know that Sandhya must be craving for a home meal,’ said Roopa.
‘Oh, that’s true,’ said Sathyam.
‘We’ll play caroms,’ suggested Sandhya, ‘Roopa says you’re an expert at it.’
‘You may be feeling cramped in our little place,’ said Sathyam as he arranged the board in the hall.
‘Your hearts are big,’ said Sandhya heartily. ‘And that’s what matters.’
‘Thanks for your compliment,’ said Sathyam.
‘I fail to understand why we should feel apologetic in the first place,’ said Roopa in irritation. ‘We have what we have as we live within our means. For those who seek comforts, ours is surely the wrong address. Why embarrass the genuine with these explanations.’
‘Oh!’ Sathyam complimented Sandhya after the first board that he won, ‘you’re classy with your scissors.’
‘You’re too good a player,’ said Sandhya after conceding the game at 29-14.
‘You’re a tough competitor though,’ said Sathyam appreciatively. ‘What about another game?’
‘I’m a game for it,’ said Sandhya.
‘It’s a long since I’ve played like this,’ he said, winning the challenge round 29-22.
‘Since when have you become an expert Sandhya!’ said a surprised Roopa.
‘I took to caroms as a distraction,’ said Sandhya squeezing Roopa’s hand.
After dinner, Sathyam offered to sleep in the hall.
‘No,’ said Sandhya smiling, ‘Guests too have their rights, don’t they?’
‘Don’t worry,’ Roopa told Sathyam, ‘I’ll give her company.’
While Sathyam slept, the mates got into the act and were awake well past midnight.
The next morning, having greeted Sandhya, Sathyam said, ‘I hope you slept well.’
‘Only after I allowed her to,’ said Roopa who brought milk for him then, and when Sathyam left to the toilet, Sandhya paid back the innuendo with a smack on Roopa’s seat.
‘Guests first,’ Sathyam said as Roopa gave him pesarattu-upma for breakfast.
‘Women follow suit in our culture, don’t they?’ said Sandhya
‘Why don’t we invite’ suggested Roopa, ‘the Ramus for lunch?’
‘They would love to meet Sandhya,’ he said excitedly. ‘I’ll be back with them in no time.’
By the time Sathyam came back with the Ramus, the mates, as though to make up for the lost time, endeared themselves to each other.
‘Looks like,’ Roopa said warmly, ‘you don’t have time for us anymore.’
‘Of late he’s not finding time for me even,’ grumbled Meera. ‘He comes home just to sleep. As you know, he can go on without food for days together. I told him to send me back to my parents’ place and arrange a cot for himself in his factory itself.’
‘Office is but,’ Ramu said in jest, ‘the last refuge for a man from his nagging wife.’
‘This is my friend,’ Roopa said in introduction, after the storm subsided, ‘Sandhya.’
‘Oh, I’m sorry,’ said Meera a little embarrassed. ‘Your name is ever on Roopa’s lips.’
‘As her better half,’ said Ramu in jest, ‘I second her statement.’
‘I heard Roopa talk a great deal about you too,’ Sandhya addressed Ramu holding Meera’s hand. ‘We admire your zeal to become an entrepreneur. We all know how difficult it is for someone to build from the scratch that too with none to back up. Well, it’s a different matter with families into business for long. In time, a new entity of the old group would come up for the brat to lord it over, isn’t it?’
‘How true,’ said Sathyam while the rest nodded in agreement.
After a sumptuous meal that Sandhya savored, they settled for a round of rummy.
‘With Roopa around,’ said Meera, shuffling the packs, ‘the winner is known beforehand.’
‘You people,’ protested Roopa, picking up her cards, ‘make too much out of my little bit of luck.’
‘Looks like,’ said Sathyam as the opener was grabbed by Sandhya, ‘we’re going to get sandwiched between the friends.’
‘It’s no more than a beginner’s luck,’ said Sandhya smiling.
‘Why withdraw,’ teased Roopa, as Ramu scooted the next deal, ‘at the very first reverse.’
‘Look at her beaming face,’ said Ramu referring to Sandhya’s. ‘One should be blind not to read her hand in that glow, though she holds the cards to her chest.’
When it was five in the evening, Sandhya was all set to leave for Langar Hauz.
‘All the best,’ she said, preparing to leave, ‘to all of you.’
‘Wish the same to you,’ said the Ramus. ‘It’s nice that we met.’
‘I’ll long for another visit,’ Sathyam turned sentimental.
‘So do I,’ Sandhya took his hand.
‘Let me see her off,’ Roopa said getting into her chappals.
‘Why not I go with them,’ said Meera to Ramu.
‘Let’s get on with the game,’ dissuaded Ramu, ‘moreover, they may like to be alone.’
As Sandhya looked around furtively as they stepped out, Roopa commented, ‘Are you still expecting him!’
‘Who knows?’ Sandhya said casually.
‘In that case,’ said Roopa, teasing, ‘it’s only fair to favor him for his perseverance.’
‘Oh,’ said Sandhya in exasperation, ‘you’ve become a devil lately.’
‘Let me see,’ said Roopa, pinching Sandhya, ‘what a daredevil you become after your marriage.’
‘That’s some way away, anyway,’ said Sandhya, ‘but what’s on in the New Year?’
‘What difference does a New Year make for me but for the change of the calendar?’ said Roopa gravely.
‘Well,’ said Sandhya squeezing Roopa’s hand, ‘we never know what surprises life has in store for us.’
‘Any way,’ said Roopa resignedly, ‘I’m tired of hoping.’
‘Hope for the best,’ said Sandhya, ‘and prepare for the worst, that’s wisely said, isn’t it?’
‘Come the Republic Day,’ said Roopa, as they reached the bus stop, ‘and I’ll be there to spot you in the live telecast.’
‘That is,’ said Sandhya laughing, ‘if the video-wallahs happen to focus on me.’
‘Why, you have the gait to parade men behind you,’ said Roopa adoringly. ‘And your face, well who can miss it, even in a crowd!’
‘Romantic as ever,’ said Sandhya pressing Roopa’s hand endearingly.
At length, as the city bus was spotted, Roopa pressed Sandhya’s hand and said, ‘Remember that I miss you.’
‘My own longing for you,’ Sandhya whispered endearingly into Roopa’s ear, ‘reminds me about your craving for me.’
‘Bye, sweetie,’ said Roopa as Sandhya boarded the bus.
Waving at Roopa, as the bus moved, thought Sandhya, ‘How lucky to have a fried and lover in Roopa. Oh, isn’t it clear that Sathyam is not a match for her, even though he loves her. It looks like she has adjusted to life with him. What else could the poor thing do?’
Continued to “Match in the Making”