Benign Flame: Saga of Love - 14
Continued from “Wedding Season”
The countdown to Sandhya’s wedding commenced with the arrival of the marriage party on that 6th June. The groom’s entourage felt the official clout of Kamalakar, who by then became the District Collector. Officials worked overtime to spruce up the government guest-houses for the occasion. Fleets of department vehicles were lined up at a hailing distance from the guests. The kalyana mandapam was so made up as to resemble the durbar hall of a maharajah’s palace. Attendants in their scores swarmed the place to be on hand for assorted errands.
Sandhya was wondering how to introduce Roopa to her fiancé. She couldn’t take her to him, as custom ordained that a bride shouldn’t move out of the house on the eve of her marriage. She wished that he would come home to see her but the norms left no scope for that either.
‘What about going to the guest-house on the sly,’ said Sandhya to Roopa.
‘Why not,’ said Roopa in jest, ‘if you don’t mind being labeled a groom-chaser.’
As they were wondering what to be done, Sandhya’s mother called her, ‘O, Sandhya, come down.’
‘Seems she won’t let me be on my own today,’ grumbled Sandhya as she went down.
Springing down the stairs in irritation, Sandhya saw her fiancé following her movements from the drawing room. Even as her daydreaming brought him closer to her in her consciousness, she was still shy in his presence for the lack of intimacy. Thus, stopping in her tracks, she blushed to her roots.
‘Oh,’ he complimented, going up to her, ‘you look sweeter than ever.’
‘Thanks for the compliment,’ she said coyly.
‘It’s I who should thank you,’ he said taking her hand, ‘for accepting my hand.’
‘Why, you had started it all,’ she turned coquettish, ‘by taking my hand to read in between the lines.’
‘What of your inviting gestures,’ he said looking into her eyes.
‘Don’t tell me,’ she said all smiles, ‘you’re blindfolded otherwise.’
‘Won’t your beauty,’ he said joyously squeezing her hand, ‘impart vision to the blind even?’
‘Oh, come on,’ she said enthusiastically, ‘I’ve a treasure to show you.’
‘I thought you’ve more than one!’ he said mischievously, ‘anyway, why a premature display?’
‘Behave like a bridegroom,’ she scolded him in mock anger, ‘and don’t act like a playboy.’
‘Hope you won’t frame rules for our first night and thereafter,’ he said, making her suppress her smile.
‘Tell me,’ he said, picking up from where she had left, ‘what’s that you want to show me?’
‘Simply follow me,’ she led him to her room.
‘Won’t that be,’ he followed her smiling, ‘my lifelong occupation?’
When Roopa heard their steps, rather instinctively she kept her inquisitive gaze door-wards. In time when their eyes met, her gaze was frozen and he stopped in his tracks. As Sandhya was about to initiate introductions, her mother called her again. Hurried by her mother, she left her fiancé and her mate to fend for themselves.
As though guided by her charms, Raja Rao found himself walking up to Roopa without taking his eyes off her. But she stood rooted and fixed her gaze at him as if the slightest tilt on her part might distract his path of attraction. As he came near her, she insensibly extended her hand as though to ensure he wouldn’t trip in his trance. While he took her hand, as if to hold on to the summit of his life, energized by her dormant desire, she found herself pressing it in all eagerness. As they held their hands thus, their eyes were locked, conveying to each other the convulsions of their souls. Lost as they were in their enamored state, they had no words for each other but heaving a sigh on hearing Sandhya’s approaching steps, as though to alert him, she pulled out her hand and wrenched her look. As if cut off from the life force itself, his heart was seized and his hand dropped.
‘This is my treasure,’ said Sandhya to him, patting her friend while she herself panted. ‘Roopa is her name.’
‘Anyway you look at it,’ he said extending his hand to Roopa all again, ‘it’s a privilege to possess.’
‘Why hesitate, take it,’ said Sandhya to a hesitant Roopa, ‘to cement our friendship.’
Roopa didn’t need any further persuasion to recapture the thrill of the past moment.
‘If you’re my better half,’ said Sandhya to her beau, lacing Roopa, ‘she is my other half.’
‘Won’t that still leave,’ he said meaningfully, ‘two halves to be reckoned with?’
‘Be her friendly half,’ said Sandhya warmly to him, ‘besides being our philosopher and guide.’
‘It’s my pleasure,’ he said to Sandhya even as he tightened his grip on Roopa’s hand, ‘to do your bidding.’
‘It’s my privilege,’ said Roopa dreamily, ‘to be part of you.’
In time, called by Kamalakar, they went down, the sprightly bride leading and the enamored souls falling behind.
‘Isn’t it tough grappling with our coastal humidity?’ Kamalakar greeted Raja Rao.
‘Short of altering the climate, sir,’ said Raja Rao warmly. ‘You’ve spared nothing to make us comfortable. Thanks a lot.’
‘Honeymoon at Kodaikanal,’ said Kamalakar to Raja Rao, ‘that’s what I thought. What do you say?’
‘I’ve Kothalanka in mind,’ said Raja Rao looking at Sandhya, ‘that is if you agree. You could enjoy the scenic beauty of Konaseema, and for me it would be like starting life where I came into being.’
‘I should love that,’ said Sandhya, seemingly excited. ‘I’ve heard that Konaseema rivals Kerala for its landscape.’
‘If it suits you both,’ concurred in Kamalakar, ‘it’s Okay with us.’
‘Seems our purohit is missing me,’ said Raja Rao as someone came to fetch him. ‘I better get going.’
While Sandhya saw him off with an expectant feeling, Roopa seemed lost with a forlorn look. After he left, Sandhya led Roopa to her room for exchanging notes.
‘How do you like him?’ Sandhya said excitedly, ‘Don’t you find him handsome?’
‘He’s better than my dream man,’ said Roopa inciting Sandhya to kiss her in response.
‘Oh, I’ve to leave you now,’ bluffed Roopa gripped by an urge for solitude. ‘Chandrika wants me to go with her for some purchases.’
However, Sandhya, who wanted to share more about her beau with her mate, tried to hold her longer, and Roopa, after spending some time with her mate in her absent-minded state, could persuade her to let her go.
‘Know that I would stay put in my bed till you join me tomorrow,’ said Sandhya, reluctantly setting her free.
‘Don’t worry,’ said Roopa as though attuning her mind to Raja Rao’s proclivities, ‘if you don’t show up in time, he would drag you all the way to the altar.’
‘Isn’t he the one?’ thought Roopa, closing her eyes as if to hold him in her mind’s eye. She felt as though the man she vaguely craved all along came in his form.
As though infatuation itself was enamored to feel the pulse of their love in tandem, it induced Raja Rao into reverie to review his feelings.
‘Oh, what a face and the figure to match it, as well!’ he thought excitedly, ‘a woman with a woman’s body, as Dostoyevsky put it, is she not? And what about that bewitching smile, well, what a fascinating woman she is!’
‘It’s as though he came straight out of my heart to delight my eyes,’ Roopa thought in amazement. ‘New, yet so familiar, unknown, but doesn’t it feel as if he is my own! Oh, how it tickles, as though his gaze gauges me nude! Yet, I felt protected in his presence! Well, he’s the Raja of my heart and soul, there’s no mistaking that.’
‘It feels as though we’re born for each other,’ he felt hopeful. ‘It’s clear that she’s attracted. Oh, don’t her eyes carry the poetry of her passion for me? Anyway to get infatuated, or to love even, is one thing, and an affair could be altogether different. But mercifully, I wouldn’t be losing track of Roopa, unlike that Ganga-Kaveri girl. What an incredible fortune to meet this one so soon after losing that one! There could be a chance to make her my own some day, who knows?’
‘Wasn’t my hand languid in his clasp as if to feel the pulse of his love,’ she sighed as she recalled the sensation of that incredible moment. ‘Didn’t his touch, touch the woman in me? And when he pressed my hand with passion, wasn’t I possessed for his possession. If only I weren’t married and he hadn’t been betrothed, oh, what should’ve come in the way of our wedding? But well, I have to suppress my love, if not for fidelity, at least for friendship.’
‘Even if I can’t live with her,’ he felt peaceful in the end, ‘I would be able to love her still. If I weren’t destined to have her, well, my passion in time could transform into a sublime affection for her. Being privy to our mutual affection, won’t we nurse a fond feeling for each other? But then, would my distraction for Roopa affect my attraction for Sandhya? Oh, don’t I know that my love for Sandhya springs from the depths of my soul. Surely, Roopa seems to rein in my heart, but won’t Sandhya remain the soul of my love?
‘Thank God,’ she consoled herself. ‘We would have enough opportunities to meet. Won’t I see him and be seen by him? Oh, I would be able to adore him while he admires me. All said and done isn’t he mine, being Sandhya’s man? Won’t I get a feel of him while I make love to her?’
As day broke that 7th June, the chain of leading ceremonies for the momentous wedding commenced in right earnest while Sandhya clung to Roopa all the while.
‘I’m too excited to be on my own,’ Sandhya repeated all along.
‘To me, your marriage gives,’ said Roopa heartily, ‘an idea of the mythical wedding of Rathi and Manmath.’
‘You look no less than an angel,’ said Sandhya.
‘Of an enamored kind,’ said Roopa alluringly as Sandhya laced her endearingly.
By dusk at the kalyana mandapam it was all din. Clad in a white cotton dhothi, Raja Rao like a robot obeyed the unceasing commands of the purohit via unending vedic mantras. As his hands were at exercising the rituals to the purohit’s rhythmic renditions, his angavastram had a tough time balancing by itself on his bare shoulders. When Sandhya was brought seated in a bamboo basket by two of her uncles, all the way from the anteroom, to the decorated dais and well before the pretty load could be unloaded opposite the eager groom, a makeshift curtain was raised between them to preclude the ogling of the betrothed before the sumuhurtham.
When Kamalakar’s watch, set to the AIR time, indicated 08.26, the auspicious time chosen as the sumuhurtham from the Pedda Purnaiah’s almanac, Raja Rao was given the green signal by the purohit. Governed by his destiny and guided by the purohit, Raja Rao’s hand, carrying the sacred paste, prepared for the occasion as per the religious prescription, reached out to Sandhya, from underneath the curtain. Goaded by Roopa, the bride bowed her head to enable the groom to affix that mass on her scalp to initiate their union and in turn, Sandhya was directed to follow suit, as though to cement their marital bondage. Then doing away with the curtain, the purohit ordained the just married to stay put in that posture as though to allow them time to grasp the import of the moment to their eventual life.
Amateur photographers, from among the relatives, vied for vantage positions with the professional ones engaged for the occasion, and in their eagerness to capture the moment for the family albums, they tended to block the view of the vintage event to the curious audience. When the couple was allowed to free their hands, they raised their heads to espy each other as man and wife. After having been satiated with Sandhya’s demeanor, when Raja Rao’s eyes met Roopa’s stare, they seemed to acquire a longing look and sensing his ardor for her in her enamored state, Roopa felt as though the moment belonged to her as well.
Meanwhile, the mangalasutrams, symbolizing the nuptial knot, were taken around by the chota purohit to enable the married women to bless them. In time, as the junior brought the blessed things back to his senior, Raja Rao was ready to usher Sandhya into the dream of her life. While Roopa maneuvered the flowered plait of the bride, Raja Rao stood up to tie the mangalasutrams round Sandhya’s shapely nape, and before he proceeded, Roopa heard him whisper to Sandhya, ‘With your permission.’ As Roopa looked at him in admiration for his ingenuity, he raised his head and gazed at her in fascination. Puzzled by his manner, as Roopa wondered whether he had her too in mind when he sought that ‘permission’, Sandhya bent her head even more, as though to salute him for his thoughtful gesture.
The rituals lasted a little longer, fuelling the longing of the just married for each other. When Raja Rao and Sandhya were given the green signal to shower the talambraalu over each other’s heads, the respective camp followers egged them on for one-upmanship. Finding Roopa helping Sandhya to let her gain the upper hand, Raja Rao cried foul. ‘Didn’t I tell you that she’s my other half,’ said Sandhya, increasing the tempo unmindful of his protests. With Roopa lending gusto, the euphoria that followed amused the gathering no end. When a fistful of the sacred rice let loose from his hand landed on her head as well, Roopa wondered whether it was all merely accidental! Reflexively looking for Sathyam, she found him engrossed in a conversation with someone in the gathering.
When it was time for the gathered to greet the just weds, Roopa joined her husband.
‘This is Sathyam,’ Sandhya introduced joyously to Raja Rao, ‘Roopa’s husband and my raakhi brother.’
‘Thanks for coming,’ said Raja Rao, while he shook hands with Sathyam, and as Roopa scrutinized his demeanor to discern the nuances, he added, ‘It’s a pleasure meeting you two.’
‘Didn’t it sound like ‘meeting you too’?’ thought Roopa staring at Raja Rao, ‘It’s as if he won’t miss an opportunity for a double entendre! Oh, how he’s at it ever since we met. Maybe, that could be part of his charm.’ In the end, she thought Raja Rao’s eyes were smiling as though to confirm that she got it right.
‘We wish you spend some time with us on your way to Delhi,’ invited Sathyam, as Roopa’s face lighted up.
‘Thanks, we’ll try, but,’ said Raja Rao
‘Why don’t you recommend,’ said Roopa to Sandhya imploringly as Raja Rao read the disappointment written all over Roopa’s face.
‘I’d love nothing more,’ said Sandhya entreatingly to her husband, ‘than going to their place.’
‘As you please,’ Raja Rao seemed to address Roopa’s ears.
‘That is sisterly affection,’ said Sathyam warmly.
‘We’ll be waiting,’ Roopa said camouflaging her longing.
‘Can I detain Roopa for tonight?’ said Sandhya to Sathyam.
‘Do you need my permission for that,’ said Sathyam. ‘And I don’t come in her way either.’
‘Is there any alternative path of salvation for a married man,’ Raja Rao was hearty in his comment and said to Roopa, ‘You take care of her till I take her over.’
Around midnight that night, the physically fatigued bride fell into the arms of her mentally exhausted mate.
‘Lovey,’ said Sandhya resting her head on Roopa’s ample breasts, ‘it’s all like a dream come true.’
‘Anyway, it’s all real now,’ said Roopa pressing Sandhya’s head deep into her valley.
‘Tell me,’ Sandhya asked thoughtfully, ‘how it would be like with a man.’
‘As mating itself is so exciting,’ said Roopa in all contemplation, ‘lovemaking must be a lot more fulfilling.’
‘I’ll be in your arms anyway,’ said Sandhya mystically, ‘narrating what it was like in Raja’s embrace.’
‘Promise me then,’ said Roopa.
‘Promise what,’ said Sandhya with a smile, ‘to land up in your arms in Hyderabad, or to kiss and tell about our honeymoon.’
‘Of course both,’ said Roopa taking Sandhya into her embrace. ‘You know how I miss male sexual romance. Thanks to your man, now I can experience that by proxy, won’t I?’
‘Oh how sweet,’ said Sandhya, in all eagerness, ‘But it all depends on how you make me want to come to you.’
‘Come,’ said Roopa pressing closer to Sandhya, ‘I’ll make you feel doubly wanting by the time your man comes mounting.’
Soon, Sandhya realized to her gratification that Roopa’s love meant business.
The next day, after seeing off the newlyweds on their honeymoon trail, Roopa set out on the homeward stretch with Sathyam towards the evening.
‘While Sandhya’s love would find fulfillment in Raja’s passion, am I not left to pine for his possession,’ she felt as she struggled to find solace in sleep in that sleeper coach of the Godavari Express.
Continued to “Naughty Nuptials”