Benign Flame: Saga of Love - 16
Continued from “Naughty Nuptials”
Roopa was languid in her bed that morning when she received Sandhya’s telegram - Arriving Twentieth Godavari Receive Us Station.
Overwhelmed, she threw her hands up in excitement. However, she picked up ‘The Hindu’ lying in the door latch as though to confirm the date. Thrilled at the prospect of meeting Raja Rao, she looked at the clock, and was shocked at what she saw.
‘There’s hardly any time left. Oh, the train would arrive in half an hour, the time that takes me to reach the station. Can’t the department show some consideration for such messages,’ she thought in irritation. ‘Why did Sandhya have to wait until the eleventh hour to wire?’
While cursing her friend impulsively, she reached for the mirror instinctively.
‘I’ve to appear before Raja unkempt or keep them waiting to freshen up,’ she thought, apprising herself of her appearance. ‘Oh, how I’ve been craving to see him for the past eleven days! When the longed-for moment is on hand, why am I bothering about my looks? If I don’t show up in time, they may try to make it on their own. Won’t that further delay his darshan? Moreover, a mix-up would leave them stranded at the doorsteps. And that would surely present me in a poor light. Oh, no, I will change the sari and tend to my hair on the way.’
As soon as she got into an auto-rickshaw, she began goading the driver to go in top gear, all the while blaming herself for her predicament, ‘Oh, how stupid! Wasn’t it my idea to receive them at the station that has landed me in this mess? Didn’t they say they would make it on their own even then? But, I insisted on receiving them, didn’t I? Oh, how could I’ve anticipated all this? Was it my fault wanting to see him as he got down from the train? For all my longing, don’t I deserve to see him as he alights? But as luck would have it, I might as well miss the bus.’
‘What’s wrong with you?’ she berated the driver in annoyance. ‘Where have you parked your driving skills?’
‘Madam,’ the driver said in apparent helplessness, ‘what can be done when the roads are as bad and the tyres so dear.’
‘Oh, the roads, they are as wretched as my life,’ she felt dejectedly while her thoughts turned to Sathyam instinctively, ‘Why had he to go today, of all days, on that god-damn tour? Had he not woken me up at four, I wouldn’t have had a disturbed sleep later, and so should’ve got up as usual. It’s as though ill-luck would shadow me in his shape.’
Having reached the Secunderabad Railway Station with such wayward thoughts, Roopa all but fumbled at the Enquiry Counter. However, on learning that the Godavari was expected shortly, such was her relief that she didn’t bother to check up whether she was early in coming or the train was late in arriving.
Pregnant with expectations all again, she rushed to the designated platform and awaited their arrival with all her heart. ‘Post-nuptials, how would Raja look?’ as she thought, she tried to envision him with a peculiar sense of thrill. Instinctively she recalled the glow on Sathyam’s face in the wake of their first night, and felt, ‘Raja must be looking at his handsomest best given his unique looks.’ As she recalled his enamored demeanor and the longing touch, she craved even more for him.
‘It feels as though we met only the other day,’ she thought in fondness. ‘How two weeks have passed since! Oh, when weeks could roll by in his thoughts, then years could be but fleeting moments in his company. Why does he never leave my thoughts? It’s as if I’m incapable of holding any picture other than his persona now! It’s as though he has become an immutable essence of my consciousness.’
‘Would he have given me a damn all these days?’ it crossed her mind to her consternation. ‘Were it possible that he wouldn’t have thought about me at all? But then, didn’t the love bug bite us in the same vein? But still, wasn’t it just a brief encounter? Is it possible that it was just an agreeable distraction for him? Moreover, hasn’t he been with his beautiful bride all the while? Oh, how stupid of me to expect that he would long for me!’
Though startled by the thought, she nevertheless conjectured in hope, ‘He loves Sandhya for sure, and don’t I rejoice at her fortune for that. Still can’t he feel some fondness for me as well? In spite of his preoccupation with Sandhya, shouldn’t he be thinking about me in blissful anticipation? Of course, the same way I think of him while in Sathyam’s arms.’
‘What if the glow of my attraction had paled by Sandhya’s effervescence in his eyes?’ she thought in fright, as her doubts resurfaced. ‘Sandhya’s ardency should’ve nipped his passion for me in the bud. Oh, don’t I know how ardent she is. Besides, her ethereal beauty should’ve bewitched him, blinding his eyes to my charms forever. The softness of her manner should’ve seeped into the soft centre he could have nursed for me in his heart. Her love by now could have satiated his lust, obliterating the traces of his infatuation for me.’
As she turned gloomy thus, she thought melancholically, ‘I should’ve known that it wouldn’t lead me anywhere. Yet, how did I fail to rein in my enamored heart! Why this fruitless feeling for my friend’s man? Oh, won’t this fatal attraction for him engulf my life in passionate misery? Well, the dead weight of my hopes used to be a drag on my life but hasn’t this throbbing pain of love activated my heart. When it is so pleasurable pining for him, what a feeling it would be to posses him. All said and done, does it not amount to consciously coveting Sandhya’s man?’
Shocked by the thought, she questioned herself in disbelief, ‘Why didn’t my conscience caution me while my infatuation coveted her man? Is it because it’s love that’s at the root of my passion? After all, I’m not out to snatch him from her, am I? Of course, I wish to bestow my affection on the man whom she seems to adore. Given our lesbianism, what’s wrong if I want to augment her man’s happiness with my body and soul as well? How thrilling it could be for the three of us in a grand liaison!’
Having rationalized her proclivity thus, visualizing the ecstasies of their passionate orgies, she got excited.
Soon, the train halted on platform number two to unload its load of weary passengers. At length, when she saw him alight from a first class coach, she stopped in her tracks. ‘Didn’t I guess it right? Oh, he looks so divine,’ she thought endearingly, espying him alluringly. ‘It’s worth pining for him even though it’s paining. Isn’t pain better than the lack of any feeling?’ In time when she spotted Sandhya, Roopa’s look acquired a new found love. As she rushed towards them, she recalled that incident on the train, and felt, ‘If that weird episode could romanticize my gloom, wouldn’t his vivacity have overwhelmed her in a romantic whirlwind?’
When Roopa was at arm’s length, Sandhya leapt towards her, losing her balance in the bargain. As Raja Rao instinctively tried to prevent Sandhya from tumbling, his hands clasped Roopa’s arms calling the same bidding. Holding Sandhya in between them, as they looked at each other, his gaze portrayed longing and her look acquired the feeling of belonging. Later, as he was arranging for a coolie, the friends were boggled with tears of joy.
‘How’s Sathyam?’ enquired Sandhya at length.
‘He’s okay but away,’ replied Roopa. ‘He went to Warangal before your telegram arrived.’
‘How disappointing it is?’ said Sandhya. ‘Will he be back before we leave tomorrow?’
‘I thought,’ said Roopa in disappointment, ‘you would be staying a little longer.’
‘Honestly,’ said Raja Rao, who joined them by then, ‘we’re hard pressed for time, but wanted to see you two nevertheless.’
‘He’s again at it with that ‘too’,’ Roopa thought amusedly, but said softly. ‘Can’t you imagine what your coming means to me?’
‘Why imagine,’ he said seductively, ‘when it’s all so apparent. Thanks for the hearty welcome.’
‘He’s impossible,’ Roopa felt thrilled by his audacity. ‘He’s not even worried that Sandhya might guess.’
Securing the rest of their luggage in the cloakroom, they exited with a suitcase that Raja Rao carried. Walking along with them, Roopa thought, ‘Surely, he heard about Sathyam’s absence but failed to voice the customary disappointment. Why, won’t he know it’s a godsend for him to make advances at me? It’s clear that he knows that I have fallen head over heels for him, with all my heart and soul as well. The fact that he kept mum shows he’s not a hypocrite, and how I abhor hypocrisy, though I was guilty of it with Chandrika then. Anyway, won’t Sathyam’s absence suit me as well, for the same reason? Well, it could be providential, couldn’t it be? Besides, Sathyam’s presence could have devalued me in Raja’s esteem.’
Gladdened by Roopa’s warm welcome, Raja Rao was saddened that he would have to bid her adieu the very next day. Though he toyed with the idea of extending their stay, he gave it up in the end, afraid it might give him away. However, he made up his mind to probe her heart while expressing his feelings to her.
Continued to “Tentative Moves”