Benign Flame: Saga of Love - 25
Continued from “Scheming the Theme”
Getting into his Chevrolet, Prasad drove straight into the 7th Street of Domalaguda. Parking his car near a pan shop, he chain smoked India Kings in all excitement and spotting Tara, as she entered the lane, he was impatient for her to reach her house. As Tara took note of him too, once in, she left the door ajar, in all expectation.
‘Who’s there?’ she said nevertheless at the sound of the door buzzer.
‘Your prodigal soul,’ said Prasad pushing open the door.
‘My body welcome,’ said Tara pulling him inside.
‘I’m glad,’ said Prasad taking her at her waist, ‘that I’ve found you at last.’
‘Why not say, by default,’ she said leaving his hand.
‘Maybe,’ he said, squeezing her waist, ‘but still I’m glad.’
‘Are you sure?’
‘Do you need any proof?’
‘As if your absconding was not proof enough,’ she said sarcastically.
‘I was busy in the beginning and lost track in the end,’ he kissed her hand.
‘What are you up to now?’ she said winking at him. ‘You want to come onto my tracks or wish to put me off yours.’
‘Thanks for not embarrassing me there,’ he said, taking her hand.
‘Don’t you known that I don’t compromise my clients?’ she said. ‘Now tell me, what’s cooking up over there?’
‘Oh, nothing of that sort really,’ he embraced her. ‘But why are you so concerned about Roopa?’
‘Love thy neighbor, say the scriptures, don’t they?’ said Tara looking into his eyes. ‘But isn’t she too sexy for your comfort?’
‘Honestly,’ he said, assuming a grave tone, ‘I have no such ideas unless you want to put some into my head.’
‘Hard to believe you,’ she said winking at him. ‘Anyway, I don’t think you stand a chance.’
‘Forget about her,’ he said with a wink. ‘How are things with you?’
‘You should be the better judge,’ she said unveiling her valley.
‘You’re juicier than ever,’ he said digging into her bra.
‘I trust you’re no less spicy now,’ she felt him where it mattered to her.
‘You’re welcome to confirm,’ he said pushing her into her bedroom.
‘You’re more amorous than ever,’ he complimented her aggressiveness.
‘Hasn’t competition become the bottom line,’ she said jokingly, ‘even in our calling?’
‘How I welcome that,’ he said holding her assets, ‘if it were to herald a frenzied time.’
‘Can I hope to see you more often now?’ she said, as he repaired to leave after a while.
‘Am I a moron,’ he said, fondling her breasts, ‘not to be savoring these golden apples.’
‘Anyway,’ she said squeezing him meaningfully, ‘with the pathway to your passion so nearby, won’t you need a passage for relief close by?’
‘Oh, Tara,’ he said in all admiration, ‘you could corrupt the saints even!’
‘Is it so?’ she said as she winked at him, ‘but let me see if you could seduce her. In the meantime, you could count on my services.’
‘How on earth have these two got acquainted?’ Prasad thought on his way back to Sathyam’s house. ‘Is it possible Roopa doesn’t know about Tara’s double life? How it could be, given that Roopa is no fool. Well, didn’t Tara imply that Roopa is a tough nut to crack? Wouldn’t she have tried to rope in Roopa into her fold, only to have failed? It could as well be. Won’t the real thrill of sex lie in seduction, though paying for favors might be paying as well? More so is the case when the wares are of Tara brand. Isn’t Tara as good as ever? She hasn’t lost a wee bit, has she? But my appetite for the fair sex would have true satiation only when I solace myself in Roopa’s embrace. And that’s it. What about seeking Tara’s help to trap Roopa? After all, she might cooperate, but that might as well backfire. Oh, no, when it comes to seducing women, it’s better to keep one’s own counsel.’
When he reached Roopa’s place eagerly, he found it filled with Sathyam’s colleagues who came to canvass for their candidate for the presidentship of their association. Nevertheless, when Sathyam suggested that Roopa might engage Prasad inside, she excused herself on the pretext of her going to help Lalitha with a new recipe.
‘Oh, this god-damn Roopa,’ thought Prasad as he left in irritation at missing the opportunity. ‘She won’t even let me make a pass at her. Looks like she’s lending me all her eyes and ears with her heart tucked away in her attic. Why, isn’t it clear that I can’t seduce her by appealing to her mind? I should find a soft spot in her heart to gatecrash into her bed. But how am I to touch her Achilles heel? Doesn’t she seem to be good hearted, after all? Well, that could as well be the chink in the armor of her virtue. Why not I invoke her pity by declaring my love to her? But what if she cuts me short and shows the door? Then, what about writing to her? Well, that could be the right move as love letter could be the best bet for a tentative lover. Won’t that let the lover have the required space to modulate his passion even as it gives enough time for his beloved to crystallize her inclinations? But, if Roopa shows it to Sathyam, won’t that put paid to my passion. Besides, won’t that show me in a poor light to him?’
‘What about playing patience with her?’ he thought as he began to explore the alternatives. ‘Where would all that lead me to? Isn’t she coy to my advances without herself giving anything away? Oh, how my wooing is warming her like a glove. Won’t she like to have it that way as long as she could? Moreover, when I can’t seduce her in the euphoric beginning, how can I win her over later, when familiarity would have bred contempt? Patience cannot be the right tactic to checkmate women into resigning, so it seems. Of course, time is the essence of an affair, to get into, as well as to get out of it, isn’t it?’
‘Well, nothing could be gained by playing the waiting game with her,’ he resolved at length. ‘I’ve got to take chances to improve the odds. So, let me draft a smart letter and hand it over to her. If she complains to Sathyam, so be it. What more have I got to lose if she is not inclined, after all that?’
After penning the missive that night, he thought about the mode of its delivery, ‘If I try to give it at her home, she might refuse to take it. And even if I force it on her, she could tear it in my face. Well, I’ve to confound her so that she won’t have the wits to refuse. Then, having taken it, she won’t be able to resist the temptation of reading it, isn’t it? Of course, once she goes through it, she can’t keep me in the cold for long, can she? If only I could thrust it upon her, won’t she wide open her golden gate of lust for me? And then, the rest would be our erotic history.’
Having hit upon the winning move at length, he couldn’t sleep for long in anticipation. But he woke up early to take on Roopa as she came out of the Vinayaka Typewriting Institute. Accosting her at a street corner, he took her hand and thrust his letter.
‘What’s all this?’ she protested in confusion.
‘I’m dying,’ he said with apparent passion. ‘Read the prescription, and administer the medicine.’
Before she could utter a word, he drove away out of her sight. Though stunned at the development, she looked around instinctively. And finding none in the vicinity, she composed herself readily, and heaving a sigh of relief, she paced up to her home with her contemplation for company.
‘What else is it, if not his love letter,’ she thought in bewilderment. ‘How dare he force the letter on me? What made him think that he could have his way with me? Did I give him any cause for hope? But obsessed as I’m with my Raja, how could I have coalesced with him? Well, it looks like there was a mix-up between my love for Raja and liking for Prasad in my interaction with the latter. Still, how could have I expected something like this from him? Oh, why didn’t I fling his missive at his face? If only I had done that, wouldn’t that have served him right? But it was not to be. What should I do with it now?’
Reaching home, Roopa pondered over Prasad’s missive further, ‘Why not I tear it and be done with it? But then, won’t he assume that I’ve read it. Better I return it to him as is where is. Yes, that would give him a clear picture of how my mind is closed to him, having been locked by Raja’s thoughts.’
Soon, having decided upon the mode of its disposal, she had hidden Prasad’s missive behind the bookshelf, and tried to forget about it. However, as the incident haunted her no end, she tried to divert her mind, and to rid herself of the embarrassing trespass, she took a romantic ride on the thoroughfare of her heart.
‘Had it been from my Raja, I might still be kissing the cover, unable to gather my wits to part my quivering lips from it,’ she thought endearingly. ‘Oh, while my eyes would have been kept in anxious waiting to read his outpouring, wouldn’t have my heart missed its beat in anticipation.’ However, as the reality of it all dawned on her, she thought melancholically, ‘What a tragedy that the first love letter I’ve received should’ve caused fright instead.’
Fed by her anxiety, she had a meager meal, and as though to push the issue into her subconscious self, she settled for siesta. But as if to spare her sub-consciousness from the dilemma, her consciousness kept sleep at bay keeping the issue alive in her mind.
‘What made him think I would take it?’ she contemplated in all humiliation. ‘And I did accept it, didn’t I? It was a cat and mouse between us all along, was it not? In a way, was I not enjoying it? Of course, he could be expected to strike at some point, wouldn’t he? Strike he did and what’s so surprising about it? Now that he has thrown down the gauntlet, won’t I have to ready myself for the battle?’
‘If not for anything else,’ she thought at length, ‘I need to read it to avert the threat he might be posing to undo me, so as to have idea about his attack to fashion my own strategy? Well, it makes sense to read his mind in his letter.’
So Roopa retrieved the letter from behind the bookshelf and began reading it with apprehension.
“Roopa, my hope,
I’m aware that my move would agitate you. But how am I to portray the thousand deaths I died wanting to avoid distressing you.
All these days, I’ve chosen to suffer silently without making you privy to my predicament. Then, it dawned on me that I owe it to you to let you know that a poor soul is bathing in the warmth of love that is inspired by you. That apart, do I have any right to deny my love its legitimate expression and how does that matter even if it’s unrequited?
On that fateful evening, when I’d first seen you, I felt as if the flood of love that spurted out of my heart would drown me to death. Unable to hold on my own, I ventured to seek your hand for support. Thus, as I was nearing you, I’d seen Sathyam coming to you with those ice-cream cones. Oh, how my heart froze, fearing that you’re married. But then, when I realized that you’re my friend’s wife, I rejoiced at his fortune, and chose to bury my love for you in the depths of my heart. Since I am not supposed to love you as woman and as I couldn’t live without loving you, I forced myself to adore you as a sister instead.
But, it didn’t take me long to realize that the brotherly affection is too limited to reflect the manly love I feel for you. Possessed as I am by carnal passion for you, my suffocation in the fraternal garb has been demeaning my soul ever since. Don’t I know that you too haven’t failed to notice the pain I experienced in those ungainly brotherly shoes? Now that you’re privy to my predicament, my only hope is that you would be sensitive to my sentiment. Why, am I not nursing the love you’ve given birth to? Aren’t you aware I love you as a woman and adore you as a person?
I believe that my sense of dignity demands of me to disclose my love to you. And what do I seek in return from you for my devotion to your person? I only beg for your indulgence in letting me love you till my last breath. Since it’s in your knowing now, how I see my love acquiring a new meaning. If only you let me love you, I’ll feel rewarded no end for that. Were you to pity my wretched soul, I would feel vindicated as well? Either way, now I am at your mercy, and I know your nobility wouldn’t belittle my love and betray my secret. But were you to give away my sentiment to any to make a mockery of it, my blood would be on your hands. And cursing your insensitivity, my restless soul would suffer eternally in heaven living like in hell.
Dying for your understanding,
ever yours in devotion, I remain,
Prasad, the hopeful.
‘Haven’t I known that he’s lusting for me,’ thought Roopa, as though in hindsight. ‘Isn’t he trying to win my heart now by couching his lust with the sentiment of love?’
However, on second thoughts, as his passion for her seemed to reinforce her own draw, she wasn’t displeased with his disclosure. Besides, the feeling of being loved by him seemed to please her vanity as well.
‘Why, won’t it feel nice to be loved, to be wanted,’ she thought with a feeling of satisfaction. ‘In a way, I too like him, don’t I? But it’s not the way for him to have his way. Oh, it must be really hard on him, the poor man. And don’t I understand how miserable it could be for him? Can’t I see his plight in the light of my own pain? But how can it be helped?’
‘But, I can’t be expected to soothe every man who craves for my body, could I?’ she analyzed her predicament. ‘Maybe, I should’ve welcomed him, if only I’m not myself in love. Seems misplaced love is wasteful for it serves no purpose, save massaging the ego of the one who is loved. Perhaps, it’s another dirty trick of fate on my life - to keep the love I need hanging in the fire, and throwing in my lap the passion that doesn’t help.’
Perceiving herself in the same boat with Prasad, she was overcome with pity for him. ‘Am I not guilty in abetting his love with my flirtation, even though unwittingly?’ she thought about her own contribution to his woes. ‘Maybe, but how have I failed to notice his suffering, when he’s supposed to be in such a turmoil. Is he not play-acting love to worm his way into my heart? Isn’t it strange that the emotions of love and the afflictions of lust are look-alike, bewildering women from discerning the lover from a seducer and unfortunately for them the language of love and the dialect of lust have a common alphabet causing this confusion.’
‘Why not I test him to know his true character?’ it occurred to her at length. ‘If he were trying to pull a fast one on me, won’t he get his just deserts then? But what if he were genuinely in love with me? But, that would only compound his misery without me rewarding him in the end. Won’t that make it all so unfair to him? It is better he unfolds himself by and by. If his feelings are genuine, won’t I let him taste the affection of my love on the platonic plane?’
‘Why all that, why not I nip it in the bud, and be done with him,’ she began to think. ‘Then won’t I need to take Sathyam into confidence for that? Besides embarrassing Prasad, that would hurt Sathyam as well. Moreover, who knows, both of them may put part of the blame on me, and shame me in the process. It’s better that I handle him myself.’
‘Given my own agenda, am I all that innocent?’ it occurred to her in time. ‘Am I not scheming to draw Raja into my life? For all that, I could have been flirting with Prasad as well. Anyway, I’ve to ease out Prasad without alerting Sathyam. Moreover, I must ensure that all this doesn’t scandalize me with Raja. Won’t he shun me forever should he get the wrong message? Oh, why didn’t it occur to me all the while, what a risk I was running without my realizing it?’
It is the irony of woman’s life in that she tends to tango her reflexes with the nuances of male proclivities. It is thus, woman’s true feelings get camouflaged in her lullabies of compliance to let her man sink into the slumber of complacency.
‘Is Roopa leading me up the garden path without so much as letting me hold her little finger?’ Prasad thought in bewilderment that day. ‘Why, it’s two months since I wrote that letter with great expectations. Maybe she’s coy, but of what avail is that? Well, she shows a little more interest in me than before, but where is the hint of her intent to grant? Is she a flirt for all that? How am I to know? Oh, women’s god-damn coyness makes it difficult for men to probe their minds; it could be either a shield for their modesty or a shroud of their coquetry. But then, how can any man get to know what it is beforehand? Leaving all that aside, I would have the last laugh only in her conquest, that is all. Sure, I failed to seduce an odd dame on occasion, but didn’t I come out unscathed for the loss of it. Now, as it looks, it’s all so different with Roopa. In trying to seduce her, it’s as if I’m getting seduced, isn’t it? What a role reversal! It looks like that I might fall in love with her, that is, if I’m not in the thick of it already. Well, I should have her before she gets used to the status quo, shouldn’t I?’
‘But what more could be done to lure her into bed?’ he thought in exasperation. ‘Why not I make a decisive pass at her, in a passionate way? But that won’t help as she’s bound to give me the boot. Instead, I should contrive to make her vulnerable to my amorous assaults. But how am I going to bring that about?’
So he took stock of the situation, ‘Roopa has an orderly life with a mediocre husband in
for constant company. Isn’t that an infallible situation for a philanderer to pull off an amorous coup? I better destabilize her by hitting at her strength. Didn’t Shakespeare say that women would fall when men are weak? Why doubt the master? Well, I’ll try to weaken Sathyam to bring about her fall. Won’t that open a new chapter in the art of seduction? But then, who knows, it could drag on into a volume as well. So be it, if that ensures her eventual fall. Well, even if her figure were to dent in time, won’t she be worth possessing well past her prime. Oh, she could be still deadly even when she’s left with no more than the remnants of her charms. And given her sex appeal, won’t she be maddening in bed, at any time in her life? The long and short of Roopa is that she’s an excellent short-term prospect and an enduring long-term asset, the endearing one, is she not?’
‘What about Sathyam?’ thought Prasad, looking for ways to bring about Roopa’s fall? ‘He’s one of those colorless characters, without a conviction to name, and lo, the society labels such as good-natured! While their manner derives its means from the lack of exposure, their signature is not sourced in a strong character either. But it’s these teetotalers that take the cake in our hypocritical society, don’t they! How stupid is our society that it lives in the shadows of the old values of an ignorant past! Of course, it’s another matter that these nice guys, when exposed to the niceties of life would end up chasing the goodies of the world. If only I could let Sathyam have a feel of the marketplace, won’t that make him crave for the good things of life? And then, would it take long for him to lose his bearings. If only I could induce him to have a drink or two now, won’t she find him swimming in ponds of liquor in time. But to start with, his drunken endurance as bonus won’t Roopa the amorous, look the other way? That is as Sathyam embraces the Bacchus. And as his fondness for the drink increases, won’t his ardency for her be a thing of the past. That’s when he would be leaving her craving for an extramarital fling, wouldn’t he? Won’t that be the time for me to get into his shoes to reach her sexless bed? After all, is there any surer way than that to lay her?’
‘It’s still better that I have a second string to my seductive bow, to be doubly sure,’ he thought enthusiastically. ‘Why, can’t I try to wean away Sathyam from Roopa’s charms? And with whorish support that is. Didn’t the same master give his ruling that beauty provoketh thieves sooner than gold? Who could seduce Sathyam better than the suave call-girls that abound these days? But Tara, the ace of the pack, is not quite the trump card in this deal. Taken by their seductive ways, won’t Sathyam find Roopa a routine fare, and abstain from her altogether in time? Won’t that make her think in terms of entrusting her fleshy wares to my amorous care? Does she care that’s an illicit fare?’
‘I must ensure that she won’t get wind of my scheming ways,’ he thought consciously as his excitement began to gallop, ‘and, were she to spot the foul, she’s bound to blow the whistle. Well, the idea is to give her my shoulder for her to cry over. In no way should she be able to see me with soiled hands and all. Well, don’t I need a helping hand to carry out my plans? Of course, it shouldn’t be difficult, as money these days would fetch hands for any errand. But then, who would foot the bill for all that?’
When Prasad had visualized the magnitude of the money needed for his grandiose project involving wine and women, his spirit was insensibly dampened.
‘Will I be able to siphon off that kind of money without Rani knowing it?’ he thought dispiritedly. ‘And even if I could, it might turn out to be worse, if she gets wind of my spending spree. She might get it all wrong and curtail my freedom in the bargain. Is my plan then a non-starter, after all? Haven’t I reached the dead end even before I have begun? Isn’t there a way out?’
At that, as Prasad racked his brains for a solution, in time, he got a brainwave, as though to fashion her future, Roopa’s destiny made a common cause with him.
‘Why not enable Sathyam to take care of his needs all by himself?’ he thought joyously, ‘Of course, I can use my contacts to move him into the contracts section on promotion. And thereafter, the contractors would take care of the rest of it any way. At best, Sathyam might need a little bit of prodding from me and some pushing from some contractor. Well, that can be taken care of by me, to set the ball rolling. Haven’t I myself brought many reluctant folks onto the convenient track of compromise? And once they get over their inhibitions, these scoundrels become past-masters at extortion, don’t they? But then, they’re inconveniently called corrupt by the left-outs, sour grapes. How the illicit side of the behavioral pattern seems to be common for both sexes. Women too hesitate to step out of the threshold of fidelity, but once they cross it, they hit the fast track of debauchery, don’t they?’
‘Naive that he is, would Sathyam fall prey to all these?’ he developed second thoughts. ‘But don’t I know that only a handful of men are incorruptible, either by nature or by conviction. Thus, leaving those oddballs, as with bed-hedgers among women, the bulk of them, watch which way the wind blows. When they see their colleagues and neighbors prosper through bribes, their jealousy makes them anticipate a tax raid. But when none of that happens, and if they happen to sit at the right desks in their offices, they too join the bandwagon. Doesn’t that explain the ever-growing corruption in all societies? But the vast majority, without access to that extra pie, is the most vocal against corruption in society! Give them half a chance to line their pockets, and they’re sure to quieten down like kitten. Anyway, Sathyam won’t have to complain anymore.’
‘But is all this trouble worth taking when I could get half a dozen randies for a song, that Vanaja included?’ he was left wondering. ‘If not for Roopa’s distraction, was it not possible that I would have been carrying on with her by now? How disappointed she would be that she was only flattered to be deceived. Well, many a Vanaja like might come and go but isn’t it worth covering the earth to lay Roopa. If things work out as they should, won’t I have her soon?’
‘But what if Sathyam gets wind of our affair?’ he tried to foresee loopholes in his plan. ‘What would he possibly do than become accommodative? That’s what all cuckolds do, don’t they? But then, what else can a decent man do when he comes to know that his wife has taken to a paramour. Well, divorce won’t do as that deprives him of a home with the bed and all that goes with it. Substitution, though difficult, might ensure an encore, doubling the ridicule. Should he shop around for a younger one, wouldn’t it be a matter of time before she follows the example set by the first one. On the other hand, if her were to settle for a middle aged, it might as well amount to inviting her lover into the marital fold. Anyway one might look at it; status quo would seem the better course for a cuckold to stay on course.’
‘What if out of spite, Sathyam were to sue her for divorce,’ he tried to visualize in the end. ‘Won’t I make her my mistress then? Why, am I not going back to Delhi by the year-end? Then won’t my work bring me here often enough? Oh, how well, she, as my keep, would keep me in comfort in my home, away from home. Moreover, can’t I fix her at the office to keep an eye on the guys over there? What a loyal spy she would make. Whichever way it might turn out to be, all the same it should go easy on me. In fact, it would be better that Sathyam leaves her for my safekeeping. Isn’t Roopa an eminently keepable woman? Well, she would learn what it’s like flirting with me, sooner or later, one way or the other, wouldn’t she?’
Continued to “Software of Detour”