Disown to Own

Continued from “Smallness of Bigness”

“How the glaring shadow of my life came to distort my vision!” he continued in lament. “The grandiose ‘Imperial Infrastructures’ was the stilted idea of my fucked-up psyche, and as if man’s fate factors the times he lives in to shape his life, Harshad Mehta came onto the scene; can one ever fail to recall the euphoria he had helped generate in the bourses? Hadn’t business magazines, all and sundry that is, goaded the public to sell the family silver to invest in stocks? Oh, how the public issues of never-heard-of-entities without a factory shed to name came to be oversubscribed many times over; and when the bubble was burst as Mehta was caught stealing, how many became broke no one knows. Why, I too was guilty of laying the superstructure of ‘Imperial Infrastructures’ over the tenuous foundations of Rajan Builders; wonder how I suffered no qualms in gambling with the public monies to raise my domestic stock; but my love for my woman and the luck of the investors might have helped me succeed in my unethical venture; whatever, it was then that I lost my soul and became a devil’s slave, though I didn’t realize it then.’

“Once man crosses the moral threshold, he’s likely to lose the reins of his life.”

“True, but I met a woman who had been astray for a while and yet regained her moral ground just in time,” he said with apparent admiration. “She was the wife of a man of meager means who had big dreams for their twins, a boy and a girl; so he strived to improve his net worth through hard work to uplift their future. But when he realized that his hard work alone was not enough to ensure their rosy future, he had pleaded with her to prostitute herself to fashion their future. Well, like any other woman, she was averse to the idea, but in time, as his obsession for her kids’ future dented her resolve to remain chaste, she started making other men feel at home when her man and her kids were away from it. What with the referrals from those philanderers helped her to develop a fetching clientele, her earnings far exceeded her man’s expectations, but as he worked harder than ever to augment their fund, she moved ever emotionally closer to him, and ironically, as if to lighten his burden, she endeared herself more than ever to other men. When I came to know of her, I approached her with great expectations but how disappointed I was is still fresh in my memory; as I knocked at her door that morning, I found her readying her kids to school; fascinated by her beauty, I was all eager to have her but she told me that she had drawn the curtains down as she didn’t want her growing up kids to smell the rat. Bowled by her sensitivity (I hadn’t become insensitive yet), I pressed my suit to the hilt but finding her unyielding, I even begged her not to disappoint me, but with a charming firmness, she asked me to update my informer about the change in her posture. So, I left her as much in disappointment as in admiration, only to meet her on a different footing later on; how small the world can become.”

“It calls for a rare character in them both.”

“That’s true as I found it out later and about it later,” he continued. “You know my firm became a force to reckon with and that took me back to square one to win over Ruma’s mind to retain her love. But soon, I had realized that it was success that began to rule our heads; hers to begin with, inducing us to acquire the trappings of wealth for the sake of those who looked up to us, so we thought. How man tends to imagine himself as the tracking object on others’ radars to justify his extravagance as but the dictates of his life’s circumstances! But then man fails to realize that but for a sleaze or a scandal, the world at large never bothers about him, whatever be his station, and so fails to fashion a purse-supportive lifestyle and allows himself to dabble with the delusions of grandeur. Adding to that, success distances man from the genuine, and what’s worse, it brings the shady and the shallow closer to him; it was this script of fate that had moved us into this posh place, far from the simple folks.’

“Maybe it’s the spiritual price life has to pays for its material success.”

“Well said,” he said with apparent sadness. “As if life doesn’t believe in half-measures, to make it worse for both of us, the devil possessed Ruma no less; bitten by the status bug, as her mind began to foul her soul, she turned cozy to the rich that she wouldn’t have otherwise touched with a barge pole; what was worse, she began to condescend to descend to the genuine, making them feel constrained in our palatial bungalow that is yours now. But obsessed as I was to keep Rajan’s memory out of her mind, I kept her in good humor regardless; and having brought her to that pass, I too fell into the trap of conceit. Why, I began to feel embarrassed to have Raju any more around my circle of the wealthy, and entrapped in that snobbish trap, there was no way I could’ve pulled Ruma out of its inimical grip.”

“What a Catch 22 it is, don’t mind it’s a catch-phrase.”

“Why not give Joseph Heller his due for the catchy title,” he said. “Well, Raju was not dumb to read my mind and so he steered clear of my course; but what if he had chosen to embarrass me by sticking to me on purpose? Won’t it make a strategy to hurt the jealous and the conceited by imposing ourselves upon them, never mind they cold-shoulder us? Well, he was too good a soul to resort to such a foul; but shortly after Anand came back on transfer, when Ruma advised him to keep away from his poor friend with no future to name, I had a full grasp of the complexities of the trap into which I willy-nilly pushed her into; and so I began to worry about the possible fallout of her changed ethos on my life as well.”

“Wonder how success eclipses one’s innate goodness?”

“What if she weighed me light in comparison with someone more successful?” he continued. “As I was bogged down with that thought, the negativity of it began to bother me; I was alive to the fact that the seeds of liaisons sprout in the stilted minds of the disaffected spouses, and if Ruma were to take a lover, the slight apart, won’t the scandal be scary. What if she chose to seduce Anand to score over me and still keep it in the family; but soon as if to relieve me of my worry, like I distanced myself from Raju before, she came to cold-shoulder Anand, but for a different reason; while I avoided Raju imagining that I had outgrown him, I suspect that she began to shun Anand to disown her humble past. How ironical it was that her moral decline should’ve assuaged my fears about her feared sexual fall; whatever, as if they served their purpose, my unfounded fears about her affection for him were put to rest in my mind.”

“Wasn’t it rank depravity that you should have felt relieved even though your wife had lost her soul? What a fall though it’s a folly to judge others.”

“Whatever, I toyed with the idea of roping him into my venture for I began to feel the need for someone capable that I could trust as well,” he continued. “What a value addition he had been at the office, and ironically that hastened my moral decline even more; as he refused to soil his hands with our murky deals, I had to handle the underbelly of business that heralded my nose-dive into a moral abyss; and equally worse, Imperial’s vertical take-off into the galaxy of infrastructure only pushed Ruma’s moral ethos further down the ladder of materialistic callousness. So, in the process of his growing up, Satish’s psyche had to bear the brunt of our moral fall; well, who to blame but me for denying him what was left of the childhood for the kids of his generation?”

“Why blame yourself when it was and is the order of the day?”

“Do you think so?” he said looking at me vacantly.

Continued to  “Sentiment of Ruin”


More by :  BS Murthy

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