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, it’s me that’s going,” said Sandhya still dancing.
“What’s the matter?” asked Damayanthi.
“It’s the NCC thing, I’ve made it to the state level, and God willing, from there over to Delhi for the Republic Day parade,” said Sandhya excitedly.
“Congrats dear,” said Damayanthi hugging her daughter.
“I’m proud of you my darling,” said Kamalakar who came by then.
“Oh, if only, I can make it to the contingent,” said Sandhya dreamily.
“We’re sure you would,” said both the parents.
“Surely you could’ve already posted the news to Roopa,” said Damayanthi.
“I thought I would surprise her,” said Sandhya rolling her eyes.
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 Pradesh 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. ‘Surely she would have loved those kotaiah’s kaajahs even more - but then they aren’t sold here,’ she thought fondly reminiscing in 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 unremittingly. As the intensity of his enamoured look 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, what a windfall it is!” Roopa kept repeating amidst a shower of kisses.
“Close the door,” said Sandhya gasping for breath.
“Where’s the rest of your luggage?” said Roopa, taking Sandhya’s handbag and lugging at her.
“I’ll tell you, first close the door,” Sandhya persisted.
With the door closed behind them, Sandhya opened her mind to her friend.
“I just can’t believe myself, how did I let all that happen?” concluded Sandhya in confusion.
“It’s the malady of maidenhood, and I know its remedy. Shall I post the prescription to your father?” said Roopa in jest.
“Here I’m scared to death and you are joking,” said Sandhya in mock anger.
“Let me see, if your charmer is still there,” said Roopa, herself turning curious,
“Act at your own peril; if he sees you, he would shift his glare and get glued to your gate,” said Sandhya having recovered her wits by then.
Nevertheless, Roopa peeped out of the window and found someone at beat near the gate.
“Is he the one?” Roopa asked Sandhya.
Peeping out from over Roopa’s shoulder, Sandhya pressed her head to it.
“He’s quite handsome; no wonder you lost yourself. Why not call him and give your dad’s address,” Roopa half-raised her hand in jest to tease her mate.
“Why are you making it worse for me?” Sandhya said, holding her hand impulsively.
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 enough scope to hope for a date, and more,” said Roopa contemplatively.
“I shouldn’t have got into this mess at all,” said Sandhya nervous all again.
“Why get upset about it?” said Roopa, and narrated her own encounter with Ravi in Tara’s house and said,
“It was one of those small pleasures of life, isn’t it? We must learn to enjoy them for what they’re worth.”
With the sound of the buzzer then, as her heart missed a beat, Sandhya ran inside only to rush back after hearing Sathyam’s voice.
“What a pleasant surprise,” Sathyam greeted Sandhya.
“I planned it that way,” said Sandhya, and explained her position.
“Wish you all the best,” said Sathyam as he went in.
“Has he gone?” Sandhya whispered to Roopa.
“Yes, to fetch a stool,” Roopa whispered back
“Why not offer him a chair,” said Sandhya in jest.
“I envy your friendship,” said Sathyam to Sandhya, as he rejoined them, having changed into a lungi.
“You’re a part of us,” said Sandhya affectionately.
“Thanks for saying that, I wish I’m your brother,” he said warmly.
“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 against your friend,” said Sathyam to Sandhya.
“I will go out then,” said Roopa in jest.
“You know that I keep no secrets from you,” he said.
“Neither I in what matters to you,” said Roopa.
“See Sandhya, she’s ever cut up with me,” said Sathyam as Sandhya and Roopa looked at each other furtively,
“I’m a little crazy, that’s all,’’ said Roopa as though she was clarifying her position all the same.
“Why don’t you give her some time as she’s slow and steady?” said Sandhya to Sathyam.
“Any way, I couldn’t have hoped for a better wife than her,” he said affectionately.
“A loving husband too is a rare breed,” said Sandhya holding Roopa’s hand.
“Thanks for the compliment, why don’t we go out for eats?” said Sathyam beamingly.
“You should know that she must be craving for a home meal,” said Roopa.
“That’s true,” said Sathyam.
“We’ll play caroms, Roopa says you’re an expert at it,” suggested Sandhya.
“You may be feeling cramped in our little place,” said Sathyam as he arranged the board in the hall.
“Your hearts are big and that’s what matters,” said Sandhya heartily.
“Glad you think that way,” said Sathyam.
“I fail to understand why we should feel apologetic in the first place. We have what we have and live within our means. For those who seek comforts, ours is surely the wrong address. Why embarrass the genuine with these explanations,” said Roopa in irritation.
“Your friend has failed to add that she lives on her own terms,” said Sathyam to Sandhya half in jest.
While Roopa didn’t protest at that, Sandhya complimented him, “you’re classy with your scissors,” and at length, after conceding the game 29-14, she added, “you’re too good a player.”
“You’re really a tough competitor; why not a revenge game?’ said Sathyam appreciatively.
‘I’m a game for it,”’ said Sandhya.
“It’s long since I’ve played like this,” he said, winning the challenge round 29-22.
“Since when have you become an expert yourself 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,’ Guests too have their rights, don’t they?” said Sandhya smiling.
“Don’t worry, I’ll give her company,” Roopa told Sathyam
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 not invite the Ramus for lunch?” suggested Roopa,
“They would love to meet Sandhya, I’ll be back with them in no time,” he said excitedly.
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 you don’t have time for us anymore,” Roopa warmly greeted the Ramus.
“Of late, he’s not even finding time for me and he comes home just to sleep. I told him to send me back to my parents’ place and arrange a cot for himself in his factory itself,” grumbled Meera.
“Office is the natural refuge for a man from his nagging wife,” Ramu said in jest,
After the storm has subsided, Roopa said in introduction,
“This is Sandhya my soulmate.”
“Oh, I’m sorry, your name is ever on Roopa’s lips,” said Meera a little embarrassed.
“As her other half, I second her statement,” said Ramu.
“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?” interjected Sathyam,
“That’s the advantage of birth and it’s a fact of life,” said Roopa.
“Like it or not that’s the way of the world,” chimed in Ramu.
After a sumptuous meal that Sandhya savored, they settled for a round of rummy.
“With Roopa around, the winner is declared beforehand,“ said Meera, shuffling the packs.
“You people make too much out of my little bit of luck,” protested Roopa, picking up her cards.
“Looks like we’re going to get sandwiched between the friends,” said Sathyam as the opener was grabbed by Sandhya.
“It’s no more than a beginner’s luck,” said Sandhya smilingly.
As Ramu scooted the next deal Roopa teased him,
“Why withdraw at the very first reverse.”
“Look at your friend’s beaming face; one should be blind not to read her hand in that glow, though she holds the cards to her chest,” said Ramu to Roopa.
When it was five in the evening, Sandhya was all set to leave for Langar Hauz.
“All the best, to all of you,” she said, preparing to leave.
“Wish the same to you, it’s nice that we met,” said the Ramus.
“I’ll long for another visit,” Sathyam turned sentimental.
“Me too,” said Sandhya taking 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, moreover, they may like to be alone,” said Ramu.
As Sandhya looked around furtively as they stepped out, said Roopa,
“Are you still expecting him or what?”
“Who knows?” Sandhya said casually.
“In that case, it’s only fair to favour him for his perseverance,” said Roopa, teasingly.
“So, you’ve become a devil’s advocate lately,” said Sandhya in exasperation.
“I’ll see what a daredevil you would as Mrs. X,” said Roopa, pinching Sandhya.
“That’s some way away, but what’s on in the New Year?” said Sandhya.
“What difference does a New Year make for me but for the change of the calendar,” said Roopa gravely.
“That way, we never know what surprises life has in store for us,” said Sandhya squeezing Roopa’s hand.
“Any way, I’m tired of hoping,” said Roopa resignedly.
“Hope for the best, and prepare for the worst, that’s wisely said,” said Sandhya.
“Come the Republic Day, I’ll be there to spot you in the live telecast,” said Roopa, as they reached the bus stop.
“That is if the video-wallahs happen to focus on me,” said Sandhya.
“Why, you have the gait to parade men behind you, and your face, can anyone miss it, even in a crowd!” said Roopa adoringly.
“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 remember you.”
“My longing for you reminds me of your craving for me,” Sandhya whispered endearingly into Roopa’s ear,
“Bye, lovey,” said Roopa as Sandhya boarded the bus.
Waving at Roopa, as the bus moved, thought Sandhya,
‘How lucky to have a fried and a lover rolled into one 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 her life with him. What else could the poor thing do?’
Continued to “Match in the Making”