Benign Flame: Saga of Love - 20
Continued from “Curtain of Curtesy”
Unmindful of the sentimental ways of its passengers, as the Minar Express kept its westward course, reclining in a first class coupe, Raja Rao reminisced over that incomplete encounter with Roopa.
‘Had I not withdrawn from her what would she have said at our parting?’ he began to speculate, ‘Could she have said ‘yes’? Well, she might not have been so forthright, but surely she would’ve said something to break the ice. But then, haven’t we already conveyed our mutual craving in revealing ways? What remained was just affixing the ‘I Love You’ stamp to the cover of our mutual attraction. Maybe we would’ve done that if only we were slower by a step or two, but still, isn’t it clear to both of us that we love each other? No denying that and my life may not be worth living without possessing Roopa, in spite of having Sandhya.’
Then turning his attention to Sandhya, he found her lost in her own thoughts.
‘Immersed in her own emotions, she failed to see my flirtations with her friend, so it seems,’ he thought to his relief. ‘In the euphoria of her excitement, our unmistakable attraction seems to have appealed to her as an extension of her own affection for both of us. What a happy nature it is, a blessed soul, really.’
“Are you upset?” he said at length.
“You know how I miss her,” she said, resting her head on his shoulder.
“Maybe, you needn’t for long,” he said taking her hand.
“I hope so,” she said looking at him as though for a reassurance.
“You may begin the countdown,” he said pressing her hand.
“Why not reduce the count to five?” she said kissing his hand.
“Maybe with Roopa’s impetus,” he said smilingly.
“That’s lovely put,” she said.
“By the way, is Sathyam her relative of sorts before their marriage?” he said.
“No, but why that question?” she said, even though she understood his intent.
“Frankly speaking, she deserves a better match than that. So I felt she could’ve been married off to him to keep her within the family. It’s a pity that many tend to slight a bright match for an ungainly family alliance,” he said ruefully.
“Generally I don’t blah-blah others’ affairs but as I feel you’re as much my friend as husband, I think you should know about her affairs as she is one of us,” she said moved by the moment.
“You can trust me as a friend more than as a husband for as a friend, you would find me frank in discussion, but as husband, I might be selective in disclosing. I believe thoughtless openness hurts more than it helps relationships,” he said with an eye on a probable future scenario.
“I appreciate that,” she said, turning thoughtful herself.
“It’s not frankness alone that brings a couple closer but its mutual respect that gives rise to their togetherness,” he said fondling her hand.
“With Roopa and me, the feelings of friendship fuse with the emotions of affection,” she said, as her face brightened.
“I suppose, that’s possible only in friendship between women. Though I am happy for you, I am worried about her,” he said gravely.
“Why it is so?” she said, puzzled.
“It’s apparent that theirs is an intellectual mismatch, and given her faculties, she could be a mightily bored housewife by now,” he began assessing Roopa’s marital condition. “So to say, she could be on the thin edge of married ice, a fall from which would be hurtful, though life itself could be laborious. Sooner or later, it’s possible that her life may lead her into a liaison for it’s the first resort of a distraught woman.”
“You’re only half-right,” she said. “Whatever it was, she wasn’t enthused about him from the very beginning, though later on, she moulded herself into a dutiful wife. But about the temptations and all, though it may be true otherwise, she is no run-of-the-mill for that.”
“Left to her, what you say may be true,” he said concernedly. “But do realize that she doesn’t live in an ivory tower anyway. Any novice can sense the void in her wedded life, which would make him think in terms of conquest and his attempts to woo her insensibly disturb her moral equilibrium to push her into his arms for solace. What’s worse, his desertion that is a corollary to seduction could dent her self-worth to her detriment. It’s not the moral aspect liaison that bothers me for it’s her private affair, but it’s the possible fallout of that which should alarm us.”
“Oh, you scare me really,” she said clutching at his hand.
“By their very nature, affairs tend to be short-lived, often brought to a premature end by the paramours, and strangely though, yet it won’t be the case of ‘once bitten twice shy’ with the deprived women. Bitten by the novelty bug, the ditched one could itch for a new one to supplant the lost one. Thus, having got addicted to the illicit thrills, on the sly, she could jump from one bed to another with gay abandon, and God forbid, if her life were to follow this pattern, then she could end up depraved in the end,” he said sounding pensive,
“Worried though, I don’t think she would ever come to that,” she said, and tried to believe what she said.
“It’s a pity that she has to suffer all the more for her sense of decency,” he said himself feeling the pain. “A life of despair, in spite of her disposition, would expose her to the seducers, and the strain of resisting their advances could sap her resolve at some stage. Added to that is the burden of having had to remain a dutiful wife, and you could figure out the stresses and strains on her sensitive soul, all of which might combine to make her vulnerable to the male advances. It’s thus; the boasts of men about their conquests would seem hollow for it’s the vulnerability of women that fetches them their favours. That way, if she were to succumb in her moment of weakness, then she would suffer even more for having failed to desist from it.”
“Oh, God, but what can be done?” she sounded helpless.
“I don’t think her problem lends itself to a clear-cut solution, but surely, her destiny would have its own agenda for her life that we will see as it unfolds,” he said thoughtfully.
Seeing her readily lost in contemplation, he thought over the matter,
‘Why my speculation has upset her. But isn’t the possibility of Roopa’s failing for real? Surely somebody is bound to lurk in the street corner to barge into her home to bring about that. But won’t I like to be proved wrong?’
‘Why didn’t it occur to me when I was with her?’ he thought as such a prospect pained him no end. ‘How my fascination for her overshadowed my faculties! Oh, how she could drive men into distraction! Isn’t she likely to attract many? If only her favoured man happens to be a genuine lover, then that liaison would be a blessing in disguise for her. I could be the one, but would her fate make her wait for me? What with the passage of time, won’t her enamour for me wane paling her passion? Why wouldn’t someone with the right opportunity replace me in her heart? That too as her affection for me hasn’t crossed the threshold of infatuation, had it?’
As the possibility of losing Roopa unnerved him, be began to think,
‘Were she to come across the right man, she’s likely to be steady with him. Left in the lurch then, won’t I languish for her all my life? As for her, for physicality tends to shape the course of affairs, won’t she miss the essence of love in the dictates of passion? Even if she comes into my life eventually, wouldn’t have the purity of our love got polluted by then?’
‘What about my own love for her?’ he began to question himself. ‘No denying, it’s lustful to the core. Am I not dying to possess her? But then, my all-consuming passion stems from a deep-rooted affection for her, isn’t it? Can’t I perceive the purity of my feelings in the depths of my soul? Surely, my craving for her is not merely confined to possessing her, fabulous though she is. Why, am I not aiming to bring about the fusion of our souls through our emotional integration? How fulfilled would I be, if only I could fill the void in her heart, once and for all. For all I know, her feelings for me are no different. Haven’t I seen the longing of her soul in her gaze, even as I felt the craving of her love in her touch? What else I can do than pray that she develops the patience to wait for the fruition of our love without becoming a prey of seduction.’
‘Why did I fail to declare my love to her?’ he thought as he went on recalling their nascent romance. ‘But then, haven’t my eyes spoken volumes about my craving for her, so have hers, haven’t they? Couldn’t she have grasped my emotions from my innuendoes? True, she can’t be expected to take all that as the testimony of my devotion to her. Had I been forthright in declaring my love to her, possibly that would have helped her persevere with her fascination for me. But then, by being rash, I could’ve offended her sensitivity in the formative state of her affection for me.’
‘Why not I write to her,’ he thought, as a way out of the predicament. ‘But then, isn’t it risky without knowing her sensibilities? Besides compromising myself, I might create misgivings in her mind as well. What if she shows it to Sathyam, and worse, to Sandhya? Why court disaster?’
Dampened by that thought, as his spirit changed tack, he began to reason,
‘Is all this merely a flight of my hyper imagination? Who knows, being overstrung myself, I’m going crazy in my head? Clearly she has a crush on me but is that enough for her to plunge into my arms? Whatever, I should try my luck with this remarkable woman.’
In spite of Roopa’s possible indifference towards him, the feeling that, after all, she may not be in danger, as feared, eased his mind. But seeing Sandhya still uneasy, he thought, ‘Haven’t I scared her unwittingly? The poor thing loves that lovely one so dearly. Won’t that make it easier for her to reconcile to our affair, if it ever comes to that?’
Sandhya, meanwhile, tried to comprehend the situation with apprehension. ‘When it’s so distressing imagining her fall, if ever it comes to that, how horrible that could be?’ she began to think. ‘Could Roopa ever go astray? Generally speaking, what he said could be true, but isn’t she all too different? Why doubt that at all. She isn’t going to be the one to lose her head to some silly seducer. After all, won’t she keep vanity at bay? Surely, she would.’
Before she could put her doubts at rest, she remembered Roopa’s tryst with Ravi at Tara’s place that brought her fears about her mate’s fate to the fore.
‘Maybe that confirms his apprehension about her situation,’ she became doubtful. ‘As she lost her head like it happened with me in the city bus, can she keep her cool when someone comes wooing her the next time? What if he is proved right?’
Convinced about her man’s reading of her mate’s situation, she sought to analyze the latter’s mind-set,
‘It’s clear that Sathyam’s love is of no avail to her for it lacks the vigour to dispel the euphoric clouds from her lovesick eyes. Won’t his wit fail to cater to her innate intellect and his demeanour her romantic vision? And that makes her vulnerable to the misty looks of the fast guys for sure. Why, hasn’t she taken to my man though she tried to hide her feelings from me? Haven’t I sensed her romantic overtures to Raja, in spite of my own excitement? Surely, he wouldn’t have lost sight of her apparent infatuation for him. How couldn’t he have when he was the object of her adoration? Maybe, that was at the back of his mind when he voiced his fears about her possible fall.’
‘Would Roopa then become a target practice for assorted seducers?’ she thought in worry. ‘Is she willy-nilly sauntering on the volcano of temptation to be swept away by the lava of illicit passion?’
As she shuddered to think further, she tried to push that thought away, only to get bogged down all the same.
‘But, how can I remain indifferent to her predicament given our own intimacy?’ she thought, overcome with empathy for her friend. ‘Could I ever let my treasure slip into the garbage of vice? Shouldn’t I go to lengths to see that she wouldn’t fall into alien hands? Won’t her indulgence with assorted characters sour our own amour? Having tasted the sweetness of her ardour, how could I forego the ecstasy of our intimacy? Can I let things foul-up at her end, no way.’
‘Maybe, I could’ve averted all this had I been genuine when she wanted my opinion about Sathyam,’ she thought, going to the roots of her friend’s distress. ‘What a shame that I was evasive in my reply, though I myself wasn’t impressed with him. How cruel that I placed the proverbial last straw on her emotionally unstable back then, though unwittingly. If only I had been frank with her then, her scales of doubt wouldn’t have got tilted the wrong way. Didn’t I insensibly impose this marital burden on her, forever? But the poor thing never blamed me for that, and instead bore it all resignedly! What’s more, when I got the man of men as my man, she rejoices at my fortune without a tinge of jealously? But myself being on the cloud nine how mean of me to let the poor thing pine for love. Didn’t Raja sum it up it all so well, when he said that she would suffer even more for the nobility of her soul? Oh, God, how can I alleviate her suffering?’
Overwhelmed by pity for her mate, she pictured her future,
‘If we move over to Hyderabad, I can be near her, but how that would help her? Finding me joyous, won’t she suffer even more for her deprivation in comparison, unintended though? Caught between the kick of my life and the burden of her own, won’t she be worse off then? But if we stay put in Delhi, she would have to fend for herself when she needs me the most. What a classic catch-22 to contend with!’
In the eventuality of their moving over to Hyderabad, as the prospect of Roopa falling in love with Raja Rao dawned on her, she tried to envision its affect on their lives.
‘Instead of bringing succor to her, won’t we compound her misery?’ surmised Sandhya. ‘If Raja too falls for her, barring a eunuch, which man can remain indifferent to her charms? Romantic that he is, he is bound to rave about her. Isn’t his concern for her already a pointer to that? But as they both love me they may keep their infatuation under the wraps? Won’t that make them suffer for my sake, becoming morose in turn? That would surely sour my own mood even as she is caught in a cleft of love and loyalty, leave lone fidelity.’
‘Then, what’s the way out?’ she raked her brains. ‘Were I to leave her to her fate, and God forbid, she goes astray, would I ever be able to forgive myself? My guilt-filled conscience would ensure that I’m haunted all my life, won’t it? Besides, I’m bound to feel miserable seeing her in the dumps. Simply put, I can never ever let her down, whatever it might take. So, we must move near her to let life take its own course thereafter.’
‘Which course could it take then?’ she turned inquisitive to gaze at the crystal ball. ‘All said and done, Roopa may not cross the threshold of her romantic leanings, and might remain within the bounds of marital fidelity. In that case, our coming together will restore to us what we’ve been missing in our separation. Even if Raja gets attracted to her, unable to cross the hurdle of her fidelity, he would confine himself in his platonic plane.’
However, wondering whether sentimentality alone formulates man-woman chemistry, she tried to grasp the applied physics of adultery,
‘Should Roopa itch for an adulterous hitch, given his personality, as well as his proximity, Raja could easily outsmart her every other suitor. So be it, if that’s the way it turns out to be. Though I might have liked to keep my man all for myself, by the way, which woman doesn’t want it that way; dispensation seems to be the only means of my atonement, isn’t it? If I share my man with her, that would bring cheer into her life unburdening my guilt as well. Even otherwise, isn’t it a logical progression for our lesbianism? More so, it would ensure that her amours are kept in-house, isn’t it? Is it that the ménage a trois we were jesting about all along seems to be on hand? If so, what amours we three could bring into our orgies. As for Raja, it amounts to having his better half with her other half, as much for his satiation as for my salvation.’
Having fantasized about their threesome sex, she turned her focus on Sathyam’s fate.
‘Wouldn’t it be unfair to him?’ she thought as her sympathy for him affected her. ‘But, how could it be helped? Maybe, it doesn’t help man taking a lively wife if he’s not up to the mark. What a fine soul he otherwise is! What a pity love doesn’t reckon one’s goodness in its yearning. Well, if Sathyam were destined to be cuckolded, wouldn’t it be in order that Roopa is cajoled in Raja’s arms. Queer though, it ensures that she remains in the family fold.’
As she couldn’t help but envision the scale of their love triangle, she thought, ‘Once we shift there, they wouldn’t be able to hide their craving from me for long. It could be a great fun intercepting their signals and decoding their innuendos. I could even scare them occasionally by dropping hints that I am at spying. Won’t that pep up their sense of adventure before I bind them in our amorous fold? Isn’t it maddening imagining the sexual union with the man and the woman I love!’
The thrill she felt in fantasizing their threesome in that fresh light, further fuelled her love for her man and her mate, fusing them all into one erotic whole in her consciousness.
“Don’t get upset dear, your love will save the day for her,” he said, as she looked at him after that long reverie.
“I count on your support,” she said.
“It’s a given from me,” he said taking her hand.
“Can I take it on her behalf?” she smiled mirthfully.
“If you can keep it with you,” he said smilingly.
“Along with what she has for you,” she said opening the food packets.
“What is that?” he said.
“Wait for that,” she said smilingly.
Sometime after they had their meals, coyly looking at the window, she said,
‘Pull down the shutter.’
“If you excuse me,” he said, kissing her forehead.
“If you please I’ll make you moody,” she said amorously.
“Your mere thought is enough for that, but somehow,” he said patting her head.
“I understand, good night,” she said kissing his hand.
‘Clearly he’s disturbed, so he’s in love with my lovey,’ she thought endearingly.
Envisioning a love-filled future for three of them, soon Sandhya slumbered on the lower berth in that coupe for two.
Continued to “Enduring Longing”