Benign Flame: Saga of Love - 27
Continued from “Software of Detour”
On his way to Roopa’s place that evening, Prasad began to review his position in the waiting game he was forced to play with her.
‘Left to herself, she would let my passion remain in hibernation, wouldn’t she?’ he deliberated in desperation. ‘Oh me, it’s six months since I’ve been wooing her, and isn’t that a record of failure for me? All the same, being coy to my attentions, she makes it appear as if it’s only time, before she grants it to me. It seems she’s retaining her option for a liaison without taking my tearing passion into account. It’s as if she had put my lust in her mental loft, to retrieve it for use, just in case. But why so in spite of it all?’
‘What is it that could be holding her up even now, even in her low?’ he racked his brains as he raced to her place, ‘To start with, it could be the fear of desertion that is common to all women. But haven’t I promised to make her my second wife, as and when she chooses to divorce Sathyam. It looks like her mental apathy lies in the fear of the unknown, which is common to all humans. But what is there for her to lose any more? Thanks to Sathyam’s peccadilloes, isn’t her married life already in a shambles? Perceiving herself a martyr, were it possible she’s deriving some pleasure in her suffering?’
‘Since the mental siege didn’t help to break her resolve, is not the physical ambush the only recourse left for me,” he concluded as he crossed the Secretariat. “By overwhelming her in my embrace, I should use subtle force to drag her to her bed and pin her into submission. Won’t my passion then ensure that she’s excited in her very vitals to open up her golden gate for my grand entry? Won’t then she explode on her own in time. What a rape by consent it makes, that too in her own den! It looks like there’s no other way to gain her final favor. Why delay, let me have her right away.’
Buoyed by his resolve, he leaped up the steps, and as expected, he found Roopa alone in the sofa. As she got up to greet him when he neared her, he went down on his knees, as if in supplication, and before she could come to gather her wits, he enlaced her bottom with passion and buried his head there in hope. But as she tried to withdraw in panic, he tightened his grip with urge. While she turned dumb in fright, he declared his love with emotion,
‘I’m dying for you. If you can’t have me, kill me at least.’
“Oh, get up, Tara would come,” Roopa said confusedly.
“I don’t care for once,” he said, and buried his head back into her crotch.
“Don’t be mad,” she pushed him with all her strength while pulling herself in consternation.
While he landed on all fours, Tara came out of the toilet.
“I’m sorry,” he said embarrassed repairing from his awkward posture.
“I better leave,” said Tara, herself overwhelmed at the development.
‘Oh, no, don’t go now,” Roopa clasped Tara’s hand in desperation.
“Let me not be the odd man out,” he grinned, having meanwhile composed himself, and left.
“I hope you haven’t got it wrong,” said Roopa, still in shock.
“It’s your private affair, anyway,” said Tara thoughtfully.
‘Believe me, there’s nothing of that sort between us,” said Roopa pleadingly.
‘Now I believe you, but what comes later,” said Tara smiling mysteriously.
“What do you mean?” said Roopa in all nervousness.
“Don’t try to tell me that he just walked in and took you by your seat, I’m sure he came for a fling on an invitation drafted by your flirting mind. Though he retreated for now, in time, he’s bound to come to do your bidding. Take my word for that,” said Tara in all concern for Roopa.
“Oh, God,” Roopa nearly swooned into Tara’s arms.
‘It’s time you know some home truths about us women; the radars of male eyes are sure to pick up the unmistakable signals emanating from unhappy women. In her married life, a woman is either satisfied or dissatisfied, that’s all there is to it, and if someone persists with a married woman for some time, it’s a sure sign of her own vacillation,” said Tara making Roopa sit in the sofa.
‘Maybe, you’re right,” Roopa said, in spite of herself.
“But every situation portends an opportunity as well,” said Tara with seeming conviction. “The art of living lies in capping opportunities and not whining over problems. It’s only a matter of time before you find yourself in the arms of a paramour, be it Prasad or some other, as your lover is nowhere near. Either way, you better be prepared to be trapped in a man’s seductive web sooner than later. You may know that the novelty of male libido manifests itself in sexual conquests and that ensures someone is not going to rest until he beds with you. But when the novelty wears off, he’s prone to cross over to fresher pastures, leaving you languishing for sexual love. Do you know what’s going to be your likely response then? As if to prove to yourself that your sex appeal hasn’t lost its sheen, you’ll take another lover to sing the same praises of you.”
“All I crave now is for my soulmate,” said Roopa, beside herself.
“Who doesn’t despair for one, but there’s no way of getting to know the man before giving in to him, even the one you’re coveting. And that means starting an affair, with all the attendant risks,” said Tara affectionately.
“Isn’t it the bane of being a woman then?” sighed Roopa.
“Can you alter the fact, having been born so,” said Tara spiritedly. “Thus it’s sensible to accept the handicap to start with. Man loves his time with woman more than her as a person. And for all I know, females of the animal world are worse off for that as the male would walk away, having had his fill and the female waits for the next mate for a like treatment. That’s about the qualms of the male of the species, and the lot of the females to satiate them, never mind her self-gratification.”
“Is it then a man’s world of female malady?” said Roopa in exasperation.
“Yet, all is not lost for us women as our cultures highlight male egos with vitality markers, our grumbling on that score is sure to pull men down. Try dropping a hint or two that he’s found wanting, and he’s bound to submit to you in shame,” continued Tara after having some water.
“That’s Tara’s Theory of henpeckedness,” said Roopa laughing in spite of herself.
“It’s no laughing matter though, be it her man or her paramour, woman either remains vulnerable to him to her hurt, or enslaves him to her benefit. It’s for woman to choose,” said Tara assuming a serious tone.
“And end up being empty either way,” said Roopa sighing.
‘Maybe, but still its thrilling exploiting the exploiter,” said Tara mirthfully.
“Is there no middle-way for woman for a meaningful life?” said Roopa.
“It’s the way of the nature that it hadn’t laid any mid-path on the earth,” said Tara to a baffled Roopa. “While on the subject, it pays to know the proclivities of the sexes. Never count out a man as aged, since man never turns weary of woman’s charms. It’s stupid of woman not to realise that past her prime, she’s no game for any man. Thus, woman has a limited time for men to dote upon, and what a time they give us women in our time! If a woman chooses to remain a marital frog in her dried up well, she would wither away anyway. Even if a woman ventures out of her cold marital home for warming up in her lover’s hearth, still she would gain nothing in the end. Well, having had his fill, it’s only time before her favored man leaves her in the lurch. So it pays for a woman to barter her favours to stay even.”
“Isn’t it an unethical outlook,” said Roopa, for once, upset with Tara.
“Ethics, my foot,” Tara became animated. “Don’t we women have an innate weakness for successful men? If merit alone were to bring success in this world, that might still justify our preference. But don’t you know the mettle of many of these successful men? What all it takes to succeed is a mediocre mind to serve the system and a slavish tongue to praise the powerful. Isn’t it a sad commentary of our times that mediocrity is eulogized as dependability and buttering is sanctified as good PR?”
“How true, but what can be done?” said Roopa.
“Devise means to live in it without getting hurt,” said Tara, as Roopa was all ears. “It’s high time that women realized that they run behind these mediocre minds, masquerading as successful men. As for their wealth, the less said the better, for its mostly ill-gotten. However, as the social dice is loaded against the straightforward, it’s seldom that you see an honest man prosper. So, sadly, the righteous cut a sorry figure for us to fancy them.”
“But why this feminine weakness for the wealthy?” exclaimed Roopa.
“What can be done when we are made that way?” continued Tara. “It’s as well that these rouges hoard the gold, leaving us to live with the coppers. But if they eye our assets, why shower our favours on these with bloated egos, acquired on their shameless climb up on the social ladder? Ironically, it’s to these pseudo successful that we give in to, and won’t that give away our poor IQ. That being the case, what’s wrong if we put a price tag on our sexual wares?”
“So, is sex toll the crux of your feminism?” said Roopa disquieted further.
“What’s wrong with that anyway?” said Tara not giving up. “One needn’t be an Amartya Sen to grasp that it’s their black-money that skyrockets the real estate beyond our middle-class reach. Those positions, to which they butter their way through, might have gone to our men by merit. Think of the gadgets they bestow upon their kids, forcing us to match those with our limited resources, lest our children should suffer from an inferiority complex. As the unscrupulous enrich themselves without a hitch, how is it immoral for us to filch them a bit, if they seek our carnal company?”
“No denying your argument is compelling but I’m sure it’s not your prescription for woman’s liberation,” said Roopa as though pleading for a review.
“There’s a great deal that’s funny about advice, though the halfwits too feel they have a great deal of advice to offer,” said Tara reminiscently. “But on occasion, a naive suggestion might turn out to be the shrewdest of advices. When I lost my father, we were penniless, and my mother had no clue as to how to arrange for my dowry. Then someone came up with the suggestion that I could use my body to raise my dowry. Though my mother cried foul, finding it sensible under the circumstances, I went along with it. As you can see, I haven’t lost a wee bit for that weird advice.”
‘It reminds me of that Shakespearean quote, virtue itself turns vice, being misapplied, and vice sometimes by action dignified,” said Roopa in apparent awe.
“It’s for you to decide what to do with your virtue under siege now,” said Tara gravely.
“Let me see what fate has in store for me,” said Roopa melancholically.
‘But the irony is that others believe you’ve already compromised your position, once I overheard Lalitha’s sleazy remark that you could be barren, as your ovum is in a dilemma over choosing Master X and Mister Y,” said Tara to Roopa’s discomfiture.
‘Oh God, but to tell you the truth, I’m hopelessly in love, you know with whom,” said Roopa in exasperation.
‘I wish your liaison becomes virtuous in action,” said Tara, extending her hand to Roopa.
‘I can tell you he has all the intellect to bring that about,” said Roopa.
“How far is Delhi now?” said Tara.
“It’s dream distance away,” said Roopa.
“I wish it gets love-close” said Tara smilingly.
“I hope so but you’ve saved the day for me,” said Roopa turning all the coyer.
“That too to my client’s hurt,” said Tara with a smile.
‘Oh, really, don’t I owe you even more for that?” said Roopa, taking Tara’s hand.
“Your lover’s fling with me is the right compensation,” said Tara winking at Roopa, “but I won’t insist though I’ve a crush on him.”
“Thank you dear enticer,” said Roopa smilingly.
“I don’t know why, but I love you,” said Tara kissing Roopa’s cheek.
“I love you more than ever,” said Roopa, and hugging Tara, she showered kisses all over her face.
“Better save your ardour for him,” said Tara affectionately.
The fact that she made Tara privy to her innermost feelings enabled Roopa feel as though she had shared the secret of her life with the world itself. The feeling that Tara knew the identity of the man of her dreams made her even more ecstatic. It was in that state of mind Roopa bade good-bye to Tara at the wicket-gate.
As Tara walked up the lane, Roopa found herself staring at her all the way. While taking a turn at the main road as Tara looked back, Roopa waved at her as if propelled by a sense of gratitude for that love-saving gesture of hers. Well after Tara went out of her sight, Roopa stayed put at the wicket-gate, reminiscing about the fascinating closeness that developed between them.
When Roopa was closing the wicket-gate, as Lalitha had opened the main door, recalling her sleazy comment, Roopa felt embarrassed in her presence and extricated from the tête-à-tête that Lalitha began. Once in her home, however, as if to fully grasp the import of the incident, Roopa sank in the sofa, and reliving the moment, she began to see Tara’s character in a fresh light.
‘Wasn’t she in a position to abet Prasad’s cause and then blackmail me into her calling,’ thought Roopa in all admiration for Tara, ‘what a noble woman she is, in spite of everything?’
And in contrast, as the brotherly mask worn by Prasad to hoodwink Sathyam to seduce her appeared ever more mean to her, she despaired,
‘But in the man’s world, Tara is a loose woman and Prasad a gentleman. That’s the paradox of perceptions, isn’t it?’
She tried to figure out Prasad’s future moves to enable her to come up with appropriate responses, but as she failed to come up with a game plan, the postman came up with Sandhya’s letter as though to show her the way.
All along, Roopa had hoped that on their way to Kakinada, Sandhya and Raja Rao would come to Hyderabad. That letter of Sandhya’s helplessness conveyed that her father hijacked her when some work took him to Delhi the week before. The unexpected development depressed Roopa for it meant she wouldn’t meet Raja Rao in the immediate future.
‘Fate seems to be playing hide and seek with my love,’ she thought at length. ‘Now the least I can do is to go to his wife to hear her talk about him. Besides, that would keep me away from Prasad’s designs in the offing. More so, I could consult Sandhya for a way out of this mess, couldn’t I?’
‘Oh, how she got away, the slippery slut,’ Prasad thought in irritation, as he recovered from the embarrassment. ‘If not for Tara’s unexpected presence, it should’ve been a different story to tell, well, instead of biting the dust myself, I should’ve made her eat the humble pie, wouldn’t I have? Oh, if only I withdrew when she cautioned me. Wouldn’t have that saved the embarrassment for both of us? Surely, she would be damn cut up with me for having compromised her before Tara. Besides, haven’t I lost my face as well? It is better that I lie low for a while so that Roopa might feel pity for me in time. Why, isn’t pity a surer way to a woman’s heart than man’s chivalry? What’s the doubt about it? Well, I should wait for the right moment to strike back.’
But how were he to know that soon Raja Rao’s love would seal the oyster of Roopa’s heart to his lust for ever.
Continued to “Night of the Mates”