Benign Flame: Saga of Love - 33
Continued from “Chat at the Bar”
On that vijayadasami, during October, the lane leading to the office of the Integral Architects Pvt. Ltd., in Himayatnagar, was lined up with assorted vehicles of those who came to grace the inaugural function.
While Roopa, in her grey Binny silk sari, was at the entrance welcoming the invitees with her bewitching smile, Raja Rao in brown corduroys and white T-shirt was ensuring that all were seated, as they entered. Handling the refreshments were Aslam, the drafter and Narasaiah, the daftari. As if to capture the moment for the posterity, Sathyam was busy clicking away with his new Canon, but suckling Saroja, Sandhya in her Gadwal sari was bogged down in the anteroom for long.
However, as the muhurtham for the inauguration approached, Raja Rao went up to Sandhya to fetch her for the vighneswara pooja. Sensing that she was putting Saroja to sleep on the divan, he signaled her to make it quick. When Sandhya came out the couple performed the pooja with Roopa in attendance and after the prasadam was distributed in the gathering, Raja Rao took the floor.
While thanking those present for gracing the occasion, he wished those who didn’t turn up till then, would be joining soon. Reading out their resume, he introduced his partners, in turn. He was sandwiched, he said in jest, between Sandhya, the malikin at the house and Roopa, the boss at the office. That is why, he claimed, Integral Architects could be expected to be equally competent in handling homes as well as offices. In Aslam, he said, he found a competent drafter and that Narasaiah was courtesy personified. He hoped that their young team would come up to the expectations of their esteemed clientele.
At the auspicious time, Ranga Reddy was accorded the honor to unveil the name-plate, symbolizing the inauguration of the enterprise. When requested, Subba Reddy gladly put the drafting table to use, as a mark of the commencement of work. Ranga Reddy, in his address, recalled how he was impressed with Raja Rao when they first met. He said it was owing to his confidence in Raja Rao that he turned a realtor. He hoped that his Build Well Ltd. and Integral Architects would combine to contribute to the growth of Hyderabad. Subba Reddy, who followed him, said that he was a man of few words, and the two words he had for Raja Rao were - account transferred.
One by one, everyone left after refreshments, leaving the staff and Sathyam behind with the core group. While Roopa was assisting Aslam to move the drafting table by the window, Sandhya tried to pacify Saroja, who had woken up by then. In time, when Narasaiah began to clear the rubbish, Sathyam went to Mahaveer Studio with the exposed film rolls. Shortly thereafter, to Roopa’s delight, Tara showed up.
‘Congrats,’ she gave Roopa a large bouquet.
‘I owe it to her,’ Roopa passed it on to Sandhya.
‘And I do to him!’ Sandhya gave it to Raja Rao.
‘How handsome,’ said Tara, and added after a pause, ‘your partnership is.’
‘Thanks for coming,’ said Raja Rao.
‘I’m happy that Roopa is in the right company,’ said Tara, ‘and she deserves it.’
‘Come on,’ Roopa whisked Tara away, ‘I’ll take you around.’
‘Why do you feel so insecure?’ whispered Tara, following Roopa.
‘Are you not a femme fatale, isn’t that enough?’ said Roopa in jest.
‘Not of your grade anyway,’ said Tara, taking Roopa’s hand. ‘I’m glad your patience has paid off.’
‘Facilitated by your timely help,’ said Roopa reminiscently.
When Tara entered the anteroom, Roopa stood embarrassed at the threshold.
‘It should be okay,’ smiled Tara, lying on the divan. ‘What do you say?’
‘You’re impossible,’ smiled Roopa.
‘When’s the lunch break?’ Tara winked at Roopa.
‘Oh, you,’ said Roopa in all coyness.
‘Where’s the ‘Don’t Disturb’ board?’ said Tara, as she mock searched under the divan.
‘It’s on the way,’ said Roopa in jest, and put Tara back into circulation.
As Tara got up to leave in time, said Sandhya to her, ‘Do drop in as you please.’
‘It would be my pleasure,’ said Tara, squeezing Roopa’s hand, ‘if Roopa permits.’
‘As if you’re a sort to wait for one,’ said Roopa teasing.
The next day, during the lunch hour, when Raja Rao led Roopa into the ante-room, she turned apprehensive, though she looked forward to it with all her craving.
‘It could be risky,’ she said.
‘Isn’t it worth it,’ he said, pulling her into his lap, ‘even at the cost of life itself.’
‘Why no bolster?’ she said stretching herself on the divan.
‘With your chignon,’ he said lying by her side, ‘I thought you won’t need one.’
‘Sandhya too says,’ she said, eagerly pushing his head on to her breast, ‘it goes well with me.’
‘Thank God, we’ve a place for us,’ he said, unbuttoning her blouse. ‘It would have been hellish otherwise.’
‘A homely office really,’ she said in relief. ‘What if Sandhya smells our homeliness?’
‘That’s what we want, don’t we?’ he said smiling, leading her on the amorous path of their fulfillment.
‘A married woman might enjoy her domineering role at home,’ thought Roopa, as they came out of the ante-room at length. ‘But in liaison, being submissive to her paramour, won’t she enjoy the joy of surrender. Won’t that make liaison a singular affair?’
In time, everything fell into a groove at the office and in their homes as well. Sandhya hired a girl to assist her in coping up with Saroja. Raja Rao would ride to the office on his Bullet with Sandhya at nine, leaving behind Saroja at home. Roopa would walk down to the office in time, after seeing off Sathyam with the lunch-box. Aslam and Narasaiah would report for duty on time, for Raja Rao was a stickler for time. While Aslam was always found rooted to his drafting table, for the most part Narasaiah was out on errands.
So to feed Saroja, Sandhya would head home at sharp eleven. And at the stroke of one she reaches the office with lunch-box for the three of them. Aslam, however, was wont to leave a little early for his namaaz, on his way home for lunch. Having savored the meal with her man and mate, Sandhya would leave the office by one-thirty, to be at home to suckle Saroja. Raja Rao would schedule his meetings to ensure his lunchtime presence for lovemaking in the office. While it was back to work for the rest of them by two-thirty, Sandhya, after siesta, would come back at three-thirty.
The synchronous harmony of their lifestyle enabled the couple and their lover live in ecstatic fulfillment.
While the work at the office gripped Roopa, the weight she came to wield there buttressed her self-worth. After all, Raja Rao came to depend on her for she readily picked
up the work with her quick grasp. Besides attending to the office accounts, she helped him at structural calculations as well. As though to prove that she shared his passion for construction, she traced the building plans that he had conceived. Indeed, she was heady with life.
It was in the midst of such a time, which Raja Rao called honeytime that he had to go to Madras for a week. At that, missing Raja Rao’s passion, Roopa felt as if she were left in the cold, in spite of her physical intimacy with Sathyam, not to speak of her amorous time with Sandhya. Thus, it didn’t take long for her to realize how her own fulfillment came to be pinned upon Raja Rao. Thus, by the time he returned, she was mad and eager.
However, as luck would have it, the day he returned, Sandhya, who brought them lunch, brought Saroja to the lovers’ surprise. When Sandhya revealed that the housemaid had gone to the matinee with a friend of hers who came from Khammam, they felt let down. In time, with Sandhya around, the dismay of the vexed lovers began to vent itself in varied ways. At length, Sandhya noticed that Raja Rao turned irritable while Roopa remained morose.
‘What’s wrong?’ she asked Roopa.
‘Why, nothing,’ replied Roopa.
Seeing Raja Rao berate Aslam on a trivial issue, Sandhya tried to calm him down.
‘What’s troubling you,’ Sandhya said in surprise, ‘that too after having bagged such a prestigious contract!’
‘Oh, I’m sorry,’ he said.
‘Is it a mere coincidence that both of them are off color at the same time?’ contemplated Sandhya. ‘Isn’t it clear that something is troubling them both? What it could be? Are they in love and in heat as well? Isn’t it possible that they’re having sex here in my absence? Now my untimely presence on top of a week’s abstinence is what might be irritating them, isn’t it? So it seems, they’ve made it to the post sooner than I expected. Why not I have a dig at them then?’
‘Did you cash in the cheque, Roopa?’ Sandhya whispered in her mate’s ears.
‘Which one you’re talking about?’ said a surprised Roopa.
‘Why, that blank one I gave you,’ said Sandhya, teasingly.
‘But when was that?’
‘You may recall the next time he withdraws it,’ said Sandhya smilingly, and went up to Raja Rao, leaving a perplexed Roopa behind.
‘I know why you’re out of sorts.’
‘Don’t be silly,’ he said in irritation.
‘More so now,’ said Sandhya.
‘What do you mean?’ he said getting subdued.
‘When not in the right slot one goes out of sorts, doesn’t one?’ said Sandhya mysteriously.
‘Oh, my lovely little genius, why don’t you write a thesis on that?’ he said managing a smile,
‘Why not, with so much material around,’ she said smilingly. ‘Let me see if that interests Roopa as well.’
While Roopa’s wanting remained unfulfilled for the day, Sandhya’s romanticism ensured Raja Rao’s fulfillment in that night. However, the next day, as the eager couple came out of the ante-room, they felt as if they had sex for the first time in their life. But a few days later, at the sound of the buzzer, fearing exposure, they were benumbed in their lovemaking.
‘What to do?’ Roopa whispered, instinctively covering herself.
‘Let’s not respond,’ he said in undertone.
‘What if it’s Sandhya?’ she said, worried.
‘Let me go and see,’ he said getting dressed at length.
However, while he came back relieved, she was only partially dressed.
‘Thank God. I escaped the quarantine,’ she said in relief, but added in apprehension, ‘I’m afraid we may not be lucky next time.’
‘There’s the Murphy’s Law to back your fears.’ he smiled.
‘It’s no laughing matter,’ she said in all nervousness, ‘If it is Sathyam, it is death, and if it’s Sandhya, then it’s shame though it seems she has guessed it.’
‘I too think so,’ he said thoughtfully. ‘It’s time that we seduce her into threesome.’
‘How I would love that day,’ she said, as she hugged him in hope, ‘nay, that night.’
However, as the buzzer never sounded again during their escapades, their fear of exposure was evaporated in the heat of their passion and so the urgency to rope in Sandhya into their orgies receded.
As the business improved, Raja Rao was getting bogged down at the office until seven, however, freeing his women by five. Back at Sandhya’s place, the mates were wont to melt in each other’s arms. The feeling that her husband was also enjoying her lover gave the cutting edge to Sandhya’s amour and as if to augment her lover’s pleasure with her mate later, with all her ardor, Roopa was ever eager to make love to her mate. As their fondness for their man grew, they were ever closer with each other in their lesbian domain and since Sathyam too was keeping late hours at the Secretariat, the mates began to keep themselves in their arms for longer hours.
‘My lovey!’ resting in Roopa’s lap, said Sandhya that evening, ‘what a life!’
‘A love filled one,’ said Roopa, fondling Sandhya’s breasts.
‘Yet with yearning,’ said Sandhya winking at Roopa, ‘isn’t it?’
At that having looked into Sandhya’s eyes intently, Roopa buried her head into her mate’s bosom endearingly.
‘Take it easy,’ said Sandhya in all smiles, moving her finger meaningfully in Roopa’s erotic essence.
‘Make it hard now,’ said Roopa in ecstasy.
The affection Roopa felt for Saroja catered to her innate sense of womanly want. Fondling the baby, she experienced a motherly fulfillment as well. Whenever Saroja smiled in her lap, wanting to mother her sibling subconsciously, Roopa felt spasms in her womb. The mood at the office too was upbeat for them all. Even as Ranga Reddy’s ambitious ventures were rising to the skies one by one, Subba Reddy’s new contracts were wearing the drafting table a little bit more. New clients too were trooping in, making Raja Rao think in terms of expansion. Thanks to the word of mouth, Sandhya too was busy with the decor of the posh bungalows of Banjara Hills. And all that made it a dance and dinner in Roopa’s life.
That evening, as they were calling it day at Integral Architects, Narasaiah brought the disturbing news of a communal commotion in the old city.
The walled city of Hyderabad on the banks of the Musi, built in the 16th Century by Quli Qutub Shah around the Charminar, is a predominantly Muslim populated part of the modern metropolis. As the legend has it, Shah built the place to commemorate his love for Bhagmathi, his Hindu beloved, and named it Bhagyanagar. Manned for most part by the Muslims, His Court felt that a Hindu name for a Muslim capital would be a misnomer, and thus proclaimed it as Hyderabad for the posterity. Ironically, as history witnessed, the Hindu mind and the Muslim psyche failed to fuse with the spirit of love that brought the place into being. Instead, they preferred to imbibe the theory of the Court that the Hindu character and the Muslim identity are things apart.
‘It seems some pork was thrown into the Mecca Masjid,’ reported Narasaiah, ‘and the Muslims suspect a Hindu hand behind the defilement.’
‘That might spell trouble after all,’ said a worried Aslam. ‘But why do they provoke the Muslim sentiment at all?’
‘The fact, that the mere presence of pork in a mosque or beef in a temple could trigger a communal riot in our country speaks for itself,’ articulated Raja Rao. ‘There’s no denying that either way it hurts the hyper-religious, and it’s precisely for that reason that the mischief mongers from both the communities resort to such acts. If we allow such symbolic hurt to trigger a communal riot, it’s like walking into the trap laid by the cunning con men or the religious zealots. Everyone knows that the silent majority is peace loving and law abiding; not that they are spiritually enlightened or religiously tolerant. It’s just that all realize that orderliness serves their self-interest the best. But, thanks to the machinations of the mischievous few, all get engulfed in the communal frenzy. Regrettably, the politicians too developed a proclivity to fan religious passions to create vote banks for themselves.’
‘What’s the way out then?’ asked Sandhya.
‘Oh, there seems to be none really,’ articulated Raja Rao. ‘But common sense might help one to reach out to others across the boundaries of religious biases. Let’s take the present incident. Even assuming that it’s the handiwork of a couple of Hindus, can one say that all the Hindus of the city are behind it? But for all that, it could as well be the handiwork of a demented Muslim. The Muslims might rightly be outraged by the sacrilege, but won’t the Hindus themselves be wary about the tasteless deed? Instead of getting at each other’s throats, won’t it make sense for all to collectively voice their common consternation? If only we could do that, the miscreants from both the communities would realize that there’s no ground left for them to foment trouble.’
‘But who’s to take the lead?’ asked Aslam.
‘Who else but the middle- class as the pigheaded religious heads have failed the masses,’ said Raja Rao, ‘Partly, the problem lies in the tendency of those that tend to give a public face to their private faith. And that makes the others suspicious about their religious intentions and personal inclinations.’
‘Is it to suggest that the Muslims should desert their mosques?’ asked Aslam.
‘Who says that, but all should downplay the manifestations of their faith in the public arena at least,’ said Raja Rao. ‘Maybe, more than the others, the Muslims need to do a lot more social re-engineering for their own good.’
‘We, Muslims who believe there is but one God, can’t religiously relate to the Hindus who worship at the altars of so many gods,’ said Aslam. ‘That’s the source of the discord to begin with, something like an ideological dispute.’
‘If that’s the case, the Christians too believe that the God is one,’ said Raja Rao. ‘But still there were those crusades against the Muslims. But then, how can God be one, when all religions have their own One! As for the Gods in our religion, I would say without meaning any offence to other faiths, there’s no contradiction in that. As the modern organization has evolved round department heads, it seems to me that our ancient religion conceptualized various Gods for specific functions governing the Hindu destiny.’
‘But it’s the Hindu idolatry that is at odds with Islam,’ commented Aslam.
‘Well, religion is an emotion peculiar to the humans, the sensitivity of which increases in the face of criticism from those of the other faiths,’ said Raja Rao. ‘We, Hindus, feel incensed when others tend to reduce us to idol worshippers. The essence of Hindu dharma is aham brahmasmi brahma - God is but the self of man. Where is the question of idol worship then? Our bowing before our deities is only a symbolism of our submission to the paramatma, that is, God. Being ignorant of this Hindu nuance of our devotional ethos, those professing the Semitic faiths naively take it as idol worship.’
‘Moreover, our deities impart form to the god we seek solace from, and thus help us stay focused in our prayer to Him,’ continued Raja Rao. ‘By way of an example, we can all recall the features of our beloved ones in their absence. But when we look at their pictures, won’t our emotions for them get focused in our minds. It’s time others realize that what they misconstrue as idol worship is but a Hindu way of concentrating on God. Besides, we the Hindus need distinctive images to envision our concept of God’s avataars. All the same, hasn’t the so called idolatry insensibly seeped into the religious ethos of Christianity and Islam as well? Won’t that prove, if proof were ever needed, that when it comes to spirituality, imagery comes naturally to man, and anything contrary, be it religious or be it ideological, is the pretence of the protagonists.’
‘Given the reality of human emotions,’ opined Roopa, ‘religious tolerance seems a mirage after all.’
‘Misplaced zeal for one’s faith and uncalled for bias against the other religions has been the bane of the humans,’ said Raja Rao. ‘It should be understood that no one can emotionally feel about a religion other than his own. If all realize this truth, then only it would bring about religious tolerance. Having said that, my intellectual perception of Hinduism and Islam is this: Hinduism is the most abstract of all religions, to comprehend which one needs a certain level of intellect, not common to the masses. This at once proved to be its strength as well as its weakness. The very character of their philosophy enables the Hindus to try to understand the atma, that is, the self. And this Hindu endeavor to understand the self brought about the evolution of a thought process of the highest order ever achieved by the humanity at large. On the other hand, the Aryan intellectual apartheid pushed the Hindu masses into abject ignorance, not to speak of poverty.’
‘Islam, on the other hand,’ continued Raja Rao, ‘is supposed to be a concise creed without any scope for ambiguity. It’s as though the faith was fashioned keeping in mind the intellectual limitations of the common man. Maybe, this clarity coupled with the egalitarian concept of its teachings could have led to the conversion of those Indian masses who were either unable to comprehend the precepts of the Hindu dharma or those oppressed by the prejudices of the caste order. But at the same time, this very virtue of definitiveness of Islam precludes any philosophical discourse about life, making it fundamentalist in its precept and practice.’
‘What do you think of Christianity?’ Narasaiah, a Christian convert, asked Raja Rao.
‘To my mind,’ said Raja Rao, ‘going by the progress made by its followers in shedding the dogmatic shackles, it’s the most dynamic of all religions. But its emphasis on sin is intriguing indeed.’
‘All religionists claim their religions preach peace,’ said Sandhya, ‘yet what governs the world is strife.’
‘That’s the paradox of the faiths,’ said Raja Rao in exasperation. ‘While one wails over the death of a co-religionist in a riot, the same person is indifferent to the slaughter of scores from the other community! But will it be a consolation for a woman who lost her man, that a dozen from the other faith were widowed in the same riot? Why, would ever wounds differentiate human bodies on religious lines to heal themselves? What else is religious strife but human stupidity?’
‘Inshah Allah,’ said Aslam, ‘let it subside without further trouble.’
What an irony that modern man, engaged as he is in the pursuit of knowledge, allows himself to be stymied by the dogmas of the Dark Ages, perpetrated as religious tenets.
Continued to “Surge of a Merge”