Benign Flame: Saga of Love -34
Continued from “Amor on Rein”
When the curfew was lifted in the walled city across the Musi, it did seem that sanity was restored in the excited souls. Though the Hyderabadis began to venture tentatively to get back to their routine, the city was still tense in the emotional sense.
By two that afternoon, Raja Rao left for the Wahab Builders, in the bazaar near the Charminar, synonymous with the country’s pearl trade. As Aslam availed a casual leave that day, and since one of the clients was pressing for the blue print, Roopa substituted as the drafter. As usual, Narasaiah was yet to return from an errand.
‘Integral Architects,’ Roopa answered the telephone call at three.
‘It is Wahab calling. Tell Rao saab to stay back. There’s rioting over here.’
‘Oh, hasn’t he reached?’ said Roopa trembling. ‘He left at two.’
‘Inshah Allah,’ said Wahab, ‘he didn’t cross the Musi.’
‘Ask him to call us,’ said Roopa almost inaudibly, ‘as soon as he comes.’
‘Oh surely,’ Wahab hung up hurriedly.
Sandhya who just returned to work then, found Roopa pixilated, and at that she herself was perplexed.
‘What’s the matter with you?’ Sandhya asked Roopa concernedly.
‘Wahab rang up,’ Roopa muttered incoherently, ‘It seems they’re rioting at Charminar.’
‘Oh, Raja was supposed to go over there.’
‘He hasn’t reached there yet,’ said Roopa, with tears flowing down her cheeks.
‘Oh, God,’ Sandhya swooned into Roopa’s arms. ‘If he’s harmed, I would die.’
‘So would I, that’s for sure,’ blurted out Roopa, as they wetted each others shoulders.
‘Don’t I know that, lovey,’ said Sandhya wiping Roopa’s tears, ‘Hope God saves him for both of us.’
Unable to bear her anxiety as Sandhya sank into a chair, Roopa rushed to the phone to ring up Ranga Reddy, and relieved a little after talking to him, she told Sandhya that he promised to find out Raja Rao’s whereabouts. Seeing Sandhya in shock, Roopa began cuddling her in silence, but driven by her own anxiety, every now and then, Roopa got up to ring up someone or the other, seeking their help to locate Raja Rao. However, Roopa’s updates such as, ‘Subba Reddy had gone to Bangalore’, ‘Ranga Reddy went to the Police Control Room’ seemed to fall on Sandhya’s deaf ears.
But, exhausted by anxiety, and worn by despair, when Roopa herself dragged another chair to be near Sandhya, they found themselves locking their arms and staring at each other, drawing comfort from one another though without a word. When the telephone rang at four-thirty, Sandhya sprang up to her feet, but panicked to pick up the call.
‘Sandhya here,’ she said nervously, having lifted the receiver on the third ring.
‘Raogaru is safe,’ said Ranga Reddy, ‘but he’s injured.’
‘Where is he now?’ said Sandhya with relief, as Roopa rushed to her in delight. And as Roopa shoved her ear to the receiver, symbolizing the harmony of their love for their man, Sandhya shared it with her.
‘He’s at the OGH,’ Ranga Reddy ‘I’ll pick you up around six after arranging curfew passes for you.’
‘Didn’t I tell you that he would be fine?’ Roopa hugged Sandhya poignantly as Ranga Reddy hung up his phone.
‘Why did you worry then?’ said a smiling Sandhya in relief.
Roopa rested her relieved head on Sandhya’s heaving bosom for an answer.
‘So,’ Sandhya patted Roopa’s head.
‘Can’t you forgive me,’ said Roopa, wetting Sandhya’s blouse.
‘Don’t try to be smart,’ said Sandhya teasing Roopa, while fondling her lovingly. ‘Tell me the whole story, and then I’ll see.’
‘I’m sorry,’ said Roopa, almost inaudibly. ‘I just couldn’t help it. I was fascinated the moment I saw him, and tried my best to restrain myself. But the more I tried to suppress my desire for him, the more I was drawn to him. I felt so miserable loving him that I wished I were dead. I became so insane in my longing for him that I lost all my sense of belonging to you. Blinded by my love, my conscience too failed me, and I didn’t feel guilty, though you’ve trusted me.’
‘Oh, lovey, why didn’t you tell me before?’ said Sandhya, moved herself.
‘I just couldn’t bring myself to it,’ said Roopa, hugging Sandhya endearingly. ‘Tell me; how am I to tell you that I was coveting your man? I always knew he too was attracted by me, but then, love is a different thing, isn’t it? Just the same, I was living in the hope of being loved by him. Then came a time, when I felt that I was doomed by my unrequited love for him. But then, destiny seemingly dragged him into my longing arms. As you know, triggered by your letter of concern for me, himself concerned, he came to me this August. Then, as Sathyam too was away, I could hold no more, and overwhelmed him with all my love and longing. Being his very own woman, you would understand what he could have given me in return for my overriding passion for him. Oh, how nice it feels that I too have some place in his heart, occupied for the most part by you. But, if at any time, should my presence in our love triangle irk you, I would withdraw from it without a word. Even then, I can live on, masticating the memories of his love and passion for me. Oh, won’t all that last for a life time and more.’
‘My lovey, how lovely!’ said Sandhya. ‘How I wish I were in your place. Well, it didn’t take me long to realize that you loved each other, and won’t be able to resist your urge for long. When I sensed that you’re getting closer, I looked the other way, to let you experience the thrills of love in the making.’
‘Oh,’ Roopa kissed her, ‘you’re an angel, really.’
‘But my love mad,’ said Sandhya patting Roopa’s head, ‘why hide from me, even though I prompted you often enough? Don’t you recall the ‘blank cheque’ episode and that ‘take it easy’ gesture?’
‘How could I’ve missed those and more,’ said Roopa scratching her head. ‘But I couldn’t dare, for the fear of losing your love as well as his. But at the time of Saroja’s barasala, as you were forthright, I wanted to confess to you. But he only stopped me, fearing that a premature disclosure would hurt you no end. He felt that we should wait till you get used to the idea of our affair to make it easy for you.’
‘Oh how handsome,’ said Sandhya apparently pleased.
‘Reward him,’ said Roopa, winking at Sandhya, ‘in threesome.’
Well before Ranga Reddy came as promised, fantasizing the presence of their man, the mates took their lesbian love to the frontiers of ecstatic bliss.
In time, as they began to wait for Ranga Reddy to come, Sandhya remembered about Sathyam.
‘How I totally forgot about him!’ said Roopa.
‘In the triangular moment of our life,’ Sandhya whispered into Roopa’s ear mirthfully, ‘where’s the corner left for any?’
‘But our man wants me to accommodate my man in my corner,’ said Roopa.
‘Really,’ said Sandhya in delight, ‘Oh, what a man we have for us, lovey. Oh, how different he is from all other men. Won’t a paramour tend to wean the wife away from her man? Now, I see why Sathyam is so happy.’
‘Oh darling,’ said Roopa, ‘that’s why I don’t suffer any qualms about deceiving Sathyam, as it’s my affair with Raja that enables me to carry some love into his life.’
‘Oh, Roopa, how strange are your twin affairs!’ said Sandhya in contemplation, ‘While our affair lifts my soul, your liaison with my man, enables your man breathe easy.’
When Ranga Reddy arrived at length, not finding Sathyam at home, they left a message for him with Lalitha, and set out to see their man in the new dawn of their love life. In time, when they reached the Osmania General Hospital, they found Raja Rao, still unconscious.
‘You’re lucky really,’ said Dr. Wazir Ahmed. ‘Though the injury was minor, it was still critical. Luckily, he was brought in time, and soon he’ll be fine.’
‘Doctor,’ said Sandhya, taking Dr. Wazir Ahmed’s hand, ‘we would forever be indebted to you.’
‘Thank you,’ said the doctor graciously, ‘but we only did our duty.’
‘Can we shift him to the Gaganmahal Nursing Home, near their home?’ enquired Ranga Reddy.
‘You can take him there tomorrow,’ said the good doctor.
‘You know I need Roopa,’ said Sandhya to Ranga Reddy. ‘Please ask Sathyam to take care of Saroja.’
‘Don’t worry about all that,’ said Ranga Reddy.
‘Don’t fail to seek Sathyam’s ex post facto sanction for my absence,’ said Roopa to Ranga Reddy, as an afterthought.
After his system had shed the anesthetic effect towards eleven that night, Raja Rao regained his consciousness. Seeing both his women, on either side, he involuntarily stretched his hands towards them. It seemed to them that it was as though to bring about a rapprochement between them. Even as they warmed them with their tears, he felt gratified as both of them showered kisses on his hands.
‘Don’t you forgive us,’ he muttered to Sandhya, at length, having savored them for long in silence.
‘What for is the forgiveness?’ Sandhya smiled.
‘You are an angel,’ he pressed her hand feebly.
‘How dare you slight her?’ smiled Sandhya.
‘Oh God, I’ve got to be on guard or what!’ he said in jest. ‘Haven’t I asked for it?’
‘Don’t worry, as a loyal wife,’ said Sandhya to him, as she took Roopa’s hand, ‘I’ll stand guard at the ante-room.’
‘How cute, but won’t we drag you in, for more of our fulfillment,’ he said in all happiness. ‘But why do you keep mum, Roopa?’
‘Oh, I’m benumbed with joy,’ said Roopa.
‘What about your guilt then?’ he smiled.
‘It all got dissolved,’ said Roopa fondling Sandhya’s hand, ‘in our tears of joy.’
‘How I love her romanticism,’ he said, turning to Sandhya, ‘as well as her ardency.’
‘Don’t I know, myself being her first lover,’ smiled Sandhya, and whispered. ‘She had me, much before you held my hand.’
‘Oh, I thought I needed to goad you into it,’ he pulled them towards himself. ‘How lovely there is no need for rehearsals.’
‘Sure you would find it thrilling,’ whispered Sandhya into his ears.
‘Hope, it’s not a ringside view,’ he smiled.
‘Won’t your virility,’ said Roopa coyly, ‘drive you into our arenas?’
‘I’m all eager,’ said Sandhya mirthfully, ‘for our orgies.’
‘Oh, lying in a pool of blood, how my heart bled for both of you in turns?’ he said reminiscently. ‘How lucky I am to survive that ordeal. Had I died, how would I have tasted all that’s in store for us? But, what a frightening experience it was, really!’
‘Why think about all that now?’ said Sandhya persuasively.
‘Where’s Saroja?’ he asked, at length.
‘Don’t worry about her,’ said Sandhya. ‘She’s in Sathyam’s care.’
‘Honestly, I didn’t think I would live to narrate my nightmare,’ he said with an apparent relief. ‘It’s a miracle to be with you again.’
‘You can talk all about that,’ said Roopa, trying to restrain him, ‘when it would have become a distant memory.’
That night, keeping vigil over their man that united them in their love for him, the mates didn’t wink even for a moment. However, by the time Ranga Reddy came along with Subba Reddy towards mid-day, what with Raja Rao, raring to go, they were as fresh as the flowers at dawn.
‘Raogaru’ said Subba Reddy, ‘what a fright you gave us all.’
‘If not for Ranga Reddygaru,’ said Sandhya ‘we could have gone mad by now.’
‘After all, it’s a minimum human courtesy,’ said Ranga Reddy.
‘Don’t tell me about human courtesies as I had seen the visage of inhumanity at close quarters,’ said Raja Rao, brushing aside Sandhya’s protests. ‘When I was a few feet away from Wahab’s office, some Hindu hooligans seeking out the Muslims for slaughter, accosted me. Oh, I was so dazed by the frenzy of those hate-merchants, that some of them felt I could be a Muslim in fright. After stripping me naked, to confirm my religion via circumcision, they advised me to run for safety. I was too shaken to comprehend whether I should thank the foreskin for having saved my skin, or feel ashamed of the crassness of my co-religionists. Then, hardly could I cross the street, when I ran into a Muslim mob that was after the Hindu blood. Before I could utter a word, someone stabbed me in my stomach. As I ran for life, with the shouts of ‘death for the kafir’, they chased me like a stray dog. When they were about to close in on me, I slumped to the ground, and taking me for dead, they left for good. As I lay in a pool of blood, I craved for life, while cursing the religions. Now, I vaguely remember to have been picked up by a police patrol. And as you know, Dr. Wazir Ahmed, and others here, retrieved me from the jaws of death.’
‘Why don’t you relax?’ Roopa tried to persuade him.
‘The wound I received at the Muslim hand is bound to heal in time,’ said Raja Rao regardless. ‘But the humiliation I felt amidst the Hindu mob would be hard to obliterate from my memory.’
‘This is the ugly face of these two great religions,’ said Dr. Wazir Ahmed stoically.
‘My good doctor, to say that all religions are great is a quid pro quo,’ said Raja Rao excitedly. ‘Well, the followers of all religions feel great about their faith. If not, how would they become believers in the first place? But, if we were to go by the static inscriptions of their scriptures, then, the one common drawback with all the religions is the diktat to conform to their unique dogmas. In the guise of preaching goodwill, all faiths effectually divide humanity on religious lines. Isn’t it the villainy of religion?’
‘On the other hand,’ he continued, after having some glucose water that Sandhya gave him, ‘should the behavioral pattern of the followers be the criterion to judge the greatness of a religion, don’t we find that all faiths are equally wanting? How can any religion claim to be great when it fails to inculcate human values in its own followers? Oh, it’s but the poverty of thought that veils us from the fallacy of the faiths.’
‘But then,’ said the doctor, ‘are there not good people in all faiths.’
‘That’s due to the diversity of human nature, said Raja Rao, ‘and not owing to any religious conditioning of human character.’
‘The trauma of the event could be but a passing sentence in the history of man,’ philosophized Ranga Reddy, ‘and life, except for the dead, would go on, on the familiar course.’
‘You can take him now,’ said Dr. Wazir Ahmed, after checking up Raja Rao’s condition all over again. ‘This is the case history for reference.’
Having thanked the doctors and the staff profusely, Raja Rao left the Osmania General Hospital with his family and friends for recuperation at the Gaganmahal Nursing Home. Once he was admitted there, he was gripped by an urge to see Saroja, and once Sathyam fetched her soon enough, he held her, as if he were clasping to his life itself.
‘How pleasurable it is to live?’ Raja Rao said, turning to Sathyam and seeing him visibly moved, he thanked him for his concern and expressed his regret for having detained his wife.
Towards the evening that day, Aslam came with tears in his eyes and a bouquet in his hand. Narasaiah, on hand, then narrated the tale, as if he were the eyewitness to the happenings.
‘Inshah Allah,’ said Aslam holding Raja Rao’s hand, ‘you will live long sir.’
‘I heard there was some problem at Musheerabad as well,’ said Raja Rao.
‘True, there were a couple of stabbings here and there,’ said Aslam in all emotion. ‘The saddest part of it all is that people go by rumors. It was said that the Musi turned red with the Muslim blood and that was enough to spur some of the Muslims in of our locality to goad others to join the jihad, for Islam was in danger. I wonder why the faithful fail to realize that Allah is all-powerful to protect Islam on His own. And being merciful, He wouldn’t approve killing people in the name of Islam. It’s sad that the thoughtless outrage of a few brings a bad name to our faith as a whole. If only the Muslim who stabbed you knows what a good human being you are, he wouldn’t have harmed your little finger.’
‘The communal jaundice colors our vision with the bigotry of our faith, to project hateful images of the people of other religions,’ said Raja Rao. ‘It pays to be more humane and less religious, as, the more religious one is, the more biased one would be.’
When Roopa was alone with Raja Rao, she told him that Sathyam was accommodated in that very room after his operation. At that, they reminisced how wretched they felt, unable to have a longing look at each other, owing to the patient’s presence. And having recounted the tale of her anxiety after his sudden departure, she told him about the ‘one line love letter’ of hers that she kept ready for him then. At that, a visibly moved Raja Rao vouched his eternal love for her.
However, as his recuperation at the GNH took longer than it was expected, Raja Rao turned apprehensive about the possible fallout from Roopa’s long hours at the hospital.
‘If you hang around here this long,’ he said to her that day, ‘Sathyam could become suspicious.’
‘Don’t worry about that,’ she said coolly. ‘He himself asked me to assist you, as long as it takes. Why, when push comes to shove, won’t I walk over him to walk into your home? Don’t you know that Sandhya has kept the door open for me?’
‘What courage!’ he was amazed.
‘What’s love without that?’ she cooed in his ear.
‘How true,’ he said, ‘but sadly, it’s jealousy that spoils love.’
‘Jealousy is the device that denies man the divinity of love,’ she said contemplatively. ‘I wonder how our Sandhya is an exception! An angel, indeed she is.’
‘How well you’ve put it,’ he said, pressing her hand. ‘You right you are about our dear.’
‘And love can be the failing,’ she said looking at him fondly, ‘of the divine even.’
‘But, only those who are in love would realize that,’ he said patting her affectionately.
‘It’s not that I’m being good and all, but I feel our union is indeed great. I realized that, on that D-Day, that August day, even as I was desperate in having you to have a feel of sexual love,’ she said, reminiscing about their first night’s togetherness,
‘Oh! Roopa!’ exclaimed Raja Rao. ‘Wasn’t that day as much a Divine Day as it was the Deliverance Day?’
Continued to “Date with Destiny”