Benign Flame: Saga of Love - 35
Continued from “Surge of a Merge”
For the first anniversary of her D-Day that August, Roopa was dead set to be in Tirupati with her lovers. However, as she was clueless about keeping her man away from their love triangle, she got reconciled to Sathyam’s ironical presence at her thanksgiving.
That afternoon, as Sathyam was helping Roopa pack their luggage, Rami Reddy, his department head, sent for him.
‘Yes sir,’ said Sathyam to Rami Reddy, having cursed him all the way to the Secretariat.
‘I’m sorry Sathyam,’ Rami Reddy sounded apologetic. ‘I have to cancel your leave.’
‘Why sir!’ said Sathyam dumbfounded. ‘You know, I’m going to Tirupathi with my family and friends.’
‘Don’t I understand,’ said Rami Reddy sympathetically, ‘but then, Nagaraju wants to talk to us about those World Bank Tenders.’
‘But sir, they’re due for opening only the coming Friday,’ said Sathyam pleading. ‘And I’ll be back by Wednesday itself.’
‘You know Nagaraju speaks for the Finance Minister, and no less,’ said Rami Reddy. ‘There’s ‘no way I can let you go now.’
‘Yes, sir,’ said Sathyam helplessly.
‘Six sharp at 206, Royal Hotel,’ said Rami Reddy.
‘Oh, these are the inconveniences of life in the service,’ Sathyam thought, on his way back home. ‘Had I been into some business, wouldn’t I have been my own boss, as Raja Rao is? I should make a fast buck and start on my own soon. Obviously, Nagaraju would like the World Bank Works awarded to the Finance Minister’s benami firms. Oh, how could there be any hanky-panky in the open tenders? Well, the meeting won’t serve any purpose save for the record. And the boss knows that as well. All the same, Nagaraju would pressurize boss, and he wants to use me as a cushion, that’s all. Besides, won’t he want to be seen as trying his best, to be in the good books of the powers that be? And that’s why all this tamaasha. But surely Roopa won’t like it. Won’t she be dejected at yet another cancellation? Surely she would curse me, and drop out herself in frustration. What about Sandhya? Well, she was no less excited about the trip. Better that I let Roopa go along with them. At least, let them all have a good time.’
When at five in the evening, as the Sathyams and the Raja Raos reached Nampally Station, said Sathyam to Roopa, ‘Let me cancel my ticket.’
‘It’s with him,’ Roopa pointed to Raja Rao.
‘Give that to me,’ said Roopa to Sathyam as he took the ticket from Raja Rao. ‘It might take a long time for you in the gents’ queue.’
‘Perhaps it’s God’s wish to bless our Amorous Triangle in His Shrine itself,’ Roopa thought joyously, joining the queue for appearances sake. ‘Let this be the ticket for our orgies, in the bogie to begin with. Won’t we manage the TTE to keep that extra berth of privacy for us? Once he’s through with his checking business and all, we could lock the cabin for the night. Can’t this be the Lord’s very own blessing for our lovemaking? While I wanted thanksgiving at Tirupati for that night of my life, the Lord seems to grant us orgies in His precincts no less. Does that mean our love has the sanction of the heavens? Who knows that anyway, but how is our affair taken on this earth?’
‘Oh, how people wear moral blinkers, of the well-worn kind,’ she felt, as her thought process had brought her face-to-face with the reality of life. ‘The irony of it all is that, in spite of censure by the moralists, life tends to evolve in tandem with the ever changing human condition. Of course, they all start on the sly only to set the trend in the end. Once it comes into vogue, the new pattern becomes the value of the times, picked up by the world as the moral mantra of the era. That’s all about the across the board morals, which fail to take into account the individual compulsions in the changing times. Thus, it makes sense for one to draw one’s own boundary of ethics, of course, aided by a compass of reason, with the needle of equity that is.’
Buoyed by that new found feeling, Roopa left the booking counter and rejoined the Raja Raos and Sathyam. In time, they moved their luggage into the first class coupe for four. As though the driver was pushed by their urge for orgies, he blew the horn unceasingly, forcing the guard to show the green light. Thus, as that Rayalaseema Express began to move, waving off his wife and friends, Sathyam stepped out of the railway station, and stepped into the Royal Hotel across the road.
‘Sorry Sathyamgaru,’ Nagaraju greeted Sathyam apologetically, ‘for not fixing our meeting in a star hotel. But you know we might get noticed in any.’
‘That suits me fine,’ said Sathyam. ‘Why, my boss hasn’t come yet? Won’t old habits die hard?’
At that, as the buzzer sounded, Nagaraju reached for the latch.
‘Oh, you’ll live a hundred years,’ Nagaraju welcomed Rami Reddy. ‘We were just talking about you only.’
‘Sorry Sathyam,’ said Rami Reddy, ‘for spoiling your party.’
‘That’s all right sir,’ said Sathyam. ‘But what am I to do now?’
‘Don’t you know,’ Nagaraju said dreamily, ‘that all eyes are on the three World Bank Tenders?’
‘How I wish your bids turn out to be L-1s,’ said Rami Reddy resignedly. ‘You know they’re all Open Tenders.’
‘But the FM has high hopes on you,’ said Nagaraju to set the ball rolling. ‘He believes you could find some ways and means to put them into his pocket. Any way, it won’t be any favor but for barter that is.’
‘How kind of him,’ said Rami Reddy, and added throwing up his arms in the air, ‘but you know the procedures are all pucca.’
‘The FM wants you to work out on the tactics,’ said Nagaraju as though to lighten Rami Reddy’s burden. ‘And he’s ready to take care of the logistics.’
‘To my mind at least, to say the least, the procedures are foolproof and are not amenable to any twists and turns,’ said Rami Reddy, and turned to Sathyam as though wanting him to second his opinion. ‘What do you say Sathyam?’
You’re right sir,’ said Sathyam, unable to find a way through the tangle.
‘Accommodation in the Limited Tenders,’ continued Rami Reddy, ‘and passing the bills out of turn, are different anyway. Aren’t we managing them for you all the way?’
‘And that’s why it’s peanuts for you, thus far,’ said Nagaraju enticingly. ‘But get us these mega projects, and have a million each.’
‘Even if we click,’ said Rami Reddy, as though to raise the stakes, ‘it might lead us to the remand in the end.’
‘Well, to cover all risks,’ said Nagaraju falling for the bite, ‘you both can have an extra million each.’
‘Don’t mistake my saying that,’ said Sathyam to Nagaraju, ‘but when it comes to settling the accounts, invariably it’s all about excuses. Why, I know people shying away from parting with farthings.’
‘I appreciate that,’ said Nagaraju as though the deal was about to be signed and sealed. ‘Show us a foolproof plan and take fifty percent in advance, and the balance will be yours after the tenders are opened, but before you leave the office. And that should satisfy you.’
‘Tempting, though it is,’ Rami Reddy thought aloud, ‘I don’t see how we can pull it off.’
‘As you’re involved with the Tender Openings for more than a year now,’ said Nagaraju to Sathyam, ‘I hope you could see us through.’
‘I didn’t apply my mind to that,’ said Sathyam thoughtfully, ‘but on the face of it, given the stringent procedures, it looks a tough ask though.’
‘When the drink gets into the system,’ said Nagaraju opening the Johnny Walker with the black label, ‘it might throw up an idea or two, wouldn’t it?
‘Anyway, it’s stupid not to give it a try,’ said Rami Reddy. ‘Sathyam, let’s review the whole process, and see if we can find any loopholes.’
‘Sir, as you know,’ Sathyam recounted the tender procedure, ‘at the scheduled time, the sealed tenders are opened with the bidders all present there. Even as they watch with their eagle eyes, of course from some distance, I sort out the documents, and encircle the bid figures of each of them. Then I place them all before the committee members for their signature. After that, as the gathered take note of them, I read out all the bids, one by one. The L-1 thus, would be an open secret by the time I would have announced the last bid. On the other hand, if we try to favor a higher bid, then, as you know, all hell would break loose.’
‘Why not we change the topic?’ said Rami Reddy, as if in conclusion. ‘You can report the matter to the minister, appended with my apologies. He might try his luck with the Tender Evaluation Committee.’
‘Why give up, when half the bottle is still for the taking,’ said Nagaraju, more out of hope than any expectation. But at length, when they all came down to the dregs, Sathyam said dreamily, ‘If only the Tender Committee chooses to look the other way, take it from me that the projects are already in FM’s pocket.’
‘Really!’ exclaimed Nagaraju, as his eyeballs almost came out of their sockets, as if to probe Sathyam’s mind. ‘Oh, come on, reveal the plot and leave the rest to me. If only you we can even put the blind on the committee.’
While Nagaraju laughed heartily at his own joke, Rami Reddy was piqued by his subordinate’s one-upmanship.
‘Let me see if it’s workable,’ said Rami Reddy, bogged down by his failure to come up with something on his own, but not with any idea to examine what Sathyam might bring on to the table. Any way, he was far too inebriated by then to comprehend much of what was happening then.
‘To start with,’ announced Sathyam, ‘FM’s tenders would have blank bids.’
‘What!’ Nagaraju exclaimed in surprise.
‘Only to turn into L-1s,’ said Sathyam with a triumphant look, ‘in the end.’
‘Nonsense,’ said Rami Reddy dismissively.
‘Why, let him explain,’ said Nagaraju, looking hopeful, ‘how that is possible.’
‘If only the committee members authenticate your tenders without bids,’ Sathyam unfolded the plan, ‘won’t I then turn them into legal L-1s at the end of the day?’
‘But how?’ said Nagaraju.
‘Once the committee turns blind to the blank spaces, and signs on the dotted lines,’ said Sathyam, assuming a measured tone, ‘I would place each of your tenders at the bottom of the respective piles. Then, for a given project, as I read out the bid figures of all the tenders from top to bottom, at every stage, I would make a mental note the prevailing L-1. Thus, in the end, as I pick up your empty tender lying at the bottom, I can utter the bid amount, lower than the lowest. Well, Nagarajugaru should be alert to note the figures I blurt out for all the three jobs. Once we’re done with the crowd, won’t we have all the time in the world to insert the lowest bids in those empty circles on our tenders? Now tell me, what do you think of the coup in the making?’
‘Brilliant,’ exclaimed Nagaraju.
‘Workable,’ said Rami Reddy.
‘There would be a few loose ends to tie up though,’ said Sathyam, with a top-of-the-world feeling. ‘For matching the typeface on the tenders on the whole, we need to use the same typewriter all through. We should buy a machine for our office, but before we take it in, we’ll use it for typing the bid-less tenders at my place. Thus, after the tender opening, as we fill in the blanks on that machine in our office, the typeface would come clean, even under the microscope. As a way of extreme precaution, on both the occasions, we might use the same typewriter ribbon. That would ensure that even God wouldn’t get a wind of our manipulation.’
‘This to say the least,’ said Nagaraju missing the point in his excitement, ‘it’s a Sherlock Holmes’ stuff really.’
‘You can take care of the typewriter and all,’ said Rami Reddy enthusiastically to Sathyam. ‘Put up a note tomorrow itself for my approval.’
‘Oh, unbelievable!’ exclaimed Nagaraju confidently, ‘Now the three biggest ever civil works would come our way. Isn’t it as good as that? All we’ve got to do now is to put in place a pliable committee to do our bidding. But that’s a child’s play for the FM. Well, you will get your million each by tomorrow evening, sealed and delivered at home.’
‘It’s time we left,’ suggested Rami Reddy.
As he headed home in ecstasy, Sathyam was jubilant in his exuberance.
‘Rupees two million for my billion dollar idea,’ he thought excitedly, ‘wasn’t that brilliant? Oh, it’s nothing short of genius, really. Why, it’s almost a revelation! A couple of blank bids to follow, and won’t I show the Prasads of the world their rightful place? If only I could tell all this to Roopa, she would have an idea about her husband’s grey matter. How sad it is that neither I can share my triumph with her nor present the booty to her, to show her that I care. Besides, I can’t better our lifestyle either to make life lavish for her. How am I to explain my spending spree to her? Oh, why does she have such an aversion towards cutting corners? Well, after touching five or more, I should resign and venture into some business or the other. Won’t I be able to pass off all this as business profit then, even from the beginning? And that would be the time to flaunt my wealth and make her move in a limousine of her own. Meanwhile, I’ve to lay low, tucking the money tight in the attic.’
‘Would one ever come to suspect the secret show?’ he thought, after reaching home. ‘No way, isn’t it all so foolproof. But what if it were to leak out later? How can I ever face my father, leave alone Roopa, if it ever comes to that? Mother, though, might understand. Won’t the old man scowl that the fair family name was soiled. What an idiosyncrasy! Of what worth is a family name, when no one had heard of it? Well, the die is cast, isn’t it? Even if I won’t play ball, the play will go on, that is for sure. Why should I be the loser, after all? Besides, won’t I have to make her rich, at all costs that is? What a lovely wife to have, how will Roopa be feeling now on the train now?’
Aboard that Rayalaseema Express, entwined with her man and her mate, Roopa in the seventh heaven raved, ‘Oh, how I’ve been dreaming for our threesome in a racing train.’
‘It’s time to start the game,’ said Sandhya amorously to Roopa.
‘With both of us lending him our helping hands isn’t it strange that he needs to double his effort,’ said Roopa enlacing Sandhya.
In the uninhibited union that followed well into the night, while the lesbianism of the women charmed their man’s eroticism, his libido, exhilarated by their eagerness, occasioned their gratification. While, the lovers felt equally blessed, as if the bliss of their love triangle had been seeping into her cradle as well, Saroja didn’t stir from her sleep all the time.
By the time they reached Tirupati in the morning, it was well past ten and hiring a cab, they soon set on their journey to Tirumala, the abode of Sri Venkateswara, the Lord of the Seven Hills.
‘How is it that the Lord is also called Balaji?’ Sandhya asked Raja Rao.
‘I guess,’ he said, fondling Saroja in his lap, ‘it could be to make it easy for the North Indians who find our South Indian names tongue-twisters.’
Reaching Tirumala in time, they checked into a cottage reserved beforehand. Having rested after lunch, they visited Papanasam and other places of pilgrimage on the hills. In the end, spurred on by the spiritual stimuli, they spent the night in ecstatic union before going to the temple at dawn for the thomala seva of the Lord. While Roopa thanked Him for her fulfilled life, Sandhya prayed in gratitude for His saving her man’s life besides blessing her mate’s love. And Raja Rao wished that the Lord would nourish their love for one another, forever.
After the Lord’s seva, Raja Rao took out a coral necklace and a pearl chain from his wallet and gave them to the poojari to perfuse them with the Holy water, and even as he was chanting appropriate mantras, Raja Rao whispered to his women, ‘Hear him sanctify our union.’
In time, as the poojari handed him the ornaments, Raja Rao adorned Sandhya with the coral necklace and enlaced Roopa’s nape with that pearl chain, all with a feeling of blessedness. As though to demonstrate the weakness for his women did not overshadow his paternal feeling, he went through the same process with Saroja’s gold chain as well.
‘I’ll revere it like my mangalasutram,’ said Roopa touching the pearl chain to her eyelids, ‘blessed by Love and sanctified by God.’
‘It feels like He’s blessing us,’ said Sandhya mystically, and while fondling her pearls, Roopa fondly looked at the deity.
‘Even if we discount the belief of the devout,’ said Raja Rao, ‘that the Lord manifests here, one may still explain the aura of the deity. The faith and reverence of His devotees in His omnipotence could have imparted the power to His Idol.’
At length, as they went round the market place, Sandhya picked up a Nirmal painting, depicting the Lord and His two Consorts, Alivelu Manga and Padmavathi, all dressed up in the nuptial white.
‘I should’ve thought of that myself,’ said Raja Rao.
‘Let it be our inspiration,’ said Sandhya, taking Roopa’s hand, ‘that is spiritually speaking.’
In the end, as they reached their cottage, promising to be back in no time, Raja Rao went out again.
‘Oh! You look lovely in the corals,’ Roopa kissed Sandhya.
‘How the pearls come alive on you!’ Sandhya followed suit.
‘Oh, how he appreciates,’ said Roopa, ‘the variety of his women!’
‘And no less awes,’ said Sandhya, hugging Roopa, ‘with his virility in turns.’
When Raja Rao returned tonsured, Sandhya said teasing, ‘May we know to what avail the vow?’
‘It’s nothing like that,’ he said, fondling his scalp. ‘The custom could be to enable one to experience humility since hair in so many ways symbolizes human vanity.’
After a weeklong romance in their amorous triangle, strengthened by divine sentiment, the threesome, along with their little darling, left Tirupati for Hyderabad that evening.
Continued to “Threesome Sail”