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 mates. 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 but I’ve to cancel your leave,” Rami Reddy sounded apologetic.
“Sir, you know, I’m going to Tirupati with my family and friends,” said Sathyam dumbfounded.
“But Nagaraju wants to discuss those World Bank Tenders with us,” said Rami Reddy sympathetically.
‘But sir, I’ll be back before they’re due for opening,” said Sathyam pleadingly.
“You know Nagaraju speaks for the Finance Minister, so there’s no way I can let you go now,” said Rami Reddy.
“Yes, sir,” said Sathyam helplessly.
“Six sharp at 206, Royal Hotel, Nampally,” said Rami Reddy.
‘Oh, these are the ‘service’ inconveniences of life,’ 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. Surely, Nagaraju would like the World Bank Works awarded to the Finance Minister’s benami firms, but eyed by scores of leading contractors. But, how can there be any hanky-panky in the open tenders? Well, the meeting won’t serve any purpose save for the record, the boss knows that as well. All the same, Nagaraju is bound to pressurize the boss, and he wants to use me as just 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 useless tamaasha, but surely Roopa won’t like it. Won’t she be dejected at yet another cancellation? Surely she would curse me, and may drop out herself in frustration. What about Sandhya? Well, she was no less excited about the trip. Better I let Roopa go along with them, at least, let them all have some good time.’
When at five in the evening, as the Sathyams and the Raja Raos reached Nampally Station, said Sathyam to Roopa,
“I’ll go and cancel my ticket.”
“It might take you a long time for you in the gents’ queue,” said Roopa to Sathyam as she took the ticket from Raja Rao.
‘Perhaps it’s God’s way of blessing our threesome,’ Roopa thought joyously, joining the queue for appearances sake. ‘Let this be the ticket for our orgies, in the coupe to begin with. Can’t we hoodwink the TTE to keep that extra berth of privacy for us? Why, we can tell him that Sathyam has gone to meet someone on the train. Once he’s through with his checking business and all, we could lock the cabin for our night-long orgies. Oh, though I wanted thanksgiving at Tirupati for that night of my life, the Lord seems to grant us orgies in His Holy Abode as well. Maybe our threesome love has the divine sanction too?’
‘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 system of the time to be 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 newfound sense, Roopa left the booking counter and rejoined Sathyam chatting with her mates. Soon, they moved their luggage into the first class coupe for four and 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 chug out, waving off his wife and friends, Sathyam stepped out of the railway station only to step into the Royal Hotel across the road.
“Sorry Sathyamgaru you’ve to put up with this mediocrity as the star hotels may give us up,” Nagaraju greeted Sathyam apologetically.
‘That’s fine but why my boss hasn’t turned up yet; well old habits die hard, don’t they,” said Sathyam putting on airs.
At that, as the buzzer sounded, Nagaraju reached for the latch.
“You’ll live for hundred years see, we’re talking about you only,” Nagaraju welcomed Rami Reddy.
“Sorry Sathyam for spoiling your party,” said Rami Reddy.
“That’s Ok sir but what am I to do now?” said Sathyam.
‘Don’t you know that all eyes are on the three WBTs? Nagaraju said dreamily.
“How I wish your bids turn out to be L-1s in those Open Tenders,” said Rami Reddy resignedly.
“But the Boss has very 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, not as favour but for barter.”
“How kind of him but you know the procedures are all so pucca,” said Rami Reddy, and added by throwing up his arms resignedly.
“The Boss wants you to devise the tactics and leave the logistics to him,” said Nagaraju as though to lighten Rami Reddy’s burden.
“To my mind at least, the procedures are foolproof, not amenable to 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 absolutely right sir,” said Sathyam, without a second thought.
“Accommodations in the Limited Tenders and passing the bills out of turn are different anyway and we managing them for you all through,” said Rami Reddy.
“That’s why you’ve been getting peanuts all the while, now get us these mega projects, and have a million each,” said Nagaraju enticingly.
“Even if we click, it might lead us into the remand in the end,” said Rami Reddy, as though to raise the stakes.
‘Well, to cover all risks, you both can have an extra million each,” said Nagaraju falling for the bite.
‘Don’t mistake my saying so but when it comes to settling the accounts, invariably it all boils down to one excuse or the other. I know people shying away from parting with farthings that is having pocketed undue pounds,” said Sathyam to Nagaraju.
“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. That should satisfy you.”
“Tempting as it is, I don’t see how we can pull it off,” Rami Reddy thought aloud.
‘As you’re involved with the tender openings for more than a year now, given your acumen, I’m sure you can spot a loophole or two,” said Nagaraju to Sathyam.
“I didn’t apply my mind to that but on the face of it, given the stringent procedures, it looks a tough ask though,” said Sathyam thoughtfully.
“When the drink gets into the system, it might throw up an idea or two, wouldn’t it?” said Nagaraju opening the Johnny Walker with the black label.
‘Anyway, it’s stupid not to give it a try, Sathyam, let’s review the whole process, and see if we can find a way,” said Rami Reddy.
“As you know, sir, at the scheduled time, the sealed tenders are opened in the bidders’ presence,” Sathyam began recounting the tender procedure in place. “Even as all 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 members of the tender opening committee for the authentication of the respective bids with their signatures. Once that done, as the gathered take note of them, I read out all the bids, one by one, and thus, by the time I announce the last bid, the L-1 would be an open secret. However, if we try to favor a higher bid, then, as you know, all hell would break loose.”
“Why not we change the topic, you can report the matter to the Boss, appended with my apologies. He might as well try his luck with the Tender Evaluation Committee if he could,” said Rami Reddy, as if in conclusion.
“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 the 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 need, we can even put the blind in 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 for he was far too inebriated by then to comprehend much of what was happening then.
‘To start with, FM’s benami tenders would have blank bids,” announced Sathyam.
“What!” Nagaraju exclaimed in surprise.
“Only to turn into L-1s in the end,” said Sathyam with a triumphant look.
“Nonsense,” said Rami Reddy dismissively.
‘Why this cynicism Reddygaru, let Sathyam Saab explain,” said Nagaraju, seemingly hopeful.
“If only the committee members authenticate your tenders without figures, then we can turn them into legal L-1s in the end,” Sathyam said with an air of certainty.
“But how?” said Nagaraju in disbelief.
“This s how; 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 of the prevailing L-1. Thus, in the end, as I pick up your empty tender lying at the bottom, I would state some amount, lower than the lowest. So, Nagarajugaru should be alert to note the figure I blurt out for all the three works. Once we’re done with the crowd, we’ll have all the time in the world to insert the lowest bids in those pre-authenticated blanks in your tenders? Now tell me, what do you think of the coup in the making?”
“Brilliant Saab,” exclaimed Nagaraju hugging Sathyam.
“Seems workable,” said Rami Reddy shaking Sathyam’s hand.
“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 section, 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 it’s a Sherlock Holmes’ stuff,” said Nagaraju missing the point in his excitement.
“You can take care of the typewriter and all, put up a note tomorrow itself for my approval,” said Rami Reddy enthusiastically to Sathyam.
“Oh, it’s unbelievable!” exclaimed Nagaraju confidently, “So, the three biggest ever civil works in the country fall in our lap, 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 won’t that be a child’s play for the Boss. 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, isn’t it brilliant?’ he thought excitedly, ‘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’ve 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 it lavish for her. How am I to explain my spending spree to her? But 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 profits 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? If it ever comes to that, leave alone her, can I ever face my dad? Won’t the old man scowl that the fair family name is soiled. What an idiosyncrasy! Of what worth is a family name, when no one had heard of it? Mummy, though, might understand. Whatever, the die is cast, isn’t it? Now 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 she be feeling on the train now?’
Aboard that Rayalaseema Express, entwined with her man and her mate in that four-berth coupe, Roopa in the seventh heaven raved,
“Oh, how I’ve been dreaming for our threesome in a coupe on the move.”
“Count on me to make those come true now,” 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.
Thus in their uninhibited lovemaking that went on well into the night, even as 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.
“Maybe to make it easy for the North Indian tongues that find it hard to pronounce our South Indian names,” he said, fondling Saroja in his lap.
Reaching Tirumala in time, they checked into a cottage reserved beforehand, and having rested after lunch, they visited Papanasam and other places of pilgrimage on the seven 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. As for Raja Rao, he 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, along with a plain gold chain, and gave them to the poojari to perfuse them with the Holy water, and even as he was chanting appropriate mantras, he whispered to his women,
“Hear him sanctify our union.”
When 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 adorned his daughter with the blessed gold chain.
“I’ll revere it like my mangalasutram, blessed by love, and sanctified by god,” said Roopa reverentially placing the pearl chain on her eyelids.
“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 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’ve imparted that perceivable power to His Idol,” said Raja Rao,
In time, 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.
“Oh darling, it’s divine,” said Raja Rao.
‘Dears, it’s for guidance,” said Sandhya taking both their hands.
When they reached their cottage, promising to be back in no time, Raja Rao went out again.
“You look marvelous in the corals,” Roopa kissed Sandhya.
“The pearls come alive on you lovey!” Sandhya followed suit.
“How he divines our variety,” said Roopa.
“And awe us with his virility,” said Sandhya, hugging Roopa.
When Raja Rao returned tonsured, Sandhya said teasingly,
“May we know to what avail the vow?’
“Nothing of that sort, the custom could be to enable one to experience humility since hair in so many ways symbolizes human vanity,” he said, fondling his scalp.
After a week’s romance in their amorous triangle, strengthened by the divine sentiment, the threesome, along with their little darling, left Tirupati for Hyderabad that evening.
Continued to “Threesome Sail”