Crossing the Mirage – Passing through Youth, Chapter 16
Continued from “Twist in the Tale”
“Welcome to smoke and dust,” said Sathya as he led Chandra into his first floor apartment.
“You smoke a lot it seems,” said Chandra, surveying the heaps of ‘Four Square’ butts lying all over the place.
“Ten packs a day,” said Sathya lighting another cigarette with the butt in hand, “and that should give you an idea about my life and love right now.”
“Well, I touched four when I was in the rough,” said Chandra as he lit a Berkeley, “but now I've cut down to two.”
“And your high was my regular quota,” said Sathya, mixing ‘Black Knight’ for them.
“I’ve a feeling that your life is rather unusual,” said Chandra in anticipation, “that is, considering that my own life is no run-of-the-mill.”
“It looks like that,” said Sathya looking vacantly, “going by my past, not to speak of the present.”
“I’m eager for your story of indiscretion,” said Chandra filling soda to the brim. “And that’s what love is all about.”
“If no woman ever induced indiscretion in your head,” said Sathya raising his glass, “then your heart may not be in the right place.”
“Well said,” said Chandra as he raised his as well.
“Cheers,” said Sathya.
“Cheers,” said Chandra clinking them.
“The saga begins in Calcutta,” began Sathya. “Have you ever been there?”
“No, but what I’ve heard about it is enough to make me not wanting to be there,” said Chandra in jest.
“Then let me begin with Cal before I end up with Kala,” said Sathya, sipping from his glass. “In a way the incongruities of my love are in sync with that city of contradictions. It’s as if there is that identity crisis with the woman I love and the city in which she grew up. While the visitors perceive it as a hole, the residents won’t like to swap it even with heaven itself. Well, it has that coarse exterior but it has a sublime inner, unique to itself. The casual visitors fail to grasp this, and that’s why the calumny that’s Calcutta. One understands that if only one lives there for some length of time. With people and places alike, don’t we form opinions from appearances? Oh, how people fail to see the soul of Cal! To start with, that’s how I erred in Kala’s case too. But, once I thought I saw her inner self, I felt she is an angelic soul.”
“For the same reason I was bitter for long,” said Chandra nostalgically, “that was, till Nithya came into my life.”
“Tell me how?” said Sathya turning eager.
“We will talk about that later,” said Chandra concernedly. “But now your tale takes precedence for it seems unresolved.”
“Oh, how nicely you’ve put it!” began Sathya as Chandra got ready not to drop a word. “It was on 15th March that I reached Cal to join Goddard & Griffith. That was two years ago and as a Purchase Officer for your detail. And it didn’t occur to me then that Caesar was done in on the ides of March. Anyway, I was surprised at seeing a peon doubling up as the receptionist at the office in 13, Camac Street. As I learned later, it was a different story altogether. It seems the boss of the day fancied the then Miss. Receptionist and took her under his romantic wings. And to further her professional cause as well, he made her a Miss Purchase Assistant, what was worse, he installed a peon in her place. Though she was found wanting at the purchase desk, yet he was making out to the higher-ups, that she was reducing the lead periods. Why, that made the detractors sneer that the reference could be to her own periods.”
Chandra had a hearty laugh followed by a strong puff of the Berkeley.
“As he was a man of substance, even otherwise, he moved up the ladder to the London Office. The man who replaced him thought it fit to shift the favored Miss to where she belonged. But the workers’ union would have none of that. You know how shortsighted these unions turn into when it comes to the company interests. And that left the office reception in the rough hands of that semi-literate. One day, however, the bubble burst as the younger brother of the company director came on a visit. In a case of classic mess up, the peon informed the new head that someone from the Younger Brother & Co. came to call on him. Aghast at what he saw, the irritated visitor reported the matter to his director brother. It was that comedy of errors which triggered the move to recruit a proper receptionist. It was thus that my fate had placed Kala at the reception before it led me into the portals of the office. If you are a believer in numerology, 13 is a symbol of ‘power’ which if wrongly used will wreck destruction upon itself.’
“Oh, the ides of March and 13, Camac Street!” said Chandra a little perplexed. “Were you struck by lightning then?”
“On the contrary,” said Sathya reminiscently, “I wasn’t impressed by her at all. I found her odd for she was a little plump with a fluffy face and nigger hair. Not the sort I would fall for any day. Why, I told my colleague Gopal that she would be the last person to interest me in the world.”
“Strange are the ways of love!” said Chandra, thinking about the turn of events with Nithya. “What made you fall in love later?”
“As my job demanded a lot of telephonic talk, she was always on the line with me,” said Sathya. “Well, she has a marvelous voice and a cultured accent but I was not amused as she began transferring all and sundry calls to me. Once I lost my cool but apologized readily, and from then on, I was courteous to her and she started giving priority to my calls. Soon enough, we were on friendly terms and I began to see the positives of her persona.”
“As we established rapport, she exhibited a unique sense of humor that's intellectually stimulating,” said Sathya as he drank the dregs and stuffed the Four Square butt. “When I realized she has a bewitching smile and a seductive look besides, I was drawn to her. And also seeing her competent and skilful she was at work, I was really amazed. So, I began to seek her company at every turn and she too started flirting with me. What sense of humour she has and what a conversationalist she is! I don’t expect seeing someone bettering her at both. By allowing me to indulge, she had incited my passion for her. As I was groping in the dark for an opening, she invited me to come home for tea.”
“Don’t I know what passion for possession does to man!” interjected Chandra, recapping those tortuous times of his love. “I had gone through it myself.”
“Well, it was the rendezvous that changed my life, and brought me to where I’m now,” continued Sathya reaching for the Black Knight. “Dressed in a dark blue Cali-cloth sari, she was waiting for me in the first-floor balcony. Oh, how gorgeous she looked and how obligingly I lost myself to her. But directed by her, as I went up the staircase on the side, she came down half way, welcoming me warmly. After my introduction to her parents in glowing terms, as we found ourselves alone in the drawing room, I ogled her charms and she behaved endearingly. When I wanted to know more of her, she just fluttered her eyes but as I pleaded with her to take me into confidence, she was in tears. Seeing my concern for her written all over my face, she composed herself soon. Apologizing for spoiling the party, she blamed her father for her plight. Maybe, as I couldn’t solace her with my hands, my enamored eyes took it upon themselves to embalm her with empathy. When she said she finds my company comforting, I felt the seeds of love sprouting in my bosom. After extracting a promise from her that she would tell me all, I bade her good night. When I stepped out into that by-road in the Lake Market, I felt she was as evocative as Cal itself.”
“Did you tell her about your first impressions of her?” asked Chandra.
“I haven’t, but I don’t know whether Gopal told her,” said Sathya applying his mind. “After all, when it comes to women, men have their petty jealousies and tentative designs. Now I wonder whether her ill-treatment of me had anything to do with her hurt vanity! Anyway, how does that matter now?”
“Why, is it quits or what?”
“No, my love is in the bind as her fatal attraction is holding me in a vice-like grip,” said Sathya having a sip as if to extricate himself from that. “Now I realize, if love makes you blind, passion robs you of your reason as well. Add sentiment to that and you would have a deadly mix that afflicts life itself. That’s what happened in my case. As I told you, I didn’t find her physically attractive, to start with, that is. But as her intellectual qualities stimulated my romanticism, I found her irresistibly attractive, what with her flirting fuelling my desire further. Though I began craving for our romantic union, somehow, I was sure it was not love. Neither was it lust. I was conscious about that when I went to her house that evening but our interaction seemed to have affected my ethos itself. I fell in love with her then and there and I was aware of that when I left her. I was familiar with the changes love brings in the heart for I loved and lost more than once before. When I met her at the office the next day, I experienced the joy of seeing a beloved. But she told her tale of woes, in bits and pieces that too after much of prompting and that exorcised into pitying her.’
“What’s her story like?” asked Chandra seeing the similarities in their love stories.
“To make a long story short,” said Sathya enigmatically, “she and her younger sister were born to the old man’s second wife. Cut up with their father for his second marriage when their mother was still alive, her stepbrothers severed all ties with them. So, after his retirement, as her father came to depend upon her earnings, he was averse to her marriage. What’s worse, he made a nuisance of himself by throwing tantrums at trivial matters. The only silver lining in her life is her uncle, an Appraiser in the Customs Department in Cal. It’s he who got her this job and others before it. Well, I’d seen him a couple of times in our office.”
“I found her story moving?” said Sathya gulping from his glass, “and feeling she was a jewel-in-the-gutter, I was seized with an urge to wash her afresh with my love. So, on an impulse, I proposed to her but she was not prepared to accept though she said she couldn’t have hoped for a better man for husband. Well, to shore up my sagging morale, she blamed her misfortune for she couldn’t take a hand like mine. When I said even after our marriage, she can support her family; she said her predicament stemmed from a different ailment, and being pressed, she came up with her own love story.”
“To tell you the truth,” said Chandra seeing their love stories run on parallel tracks, “I thought as much.”
“Imagine her being in love with the self-same uncle from her childhood,” continued Sathya without apparent jealousy. “Since her father refused to marry them, he waited for her for years, hoping that the old man would yield in the end. With the passage of time as her father became more of a parasite on her, she prevailed upon her uncle to marry another. Though deprived herself, she derived the satisfaction of seeing him turn into a family man. But as his wife and children couldn’t wean his mind away from her, her uncle was stuck with her emotionally. So, they are bound thick and thin in a platonic relationship.”
“What a catch,” said Chandra having sensed the parting of ways of their love stories, “what’s there left to pursue anyway!”
“What was the judicious Yudhistar left with when he pursued the game after he lost his kingdom and pawned his siblings as well?” said Sathya as though he was addressing the question to himself. “Oh, didn’t he think it fit to bring their common wife to the table as stake? Life and logic don’t seem to mix at all, and coming to my affair, I told you that it was empathy that ruled my heart when I proposed to her. But her platonic plight only furthered my sentiment and enhanced my resolve maybe for I found it challenging to win the heart of a woman in love to assuage my ego of being a ladies’ man. Somehow, it had always been the recurring theme of my daydreams, probably borne out of my confidence, or is it vanity, to win over women. I always knew I could attract women if I chose to, but somehow I cold-shouldered the girls who craved for me. Maybe, it is their curse that haunts me now making me unlucky in love! I do feel that my fate and psyche together played the part when I made up my mind to win her over and make her my wife.”
“I always wanted to be a ladies’ man myself but sadly couldn’t,” said Chandra nostalgically. “I am glad to have met one and I want to hear all your stories in time.”
“Why not, but let this story take a proper turn though I don’t see it happening for now,” said Sathya lighting one more Four Square. “No denying, I went to ludicrous lengths to win her love and approval that compromised my position at the office. Yet as she remained unrelenting, I wanted to give up in frustration and my parents too began looking for a girl for me. When my mother suggested a match for me in Cal, Kala goaded me to see what would come out of it. Touching the dead end by then, I decided to look for a bend in my life.”
“What an interesting turn,” said Chandra as he got up. “Now show me the toilet before you take me on the bend.”
Continued to "Turn for the Worse"