Of No Avail: Web of Wedlock – 5
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As Priya drove him into the sprawling compound of an elite complex, Venu began to see the futility of his daydreams entertained in his modest dwelling.
‘Is not our status gap too wide to fill?’ he thought as she drove the car to her duplex villa. ‘Surely she would’ve known that the moment she stepped into my apartment. What for then has she brought me to her arena than to show me my place? Didn’t she hint that I’m better open-minded? What a tease it is? Oh, how I brought it upon myself; instead of being formal, I got warmer to her. Why the women in my life are so cruel to me. What if I deny her the vicarious pleasure by bidding her adieu at her doorstep itself? Won’t it serve her right?’
Parking the car in her portico when Priya nudged him towards the main door; he looked at her as if to read her mind for a clue to her intentions.
‘Am I seeing the devil in a Devi,’ he began to rethink on his vacillating ground. ‘Why am I not being able to give allowance to her genuine change of heart? Willy-nilly, have I become a misogamist without my knowing about that? Maybe that’s the damage my aborted marriage caused to my psyche, but I should not allow that to ruin my life. Why place the cart before the horse, let her show her hand now. ’
Thus as he stood at the doorstep, she stepped in to usher him in.
“Oh my man, tell my name,” she said in all smiles.
Her strange welcome made him co-relate it with her ‘customary entry’ statement at his place, and that brought to the fore the fuss his folks made to force him and Chitra to tell each other’s names to grant visa to enter his apartment. So it dawned on him that she could be alluding to the just weds’ entry into their marital home, and that raised his hopes all again.
“Oh, Priya,” he said tentatively as she took his hand.
“Welcome, though belated,” she said pressing his hand.
While she led him round her luxurious villa, to his dismay, he saw their economic disparity in full view.
“It’s frightfully rich,” he said as they returned to the drawing hall.
“Don’t frighten me like that,” she said as if pleadingly.
“Again I’m sorry, if I’ve sounded so,” he said taking her hand.
“Do you know what it cost me?” she said leading him to a sofa.
“I’m not yet into the real estate business,” he said in jest taking his seat.
“The price I paid for it is the self-imposed tax on my life,” she began by taking his hand, “After you stopped seeing me, as I started missing you, I developed second thoughts, and even as I was slowly veering towards you, as luck would have it, Veda my cousin visited us after a long gap. After her graduation, even as she wanted to marry her classmate for love, her father forced her to tie her life with a better qualified though oldish looking man, twelve years her senior. Though I was five years her junior, she treated me as a friend and used to confide in me a lot, so she was wont to lament then that as her uninspiring man fails to excite her, she lies as cold fish in her nuptial bed; that was shortly after her marriage but as if fate didn’t intend our union yet, she changed tack during that fateful visit. She said that it’s as well that her father derailed her love for, she came to realize that there are other womanly wants that only a man of means can meet; so, she maintained that in the long run love alone is of no avail to woman’s life. And that was that.”
“Won’t my story vindicate that, so no faulting that,” he said melancholically.
“Never mind women’s outcry about their lot in the man’s world,” she said after pressing his hand with empathy, “with a little bit of looks and a fair amount of luck, marriage tends them into exalted settings. However, save a slave of Razia Sultana, that could seldom be the case with men for woman tends to look up her station for her mate. Thus, banking on my good looks, even as I raised my matrimonial bar beyond the reach of the suitable boys of the middle class but the upper-class parents either cold-shouldered my father’s overtures or pegged the dowry over the moon. Yet it took me quite a while to realize that the marital bar I set was beyond me to cross over onto the higher material zone. So, when my hopes became dupes, giving go ahead to my sister’s out of turn wedding, I came here to increase my social height by becoming a chartered accountant.”
“Wonder how you grew so much in a short time!” he said admiringly.
“But it took twenty years for the world to become small for us,” she said wryly. “So, I plunged myself headlong into the accounting field with a single-mindedness that even surprised me. Goaded by my aptitude and guided by my guru, I reached my chartered goal in the top gear that is even as I pursued the company secretary course to its fruition. Soon, I began my journey in the corporate world to improve my clout on the marital front that too with great expectations. But lo, as I upped the ante, my aura upended my marital equation; so, with no right man in sight, I became an old maid in the end. See the irony of worldly success as it affects the sexes; it helps man make a cut with women, the higher his status all the more he attracts women, but it fails the fair sex by constraining men from courting them, and what’s worse, the lower a female on the social ladder, even more she’s a game for all and sundry.”
“Don’t tell me that you couldn’t find your right man in the right time,” he said.
“Maybe I might’ve but I couldn’t recognize him even if I had chanced to meet him that is after losing you,” she said melancholically. “It’s not just the case with me alone nor is it peculiar only to women. It’s natural for both sexes to eye a dream match but the hazard lies in their inability to picture it on the canvas of reality with the colors of probability. If done, that would enable them to have an idea of the vaunted one for face recognition as and when that one turns up to ring the wedding bells; if not, it would be a case of passing over an optimal match in time in one’s vague lookout for something better that is till the law of diminishing returns catches up. More than boys, girls seem to be losers in their search for a better match, and it is equally lost on both the sexes that their best probable mates appear in first batches.”
“Why this feature of life is memorably captured in Benign Flame,” he quoted from his memory. “In case of man, ‘with his eligibility on the wane and despondency on the raise, he lands up with a languid dame for all the sprightly in the race would have married by then’ and with regard to woman, ‘it does often happen that a maiden would shun a Gog in time, only to opt for a Magog, past her prime, wasting her time in the meantime’, and that’s sad indeed.”
“What about opting for the Gog past her prime?” she said affecting to be jovial.
“That could be an interesting story, if there’s any,” he said half in jest.
“Isn’t that possible to make it interesting?” she said smilingly, “but getting back to my past; after we parted, my daydreams made me chase the mirage of a better match for over three years and then my dream career that followed only raised the bar of attrition for my bridal hand even more. Maybe, my manner too conveyed my contempt for the ‘not so well to do’ to act as a barrier to keep the unsuitable boys at bay, so none bothered me with their advances. It’s thus, catapulted into the material zone, as I looked down upon the also-rans in the rat race of life, I lost my way to the altar even when it was high time to ascend it. Yet, as the goodies of life that I was able to acquire and enjoy afforded me a sense of material fulfillment, I got used to live in a make-believe world blissfully unaware of what I’ve been missing.”
She paused as if to regrasp what she had been losing.
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