Of No Avail: Web of Wedlock – 6
Continued from Previous Page
“But the hour of reckoning came at the dawn of my thirtieth birthday,” she resumed her recap of the way she had waded through the web of wedlock. “That’s nearly ten years after life first took me to the crossroads of marriage, and some parallel here with Chitra for it’s at that age she entered your life. By then, winning the trust and confidence of one of the bigwigs of the business world in town, I became the company secretary of his corporation of amalgamations. Early that morning, the old man came to our ladies’ hostel with a greeting card and a birthday cake to grant me the leave of absence for the day. After he left, being on cloud nine, as I read a letter tucked in the greeting card, I was nonplussed.”
“Did he propose to you or what?” he said in jest.
“Well, his thirty-five year-old heir to his business empire lost his wife after she delivered a still born boy, and simply put, he wanted me to fill the void in his son’s life,” she said. “But knowing that I thought of his son, our director without a portfolio, as a good for nothing, he penned a rosy picture of mine wielding the real power as the future empress of his vast enterprise and all that goes with it. Not failing to address the maternal weakness of the feminine gender, he made me envision the scepter being passed on to the one borne out of my womb. In short, that long letter carried everything to seduce any woman, more so an ambitious one, into that corporate wedlock.”
“So, you became Mrs. Somebody,” he said withdrawing his hand that she was holding all along.
“You can relax for now,” she said in all smiles taking his hand all again. “Somehow, wedding the widower didn’t appeal to me, in spite of his wealth and status not discounting his good looks. Though I was old enough to be objective in these matters, yet I allowed myself to be swayed by this girlish whim on that count. That apart, as I started delving into the matter, so to say, I began to rediscover myself; true, to begin with, I craved for a rich lifestyle and hoped to facilitate it through matrimony, and when I realized its improbability, at least in my case, I strived to improve it on my own accord, and succeeded too, to the extent possible. After all that which made me an old maid, my fate seemed to beckon a life of unimagined riches and high social profile but with a rider, as would often be the case, that is to wed someone whom I didn’t admire. So, realizing that even as I made money the crux of my life, the core of it was the quality of my mate, I declined the proposal.”
“How strange, after ignoring my hand devoid of means, you gave up his in spite of its plentiful wealth! Surely it requires a rare strength of character that I never credited you with,” he said in all admiration.
“Thanks for your appreciation,” she said pressing his hand. “Then as it occurred to me that we could’ve as well built a material edifice on our marital ground, I realized my stupidity in nixing you. Hoping against hope, even as I made up my mind to try to reach you, slighted by my snub, the old man made it untenable for me to continue in his employment; so I had to resign to retain my self-esteem. So, even as I looked around for my proper relocation, my father had finally managed to fix my sister’s marital destination; well, unlike me, she remained rooted to the ground and was no mean a looker either but yet for long she too couldn’t wade through the complex web of wedlock that you so well described. Whatever, that led me to the station of our separation to try my luck to ascertain your location, but I came a cropper at the factory you worked and the room you tenanted not to speak of the college you attended.”
“It’s all the more painful that I wasn’t married as yet then,” he said in vexation, “So as to put my disappointing past behind me, I distanced myself from my acquaintances there. But for that, maybe it would’ve been a different story and that brings home the truism that our nature is our fate.”
Wanting to smoke, he withdrew his hand that she still held, and added, “If you don’t mind, I would like to smoke.”
“Surely I would, if you smoke alone,” she said mischievously.
She picked a Gold Flake King on offer and he lighted it for her before lighting his.
“What about some whisky as a return of favor?” she said taking a puff.
“Why not if it adds flavour to your narrative,” he said smilingly.
“Soon after my sister packed off to her marital home, my father bestowed a like amount on me that he spent on her wedding,” she resumed as they started their drink. “With my staying power thus enhanced, I set up my private practice, and what’s more, dabbled in the stock market to augment my income in the meantime.
Soon I happened to run with the bulls at the bourses before catching the scrips at their tails in their bear hugs only to triple my stock holdings before the former ran amuck all again. Maybe, I owe that as much to my luck as my nature for I always believed in a definitive today rather than an unknown tomorrow. Whatever, with part of that windfall, I booked this villa still on the drawing board then.”
“I’m sure you’ve added your touch to its interior décor,” he said admiringly.
“Without realizing that possibly it could please you,” she said looking at him endearingly and continued to recap her past, holding her glass. “Soon, as my practice picked up, so to say, I had no time to breathe. But as I made my small bucks, my profession enabled me to have a closer look at the big bucks, and that changed my outlook of the moneyed. I could see that manipulation is the underpinning of undue wealth and fraud is the architect of the filthy riches. What is galling is that when it comes to the entrepreneurs, the system succors the fraudulent among them on the specious ground that if they were to be squeezed hard then their enterprises go bust leaving the employees high and dry. That way, the bigger the business entity, the greater would be the leeway for its promoters to loot the banks and scoot with the public wealth with impunity that is. So, is the case with the unscrupulous officials, the higher their position in the system all the better protection from prosecution! Thus it dawned upon me that I wasted my youth wanting to wed someone with a potential to game the system with utter disregard for the public good not to speak of the national interest.”
She emptied her glass as though to exhibit her state of emptiness she experienced then and refilled it as if to show him the urge she has developed to redress the situation.
“How I cursed myself then for losing you I only knew,” she said wiping her wetted eyes. “I was about to touch thirty-five then, and realizing that crying over spilt milk would only make it worse, so as to get the best out of a bad bargain, I looked around for a decent man never mind his financial position. But it didn’t take me long to realize that the phenomenon you quoted from Benign Flame is not peculiar to men alone as most of them nature intended for me had already tied the knot by then. However, as someone suggested one who seemed right for me; he not only looked decent but also carried himself well, so thinking that I could at least be lucky the second time, I began dating him. But soon I could see through him, credit woman’s sixth sense, that as much as he liked me, he had an eye on my money as well. Yet, as I didn’t want to let my surmises spoil my second chance, I got his background checked, which revealed that he was neck deep in debts being an inveterate spendthrift ever fond of an easy life. So that was that.”
Mixing another drink for them and discerning a sense of ease in him, she was amused at the value men attach to the virginity of their brides never mind their own nocturnal forays into women’s sexual fortresses.
“What next in your marital suspense,” he said as she remained silent for long.
“Not the climax,” she said smilingly.
“When we reach it, maybe that could be engaging,” he said prognostically.
“Let’s hope so,” she said looking at the antique clock, “but it’s time I cooked something for dinner.”
“If it’s not my goose, I love to assist you,” he said in jest.
“Am I a fool to have brought you all the way for that?” she said coyly.
Confining their talk to generalities, they went about preparing some sambar and alu fry, and when finished, she excused herself to have her bath.
‘So far the script is promising but what after the interval,’ he began to review their exciting encounter. ‘No doubt she sounds sincere in whatever she says. It takes some strength of character to say no to such a rich man’s hand never mind his meager mind. She comes out as a highly evolved and principled person, won’t that make her an ideal foil for my philosophical disposition. Moreover, hasn’t she rekindled my old flame with a burning desire for a conjugal life with her? But the only hitch is our economic disparity that might discomfort both of us; but sensible that we are, maybe we can talk about it if we come that far, won’t we? All said and done, if I were to miss her again now, life could be more burdensome than ever for the hopes she has raised in me; let me see what it holds in store for me. Won’t I know that soon enough?’
It’s thus he waited for her return in all anticipation.
To be Continued