Dec 08, 2023
Dec 08, 2023
“Don’t I look beautiful?”
“Yes, yes. You are looking beautiful.”
She laughed. “Only beautiful. I spent three hours in my make –up, and put on my best dress, the latest in the fashion market, and you don’t have the courtesy even to compliment me. Any other man would have pounced upon the chance to ogle at me, come closer to me and whisper : Wow! Looking gorgeous. What a stunning beauty! And you! I have to beg you for a compliment. Even then… You are so miserly.”
Avinash was amazed at Sugandha’s boldness, brashness. He was embarrassed too. He was only trying to be decent. He didn’t know girls today were crazy to have flirtatious compliments even from those who were not intimate with them. Avinash grew thoughtful : I have known her only for two days, that too superficially. I read my poems in the Fest, that’s all. After the session, she came running to me and stood between me and others who too wanted to meet me, interact with me.
“Beautiful. Your poems were the best. Marvelous. You are such a great poet, I didn’t know. Your insight, philosophic depth, your imagery, your metaphors—I am simply bowled over.”
“Simple thanks won’t do. You will have to read to me many more of your poems over a cup of coffee.”
“Sure. Why not?” I thought she was trying to be formal, like most of the people playact in the conferences.
But she jumped. “OK, then. Today evening. After the last session, we go to the Garden Café. I want to savor your poems to my fill. I am already flying on my wings.”
I had not seen it coming that way. I couldn’t even think of an excuse. Moreover, I thought, what else does a poet want? Here is an admirer of my poems, and she herself is taking the initiative. Where is the harm? I looked into her twinkling eyes. She was good-looking. No, she was beautiful. With her, the evening would certainly be refreshing. “OK,” I said and smiled.
“Your smile, my God! So charming, so captivating,” she said and laughed.
When I reached the Café, she was already there, looking at the black roses, my latest collection of poems in her hand. Her wide eyes turned and smiled. Bewitching beauty, I thought. Had specially decorated herself for the occasion. I was instantly charmed. Remembered about the compliments. “Looking gorgeous,” I said.
She didn’t seem to be impressed and laughed. Her laugh clearly said : You are not saying it from the heart. You have said it because I want you to.
“Or shall I say, hot and sexy?”
She blushed. “Really?”
“Great. You are the most beautiful girl here in this Fest. And you take good care of yourself.”
“Thank you, Mr Avinash. But you don’t mind if I straightaway come to Avinash,” she said, her glittering, wild eyes looking straight into me.
“No problem, Sugandha. I don’t like formalities. Intimate relationships, that is what fills my cup to the brim.”
“Oh, really. That is like being a true poet,” she said sweetly.
The waiter was hovering around. She placed the order for coffee. But he still lingered on, fiddling with the table. Perhaps her perfume had that pull on him too. He had been all smiles taking the order.
I was amused. Male psyche! The moment you find a beautiful girl, looking at you, smiling at you, or asking an innocent question, you are electrified. You think you have a chance with her. You go all out to do any favor to her and try your best to win her over. The next step : you imagine yourself in bed with her. What a perversion! He would do anything for her, always hoping… How frivolous! No moral qualms. In fact, he is ready to lose his moral conditioning on the slightest pretext. Now here is this waiter. When he brings coffee, he will try to impress her with the outrageous claims that he has brought the best cups, ground the best coffee-beans, and that it is extra hot, and bow before her ten times. Her smiles and thanks would give him thrills and dreaming of her would make his nights interesting and exciting.
I smiled mischievously.
“What a smile! But what causes it , my dear?”
“No, nothing. Just flirting with a poetic thought,” I said, trying to bring her to the reading of my poems.
“Amazing! When a beauty is sitting before you, you still wander around poetic thoughts. Instead of flirting with thoughts, why don’t you flirt with me? Am I not poetry itself, in physical form? What is poetry? Thoughts are abstract while I am real. Think of Browning. He too says that a girl crossing a stream is more attractive than even the best poem in the world. How can you be so insensitive? Poets are very sensitive, particularly towards beauty. They are sensuous too. Keats’ sensuousness gives eternal charm to his great poetry. My dear Avinash, poetry is OK, but when poetry is based on the pulsations of the heart, it touches and moves the hearts, minds and souls of the generations to come,” she said and squeezed my hand lying on the table.
Her touch sent vibrations through my whole body. I hastily withdrew my hand.
The waiter brought coffee and took his own time in placing the tray on the table. He had brought a few extra napkins too. “Madam, could I do anything else for you?”
He had to leave then. It saddened him.
We talked a lot, mainly about her. Her hobbies, her passions, her paintings, her interest in singing etc., etc. I thought she was all-in-one. A versatile artist. She loved outings, excursions, travels too, she said.
“Oh, really. I too love travelling, but because of various constraints, I cannot go out as often as I would like to.”
“Constraints! Shit! All the constraints are of our own making.” Stroking her temple, she said emphatically, “All our constraints lie here. They are all buried here.”
I thought for a while and laughed.
“There was a time when I too used to think like that. But as time passes, you realize your limitations. You stop talking in absolute terms.”
“Is that so? You aren’t old enough to say that. You are still very young. You talk of beauty and love in your poems all the time. And yet in life, I find, you are not absorbed in beauty and love. Why is it so?”
“Life itself is a bundle of contradictions, isn’t it?” Avinash said gravely. “Hope and despair, success and failure, light and dark, even love and hate, you experience them so often, sometimes even simultaneously.”
“Poetically put, Avinash. But I think one can always overcome limitations. No need to sharpen the edges. Why not smoothen them?” Sugandha said philosophically.
“Not always. Yeah, but one can always try.”
“Great. We agree on the basics,” Sugandha said and laughed. Lifting her cup and bringing it close to her lips, almost touching them, she became serious and said, “You know something. I fell in love with you two years back when I read your poem the first time.”
Avinash looked at her with a gaped mouth, couldn’t believe what she had said. He searched into her eyes for the truth, the passion and the seriousness. He couldn’t really find anything there. Her eyes were so deep, maybe. They didn’t reveal her secrets.
“You don’t believe me? she asked. “It just took me a few minutes only. By the time I had finished the poem…” she couldn’t finish the sentence. Her lips were quivering.
“That is strange.”
“You know what love is. You have written so passionately about it. When love happens, you are completely submerged in it… you lose control of all your faculties, howsoever strong you may be.”
He gazed at her, unblinking.
Sugandha said , her face blushing. “I am really glad I found my love. It is one of the greatest blessings one can have.”
“Yes, yes… but…”
She gazed into his eyes, trying to find the meaning of his ‘but’.
He grew grim and said, “But, Sugandha, I am married.”
“What!” It was now Sugandha’s turn to get the shock of her life. It took her a while to grasp the situation. She said after her face had changed a few colors, “Well, that is it. Bad luck. Someone proved sharper than I am. But how does it matter? Marriage is no problem. Your marriage has nothing to do with our love.”
“Why? I am bound and committed to my wife. She loves and cares for me. I think you should try to understand my situation. I don’t want you to suffer too,” Avinash tried to make her see reason.
Sugandha smiled. “I am not asking you to divorce her. Why do you worry? But now I understand why the intensity and the passion of your earlier poems are missing in your poems of the day. There is no fire in them. You don’t seem to have any inspiration now. Marriage simply dulls the feelings—same body, same bed, same face, same expressions, and same formality of sex… Don’t you think you require novelty to rejuvenate your body and mind, above all, your soul? Marriage kills romance, and without romance you cannot write poetry that touches the heart.”
“Well…,” said Avinash thoughtfully. “My moral sensibility won’t allow me to cheat anybody, least of all my wife. I am morally responsible for her, I am committed to her, I am bound to her. I can’t even think of…”
“Shit! You are morally responsible to your wife, OK. You can’t cheat her. But you can cheat your poetic talent. Aren’t you morally responsible to your gift of writing poetry? It’s a divine gift. By allowing it to dry up you are turning against Nature, against God, against humanity. Moreover, who is asking you not to fulfil your duties to her? But please, for God’s sake, don’t mix up morality and sex. The world has gone far ahead of your moral perspective—don’t live in the outdated world. Please, update yourself. Be modern. Or you won’t be able to identify yourself with the youth of today. Premarital sex, adultery, and gay sex, they have changed the old view altogether. And morality too changes with the social mores. Polygamy was so common at one time, and men used to have many wives. Now it is adultery that has replaced polygamy. Man can never be happy with one partner, for ever and ever. He likes variety. He seeks happiness. It is men like you who make your wives nagging. She thinks you have no alternative and becomes bossy. Tell me frankly : Are you happy? Or are you as happy as you were before marriage?”
Avinash got lost in thoughts. He wondered, what kind of world they were creating, what kind of girls were shaping the new world…
“No, you won’t admit the truth. We are all hypocrites. But I know the answer. You will really like it, love it if you have some fun with me. Come on then, we shall have some real fun today. Romance will certainly give a new lease of life to your poetry. And your wife will never know what happened here in this Fest hotel. You have a right to taste these delicious experiences, and me, a right to be in the arms of my love. I have waited two years for the day.”
As they reached her first-floor room, she held his hand and squeezed it.
He smiled and said, “I really can’t do it. I am sorry. I am not that kind of guy. I can’t deceive anyone. And my moral sensibility…”
There were tears in her eyes. She closed the door before he could finish his sentence.
Avinash moved on. Instead of going into his room, he sat in the lounge and looked far into the horizon. His head zoomed with the thought of right and wrong. He thought of Shakespeare, the greatest bard of all times, who said, it is only our thinking that makes something right or wrong. Sugandha too is right, he thought, that marriage steals away romance, makes life monotonous and a humdrum routine. Even your sex- life is nothing but a ritual. There is no fun and enjoyment even in bed. For the past one year, I haven’t had even a single spark. It is the spark you need, that is what Sugandha says. She wants me to have fun. Isn’t she right? If my poetry is dying, if it is losing passion and intensity, if it is losing freshness, then… But my conscience…my consciousness…. No, but I am not harming my wife in any way. Once in a while… Everybody has a right to have some fun in life…
And then tears ! No, how could I give tears to the one who loves me so much, and is ready to do anything for being my flame?
He rose and went back, a sweet, sad smile making his cheeks pinkish.
A light knock on her door.
Sugandha immediately opened the door lest the invisible, pretentious cloak of morality should once again cover his nakedness.
He admiringly looked at her slim figure clad in an amazing see-through that she had changed into deliberately.
“I knew, if I am a woman you would certainly come back,” she said putting her arms over his shoulders.
Avinash’s arms softly moved over her back, her hips, and naturally came over to her firm breasts.
She was in a terrific mood. She held his hand lovingly, sweetly and took him to the table where she poured whisky in two glasses she had kept ready.
Image (c) istock.com
More by : Dr. O.P. Arora