Crossing the Mirage – Passing through Youth, Chapter 23
Continued from “Fouling the Soul”
Ever since the countdown for the showdown with Vasu began, Nithya was feverish with anticipation. The very thought that Prema was all set to desert Vasu portending a double jeopardy for him pleased her, providing the cutting edge to her vengeance. As she was in reverie at the Princely Pearls that evening, the ringing tone of telephone brought her back into the environs. Going for the receiver, she wondered whether it was Prema on the line. However, it was Chandra who called up to inform her that he was held up with some work.
“How long would it be?”
“I can’t say,”
“If you can,” she said, “call on lawyer Sudha and find out the latest. Damn it, her line seems to be dead.”
“Okay,” he said, “I’ll also see if Sathya has returned.”
After Chandra hung up, Nithya’s thoughts turned to Sathya.
“Whatever happened to him!” she thought as she recalled Chandra describe him as a remarkable lover with a romantic face. Even as Nithya was seized with an urge to see Sathya, Chandra was puzzled about his long absence.
Later, when Chandra was through with his work, as he reached Sathya's flat, he found it locked to his disappointment but as he got back into his Fiat, to his delight, he saw Sathya coming down the lane.
“I just rang up for you,” said Sathya going up to him, “and your wife told me I can expect you.”
“I’ve come here thrice before looking for you and left a message every time,” said Chandra, reprimanding him. “I was wondering what happened to you.”
“Once you hear me,” said Sathya enigmatically, “you’ll know.”
“Let’s go to my place,” said Chandra.
“Your wife has already called me for dinner on your behalf,” said Sathya pushing Chandra into his dungeon, “and we shall move as I finish my tale.”
“Begin it then,” said Chandra as he sat down.
“If you remember,” said Sathya with a wry smile, “we last met here in the first week of December. Shortly thereafter, I was shocked to know from Rajah, my long-time friend that my father, well, he's a character all by himself, had put a private detective behind Kala. Well, the report only confirmed what she had confessed to me, and naturally he was enraged. Believing she would marry me and carry on with her lover all the same, he vowed not to allow me to marry that bitch, as he called her. Hell-bent on bringing my affair to a close, he pressurized Rajah to go to Madras and appraise her lover about what was cooking on behind his back.”
“Oh God,” said Chandra, “it seems life never ceases to surprise you.”
“So it seems,” said Sathya and continued with his tale of surprises, “and sadly for me, Rajah acted at my father's bidding and met her uncle and warned him that he was on the verge of losing his woman. Well Rajah said that he thought it would be a good riddance for me if her man reined her in. Though I felt ditched at that, I couldn’t fault my friend’s intentions and that proved to be the turning point as I received a letter from her soon stating that her 'uncle' rang her up to enquire about her involvement with me and when she told him about her intention to leave him and marry me, he air-dashed to mend his fences with her. It seems he begged her not to leave him and agreed to solemnize their union at the altar.”
“What a testing time it was for her love really!”
“Well, this unexpected twist to the tale placed her in a dilemma,” said Sathya, “and she wasn’t prepared to tackle a like situation. Given her attachment to him and commitment to me, she wrote that she was unable to decide what to do and which way to go. As she had no heart to hurt him and had no mind to ditch me, she was at her wits’ end. Nonplussed to comprehend any solution, she wrote that she wished she were dead before she had to choose between us. That was the sum and substance of her stance and I never felt as hapless before.”
While Chandra was at a loss for any prompting, Sathya continued regardless.
“Gathering my wits I wrote to her appealing to her sense of fairness,” said Sathya. “I questioned as to how she could go back on her word, leaving me in the lurch. I reminded her that I had walked out on my family and compromised myself at the office and wouldn’t I invite ridicule for her desertion? Though I pleaded for her understanding, from the tone of her letter and the tenor of her life, I could realize which way the wind was blowing. When she didn’t respond and as my emotions turned wayward, I went on writing to her unceasingly, fretting and fuming alternately. But as she greeted me with stony silence, I realized what it was like sitting under the Damocles' sword with a thin thread of hope separating life and death. I wonder how I didn’t turn mad with my ordeal of that fortnight.”
“When I received the post on New Year’s Eve,” said Chandra melancholically, “I opened it with a premonition only to find a greeting card staring at my face. With my heart in the mouth, I looked for an accompanying letter but to my dismay I found none. I could see the writing on the wall scripted by her silence and I realized that she had decided to hand me the wrong end of the stick. What a crass way for her to sign-off with someone who loved her more than himself! Well, if she wanted to desert me, didn’t I deserve a farewell word at least? Is it the same woman who I thought was an angel? I felt as though I’d lost my capacity to think and for the first time in my adult life, I cried that night in self-pity.
“Whatever may be her compulsions,” said Chandra, “to say the least, her silence is abominable.”
“That's what I too thought,” said Sathya gloomily, “As I reviewed my tragedy as it evolved, the fact that she first flirted with me to attract and then used me to serve her life became apparent and that made me see a parallel in my life when I played the spoilsport in a neighbor girl's life. That night, I recalled how I treated that girl in a like fashion and thanks to my hurt, I could visualize the magnitude of misery I would’ve caused her and that has come to trouble me. With that sinking feeling and ashamed of myself, I started crying for the girl I wronged and stopped worrying about myself. I tell you, from that moment on, I was seized with an urge to beg her for her pardon.”
“Oh me,” said Chandra with a premonition.
“And to be done with Kala,” said Sathya morosely, “I received the summons from the court on her plaint to annul the marriage and as I chose not to contest her contention, the curtains were down on that peculiar affair through an ex parte judgment in a Madras court.”
“What an unfortunate man you are!” exclaimed Chandra feeling sad. “How could she do to you what she did?”
“My friend, as I see it,” said Sathya enigmatically, “it was poetic justice at work more than anything else.”
“Before we come to that,” said Chandra still unable to comprehend the development, “I want to know, what you think of her now?”
“Honestly, I have had no thought of her afterwards,” said Sathya philosophically. “Why I’ve been obsessed with girl I wronged.”
“Don’t tell me,” said Chandra in surprise, “how it’s possible to forget Kala overnight!”
“Well, it has something to do with my nature,” said Sathya by way of self-analysis. “Once I’ve an agenda, I would strain all my nerves to work for it and should I fail to achieve, I forget about that without any regret or remorse. I believed Kala was a jewel in the gutter of fate and I made it my mission to pull her out polish her with my love. Didn’t I pursue my goal with a missionary zeal? That’s what mattered to me then, and having failed, it matters no more. That’s all.”
“Since you force me,” said Chandra after a pause, “I may remember her as a sort of guru for she made me realize how the fallacy of sentiment becomes the bane of life.”
“Oh, is there any better way of forgiving?” Said Chandra in admiration, “But still, isn’t it sad such a love got wasted?”
“I don’t think so,” said Sathya stoically. “I feel it’s the force of my love that pushed her towards her own goal. If not for the reality of our affair, perhaps, her lover wouldn’t have ever agreed to marry her. That way, my love would have served her cause. It appears that, in some men at least, the infidelity of the spouse acts as a tonic to boost their own love for the erring. It’s as if the thought that someone else values his woman, increases her worth in his own eyes! And also, the fact of her loving another man makes him crave to win back her love for him. So he tries to regain her favor by wooing her afresh to wean her away from his rival. When in the end, his positional advantage helps him to regain her, he feels vindicated. Maybe, that’s what would’ve made him tie the knot with her after all that dodging.’
“Why, it's possible,” said Chandra, “but was their wedding worth your suffering?”
“Why, it's worth much more than that,” said Sathya feeling indignant. “Amidst my tears, that New Year's Eve ushered in a new dawn in my life. I was hurt not so much for having been jilted by Kala, as for her having dragged me willy-nilly into the mess, involved as she was with another man. Had she declared upfront that her heart was occupied; I was no fool to fancy my chances of winning her mind. If not for her flirting, would have my budding desire for her blossomed into an overriding passion? Surely, I wouldn’t have come to grief in the end if I had known her mind in the beginning. As I told you, I always romanticized winning a woman in unrequited love, unable to get over her past to look into the future. Why, that’s the impression Kala gave me while actually carrying on with him, love or no love, but with the idea of sticking to him if only he called her bidding. But, as you felt before now I realize I was a victim of her idea to have a second string to her bow, just in case.”
“Somehow, it all looked fishy to me from the beginning.”
“Whatever, in that hour of my tragedy,” said Sathya with tears gushing out from his eyes, “I could see the poetic justice of it all, for the girl who loved me, and whom I lost. As I told you, now I’m seized with an urge to meet and seek her forgiveness. So to say, I’m being consumed by the passion for her forgiveness. That’s the sole mission of my life now and I don't wish to die before she pardons me.”
“Your life seems to be the puzzle of fate,” said Chandra smelling a rat. “Wonder how it gets solved in the end. I’m curious really.”
“Oh, beautifully said,” said Sathya getting up. “Better we put a little spirit into our souls as well.”
“If it’s a round or two it should be fine,” said Chandra checking the time. “I hope you won’t mid telling me the other story as well.”
Continued to “Agony of Penitence”