Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Just Beyond Reach....Short Story 4

He died on his birthday—the twenty-ninth of July.

That evening Rajesh Chauhan had enjoyed his usual double-peg of Bunnahabhain accompanied by a few puffs of a Havana. He had then dropped in for a late night tryst with the latest in a long line of mistresses. Parked near the entrance foyer, his gleaming Bentley attracted the attention of passersby while his chauffeur patiently waited for his master to emerge from the apartment on the seventeenth floor.

Rajesh Chauhan was a Leo. Like all lions, he was handsome, full of himself and expected to be served. Virility, stamina and lack of fidelity were the other qualities of his species.

Rajesh’s rags-to-riches story was almost the stuff of fairytales. Born to a humble blacksmith in Ludhiana, he had run away from home at age ten. Working as a paperboy, tea vendor, car washer and shoe polisher on Dalal Street, Mumbai’s stock-broking district, he had managed to survive the rough and tumble of Maximum City. At night he would spread a few newspapers on the pavement near the tea stall and fall asleep, utterly exhausted. He did not know that his life was about to dramatically change.

One morning he had been polishing a customer’s shoes when he overhead him discussing a particular company with his stockbroker. The information turned out to be nothing less than gold. There had been no looking back for Rajesh Chauhan.

Honoré de Balzac had always maintained that behind every great fortune lay a great crime. Rajesh’s life story would have been the perfect example of Balzac’s view.

Chairman of one of India’s largest investment banks and private equity firms, Rajesh could make stock indices jump by simply snapping his fingers. Successive prime ministers routinely depended on him to fill party coffers while pompous businessmen and arrogant bureaucrats turned embarrassingly servile in his presence. There was almost nothing in the world that Rajesh could not possess. Except for Renuka.His mind wandered to happier and simpler times as he felt the soft Egyptian cotton sheets absorb the sweat off his body. He remembered the feeling of Renuka’s head on his shoulders, the excitement of waiting for her to show up at the movies, the tenderness of holding hands, the thrill of sharing a cup of coffee and the intensity of their kisses. Why had he messed it up?

Rajesh sighed as he lay in bed next to the sleeping woman. One of India’s finest fashion models, she was stunning—both in and out of clothes. For the chauvinistic Rajesh, she was simply the bedroom equivalent of his Bentley, Porsche or Lamborghini. The  sharper the curves, the greater the excitement and sense of danger. The problem with Rajesh was that he tired rather easily and was about to ditch the Bentley. Looking at the pretty lady’s face, he realized that it was time to ditch her too.

He mulled over the idea as he fell into an anxious slumber, far less restful than the pavement snooze. The room was dark, the lights having been thoughtfully dimmed by the woman. Her eyes were shut but she was not asleep.

She waited a few minutes for his gentle snoring to fall into a rhythm before opening her eyes. She carefully ran a hand under her pillow to find what she was looking for. She felt the cold metal in her hands as she contemplated her next move....even as she thought of life, or something like it! The small town girl in pigtails, the voluptuous beauty she had grown to be, the burning desire to conquer the   fashion World and  the absconding  from home to make it big in the glam  World! Heartbroken   parents! The  severing of  ties with all those near and dear ones...And then the torture that was Mumbai. Mumbai,  where ethics and values meant nothing, nothing to dreamy, strugglers such as herself. Then the hard learning of having   to pay a price for   everything! Painfully, she recollected those dire moments, when she studied  sordid   walls in dingy bedrooms with obstreperous  hoodlums. All of that only  for buying some more time in this ugly city with the money  they threw at her!!  Ugh! Those moments....A shudder ran through her, even today, when she thought of it!

Then those casting couches where men, fit  enough to be her fathers  copulated with her,  just for some stupid small advertisement jobs they awarded her with.........She had redeemed her soul to the devil and how!

By hook or crook, she had made a fairly big name for herself! A name big enough for the big bad boys of this World to notice her! Her first big chance had come when she had played mistress to a big name in the Government. She had been used and thrown by a couple more after that. But so what...there was always another sucker waiting to pick her up. And after all, such alliance gave her the unquestioned power   to throw her weight around. Pelf was her slave too...She lacked nothing now, nothing, except a strong feeling which was growing rapidly within, a feeling for an everlasting love.

She looked  at the snoring Rajesh. She had been show stopper, for Tanaya  Dinshaw's  fashion show. He had watched her in that lustful way, through evening.  Knowing how powerful he was,   she too had made a play for his advances. They had driven back together and their alliance had continued since. She had fallen for him madly. He was so much older and unlike,  but she had felt an  adulation   for his  charming self from the moment she had set his eyes on him. He was so much more than she had heard of! Life had now had a new meaning for her. He was knowledgeable, well-travelled and so much fun to be with. The only thing she abhorred was his treatment of her, treating her like one of his many material possessions. Love has no reason, they say and so it was, with her! She started dreaming of the unthinkable...She now wanted him, wanted him to be hers and forever.

On the last few occasions they met, she had dropped hints of a permanent alliance. She was not ignorant of his reputation for ‘use and throw’. However, he had averted the topic  everytime and she had cringed. Her mind reprimanded her the very first time, but her heart did not allow  her to  give up!

Rajesh acted a bit distant of late and she had started fearing the worst to come and soon. It was his birthday today. She had planned to once again discard her woman ego, please him hard, and make a go at it. If   he said no, there was no point in continuing her futile existence as life meant nothing without him, not anymore... She was tired of it all . She loved him too much to let go of him now!

But what power did she possess to hold him? And when he left, could she bear him sharing it with another? God, what must she do to stop him? To  be hers forever? And  if not hers, not anybody’s either, she thought furiously. And then an even more wild   thought had struck her. With that thought in mind, she had found the sharpest blade, one from the set of the large   kitchen knives he had brought her from Germany and kept it below her pillow.

The evening slipped away. What she feared most  happened . She had been utterly disappointed! The topic had drawn a close! Something in the way he had looked at her, afterwards, hinted that it was the end of the road for him, here. In that disappointed and depressed frame of mind, she had slaved his excessively demanding self, for the last time!!!

Scoundrel, she thought, as she heard him snoring...If only, you had loved me as much as I do! She was still feeling sad, depressed and self-piteous when she acted!

She was now staring at the blade  and breathing heavily...And then it was quickly over, within the next few moments.....The blade now firmly gripped in her hand, turning Rajesh towards her with a sudden forceful movement, bringing down  the blade with a strong powerful  movement into his body, just below his heart, the sudden spurt of blood, his look of astonishment as he lifted and fell......Then the sharp slash in her own wrist resulting in a sudden and wild gushing of blood, the feeble lifting and falling of her hand as she closed her eyes, forever...

Rajesh was slowly sinking too....Shock of the woman’s sudden attack had subsided. Too much blood was lost....his insides were slowly turning numb....Struggling to keep his eyes open, in those last few moments he saw glimpses of the life lived. He felt no regrets, none, except that he had could never possess Renuka.  Someday, he’d thought   time and again, someday when I am tired of these trysts, I will get her back, forever, for keeps. Make up to her, love her and life will be like the old times again.

His life in him, for only a   couple of more seconds now, he feebly outstretched  his hands as if to reach out for her, the only one that had meant something to him,  his   Renuka! I want to hug her hard, kiss her deeply,  love her more passionately than ever before,  he thought, even as that cold numbness  slowly spread all over, bringing his life to a standstill! In that last breath he took, he had saw her,   right infront of his eyes, smiling warmly, as she always did, his beautiful and charming Renuka.....except, except for the fact that she was faraway, far and just beyond reach..........

Completed for Ashwin Sanghi by Archana Mujumdar Tambe