Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The Ultimate Plan [Theme: Crossroads]


*
As she flipped the parantha out of her pan, her face remained serene. It was a daily task for her, a routine that she follows in order to survive. Like a professional chef, she baked it with her artistic hands. “Your breakfast is ready sir!” I felt like waking up from a long dream as she interrupted my thoughts with her beautiful Bengali eyes. Straight look, no extra use of seduction, pure and aesthetic light smile, there she was standing with melamine plate and her special dish. I had no option but to follow her instructions silently. I was confused whether it was my general courtesy or her aura that made me look hypnotized. Kadambari, that’s the name she had for official purpose. I wondered what people would call her by nickname, “Kaddu!” She replied with her chirpy voice. “ha ha ha, Are you serious?” She watched my expression. “Yes, it’s funny isn’t it? Actually, I was very chubby in my childhood and they say I have no brain!” She pointed towards her head full of curled hair. “This portion of mine is empty, they say full of crap! Oh my… You have finished your parantha!” And she rushed towards her burning stove, “Arghh! I forget everything! I am always so puzzled. This burner…” If they say it is full of crap then how can it be empty? And if she is always puzzled how can her looks contradict her nature? She continued baking while I indulged myself back into her thoughts.
*
“Babu Moshai!” Every day after breakfast, I get the feeling of Rajesh Khanna. “Yes, coming!” I replied hurriedly packing my suitcase; “You left you notebook on table, Sir!” Kaddu reminded me of my contractor pad. I was assigned job as a Highway contractor near Hooghly Imambara. The place was full of crowd during the time of devotion being nearby to Bangladesh. Government had to find solution for smooth traffic and announced a call for best contractors. I had done projects in Uttranchal and some in Maharastra too but never been to a coastal area. It is always risky to build in such places; you never know how the earth is going to respond! I was scared for the name of Hooghly’s furious nature but had to accept the proposal for the sake of my family. It’s been 8 months; I did not have any project in my hands and was surviving through luck in gambling, sometimes as a cornet player and at worst as a watchman for sugarcane field in January winters! My family comprised of 11 members, including parents, my aunt, her mental son, my unmarried sister and my younger brother’s family of Kashmiri wife and 3 children and myself! Shyamlal, eldest son of family had lost his life during a quarrel in the contractorship itself, I had joined at his place despite family opposition for reason we had no choice but to dance under the Union leader’s instructions! “Your notebook! Sir…” She placed the pad in my hands when I did not move. As she came near, her aroma refreshed the sadist history of mine… “I would love to call you, Kadam!” First time, I could see the blush on her youthful bronze face. “You are getting late!” She stepped back by lowering her eyes down. It’s not necessary for a woman to educate herself in order to please her man! Am I the only one in her life? The thought stirred my romantic analysis. I moved for stairs trying to ignore her watchful eyes. She came outside in balcony and I waved a goodbye. A departure full of guilt, romance, passion and a seductive slavery! Working under the instructions of my supervisor drains my energy but moving along with hers was lighting up my world! How strange men can behave under a woman’s spell, I was feeling the mystery for first time in my life!
*
“This road is full of heavy traffic; people here don’t follow any traffic rules! We don’t have 24*7 electricity facility, hence signals are useless! And, you know these traffic policemen, these loosers!” Commissioner paused to spit his betel saliva, “These ambitious bastards you see, they don’t control traffic unless they digest a good bribe! How can I manage this city in such a hoch-poch? And moreover, you see Mr. Pal. I am very enthusiastic about the project you are going to execute! We have decided on 70-30 basis. I hope it is acceptable to you!” He grinned to expose the red teeth. I nodded without understanding what he exactly meant by 70-30. “Ha ha, you are a smart fellow. That’s why I like North-Indian labor! Very hard-working, very gentle! You see Mehta Sahib, the last fellow you brought me, how insane he was! I must tell you, he was crazy. In today’s generation, this young blood is all after money, they don’t know the value of hard work! You see…” As Commissioner Mr. Hamid Basher, frowned to continue his story to me, my assistance cum mediator Mr. Harshram Mehta interrupted, “What about my share? I don’t want any conflict his time!” Mehta was a clear guy, with voice, he talked rare but when he did he meant business! “ohh ha ha ha.. How innocent you are sometimes Mehta sahib! I have 15 for you! Isn’t that more than enough! You see Mr. Pal we guys don’t utter rubbish. It’s all to the point. You please me and I will take care of rest! And here, let me show you… This is the map! Here, as you see… Right here, you will start your project from coming Monday sharp on 10! In the morning I mean!” He grinned again while gathering other tools to guide me for the project, “And by the way, from morning, I am curious to know how your breakfast was? I hope you had a worthy deal!” I could see lust in his wink, and automatically my face became stone like. Am I the only one?  Thought stroked in my mind again! Is woman only a substance? “ha ha ha, you see… you got serious! That’s why I like North-Indians! They are always simple! Hard-working! So, our deal is done! And yes, if you find it comfortable then you can join us for dinner tonight Mr. Pal! I will present you a different quality tonight!” He winked again, stopped to wipe the red saliva while Mehta stood up to leave. Thank God, I finally get a signal. “Umm… mmm… Sit Mr. Pal sit! Where are you going? We have got to talk more! Let him leave. Let him... I have to show you a vibrant side of this project yet!” Confused on what to do I stared at Mehta. “We are leaving for site, you can keep those vibrants for the evening, let’s go Mohan?” I followed Mehta in silence, sometimes I hate this obedience! Why am I not free to make my own decision? My own choice? “Khudahafiz, guys! Meet you at Khwahish!” Basher greeted in his nawabi manner. “What does that Khwahish means?” I asked Mehta on our way to construction site. “Don’t get yourself too much into him, you’ll lose the game!” He replied with somber face without looking at me. I wondered how could have I felt if the same sentence was cited by Kadam! Her aroma filled my thoughts, and I felt relaxed, ready to explore this new life.
*
Sitting at the stoned boundary of Futala Lake in Nagpur, I compared my thoughts to the diving boys. Only difference I found, they came back to the point they started but my thoughts vanished one by one. Just like past five years, my thoughts were useless to me! There was a time when I was shining, getting the best contracts, earning the best money and having most beautiful time with my family; but now I felt like I was all played. When I brought Kadam to home, everybody remarked I had bought her! She remained silent for we both knew she had no respect back in Bengal too. But this was different, she was my wife now. I defended her many times, but in vain. You cannot influence their thoughts unless you have power! My younger brother fell ill, and I became solely responsible for family’s hunger. Kadam handled her usual responsibilities, learnt to cook every other North-Indian dish than just parantha. Sometimes, I wished I could bring her along to my site work. “Who will take care of family then?” She denied with unexpected maturity! Yes, who will feed our four children and this time she was pregnant with fifth. Who knows maybe twins this time too! I felt burdened with guilt; it is not her fault for sure. I am more educated than her, I have seen world outside, I should have thought about this before! But when did my plan succeed? “Babu, Babu… You know what? Mehta sahib’s wife called us last night and said they murdered him. Babu, who are they? And she said, she did not even get to see his body! I think she is just being paranoid! It must be alright with Mehta sahib! Babu? Why don’t you speak?” I was stunned this morning when she called me to inform with this news. Mehta was the one to help me flee with Kadam. Khwahish was a large mansion of Basher to throw parties for high class but ran drugs and prostitution behind its royal curtains. “You see, Mr. Pal these drugs and you see these youthful ladies! They have destroyed us. But what is life without them? And that Kadoo, she is going to taste best of them! I have spent enough money to train her as a classical dancer. You see, Mr. Pal! Ohh... Ask Mr. Mehta ask… How she sings and flows with the emotions of ghazal! Ahh classic! More wine please…” Basher muttered shit at the night I visited him for dinner. “Stay alert of Basher! He is an extremist. You never know when he would impose his devil on you!” Mehta cautioned me when he dropped me at my lounge. Kadam was waiting with fish curry, refuted when came to know that I visited Basher! Somewhere, she knew what the purpose was. I lay down on bed thinking of what could be cause of Shyam bhai’s murder? Neither of us spoke until next morning when she came up with faint smile and regular parantha she baked! “As you must have come to know who I am, you should not think that I will serve you here!” Anger was quite visible in her large eyes. “In fact, I am denied to serve until I reach 18 but they say success never waits for age!” She continued standing leaned towards window, watching Hooghly coast as if trying to slip as a fish! “I am done!” I left half parantha without looking for her reaction. Mehta and I worked hard for the Imambara project. 70-30 was a code for money scam. I was paid with 20. When my expression turned to frown, Mehta pinched my back! You never know when he would impose his devil… “he he he.. You see. Mr. Mehta! This guy Mr. Pal is very nice. He is not after money. He is for relations here. And by the way, Mr. Pal you did not tell me how is Kaddoo serving you?” I felt the anguish pain, “She is going to serve me at my home!” Basher’s expressions turned from amusement to astonishment to fury! “ha ha ha, You see, Mr. Mehta I am always right. That kaddoo’s taste is irresistible even for North Indians! But you see, Mr. Pal! I… I run business here. And nobody moves out without my permission!” Mehta stood up, “Leave it Basher, he is child! Moreover it is a kind of joke in their language. Aye! Get up boy. You are getting out of schedule!” I followed Mehta annoyingly. Basher said good bye in his nawabi style and while clearing the red saliva, he smiled at Mehta, “Yeah, You see Mehta sahib! It remains always a joke. I hope you can take a good care of this!” Mehta almost pushed me to gutter out of his rage when we reached in my lane, “Are you out of your mind? How many times I had warned you not to spit things like this! Have I denied you to take girl home? Bastard! Listen you little chimp! You have saved my family’s life but that doesn’t mean you would spoil my game! Bastard! Fucking bastard! That Basher! Didn’t you notice how long his nose is?” I remained silent watching flawless anger of Mehta, “He did not come up to his promise! How can I feed my family on these fucking bucks? Moreover, I love that girl! And, I am carrying her home right from the shadow of that dog’s fucking nose!” Mehta moved to his car without speaking. I reached the lounge and found no trace of Kadam! Called Basher’s office, nobody picked. It was useless to call Mehta. I went out to say good bye to other workers, threw them a party and came back to pack my bags. When I reached the station, Mehta was already waiting with a girl in red silk saari.
*
Union Leader had rivalry with Eastern ghat contractors. Basher was on hit list. When I came back, I provided Leader the necessary proofs and details. In reward, I was granted flat in Noida and my family shifted to our best level. I got contracts in Gurgaon, Ghaziabad and sometimes enjoyed high class parties too. Mehta became supervisor for roadways construction in Hooghly itself. Recently, I had got a new project in Nagpur for a 6 lane highway. “You see… Mr. Pal I think Mehta hadn’t told you my devil side! But, I am very sophisticated! And I like the fine cuisines not the Kaddoo! Ha ha ha, Ohh Khuda! You seem stunned? Yeah, you should! You see…This is me Mr. Hamid Basher! I have a good memory and I hope you have it too! To refine it more, I thought to enquire that you must have come to know that current supervisor you are working with; Ahh… The Ali Mustafa! You see, he is my cousin brother! And, as I am fond of royal things, these Indian jails release me soon! So, What I was saying...” I cut the phone with shiver, Mehta was murdered last night. I had got it confirmed after Kadam called me. Basher was out of jail before 3 months same time I had joined the project with Ali. I felt paralyzed thinking of my children and pregnant Kadam! I had promised her to send special Nagpur’s oranges but would I remain alive for my commitment? Which road did I chose in this construction field? How could I be so blind for money? You see, Mr. Pal these drugs and you see these youthful ladies! They have destroyed us. How can I change so much? Not being able to differentiate between the right and the wrong! I felt myself standing at the point where no seclusion exist only a crowd. Crowd of dirty plans, of devils, of drugs and of young ladies! Disastrous I felt!
*
I threw last stone in lake to observe its ripples in dim red light of evening sun. Rippled were just like the last vibes of my life. Crowd had been dispersing from lake except the young blood kissing each other behind wild grass thinking nobody can see them. We all think same when we are too much involved in our actions! Last sip of Royal Stag with last tablet of Triazolam and I felt relaxed. Just like when I slept in arms of Kadambari. I made sure she is not far from me when I kiss death, so bought the flower Kadam; hard to get in a dry place like Vidarbha. I could feel the coldness of my feet and slow rhythm of blood; thoughts were vanishing like ripples in lake. I had chosen the best path for my sins, I deserve this. Nobody had time to watch my sleuth body resting on cold stone boundary like a parasite. In those last moments of my life, I reminded myself of my achievements, my pleasures, my wife, our children and the unborn soul! There was nothing regret remaining in me except the fact: What am I inheriting to her? My bleeding nose took last breath mixed with cool air and flower making me aware of her presence. And brain answered the last question; “You have left her nothing but a Crossroad!” Life faded with puzzled relaxation!

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