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Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Another Escape!

The bus was thankfully not crowded and I was happy that we were going back, relieved that there wouldn’t be another unpleasant encounter with Vani, and I got my favourite window seat in the two-seat row. Vani occupied the aisle seat and Mohan sat with Nirupama in the row immediately next in front of us. The sun had already set and the sky had become dark gray. Vani sat silently as though she’d been shocked by the way we’d been asked to leave the hotel. Mohan looked unaffected but there was a hint of disappointment on his face. He purchased tickets to Hubli for all of us and leaned his head on the backrest. I understood that he was in no mood for conversation.

When the bus exited the town, either side of the road was covered with thick growth of trees, shrubs, and grass; in between patches of lands had been lined with coconut trees and areca nut trees which the creepers of betel leaves and cardamom had entwined. In the sky the silhouette of birds returning home could be seen. I too felt like a bird returning to the safety of my home.

In less than a quarter of an hour, it turned pitch dark outside. The nightfall was quickened due to the thick woods and soon the lights inside the bus were switched off. There was nothing to see through the window but the weak light from the headlights of the bus that reflected from the asphalted road and bleakly illuminated the vegetation by the roadside. My eyelids were getting heavy and I was too exhausted to resist sleep.

It must be around nine o’ clock when we reached Mundgod, a small town known for the Tibetan refugee camp. The conductor announced that the bus would stop for dinner. Mohan rose from his seat and patted on my shoulder, beckoning to follow him. My eyes were still drowsy with sleep. The restaurant was small and over-crowded. Mohan and I lit cigarettes and looking at the crowd, watching the restaurant, Mohan said, “We won’t be able to get a table all for us in the hotel. The girls can’t have dinner here,” I was neither hungry nor bothered about the girls now. He thought for a while and said, “Give me a minute, I will see what can be done” and walked to the cash counter of the hotel.

I saw him talking to the person at the cash counter who looked like he didn’t like to lift his head from the vouchers he was writing. He was fair skinned, as tall as Mohan and clean-shaven. He wore a white bush-shirt over his equally white panche. After some time Mohan seemed to have succeeded in getting his attention and now he talked to Mohan gesturing upstairs. I thought there might be another dining hall upstairs. Soon Mohan returned but walked to the window of the bus to talk to Nirupama and only thereafter he came to me and announced, “Come on Harsha, we are going upstairs”

The girls soon joined us behind the half pulled up sliding shutters, at the landing to the upstairs where earlier I had found a waiter standing with a key in his hands. When we reached upstairs, I found about a dozen rooms lined up along the balcony. Now I understood that it was not the dining hall that Mohan had been after, but rooms to stay overnight. My heart began to sink realizing that I had to spend another night with Vani, but at the same time I also had a glimmer of hope that Mohan would let me stay with Nirupama as he’d promised me at the beginning of the trip.

Mohan was talking to the waiter a few paces away and gave him some money. As the waiter started climbing down the stairs, he shouted, “Make if fast Maani!”
“We’ve been very lucky Harsha, the manager of the hotel didn’t ask too many questions and gave us the rooms,” Mohan said in a soft tone as he approached me.

“But we’d tickets to Hubli”

“Oh, not a great deal for the girls dear,” he touched my shoulder suggesting that we go into the room. Both the girls were sitting in one room obviously waiting for us. The lodge had been recently constructed and the room was small, barely eight by ten, furnished with two steel cots placed apart and old styled chairs and table made of ordinary jungle wood. The sheets were clean and so was the bathroom.

The waiter returned with a half bottle of Hercules Rum, Rotis, a bowl of Dal Fry, fried chips and plates and glasses – all cluttered on a tray and placed it on the wooden table. It was the repeat of the previous evening, Mohan and Nirupama being too eager to go to their room. In trying to keep up pace with them, I drank too fast and got strong kicks equally quickly. I had to slow down with the result that when Nirupama and Mohan left the room, I was still drinking.

Vani had finished her dinner of just half a Roti and was already lying on the bed. However, she had not talked of joining the two cots and she looked very tired. I went on drinking till I emptied the bottle. I was afraid to go near her though watching her voluptuous chest rise and fall, a burning desire had crept into me and was relieved that I had a separate cot. I removed all my clothes, killed the lights and lied on my bed. I felt as though every thing around me was revolving and I knew at once that I was sick. I didn’t whether Vani was asleep or not but wouldn’t dare raise her. Nausea set in and I struggled for nearly half an hour to resist retching, but failed at last. As soon as I went into bathroom, I threw up noisily.

When I groped awkwardly back to my bed, I heard Vani’s voice, “Are you okay?” but I didn’t care to reply. I was feeling a lot better and as soon as I lied on the bed, sleep overcame me.

* * *

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

At the Falls

I woke up to the sound of the chirping of the sparrows that were sitting on the outstretched bay window. It took a while for me to realize that I was not in the hostel and to get my bearings. I didn’t remember when sleep had conquered me, but surely it was not before an hour after midnight. The daylight was peeking into the room through the gaps in the window curtains whenever they waved. I looked at my wristwatch that was lying by the side of my pillow. It was a few minutes more than six in the morning.

I could know from her even breathing that Vani was fast asleep. She was on the cot whereas I was lying on the floor with only a pillow. On the teapoy was the empty bottle of rum that I had finished after my second attempt with Vani. When I saw that her nightgown had slipped upwards and her fair skinned thick thighs were visible, there was rush of blood in my crotch. Vani stirred, as if she’d felt my gaze on her thighs and lied on her side, now facing away from me. A fleeting desire to climb the cot came to my mind but I dismissed it quickly.

My mind drifted to the Mohan and Nirupama. What must they be doing now? So, after all, Mohan had failed to return the previous night. Why didn’t he? Had he lied to me? I couldn’t figure out. If it had been Nirupama in lieu of Vani, my evening would have been altogether different, I thought. But now I was not very sure. Was something wrong with me? I felt asking myself this question. No, it couldn’t be due to anything wrong with me. It was the stress, the guilt, the terror of committing myself to a future that I didn’t envisage for myself, the fear of being found out by my parents, or by law enforcers, the nervousness arising out of the whole situation, the result of too much drinking and the odour that put me off, I tried to console myself. Yes, the odour had been a huge put off, her body odour. Everyone has his or her own odour, caused by the perspiration and it is supposed to act like an aphrodisiac. Only in my case it had acted otherwise. But I myself was not convinced of all these arguments in support of…Vani stirred again, and I didn’t like to face her. I closed my eyes and acted as if I was asleep. I could hear her going into the bath.

We headed for Jog Falls after eating some insipid breakfast ordered into the room at about half past nine. Mohan and Nirupama had come to our room and both looked elated. This was nothing short of honeymoon to them. I didn’t get any opportunity to ask Mohan why he’d forgotten to return to my room the previous night. He seemed to have totally forgotten about having promised me something like that.
The bus was overcrowded with tourists. Only the girls got seats and Mohan and I had to travel standing in the jam-packed bus. I couldn’t have a view through the window, nor was there any fresh air to enliven me. On the top of it I had to suffer the pokes, jabs, shoves, and even the stale breath of the passengers standing with me. It was unpleasant like hell, the journey; the only redeeming feature was that it was to last no longer than an hour.

It was a great relief to get out of the bus, but the view of the falls was so breathtakingly magnificent that I forgot all about the bus and the unpleasantness of the ride. We’d alighted at the viewpoint located in Shimoga district, presenting the full view of the highest plunge waterfall in India. The river Sharavati plunges from the height of 824 feet, forming four falls known as Raja, Roarer, Rocket and Rani, creating grandest natural beauty and rich scenery.  The sky was covered with gray clouds and there was no sign of sun. The air was misty and it rained intermittently, though the rain was more like a fog, sometimes the spraying of cold droplets of water that couldn’t soak you, but gave you a soft cold touch that was soothing and titillating at the same time. The lush green valley, the cool breezes, the fog, the glorious view, the joy and laughter pervading all around was romantic, to say the least.

This being the time when the river Sharavati was fully augmented, tourists and excursionists all over the country had thronged to enjoy the sublime elegance of the water falls and we had a tough time reaching the main platform constructed for viewing, piercing the concourse. There were college going teens, school children, young couples, elderly persons, all creating a raucous cacophony, but all were no doubt too happy to contain their joy.

Still I was too self-conscious to be oblivious of the stares, some amusing, some envious and some disapproving, some wrathful even. I found that Vani was clasping my right arm with both her hands and was clinging to me like a lover. A group of young boys whistled and hooted as we passed by them. Another guy from yet another group shouted, “Leave him alone lady, he won’t get lost!” Some schoolgirls eating snacks in a large group glared at Vani enviously and some even beamed at me. It was all so discomforting and embarrassing, innervating even, that every now and then I tried to break free of Vani’s grip. However, she seemed to be enjoying every bit of the attention, and the more I tried to free myself, the tighter her grip became.

Mohan had put his arm around Nirupama’s shoulders and didn’t even care to think what would be the response of the onlookers. Even Nirupama appeared to busy in conversing with Mohan to care for the people eying them. No doubt they were enjoying every moment, and I couldn’t draw Mohan’s attention. We wandered from one viewpoint to another, which have been constructed for viewing the falls from different angles. I tried to ignore Vani’s grip and enjoy the falls enveloped in the dense cloud of mist. It looked like a river of milk that was plunging down the abyss where even the pool was not visible due to the rebounding milky waters and the vapour that clouded it. At last Mohan took a break and approached me for a cigarette.

We both lit cigarettes and the girls stood a few feet away talking to each other. This was the first time since morning that I had some free moments with Mohan. I wanted to tell him about the previous night and also ask him why he had not returned to my room. However, before I could broach the subject, he asked me if I liked to descend down to the base of the waterfall, the pool. And even before I could reply, Nirupama came to us and said, “Let us climb down”. That settled it for Mohan and I had to follow them in their wake.

We must have descended only about twenty-five feet when we realized that it was not at all going to be easy. It was dark, and fog permitted a vision of only a few feet. Above all, the steps had become too slippery due to incessant rains as well as the fog, and had been covered with a thin layer of fungi. Again it was Nirupama who decided that we better abandon this dangerous adventure and climb back.

By the time we reached the top of the valley, we were all starving. There was only on hotel and it was crowded. Being aware that we would not get something to eat till we get back to the nearest town, we waited patiently till we found a table being vacated. Again, we had to be content with the insipid food offered.

As planned earlier, we walked over the bridge to the other side of the valley to reach the American Bungalow.  The bungalow is constructed on a projection rock over the edge of the valley. The bungalow itself is a wonderful sight, surrounded by well-maintained garden. From the platforms constructed there, we could have a view of the falls from above. It was as awe-inspiring as it was gorgeous. There too, we sauntered from place to place enjoying the wonderful creation of the nature.

I was under the impression that we would be returning to Dharwad that evening. But those were the days when very few buses plied between Sirsi and Jog and Mohan told me that it was not possible to do so. My mind was soon occupied with the dreary thought of another confrontation with Vani. I didn’t want to do it. I dreaded the very thought of spending another night with her. I was disappointed to learn that it was now inevitable. But deep in my heart, I also began expect that what couldn’t happen on the first night, might as well happen on the second, and that Mohan might remember his promise after all!

We could get back to the hotel around six in the evening. It was getting darker and all of us were exhausted. We wanted sufficient rest and I along with Mohan craved for drinks. However, a rude shock was awaiting us.

As soon as we walked through the entrance, the manager of the hotel called Mohan with a grim expression on his face. I knew that something was wrong. I too joined Mohan and we went to the reception counter. The manager cleared his throat and said, “Sir, after you left for Jog, the local goons had come here. They were enquiring after you.”

I was dismayed. Mohan too seemed aghast. “What do they want?” Mohan asked.

“They don’t like the hotel giving rooms to the young boys and girls. I told them that I had not given any rooms to boys accompanied by girls. They wouldn’t trust me. They said, they would be back in the evening to check.”

I wanted to ask him why couldn’t he ask for police protection, but feeling that that would have been silly, I kept my lips sealed. I was myself not in a position to ask for police protection. “But,” Mohan protested, “It is already too late. We cannot get back to our place. Where are we supposed to go now? “

“I am also helpless sir. Please try to understand our situation. They are very dangerous people”

“Can’t we go to some other hotel?” I asked him hopefully.

“No sir, there are only a couple of hotels in this town and they go to all of them.”

“So you are suggesting that we leave” Mohan said with a sigh.

The manager didn’t reply and started looking into the register. After a while he lifted his head and said, “I can give you some concession in the rates sir”

Mohan turned towards me and found me nodding. “Harsha, please go with the girls and vacate the rooms. I will settle the bill” He said almost in a whisper.

Within the next fifteen minutes, we gathered the few things that we’d left in the rooms and walked out of the hotel. Fortunately as soon as we reached the bus stand, a bus was ready to leave for Hubli.


Friday, October 1, 2010


When I turned around I found that Vani had disappeared into the bathroom. My heart was still pounding. What was I going to do? How would I touch Vani knowing fully well that I had never even given as much a hint as to suggest I was in love with her? Of course, I was not in love with her and I was sure I would never be, for she was nowhere near the girl that I’d dreamt of. To put it in simple words, as they say these days, she was not my type. Was Nirupama my type? It was an embarrassing question even though I questioned myself. Frankly speaking, she too was not. She could have been, had I ignored her dusky complexion, her somewhat low IQ, her reputation or disrepute and infamy, her general lack of interest in the things intellectual, and things I didn’t myself know how to put in words, but I could never have ignored the fact that she’d chosen Mohan over me in the first place and she’d already lost her virginity to Mohan, if not to someone earlier than him. Then why did I crave to bed her? Was it my way of avenging her for preferring Mohan to me? Why did I see red, although I never expressed it? Undoubtedly it was my ego, or was it envy plain and simple?

 Why didn’t Mohan say anything about swapping that he himself proposed and seemed to be dying to do? Had he forgotten? Of course he might not have forgotten. In fact he was more eager to conquer Vani than I was to make love to Nirupama. Perhaps, he was in a hurry. He was certain to turn up later and ask me to go the other room. With these thoughts clouding my mind, I decided to have another drink, forgetting that I had already had one too many. I mixed very little water to a generous peg of liquor so that I could drink it in one gulp before Vani appeared. Just as I was placing the glass back on the teapoy, the bathroom door opened and Vani saw it.

“You are still drinking?” she asked unentangling her long braid with raising both her arms above to reach her mane. I noticed that she was wearing a pink nightgown that had sequins around her neck. I was amazed to see that she really had a mountainous bosom, which either somehow had escaped my attention or discovery or wasn’t noticeable when she wore sari, which she almost everyday did. The pace of my heartbeats quickened rapidly at the voluptuous sight.

“I am damn tired,” I replied lamely. Her laughter suggested she hardly believed me.

She climbed the bed, fluttered the pillow and lied down feigning a yawn. “Me too,” she said and turned sideways, facing the bed lamp. I switched off the lights but the bed lamp was still on. I hadn’t brought any nightdress. Therefore I wrapped a towel around my trunk and removed my pants and shirt. She could hear me changing, but she didn’t budge. She was pretending as if she had slipped into sleep. There was only one bed in the room and sharing it with her was inevitable. But my nerves were failing me. I was cursing Mohan in my own mind for putting me under such a circumstance although I was equally to be blamed, but at the same time deep down in my heart there was a desire, a hunger, an enticement and a temptation that was utterly irresistible. I knew I had to take courage with my both hands in order to approach her but my conscience was putting all sorts of hurdles. Would she agree? If she agreed, won’t she force me to marry her? Ah, she’d to force Bhaskar first, I tried to assure myself. What if all that Bhaskar told about the night preceding Virupakshappa’s marriage were all bloody lies? After all Bhaskar was known for his mastery over the art of concocting all sorts of lies in order to either entertain the listeners, or to serve his own ends. What if the second wicket, after all had not fallen contrary to the observation I had made in a moment of envy coupled with wrath? What if my parents were to know about this? The very thought of my parents finding this out sent a wave of panic in my mind. I would die of shame if such a thing were to happen. What if the police raided the lodge and dragged us to the police station and then informed our parents? The very thought caused my thighs to shudder.

Vani stirred, pulled her legs closer to her chest and thereby revealed her equally voluptuous posterior.  My courage of convictions was melting away. God, help me! I cried silently. A thought came to my mind that I could spend the whole night dozing off on the chair. But what would I tell my friends? All my false claims of having conquered innumerable girls would be exposed and my reputation will suffer a severe dent. Why, I could picture right then how my friends would be mocking and teasing me! I could tell the same things as Bhaskar had done and it would be my words against Vani’s. Surely none would be asking Vani about anything that might have happened this night. However where would it leave me? Vani could still compel me to marry her!

I poured another small drink for me and having mixed equal measure of water, drank it bottoms up. It is said that drink gives you all the valour in the world. But it wasn’t helping me at all. It is even said an aroused person has neither fear nor shame. Even that was not happening with me. I decided to take all my thoughts to the bed, and if possible, shrug them off along with the rest of my clothes!

I climbed the bed and lied on my shoulder facing Vani. She still didn’t stir. Was she acting as though she didn’t know what was coming? Was she not interested at all? I lay for a few minutes silently. Then slowly rose with my weight resting on my elbow to see her face. Her eyes were closed. I crept closer to her pressing my whole body against her and encircled her front with my arm. She gave a start and jerked me off, then turned towards me.

“What do you think you are doing?” she asked. I knew for sure that there was no anger in her voice.

“You surely can’t be that na├»ve not to understand what I am doing,” I replied with feigned peevishness. She simply stared at me with false anger that I could easily recognize. I again moved closer to her and tried to clasp her. She shoved me again. I persisted and this time I grabbed her bosom and she jerked off my hand and said, “Why are you flirting with me?”

Remember we were speaking in Kannada and the use of English word ‘flirt’ sounded funny too me. Suppressing my amusement I said, “Yes, Why not if Bhaskar can?”

“What do you mean by ‘if Bhaskar can?’” she sat upright and looked into my eyes.

“Come on Vani. He’s described picturesquely what happened on that night in Raichur!”

“What happened? It is all nonsense”

“I don’t know if it was nonsense, but something did happen. Didn’t it?”

“Harsha, tell me what Bhaskar has been telling others, please”

I told her how Bhaskar had described his conquest of Vani, though not as graphically as he was able to do. It was only after telling her that I realized it was wrong to tell anybody what Bhaskar had told us in confidence. Apart from being morally wrong, it could drive a wedge between Bhaskar and me. At that point of time, however, I just wanted her and would not mind using Bhaskar’s story as a weapon to subdue her; at least I thought it was a weapon.

“It is all bloody lies Harsha, what happened was nothing like this,” she said after pondering silently for a while, “You know, Nirupama and I were sharing one room and Bhaskar and Mohan were sharing another. We four were the first to reach Raichur and the person who was to receive us at the lodge gave us only two rooms, thinking that the girls would stay in one room and the boys in another. Obviously, Virupakshappa was not sure that you and Vijay would be coming to attend his marriage. In case you didn’t turn up, he would be spending unnecessarily for the rooms that would remain unoccupied. Vijay reached there after 10.45 and was therefore given another room, which he would be sharing with any other guest turning later.

“Bhaskar did come to my room because Nirupama requested to be left alone with Mohan. In fact she went to Mohan’s room and sent Bhaskar to wait in my room. You know, he is a distant relative of mine, so he couldn’t make any wrong move. I’d told Nirupama that I would wait only for an hour after which I would throw Bhaskar out of my room. Bhaskar was drunk and did approach me, but I sternly told him to behave himself. After that he sat there smoking and reading a stale newspaper, and also having a friendly chat with me, mostly making fun of Nirupama and Mohan. When Nirupama returned, he went back to stay with Mohan. That’s all,” Nirupama gazed into my eyes trying find out if I believed her version. I neither wanted to believe what she said nor did I want to find any holes in her story.

“Alright!” I said again letting my hand move over her bosom and getting encouraged that she was not resisting now, “However, neither you are waiting for Nirupama to return after an hour tonight, nor can you throw me out of the room.”

“Are you my lover?” Vani had an edge in her tone.

“Are they lovers?” I asked referring to Mohan and Nirupama.

“Yes. They are,” she replied with conviction.

“Don’t be too sure. This is India. Here, the lovers are supposed to marry. And I am sure Mohan is not going to marry her,” my tone too was edgy now.

“What? Nirupama is in love with him and she’s sure as hell he’ll marry her”

“Is she? Has he ever asked her to marry him?”

“He will. In course of time.”

“If he won’t?”

Vani didn’t reply but sat still thinking about the possibility. But I had already started enjoying myself. When I hugged her, for the first time I found that she was wearing virtually nothing below her gown. She was still thinking when I drew her face near mine and kissed her on lips. She closed her eyes and began kissing me back.

The rendering of a raga in Hindustani classical music always starts with aalap, which is a gradual unfolding, and development of a raga through monosyllables and without a fixed composition. The artist can expand it as much as he likes. It is followed by a singing of a khayal in vilambit tal, which is a lyrical composition of usually two stanzas, very slow in tempo. Then it shifts to madhyam tal, the medium fast tempo and ends with a presentation of a cheez in dhrut, the fast tempo. The whole rendering will be adorned with sargam, laykari, taan and other decorations. The whole performance becomes a manifestation of bliss and beauty. But even a microtone of discordant note spoils the whole performance. All my knowledge of lovemaking had come from unreliable sources such as porn literature and blue films. I had been worked up so much already that there was hardly any place for aalap and vilambit laya. Even the drut couldn’t be carried out, to my dismay, because of a discordant thing that occurred. I was put off because of an unfamiliar unpleasant odour that was emanating from unknown source that affected me so deeply that I was spent well before even touching the destination. About half an hour later, my second expedition also ended up as a disaster, all because of what had become in my view, an all-pervasive stench. The thrill had evaporated and was replaced by angst, despair, exasperation and fear. I had the least inkling of what was to come as an aftermath soon, not in the distant future.

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