by Rudy Ravindra
While taking a short cut through a lush wooded park to the swimming pool, Rahul glimpses, through haze of the morning fog, a divine damsel in a diaphanous dress, swaying gently on a swing. Her thick tangled hair is pulled back with a white scarf, except for a few stray tendrils, which drift with the back and forth motion. He feels as if in a dream, stares shamelessly at this apsarasa who appears to have descended from heavens up above, down to earth where such apparitions are seldom seen. She is totally tuned out, lost in her own thoughts, didn’t even see him. He is mesmerized and stands still. How can anyone be so extraordinarily gorgeous? Her breathtaking beauty brings tears to his eyes. Eventually, when the pleasant warmth that permeates his body gradually wanes away, and he is back to reality, the damsel disappears, leading him to wonder if she is a mere figment of his feverish imagination. He bursts into a popular Bollywood song:
Khwab ho tum yaa koi haqiqat (Are you a dream or are you for true, a reality)
Kaun ho tum batalaao (Tell me who you are)
His daily swim all but forgotten, he repairs to the campus café. Imbibing a few cups of strong, hot tea, he pens an ode to the said maiden.
He takes the same path for the next few days in the hope of meeting the beauty. But she is nowhere in sight. He dreams of dazzling her with his wit and wisdom, suave and scholarly manner, and eventually win her over. He dreams of smelling her lustrous hair. He dreams of kissing her bow-shaped lips. He dreams of caressing and kissing her willowy body. He dreams of losing himself in her lush curves. He dreams of taking her to the peaks of paradise. He dreams of looking longingly into her passionate eyes and declare, “You are my woman! From now on no other man will lay claim to your hand! I will announce our nuptials from the rooftop! We will have a grand wedding.”
Yet, many days pass and she is nowhere in sight.
Lost in his own world, humming a Bollywood ballad, Rahul wheels his cart with petri dishes, pipettes, sterile gloves and other paraphernalia. A thud wakes him from his stupor.
He looks up to see that girl from the park. Oblivious to the supplies scattered on the floor, he stares at her.
Her delicate nostrils flare and her hazel eyes flash, “Are you blind or what? Look what you did, this medium spilled all over me.” She points at the bright red spots on her vanilla white dress.
He blurts, “It’s you! It’s you! I’ve been looking for you. So glad I found you at last.”
Shalini rolls her eyes, “I am right here in this department. If only you stop day dreaming and look around, you would have known, um, I’m just down the hall from your lab.”
“Here, I wrote this for you.” He hands her a much wrinkled piece of paper.
She sighs. “What’s the matter with you? First you dash into my cart, spilling everything, ah, then you stare at me as if I’m a ghost, and now this.” She smooths out the wrinkles and reads a few lines and bursts out laughing. “In addition to all this mayhem, you also plagiarize, huh?”
“No, no, no. This is original, v-v-v-very original. I c-c-c-can explain, ah, good coffee, tea at the café.”
“Oh, that’s great news, I see, you want us go to the café, right?”
He brightens up. “Yes, yes, me tea, you coffee or whatever.”
“You are one crazy dude! How the hell can I go to the café looking like this? People will think I stabbed somebody! Lemme first go to my hostel, ah, change.”
Not a typical, perennially poor graduate student, the statuesque Shalini has salon hairdos, manicures and pedicures, and shuns the ubiquitous uniform of lab rats—tattered jeans and T-shirts. She dresses as though ready to sashay into a star-studded grand gala, and certainly not to a test-tube-filled laboratory that smells of chemicals.
After their first tête-à-tête at the café, their friendship, thanks to dinners, movies, and strolls in lovers’ lane, blossoms. He serenades her with romantic Bollywood ballads, dazzles her with witticisms and impresses her with his knowledge of long gone French philosophers to classic Russian novelists to contemporary intellectuals.
However, he longs to stroke her silky hair, to touch her svelte body, to kiss her pouty lips, to caress her perky breasts, to fondle her firm derrière and to make love to her with joy and abandonment. He deliberates the modus operandi for his amatory advances. Should he first hold her delicate hands and admire the color of nail polish, or should he comment on her chiseled cheekbones, or should he simply embrace her and plant a smooch on her full lips. So many ways to make his intentions known, and yet his timidity stands in the way. Still, he just can’t believe his luck when the damsel herself takes the initiative. It is she who kisses him first. It is she who guides his hands to her erogenous zones. It is she who conducts him to a secluded spot in the large wooded campus, where, under a starlit sky, they cuddle, caress, kiss and quench the fire in their loins.
In the fullness of time, when he is convinced that they blend together as coffee and cream, he pictures himself walking in triumphantly, hand in hand with his dream girl, to present her to his parents.
Hoping for an after-dinner rendezvous, Rahul tries Shalini’s cell. But, all he gets is her voicemail. He considers if she might be slaving away at her lab, and bikes to the biochemistry department and peeps into her lab. She is not there. And then he goes to the library and runs up and down the four floors. Again he fails to spot her. The mess hall is closed for the day and so the only place left is the café, which stays open until midnight. Again he is disappointed. It is highly unlikely that she went out of the campus. Assuming that she might be curled up with a book in her room, he rides all the way to the ladies’ hostel, at the north end of the campus.
On cold evenings, they used to cuddle in her cozy dorm room on the first floor. Since the warden disapproves of men in the ladies’ rooms, Shalini would text him when the coast was clear. Rahul placed a boulder, well-hidden behind the rose bushes, under Shalini’s window to climb up to the window sill and jump into her room.
Now, sweating profusely from his exertions to locate his lady, he wipes his brow with his sleeve, hides his bike behind the bushes and steps on the boulder. The window is ajar, and the curtains flutter. About to jump in, he is intrigued at Shalini’s familiar moans and murmurs. He peeps in to be shocked at the sight of Shalini humping vigorously, her brown butt moving up and down, and a guy, with his eyes closed, fondling and sucking on her bouncing boobs. For a moment Rahul is transfixed, stands still. And then dejectedly, he quietly climbs down and rides back to his dorm.
What a fool he has been. The woman he thought is his and his alone is now with another man. How could he have been so naïve and blind? A sensuous woman like Shalini, with her saucy smiles, her swaying walk, and her swinging hips, is sure to have many admirers. But, he foolishly assumed that she shared his fervent feelings and loved him exclusively. Now, all his plans are in total jeopardy. How can he marry her and live with her when each and every day he is reminded of that bawdy image of the bonking couple.
The very thought that his love does not mean anything to her, that he is just a boy toy is excruciatingly painful. Now, he regrets their strolls in the Brigade Road area and other hot spots of Bangalore, dinners at Topkapi, movies at Rex and romantic rendezvous in Cubbon park. What a waste of time. He thought he found his soul mate, a partner for life, to enjoy life together. His dreams are forever shattered. He has nothing to live for. His whole life will now be nothing but miserable. He curses the day he laid his eyes on this deceitful damsel.
He falls into a trough of deep disillusionment. There is nothing to be done but to do away with his wretched life. Like a vanquished warrior, he prepares to take a knife to his own flesh, and cut his wrists. But, he hates the sight of blood, and questions such a gruesome method.
He Googles popular methods of suicide, and among them drowning, hanging and jumping appear acceptable. He can fill his pockets with heavy stones and wade into the waters of Sankey lake, just a few minutes from the campus. Or tie a rope around his neck and hang from the ceiling fan in his dorm room. Or, jump from the tall tower, the hangout of amateur astronomers, at the east end of the campus. What if the lake is not deep enough? He will look like a fool standing in the middle of the lake, waiting to drown. Hanging seems easy. But, at the precise moment will he be able to summon enough courage to push the stool away? And jumping from the tower is not foolproof. What if he survives with many broken bones, or worse still, paralyzed for life. No, no, no, none of these methods are reliable.
And then he has a brilliant brain wave. Death by cyanide will be clean.
His mind made up, he rides furiously to his lab and opens the chemical cupboard, grabs a bottle of potassium cyanide and sits at his desk. Should he leave a note to Shalini, to let her know in no uncertain terms how her deceit has effected the trajectory of his life? What purpose will it serve? She might scoff at his cowardly act. Will she even shed one tear at his untimely demise, a life cut short right in the prime of youth? No, no, no, the Shalinis of this world are merciless and mercenary.
On second thoughts, he decides to email her and also post it in on Facebook:
I am at death’s door. You made me do this. When the procession of my death begins tomorrow, you will have no choice but to reflect upon your shameful conduct.
Yes, when the news is all over the social media, that will teach that seductress a lesson that she will never forget. She must burn with shame, she must burn with remorse and she must, for the rest of her life, not forget how she, albeit indirectly, snuffed out a life, a life full of promise.
Before he hits the send button, he has to determine the appropriate dose of cyanide. Since it is water soluble, he should add the required amount of the powder to a glass of water and gulp it down quickly and wait patiently for death to take its course. How long will it take to die? Will it be painful, will he have convulsions and shortness of breath? The details are immaterial, but die he must.
He finds out the appropriate dose from Google and weighs the powder and adds it to water and stirs. Now comes the moment of truth. Prepare to die.
His iPhone beeps and he sees a text from his mother reminding him to purchase his train ticket to attend his grandpa’s eightieth birthday party. He texts her back: okay, mummy.
The text prompts him to think of his parents who love him unconditionally, his younger siblings who look up to him, his aunts and uncles who mollycoddle him, and his grandparents who dote on him. It will be horrifying for his kith and kin to face his death. His folks are more important than that fickle female. It is her loss. He was ready to cherish her, put her on a pedestal and adore her and satisfy her every whim and fancy. She blew it.
He pours the offending liquid down the sink and replaces the cyanide bottle in the shelf, locks up the lab and rides leisurely back to his dorm on the quiet road past the library and the campus clinic. Apart from a few dim street lights, it is rather dark and the air humid. Fire flies flicker, an owl hoots, cicadas chirp, and a distant dog barks.
Back in his room, he pops an MP3 disc into his boom box and sings along the vintage tunes of yesteryears, and pours himself a generous glass of whiskey. “Here’s to life!” and takes a big sip and nods appreciatively. He fondly remembers his playboy uncle’s advice. “Rahul, my boy, you gotta learn something, um, girls, hm, you sniff them, sample them and send them off.”
Rahul thinks that the sultry Shalini is too smart for guys like him, as she is the one who samples and moves on. Oh, well, he tells himself, cheer up, at least I had fun with that classy lass. Spicy stuff for my memoirs. He refills his glass, and says, “Getting tipsy is a lot more fun than courting death.”
A roguish idea comes to him. Why not enjoy Shalini’s company for as long as possible? Now that he decides that she is not marriage material, her affairs should not concern him. After all he might not come across another such ripe and ready, low-hanging fruit any time soon. Yes, yes, act as if he is blissfully unaware of her affair. Though from now on it will be simply lust, he must nevertheless, continue to whisper sweet nothings.
He texts her about dinner at a posh Punjabi joint on Residency road. She texts him back: k c u 2mor.
Category: Fiction, Short Story, SNHU Creative Writing, SNHU online creative writing