Archive for August 11th, 2010
Anyone not familiar with the place 150 Tandon Enclave in New Delhi is most likely to miss it. It was carved out of a vacant lot between the Aurangazeb Road and Prithiraj Road. A Government order put an end to centuries old dispute between two nawabs whose claims dating back to the Emperor Jahangir were simply resolved by the stroke of a pen. The Government doled out lots to whom it would. It was the days of nas bandhi and Emergency.
The move benefited some. The embassies which found Chanakyapuri limiting pushed their part of the establishment there. Private parties also benefited from the Government largesse. The business houses that could not operate from Janapath found the location ideal. The Tandon Enclave for one. The enclave fronted Raisina Heights head on and Claridges Hotel on one side.
Shri Sukh Ram occupied the ground floor and any one who strayed into the premises saw nothing than a blank wall lovingly sheathed in cut stones edges beveled and polished. Nothing other than the owner’s name with a cryptic description greeted him.
Shri Sukh Ram, exporters and importers, merely let the unwary go away none the wiser. Even so it cost a fortune to whoever occupied it and sought anonymity as though it were a virtue.
Along a row of prestigious addresses one can count five consulates each competing to catch the eye while some blue chip companies hold their own in the gleaming chrome-glass facades with roof gardens floating in a well manicured lawn. Somewhere among these a gate with sentry box let the mysterious Sukh Ram let in. The watch and ward were all in place on an evening a Jeep drove in. A curt wave of hand brought the sentry to attention and the wrought iron swung on their sockets.
Next morning a icy blue Mercedes of the latest vintage with tinted glass windows shut drive past the side gravel path silently to deposit the precious cargo past the high screen. The Sikh sentry never knew who really drove since he was sent by the employment agency some six months earlier. For him if the car was driven by a chauffeur or not, was as immaterial as the name of the owner.
But Sukh Ram was as real as those who drove in the evening before.
On that sultry May morning Delhi was not spared even by a swirling dust storm that blew across from Northwest. The flame red gul mohar petals swirled, ominous red splatters all across. The Benz drew up silently motor whirring along the driveway setting an alarm among the paid hands that did not expect it that morning.
The man in his first flush of maturity came out his firm steps not breaking the stride. As he entered through the side door he abruptly stopped. The housekeeper who kept the ménage in his absence was not to be seen. The door was ajar. Ominous was what he saw through the narrow passage at his sitting room. The jade green shard that lay on the carpet. It was his lalique fruit bowl. He hurried to check the extent of the damage. Horror of horrors! The house was ploughed through as though by an unseen bulldozer. His walls were splattered with ink, and the canvas that hung above faux fireplace was slashed across many times that made him stop breathless.
‘My Amrita Sher-Gil!’he bellowed as if in agony.
He heard footsteps. He suddenly took the brass inkstand a heavy ornate brass antique he had picked out from Old Delhi quarter.
‘Do not be silly, munna.’ Sukh Ram bristled at the word. Next his blood turned cold and he knew the voice.
There was the heavy Buddha-like figure of Babulal, the don who was the liquor baron who got salaams from all. He was the right hand man of the Minister for RUT. Resources Utilization and Tradeoffs, a portfolio that meant on paper nothing but carried power. Babulal at that moment represented the latter aspect of the Union minister.
‘Get out scum’, Sukh Ram screamed, ‘I told you I don’t ever want to see you?’
The heavy lidded man merely smiled. He shrugged and said, ‘My da sez the place and everything in it belongs to him. So when he sez ‘go put some sense into Sukh Ram’, I say well I may succeed or I may fail. But no harm in trying. Was there?’
Sukh Ram felt a sliver of fear. The man was telling the truth.
Yet his voice and intonation of a bootlegger never grown beyond the argot of a pimp made him grit his teeth in pain. The flabby mouth still larded with betel stained spittle around the corner struck him as obscene.
Before he could find words the don embraced him as to an erring child and he said, ‘you’ll see my da. Won’t you?’
Sukh Ram nodded.
Suddenly the fat man frowned and pointing to the brass inkstand he was still holding he asked, ‘You carry still these?’
Babulal snapped his fingers and from behind the curtains a goon who learned to dress up from the many Hindi films materialized. ‘Johnny, see the inkpot?’
Johnny grinned and he passed some of his good-will to the occupant showing his palm still dripping with ink. The don conversationally commented,’Yer finger painting leaves very moch to be desired,’ Johnny walked towards Sukh Ram still grinning. Sukh Ram was not amused and leaving the inkstand on the mahogany side table he stood scowling. The goon showed his hands and said, ‘If you used a ball pen like everyone else I would not dirty my fingers’.
Ruefully Sukh Ram thought his goon spoke better than the liquor baron.
Babulal curtly asked his outrider to fetch the present and he did pronto. Babulal with a grin smiled once again Buddha-like and said, My da must like you a lot to give this ‘chota something.’
Sukh Ram silently took it and tore off the wrappings. It was the latest I-pad and he laid it aside. He asked morosely, ‘What of my Sher-gil?’
‘It was present like this. Was it not?’
The fellow was enjoying his witticisms and he froze. ‘You called me ‘scum.’ Before Sukh Ram could think up an excuse the don giggled and his paunch rippling was irritating. On the whole he concluded that everything about him was obscene.
The don before departing said, ‘Pleez arrange a meeting with my da. He is a busy man but I know he waits patiently.’
He added, ‘If you must know, the one we tore up was a fake. My da hold it for your good behaviour.
Watching intently his expression the liquor baron droned,’Ah you love the painting and you get it back in good time.’ He nodded complacently for having his job well. He said ‘Think what we did to your office as a visiting card.’
Before closing the door behind them the don said with a smirk, ‘we shall put all in order. So give us a fortnight. Will you not?’
Only after the duo cleared off he realized the Minister held all the aces. Either he had to shape up and meet him at his terms. He knew the Minister merely swung his whip to tell him who was in control. If he did not he was back to gutter, a prospect that detested with all his heart.
Rohini Varma was the brigadier- general’s daughter. Having briskly moved through Oak Grove, Missouri and Jesus and St. Mary’s college she passed with a degree in Economics. She was waiting for her Prince Charming to sweep off her feet and she was not disappointed. Major Dev from 65th Artillery Regiment duly swept her off her feet. He showed ardour as any full blooded career officer and thrilled her with his panache and promises. Then came marriage and a rather dull existence of a married Army wife. She regretted at times her long drawn out dream of some twenty years ended so quickly. He indeed swept off her feet but it stopped with the bed.
The Army is a well oiled machine and it takes care of its own. The Army wives club and endless cocktail circuits were wheels that moved her. She learned to survive: changing beds merely broke the routine but not her dream. It was then she met Sukh Ram and their trysts added spice to her life. The sallow Army wife had her little diary filled with ecstatic observations of life sexed up.
She was surprised to receive the sms that May evening. Sukh Ram wanted to meet her urgently that evening. What made her curious was his insistence to meet her somewhere else than two places that gave the lovers complete privacy. ‘Something is afoot’, she could not help murmuring. She flushed. Each time he found ways to shortcircuit her circumspection with daring moves. He tried to improvise as a lover that always came as agreeable surprise. The first time it was sexting with his images that she lying on bed could relish. He was well hung and the secret that it was only meant her eyes thrilled her. The girl in her was quick to give him the shock he didn’t expect. She sent back her own. Her curves lovingly gone over by webcam made him squeal with pleasure. He eyed landscapes of desire from the sequences of her haunches, breasts and down to the dimpled navel all melded pixel by pixel with the dispassionate care,- as though the images were sent by Hubble Telescope of a planet on the last frontier of the Milky Way. At the end he texted her to check Venus and Adonis by Shakespeare. He didn’t give no further hint than that. She was well aroused to patiently look up the text to get his meaning. ‘Within this limit is relief enough,’ was her answer. It made her get out of the quarters with instructions to her maid to hold the fort till she got back…