All I can do is just watch as she breathes. When they said she was meditating, I had expected her to be sitting up at least. But here I am, alone with a strange woman lying on a rug in an empty room. I am sitting on a floor mat beside her. Her face is smiling, but not out of amusement. It’s a smile that forms when facial muscles relax.
I look away from her and wait…I don’t have to be here. I have the solution to my problem, don’t I? Kakkar was the ace up my sleeve. Manish will never be able to find the truth. Me and contact with the underworld? Who’d believe that?
Then why did I ask Kakkar to wait? How else can I teach Manish a lesson? How else can I hurt him the way he has hurt me? How else can I regain my pride? No one can understand my pain, not even my family, so how will this stranger help?
I look back at her and find her wide awake and clear-eyed. As she sits up, she asks:
“What brings you here, son?”
She isn’t old enough to be my mother but I go along:
“M.m..mother, I w..ant to know..w...what future holds for m..me.”
“You believe in destiny? Hmm…do you think the things that happened in your life so far were destined to happen?”
“I t...think so”.
“Are you going to let your destiny decide the future as well?”
Am I? So far I have done what others expected and did it well. I had been a good son, good husband and father, a very good employee. I never tried to change the people in my life, accepted everything fate gave me. But what I plan to do next may change that equation.
“N..no, I will make my f..future according to my w..will.”
She smiled, “Which means you are going to do something about it. But you want to know the outcome from the stars. Unless you tell me your action how can I tell you its reaction.”
“I c..cannot t..tell you.”
“Okay. Tell me what you can.”
I narrate my story starting with my arrival at Delhi for a job 18 years back, joining the first one that came my way and being there since. It was a small family business run by one Manish. Then I was their only engineer. My technical expertise and designs helped the company gain a reputation in quality and innovation, and branch out all over the country.
Manish and his family were good to me, especially his mother-in-law, who had investments in the company. They invited me for dinners. When I contracted chicken pox, they called my parents and sent me home on a train. After my marriage, Manish’s mother-in-law advised me to invest in a house and gifted us furniture and paintings at our house-warming.
But as far as my salary is concerned, it is way less than the industry standards and quite un-proportional to the profits or the work load. I don’t get leaves easily. I work six days a week, reach home after 10…Despite all this, the emotional attachment built over the years kept me from seeking greener pastures.
Recently I added another feather in my cap - the only sales branch doing well is the one I am managing at my home-state. The customers there trust me and are impressed with the technical advice I give them.
But Manish wants all his branches to do far better. So he hired quite a few B-school graduates as managers. With them crowding the meetings, I have started to feel side-lined. Things came to a head when he appointed a young MBA as my boss to head the sales branch at my home-state.
“I am..m terribly a..angry, m..m..mother. I d..deserve that p..position.”
“Did you talk to Manish about this?”
“Yes, a..a..nd he said he..he can’t appoint a stammering i..idiot in that position.” I swallow down the humiliation I felt afresh.
With her palm, she spreads a powder over my forehead.
“Your brain is here and this is the part that helps you think,” she said as she painted a tilak in the middle of my forehead.
“Now lie down. Close your eyes and focus on the part with the tilak. I am not trying to hypnotize you or make you hallucinate. I am trying to change the focus of your thoughts…and make you sense your future on your own.”
With my closed eyes, I can hear her chanting. The humming sound it produces is soothing. I think about the untold story, my accidental friendship with Kakkar, his reassurance that his boys will teach Manish a lesson. Kakkar specialized only in breaking bones, not in killing. He has done this a number of times and never been caught. But what if something goes wrong and Manish is killed? What if…?
“I want you to stop thinking about Manish. Think about your wife. Does she love you?” Her voice cuts clear and firm.
Of course Garima does, but her love is not eliminating the unbelievable hatred I feel towards Manish. In the last few days, I have been thinking only about Manish, about how he has changed since he used to treat me like his brother, about his enjoying the new-found wealth. He recently celebrated a five-star wedding anniversary. He admitted his son to an engineering college in Bangalore after paying lakhs of rupees. Not just that, he bought a furnished house for his son to stay near the college.
"The more you think about Manish the deeper he is pushed into your psyche." Stop. Think Garima. Think Sunny.
Garima, so witty so chirpy, scolding me forever for overspending. But behind all that, there is love. Once I overheard her saying that she worships me. All I do is spend money on her and yes, the one day off I get in the week I take Garima and Sunny out. Even if my shirts are old and faded, I ensure Garima and Sunny wear the best. I can’t bear to see Garima unhappy. So whether it’s her sick mother or relative, I give them enough money to keep themselves healthy and happy for her.
I wonder if Manish’s wife worships him. More women in office were leading to unsavory rumors. The five-star anniversary celebration was a stunt to stifle those rumors. Manish’s MIL had not joined the celebration. She no longer visits office....
Her voice keeps instructing, “Look at yourself from your wife’s eyes. Look at yourself from your son’s eyes. Discover the love for yourself….”
I came out after 50 minutes, and called up Kakkar.
After 10 years, I still remember that day at the ashram as clearly as yesterday. After quitting Manish’s company, I started my own business that is running successfully now. Garima sold her gold and investments from Manish’s MIL helped me with the capital. Sunny studies at IIT. He is so brilliant, he never needed donations.
I don’t know how Manish or his business is doing. He is not important anymore.