Unlike dad, he never used to preach and deliver sermons, which was an added advantage. While I sympathized Kaku for being a lonely man after his wife died of cancer a few years back and his two sons got busy with their own lives leaving him alone in his rented house in Howrah - I admired his mental strength to maintain his sense of humor intact, regardless of how life or his sons had treated him.
He was just a call away for me and every time I missed his company or needed him to discuss something important, I used to tell mom to cook chicken and tomato chutney with Jaggery, just the way Kaku liked. I used to call him to have lunch with us, complain at a stretch over the phone, regarding how the graph of my life was going twenty thousand metres below sea level and how badly I needed his healing power through palmistry. Within two hours Kaku would be home with his scale, magnifying lens and the mental preparedness to figure out where Rahu, Ketu and others were positioned.
On one such occasion, mom voiced her usual concerns to Kaku about my aversion towards marriage and that I was least bothered to develop any lady like manners in me to be liked by a decent guy from our community - her woes did not have any punctuation – it went on and on. Unlike my elder sister who was happily married after four years of courtship, I was not even remotely trying to find some one for myself nor letting others assist me in that eternal search. The saga continued with various voice modulations. Acutely bored, I counted the minutes, the sensational cribbing lasted.
Kaku pretended that he is trying to focus on my marriage lines. While I sat on the Persian carpet, with my palms resting on his, my body leaned towards the Diwan on which Kaku was seated. Mom held her breath in anticipation to hear him speak about my future and marital life. The moment Mom turned to the kitchen to get him coffee or answer the door or attend any of dad’s errands, I whispered to him – “When will I leave Kolkata to escape this? Is the god damned job going to take me anywhere or what?” I was absolutely certain dad could not hear us while he remained glued to the News channel, oblivious of our existence and conspiracy against mom.
“Wait, let me answer her question first”. He replied in the same hushed tone, as if we were partners in crime.
“If you answered her question to her satisfaction, you know my question gets answered automatically. Both are directly proportional to each other. Kaku, please do something. I do not want to be fattened to be slaughtered – fed with culture, manners and all to be married ” I spoke with utter impatience, in the same lowered decibel.
We all sipped coffee. Mom continued to stare at us and at my palms, absolutely unaware of the brief pleading I had with Kaku in her absence.
Kaku cleared his throat. How clichéd I almost thought aloud. All professional palmists do just that – clear their throat – before they had something annoying to say. I wondered, if the annoying news was for me or for mom.
“I see her conjugal life is not very good” I smiled. Mom’s frown grew by the minute, more by my reaction than his words.
Kaku continued, “She will be happily married.” Mom’s face brightened and obviously the frown was transferred to my face now.
“Just that, after a few years, they are likely to stay separate”. Kaku hesitated and then added, “Well, it could be for their jobs or any other interest. I mean…” Kaku paused and was visibly reluctant.
“Oh please Kaku. That is fine. Tell me the truth. I can handle it. It does not matter to me, if he is going around with his brother’s wife, his far cousin or my best friend. I cannot keep him intrigued for the next forty years obviously and I will not try either. So if he strays, who knows I might just help him. What a welcome relief!” I giggled.
“Shut up” Mom reprimanded me. She looked hurt. She believed every word Kaku said and I had just triggered her imagination to fore see my future as an abandoned married woman. I am a writer at heart and I usually do not run short of ideas. I just happened to lend some of those to her and the poor lady was shattered.
“Is that just a possibility, that he might leave her? Or Is that a certainty?” I suddenly felt sorry for her. Her hurt hurt me now. Dad joined the wagon of worry and asked Kaku, “Are you serious?”
Before things worsened, I took a grip of the state of affairs to lighten the atmosphere “Dad, Mom, Kaku – Relax please! Have a heart for the poor guy. If he likes some one else, so what? I mean one is quite capable of liking two people with the same passion in a life time. Please don’t give me that one woman man and all that jazz now. It is not your times, you see. It will be good as long as it lasts” I threw some left handed optimism at my audience.
Just when I thought I had succeeded in controlling the situation, mom screamed at me, forgetting her usual poise in Kaku’s presence “Just shut up. Will you? It is all your fault. With this kind of mind set, you will not even try to save the marriage, I am sure. You are such a lazy brat that you will fail to do the bare minimum to win a man’s heart” I did not know mom was capable of such dialogue delivery. She fumed.
“Am I being blamed for losing a man, even before I found him? What the hell?” Now I was angry at Kaku. “You better tell the truth now. Tell her, that you were cooking this up so that she doesn’t get me married.” I stifled a giggle for the fear of igniting mom’s temper again.
Kaku smiled, “I think I can dilute the severity of this forecast if I get another cup of coffee” Mom looked relieved, her eyes reflected some mock anger at me, knowing I conspired this while she was away.
As she turned to the kitchen to prepare coffee, the phone rang and dad left the room to attend it.
“Thanks Kaku for trying” I pulled my palms that were resting on his till now as the prediction was over and done with.
“Do you really think, one is capable of liking two people with equal passion?” He asked me with a seriousness that did not suit him, as if he was trying to unravel some deep truth about me.
“Of course Kaku. See, that is why I could not decide if I want to date your younger son, the dark handsome hunk whose brain had stagnated when he was in his teens or your elder son - the tall, quiet, average looking reserved professor. I like them both a lot. But you know - I will not marry either of them because they are selfish and did not care to accommodate you in their lives. I will use them to pamper my ego and let go, just the way we ate that sweet a few moments ago and dropped the silver paper it was wrapped with”. I laughed at the brilliant comparison I had offered and since my parents were not around, I laughed really loud. They were clueless that I had this major something for Kaku’s sons.
My laughter stopped just as quickly as it had started as I saw Kaku staring at me. He stroked my head again, “Times are changing, I know and I hope the man you marry learns to understand you”. Mom and Dad returned to the room.
While he sipped coffee, I did the after math of his prediction and probably knew why Kaku looked disturbed. My coffee tasted pathetic. Was it the coffee or the discovery of myself, in Kaku’s questioning look and penetrating gaze that was coiling my soul and turning things sour?
You do have a way with words, Kakulin...Interesting and your story is very much rooted in 'today's times'. Makes for a good read.
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