His Ways 

He was currently into Indology followed, neck to neck, by Egyptology.
He kept his mind agile through unusual pursuits that placed him diagonally
opposite unusual women and then he inched his way forward by a strategy he
had perfected through the years. Unusual women were easy to spot. Lacking in
herd instinct, they strayed from the pack. To begin with they looked as innocuous
and untempting as a nun in a church. But then something in their eyes, laughter
and gait gave them away. A lust for the forbidden; a reckless heady taste for
adventure and danger lurked in their whole being.

An interior designer, he was into interiors, of women and their homes.
In the way a woman organized her home, lay the clue to her core. He thought
he gauged their longings and aspirations better than anyone else since he had
lapped up all kinds of books from The Naked Ape to Animal Husbandry. He
could easily pass off as an anthropologist or even a psychiatrist of sorts.
Distinctions such as ‘married’ and ‘unmarried’ while referring to women were
meaningless epithets that merely focussed on the externals and ignored their
psyche. Women were women with unexplored inner spaces that intrigued and
challenged him. The core of the woman locked within these inner spaces lay
like a dream that eluded most men. This core was the epicentre that quaked
with meaningful experiences. He prided over his expertise in triggering off
those tremors leaving the woman fulfilled and elevated. He agonized over their
anguishes and exhilarated over their ecstasies. With a duality he experienced
both the male and the female psyche. A Tyrecias.

Sexologists might talk their heads off about the tactile G-spot and P-spot
in a woman. But not many had even an inkling of the R-spot, let alone its
depth and extent. The Romance Spot, as he called it, strictly speaking not a
spot, was a vast tract that remained Siberian in most women till their very end
until someone materialized with a Midas touch. Elusive and all-pervasive like the
morning mist it pervaded a woman’s dents and indents, curves and crevices.
Non-tactile, invisible except to the Practiced Hand and the Seeing Eye. In rare
moments of cynical illumination, he had concluded that a man would sell his
soul for lust and a woman for Romance. Yes they probably were from Venus
and men from …nowhere.

He had never been swept off his feet by any woman on either side of the
Equator. Except may be once in his turbulent teens when he had been enchanted
by a leggy and longhaired senior he used to follow around with all the fiery
ardour of a burning boy. And to this day a whiff of Intimate laced with sweat
from a milling train or crowd stung him with nostalgic memories of stolen
kisses behind neem trees in the schoolyard. He had then burnt as a slow bush
fire that spread and consumed itself. Other kind of burnings, controlled and
unconsuming, followed later that left him unscathed and the women burnt out.
He thrilled with a sense of power as of unleashed atoms.

He never ever hurried through a relationship. In his pursuits he had
perfected a four-stage strategy he deployed with unerring success, barring a
few misses. Stage One, the Attention Arresting Stage -code named A A S – he
regarded the most challenging and intriguing stage that drained out his time
and energy. He was at his smiling, appreciative, and listening best then and
could make the most under-confident and taciturn woman turn into live wires
with his appreciative glances and encouraging words. A plump woman he had
fancied in Minnesota warmed up to him for having sat through five albums that
flaunted her bikinied self in slimmer dinosaur days assuring her that he preferred
her fuller, riper form any day to the Bulimic, androgynous creatures that romped
the campuses or ramps. The same line had worked wonders with the heavy-hipped
Boston medical student whose ego he had boosted calling her a Reuben’s
rarity for her anterior and posterior assets. The trick was to convince the current
one that more than a cloying perfection, an imperfection or an oddity turned
him on. Anything from unaligned teeth to chinky eyes to a faint, downy upper

Stage One was also the socializing stage. If the woman was attached, he
wooed the whole family. He took the dog or the children out for a walk or
arranged a visit to the museum or helped her trowel the snow off the car or the
walkway. The kind of jobs the males palmed off to the females he shouldered
willingly. These good-will gestures warmed her heart into which he wormed
his way in. If she were a slow starter, a gift for the children or a utility gift for
the house and an intimate one for her, revved her up. From then on like a
practiced trapeze artist he swung to dizzying heights in her esteem His caring
and appreciative self was in total contrast to the unappreciative partner who
wasn’t even around. Before long she would have deluded herself into thinking
that she was into the romance of her life that had eluded her due to some quirk
of fate and even a souring of it would leave her the richer like a shower drenched
pasture. A romanceless life in contrast was like a placid, rippleless pool.

Initially the unsuspecting men also warmed up to him. His disembodied,
unattached status reminiscent of their footloose and free days seemed to lure
them with a promise of a male bonding that women usually resented. On the
other hand, in a friendship solely with the women, the men took offence to as
an intrusion into their marital spaces. A tight rope situation replete with
possibilities of testing his tensile art of negotiation and manipulation culminated
in a triple victory. He vanquished the man, won the woman and once again
proved his supreme power of seduction.

He was a chameleon in the grey world of cerebral women. Entering the
No-Wiles-Guiles-Cosmetics-Zones, what mattered, of course, was the grey
matter. Heated midnight debates on guilt-free Osho order open marriages or no
marriages, of living by instincts etc. left no room for acrimonious recriminations
later. Relationships were smooth take offs and landings through cerebral runways
into erogenous ports. Not equal to any but superior, and he was never a giver
but a receiver as a royal enjoying the attention of a vassal. Royalty notwithstanding
he needed to be made to feel special even by women he regarded as

In the ensuing Steady State Stage was a stillness of calm waters, of
sedition. He then itched to pull the rug of romance from under their feet. The
static nature of a secure state was like stagnant waters, with a touch of rot
within, a decay of yellow leaves. The gurgle and rhythm of flowing waters
rounding unexpected rocks and descending dizzy heights was sadly lacking.
He felt trapped and stifled in its sedate stillness. Akin to what he felt in childhood
when in the stillness of the night between one little sleep and another, he felt a
boulder heaviness bogging down his little chest like a heavy clump of darkness
smothering him. His Mother’s sleep heavy arm slung across his little chest left
him crushed like a leaf under an uprooted tree in a storm….

In the Steady State Stage with anticipation ebbing, all kinds of games
ended. No moves, counter moves or unprovoked laughter. More of silence
peppered with platitudes. He could predict to the last detail how an evening
with a woman would weave itself into night… He’d ring the doorbell, she’d
open the door with an enforced warm smile minus any seduction and quickly
usher him into the inner drawing room. He’d then make for the sofa by the
window-his chosen comfortable seat- look at the evening sky through the winter
denuded branches of the gulmohar, leaf through a magazine or just sit with his
eyes closed while she made tea on a rusty red stove. Settling the tea tray on a
glass table to his right, she’d kneel down and sit on her haunches-Japanese
style- and make tea keeping her eyes lowered all the time. Scooping up the
sugar she’d cock her head and utter, “Sugar?” more as a statement than as a
question and dropping a cube anyway, extend the cup with a smile and gaze
into his eyes. In a moment, springing up with the agility of a cat, she’d sit
across him, in her favourite sofa, with the jarred peacock feathers forming a
deliberate picturesque backdrop for her. Between sips of tea she’d ask him
what he’d done the whole day having really no idea as to what he did and then
he’d ask her what she did when he knew too well what exactly she did the
whole day. She taught at a school. Then after a while when they had exhausted
all excuses for words, they’d end up twining against the wall or on the red
carpet…. Beyond an elusive, false sense of security in a routine, the passive
predictability of it all lent a sense of defeat, purposelessness, and aridity as of
the moon’s surface. He could have screamed, with his index fingers jammed
into his ears, to shut out the terrifying sounds of frustration. He didn’t have to
think up a single original statement or let fly a repartee to counter hers. He was
like an actor in a play with a set of oft-repeated lines and timed movements.
Time for exit.

A natural corollary of this stage, the Sticky State Stage, was the messiest.
Not for him but for the woman. When he eased off a relationship he wanted to
taper off smoothly like a river running into dry sand. Melt away like a mellifluous
raga on the flute of Krishna. He could never figure out why women looked
incredulous and shocked at the withdrawal. One woman in Boston had
foulmouthed him to such an extent that he felt rattled for months together. He
couldn’t live down such toxic fumes of hatred exhaled from a human being.
Years later he had patched it up with an olive branch of friendship and felt
easier on grey evenings.

Strictly speaking, though he pretended to be a loner, he didn’t enjoy
being left to himself. He sought out women and found a replacement even
before he eased off an existing relationship. There were times when he had to
negotiate two relationships at the same time, a dying one and a sprouting one.
Solid rock friends– just one of them– had suggested seeing a shrink for his devious
ways as they termed it, which he shrugged off as the envious warnings of ball
broken bimbos who secretly envied him his variegated love life. Of course on
and off he self-shrinked and faced the fact unflinchingly that he was Oedipal
and at the same time susceptible to the self-conscious charms of a nubile sixteen
something. Otherwise why should he have gone out of the way to encourage
and keep alive the infatuation of a nubile nineteen by expressing a near parental
concern over her studies and interests? All this while he was negotiating Stage
Two with a mature Mystic Woman. He shrugged off these inclinations in him
as the quirk of his 23.5 degrees tilt in his personality towards the unusual. He
acknowledged he had been built chip by chip at the hands of a dominating
mother, a not so dominating aunt, a cloyingly sweet grandmother and two
passively aggressive playmates of sisters. In his cocooned childhood and
adolescence his mother had made him feel he was someone special, his
experiences exclusive and that she held the sun and moon and stars in place for
him. In a way both of them were special.

Most of his relationships were forged during his travels. Before his inter
Continental Consultancy, he had been on a 9 to 6 job in his home country. A
routine job as grey as the wings of a dove. Mornings were crowded with milkmen,
newspapermen, vegetable and fruit vendors before you rubbed shoulders with
Johns, Haris, and Geethas from the deep South and of course the Grovers, Bhallas
and Kauls from up North not to mention the East West Roys and the Shahs. He
hadn’t found any of the homegrown stuff exciting. But with a shift in time
zones and a lateral and vertical penetration through latitudes and longitudes life
had taken on an exotic cockatoo crest colouring. From leather, and fashion
technologists to pan world fusion musicologists, water diviners to star gazers to
condom specialists, he had been through all.

Initially, when in the US, he had felt out of place and isolated like an
alien in outer space. No one to make him feel special. Back home he had been
wooed all the time by somebody or the other, but in the new country he had to
do his bit, which was quite a bit, to be part of the mating game. That was how
he had started pursuing older women in a bilateral exchange of ease and
pampering. Undemanding, they were mate, mother and whore all in one with
uncut facets that shot into brilliance in his presence. Where older women were
concerned, after a while when he had to turn terminator he was at an advantage
with an ambiguity as to who had seduced who. He escaped reproach and
responsibility with an implication of consensual sex. When he managed to come
through unscathed the women could not altogether escape from a sense of guilt.
The games people played…. He always had the last laugh.

Though he hated admitting it, he did remember a few messy occasions
though, like the one in Cleveland, Ohio. The Indian family, to be precise, the
man next door was going through the Blonde Fascination Syndrome. As always
he sympathized with the victim who was often at his place sobbing out her
insecurity and sorrow. Caress being the key to comforting a distressed woman,
one thing led to another and ultimately he escaped by the skin of his teeth one
day when the husband descended on him unawares. For the home news starved
Indian community he had provided ample horror and sleaze. He had slowed
down for a while though crying women had been his undoing on a few other
occasions too. At the end of it all, his hair the colour of a raven’s wing had
turned dove grey prematurely. Though he hated admitting it, he was in awe of
white women. Something to do with their aggressive, uninhibited ways that
were in sharp contrast to the seemingly passive ways of the home grown women
he knew. With white women he felt less guilty, less committed as with married
women. Without any disrespect to them, the permissiveness of their society
gave him the impression that he could get away with anything. Live-in
relationships, one-night stands, and incompatibility, growing apart, there were
any number of fancy terms to keep you apart than together. Vanquishing a
white woman gave him a rare thrill, a sense of achievement. Since his father
had worked for a white, he had grown up with a vassal complex which took on
a feudal shade when he vanquished one. He was an aggressive lover, evening
out an imagined humiliation his father might have received at the hands of a
white boss. But at the same time he had no intention of bringing home one as
his lawfully wedded wife.

Anyway after his initial shakiness it took him quite a while to realize
that women swarmed to him as flies to flame if he exuded an aura of Indianness,
and doled out a package deal of ethnicity, mysticism and spirituality. They
assumed he was spiritual simply by virtue of his being an Indian. His unassertive,
self-effacing streak a mark of self-denial and simplicity – all fine Indian virtues.
It helped hugely sporting a beard and quoting Vivekananda, the Gita, the
Upanishads and he almost convinced himself of a non-existent spiritual streak
in him. Steeped in materialism and the worship of the body, a hard-core
spirituality baffled them. It was a death blow to their mate-oriented philosophy
that any healthy male could blatantly ignore the bared facts of life and therefore
took it upon themselves to set things right as they knew it.

In India he played the role of a non-resident Indian to the hilt as it gave
him certain privileged immunities. For one thing he was in an enviable position
of having been exposed to a superior culture and in his short sojourns in his
mother country condemned outright the squalor, the poverty, the poor roads,
the inefficient transport system, the imperfect, indigenous handmade artefacts
as against the materialistic splendour, the efficient highways and clinical
sleekness of machine made Western goods. Their efficient judiciary, health
care, insurance as against corruption disease and exploitation. In short, everything
from eating habits to mating habits, he disdained. The roles were reversed in a
sanitized weather proof New York or Manhattan apartment that opened out
into a breath- taking view of the Central park or Madison Bridge. There he
denounced in measured tones the capitalistic, materialistic West and sanctified
the soul that fire cannot consume nor water drench or winds dry. The abject
sordidness that he was apologetic about in his homeland, he traded off as a
product of self-denial and abstinence, hallmarks of exclusivity in the land of
eternal shoppers who catered to the body beautiful. He and his countrymen
were repositories of a rare, superior spiritual culture that looked inward and
perceived the soul beautiful.

Before long he learned certain other great truths, that women of both the
West and East were body fixated creatures differing only in their approach due
to latitudinal and longitudinal differences. His Stage One tactics necessitated a
slight shift in the equatorial regions due to this. The haute couture of the West
offered a blatant visual stimulation that was sadly lacking in the East, at least in
the kind of circles that he moved in. When he X marked a target, a set of signals
easily relayed a response. A lifted arm – armpits were always a stimulant – low
neck lines, high hemlines, skirts with suggestive slits upfront or back: mini
wrap arounds that rode high unwrapping doors within doors. Enough to send
your adrenalin pumping and propelling you onto stage two of a display minus
any drapery. In India, except for a midrib or a cleavage display the sari permitted,
it was a virtual purdah that left you sick, stretching and straining both your
neck and imagination.

He had been careful to avoid Indian contacts since they expected
commitment even in the most innocuous of situations like walking them down
a couple of blocks after a cup of tea and banter. But in the gap of twenty-five
years of staying away he had realized that his native women had caught up with
their counterparts across the globe in their bold and beautiful ways thanks to
the soaps on the TV and globalisation of markets. His Mystic Woman was one
such contact. Of course he had to compromise himself to an uncomfortable
degree to get anywhere with her…. And he had waded almost neck deep through
a five-year stint with her who was a mixed bag of life, literature, music and
mysticism. Ebbing and receding it had flowed on without any possibility of a
cessation. But that was not to be. He had branched off into Indology.

The Indorama too had started like any of his episodes with a touch of the
common but with a promise of the uncommon… It was on one of his sojourns
in his homeland when the whole world was slaving to a moronic 9 to 6 schedule.
On a steel grey winter morning, succumbing to the temptation of a morning
walk through the smoky grey cold stretches on either side of India Gate and Raj
Path, he had found himself reading the edicts of Asoka in the garden of the
National Museum, standing next to a woman who was doing much the same
thing. Reading out from the Fifth Pillar Edict that ordered the protection of ‘n’
number of animals from parrots to queen ants to fish, he had remarked partially
to himself and entirely for her benefit that Asoka could pass off as the first
Animal Rights Activist offering stiff competition to Maneka Gandhi. Cocking
his head sideways he was just in time to see the gleam in her eyes. He had
struck the right note. That was how he had made a foray into Indology.

She was an ardent Indologist living in New York. He felt stimulated at the
possibility of pursuing a relationship on this side of the Arabian Sea and that
side of the Atlantic Ocean. He had homework to do. To have an edge over her he
plunged into Indology followed by Egyptology to pepper possible future
discussions over dinner or long walks on Alexander’s invasion, Mohan-JoDaro
and Harrappan Civilization not to mention the Book of the Dead and the
technique of embalming he could throw in for special effects. He had indeed
gone one step further and aired pan-world views and extra terrestrial theories
as popularised by the Gold of the Gods and Chariots of the Gods series and also
lined up the Mayans and the Incas at the rear. That had cemented their

He noted with satisfaction that he didn’t have to make any drastic change
to his courting style with the Indologist. He also noted with a wry humour that
he had at hand two relationships and one had to be resolved if only for his own
safety. Or may be he could keep both going for a while since they were not too
dissimilar in their traits. He didn’t have to tax his brain thinking up original
statements or profundities to amuse or ponder over. The situation seemed replete
with tantalising possibilities. He couldn’t help chuckling to himself. Many clever
observations made to the mystic could be passed on to the Indologist as well.
But when there was no answering smile, only a bewildered look, he had to
remind himself that he was not in the presence of the Mystic. The dividing line
between the Mystic and the Indologist blurred and the two seemed to merge as
one adding to his own confusion too. It was like waking up after a dream and
trying to figure out whether you are on this or that side of the dream… A
disorientation on the highway of reality. Remarks meant for one he made to the
other and that too countless number of times… Once when he pronounced what
he thought was an original maxim in the line of great saints, she had looked at
him quizzically and quipped, “You told me that at Washington DC last month”.
At the Smithsonian National Museum or by the Potomac River? He was
bewildered and rattled. Curious too because when he had waxed eloquent about
the non-Islamic features of the Taj Mahal as pointed out by PN Oak, the mystic
had given him the same look. For a split second he thought he was in New York
with the Indologist. Curious again because he thought it didn’t really matter
who he was with. Of late he had been experiencing some difficulty in figuring
out– mind you– only for a split second, where he was or what he was up to. Like
coming across a familiar face and groping to frame it in a context so that it had
an identity, a name. He ran into hurdles again when he tried to pass off the
Western media views on his country as his own to the Indologist who declared
that she had read it all in The New York Times or some such newspapers. From
then on he had been careful about parenting any views.

Of all his women, he thought wryly, the Mystic was the nearest to have
seen through most of his games if not all. The flip side of it was that he didn’t
have to strain to impress her. With her, platitudes were pleasantries enough and
he could even talk about his ways with other women. Again, with her, he didn’t
have to tirelessly quote although he held that “To quote was to court”. She had
once told him right at Stage One, he had better take time off his perpetual
performance and be himself. He couldn’t forever be on a plateau of pursuit, he
should consider coming down into the plains. What he had really considered
was staying put at the plateau and riding high with several different people.
May be the Mystic would do as a base camp from where he could take off to
plateau after plateau. At no time did he view himself as a manipulating two or
three timing cad. Rather he saw himself as a Messiah spreading the Religion of
Romance. Romance that assuaged and healed and left the women richer and
fulfilled even if only for a short while. He thought he left a trail of joy like a
comet’s tail and he expected them to be grateful for the Great Experience…

He liked winter evenings of a blue grey hue and he was off on a tryst at
the National Museum where the Enduring Image was on, an amalgamation of
the East and the West. The week had been hectic alternating between literature
and mysticism, Indology and Egyptology. Looking out of the window at the
spidery branches of the trees against a greying sky, he had a peculiar feeling of
something being amiss. Like an uncertainty one feels in dreams about its reality
and unreality. A little later, looking at the mirror and arranging his salt and
pepper locks in a deliberate disarray, he felt the fine hair at the nape of his neck
bristling up like when someone was staring at you from the back… He looked
beyond the stranger in the mirror for a good look at himself, but saw only the
wall reflected back. He didn’t know how long he had stood there…

The next thing he knew was that he was standing in the foyer of the
National Museum surrounded by all the mute apsaras and mohinis from across
centuries. And then he saw both of them at once, the Mystic and the Indologist.
They had an air of enlightenment, of having thrashed out something ordinary
and arrived at something profound. They didn’t look friends or enemies but
seemed like casual acquaintances who had compared notes about their next
sojourn in their long separate journeys. Both acknowledged him more or less
simultaneously, looked at each other and then… away. He looked at his watch;
he had two hours to go before he was to meet one of them at the JNU Ganga
Dhaba… He tried hard to figure out which one and then gave up. Maybe if he
hurried to the Dhaba, the real one would show up…

Then he realized he had slipped and how…

Principal of KendriyaVidyalaya, NewDelhi. She has published two collections of poems, Bonsai and Reeds in the Wind. Writes short stories. Many of her poems have appeared in journals and magazines.

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Principal of KendriyaVidyalaya, NewDelhi. She has published two collections of poems, Bonsai and Reeds in the Wind. Writes short stories. Many of her poems have appeared in journals and magazines

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