Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Progati - The tale of Progress (Part XI)

A fortnight and a lotta bloggeratti excitement has passed since the last episode of Progati. This one is longer than the last, and probably the penultimate episode of the story. But then again, knowing me, its probably not! For those who need a refresher course:
"Mrs. Krishnan was helping me research for a debate once, and she handed me an article to read from. It was good, and had some useful points. And when I saw the author's name, it was Sumangala Krishnan. Mrs. Krishnan was the author! She said she loved to write and seeing her work being printed had been a childhood dream. That's when she went on to suggest that I take up writing too. She said I had a flair for writing. I was about to dismiss the idea as a waste of time and energy. After all, what could I gain from writing for a few magazines? But then, she showed me the magic hole. She said that the fee she got for her work was being put in her son's education fund. I was surprised that this work paid. At a time when you have no money, any money is good money. So I went home, pulled out an old essay, refined it and gave it to her. She sent it to some magazine, and it was published. I got 50 rupees for it. And those 50 rupees were like a treasure for me. I paid Rachna's library fee with that money. Ever since, I've written scores of articles and short stories in magazines. I guess even you have read some of them"
"Yes, I have. I have read more than a few", the fact was that I had read all of them. In school and college, I could read only a few of them, and since I idolized her so much, I wanted to read each and every one of them. So after I started teaching, I scanned the library archives to read all her articles. And that took a long while. A lot of her work had been published.
"Yes, a lot of articles were published."
How so, I was wondering.
"They had to be. I wrote what the readers wanted to read. I wrote what the magazines wanted to publish."
"Yes, I had a strategy"
"Oh", that was all I could say.
"Every week, I would pick a magazine and read the last five six issues from Rachna's library archives. That gave me a fair amount of idea what the magazines published. And the most useful page, was the reader's feedback page. Most people don't read that page when they read a magazine, but for me it was the biggest source of information. When I had my finger down on the pulse of the readers, I'd dish out exactly what they wanted to read. So you see Saira, I've always been a writer for the readers. And that is the reason I can't do the feature on tribal women."
"What??? Oh!!!", I had almost forgotten about that. I was so engrossed in her story. But I already knew she wouldn't do that. I was sitting there to hear her story.

"You need a strategy Saira. You always need a strategy. And once you have it in place, you can get absolutely anything."
"Strategy. I've had no strategy in life. I owe everything I have to serendipity."
"Well, I don't I got everything I have after a great deal of planning and careful execution. Even Nabin."
"Yes, him too."
"How did you...."
"How did I? It wasn't easy. But it wasn't impossible. When I started college, like all the girls I too was besotted with Nabin. He was the perceived God. Wasn't he?"
She took a break at this point, signaling the waiter was a refill of the coffee mug. "
You have been sitting here for so long, and haven't had anything. What would you take?"
"Please refill my mocha, and a latte for my friend", she told the waiter and calmly turned to me "You don't agree?"
"I said anything was fine. I'm not too particular about my coffee"
"Not that. You don't agree about Nabin being perceived as a God?"
"No.... I don't."
her single raised eyebrow could put a tele-vamp to shame.
"Why not?"

"Because God, is too big a title, and anyways, this is my opinion. I'm allowed to have one. Right?" I didn't want to get into a debate with her. The temporary lull had passed away and the rain was picking up momentum again. I wanted to go home, but I also wanted to hear her story. Getting into a debate would mean I get to do neither.

"Well, yes... but I saw him as a God then. He was far too above and I knew that to reach him, I needed a strategy. I observed him for a while, him and his friends, specifically his girl friends. He was always surrounded with those who were awed by him. All the girls he hung out with were pretty lasses. Spoilt little daddy's girls. Not one of them could converse intelligently for more than ten seconds. I guessed that that perhaps that was the reason he was so easily bored of them. That's when I decided my strategy. I was going to be this intelligent, independent woman, who is not awed by his looks, brains or social status. But before that, I had to get him to notice me. That's where the big debate helped."
"So you see, it was serendipity"
"No Saira, it wasn't. Not one thing in my life do I owe to serendipity."
Her voice was cold, devoid of all emotion.

"But how is that possible?"
"I arranged the debate. I befriended Sumita, the cultural secretary of our college and planted the idea of the debate in her mind. That is how I knew all the topics before hand. I prepared both sides of all the topics for fifteen days. I had to reach the finals. I had to face him in the last round. You see, I knew that the winner of last year gets a direct entry into the last round. So once I made it through the semi finals, I would be in front of him. And he would notice me."
"Oh...." I was speechless, that someone could go to such an extent.

"After that things were easier. He had not only noticed me, he was impressed by me. All along the next three years, I made sure that I was in every debate, in every sports event if Nabin was there. I always treated him with a cool regard. Not like a friend, just like a known acquaintance. I guess he had never been subjected to such treatment. He was intrigued. I knew he respected me, he was impressed with me, but that was not enough for me. I wanted to marry him, but I didn't know how to bring that about."

Our coffee had arrived. The fresh brewed coffee aroma reached my nostrils and I suddenly realized I was hungry. I glanced at the counter and scanned the menu display. Club sandwiches seemed tempting, and I asked her if she wanted them too. No, she said. She was trying to reduce. I asked the waiter to get one for me and turned to her.

"But you did bring that about."

"Yes, after graduation I was looking for a job and there was none coming by. So, I went and asked Nabin if he had a job suitable for me. He had just started working for his father and I told him that the only jobs available without any references were of secretaries and clerks. I knew I had the caliber for more challenging work, and if a reference was what it took to get it, I'd prefer getting a reference on my own rather than anyone else. Little did he know then that no one else would give me a reference. He gave me a job, and a good one at that. I worked very hard there and that's when we became friends. That's when I delved a bit deeper into his psyche and understood him a bit more. That's when I realized he thought that I was this intelligent, independent and steel-willed lady who could take care of herself. When Rachna's admission into a medical college did not come through for money, I was shattered, I was heartbroken. I broke down in front of Nabin, saying that being independent and intelligent doesn't pay. That I should have looked for a rich husband to support us rather than trying to support us on my own. That this world did not respect intellectuals, all it cared was for outer gloss. The words had their effect. Nabin went on to negate everything I said, trying to control me. Saying there were people who respected me and he was one of them and that whatever I had done was the right thing. And then I said you are saying all this just to console me. And he said no, I really do like you for what you are. That's when I said, if that is the case, will you marry me, and he said yes. So we went ahead and got married."

"But why did you ask him? Did you love him?"
"No. I did not. I married him for Progati"