Wednesday, April 06
Rishi’s housemates woke him up at 8.00am, Kulcha handed him a cup of tea, before they left for work. House was a mess, beer bottles were scattered on the floor. Fulka and Kulcha both always made a mess when eating food; crumbs of food were lying in the living room. Cleaning lady had their keys; she was to arrive at noon followed by cooking lady who cooked their dinner. Rishi had a slight headache, he took an aspirin, went out for a walk.
When he returned, he soaked his clothes in the detergent and he cleaned the home, bathroom and kitchen in meticulous details, including his housemate’s rooms. Took a bath and turned on his laptop but internet was not working.
His door bell buzzed, he opened the door. It was a man resembling Arvind but darker in color and weaker. They looked at each other for some seconds, in a silence.
“Forgot us in just two days?”
“Step inside Chief. You look like you were abandoned in a coal mine for two weeks.”
Arvind laughed first time in a week. He saw all shoes were arranged neatly outside the door; he removed his own shoes and walked inside, taking a look in the furniture less but very clean living room. All windows were opened and without curtains. Even walls were bare except a clock and a calendar. A thin mattress was spread by the wall in front of a small TV. By the mattress, some books were arranged over each other neatly.
“So this is where you live,” he said tiredly.
“Come to my room, Arvind.”
He followed Rishi to his room. It was a small twelve by fourteen feet room, a large window. It too was bare of any furniture; a closet, a calendar on the wall showing the month of April, with pen marks on almost all dates. A cushy mattress was lying below the open window and two suitcases.
It was not hot but still Rishi turned on the fan.
Rishi said arranging pillows against the wall. “Arvind sit down on the mattress.”
He sat down, his back against the pillow and straightened his legs. He felt very comfortable.
Rishi went to kitchen and brought him a glass of fresh water. Arvind drank the whole glass and refused for more.
“Your face is telling that news is not good.”
“News is not good Rishi,” he repeated, “News is not good.”
Rishi’s was standing with expressionless face, he asked, “Want some tea or coffee?”
“Sit with me Rishi.”
Rishi placed a pillow against the opposite wall and sat against it on the clean floor.
“You know,” Arvind sighed “what is happening at LaserGear.”
Rishi said, “Yes I know.”
“Initially we thought we were facing Russet Frazier’s wreath because his daughter fell in love you.”
Rishi laughed but Arvind felt, laughing was inappropriate in that situation. His cell-phone rang, he started talking, and to give him privacy Rishi went to kitchen and made tea. There was no milk, as usual so he added some remaining last of the lemongrass.
He handed a cup to Arvind who just finished talking, was wiping sweat from his face with an already soaked handkerchief.
Rishi handed him the tea, Arvind place his cell-phone on the mattress and took the glass of tea. His cell-phone rang again, this time Rishi took it and turned it off.
“So Arvind what brings you here?”
“You know it Rishi,” He replied, sipping the tea, “My life is on the stake.”
“Even if you lose LaserGear, still you will not be a poor man, Arvind. Why worry.”
“You do not understand these things Rishi,” he said, shaking his head side to side. “All my life’s work and Jatin’s will be gone.”
Arvind finished up his tea and placed the cup on the floor.
“How was the tea?” Rishi asked.
“How was the tea? I just drank it without noticing anything. Why?”
“There are few drops remaining in the cup, you can still notice it.”
Arvind put the cup back to his mouth and tilted it.
“Yeah! It was some strange tea with taste of lemon but without lemon. What is in it?”
”Never mind,” Rishi said.
“I called you at least fifty times but why are you not answering me.”
“Oh! I see.”
Rishi picked up his cell-phone, it was off. He turned it on, message on the screen said ‘SIM card error’. He opened the back of the phone, removed the battery, under it SIM card was not properly placed in its slot; he fixed it and cell-phone was working now.
“Sorry about it, Arvind.” Rishi said, “Some mistake my friends made, last night.”
“Well, anyway, I came here to apologize.”
“You don’t have to Arvind. You did what deemed appropriate.”
“And second thing: You are reinstated, please return to work. Consider this all never had happened.”
“Thanks Arvind. I thought I am having a vacation.”
“Rishi, how about a month’s vacation in California, all expanses paid?” Arvind asked.
Rishi closed his eyes, his face was expressionless.
Arvind waited for the reply that did not come. He said, “What are you thinking?”
“Tell me from your mouth, Arvind. What are you expecting from me?”
“You will go to California and have fun, and talk with Russet’s girl – what is her name – yeah - Cynthia. Tell her to talk to her father to reconsider his decisions. She is his only daughter, she can make him do anything in the world and you can make her do anything in the world.”
“Arvind you are my friend and she is my friend.”
“A friend getting paid to make another friend do something for the sake of friendship.”
“In this case I won’t be joining the job, but I’ll help you as one friend can help other.”
“Rishi, you don’t understand the point, you go there to do a job. It is a small job for you.”
“Don’t worry Arvind, I will do my best.”
“You will be going to United States?”
“Yes I will be going there, but not as a staffer of LaserGear.”
“You can go there as my personal emissary, all expenses paid.”
“No, I will be paying my own expanses.”
Arvind saw no sense in arguing with Rishi.
“We will book your ticket to San Francisco.”
“I will book it myself; will be leaving within a week.”
Arvind was profusely sweating again, in frustration and hopelessness.
Rishi said laughingly, “Calm down Arvind, you need not to pay for what you may get for free.”
“So you won’t be joining the work,” Arvind said, rising from the mattress.
“I won’t; as long as there is a conflict of interest. A friend verses friend.”
Arvind took his cell-phone, walked to the door, Rishi followed him.
He turned and said, “You know Rishi, whatever you said today, my both daughters, Ina and Mina, predicted it before I left my home to come here. Today, now I realized, they know you more than I or my wife.”
“Tell them I will be visiting your home today at 6pm.”
Arvind said in excitement, “You will be coming to our home? Really!”
Arvind took out a small envelope from his pocket.
“Rishi, this is international credit card and all the relevant information and passwords etc. Keep it with you just in case. Call me or email me if you need money here or in United States.”
“Thanks.” Rishi said, taking the envelope.
“When you need money in United States, but don’t have it, feel free to use it,” said Arvind. “You can return it when or you wish.”
As Arvind was about to leave he asked, “Why is this house and your room so empty, Rishi.”
“Ask Ina and Mina, they may have some logical explanation.”
“Another thing that I am wondering about, you have so few needs, most of your money goes to others. Why you fell for a billionaire’s daughter so fast.” Arvind said, instantly regretting for what he said.
“Can you keep a secret?” Rishi said, smilingly. “Billions dollars are hard to ignore.”
Arvind never expected this answer, he was confused.
Is he telling me something or joking. Indeed, Billions dollars are hard to ignore.
Arvind’s cell-phone buzzed again, they shook hands and he was gone.
Rishi turned on the computer, this time internet was working. Cynthia sent him four emails, some emails from friends, one strange email from some Nancy from San Francisco.
He was replying to Cynthia but she caught him on the messenger.
It was 9.30pm in San Francisco.
Cynthia called Dr. Ryan, “Hello doctor.” He was in the hospital.
“Hi Cynthia, I missed you a lot.”
“I missed you too, Ryan.”
“Are you busy doctor?”
“Busy! I am never busy for you, my heart.”
Cynthia’s heart skipped a beat in joy.
“How was your journey?” Dr. Ryan said in very soft words. “I guess you are very tired.”
“Yes I am bit tired? Thanks for asking.”
“Wish I could give you a neck a massage. Too bad I am working.”
Cynthia giggled, “I didn’t know you can give a neck massage.”
“Sure I can, I watched it on the TV. Today I bought a special massage spray, only for you Cynthia.”
“Thanks doctor. What else is new?”
“How is your father?”
“He had a little accident in India.”
“Jesus! Really! What happened to poor old man? He should take it easy Cynthia. Money is not everything.”
“Yeah Ryan, money is not everything, that’s what I have learned in India this time.”
“Tell me about your father, I am very worried,” Ryan said, “do you need me. I can call replacement and come over right now.”
“Thanks Ryan. That is not necessary. However my father asked me to invite you at tomorrow noon for lunch. Come over here and we all will go someplace.”
“But he should rest Cynthia, sure I will come over at your place, I will pickup some Chinese food etc. Actually I want to look at his injuries, tell me what happened?”
As Cynthia was telling him what happened, he interrupted her. “Sorry Cynthia, I got to go. I will call you back in half hour.”
“No. Please don’t call back. Just show up at our place tomorrow.”
“Love you Cynthia.”
“Love you Ryan.”
Russet Frazier was also very tired. Cynthia prevented him to drink any alcohol and made him eat light dinner, after that he was to fast till morning for the blood sugar test. He knew it and Cynthia knew it; he will be informed that he is type II diabetic.
Just a week ago in India, he was planning that he will celebrate the coup at LaserGear at his home in California. He thought: Am I celebrating, can I celebrate. From now on life will not be the same, will not be the normal. From now on Doctors or his daughter will be telling him what to eat or what to not, what to drink and what to not, what to do what to not. He will be taking this or that pill each and every day of his life. Next, glaucoma will follow; even a small injury could become a cause of amputation.
He wanted a drink badly, Cynthia too knew he wanted a drink; she sat with him to give him company, so he won’t be tempted to drink.
She broke the news, “I called Dr. Ryan. He was worried about you.”
“That is so considerate of him.”
“I asked him to come over here for lunch with us, he said he will come.”
“Where you want to take him for lunch?”
“He was saying that you should rest, he would pickup some Chinese food on the way.”
Russet Frazier laughed.
“So where you want to take us for lunch?”
Thinking about her father’s blood sugar, she decided against going to any cuisine. It will be too much for her to decide for him, what to eat or what not to eat.
“Daddy we will eat here. I will order food.”
“OK, as you wish, I just want you kids to be comfortable and enjoy.”
Cynthia turned on her laptop, wireless internet was connected instantly. To her joy, Rishi was on the messenger. They started chatting.
He asked about her father’s shoulder. He asked for Ryan’s picture, she had one in her computer and sent him an attachment.
‘What you think about Ryan, Rishi.’
‘He looks like a film star.’
‘Is it a compliment?’
‘No. I know some people who look like film stars.’
‘What are you trying to say?’
‘Nothing - that can make any sense to you.’
She typed - ‘I don’t know what you are saying. Please elaborate. Your opinion about Dr. Ryan is very important for me.’ Changing her mind she deleted it.
‘When are you coming to see me?’
‘Anytime you want.’
‘I will buy your ticket.’
‘How is Kulcha doing?’
‘About Kulcha – and Kulcha ….’
‘What about Kulcha.’
‘He is putting me to another job?’
‘He wants me to inform his father that he is in love?’
Cynthia began laughing.
‘Another two weeks of bed tea for you.’
‘His father, brother and uncles all are police inspectors. They carry real canes, not the sugarcanes.’
Her laugher intensified, she was unable to type.
He wrote: ‘I will be applying for Political Asylum in United States.’
That was the last sentence and Rishi disappeared from the messenger.
Russet Frazier asked her, “What’s so funny.”
Wiping her eyes, she replied, “It was my friend Rishi.”
He barked, “Rishi, who damaged my shoulder?”
“No, he did not. Had you fallen on the glass table, imaging what could be the damage?”
Russet Frazier stood up. “I am going to sleep.”
He went to sleep.
There was another email from Fulka, Rishi’s picture attached, wearing police hat and number thirteen shoes. It was very funny, she laughed.
Cynthia walked to the deck facing the Pacific Ocean, weather was calm but cold and a lone sea lion was barking on the beach, it was funny. Salt filled air was moving her hairs, moon was lighting on the top of redwood trees on the low hills in the north. She sat cross-legged on the wood board floor, closed her eyes and tried to become one with everything else. Then stopped trying and felt her body relaxing. Her shoulders relaxed; hands fell down and touched cold moist floor and her neck stooped in an uncomfortable position. She lie down on the floor, arms and legs straight but relaxed, felt the cold moist wood, air on her cheeks and scalp. She felt her hairs were flying and moving on her face, felt the smell of cypress trees and fishy salty air. Thoughts were coming and going but none went unobserved. It was beautiful till she felt cold.
She came in her bedroom and lay down on the bed, thinking, so far so good except for the loneliness. Her life was indeed changed. No question and no doubt, she has learned the art of living. She imagined Rishi’s life, living with friends, helping them, loving them, laughing and all those joys that friendship offer, she missed it. Always. This India trip brought her closer to her father who was always only provider and she was always a dependent until recently she stopped withdrawing money from the accounts he has opened for her and also stopped using his credit cards, she never knew when and who was paying those bills. She always spent moderately; her father never ever raised a question but only encouraged her to spend as she wished but wisely.
Then her thought fell to what Rishi wrote, when she asked him about Ryan he wrote back: ‘Nothing - that can make any sense to you.’
Why he wrote that? He said Ryan looked like a film star and also mentioned that, it was not a complement. Did he not like Ryan, or Rishi loves her but was simply unhappy to see her marring with someone else. After all Rishi is a human, he has a heart too, he loved and cared for her. He took care of her each and every need, before she got thirsty he bought her bottled water, he himself drank water from the taps, to save money. When she was feeling cold, he bought her a shawl. She noticed tears were sliding down her face.
When they were in hospital, their luggage had arrived; her house staff has not arranged it yet. Probably it was in storage in the basement. She thought of asking Filipino maid to bring her suitcases to her room but she went herself, a five hundred feet long passage that passed through hallways, living rooms and two stairs. She was always scared to walk in her own house at nights. She opened her suitcase and took out the rock and brought it to her room.
She fell to sleep, embracing that rock and dreaming Rishi.
Rishi saved Ryan’s picture on his laptop. While chatting with Cynthia, electricity went out; it was one hour power-cut imposed by government from 12 noon to 2pm. Laptop was still working but modem lost power.
He meditated upon Ryan’s picture but could not find peace in his heart. Something was wrong, but what; it was hard to guess, just looking upon the picture. He knew a friend’s friend who looked like Ryan, same Greek God like face, a huge smile but he was a drug addict and very cunning person; ruined his own life and many girl’s who fell in love with beautiful face. Charm proved costly to most charming people.
Rishi never stereotyped or judged people but he was not in peace with Ryan’s picture. He deleted it. He was worried about Cynthia. He had not had breakfast, was hungry. Cleaning lady has arrived, but there was not much to do, she started washing their clothes. He went out to a restaurant for lunch.
In the self service restaurant he ordered fixed plate meals.
After lunch he took a bus and bought a day ticket, changed to another bus and then to another that brought him out of the city. He left the bus at the interaction of the side rural shortcut road that went to Arvind’s estate house. As usual, the road was deserted. It was 1.30pm, sun was relentless but wind was cold, he walked to the ancient ruin of a temple under a huge banyan tree by a crystal clear water pond. He sat on the same rock and looked at the chirping and bathing birds. Two lone kingfishers were sitting on a bush near him; both started inspecting him with curiosity and then ran away. A group of parrots spluttered and flew, making great noise. He noticed some movement at the far end of the pond; a man was throwing a fishing hook in the water, with a bamboo stick.
A large purple butterfly sat on Rishi’s nose, not to startle it, Rishi stopped breathing; it was looking him in the eyes and then resumed its flight.
Rishi walked to the banyan tree and sat comfortable on the dry leaves, his back against the trunk. He saw a very large black snake swimming in the water, with a struggling fish in its mouth. It was gradually swallowing the fish that had now ceased to struggle. It came out of water and crawled in the direction of Rishi but when it saw him it hissed and turned to bushes in electric speed. Rishi saw the lump of fish in its belly.
Fishing man hung his bamboo fishing stick on a bush and came to Rishi.
“Do not sit here.”
“Why,” Rishi said rising up.
“You just saw King Cobra; you are sitting on its hole.”
“Thanks for letting me know?”
Man showed him small snake idols on a small platform under another trees, this place is sacred. We worship snakes here, so far nobody got bitten but you never know.
Rishi asked, “Do you know where Rajugopal lives?”
“Rajugopal, who owns that land?” Man pointed to the farmland.
“Yes the same.”
“He is my cousin, if you can wait another fifteen minutes; I will take you to our village.”
”I have all the time.”
Raising his hand to for handshake, he said, “I am a farmer, my name is Chandrababu.”
“My name is Rishi.” They shook hands.
“Come follow me to there,” he said pointing to his fishing spot, “that is a safe place. I will take a bath then we will go to my village.”
Chandrababu removed his cloth, wrapped around a loincloth and from a rock jumped in the pond with a big splash and begun swimming in the clear water. He swam for five minutes and returned to the bank; wore back his clothes.
“It is my turn to take bath. I need your loincloth.”
Chanderbabu laughed and handed Rishi his loincloth, Rishi changed into the wet cloth.
He was preparing to jump in the water; fisherman was looking at him from head to toe.
“Do you have any open wound on your body?”
“There are eel fishes here, some very aggressive type. They bite on the open bleeding wounds. Someone released them here and now we have to kill all fishes in this pond to get rid of them. They ate all good fishes here, even snakes don’t like them.”
“No, I have no open wound.”
“Good, then you are safe. Snakes won’t bother you. They keep away from humans unless provoked.”
Rishi jumped in the water and swam for ten minutes. He noticed a teeth filled snout of a large slander eel looking at him and swimming around him, he returned to the bank and changed into his clothes, washed the loincloth, squeezed the water out and put it on the bushes in the sunlight.
Chandrababy caught a fish, he pulled out the string and it was an eel. He unhooked the fish and threw it away.
“Are not going to take it to your home to eat it?”
“No, it is poisonous, some people eat it, and they drain out all drops of its blood. I don’t take a chance. Many people fell ill in my village.”
“How are you going to kill all fishes in this pond?”
He showed Rishi a plant, a variety of spurge. He broke a leaf and a white liquid oozed out. He said, “This plant is poisonous, what we do, we make a mush of its leaves and stems and throw it in the water. All fishes die because they have nowhere to run. We are not doing it because village elders are against it; they say we may kill the snakes too. Then we have to remove all dead fishes from the water and pump out the bad water and wait for the rains. Then we have to bring new fishes here. If snakes are dead Wreath of Snake God - Nagaraja will fall upon us.”
Rishi broke the leaf of the spurge plant and licked little milky liquid, his tongue started burning. He spat it out several times but his whole mouth was now burning. He washed his mouth with water but felt the inner skin was still burning.
“You should not have done that,” Chandrababu said laughing. “You have ruined your half a day now.”
They walked to the village to meet Rajugopal. Rishi followed Chandrababu on a zigzag path amid the tilled farms, thorns, bushes and rocks, on the way they ate mulberries to the fill, from the trees. As they made a turn around a hill, a small village appeared from nowhere.
“How you know Rajugopal.”
“I know you more than him.” Rishi said, “He met me for half hour and you met me for two.”
“Then come to my home instead.”
“But first to his home,” Rishi said, “he owes me a cup of tea.”
Rajugopal took Rishi to a home surrounded by a mud wall and open place where two cows, two bullocks and two goats were tied under a tree. As they passed near the cattle, both cows tried to attack Rishi with horns.
“They think you are a veterinary surgeon and you are going to inject syringes or poke your arm in their behind.”
It was very funny for Rishi, he laughed.
A woman was looking at them, Chandrababu said to her, “Is Raju home?”
“Come inside, he is home.”
Rajugopal was lying on the cot, reading a newpaper.
“Hey Rajugopal, remember, you owe me a cup of tea.”
“Welcome-welcome-welcome, Rishi, “Rujugopal beamed, standing up, “I never thought I will ever see you again.”
Sit down. Rishi sat down on the sofa.
Chandrababy picked up his bamboo fishing pole to leave, Rajugopa stopped him, “Wait Chandru, stay here till tea.”
Chandru sat down; Rajugopal asked him, “Did you catch any fish?”
“I caught just one eel.”
“Hope crows and vultures won’t die.”
“How is your bullock,” Rishi asked.
“He is doing well, herb is working on him.”
Rajugopal’s wife brought three cups of tea and biscuits. They had tea and talked.
Chandrababu stood up. “Rishi, when are you coming to my home?”
Looking at his watch Rishi said, “I have only hour and a half to spend with my friend Raju, then I have to visit other friend, in the big red bungalow by the lake at six.”
“You can come here and sleep with us today,” Chandrababu said.
“Next time I will do that. You are welcome to visit me in Bangalore.”
Chandrababu left. Rishi and Rajugopal talked about eel.
“One man tried to kill other with eel’s blood.”
“How did he do it?”
“Caught two eels, chopped them and squeezed out the blood from them. Kept the blood in sugar syrup for one month, when he had a chance he mixed it in the food of his enemy. He fainted and went blue, he was taken to hospital and was kept on dialysis for three days; luckily his life was saved.”
“How these eels made way in the little pond that is not fed by any river?”
“Some one released them here; they were not here two years ago.”
They talked for one hour, at five thirty Rishi rose from the sofa.
“I must leave now, Raju. Thanks.”
“I will walk with you; we will take a different route to your big shot friend’s big red bungalow,” Rajugopal said, “First you must try something.”
Rajugopal went out to animal shed and returned, one gallon, motor oil plastic container in his hand. He poured a clear liquid from it in two glasses.
“This is homemade liquor, of course illegal. I make it myself for myself alone. This time I distilled it with some chosen herbs. You must try it.”
Rishi sipped from the glass, he was not new to homemade liquor but this was very strong and pungent. Rajugopal drank his glass but Rishi took his time; when he emptied, Rajugopal tried to make another drink but Rishi placed his glass upside down.
“I have to see people, Raju. It will be inappropriate if I get drunk.”
“OK, as you wish. I will give you some in a bottle.”
He went out, taking the container with him and returned with a half litter mineral water bottle filled with liquor. It fit in Rishi’s pocket.
They walked away from the village on a different path that passed along a winding small dry river and under acacia trees. Rishi saw lemongrass again. At a place they were standing at the confluence of two hills and path ended. He followed Rajugopal to the pass between hills and scenes at the other side were breathtaking. He could see Arvind’s home by the lake.
“From here I can manage.”
“Are you sure?” Rajugopal asked.
“Beware of the snakes and scorpions.” Rajugopal said, leaning on Rishi’s feet. He stuffed his pants in his socks.
He was gone.
Place was so beautiful Rishi sat at a rock and looked at the farms, villages, lakes, ponds, orchards, rocks and scattered bare hills. Sun was setting and air was cool and full of fragrances. Rishi heard tapping at his shoe, he saw a scorpion was trying to sting him on the shoe, he pushed it aside and laughed but stubborn scorpion did not give up but was attacking at his shoe again.
Rishi walked down on the sheep’s trail and made it to Arvind’s home. He was slightly drunk and fifteen minutes late. He looked at the lakes, entered in the compound, closely observed the flowers and ornamental plants that Arvind had ordered from many countries. Arvind himself watered the lawn but it was unkempt this time, although it rained two days ago but some tropical plants needed water. He rang the bell at the main door, Arvind’s wife, Asha opened it. She was also looking ten years older then her age.
“Hello Rishi, today, you forgot your way, and stumbled upon us?”
“Life is one stumbling upon to other.”
“That is true?” she said, “Walk in, Arvind is not here yet.”
She led Rishi to their large drawing room. He sunk in the reclining sofa with his arms on the armrest, neck on the neck-rest and reclined backwards. He closed his eyes, and felt the liquor’s effect on his whole body.
Asha went to kitchen and returned with a glass of water. He took the glass and drank it up. She took a sofa by the opposite wall. One by one her both daughters, Ina and Mina came and each sat on the separate single sofas.
Arvind’s daughters too looked older, matured and sad; doom and gloom thickened in the room.
Asha broke the silence, “Rishi you tell us what to do?”
“This too will pass.”
She was shaking her head side to side.
Rishi asked, “You have everything, home, two lovely daughters and money?”
“We have no future.”
“Future is always future. Tomorrow is always tomorrow. Today you have everything.”
“We are losing our company, our reputation, our life’s work, we are losing it all.”
“Still you won’t be poor.”
Asha was annoyed by the philosophy; she came straight to the point.
“Rishi what are you going to do, to help us?”
“What a friend can do to other.”
“We gave you an opportunity to meet a billionaire’s daughter; and you took the full advantage of it,” she said, “Now you owe us help.”
Mina interrupted, “Stop it mom.”
“Yes, I do owe you my help in reciprocal, without a question.”
“I am glad you said that and also you feel this way.”
Rishi said looking at his watch, “I have to go.”
“Wait I will bring tea.” Asha went to kitchen to make tea.
Ina said, “Uncle Rishi, please don’t mind what my mother said, she is under extreme pressure.”
“What kind of pressure?”
“She is upset about losing her position, money and everything.”
“It is not worth to be upset about these things.”
To change the subject other Ina said, “Uncle Rishi, how is Cynthia is doing?”
“She is doing fine.”
“Did she talk with you after she left?”
“Say our hello to her?”
Asha brought tea; they all drank it in silence.
“Hey girls, want to have a walk with me.”
“Yes,” Both girls jumped to their feet.
“But beware of me.”
Their mother tried to protest but they walked out of home.
At the threshold Rishi said, “Can you do me a flavor.”
“Let’s get the water from the lake to water these plants,” he indicated towards the plants those needed water.
“We have a water hose.”
“No we will take water from the lake, bring a bucket.”
They made a chain, each stood about hundred feet apart, Rishi stood at the water’s edge and handed water bucket to Ina, she walked to her sister who walked to the plants and threw water on the plant. It was fun; they watered the whole lawn and then washed the driveway.
“Now what do we wash?”
“We will have a walk on the hill, go wear your shoes,” he ordered.
They walked to the same hill, which Rishi climbed down on the way to their home. They sat at the rocks on the top ridge where they could see at the both sides. Both girls were happy, nobody ever brought them to such place. Their parents took them only to shopping malls etc. They saw sky turning to crimson; saw the setting of the sun in the west. Rishi brought them down, back to their home. He bade them bye at the gate and left. There was still daylight; he took the rural shortcut through the pond.
It was a clear early morning in San Francisco area, Cynthia woke up early due to jetlag. First thing she saw was the rock, she kissed it and first thought came to her mind was her communication with Rishi:
‘What you think about Ryan, Rishi.’
‘He looks like a film star.’
‘Is it a compliment?’
‘No. I know some people who look like film stars.’
‘What are you trying to say?’
‘Nothing - that can make any sense to you.’
Why Rishi said: ‘Nothing - that can make any sense to you.’
She meditated upon it but arrived at no conclusion.
She was used to setup alarm-clock for 6am, then bath, fifteen minutes on treadmill, Vipassana meditation for one hour, twenty minutes to prepare, breakfast in the car on the way to hospital where she worked.
She took bath, was going to treadmill but changed her mind and wore the jacket and went to their private beach. Light was appearing in the east and there was a light gale, Pacific was ocean was silent. She jogged on the beach that she never did before. Sand was entering in her shoes; she removed them and jogged bare feet. She turned back where their beach ended and on the way picked up her shoes in her hands. When she arrived in front of her home, she walked knee deep in the in the pacific water, it was slightly cold. She felt the moving sands under her feet, gale on her face and shoulders; she was feeling the smell of the air.
She sat down on the sand and tried to do Vipassana but caught her making effort and her thoughts begun playing hiding and seeking with her conscious. Gradually day begun, and sunlight arrived, she rose from the sand at 8pm and entered in her home. Her father was sitting in atrium, watching TV. She dressed up in a rush and they left to doctor’s office, an endocrinologist. They returned in two hours.
Dr. Ryan woke up at 9am, he was very happy. Cynthia invited him to meet with her father. This meant Billionaire Russet Frazier daughter is looking forward to marry him and with the approval of her father. Everything in his plan was fitting to its place; and that Rishi guy turned out, just a hoax, or Nancy just made it up to upset him; she sent him, the contents of the Cynthia-Rishi emails. Probably she spiced up things. Nancy, Nancy. Druggie, junkie, Nancy. He regretted, of not paying attention to her fingers when she was typing her password, too bad. He never considered himself an addict but she was an addict. He could leave cocaine at any time but others, especially like Nancy can not.
Dr. Ryan thought of not taking cocaine that day but he felt insects crawling on his skin. But today was a big day and he needed all his charms and confidence.
He added cocaine in the spoon, heated it up at gas stove and inhaled the powder. Crawling feeling on his skin was gone in only two seconds.
He would be proposing Cynthia today, in front of her father, of-course she will be accepting his proposal. They all will do, all of these girls. He thought about staying marring to her but there was no chance that Billionaire Russet Frazier will hand him his money in his life time. He was not planning to spend his whole life with a sad girl. All he needed some twenty million dollars. He will invest that money and live off the income. His profession as anesthesiologist would stay as his hobby, and also a new girl each day. He despised the thought of his being caged in the permanent marriage with some barely attractive girl like Cynthia. No way.
No-way-no-way-no-way- way-no-way-no-way- way-no-way-no-way.
He caught himself chanting, laughed and stopped, Took out massage spray to check the integrity of the surface anesthesia chemical. He sprayed it on the back of his neck and gave himself a massage there, just as he would be doing it at Cynthia’s neck. He rubbed himself for five minutes, fragrance was overwhelmingly pleasing, and he was sniffing the air. Anesthesia made his hands numb, he lost all feeling there but still he could do things. Good the chemical was holding in perfume and alcohol. It was time for a complete rehearsal. Real time would be only action replay.
With insulin syringe he sucked out a drop of his blood from his thumb. He had some feeling but not of a piercing pain like but more like a mosquito biting. He injected his own blood drop in his neck. Oops he went a bit deep, a slight piercing feeling. He tried again and then again. No pain of piercing if he stays closer to the external skin. No problem. He can do it. Even it Cynthia will feel piercing in her skin he will be pretending to kill a bug there. No big deal.
He made coffee. Sipping from his cup he looked at his watch, only two hours left for the rendezvous. In a day or two he will take Cynthia to some park, give her massage. And then virus will start multiplying and multiplying and multiplying and multiplying and multiplying ……..
He caught himself chanting again and stopped.
He thought about his car, Ooops! His BMW is gone to junkyard. He can’t take his Honda Accord to a billionaire’s Bellaire mansion. He must go to Bill Murphy and borrow his car for a day. Of-course he will lend him his car, he is a partner in the deal.
He called Bill Murphy and gave him the news. He express joy with the news and gladly agreed to lend him his Mercedes.
Bill said, “What are friends for?”
Bill giggled, “So when would be the wedding?”
Ryan replied in giggling, “Soon, I will make sure you are invited.”
“Ha ha ha ha ha.”
He took a bath, wore his best clothes and drove to Kentucky Fried Chicken, had a chicken sandwich, coleslaw and mashed potatoes with gravy. He drove to Bill Murphy’s office at 10.30am.
“Well, I am here Consul.”
Bill looked at him, his heart jumped a beat. Ryan was looking so beautiful and masculine.
“Wow! Doctor, wish I had your looks.”
“You are not that bad Consul.”
Bill said, giving him the keys of his Mercedes, “Good luck, Doctor.”
Ryan slid his rental Honda accord’s keys in his direction, on his large mahogany table.
“I will be back around three, got to go to work at four,” Ryan said, “day shift starts tomorrow.”
Bill said, rising “Let’s have a little celebration in advance.” He walked to door and closed it, returned to his chair and opened his drawer, placed a spoon and a sachet of paper on the table. Dr. Ryan was ready with his lighter in his hands.
“Doctor, I am not as rich as you are, I buy sachets.”
“Do I look rich to you? Our luck will be changing soon.”
Rishi reached home at 9pm. Kulcha too arrived at the same time, singing and beaming, he saw Kalpana, and she was his girlfriend now. They all wanted to know the details of the meeting.
Fulka said, playing with Kulcha’s cell phone, “In two days you called her eighteen times. About three hundred minutes of talk. You spent three hundred rupee.”
Kulfa said, looking at Fulka, blinking his light like a malfunctioning tube light, “So what?”
“She loves me and,” Kulcha said, “I love her, that simple.”
“When are you going to Germany,” Rishi asked because Kulcha was asked by his company to visit Germany on company business.
“We haven’t decided yet?”
“Who are ‘we’?” Fulka asked.
“I and Kalpana.”
“When are you going to visit your parents, to give them the news?”
“We haven’t decided yet,” Kulcha said, “It is Rishi’s job.”
“When are you going to visit her parents to give them the news?”
“This too we have to discuss.”
“You need a new pajama,” said Rishi, pressing one eye, looking at Fulka and Kulfa.
“We will buy it tomorrow.”
Rishi said, pulling out a bottle from his pocket, “Enjoy guys, this is homemade liquor.”
Kulcha said, “We have decided, I will not be drinking liquor anymore.”
They laughed again.
“What did she say about Rishi?” Fulka asked.
“She said we must thank Rishi.”
“Who are ‘we’?”
“I and Kalpana,” Kulcha said, “who else?”
Kulfa took the bottle in the kitchen, emptied the bottle in three glasses and added water.
Rishi raised his glass, “to - we.”
“Kulcha you need a hair cut.”
“She says, I look fine, but we will talk about it tomorrow because my boss said the same thing.”
“Serve us dinner,” Fulka ordered to Kulcha.
“We have decided that you can not take advantage of my innocence.”
“In that case you tell your father that: ‘we’ are getting married.”
Kulcha went to kitchen to heat the dinner to serve them. After dinner they had walk and went to their rooms.
Rishi turned on his laptop; he opened the strange email by some Nancy.
You don’t know me but I know who are you? We have some mutual friends, they always talk about you.
Listening to them, I am in love with you.
I am a surgical nurse, working in a hospital, in San Francisco area. Please do call me and visit me whenever you are in San Francisco area.
At the bottom she wrote her phone-number, also attached were two jpeg pictures showing a very attractive white woman.
To amuse himself, Rishi replied her.
Thanks for loving me.
Saw your pictures, they talk about you.
Listening to them, I am in love with you.
I may be in San Francisco area, within a week, I will call and visit you whenever I am in San Francisco area.
PS. I have no habit of borrowing money from people.
Ryan drove off in Bill’s Mercedes car. Luckily there was no traffic at Golden Gate Bridge, he need not to pay toll because Mercedes had an electronic pass. In twenty minutes he was in the wilderness.
It was noon when he entered in Russet Frazier’s quarter mile long winding driveway, in the middle of grass lawn cum golf course that descended to peaceful Pacific Ocean. In between the law, was a helipad, it was apparent that it also acted as lawn-tennis court because balls were scattered on the grass. He could see a huge chandelier was lighting in the cinema sized, glass walled atrium. A wood deck was build around half the house, stairs and ramp lead to a large oval swimming pool surrounded by many fountains, all were working. Blue water was shining in the swimming pool and in the Pacific Ocean. Far end of the property turned into the slope of a wooded hill. Driveway looped around porch but in the parking lot in front of four car garage, five cars were standing. Two Mercedes stretch limousines, one Bentley, one Ferrari and one Cynthia’s maroon Mercedes.
He parked his car next to Cynthia’s car saying to himself: Why not? It’s going to be my car in some days, I will ask for this car too, sad girl’s car. Rich bitch. He laughed at his new invention – ‘Rich bitch’. Rich bitch - rich bitch - rich bitch - rich bitch - rich bitch - rich bitch. He again caught himself changing and stopped. He saw the door of the main entrance was opening.
Weather was sunny and gently warm.
Time for action: in a rush he fixed his hairs with his hands and faced the door with his famous huge smile.
Cynthia and Russet Frazier saw him arriving. Cynthia was wearing her best clothes. They came outside to greet him. As Cynthia opened the door, there he was, smiling.
Oh my God, he is so cute.
Russet followed behind Cynthia, seeing Ryan he too skipped a beat.
Lucky girl - my little daughter.
Ryan walked to Cynthia and held her hand, kissed her on the cheek; shook hands with Russet Frazier, the billionaire, whose right arm was in the arm-support. Russet held his hand tightly in his left hand for good five seconds before letting it go.
Russet said, raising his hand towards door that was still open, “Please step inside our home Doctor.”
He stepped in the door, in a large semi circled space, at least forty feet high ceiling, three hallways were leading to various parts of the mansion. Cynthia was standing behind him and Russet was closing the door.
Smiling, Ryan said, “Now which way we should take.”
Cynthia laughed; she took his hand and led him to the center hallway to the atrium. He was dazzled by the view, he stood there spellbound. He was seeing Pacific Ocean, fountains, wooded hills, lawn, flowers and sun.
“Cynthia, you live in a beautiful place.”
Russet said, pouring champagne in three gold rimmed crystal glasses, “Yes, it is a beautiful place. I am glad you liked it.”
Cynthia handed him a glass.
They raised the glasses and made a toast. They were still standing.
Russet said, “Nice weather today, let’s sit on the deck.” Ryan followed him to a door that opened on the huge deck making a half circle around the home, at three places, wide stairs led to the swimming pool.
They sat on the cushioned patio sofas. Two Filipino women have begun arranging snacks on the round table.
“Russet, I am sorry to know about your injuries, hope all is well.”
“Thanks for your concern doctor.” Russet said, and then he looked at Cynthia. “I am in good hands.”
Ryan said smilingly, looking at Cynthia, “I am also in good hands.”
She blushed and Russet Frazier smiled.
They talked and then Filipino women served them dinner. Cynthia took him to give him a tour of her whole home. In a room he saw a computer.
“Cynthia, do you have internet here,” he said, “I have to check my email.”
“Yes you can check it here. She shook mouse and screen became alive.”
Ryan sat on the chair; she moved away and was looking out from the window to give him privacy. He logged into his email, forwarded her a funny email and logged out.”
“I sent you a funny email,” he said with a big smile, “you can check it now.”
He rose from the chair and she sat on it. He pretended moving away from her when she was entering her username and password. He had a unique ability to know, what people were typing, he developed it with much practice. When she typed her password, he was looking at her fingers. He again knew her password. It was ‘Rishi.’
So this Rishi is not a hoax.
When they were again in Atrium he looked at the clock, it was 2.30pm.
Russet Frazier was sitting on the sofa, Filipino maid was arranging coffee on the table. Cynthia and Ryan sat down on the opposite sofa facing Russet. They had coffee and talked.
Looking at his watch, he said, “Cynthia, it is time to go.”
“Thanks for coming, Ryan.”
Taking her hand in his hand, looking straight in her eyes, he said, “Cynthia, will you marry me?”
Words fell out from Cynthia’s mouth, “Yes, I will marry you. Ryan.”
Clapping his hands, Russet Frazier said, “Welcome to our family Ryan.”
A brown colored, huge helicopter was hovering in the sky, it landed on the helipad in the golf-course cum lawn; water in the swimming pool was violently agitated and splashing on the sandstone floor.
Looking at the helicopter, Russet Frazier said to Cynthia, “I have to attend a business in Reno, will be back late at night.’
Cynthia and Ryan hugged each other, they walked to his car and he shook hands with Russet, waved him, kissed his daughter on the cheek and walked to the helipad.
Ryan entered in the car and drove away. As he approached on the main road, helicopter was flying in the sky in the south-east direction.
He opened car’s globe compartment, sifted through the contents. He found two hand rolled marijuana cigarettes. He started smoking one.
There was not time to return Bill’s car, he was to return it tomorrow before going to job.
Cynthia had tears in her eyes. Russet patted her shoulder and kissed her on her wet cheek. She remembered Rishi.
‘What you think about Ryan, Rishi.’
‘He looks like a film star.’
‘Is it a compliment?’
‘No. I know some people who look like film stars.’
‘What are you trying to say?’
‘Nothing - that can make any sense to you.’
Rishi. Rishi why you said that?
She went to her room, connected to internet. It was 3.30am in India, Rishi was not online. She wrote a long email to Rishi, told him, Dr. Ryan proposed her, that she will be getting married to him, and asked him why he said: ‘Nothing - that can make any sense to you.’ She requested him to reply her as soon as possible because it was very important to her.
At 4pm Cynthia visited Buddhist Center. She went to the office of her Buddhist instructor, Mitsuki, a middle aged and peaceful man, shaven head and always wore orange Buddhist monk’s cloak. It was a small office with two large open, windows presented the view of the trees and shrubs in the Buddhist center. He was the only person in the world whom she trusted and shared her feeling. He was the only person who held her away from the jaws of depression. Her guardian angel, he was the only person who was not influenced with the fact she was a billionaire’s daughter.
“You look happy Cynthia.”
“Yes Mitsuki, I am happy. I have something to share with you. Only you may understand me. It is a long story.”
Mitsuki took off his glasses, placed them on the table, reclined on his chair, relaxed.
He said, looking at Cynthia with attentive eyes, “Yes Cynthia, tell me your story, but first we will sit here, with closed eyes, silently for five minutes.”
He always did that before any serious conversation, in this process he felt other’s state of mind. In those five minutes he tried to touch other’s mind to perceive if the other was peaceful or disturbed. Most of the times, five minutes of silence, made other person calm and unnecessary conversation was averted. He knew people whom goal was peace; they cherished peace when it touched them.
Both sat in the reclining chairs, silence and eyes closed for five minutes.
He said in kind voice, opening his eyes, “Cynthia, you are changed. Tell me everything.”
She told him everything from the beginning to the present. How Rishi met her, took her to walk, next day and next, her experience in the Bull Temple Park.
She was telling him, her eyes closed and Mitsuki listened to her, his eyes closed.
She said, “I told you all.” She was talking for two hours, felt tired now.
Mitsuki went out and returned with two cups and a kettle full of hot, unsweetened green tea. They had a cup of tea, he refilled both cups again and then they had third cup, in silence. Cynthia felt refreshed up.
He said, his eyes closed, “You met a Buddha, Cynthia.”
After a long pause he said, “Do not forget that we tilled the earth, prepared it for the seed, you met a Buddha, who saw the ground ready and planted the seed.”
She listened to him with expressionless face and silence followed.
He said, “The experience you had is hard to describe, Buddha made it happen, not once but twice. It was in his hands. It only happened because you deserved it. When a disciple is ready, master appears. He appeared because you were ready.”
Cynthia asked, “You ever had this experience.”
Mitsuki took time to answer, “I have tasted some moments, two times or three times. It is hard to say, it happened for only a moment, one or two seconds then I was back to the world. We do meditations here to mallow ourselves, to taste the peace so it may build up the momentum to push the consciousness to timelessness, so that it may snowball into eternal peace. We make efforts to arrive at effortlessness, timelessness. My brother is a banker in Japan, a very rich man, he has ambition to become the richest man of the world, and I have ambition to taste those moments again. There is not a big difference in us two brothers.”
They sat in silence. Sun was setting room was getting darker.
He said, “Cynthia you were chosen by Buddha, but do not forget, we helped you. It is your responsibility to help us.”
“You are saying that he will be coming here within a week.”
He reconfirmed, “And currently he is unemployed.”
“In that case you should buy him a ticket. It is not a big money for you.”
“I want to pay his fare, but I am scared, I may hurt his feelings. In India, I was not even carrying money with me. To surrender myself, I let him do everything and pay for everything.”
“If he is a real Buddha, you can not hurt his feeling. Nobody can hurt his feelings. I want you to pay his fare, to insure his arrival,” he said, “by paying his fare you will be helping us.”
“Don’t buy him first class ticket or expensive fare, consider yourself in his shoes, and buy the kind of ticket he would be buy for him.”
Cynthia giggled, “I will do that today? Thanks Mitsuki.”
She said, laughing “When you said, ‘consider yourself in his shoes’ this reminded me a number 13 shoe, he wore to scare a poor girl and it really worked.”
She told him the whole story, how Rishi made Kulcha and Kalpan meet.
Both were laughing.
He said, “Many times I had a vision that I will meet Buddha at the airport. He will give me water.”
“Oh! I see,” Cynthia said, “He said the holiest thing in the world is water.”
She rose to leave, begun to turn he stopped her.
“If you are paying his fare to here, and expecting him to behave your way here, in a sense you own his visit, you own him. This won’t be his freedom and his magic will stop. Our goal of life here or at least my own goal is ultimate freedom.”
“Thanks for telling me this.”
“And also listen, magic happened there because you completely surrendered yourself to him, you were not responsible for anything but he was. This took away stress from you. Buddha is made when there is no burden on the conscious. Remember, his moving pups away from the road to protect them from the road-hazard; remember his helping a small child on the motorcycle; remember his helping you, helping his friends.”
Cynthia was listening; every word he was saying was making sense. Her insight was deepening.
Mitsuki continued, “Now we want that experience to happen again, it happens if we live like him, act like him, without carrying a burden on our consciousness.”
He bowed to her; she bowed back to him in Oriental way.
Mitsuki said too much. He rarely spoke much; he was a man of few words.
She left, wondering.