Crowning Glory: Life’s Game

Chapter 17

Read the previous chapter here

Jennifer’s mind was on overdrive. She had just been privy to some information that had caused butterflies in her tummy and wouldn’t give her a minute’s rest, until she found answers.
When you are in need of some direction in your life, you turn to people whom you trust.
To Jennifer, it was Cyrus. So naturally, the first thing that she did was to call up Cyrus and asked him to meet. A meeting was arranged where Cyrus was stationed for his trip and soon Jenny was on her way.
There was palpable apprehensiveness, nervousness and fear in the air. Jennifer was about to open up to this man. And no man in her life had stayed after she had done so.
“But maybe this man is different”, she thought to herself. “But weren’t all of them different?”, thoughts and counter thoughts created a fantastic medley leading to Jennifer giving up on thinking, lest she be too stressed out.  She shrugged off these thoughts.
“I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be.”, she thought, steeling her resolve to get to the bottom of this mystery. This was her destiny, and if her past had to dug up in the process, so be it.
The taxi whizzed to a halt. Her destination, Cyrus’s hotel of choosing, was there.
Jenny waited almost too impatiently as Cyrus, who by now had made a habit out of being fashionably late, arrived at long last. Jenny literally leapt at him, this to Cyrus’s, and a dozen other people’s surprise.

Cyrus: “Whoa! What happened? And why do you look so frazzled?”

Jennifer: “Long story. Can we get some privacy? Let’s go up to your room.”

Cyrus(chuckling): “A bit early in the night, but sure.”

Jennifer: “Oh stop kidding!”

Back in Cyrus’s room, they sat down and one could feel the imminent sense of outburst, as Jennifer’s face was a canvas of emotions, ready to spurt out in vivid colors.

“Just be quiet and listen.”, Jennifer ordered, to which Cyrus readily obeyed.

“Past is what defines us. It is who we were and it decides who we are. And mine is like a big scar on my personality. My past, is ME. It makes me special, it makes me ordinary, it plays a huge part in me being a good human being, and also defines how bad of a person I am. This my story.”
“Long ago, when I was too young to tell my age, I was kidnapped from the orphanage where I lived with many other children. I was kidnapped and then given a punishment harsher than death. You see this tattoo, well in flesh trade circles, this would have raised a few eyebrows.”
Cyrus stared, dumbfounded and had a lot of questions, as Jennifer continued, “I was now a part of this prostitution ring in Kolkata. Bibiji ,as they called her took care of us, dozen or so girls we were. At least in that location. And as soon as I was the “right age”, the nightmare started. I fought it at first, as vehemently as I could, bit a few people.But what was I to do?  The fight in me subsided in the first month. With every man I reluctantly bedded, my protests turned to sobs and my sobs turned to nonchalance, until it was nothing but business.”,  Jennifer choked, upon seeing which, Cyrus offered a warm hug.
A glass of water later, she continued, “But one thing you must know about me Cyrus. I never give up. For one and half years, I did offer my body to unknown men, but I was never their toy.I treated myself with dignity and asked the same from them.A bite or two was up it they did not oblige. Within me, burned a fire, and that is what saved me in the end.”

“It was a frosty night and I was sent out to do something that is restricted to an exclusive unfortunate. The pretty ones.”
“I was to meet with a client in a hotel. It was supposed to be someone famous. And I think it was as lucky a day for him as it turned out to be for me.” “As soon as I entered the place, few men blindfolded me and took me to a room. I was supposed to wait for this person there. I looked out of the window and there they were. The men who had accompanied me to this hotel. Escape was not an option. But then, something important happened.”
A fire! The most magnificent of fires broke out from nowhere. And this was my chance. And Cyrus, I ran. I ran till I could not feel my legs. I ran till what I thought I was at the edge of the universe.”

Cyrus’s face was a sight to behold. This was information that would stump many. And he was no exception.

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Crowning Glory : Life’s Game

For the previous chapter see here

Chapter 6:
Shekhar had taken refuge on the sofa in the drawing room. There wasn’t any reason. He just felt stuffy inside that room. Watching his wife as she battled to get something as simple as a good night’s sleep was too much for him. And the fact that he could not help was even worse.  With these train of thoughts, Shekhar dozed off…
A dashing young 23 year old blazes into a group of students.
“Shekhar! Buddy! You did it!”, and he hugged his dear friend.
“What happened? What did she say?” inquired Shekhar.
“Yes, yes and a thousand times yes. And I have you to thank for it. Your words are magic! The note that you gave me worked wonders. I memorized every bit of it and she was mesmerized!”
“Congrats bro, now learn a bit of poetry yourself. I won’t do this for you again.” Shekhar quipped with a wink.
And all friends had a laugh.
And that sums up Shekhar. At the peak of his writing prowess and able to weave magic with his words. His future was bright and his present was perfect.
He was the editor of the college newsletter, a popular choice amongst his friends and touted to be a good, if not great writer by one and all who read his work.
This was the time when he met Tara, at a friend’s marriage. Swept off his feet by the sari and this firebrand of a girl, he knew in heart that this is the person he wants to spend my life with.
And unlike some stories, Shekhar did get the girl. Everything was fine and life couldn’t be better. For a brief period of time, Tara was happy. Shekhar’s laid back charm and simple ways of life helped her to see the good things in life. To stop and smell the roses is what she learned.  She was happy and in love.
It was after this that things took a turn for the worse. But you can only run from your past, you can’t hide from it. And Tara’s past was a devil in its own .Love between the couple was lost and with that all their happiness. While their turmoil steeled Tara and gave her a single minded objective to win in life, the simpleton and easy going Shekhar was lost in this chaos.
The simple little things lost their meaning. Waking up to the sight of your loved one was just, waking up. Having a conversation over food was just eating food in front of a TV now. The magic was gone, and so was Shekhar’s will to live.
He still loved Tara to bits, and was ready to support her in her endeavor. But how he wished that Tara, only once a while, would stop and smile. Just once a while, she would live, laugh and love.
All this took a toll on his career, or whatever was left of it. Three publication disasters and a failed book had brought him down to his knees. What had life come to?  
“Thud!”
Shekhar woke up with a start and looked in the direction of the sound. Morning light had flooded the house. It was Roohi, trying to get hold of the fridge magnets again, and knocking down a few things in her exploits. The little minion looked at her dad, gave a squeal of laughter and ran off.
“I’ll be late today. Don’t wait up for dinner.”, Tara emerged out of the bedroom, all proper and ready.
Shekhar acknowledged this with a very indifferent nod  and resumed doting over Roohi.  He smiled. She was the only reason to live, he thought. He felt bad for her too, deprived of a mother’s attention and love, what life is that for a child?
He did not want Tara’s attention. If only she could give some of it to Roohi. Not that Tara didn’t love her. In fact she very much did, and Shekhar knew that. But only if she had the time to express the same.  She was deep into her career. And so single-minded was her devotion, so firm was her resolve that not even her child was significant enough to warrant a few moments of her life. There was nothing Shekhar could do.
Tara had built walls around herself. And no one was allowed inside.

                                                                 ***

“Should we go straight to office or should I stop at a Restaurant Ma’am?” ,  asked the Driver.
“No, just office.” ,Tara replied as she browsed through her mails. And that was when she saw Jenny’s mail. It read:
“Hi Ma’am,
I’m Jennifer from Marie Claire. If you remember, we talked the other day in your office.
Just wanted to know if coming Sunday is good enough me to visit your place. For the photo-shoot.
Please confirm the same.
Regards,
Jennifer
Photo Journalist
Marie Claire.”
Tara took a deep breath, and replied. “YES. SUNDAY IS FINE.”

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