Rosie - 4

Glory Sasikala

Serialized novel, by Glory Sasikala

CHAPTER-4

it's not my intention; of my charms i’m unaware
i'm moon but i know not that my beauty is quite rare

Prateik made his way downstairs in a daze and through the courtyard and through the crowd of children.
“Did you get the address?” the taleteller called out to him.
“Yes,” he said, “Thank you very much!” Prateik’s smile included all of them.
Then he made his way to the car where Jahangir was waiting for him. He got into the backseat, and Jahangir set the car in motion.
“To the hotel Sir?” Jahangir asked.
“Yes Jahangir,” he answered absently.
All thoughts of Sudhir had taken a backseat in Prateik’s mind. So taken up was he with thoughts of the beautiful girl whom he had just met.
“Did I just see a vision?” he wondered, “God! What a girl! What a beautiful girl! How can someone be so beautiful and talented and good? That’s perfection.”
He frowned, “How’s perfection possible?”
He looked out the window, but only saw visions of Rosie. Rosie standing at the doorway, radiant. Rosie talking, Rosie laughing…Rosie in his house….in his doorway….seated at the dining table, in his garden, a flower among the flowers…Rosie in a swing, her hair flying…Rosie in his arms…”
He jerked back to reality. “Good God!” He slapped his forehead.
“Is something the matter Sir?” Jahangir asked, “Have you forgotten something?”
“No…” Prateik said uncertainly, “I haven’t…I don’t think so. Never mind me,” he said, smiling into the mirror. Jahangir smiled back and drove on.
When they reached the hotel, Prateik ordered a simple meal of phulkas and dal and vegetable to his room, and having changed into his pyjamas, switched on the television and sat down on the bed. But his mind was occupied and he gazed blankly at the screen, barely taking in what he was seeing, a sad fact because it was a beautiful classic movie that was being shown. Oddly enough, Prateik did not order any liquor. It seemed that his thoughts had already reached a high and did not need any more intoxication.
For some time, Prateik held down the counterarguments that his conscience was posing. It was talking incessantly.
It spoke so incessantly that it finally won and Prateik got down to the business of serious thinking.
“Well,” he told his conscience, “I am going to marry her no matter what you say.”
“But she’s poor!”
“So what?”
“Didn’t you hear what her Grandma said? She is the sole supporter of her sisters. Without her financial support how will they manage?”
“I’m not exactly a pauper, am I? She can send them the money that they need every month. That is no problem with me.”
“But how are you going to convince them that you are The Man?”
Here Prateik dithered. “Relax,” he told his conscience, “It will all work out.”
“It won’t! It won’t! There’s a brother there remember?”
“Yes,” said Prateik, “But the Grandmother liked me. I know she did, and I believe she rules the roost. So I’ll go around 11 in the morning tomorrow when she is alone and talk it out with her. I think I can win. Be optimistic yaar.”
His conscience kept a doubtful and dissatisfied silence. It was very late when Prateik finally fell asleep.
Prateik left the hotel at 10 o’ clock, having bathed and eaten breakfast and feeling rather fresh and optimistic. “We’re going back to Sudhir’s place, Jahangir. I have work there.”
Jahangir opened his mouth to ask a question, then thought the better of it and said, “Yes Sir,” and opened the door of the car for Prateik to get in.
“I know that we were supposed to go home today, but something has cropped up,” Prateik said, sensing his askance.
Jahangir parked the car at the same place where he had the previous day and Prateik made his way to the courtyard. It looked different in broad daylight. It was deserted for one thing, and seemed dirtier for another. Prateik went up the rickety staircase. All the doors were open this time and colourful clothes hung over the railings. He could hear the bustle of conversation within the houses. Some of them peeped out of curiosity. Prateik made a beeline for the last door and looked in. Ah! The old lady was alone. He was in luck. He knocked at the door. She looked up, and her face immediately creased into a smile.
“Come, come,” she said, “Sit down. What has brought you here again this time?” She might have been greeting a long-lost friend. Prateik walked in and sat down on the sofa.
“Where is everybody?” he asked.
“They’ve all gone to work. Only my daughter-in-law and I are left at home during the day time.”
“It’s very hot outside,” said Prateik.
“Yes, and there’s no electricity. Daily from 10 to 2, we have no electricity. It’s very wicked really.”
There was silence after that. Then the old lady asked, “Did you leave something behind yesterday? Is that why you’ve come back?”
“No Grandma. Actually, I have come to ask you a favour.”
The old lady now looked at him intently, taking in his air of embarrassment. She said gently, “What is it son? What is it you want?”
“Grandma, I like your granddaughter very much. I want to marry her.”
There! It was out. There was stunned silence. Prateik waited for hell to break loose. So he was surprised when the old lady went off into cackles of laughter.
“You’re a fast one, aye, you are! Rosie’s grandfather was just so. Do you know we were married within a week of meeting each other?”
Now Prateik gave her a really hopeful look. All of a sudden, she became serious and said, “I feel it in my bones, you are a very nice boy, and all you say of your background is true. You have very honest eyes. But I’m a very old woman. I have been through so much. I see more than other people do and I feel very sad that a nice young man like you should be a drunkard. You drink too much, do you not?”
Amazed at the lady’s observation powers, Prateik replied, “Yes Grandma, I drink too much. But I have had no purpose in life so far and no one to restrict me. With the right purpose and under the right guidance…well, I promise you I won’t drink anymore. I can’t stop at once, but I will definitely detox and gradually stop drinking. It shouldn’t be all that hard because I only drink in the evenings.”
“Yes,” she said absently, “Yes of course.” She grew silent. Then suddenly, “Rosie is very precious to me. She is a jewel to be treasured. I will not give her away to anyone unworthy of her. You understand that, don’t you?” she asked, looking severely at him.
“Grandma, I promise to look after your granddaughter to the best of my abilities.”
“I have suffered so much because my husband was a drunkard. We lost everything because of that. I do not want that happening to my granddaughter, although she’s a strong-minded person like me.”
“Grandma, our father has left a lot of property—a house and lands—to be distributed equally amongst us four brothers. My portion is a large one. And I don’t gamble. My only vice is that I drink, and I promise I will take all measures to stop drinking. What more can I say? And yes, Rosie can send in money to you to meet the expenses of her two sisters and you. I don’t want anything from you. It’s just that I… like Rosie… very much. I haven’t felt this way about anyone… ever.”
He was blushing, and he red with embarrassment. He felt very vulnerable too, his deepest emotions in display. “Please think my offer over.”
The old lady listened to him. Then she said, “Come tomorrow morning and meet my grandson. Come at 8 o’clock. Don’t come at this hour hoping to charm an old lady off the tree,” she cackled. Prateik grinned sheepishly. “Whatever the answer, I promise you that both my grandchildren will treat you with due courtesy. Rest assured of that.”

Having to be content with that answer, Prateik took his leave.



[To be continued ...]

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