I got to know Mr. Vinod Reddy much before my marriage and, that too, in a town far away from my future sasural (in-laws place). The circumstances that had led to such acquaintance were far from pleasant. Rather, it was my teenage folly that had created this most stressful and unwanted acquaintance.
At that time, Mr. Reddy was a neighbor, living just a couple of houses away from my father’s place. He was married to a rather plump wife, was the father of two sons, worked in a bank and, almost always, gaped and stared at me whenever I was around. He started visiting my father under some pretext, got friendly with him, and sometimes picked up unusual subjects to draw me into conversation.
During this time, however, a private tutor was engaged to coach me on one or two of my weak subjects. Immature infatuation during my teenage soon put me in an uncomfortable relationship with the tutor. He was of dubious character and almost double my age. He too was married but he exploited my weakness and I had, foolishly, succumbed. There was an element of physical relationship too with the tutor.
Eventually, my parents got to know of it and, almost forcibly, that ignominious relationship broke under threat and strict vigilance. Unfortunately, the relationship could not be kept a secret, and quite a few neighbors got to know of it too. Mr. Reddy was one of them, someone who thrived on getting this sort of information.
He seized the opportunity to visit us even more, won my father’s trust and, while I was still in college, arranged my marriage to the son of one of his seniors in the bank. My relationship with the tutor was, obviously, held back from my future in-laws at the time of negotiation. Mr. Reddy, thankfully, cooperated in that deceit.
A few years passed away since then. My married life went along smoothly, and I was loved by members of my new family. The dark episode of my teenage was forgotten and buried. I was now almost twenty-nine.
Imagine my surprise when this neighbor from the past walked into my father in law’s house one day. He informed us that he had been transferred to our city recently. My FIL was overjoyed to have an ex-colleague visit him, to remind him of his active days and reminiscing the past.
Soon, Mr. Vinod Reddy became a frequent visitor to and almost a part of my husband’s family. He was, however, younger than my FIL. Still in the mid-fifties, he was in active service while my FIL had retired a year ago.
Affectionately, my husband and others who were young, addressed him as Chachaji because, being a friend of my father-in-law, he was an uncle of sorts. I too called him Chachaji, as I did in my teenage days when he was a neighbor. However, there was a lurking fear that he knew my past and, were he to ever disclose the episode involving my tutor, it would possibly be the end of my marriage which was now more than six years.
Yet, in all those six years of marriage, despite my longing, and yet much to my embarrassment, the cherished motherhood was elusive. There was nothing wrong with either of us, my husband and me, but it was just that case where nature seems to sleep over what should be the logical outcome in a marriage.
Coming back to Chachaji, it was during one of his visits to our house that he raised the topic of my motherhood with my father-in-law. But the latter, at first, avoided talking on this sensitive and embarrassing topic. I understood his feelings, he was sparing me the uneasiness that usually overcame me in such moments.
“She is still young. What’s the hurry? Everything in due time,” my father-in-law said protectively, trying to hold Chachaji at bay.
“No, no, Mehta Saab, complications arise if you defer childbirth too much. It could affect your bahu’s health as much as the baby’s.” Chachaji said, and then looking at me, “Bahu, tumhe der nahin karni chahiye. Aaj mai Prakash se bhi batein karunga. Kitne baje lautega woh dafter se (Bahu, you should not delay. I will talk with Prakash today. When is he expected back from office?)?”
Now Prakash is my husband, and he feels bad that we don’t have a child of our own till now. And he feels agitated when this topic is broached by anyone, be it family, friend or even colleague.
I blushed, but just fumbled in saying anything other than an inconclusive, “Ji.”
I kept looking at my FIL, as if my replies would be coming from him rather than me.
Luckily, my FIL changed the subject, and they started talking about their days in the bank when they worked together.
I was fortunate, however, that he left a bit quickly that evening, as he had some work at home. I heaved a sigh of relief when I heard the door closing after him downstairs.
When he had left, my FIL asked me to sit down beside him. He consoled me in the face of my embarrassment just a while back. The, he came up with a suggestion that filled my heart.
“Look Bahu, it is not your fault. So, throw that guilty feeling out of your mind. Listen carefully. I have heard about this temple in the south where they say the lord fills the womb of those who come to worship on a specific day every year. It is a very auspicious day they say, and that day is just three days away.
Prakash never gets holiday, not at least during this time of the year. So, we both, you and I, will catch the flight day after tomorrow. I’ll tell Prakash to book the tickets today itself.” He smiled, and I felt grateful to him.
The next day Chachaji was back in the evening, coming directly to our place from office. I had opened the door when I heard the chiming of the doorbell and there he was, standing with his portfolio bag in hand. He was a bit heavily built, but he was tall and dressed well, and looked quite smart.
I could be wrong, but I felt that he had that look on his face that made me feel instantly uneasy. It was almost like the ones that he used to give during my teenage days. Nonetheless, I greeted him respectfully, informing that my father-in-law was ill and was in his room, taking rest.
“Why, what happened? Does he have temperature?” He asked.
“Yes, it’s around 102˚ and the doctor has suggested certain tests, because there is malaria lately all over the city.”
“I am very sad to hear this, bahu. Chalo unse mulakat kar loon, phir chala jayunga. (Come, let me go and meet him and then I will leave).” He said.
We were already near the staircase and, wanting me to lead, he pointed a finger to say, “Pehle tum, bahu. (You first).”
I turned to hold the railings, but just then Chachaji too went towards the stairs. In one fleeting second, we bumped into each other. I felt my breasts push into the lower part of his chest and embarrassingly, turning red in the face, I hurried to jump the stairs.
I wondered if it was accidental. Or was it intentional? Why would he try to get onto the stairs first when he had indicated to me to go ahead?
Chachaji quickly held my hand, and almost in a tone showing much concern he said, “Careful, careful!” As if he had done something to prevent my falling.
I wanted to rush up the stairs. But he spoke again.
“Bahu, one must be careful. You will hurt yourself if you rush on the stairs. Carelessness hurt you when you were a teenager, remember?”
I panicked quickly on hearing these words. This ominous utterance from Chachaji was enough to make me freeze in my steps. He was needling my Achilles heel and he knew it.
“Well? What have you to say?” He asked.
“It’s ok, Chachaji,” I said, overcoming the shame of my breasts touching this man, more concerned now with the looming danger of my teenage secret leaking out in my ‘sasural’. He held a secret that gave him leverage.
“I hope so,” he said. My hand remained cuffed in his closed palm.
His grip was strong. For a few moments, his hand alternatively applied and then released the pressure on my soft hand that he had gripped. I turned and shyly glanced at his face. I saw unmistakable lust in those eyes.
Yet, he went on saying tenderly, “Bahu! Bahu! Where did you hurt yourself, show me?”
I couldn’t convince the man that I was perfectly fine, that I hadn’t hurt myself. My efforts to draw away my hand met without success.
“Were you hurt here?” He pointed to my arm. I shook my head.
“Here then?” He asked again, showing my leg, which also I denied.
“Must be here, you almost banged this place on the iron railing,” Chachaji said, this time a finger was touching my ass.
I was horrified, almost shivering in ashamed embarrassment.
Before I could protest, or at least push away myself, or even run up the stairs, he had placed his hand on the right side of my ass.
“It hurts here, doesn’t it? So delicate and soft. The iron railings are too hard to bang against.” He was running his hand over and over on that area. I shriveled in shame and yet my feet seemed to be rooted at the very step where I stood. I had to cooperate I knew.
“Feeling better?” He had lowered his voice, which was almost husky now.
Out of desperation to end this lecherous display by Chachaji, and the fear of disclosure of my past, I blurted out, “Yes, Chachaji. I am feeling far better.” Blushing profusely, my eyes closed, I felt a strong, demanding and unstoppable hand probing eagerly. A finger ran along my crack, and I shivered unstoppably.
I was now surprised at my own behavior. What was happening to me? Why couldn’t I just turn and run away? Or tell this man to move away his hands? Perhaps I was too scared. Timid that I was, I even failed to muster courage to threaten about disclosing his advances.
“You like it, don’t you, just as you liked it with that tutor back home when you were younger?” He hissed.
“Noooo,” I said but kept my voice low lest anyone else heard me.
“Why? Is this far different from what happened years ago with your tutor, Asha?” He persisted in getting me to say ‘yes’.
I just wanted this act to end now. Do anything that would put this man’s lecherous advances in abeyance. I could then, later at night, tell Prakash my helplessness in the face of this otherwise respected elderly man’s behavior.
I just nodded my head and, inaudibly murmured, “Haan (yes),”
“Couldn’t hear you, bahu. Louder.” He insisted on an answer.
“Ji, haan!” I cried, and then “Aab mujhe choriye, chachaji. Koi dekh liya toh musibaat hogi. Meri minati suniye, (Please leave me. If anyone sees us there will be trouble. I beg you.)” I rushed through my words.
“Your mobile number. Give it to me, and I will let you go.” He said sternly.
I knew it would not help if I declined. So, I hurried through the ten numbers in whispers. But I must credit the man for his memory. He had got it correctly even though I told it only once.
His mobile was out, and he had typed the number into his contacts. But before that he murmured my name, slowly spelling out the letters, “A s h a.” In later days, I got to know his real need for taking my number.
“Will you release me now?” I implored.
“Yes, but you must respond to whatever messages I send to you. Agreed?” More conditions!
“Yes,” I said even as I took two steps up the stairs. But my hand had stretched fully, and it hurt, all because he held on to it.
I looked around, fearing that at any moment just about anyone could come to use the stairs. No one would make out that there was a resistance on my part. Rather, I would be mistaken. Probably taken to be one who had indulged in this deceit.
Luckily, no one made an appearance. And luckier still, Chachaji released my hand. Reverting to a gentlemanly behavior, he behaved like the elderly, serious and respectable man that he was considered in this house.
“Come on, Bahu. You have got me worried about your FIL,” his voice boomed for all to hear while turning from a lecherous middle-aged man to a concerned friend. He had released my hand, and I ran up the stairs.
We were soon inside my FIL’s room. The sick man was down and out, hardly able to talk with his friend who had pulled up a chair and sat beside the bed.
“How are you feeling, Mehta Saab?” Chachaji asked seriously, before he put a hand on the sick friend’s forehead to fathom his temperature. “Looks like your temperature is much higher now.”
My FIL could hardly answer. His lips quivered, as he said in a croaky whisper, “Don’t worry about me. But about her.” He had pointed a shaky finger towards me.
“Why, what has happened to her?” Chachaji asked.
“Poor girl. I was supposed to take her to this temple by flight day after tomorrow. You know they have this auspicious day for women who want to be blessed with a child? Now I am sick, and it is impossible for me to take her. She will have to wait for another year for this auspicious day again.” My FIL tried to convey in an almost inaudible voice.
“Hmm,” exclaimed Chachaji. To me, it seemed he was thinking over the matter and trying to find a solution.
He looked at me and there was a sort of twinkle in his eyes.
Suddenly, he stood up, excused himself, went over to the toilet and closed the door.
I stood at the head of the bed, running my hand over my FIL’s forehead, trying to give him some relief. He had been telling all day that he had a splitting headache.
As I stood attending to my ailing FIL, my mobile chimed to show an incoming SMS. I glanced casually at my mobile.
To my horror, it was one from Chachaji.
Message that I received read, “My hand is already eager again.”
I turned red. Although Chachaji had wanted answers to all his text messages, there was none to offer here, so I did not respond.
I didn’t have to wait for long.
Message again – “You will accompany me to the door when I leave.”
No answer required. No response. I feared he would soon drop one which would require an answer. I just hoped it wouldn’t be one which would be too embarrassing to answer.
Message – “I will take you to the temple. You must agree.”
It was just a statement that didn’t require a response. A sort of order that needed acceptance. I did not respond.
In another minute, I could hear the flush inside the toilet, and soon Chachaji came out. Unabashedly, he threw a kiss at me, knowing that he had a sick, indifferent friend in bed with closed eyes.
“Mehta Saab, don’t you worry about your bahu. She is certainly going to the temple on this auspicious day. I will take her. I promise you that she will offer prayers for fulfillment of that cherished wish of motherhood,” Chachaji said in a convincing tone.
My FIL’s face lit up. “Reddy, I don’t know how to thank you. You have taken a big load of guilt off my mind.”
But I didn’t know how to react. Overjoyed that I would be able to go to the temple? Or horrified to know who my companion would be? I kept mum.
Chachaji and my FIL talked for a while, but it was evident that he was too ill to continue talking. He mumbled a few words now and then, till he fell asleep.
“Bahu” Chachaji said aloud, testing if my FIL was awake or asleep, “I think his head is aching too much. Press your fingers harder on to his forehead and massage, or else he’ll not get any relief.”
He went on checking for responses or movement from the sick man on bed. There was none. In his high fever, he must have fallen asleep. In the end, satisfied that he would be undisturbed in his mischief, Chachaji got up from the chair.
“Let me help you,” he said to me as he walked over and stood behind me. Instantly, I could feel a hardness on my ass, just on the crack.
At the same time, he had stretched a hand and placed it on my FIL’s head as I was doing. But, not for long. In moments, his hand was pressing on the back of my hand. At the same time, he had taken another arm around my back and placed that hand underneath the ‘pallu’ of my saree that covered my breasts.
Even if anybody walked into the room, this side of my body would not have been easily visible. It seemed very convenient for him to begin his mischief. His hand began squeezing my breasts over the blouse, gently at first, before he began a more vigorous approach.
I was dazed and shocked. My timidity didn’t help, and I remained immobile, bearing his aggressive fondling meekly without so much as a murmur or protest.
Soon, the hand had moved inside the blouse and underneath the white bra that I was wearing. I felt it touch my naked breasts, taking a firm grip on one, and then kneading it. I knew my nipples were getting hard and felt terribly embarrassed at what was happening to me. I shuffled uneasily while standing.
Two fingers were now tweaking my nipples and making them harder.
“Hmm, hard nipples!” He said rather impishly.
I was red in the face. I pretended abhorrence and reluctance, trying to move away. He held me back.
“No, Chachaji! What are you saying?” Trying to bring in as much shock in my voice as I could.
But I squirmed there itself. I could feel a fire engulfing me very quickly, not wanting the hand to stop what it was doing. My body arched back on to Chachaji’s and my head, involuntarily, rested on his chest. How could I be so shameless?
I realized that my resistance was quickly ebbing. I was becoming responsive and desirous. Chachaji bent down his head and kissed me on the lips. And, like a shameless girl, my lips parted even though there was an outward show of reluctance.
Outwardly, I softly uttered, “Nahin, ye thik nahin Chachaji. Choriye mujhe. (No, this is not proper. Leave me please).”
“Then what was proper, your affair with the tutor?” The sharp words hissed through gritted teeth.
At that moment, we heard footsteps outside the room and quickly we drew away. When the maid entered, both of us were at least a couple of feet apart – I busy in massaging my FIL’s forehead and Chachaji intently looking at him.
“He will soon be well, but you must give him the medicines. See that his temperature never exceeds 102˚F. I will keep coming to boost his spirits,” Chachaji said in mock seriousness, pretending a serious engagement in my FIL’s health than in me.
“Yes, Chachaji,” I said in a low voice.
“Good. In the meantime, I will book the tickets for our flight day after tomorrow. I will let you know when to get ready. I must go now.” Chachaji said. He turned towards the door. I stood where I was.
“Won’t you see me off, bahu?” Chachaji asked, ignoring the maid.
I felt uneasy. I knew that it would be difficult for me to resist his advances which he would very likely resort to again.
But Chachaji didn’t give me a chance to decline. He addressed the maid.
“Malati, attend to your malik(master). I have some important things to tell bahu while I am on my way out,” he said in a tone of finality before turning to me, “come Bahu, I am in a hurry.”
On the way down, he seized the opportunity once again to run his hands over me. The stairs, being at one end of the floor, gave him the privacy that he sought. With each step, the intensity of the gripping hand on my ass increased. Fear of getting caught lurked in my mind. I could think of no other feelings.
At the door, he turned and looked around. Quickly, he held my cheeks in both hands and pressed his lips on mine. I pushed back in horror. He let go.