The Ambitious Girl
by Rudy Ravindra
“Stella, I have completed my studies, I have to return to Bangalore soon. Will you come with me?” They had just made love and were lying in each other’s arms.
She said, “How I go with you? You marry woman from your caste and make babies. Your wife not happy with me.”
He laughed. “I know I have to marry and produce heirs. But my wife need not know about you. I’ll buy you a house in Bangalore, I’ll take care of you.”
“You give me happy. Don’t worry about me. You go Bangalore.”
“I’m not going without you.”
“You very good man, I know. But when me old I no have this good body. Then what?” She jumped out of bed and stood on the floor and dramatically pointed to her lush curves.
Satish admired her foresight, understood her concerns, but had no answer. “Okay. I see the problem. So what do you think we should do?”
“Best you go, forget me.”
“You can work at our factory in Bangalore, you’ll be independent.”
“I have high school only. What job I get? Sweeping floors?”
“Okay, forget the factory. I guess you can help my mom in our house. There are many servants there and I know she gets tired of dealing with them.” He brightened up at this solution, and became animated. “Yeah, yeah, she’d really love you. You are so clean and organized. Great, that’s settled then. Come back to bed. You’ll catch a cold standing there without any clothes on.”
She snuggled up to him, “Master, I want college degree. If I went with you, can you put me to college?”
He was surprised, had no idea that this simple girl had such ambitions. “What do you want to study?”
“I don’t know. But degree I want. Office job, wear pants and shirts like the English girls in the movies.”
Another surprise. He didn’t know she watched English movies. “So, you see a lot of movies?”
“Saturday I go in afternoon. My uncle work at Saraswati movie hall. I see movies free. But tell me, Master, you put me to college?”
“I’ll try. But I can’t promise. You did your high school two or three years back, right? You might have forgotten whatever you learned at school. So, you may have difficulty coping with college courses.”
“No, no, no, Master. My memory good. I read every night my books. All subjects I know. Very good.”
“Well, bring your books tomorrow and let’s see how much you remember.”
He tested her in science and math. “You are pretty good. I’m sure you can get into a college. Did you speak to your parents about your plans?”
“No, I talk today.”
* * *
When Stella didn’t show up next evening, Satish thought she might be held up at Professor Habbell’s house. He was going to leave to Bangalore soon, and was frantically packing his books, and other personal items. Also, he had to analyze the data of his experiments and write a report. For the next few days he was so busy that he didn’t have time to think of anything but his work.
But on the day of his departure, when she still hadn’t shown up, he was concerned, and asked his cook to find Stella. She hadn’t shown up at Professor Habbell’s house for the past few days. Then the cook hopped on his bike and rode furiously all the way to the city market area and knocked on Stella’s door. Her mother said that Stella wasn’t at home.
* * *
All his luggage was loaded into his reserved, air-conditioned coupe, and he was thinking about Stella. Here’s a girl, ready to accompany him, and now suddenly disappears. He hoped that she was okay. He was puzzled by her vanishing act.
The guard had blown the whistle and the train was pulling out of the station when Satish saw Stella running from the other end of the platform. He put his hand out and called her, but knew there was no way Stella could catch the moving train. So, he pulled the emergency chain, and the train came to a screeching halt, followed by mayhem; the guard, the station master and the security personnel, all huddled together trying to find out the reason why the emergency chain had been pulled.
Luckily, the manager of the branch office of Kaul Fertilizers, who came to help Satish with the luggage was still around and handled the tricky situation. At the mere mention that Satish was the scion of the Kaul family — a prominent name in the country — the officials became deferential, and Satish was left alone with Stella.
Eventually, the train moved southward and Satish found out what had kept Stella. When she told her parents about her plans, her daddy got angry and said she wasn’t going anywhere; he had arranged her marriage to Mr. Jacob, a rich widower, as old as her daddy. He locked her in a room.
Satish asked, “So, how did you escape?”
She was crying and looked bedraggled. “My mummy, she let me run away, she no want me marry Mr. Jacob.”
“What about your father? Won’t he blame your mother for letting you go?”
“My mummy said no worries, he no beat her, he not bad man...”
* * *
Once they reached Bangalore, things became complicated; Satish’s parents were at the railway station. After the pleasantries, his parents looked inquiringly at the dark girl who slowly emerged from the compartment and stood a few feet behind Satish.
“Dad, Mom, she’s Stella. She worked for my neighbor at Vizag. I brought her with me, I mean, you know, to help Mom to run the house.”
His father said, “Sure, sure, we can always use more help.” He was pleased that his son took such good care of the small people. When Mrs. Kaul started to say something, her husband shook his head gently, hinting that she keep quiet. He didn’t want a scene in public, and didn’t want to undermine his son’s image in the presence of a working-class girl.
The drive home was a bit slow; the roads were packed with cars, auto-rickshaws, scooters, bicycles, and an occasional bullock-cart. Only after they had driven the entire stretch of Sampige Road and turned right on to Sankey Road, was the car able to go at a reasonable speed. Once they reached Sadashivanagar, the chauffeur turned into a quiet street and entered a huge compound.
Stella was stunned at the opulent mansion, the privacy of the surroundings, the green lawns and gardens. From outside, it appeared as if the house had enough room to accommodate a small army. The mansion was surrounded by tall compound walls, affording complete privacy from the outside world. Two servants carried their luggage into the house.
Mrs. Kaul looked at Stella. “Take your suitcase and go with Shamanna.” She turned to one of the servants. “Shamanna, take this girl to your quarters.”
Once Stella was out of sight, Mrs. Kaul said, “Satish, you should have told us about this girl. How do you expect me to hire someone who doesn’t know the local language? How can she interact with other servants?”
“But, Mom, Stella can speak English reasonably well. I’m sure she’ll learn Kannada in no time.”
Before the situation got out of hand, Mr. Kaul told his wife, “Shailu, now that the girl’s here, she’s our responsibility.” He told his son, “Beta, go up to your room, unpack, freshen up.”
When they were by themselves, Mr. Kaul said, “Don’t worry, Shailu. I’ll talk to him tomorrow.”
Next day, on their drive to the factory, Mr. Kaul asked, “Beta, about your Stella. Do you know her well?”
“Yes... she’s, she’s... sort of... my girlfriend.”
“Fair enough. Recently I bought some property in Vyali Kaval. This is a small house but has a large piece of land around it. You know it’s a good investment. Let Stella move in there. It’s walking distance to our house.”
“Thanks, Dad. Actually, Stella wants to go to college.”
“If you think she can do it, sure, go ahead. A girl with her background can do with some education.”
* * *
Satish said, “Mom, I promised to send Stella to college. ”
“What? College? Ayyo Rama! Are you out of your mind, Satish? She is a servant girl! You want to send her to college?”
Satish smiled. “Actually, Stella is quite talented; she knows her subjects.”
“And you think that you are the great philanthropist, trying the help out all and sundry! Satish, you are taking on too much responsibility.”
“Mom, give her a chance. I promised her.”
“Okay, Beta. We’ll give it a try. But I don’t know where to send her.”
Satish was glad that his mother was beginning to warm up to the idea. “Mom, why don’t we try Mount Carmel College? You give them a good donation every year. I think the principal will take your request seriously.”
* * *
Copyright © 2013 by Rudy Ravindra