The Ambitious Girl
by Rudy Ravindra
Once Mrs. Kaul agreed to the proposal, she plunged wholeheartedly into the task. She took Stella on a shopping spree. On their way to Commercial Street she told Stella, “You are much too young to wear those shapeless saris. They make you look older. We need to get you some nice outfits.”
When they walked into a high-class shop, Stella was flabbergasted at the price tags, and said in a meek tone. “Madam, I’m simple servant girl. No want this big money clothes.”
Mrs. Kaul looked at her sternly, “Young lady, do you want to go to college or not?”
“Yes, Madam. I want college.”
Mrs. Kaul smiled. “If you want college, you should be well-dressed. It’s very simple, Stella. When I take you to the college principal, you should look good. Also, remember, you’ll be my ward, I can’t have you wearing cheap clothes. What will people think of me? That I am a tight-fisted old broad who can’t provide good clothes to my, my, my...” She didn’t want to say ‘servant’ or ‘maid’. But Stella understood what was in Mrs. Kaul’s mind and her struggle to find a more appropriate word.
For the first time in her life, Stella had too many things: jeans and blouses, salwar khameezes and chudidhars, pantsuits, skirts, dresses, sandals, dress shoes and other accessories.
Next day, Mrs. Kaul took Stella to a hairstylist. “Do something about her hair. Make it modern.”
The woman took a good look at Stella. “Such a beautiful girl! I think once we work on her, she’ll be completely transformed. Yeah, she’ll be the Indian Naomi Campbell!”
Several women worked on Stella for many hours, chopped off some of the long hair, trimmed here and there, shampooed and washed. She was pampered thoroughly: facial, eyebrows, pedicure, manicure.
Satish was amazed. “Oh! I say! Mom, what have you done to her? She looks so different! Yes, decidedly very different.”
Mrs. Kaul beamed. “Doesn’t she look fashionable?”
“Yes, yes, definitely. I think she’ll have no problem getting into Mount Carmel college. She’ll fit right in with all those fashionable girls. She’ll surely fit in.”
“I made an appointment to see the principal. Let’s hope for the best.”
* * *
The principal said, “Mrs. Kaul, it’s so nice to see you. How’s your daughter doing in America?”
“Kavita is fine, Mother. Always busy. She seems to be getting used to the culture over there.”
“I’m happy. She’s our star pupil, excelled at everything. Mrs. Kaul, you said something about admitting a student into our college.” She looked at Stella. “Is she the girl?”
“Yes, Mother. She’s Stella, from Vizag.”
The principal asked Stella, “Can you tell me what you want to study?”
Stella thought for a minute before she answered. “Mother, I want an office job.”
The principal smiled. “We need to evaluate you to see where your level is. Okay?”
* * *
On the appointed day, a senior lecturer grilled Stella in various subjects and also conducted some aptitude tests. After two days of torture, during which Stella came close to tears, the principal spoke to Stella.
“You have done very well in science and mathematics. Need to improve in History and English. Good, good, you can join next semester.”
“Thank you, Mother.”
“God bless you, my child.”
Satish was happy at the turn of events. Next, he wanted Stella to move to the cottage in Vyali Kaval. But Mrs. Kaul ruled against it.
She said, “Ayyo! Rama! How can we let such a young girl live all by herself? All those thieves and goondas around, I don’t think it’s safe. After my knee problem, your dad and I have moved downstairs, we hardly go up. Stella can have a room upstairs. Would you like that, Stella?”
“Madam, I sleep in servant quarters. My room good, nice window, close to garden.”
“Stella, you can’t study there, no privacy at all. Also there’ll be some problem with the maids and cook. They are already jealous because you’ll be going to college. Also, I want you to get very good marks. You see, it’s a question of my reputation. I recommended you to the principal and if you do well, I look good.”
* * *
Stella wanted to ride her bike to college but Mrs. Kaul suggested she use Kavita’s scooter which was lying idle in the garage. Stella learned to ride the scooter rather quickly and pretty soon was zipping around town. In her spare time she helped out in the house, and when the cook took off for a day or two, Stella cooked the meals.
In a very short time everyone got used to her presence and treated her as part of the family. Once they got to know her well, they couldn’t help but admire her well-mannered and respectful behavior. She was the epitome of discretion and took pains not to exceed her boundaries, boundaries that she herself set based on centuries-old traditions.
She never ate in the dining room with the family members; she ate in the kitchen. When they had visitors, Stella was unobtrusive, did her best not to put Mrs. Kaul in a situation where she had to explain Stella’s presence in the house. Mr. and Mrs. Kaul were aware of the relationship between Satish and Stella and tolerated it as they believed it was one of those temporary affairs. Also, both Satish and Stella were extremely discreet; they were never seen anywhere in town together.
* * *
Stella’s teachers were impressed with her performance, and they had no doubt that Stella would graduate with flying colors. Her English improved by leaps and bounds, and she spoke the language with confidence.
Her chemistry instructor said, “Stella, there is an American Foundation which funds the education of a few girls every year. These candidates are selected from all over India and sent to various universities in America. Usually one or two girls from our college are selected every year. I suggest you compete for this scholarship. The tests will be held here at the college, and let me tell you, they’ll be very tough.”
“But, madam, I want to get my Bachelor of Science degree and find a job in Bangalore.”
“I know, I know. But with just a B.Sc. your prospects will be very limited. You can get a better job in India if you get a degree from an American university: more pay, better chances of promotions.”
Satish was excited. “Wow! That’ll be great, Stella. I think you must try.”
Mr. and Mrs. Kaul also encouraged her, and Mrs. Kaul relieved her of all household duties, so she could study for the tests.
* * *
On the big day, Stella got up early and prayed. She prayed for the Good Lord’s blessing, prayed for her success, and prayed that the Lord send her far way, away from the mess of the caste-conscious society. Also, The Master would be free to move on with his life and marry a girl from his caste.
The exam was conducted in a small lecture hall and five students took it. There were questions on every conceivable subject: English, physics, chemistry, mathematics, history, geography, philosophy and social sciences.
* * *
Her teacher said, “Hey, Stella, we got the results. You got the scholarship. Congratulations!”
Stella was tongue-tied and stood there in the middle of the hallway. Finally she found her voice. “Thank you, madam. Thank you for your help.”
“It’s my pleasure, Stella. Now we have to plan the next step, your field of study, university, etc. The scholarship money can be used in any university in America. You need to take GRE and TOEFL exams, but these are very easy compared to what you’ve gone through. Why don’t you come to my office tomorrow after class, we can look at some websites.”
The next few months went by so fast that Stella had no recollection of it at all. Studies, tests, and more tests, and then finals, all one after the other. She got news in early March that she was accepted at Purdue and a few other universities. On her instructor’s advice, Stella chose Purdue.
* * *
Stella came into his room and slipped into bed. “This will be the last time, Master.”
Satish looked at this girl, who by sheer determination and hard work achieved so much and transformed herself into a confident, modern, educated and sophisticated woman. If someone had told him a few years earlier that this girl would be going to America to pursue higher studies, he wouldn’t have believed it.
“But you’ll be back, Stella. And then we can see each other again.”
“I don’t know. I know you’ll get married soon. Madam’s looking for a girl, I know. And when I return to India, I don’t want to come in between you and your wife. You should be loyal to her, make her happy.”
He took her into his arms and kissed her. “Don’t talk about all that now, Stella. Let’s enjoy this night.”
They made love like maniacs, kissing each other, biting each other, squeezing each other. They made love as if they had just then discovered sex. They made love knowing they might never again be that close together. They made love all night, sleeping in between, reviving for the next session. When the time came for them to part, when it was time for her to go back to her room, she took his face into her arms and kissed him gently. “Thank you, Master.”
Once in the privacy of her room, Stella broke down and cried, tears streaming out of her eyes, falling down her cheeks, sobbing uncontrollably. Her heart was heavy, filled with anguish at leaving the man who meant so much to her.
She would be moving far away from the man who was kind to her, who treated her like a human being. But for this man, she would be sweeping and mopping floors and washing dishes in some rich man’s house at Vizag. Or else some rich man’s mistress, to be used as long as her body remained supple and sexy, and then to be discarded when she became old, ugly, wrinkled, withered and dry.
She loved Satish more than anything else in this whole world, loved everything about him: his gentleness, his smile, his soft hair, his funny habit of chewing his lower lip when he was deeply engrossed in something important, the way he kissed her, gently or roughly depending upon his mood, the way he closed his eyes when he was inside her, the way he came, joyously spurting his seed into her, the way he kissed her down there and made her feel so special.
Oh! God! There were so many things that she would cherish and miss about this man, this great man who was sent to her by the Lord Jesus Christ, a man to save her from the ravages of poverty.
* * *
They all went to the airport to see her off to America. She would fly to Chicago, followed by a short bus journey to Lafayette. It was an emotional send off, and even Mr. Kaul’s eyes became moist when Stella bowed to him and folded her hands together in the traditional gesture of namaste. “Thanks for all your support, sir.”
Mr. Kaul hugged her. “Good luck. Work hard and call us whenever you can.”
Mrs. Kaul was sobbing and blowing her nose loudly and when her turn came to say goodbye, she lost control and bawled, “I’ll miss you very much, Stella. Have... a safe... journey...e-mail, call often.”
Satish hugged her. “Good luck, Stella.”
She looked at him with tears in her eyes, and smiled warmly. “Master, thank you for everything.” Before she lost her composure she waved goodbye, and ran to catch her plane.
Copyright © 2013 by Rudy Ravindra