A Naive Casanova
by Rudy Ravindra
Table of Contents|
parts: 1-2, 3-5, 6-8
9-11 , 12-14 , 15
The two “finalists,” Rosy and Chitra, were in their thirties.
Rosy’s family had moved from Cochin to California when she was four. She was an executive at a health-insurance company, and divorced with two children.
Rahul had been communicating with her by e-mail and phone for more than a month and still wasn’t sure whether she belonged to his “active” file. She was witty, had a sexy voice and amused him with all kinds of anecdotes. She was also naughty, everything had a sexual connotation. Often when he hung up after speaking with her, he needed a cold shower.
It so happened that she had a free airline voucher, and flew to Kansas City for a weekend. Rahul was a little disappointed when her sexy voice didn’t quite match her looks, just like a sports car that looked dazzling in the showroom didn’t live up to its promise when rubber met the road. She was dark brown, wore high heels and a short white cotton dress, revealing fleshy thighs.
They ate lunch at a good seafood place. Rosy said, “I can cook better than these fellows, they don’t know how to cook fish. Everything is so bland and tasteless. I’ll cook a spicy fish curry tomorrow. Let’s go to the store.”
On the way to the grocery store, he showed her the Plaza and other spots of interest. Back at home, he opened a bottle of wine, and since they weren’t very hungry, thanks to the late lunch, he made an omelet with mushrooms and habanera cheese.
She said, “You didn’t tell me why you got divorced.”
“She stopped giving me blowjobs.”
“I guess you don’t want to talk about it. Hah.” She walked out of the dining room and went into the den to watch TV.
The next day evening, Rosy unleashed her considerable culinary skills. She added cauliflower florets, boiled potatoes, chopped onions, sliced serrano peppers, ginger, garlic, salt and a little olive oil to a baking dish, mixed it all together, and stuck it in the oven.
By the time she got to salmon, he lost interest in watching. He sat in his den to review a manuscript, but dozed off. He woke up when Rosy came in, and turned the light on. She looked ravishing in a black halter dress that reached down to her ankles. “Dinner’s ready. Are you hungry?”
“I am sorry, it was rude of me to leave you all alone in the kitchen.”
“Don’t worry. C’mon, let’s eat.”
He went upstairs, had a quick shower, put on a nice shirt and tie, and came down to the living room where she already had two glasses of red wine on the coffee table. He was pleased that she made herself comfortable in his house.
He asked, “Eventually, I mean after a few months, if we decide to get married, will you move out here?”
“No, no, no. never. I love California, and I want to live there forever. With your qualifications, you shouldn’t have any problem finding a job there. You know, you can move there, we can date for a few months and then...”
“That’s a good idea. But here in this university I have tenure. I may get a teaching job in California, but I won’t get tenure right away.”
“I can help you get a cushy job in our organization. I know the director of our outfit wants to fuck me, so if I let him have some fun, he will listen to me.”
Rahul was shocked. He had no problem with one-night stands, but using sex to gain favors was reprehensible in his book. He kept his thoughts to himself and said in an even tone, “You don’t have to do any such thing for my sake. If I decide to move to California, I’m sure I can find a job without anybody’s help.” The next morning he dropped her off at the airport. He decided that he couldn’t deal with Rosy.
* * *
Chitra was from a very wealthy family, into fashion and modeling, and participated in fashion shows in Bangalore. She made a niche for herself and was poised to become one of the top models in the city.
She was twenty-two when her family arranged her marriage to the thirty-three year old Suresh. He had degrees from many prestigious schools, including the Wharton School of Business, and made megabucks at a prominent Wall Street firm.
Suresh used to abuse her physically. In the hope that he might appreciate her and stop the abuse, she stuck it out for a year, but the man showed no remorse, and she had to leave him. She moved to her cousin’s house in Dallas, and enrolled into an MBA program, and eventually found a job at a reputable cosmetics company.
Rahul flew to Dallas for a weekend. As soon as she saw him, she walked towards him in a gait reminiscent of the runway models, slow and elegant. She was wearing a stylish red pants suit and gold-colored high-heeled sandals. Her gleaming black hair was arranged in a loose bun and her dark eyes were accentuated with a subtle touch of mascara. They had a good time, eating out and roaming around.
On the last evening of his stay, he said, “Talking to you for the past few months was great. I know so much about you, I think we should meet often, you know what I mean?”
Chitra nodded her head. “Of course. We can fly on alternate weekends, I can go to Kansas city and you can come here, so that one of us will need to fly only once a month. How about that?”
“You are a genius. You have it all figured out.”
When she dropped him at the airport, she asked. “Rahul... umm... just one thing. You are such a nice man, why the divorce?”
“Shall we talk about it some other time, okay?” He looked like he was about to tear up.
* * *
In one of their phone conversations, Chitra asked, “My parents want to meet your folks. Do you mind if they go to Hyderabad?”
From his previous experience, he knew his parents wouldn’t be happy that he was seeing a woman without their approval. In the first place, they hadn’t liked his marrying Maya. Eventually, a few years after his marriage, they did come around and, on their visit to Hyderabad, Maya charmed them. Now his parents were unaware of his marital problems as well as the divorce. His reluctance to involve his parents led to his breakup with Chitra.
Rahul’s parents were very unhappy at his engagement to Maya. He sent his father an e-mail first and planned to call home in a couple of days, to give his parents a chance to digest the news.
My Dear Dad:
I hope you all are doing well. I am fine here and working hard on my research projects. My advisor is pleased with my progress and we are going to send another manuscript for publication in the Journal of American Chemical Society. I am hoping that the work I am doing here will pave the way for a good job.
I have some good news. I am in love with a girl, and would like to marry her. Her name is Maya and she is a doctor; her parents are originally from Delhi. I will send her picture soon.
It was very early in the morning when his phone rang. His father was furious. “Do you think you are mature enough to arrange your own marriage? Did you consider the consequences of such an action? How can you marry a North Indian? Is she a Brahmin?”
He went on and on, ranting and raving, and then it was his mother’s turn. “We sacrificed so much to raise you, this is how you repay us? With this indignity? What a shame you bring us. How can we even raise our heads and walk in the street? You are our eldest son, and we depend on you to do the last rites when we die. Now you are going to marry some creature from the North.”
He let them have their say and asked, “Maya’s parents want to perform the wedding in Maryland. It’ll be nice if you can come.”
This was received with more disapproval from his parents. They vehemently opposed the marriage because they weren’t consulted about it in the first place. They ordered him to return to Hyderabad immediately. Throughout that difficult phone call, Rahul was shivering in his pyjamas but felt emboldened that his father was so far away, something like eight thousand miles.
This was the first time in his entire life that he had defied his father. Living in a culture which relentlessly expounded self-reliance, self-love, and the pursuit of happiness at all costs, Rahul was convinced that he was doing what was right for him and his long-term happiness.
* * *
With no candidates left in his active file, Rahul thought that was the end of his on-line adventure. Though responses were still trickling in from South Africa, Malaysia, Singapore, the UK, and Australia, he wasn’t interested in communicating with women from those faraway places. Also, he was concerned that some of the women might be motivated more by their desire to come to America than finding a compatible spouse. When he read e-mails from twenty-year-old girls, he questioned what on earth those girls might have in common with him, almost double their age.
He got an e-mail from Meena Mandanoor, a scientist at a pharmaceutical company in New Jersey. Whereas Meena was a common name — thousands of Indian women had that name — the last name was quite unusual but sounded vaguely familiar. He wondered if she was the same woman he used to know when he studied at Delhi. When they exchanged their pictures, he confirmed that she was indeed the same person.
Rahul had met Meena at a cultural function in Delhi University, and there was definitely a spark between them, but Rahul failed to ignite it. Those days, almost twenty years ago, Rahul was tongue-tied, awkward, and lacked self-confidence. Though he summoned enough courage to invite Meena for a cup of coffee or lunch at the campus cafeteria, he couldn’t articulate his feelings, and couldn’t tell that he found her attractive.
The least he could have done was to arrange a romantic date at one of the nice but inexpensive restaurants near the campus, and walk back to her hostel and kiss her passionately under the moonlight. He didn’t know that a kiss was worth a thousand words, that it said it all.
At the same time, his research advisor was becoming increasingly difficult to deal with. Even under the best circumstances, Professor Saxena was abusive and rude to his students. When Rahul failed to measure up to the Professor’s high expectations, he berated him publicly. Rahul packed up his belongings and went back home to Hyderabad, very far away from Delhi, and Meena was all but forgotten.
He couldn’t forgive his father for throwing him into the cesspool of the scientific world.
- A world where you had to genuflect constantly to the top scientists;
- a world where you were only as good as your last paper;
- a world where you published or perished, and sometimes published and perished because no granting agency gave you money for your hare-brained ideas;
- a world where the research money was controlled by the old boys’ network, and even God couldn’t save you if you didn’t belong to this mafia, no matter how good you were or how bright your ideas;
- a world where, in the name of peer review, the anonymous reviewers hid behind the compliant editors and blocked the manuscripts of their less powerful rivals;
- a world where even if your publications were proven to be based on fabricated or wrong data, you could talk your way out of trouble if you were powerful enough;
- a world where the “visible scientists,” like Professor Saxena, hogged all the limelight, gave meaningless keynote addresses at international conferences, and pontificated to their less fortunate brethren;
- a world where the graduate students and post-doctoral fellows, the unsung and unheard heroes of science, slogged day and night to churn out data that enabled the “visible scientists” to gallivant around the globe at the taxpayers’ expense.
Rahul naively assumed that when he quit the Saxena lab that would be the end of his scientific career. But his father had an entirely different idea.
His father, Dean of the Engineering faculty at Osmania University, was furious. “How can you simply leave such a good lab? A Ph.D. from Saxena’s lab is a passport to success. Rahul, when will you learn? I sent you to Gujarat for your Master’s and you almost blew it. Because Professor Murthy is a good friend, he made sure you got the degree. You know how difficult it was to place you in Saxena’s lab. I had to fly to Delhi to meet the Vice-Chancellor of Delhi University. I was so embarrassed, but he is a good friend. He understood my struggle. All that hard work now gone to waste. What are you going to do now, sit at home?”
Rahul fidgeted around, playing with a ballpoint pen. “I don’t like science, Dad. I want to work in a bank.”
His father got all red in the face and yelled. “What nonsense is that? No son of mine will work in a bloody bank. A common clerk? That’s what you want? Aren’t you ashamed of yourself, stooping to such a low level? We are a well-known family of academicians and scientists. Your grandfather got his Ph.D. under the great Professor C. V. Raman. I am glad he isn’t around to see your shenanigans.” He got up and called out, “Hey, Subbayya, get me a cup of coffee. I’ll be in my study.”
Rahul knew that his father would be plotting and planning the next move, flipping his rolodex, trying to find the right person among his large network of friends, weighing the pros and cons of approaching this or that person, people who owed him favors.
If the Dean’s original plan had succeeded, Rahul would have gone into a career in engineering. The Dean was saddened that Rahul couldn’t make the cut for admission into any one of the hundreds of engineering colleges in the country. His grades were so low that the Dean was embarrassed to seek his friends’ help. So, very reluctantly he sent Rahul to study chemistry in Gujarat.
Chemistry was chosen, not because Rahul was either interested or good at it, but only because he got slightly better marks in that subject. Also, the admission criteria were less stringent at that new university built in the arid plains of the western state.
Followed by a few phone calls and meetings with influential people, The Dean managed to push Rahul into a Ph.D. program in chemistry at the prestigious University of Hyderabad.
He said, “Now, Rahul, this is your last chance. Make this work. Get a Ph.D. It’s your bloody duty to make us look good. Remember our family prestige. I spoke to Professor Aditya about you, he’ll be your advisor.”
Rahul couldn’t wriggle out of a scientific career. His fate was sealed.
* * *
When he met Professor Aditya for the first time, Rahul was surprised to see how young his advisor was, he looked like he was barely out of grad school. The professor asked, “What is research?”
Rahul wanted to say that research sucked but kept his inglorious thoughts to himself. “Like, discovery, mechanism of action, that type of thing...”
Professor Aditya nodded. “When I was at UCLA I, learned an invaluable lesson, research is one part inspiration and ninety-nine parts perspiration.”
Unlike Professor Saxena, who wanted his students to function independently, Professor Aditya spoon-fed his students, taking interest in their day-to-day activities. He was relentless in his efforts to make his students look good. He met with his students every morning to discuss the experiments they’d be doing that day. He’d give them minute details and step-by-step instructions.
When one of his students was scheduled to present his or her work in a departmental seminar, Professor Aditya was more nervous than the student. Professor Aditya would make the student rehearse the talk several times with the entire group, and made sure of every little detail.
When a student “wrote” his or her thesis, Professor Aditya dictated the entire thesis, including the acknowledgements. This arrangement suited Rahul as he was least interested in exerting his grey cells to come up with a plan for his thesis.
Copyright © 2014 by Rudy Ravindra