Sameer looked around and smiled. It was a good turnout. This was one of the moments when one took stock of the people one has accumulated and treats it as a personal accomplishment. He looked at Ravi. Yes, Ravi’s arrival was a surprise. Ravi was always his arch rival and his perhaps most accomplished critic. There was great mutual respect between them, but Sameer could not help feeling that there was something personal in Ravi’s disagreements with his ideas. His calm demeanor somehow almost but only almost concealed some dislike which was far beyond reasonable discussion or explanation. Yet, Ravi was here and that had to count for something. His eye rolled towards Rita, who was beside Ravi. Figuratively speaking, she would never be an inch away from him in opinion, so much so, that Sameer often had a hard time comprehending who was doing the actual thinking. Today, literally their flesh touched as she stood beside Ravi, almost sycophantic in her constant approval of his every move. Well, there was no surprise there. Her presence and her behavior were totally predictable.
Sameer forced himself to look further and not obsess over them. This was after all, his special day. He could see Rekha almost clearly, there was a haze in his vision now. Distance did that to him. Myopia, the doctor called it; but Sameer knew this was merely his body telling him to focus on things, ideas and people close to him and avoid thinking of others, no matter how tempting they were. Rekha sure was tempting, in her off-shoulder gown. She always had such amazingly sharp features. Her eyes, blue and piercing, her hair well managed and peaceful were quite an indication of her personality. Somehow, in the haze, he could picture her clearer than he could have seen her. Her dress, sown to perfection, was showing the right amount of cleavage, sensuous without cheapness. Her legs were shown off in an inviting way which simply was not tawdry. There were few women who could manage that look. He knew his wife was not one of them. Yet, Sameer was glad that Rekha was there that day. Life is the most inexplicable thing, he thought. There were so many moments when Sameer knew his life made absolutely no sense at all, yet there were few moments when he could not have called himself happy. A few different turns in the road and who knows, Rekha may have been his wife today. Sameer could not help think that. Who knows, maybe Rekha was thinking the same. Maybe the fervency with which she kissed her husband Raj was just as hollow as the way Sameer touched his wife, Tina.
He looked at Tina. Well, he had to admit, she was in a sense prettier than any woman he knew. She did not have the oomph of Rekha but was the perfect trophy wife he had always wanted and he got her. To be completely honest, she cooked and cared for him, bore him beautiful healthy children and maintained an air of dignity that came with her upbringing and her education. All in all, he had to conclude that his marriage, although perhaps without passion, was definitely not loveless and was more satisfactory than most marriages he knew of. Samu, she called him affectionately. Somehow, the word which made him feel childish was giving the aura of closeness that he had never thought he would have. Today was clearly a special day. Every little thing he could observe gave him that very indication. She was a faithful, dutiful wife and he had to be thankful, especially today.
There was something in the air that night. He was generally a prosaic person not given to romantic excursions of the mind, but that night, he let his mind wander. Sometimes, our minds have minds of their own. He was still enjoying drifting aimlessly in thought, something people would never recommend to a person of his occupation, but he found rather engaging and rewarding. Yes, over these years he learned a lot of things and one of the them was that the more you rely on what people say, the more you befuddle yourself.
He stared at the high ceiling and the decorations on it. They were emblematic of his rise to fame, power and respect. His was not the kind of power that manipulated the stock market or forced favors from government servants, but was that of convincing people once he set out to convince them. He could not get a special table for himself at a restaurant but well…that was not what he valued in life anyway.
He always knew, from a very young age that he was different. He was never naive, never passe, always a step ahead. If he asked a question he knew whether the answer would be the truth or not. He could read people. Always. Somehow he could bore deep into them and find out their true thoughts. While he may have seemed hypnotically gifted in doing so, it was merely perceptiveness and very fast deduction. He was destined for greatness. This was not his belief but firm knowledge. It never betrayed him.
As he looked around his eyes searched desperately for his sons. He valued them the most and made that clear to anyone who knew him. He shamelessly professed that the only real wealth in the world was a child. He always knew he would be a model father. Someone who his children would look up to and emulate. This was one of the very few times he had been disastrously wrong. His overbearing and controlling nature had upset them at first, and then slowly driven them away. They were now busy with their own education and away from him. They rarely visited. Still, he expected them to be with him on this day.
He fantasized of a life with a perfect A grade on his parenting report card. That would be the highlight of his life. He would never achieve it now. This thought was so overwhelming and consuming that he almost did not hear his name being called out. Almost.
He looked up at the announcer, her Swedish accent unmistakable, smiled and walked up to the dais. He stood facing the thousand strong crowd that was present. He cleared his throat and said,”Ladies and Gentlemen, I thank you for being with me on such a special day. It is not everyday that one wins the Nobel Prize and this day would have been nothing if you had not been there to celebrate with me.”