Chataka Birds part 17

Part 17

Ramana went to the New York Airport and received Hari and Geetha. He told them over and again how bad he felt for not being able to receive Geetha on the day she had set foot at the New York airport. Geetha and Hari had to assure him as many times that it was not a big deal.

Ramana’s wife, Emily, zealously welcomed them into their home. Geetha was touched. Hari had no complaints either. He was glad he had agreed to visit them.
Geetha could not help but recall the crowds in India as they went around to see places. Statue of Liberty, Metropolitan Museum of Art, and other tourist attractions. Geetha felt like Alice in Wonderland; it was magical!

“We can go to Broadway next week. They are playing Pippin, a great musical,” Ramana said.

“I am not able to understand this English even in a coffee shop. Broadway show? I don’t think so,” Geetha said, smiling.

“No, it is not like that, Geetha! You may not follow each and every word, but you will get the gist of it. It is a great experience,” Ramana said. He explained briefly the history of Broadway musicals and the story of Pippin. Emily also explained a few highlights of the show. Geetha Agreed.

After the show, Geetha was happy she had watched it. She might have missed quite a bit, but it was good to have that experience. Just like prominent artists in India, the commitment of the actors in the show was captivating.

She was particularly impressed by the core theme. It would appear that, in any country the primary literary values are the same. It had never occurred to her she could find this perception in America: that the riches and materials goods are not the things that offer the ultimate bliss to a human. That is the message both in literature and music. However, the same riches and material goods were the reason she and Hari had arrived in America. Probably, that is the inconsistency or irreconcilable conflict in our lives, she thought and sighed.

“you are right, Mamayya, it is very nice. Glad I’ve seen it,” she said to Ramana.
The following day, Ramana invited his boss Williams for lunch, and at lunch, he introduced Hari. Williams asked a few casual questions about Hari’s interests, and experience. Then he said, “We are thinking of opening a branch in Chicago. Are you interested?”

Hari asked for more details.

Williams said, “It is still in the planning stage. I can give you more details soon. There is a small art show tomorrow. Would you like to join us?”
Ramana explained that Williams’s son, Robert, was learning from a Telugu Art Teacher. The Art Teacher was holding an exhibition of her students’ artworks and distributing certificates.

Hari said it would his pleasure to attend the exhibition and ceremony.

Williams said goodbye and left. Hari thanked Ramana. Ramana dismissed it, saying, “I did nothing. Apparently he was impressed by your qualifications and experience.”
***
The hall in which the art exhibition was arranged was decorated beautifully. Williams saw Ramana and party and welcomed them enthusiastically, introduced his wife and son to them. Williams made a big deal of Robert’s accomplishments: he played soccer, was good at track and field, played piano, ranked first in all subjects, was a member of literature club, and great at painting. Hari said he was speechless. Ramana congratulated him profusely. Geetha watched them with amazement.

William led them to the refreshments table. Geetha said to Hari in a soft voice, “Poor fellow. It seems he has no life as a boy.”

“Every parent wants the best for his or her child. Probably, they think they are introducing him all opportunities available to him; he can make up his mind regarding what he wants to do,” Hari said.

They all were strolling down the hall looking at each artwork. Geetha felt like she noticed a vague pair of eyes seemed to be hiding underneath either a discolored leaf or a jarring chunk of cloud in each piece of art. The more she looked at it the more powerful it became. It was heart-wrenching. Suddenly, she felt feeble. She leaned onto Hari’s shoulder.

Hari was startled. He asked anxiously, “What happened? Are you okay? Want some water?”
Ramana was also concerned. “Come, sit here in the chair. I will get water,” he said, walking her to a corner.

Geetha was embarrassed. “I am fine. Felt dizzy for a second. You two go ahead and see the other paintings,” she said, as she walked and sat in the chair.
A young man announced that the meeting was about to start, and all the guests should gather in the conference room.

The first two rows were reserved for the children, who would be receiving certificates, and their parents. So, Williams, his wife, and Robert sat in the first row.
Ramana, Emily, Geetha and Hari settled in the third row.

Jamie Bhai[1]Bhai: Brother. A polite North Indian masculine form of address. walked to the podium, welcomed the guests, and stated Sheethro Behanji[2]Behenji: Sister. A polite North Indian feminine form of address. could not speak at the ceremony for health reasons, but would hand over the give the certificates herself to the students who had completed the course successfully. He requested the guest to join him and his staff in the reception following the ceremony and make the event successful. In appreciation of their support, Sheethro Behanji would autograph the artwork bought on that day and the sale included 10% discount.

He went in and returned with Sheethro Behanji. She leaned on him heavily, looked unmindful of her surroundings, and walked as if the wind carried her.
Distribution of certificates was over in five minutes. Jamie walked her back into her room, returned and asked the guests to follow him to the dining hall for the reception.
Jamie stopped at the cash box by the door and signaled the guests to go into the room. Soon, he got busy explaining the highlights of each artwork and the artist. Williams and Ramana bought a piece each. Hari was in a dilemma. If he bought one, it might look like he was trying to impress Williams; if he did not buy, it might look like he was stingy. Also, what about Geetha? Would she like to have it in their home? He dropped the idea.
Many guests admired Sheethro’s extraordinary talent and her teaching method. They all expressed pleasure at having such a great teacher to teach their kids. Sales on that day was not bad, not bad at all.

Soon, the guests formed into small groups and kept talking about the art and the teacher: Great show; Amazing; Brilliant; She is a blessing to my child; Jamie Bhai is lucky he found her; Sheethro Behanji is lucky she found him.

“What luck? She locked her up in a room on the third floor. He never let her step outside. Three doctors and ten types of medications. He says it was some kind of neurological disorder, nobody knows what it is. I have no idea what it is. That’s why I did not let my son join the school,” somebody commented. He was there only to watch his friend’s daughter receive the certificate.

“Actually, the school is run by Jamie Bhai only. He makes videos and sends them to the students, and answers all the questions either in person or on the phone. Nobody had seen Sheethro teach or hear her talk,” another guest added.

“He makes a lot of humdrum, though. He has a studio in the city, but lives far away in some god-forsaken corner. He runs a newsletter, and handles all the mail from students himself.”

Geetha and Hari looked at each other. Both had some suspicions but neither said it aloud.

Geetha congratulated Robert once again and asked a copy of his photo at the time receiving the certificate.

“Give me your address. I will mail it to you,” Robert said gleefully.

Jamie stopped at the cash box by the door and signaled the guests to go into the room. Soon, he got busy explaining the highlights of each art work and the artist. Williams and Ramana bought a piece each. Hari was in a dilemma. If he bought one, it might look like he was trying to impress Williams; if he did not buy, it might look like he was stingy. Also, what about Geetha? Would she like to have it in their home? He dropped the idea.

Many guests admired Sheethro’s extraordinary talent and her teaching method. They all expressed pleasure at having such a great teacher to teach their kids. Sales on that day was not bad, not bad at all.

Soon, the guests formed into small groups and kept talking about the art and the teacher: Great show; Amazing; Brilliant; She is a blessing to my child; Jamie Bhai is lucky he found her; Sheethro Behanji is lucky she found him.

Geetha scribbled her address on a piece paper and told him not to forget it.
“I won’t,” he said, smiling.
***
That night, Hari could not sleep, worried he might not get the job. Geetha could not sleep either. She could not stop thinking about Sheethro. She had not spent a lot of time with Chitra but she could recall her contour fairly well. Sheethro looked so much like Chitra but for red hair and lifeless eyes. She was a lot thinner too.
It was past midnight. “What are you thinking?” Hari asked her.

“I am not sure. The more I think about her, the more I feel that lady is Chitra.”

“I don’t know. I can’t tell,” he said.

“I was a kind of thinking–Tapathi’s comments about Chitra, her age, neurological condition, and that he is 15 years older, etc. The more I think about it, the more I am convinced it is her. If it is her, I want to know if she is happy here, and whether she is getting the satisfaction her creative activity the way it is laid out for her.”
“Are you thinking of writing another story?” Hari asked.

“I am not sure.”

She recalled the two attempts that followed her first story. She had sent her first story to a small website and it was published. She received two positive comments. She wrote two more stories, and they were rejected.

She showed the stories to Tapathi and asked for her opinion.

Tapathi read them and said okay.

“What do you mean okay? What is the difference between the first and these two?” Geetha insisted on genuine critique.

“Well, the first one was in response to the behavior; it cut through deep into your heart. You could portray your genuine feelings. In these two stories, all I see is your interest to write a story; there is no experience or a strong feeling in response to a certain event.”

That conversation was still fresh on her mind. She said, “I don’t know if I can write another story.”

Hari, engrossed in his problem, said nothing.

Next morning, while having breakfast, Ramana asked, “Did you think about Williams’s offer? If are interested, I can talk with him again.”

“Can you find out what his thoughts are? I prefer a project-oriented job rather than manegerial position,” Hari said, expressing his dilemma.

“I understand. You may however also want to consider your options. Don’t you think some job is better than no job? I would take this and use it a stop-gap. You still can keep looking for a better opportunity.”

“That’s also true. Talk with him and let me know.”

“I will. In the meantime, I will also keep looking for other jobs. Give me a few copies of your resume.”

Geetha asked Ramana to remind Williams about the photo his son had promised.
***
(Continued)

October 5, 2022

References

References
1 Bhai: Brother. A polite North Indian masculine form of address.
2 Behenji: Sister. A polite North Indian feminine form of address.

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