The Price A Novelette By Varalotti Rengasamy Part B The seeds of desire so skilfully sown sprouted into a plant and soon became a gigantic tree and interfered with his work and life. Raghavan who had always given a damn to his good looks till then began to spend hours before the mirror combing his hair. He began to frequent expensive beauty parlours to further improve his good looks. Raghavan, who used to attend to the most boring accounting jobs with love, started detesting them and was already living the life of a hero in his dreams. Earlier he used to ignore the pointed glances of girls when he walked down the street; but now he returned the glances seeking in their eyes an approval for his personality and looks. He treated them with a loving condescension as stars would treat their fans. He knew that apart from his exceedingly good looks he also needed some histrionic talent to reasonably succeed as an actor. Till then he had not considered acting as a serious job. He had not even acted in the skits staged by his classmates at his school or college. He did not want to be left behind for the simple reason he had not acted earlier. So he signed up for an acting course in an obscure institute, the only course that fitted into his lower middle class budget, without even telling Vidya about it. The classes at the acting school were in the evening and they were handled by guys who had failed miserably in making a career for themselves in acting. Of course Raghavan did not expect some one from Raj Kapoor’s clan to come and teach for the paltry five hundred Rupees he had paid for that three-month course. But neither could he tolerate the half-drunk middle-aged failures blabbering about some old Bollywood films dropping quite a lot of big names in the process. The classes went on till about eleven in the night and Raghavan would go home only by mid-night. Vidya no doubt asked about the delay. Raghavan coolly bluffed that he had been forced to work overtime by his boss and that they could definitely use the little extra money he would make as OT wages. Vidya was convinced and only advised him to take care of his health. “Hi handsome.” Raghavan was startled by the female voice that called him. The time was Eleven in the night and he was just coming out of the acting class. Raghavan turned back to see a heavily made-up woman with a colour-dyed hair clothed in an ill-fitting attire standing very close to him. He had seen her in the acting classes. “Hi handsome, I’m Reshma.” Raghavan hesitantly shook the proferred hand murmurring his name. “Hi guy, you send electric waves through me. Care for a cup of coffee with me?” Raghavan saw the time. The last thing he wanted to do in the world was to spend that unholy hour with that hideous creature. “Come dear, who knows even I may be of help. I’ll put you up in the right ladder.” She dragged Raghavan to the all-night coffee shop across the road. More out of politeness than anything else Raghavan enquired about Reshma. She had once aspired to be a playback singer and had been struggling for a few years. Now she was past that age and wanted to do some mother, elder-sister role in films and so she had come to the acting school. When she told him that she knew how to pull a few strings in the filmi-world a sparkle came to Raghavan’s eyes and he started sounding extra-sweet to her. He lamented along with her that Bollywood had lost such a wonderful singer by denying her a chance. “Raghavan, in this world talent or looks do not count. Your connections are the only thing that matters. “Now I have all the real connections. You name any producer or Director in the industry; I will make him come to my house and wait for my interview. Right now I don’t want to get any chance for myself.” There was a glee in her eyes. Once they finished their coffee Raghavan grasped Reshma’s hands and begged her for a small chance in the films. When Reshma smiled she looked even more uglier. “We’ll see, dear. But remember to be nice to me. Okay?” Raghavan laughed out aloud. He paid the bill and they walked out of the coffee-shop. When Raghavan attempted to take leave of her, Reshma did not let go of his hand: “Oh,dear, if you are going to be a home bird like this, running to your home before the night is over, you will never make it big. Why don’t you come to my flat for a small cap? I live alone.” Raghavan perfectly understood the sub-text of the message. The very thought of having something to do with this creature was itself nauseating. Raghavan realised that he should put up with such things if he wanted to succeed in his mission. With a sheepish grin Raghavan tagged along. That marked the start of a nasty affair. Raghavan was virtually squirming when he was with Reshma. She became crazy over him and started making unreasonable demands. She made him skip the acting classes on many days and took him to places and finally to bed at her apartment. Raghavan was asking about his acting chances every now and then. She was quite evasive in her replies. She told him that she had talked to an Assistant Director by name Chandar about Raghavan’s looks and talents. Reshma had also told him that Chandar was an Assistant Director only in name. He was really a kingmaker who can make or mar any career. That was about the maximum she did in the direction of helping him in his career. She knew she would lose him for ever if he made it good in the movies.