The Price A Novelette By Varalotti Rengasamy Part G To start with they had one day in a week all for themselves. But when shooting on foreign locales became an in-thing in the industry they could not see each other for months on end. To Ramkumar, it did not matter. For he was surrounded always by eager and willing, beautiful women and quite a number of fans ready to do anything for him. But for Vidya the loneliness was killing. But she resolved not to take that up as an issue and spoil the party. Vidya could not hold on to her resolve when Ramkumar’s name started appearing in the gossip columns. It was when the glamour queen Neha Kapoor starred opposite to him in a number of films. Neha Kapoor was a buxom creature in her late twenties and the heart-throb of youth all over the country. When the magazines eulogised the Ramkumar-Neha match Ramkumar started looking at her deeply. Chandar maintained a strict vigil over Ramkumar and did not allow him to fool around with actresses. Till then Ramkumar also did not think of anybody else other than Vidya. But Neha was a temptation which Ramkumar could not resist. Neha Kapoor was not just a show-piece doll but a shrewed woman whose astuteness even outclassed that of Chandar. As Chandar arranged to keep them away she moved the coins in her own style to see to that Ramkumar was with her all the time. While acting together in love scenes Neha would willingly exceed the limits set by the Director. The excesses could not escape the censors; but they had an impact on Ramkumar. While shooting outdoors she arranged things in such a way to stay in a room adjacent to that of Ramkumar. Even an alert Chandar could not keep vigil all night and soon things got out of control. She bought for herself and Ramkumar two exclusive cell phones (in addition to what they already had) and they used them to talk to each other for hours on end. When tabloids questioned Neha Kapoor of her intimacy with Ramkumar, she would wantonly blush and issue a quaint denial which would set the rumour-mills aflame. Raghavan had been fighting with his conscience for long; but against a glamorous, seductive, all-giving Neha his conscience was a poor fighter. Predictably it lost the first round of battle and the physical distance between Ramkumar and Neha got reduced to absolute zero. Vidya was shattered when she came to know of the affair. She had planned to confront Raghavan; but one night, Raghavan pre-empted her by confessing the affair himself. “I’m sorry, Vidya. You see after all I am just an ordinary mortal. I have been acting intimate scenes with her for quite some time and in one weak moment the acting turned out to be real. She …. is….. carrying my child……” Ramkumar thought the child-factor might turn the tables in his favour and Vidya might condone the affair. In spite of the fact that he and Vidya did not have any defects or problems they could not have a child during the past seven years. But, child or no child, Vidya could not brook such an infidelity from the person she loved most in the world and for whom she had virtually sacrificed everything else. Vidya screamed “NO” at the top of her voice and ran to Chandar’s room. Amidst sobs she told about Ramkumar and Neha Kapoor and the child. She begged Chandar to help her reclaim her husband. She didn’t leave him until he committed to solve the problem and remove Neha Kapoor once and for all from their lives. As Chandar was requesting, pleading and even begging with the star, Vidya was by the door hearing every word he uttered and Ramkumar’s response to it. Chandar even went to the extent of threatening to quit from the scene. But Ramkumar was unfazed. He now knew that he had outgrown Chandar and the latter could not destroy him or his image. Ramkumar was hell bent on carrying on with Neha Kapoor and eventually marry her once Vidya agrees to a consent-divorce. Vidya suspected that he might have even got the legal papers ready. Raghavan continued to argue that it won’t alter any thing for Vidya and she can continue to live in the same house and enjoy the same luxuries as she was used to so far. Or she can live independently at the other bungalow in Juhu. Vidya who was overhearing these heartless words broke into a violent sob which she tried hard to muffle. Chandar now measured up the situation. He chided himself for being too sentimental instead of approaching the problem with his cool and calculative intellect. He wiped his eyes clean. He went aside and took out his cell phone and dialled a number. After making sure that the person at the other end had picked up the phone, he kept his mobile in his packet while it was still on. He talked in a voice much louder than necessary: “Ok, Ramkumar, I will convince Vidya and ask her to grant a divorce to you so that you can marry that Kapoor lady. But as a person who made you what you are now I am asking just one favour. “If not for Vidya’s sake grant it for my sake. You see I am a heart patient living on the edge of death. Before you marry that girl you will have to transfer all your assets in Vidya’s name. If you agree to do that I’ll convince Vidya. Agreed?” Ramkumar felt relieved. Neither he or Neha cared a damn about his assets or her assets. So what’s the big deal?