The great priest Rajamantran had ordained that mass weddings be organized by the shrine on the first moon day of the month for couples from all over the state. All those who could not afford rising wedding expense could bring their wards whose matrimony will be blessed by the great Priest. He found a solution for those sections of society and the people whose wealth and the social status gave them a kind of inferiority complex by marrying off their children at such social philanthropy. They were asked to donate their proposed budgets to the shrine. The shrine in turn will announce their names and the amounts contributed at these social gatherings. The shrine would make gigantic arrangements for visiting VIPs and the common folks. Barricades were put up to separate the main marriage pandal from the gallery where visitors would be seated. The high and mighty form the state politics and the bureaucracy always looked forward to the invitation from the shrine for such occasions. It gave the ideal platform to the political aspirants to get mixed up with their electorates and woo them for the oncoming elections. The bureaucrats will always be eager to find out and gauge the moods of the commoners for the ensuing elections. The bureaucrats of the babudom will accordingly form their loyalty clubs in a way to earn the maximum mileage from political bosses.

Many a time’s reigning politicians from central government too had addressed their meetings on such mass marriage fairs organized by the holy man. This time too the sage had personally spoken to the chief minister,” it is a social occasion of grand importance and I wish that you grace the function and bless the newly weds on the auspicious beginning of their marital life. Weddings will be followed by the common feast.  I wish you join the commoners in the community feast. We have also extended special invitation to your predecessor and arch enemy, the big man Aaham. May be on this grand day you both can set aside your difference and join the constructive forces of our religion represented by our shrine to rebuilt and regain the lost glory and honors of our nation”. The General Durjan who had been listening to the invitation being extended could not control his laughter.  He rather suggested another diabolical plan to the pontiff immediately after the great priest Rajamantran had finished speaking to both the gentle men on the phone.

“We will release the text of the invitation extended by you to both these gentlemen to the press. Let the press note explain that they have agreed to bury their hatchets and come under your banner of religious umbrella to serve the community. I swear by God no denial on their part can later wipe the mud flung on them by their party members and the voters of their constituencies”.

The chief minister even after accepting the invitation did not turn up at the weddings.  He had though sent his blessings through a representative of his government. Ranjit looked at his would be father in law, who was made to sit next to the big man. The big man Aaham by now had been raised to the position of the home minister at the central government. The home minister Aaham of the central government obviously had been given a place of the most importance.  The shrine had also accorded Mr. Kumar a great honor, as after all he was handing over his daughter to the blue eyed boy of the pontiff. His mother in law proudly sat next to the wife of the home minister Aaham. Her body language suggested she was enjoying her new found status.

Ranjit remembered his mother in law’s discussion with her husband when they called on him at the new bungalow given to him by the great Priest. He had been sitting with General Durjan inside the house. He saw this couple enter the main gate; on the close circuit television placed in all the rooms. The old man was hesitant to come in. He did not push the ringer of the calling bell of the outside door on his own. He had to be coaxed by the lady to put his fingers on the doorbell. The old lady   had also wanted to give her husband a sense of confidence. In order to cheer up her husband; she marveled at the architectural beauty, “is it not such a lovely house? After all he is a nephew to a great Priest. I am sure he must be heir to the vast properties our great Priest possesses. I am told he owns almost half of the village land he lives in, in addition to the many other properties spread all over the state. Why the income from the shrine itself must be running into billions. Our boy must have had a share in every property owned by the great priest Rajamantran by virtue of being his brother’s son. Our daughter will rule like a queen”.

Mr. Kumar who had never ever been to a house of such a vast expanse stood speechless. He was wondering if they have reached the correct address.  He double checked the address written on the slip in his hands.

Mrs. Kumar had been noticing his quandary.  “What is it my dear, you seem to be lost somewhere. I knew from day one that our daughter will roll in riches all her life. But I do not want you to show your anxiety when you speak to the boy.  You will let me handle all discussions with him. I do not want to put him off and spoil the chance of a great opportunity of life time for our daughter. You had unnecessary shown your doubts on great Priest’s proposal. If I was in your place I would not have questioned his intentions. He is but a well-wisher of all his devotees.  Once we are related to him can you imagine the kind of status you and your progeny will enjoy?”

Ranjit Sehgal who had seen and heard them on the close circuit television from his bedroom was equally anxious on the other side. He wondered how he will answer their question related to his work and job etc. but this was not the first time he would be answering such queries. The parents of all the girls he had earlier been supposedly married to have raised similar inquiries. Each one of those enquiries was deftly handled by him. This time however a strange fear of losing the only girl he ever loved gnawed at his heart.  Hence he had asked General Durjan to come over and help him face the interview in front of the parents of the girl. Though the sage had assured him, “no one dare disobey the dictate issued by the shrine. In fact the mother of the girl who had married outside the community and had virtually been outcast will be too keen to get back into the fold of the shrine after so many years. She will see to it that she makes her husband and daughter agree to the proposal. She will herself break down any kind of resistance. That woman is also very ambitious. The flash of your wealth will tempt her to ensure her daughter gets into the riches through matrimony”. How correctly great Priest had predicted her behavior. This was amply proved when Ranjit himself went to the main door to welcome them in side the house.  She proudly hugged him and kissed him on the forehead,” I knew our girl will find a gem for herself. You are living like a king all alone in this house. Let her come over. She will fill your loneliness with her presence.  Such a big and lovely house will echo with the laughter of many of my grand children”.

Both Mr. Kumar and Ranjit felt embarrassed on her spontaneity. Her exuberance was forcing Mr. Kumar to contain the enthusiasm shown by his wife, “but dear we have to decide first and ask Koena’s view point too. Are you not being little too hasty about the whole thing. I am sorry young man but can we go inside the house and have a few words with you? ”.

“But of course sir! Please do come in’.

Mr. Kumar who did not expect General Durjan to be present at this meeting was startled. He was little agitated to see him sitting in the room to which Ranjit had led them.

“We expected to see your parents here. We have come to   discuss the marriage proposal of our daughter with you”, Kumar had told him, “could you please tell them we are here?” “His parents do not live in India.  In fact he lives under the guardianship of our great Priest whom you have already met.  Should you desire to find out about his means of livelihood let me tell you he owns  enough riches to last a life time of ten generations”, General Durjan spoke back. Mr. Kumar who was put off with General Durjan because of the virtual kidnapping of the other day; shot back, “that he is from a rich background does not answer my query. I will definitely like to know what this man does for a living so that I as a father can be convinced that he can support his family even when he does not have access to the riches owned by his   family”.

“But Mr. Kumar”, his wife spoke up.

She  was cut short by the hand raised by him, “ let him speak dear I am sure he must be doing or planning to do something to meet the family expenses and fetch two ends food  for his children and wife as well”.

“I have a business of export and import of hardware to and from different countries. I shall soon be setting up offices in different parts of the world’, Ranjit knew at least he was telling a truth to this old man, “my turnover will soon run almost into many millions. I shall be providing employment to many and not looking for one for myself. I am sure I need not depend on the riches that belong to my ancestors”, there again he mused within his heart “I am not telling a lie because my forefathers do not have any riches to provide for”.

Mr. Kumar, “I understand my daughter also likes you. How long has this been going on”?

“Oh come on dear you are embarrassing the young man in front of his friends”, she pointed towards General Durjan, “this gentle man here will also feel bored to death with your kind of   questionings. I am inviting you to join us for a dinner at our place this evening. You both must come. Ranjit sonny you must bring your uncle along to our house. We have seen your house. Whatever we have seen here is sufficient enough to tell us that the great priest Rajamantran will never want to do any thing disparaging and damaging to his flocks. We shall of course be proud to have you as our son in law,” she   again brushed aside the eyebrows raised by Mr. Kumar.

“Oh come on dear I knew Koena was into something and we will know her mind too by the evening”. They declined any offer of some snacks or drinks by their host, “we shall of our right eat a lot of things here after your wedding to our daughter”.

Mrs. Kumar had come in like a storm and she left like one. She had forced Ranjit to wonder what had hit him. He came to his senses when General Durjan pulled him from his chair, “you must dance with joy young man. Let us put the music on”.

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