"A profound unmitigated loneliness is the only truth of life"
- R.K. Narayan




An elegant wooden arch was erected and flower garlands hung across trees and poles all around the busy traffic square. Crowds hung around in hundreds and the traffic had all but come to a stand-still. It was their superstar's birthday and the fans were not going to relent until they caught a glimpse of him. The sun burned down and traffic horns were deafening, yet the masses lined up happily for hours.

In the midst of that melee there would always be some newbie who would pop the inevitable question - that which had been asked a billion times by now - "Why does superstar live in a rented house after all? He can afford a palace if he likes, can't he?"
 
And many would respond with the line that the star himself used in several of his interviews: "For ease of shooting, sir. This location is central to the city and has quick access to all studios."
 
"In that case, why doesn't he purchase this rented house itself?"
 
To that, no clear answer would come forth. May be its owner wouldn't sell, or superstar wasn't interested, or may be he was planning to move out soon. Nobody knew what was the real reason that their superstar continues to live in the rented house, even though he had couple of farmhouses on the outskirts, a bungalow in the neighbouring city, and at the least a dozen condos scattered around in remote areas of the city. 
 
Inside his home, superstar was all set to step out. His makeup man wiped his sweat one last time. He was excited, not because of his birthday, but because it was rent day.
 
Superstar always paid his rent in cash, and in person. His landlord found it strange, but never complained. It was his moment of glory every first day of the month, of having a cup of tea and receiving money from the superstar himself. The superstar never slipped on the rent date, not even on his birthday.
 
As he began to step out, superstar rehearsed the plan in his mind: he would walk out, wave to the crowds for two minutes, get into his car and drive away. Once they were out of the crowd, the driver would pull into the park lane and take the lake-side mud road to get to the owner's house a couple of blocks away. Once there, superstar would get off quickly and go inside to pay his rent. As was the routine, the landlord would invite him for coffee and they would chat for a few minutes, until the coffee arrived.

And then it was his time - the few moments when the landlady would bring tea, smugly serve them and make her way back into the kitchen. For those few moments as the landlady served them, time would come to a standstill for the superstar, as he would flash back to that first day of his college, when he sat on his first bench and that very same lady had shyly walked into the class. He had fallen headlong in love with her that very moment and it had never left him. He had confessed his love to her and she had a soft-corner for him too, but on the day he had proposed marriage, she had rejected the offer and drawn a veil over his dreams. She had wanted a silent life, away from the crowds, sounds, lights, camera, action...
 
 
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