She was surrounded by five boys, turning men, during the offset of New Year. One was squeezing her bosom while, another one was rubbing inner thing, one a little less experienced was playing with hair, another one was licking the neck and the last and the youngest one sat silently while she titillate her hand over his face. It was early morning on Jagaranth ghat, Ganga was flowing with shame at such sight. Crows flew away seeing the humanity dies. When the sun grew a little louder, she took out a rag from her bag and wrap her mouth in it, to keep shame at the bay of Hooghly. Prostitution in Kolkata was recognized a little early than in any other states. But this open cheerharan was still a matter of disgrace not just for the women but also for the locality around which it happens. It was an everyday things for the white uniformed police. There unstained uniforms doesn’t allow them to stop such malpractice. Rather they were too busy in the rallies of political leaders, pushing the crowd away from place to place. There masculinity lies in obscurity. Just opposite to the Jagaranth ghat, on the other side of Ganga one more life smoked up in marijuana and drenched in the river lies flat on the last step of Holy River. He had a cloud of hair and thin cotton vest on his body, he was on an extreme edge of thinness, but not malnourished. This was his routine, he wake up drenched and go back to sleep, drenched. Not his single day passes with a dry clothes. His mother was afraid that he would catch cold or pneumonia but he assured her that no disease could penetrate him, still his mother prayed day and night for his wellbeing, whereas he a so called Shiv bhakt, take a short of dry marijuana day and night, without a sense of lamentation.
The street of Sonagachi were old and familiar to her subconscious, she first came here when she was sixteen year and three month old, with a man who she hardly knew, from her village promised to get her a respectable job in kolkata. It was quite later when she knew there is no decorous job for a girl like her in twinkling cities. She was sad, but the brightness of eyes of her parents emitting safer tomorrow overcome her sadness, and she simply agreed to disrobe in front of total strangers.
It was not until she turned eighteen that the broker who had shipped her in this rotting and tormented business, popped the blossomed cherry. She never earned what she expected, neither money nor respect. She learned dancing pretty well, she loved dancing, she felt dancing is the only way that gives her solace and comfort. People, married, unmarried, widows, divorced, young, old and very old enjoy her performance lustfully. She hardly notice anyone in the crowded rushing, notes flying people, but there was always one man she couldn’t resist to see. He wear a thin cotton vest and looked like a young sadhu with all his big and cloudy hair and hazy face. She walked in after her performance and tried to catch a sight of him through a little peephole in dressing room.
As soon as her performance over he turn back and move out, and walk all the way down to Hooghly and mix some green toxic leafs with a white powder and fill it up to the brim of an empty cigarette barrel and then twist its ends with pride, before lighting it he took a deep smell of it and feel the orgasm that chase down every man, even in middle of night, to take a shot of it. After the whole business over, he lie down on the ghat at the last step where plain land meets the river and be there until the effect of marijuana gets over. Meanwhile he think about that dancing girl, and the moment when their eyes meet. For him she was a moment of relief in this loud shouting painful world. Her dance moves were so passive that he find himself dancing beside her, sometimes in dreams. From the first day he saw her to this day not a single day had passed that he didn’t thought about her. Whereas she always wondered about the stranger who seemed familiar and different from all the crowded there was a charm in his moves and an unusual look on his face, a look that seem beyond lust and crust. He didn’t loved her but admired her skill. She didn’t loved him but admired his attention. In the meantime both think about one another.
The moment of encounter came around unexpectedly, when she was waiting for her pimp to bring customer and suddenly he showed up. That day he was wearing a black shirt and grey pants. She first felt a little hesitated, but then tried to act normally. “Would you like to come inside?”
He silently looked at her and simply replied
“I don’t have any money.”
If someone else, who had come to her, said those words, she would have reminded him his sister and mother, but today she didn’t feel annoyed, rather she welcomed him in side anyways.
“It’s ok, this way please.”
She lived on the second floor of a ramshackle building that consist of small three by two rooms attached kitchen. It was difficult for a six feet man to lie straight in that room, even diagonally.
He followed her inside to a dingy cell that was dark and mysterious, it smelled rose and Jasmin both at a same time. There was one long carpet that had a hotdog pillow whose covers were damp with sweat of previous customers. She sat down on the carpet and asked him to sit beside her. He removed his flip flop and sat near her maintaining maximum distance possible.
“You come here every day, aren’t you” She said looking at him and trying to make him comfortable.
“Yes, from last six months” He replied trying not to look into her eyes directly.
“Why, do you love me?” She asked in a tone that her pious profession taught her.
“What is Love?” He counter question her.
“You know… “She couldn’t explained.
“No I don’t…” He said mimicking her.
She laughed, bells were ringing in her laughing sound. He looked at her, a wanting look, a look that say million things, but she was perhaps not ready to understand it. For her, these sort of eye contact last until climax, after that things were a little harsh, she was either abused or sometimes beaten. A man’s problem might not be acknowledge by human resources department, but that doesn’t means a man is one hundred percent ok. There are flaws, which are needed to be acknowledge, thinking or giving man a privileged position in the society gives a warm welcome to atrocities on females, solve the man’s problem and you remove all the ill treatment on his counterpart.
Meanwhile they met several times in a day now. She use to make him supper and love to spend time with him. He on the other hand remain mysterious for her, doesn’t reveal too much about himself. He had now stopped consuming all the dry leaves, that first few days gave him serious nausea but later his cravings were sorted with the delicious meal that she use to make for him. They like each other’s company.
Durga Puja was round the corner and she doesn’t had a new Saree, so she asked him for one, He seem a little off the edge when asked. She was finally becoming a demanding women. He hated that at first but again she was the one who had diverge his path from self-destruction. He promised her that he would bring her a nice red Bengali style Saree.
After that he didn’t showed up for three days. She was worried, if she had demanded too much. Phulia, her neighbor, who was bought here nearly at same time from Tribal region of Odisha came hurried into her room and snatched her away to the adjacent room in which two new packed Saree were lying on the carpet.
“Here didi” Phulia who had learned little Hindi by now said “Deb saheb has brought me this, so kind of him na didi.”
She nodded in affirmation. And returned back to her room. After some time, He emerged at her doors with a packet. She was surprised to see him especially the packet, that she doesn’t care to ask him where was he from last three days. He sat beside her and handed her the packet. She was delighted, but tried to remain calm
“What’s in it?” she asked showing fake curiosity.
“Your saree for Durga Pooja” He said.
She danced inside.
“Oh thank you very much” She said opening the packet to find a shining red Saree with white boarder, embroidered with glitter. She hadn’t seen such a beautiful Saree before, she couldn’t wait to call Phulia and show it to her. She was so happy that it took her some time to see a little grim on his face,
“What are you thinking?”, she said realizing how mean she could get.
“Nothing, my mother is ill, she might not see another day.” He said with a hard voice
“What!” she said with a shock.
“Yes, I have spent all my money, on her treatment, now I have nothing” He said with a heavy heart.
She, without giving a second thought, took out her golden ear-rings and handed over to him. He act reluctant at first but then she forced him.
That evening she was getting ready for the Pooja when Phulia barged in.
“Wahl! didi You look so Pretty” Phulia said.
She Laughed, “Dhonyabad Phuli, You too look very pretty”
“Thank you didi see you downstream” Phulia said moving outside.
Just then something strange occur to her.
“Phulia!” She said almost in a screaming tone.
“What didi, what happened?” Phulia re-entered in the room.
“Where did you get those ear-rings from” She said pointing at those familiar flowers shaped ear-rings
.”Oh, this, didi a new Saheb stopped by this afternoon, so generous.” Phulia said.
She felt deep strokes of drum beating in her chest and as this new Saree started wraping itself tightly around her waist. She nearly fall on the dusty carpet. Lifeless. Contemplating the empty, distempered wall.
“What happen didi?” asked Phulia.
(Inspired By Sadat Hasan Manto’s Kali Shalwar)