It was one of those journeys. Seated across her, I stared outside at the railway station. The hustle and bustle was as intricate part of the platform as her darting eyes. Yet they maintained a steelness in them.
As the train caught speed towards Vishakapatnam, my eyes reverted back to her. The bruise on her right cheek was pronounced, maybe as recent as yesterday. She had a cut from the corner of her right lips, her hands in loosely tied bandages, hiding the fresh blood in her knuckles. Her feet were worse. The nails were dirty, broken and one could see the fresh bruises. But the resoluteness in her eyes, the fit posture of her sitting and her slightly torn clothes spoke volumes. There was a madness in her eyes. A fire raging?
Tentatively, I put my hand on her shoulder and her eyes darted towards me. ‘What?’ she pounded.
I pointed to her mangled hair and asked if I could comb them. She looked at me for a moment and said yes. As she turned her back towards me, I took hold of her hair and applied oil, as I slowly tried to comb it. She looked at me and said, ’It was an experiment gone wrong. I thought I could fulfil my carnal pleasures without attachments. But He was a Bull.’ I did not ask, just nodded and prodded her to speak. ‘Every year, after I get my bonus at work, I take a break of 15 days and come to Sonaguchi, West Bengal. I have a known person who works as a pimp. He helps me to get clients and I go out with them as an escort. No strings attached. I have been doing this for the last four years and this is my fifth year. Till now, everything was okay but this time, I met Jaikishen. He took me to a club and we went to Victoria Memorial. But from there he took me to a hotel in Camac Street where I thought my journey would end. But no. He was caught by his wife and she beat the black and blue out of me…’
I was too inquisitive to hold my questions. Promptly, I asked her, ’You speak immaculate English and sound like you come from a decent background. Why all this?’ She turned her head as I had finished braiding her hair and with a wry smile smile she said, ‘I am writing a thesis on Discrimination of Women at Work – From the Eyes of a Brothel Keeper. I am nearing completion but this happened and I had to flee Kolkata, just in case my identity was exposed.’ I just could not hold my curiosity, ’but why in the world are you risking your body to catch HIV and maybe turn up dead too?’. She looked at me wryly,’ Dead I am a long time ago. I just donot want to see others around me suffering. Maybe I can make a difference..’ I muttered a weak yes and wondered about her ‘carnal pleasures and thesis’.
The train came to a stop at Vishakapatnam. I stretched and she alighted from the train towards a Man ardently, eagerly waiting for her. She flew into his arms and tightly held him to dear life. She turned around, as if knowing I was looking at her. She beckoned me and as I walked and stood next to her , she introduced me to the Man. ‘Meet my husband Mr.VR. He is a owner of a slew of hospitals here and Chennai’.
My head spun.How in the world could a woman, leave behind her husband and normal life to play with fire to prove point through experiences that could mar her for life as well as fulfill her carnal pleasures outside her seemingly happy marriage?’ she winked at me. As the train blew the horn, I ran back to my seat, only to realise, I did not ask her name, where did she come from and where will she go. But yes, I had the title to her thesis and am still on the lookout for it.