Reminiscence of life

Not even in my dreams had I imagined myself sitting next to a sex worker watching her adjust dress, smell her loud, cheap perfume and listen to a female tongue that spits countless filthy words in Kannada (translation of those words which, I doubt anyone has ever dared to do.)

It was in the wee hours of a cool and rainy Saturday at Bangalore’s bus stand that a prostitute was just at one arm distance.

The First bus to Mangalore from Bangalore was at 5 am. I was rather too early at the Kempe Gowda Bus Stand (2 am) on that Saturday- the 11 of September. The bus stand was unusually empty that day- being a start of a long weekend and Ganesha Charuthi that day, there were hardly 50 to 60 people. Most of them were fast asleep, even without the tension of bus leaving while they were in dream land.

I made myself comfortable on one of the empty benches at the entrance of the Bus stand. The Hubli and Chitradurga bus conductors were shouting at the top of their voices, as if they were forcing even the no goers to board the bus. 7 buses left the station at a time making majestic even more deserted and resembling a haunted place.

A voice called me from behind - “want pleasure”. A woman in her late 20’s and early 30’s dressed in all glittering clothes with heavy make-up stood there. She repeated- “what kind of pleasure you want- Indian, Foreign?” Cold tremors ran in my spine! Without giving a second look at her I ran away. I neglected her call- “child where are you running.”

How dare she ask me! Do I look like a lecher to her, was the thoughts that ran in my mind. It took half-an-hour for me to come back to normal terms from that fear! (Why fear, I don’t know.)

In the mean while, she got a ‘customer’.

(Lets have a small break from the main story; as from my side there was nothing much happening and what was she doing - I cant write here!:)

Small information for you: Every night, three autos wait behind the KSRTC buses that are parked at the entrance of the bus stand.These autos’ wait for special customers’.

It is estimated that more than 50 sex workers are at the bus stand, most of whom work for the sake of food and life and others for the sake of loot and lavishing lifestyle. (Yes, there have been instances where ‘customers’ have been beaten up and are looted of their bounty! And the worst part of it is the police officials know about these incidents and as usual are doing noting. Tell me why would anyone put an axe to the extra income?)

All the above information I came to know from Raju, an auto driver at the bus stand. (Raju is a man about whom one can write a 500 word story, but the problem is he don’t want “publicity”.)

Let us come back to the main story. I was with Raju, who came back after dropping a passenger when she came back.

Adjusting her distorted make-up she walked towards us. Pointing finger at me, she said to Raju “is this child your friend anna.” Raju smiled and said “yes”.

Turning towards me he asked “Do you know Nalini (her real name)? Did you *****? ”

She busted into laughter. “He ran away when I asked him,” she said and left us in search of a new customer. I could see a snigger on the face of Raju, but could not help much from ignoring him. After few minutes he said, “she is a nice girl… situation turned her that way.” I did not respond to him, as the anger of calling me a “child” still ran high.

It was about 3 am when she came to Raju’s auto in which we were sitting. Raju and I were seated in the rear and she took the driver’s seat. I prepared myself to move but Raju held my hand asked to sit. “She won’t do anything to you… I am here.” Both of them had another round of laugh at that joke, which I really did not enjoy much!

''How do you know this child, anna” Nalini asked Raju. He replayed- “Sir, is a journalist- working with Deccan Herald. You know Prajavani … ya the English version of that.” (In my mind I said- thank god my Editor is not here else he would have committed suicide had he heard this “English version of his brother newspaper”.)

She had just one word answer- NO. “I know only police dairy, crime beat, Agni and Hai Bangalore. All of them have carried my photo on front page one or the other time,” she smiled, so did I.

“So you are a Journalist, sir,” she asked with a changed tone. From Child I was a sir now! I nodded. Never before had I felt so proud of being a Journalist as I felt then. Not just her tone there after her behavior, her sitting poster all started to change. The ‘Dupatta’ which was high at the neck slid down covering a small mole, scars made by cigarette stubbing and a good part of her cleavages which were visible because of her deep neck chudi. (Adjusting it she said, that was to attract men. I don’t think I need them now.) Later she added that the scars that were visible near the neck and chest were caused by cigarettes’ (there were some 6-7 such marks which I could notice in that area.)

There was a kind of uncomfortable silence for a while, before I broke it- “since when are you in this business?”

“Bussiness…ha. I am selling my body for past 13 to 14 years…” she answered with a false smile on her face.

“You call this business? We call it livelihood,” she stopped it there itself without explaining further. I felt ashamed of that wrong word- business (but, I did not know a better word). I asked sorry for that and she did not reply it with “its ok”, making me clear of what was in-store for the future discussion.

“Sir tell me one thing, why is that: what we do in darkness is a crime where as those rich girls who do it on the screen (to light action camera) an entertainment? Whose skin have you seen more, people like me or Malaika, Bipasha or those white skinned heroines of Hollywood, who are so eager to shed their clothes as if they are carrying a heavy burden on them? Why is that there’s called as professionals and ours as business?

My answer to that was a smile accepting defeat!

“Most of us working here do not wish to take our cloths off, but if we don’t our family and our own stomach won’t be filled,” she put a period to that conversation. Her question in one or the other way were pinning at my being the educated and learned man --- “when you have so much of knowledge about life then why don’t you work hard in some place ? Why this filthy life?”

“Who will give work to an illiterate, and the knowledge you are talking about is what I learnt from life not from books. A girl, aged 13, when asked to stand naked for Rs.200 by a hospital compounder has left with no future sir. Her life changes for ever after that,” she said. I think I saw a drop of tear in her eyes (though I am not sure as she had turned away from us.)

“What, I said” the loudest sound I had made after meeting her. “Yes,” was the only thing she said.

My journalist senses started striking at a higher speed (a child molestation case by a hospital staff was in-front of me. What more you want than this as a JOURNALIST???).

“Sir, my mother was very ill; the government doctor in Karnool asked my mother to get admitted in Bangalore’s big hospital, so my mother and I came here. The money which we brought for treatment got over within two hours after landing here. The Doctor, at St. John’s hospital, after testing my mother gave her a prescription. The chemist said that the medicine cost Rs150, sir this was in 1993, and we did not have a single rupee in hand. Sitting in a corner I was crying of hunger and not able to arrange for medicine, when an old man-aged around 60-65 came to me asked what the problem was? I narrated him everything, he took me into his arms as if to console. He asked me to come along with him and he will arrange money for medicines. He took me to an isolated room.

Sir he made a great deal – stand naked and I will give you Rs 300, twice what I actually needed then. Tears still rolled out from my eyes. Holding my hands tightly he shouted “make it fast else someone will come, then I will not give you money.” “Sir tell me what should I have done then,” she asked me. “Only two weeks back I had attained puberty.”

He was about to leave when I called him back. “I did what he asked me to do- stood there without a single piece of cloth on me. Shame had engulfed me.

“That budda’s meter was off,” she laughed. “He came to me touched my tiny cleavages, neck portion, waist, pressed hips and put finger in my groin .” I don’t know what pleasure he got (for me it was ticklish). He hugged me twice tried to take my boobs into his mouth, when he heard someone’s footsteps. He pulled five hundred rupee notes and placed it in my groin and ran away.

“I told my mother that I stole that money from someone." Sir, robbery is better than selling body- this truth was taught to me by life. "My Mother slapped me, cried but knew that we had no other option. Doctor asked us to come after 6 weeks and said that if she takes medicines properly there was nothing to worry.

“Sir, if life decides to take one in a direction, you can not do much. The money we had was enough for only one to go home. My mother was in deep sleep after taking medicine.

I begged the conductor to take both of us and I will pay him once we reach home. He did not agree. Without shame I even asked him if he wish to see me naked and allow me to travel home.” The conductor placed a tight slap on my chin and threw me out of bus.

The bus left. I was in this same bus stand crying, when Suresh, my agent or adopted elder brother took me to a slum.

“I knew only one thing I needed money to go home and I knew how I can earn.” I went back to St. John’s hospital in search of that old man- I didn’t know his name or his post. I searched the entire hospital but could not find him.

Suresh told me where to stand to get ‘customer’. “My first customer offered me Rs 250. I said yes as that was enough for me to go home.” He took me to a cheap hotel nearby railway station. Before he could say anything I stood in-front of him naked, thinking that he would just touch me everywhere, try to take my breast into his mouth, press my hip more times and leave me. But, there, he was not alone; along with him there were four more people. And this time they were not in a mood to touch me but to …. (words stopped in her mouth. And this time I could really make-out that she was crying, her voice was low, the dupatta went regularly to eyes to wipe out the tears.)

Sir, like dogs they bite me everywhere, they rubbed me, one went inside me from the front while other from behind. My mouth was stuffed with two men’s genitals while the fifth guy was beating me every where he can lay his hand, making my white skin red.

I was left behind in a bleeding and unconscious condition. Even without paying the promised Rs 250. Police was called by the hotel manager. They took me to government hospital. For four days I could not get up from bed.

I was in the police list now. They had demanded Rs 5000 from Suresh for my release. After great deal of assurance from him and another elder man the police officials let me out (after pocketing Rs 3000) and even the hospital bill due was Rs 750. Sir, I had to pay all of that, and the most shocking news came after two weeks. I missed my first menstrual cycle.

“There are so many girls here who have missed their first cycle.” “Sir, when your wife or sister become mother you and she would celebrate but when I became pregnant everyone around me cried. Suresh took me to a quack and removed it. Even I didn’t know whose child it was!”

It was 3 AM when she started to travel back into her life and when she stopped at this point it was 4.10AM. My bus from Tirupathi came, Raju as usual informed the conductor to reserve a special seat (ya that’s for me).

I kept my bag on the seat and came back to auto. She was still there. Eyes wet, face with a watermark after tears ran on that heavily powdered face. She looked at me and smiled, I returned the same.

She was good looking. Fair skin, well maintained figure, boobs big enough to attract lechers like us and a smile that could have made any men fall prey for her beauty.

“Because of me you might have lost earnings today,” I said. She replayed, “not a problem sir, I can earn that whenever I want, but I may not be able to share thing like this again and again.”

Looking at her Tali, I asked her, you married? Your husband is ok with it? She said, “No I am not. This is for safety. When police raid, I can show them that it is couple and not business.” But it is of no use as most of the police officials who come for raid know me and a few of them have even slept with me in their police jeep, she giggles.

She has visited quack six times to get aborted, and she desires to have a son and didn’t say the reasons as to why she is not having.

I was curious to know how much she earned every month- she told me that she earn anywhere between 15,000 to 25,000 on regular seasons and the amount would cross 40,000 in the month of Ashada, when newly married couples maintain abstinence.

After all deduction – that is mamul to police, her body guard and fancy cloths, makeup and medicine, every month she saves Rs 2000

And how much she charges each men? – It depends on the number of people. For one it’s anywhere between Rs 300 to Rs 500. And more than one you multiply it with Rs 500. My childhood mistake has taught me a lesson sir, so to be on safer side I have gang of people who will follow me everywhere. Now I can satisfy 5 to 6 people easily, without being hospitalized, she laughs.

Finally going into her world- the Kempe Gowda Bus stand, she said, for everyone its Rs 500, but for you tonight its free, “want pleasure” she laughed. This time too I ran, not fearing her but to catch bus.

Sitting in the special seat I recalled, my IIJNM’s batch mate - Jothi Sharma’s documentary about child prostitutes in Bangalore (watch her documentary here), where young girls were raped in men’s toilet, police station and every places possible and forced into the flesh trade. A girl was made to run naked in the whole city by a group of boys.

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Bangalore, Karnataka, India
Has not excavated fully. There are half baked feelings, desires and ambitions. But a heart to complete and compel.

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