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Monday, January 18, 2010

In Search of Solace

I sat by the French window of my 22nd floor apartment. I could hear the faint sound of waves hitting against the rocks on the shore of the bandstand. I did this every morning when I got back from work. The strange relationship the waves shared with the rocks fascinated me. Sometimes, the waves kissed the rocks softly, sometimes, they cuddled, but most of the times, whipped them hard, eroding their surfaces. It was indeed a reflection of my life.
It was hard for me to accept that this was my last evening in Mumbai. I always associated ‘dusk’ with pessimism and loneliness. In reality, that was the time, my day began. I felt the warm rays of the setting sun on my face. Some of them made their way through a small opening, dimly lighting my drawing room. The room looked so organized and clean. Not like the room that I had lived in for the last three years, littered with packets of cigarettes, ash trays, empty bottles of Smirnoff and colorful lingerie scattered all over the place.
Tonight, I was going to have a peaceful sleep in “my house”. I wasn’t holding a Marlboro Lights between my fingers. It was a cup of hot coffee this time. I was going to miss him. Not just miss him, but miss him terribly. Two huge drops of tears filled my eyes and rolled down my cheeks as I batted my lashes. I vaguely picked up my diary and counted the drops on its surface that had made a feeble attempt to smudge my name. I was in no mood to interpret its symbolism. I lifted a pen and rewrote my name, remembering the first time I met him at Marine Drive.
It was a chilling December night when I was desperately trying to find a cab. I was wearing a cobalt blue one piece with matching velvet sandals. I finally saw a cab and dashed into the backseat. He raced from across the road and got into the cab from the other door. I was angered by his act and reacted by shooting swearwords at him.
“I’m sorry Ma’am; I wasn’t able to find a single cab for the past half an hour. It is already 1, so I don’t know how long it will take to find another one. I’m going to Andheri. I would be glad to drop you to your destination first and then go home.” he said breathlessly.
I was mesmerized by his politeness. He certainly belonged to some rare species. In today’s world, who had the time to be “civilized”? It was my fault. I always judged the world from my perspective. He looked into my eyes. It seemed like he had just seen an angel. Yes, I was beautiful. I had a creamy skin, light eyes, brown silky hair which O’Henry would accurately compare to a “cascade of brown waters” and a body straight out of one of Botticelli’s paintings. I loved to ornament this figure with accessories bought from all parts of the world.
“Thanks a lot”, I said, parting my lips just a little. I had smoked a cigarette and for some unknown reason, I did not want him to know that. I quickly popped a mint into my mouth.
“Do you work here?” he asked making himself comfortable in the backseat.
I did not know what to say. I wasn’t really prepared for this question.
“I am an Event Manager!” I exclaimed. Although I was pleased with myself for conjuring up the career, I later felt a little embarrassed. The “Event Manager” bit had sounded too loud.
“Our company organizes functions at the BCCI, Taj, Oberoi and many other five star hotels. Most of the times it is past midnight as the parties last for a long time.” I said.

“That’s a good profession. There is a lot of scope for creativity. Better than software professionals at least! I belong to that breed. ..Sit before that computer day after day till your eyes pop out!”
“Heh! Technology can do that to you.” I said, amused by our directionless conversation.
“Oh! By the way, do you realize? We have been talking endlessly for the last half an hour and we don’t know each other’s names!” he said.
“Oh yaa…I’m Kamini” I said starting to enjoy the conversation a bit.
“And I’m Anish…” he said with a broad smile.
We exchanged our mobile numbers and E-mail IDs before I reached Bandra. He dropped me right up to my doorstep. There was something magnetic about his personality. I had never felt so secure with a man. The chat refreshed and soothed me. He was someone who I knew was attracted to me, but with a good intention. He did not size me up and down and make me feel disgusted about myself.
I couldn’t sleep much that night. Random thoughts were speeding across my mind like cars on a highway. Yes, I had been to Taj, Oberoi and other five star hotels. But…not to organize an event…It was because I was called…I had to be there in the room at a given time-mostly during the night. At times, there was one man, at times two, at times even five- then there would be other girls like me in the room and they all had their turns on us. I had to behave like I was told, get their drinks in place, have a shower with them and then wait patiently in bed for things to follow up. I had done it so many times, that it had now become a part of my routine. The next morning, I would wake up to find myself alone in the room with the cash left for me at the dressing table.
However, after three years of being in the profession, I had gradually gotten the liberty to choose my clients. There was Mr.Mehta, a rich businessman who had divorced his wife a year earlier for not being able to conceive. Excessive drinking, smoking and the resulting depression had made him put on weight. Mr. Chawla was the marketing head of a chain of restaurants in town. He always came across as a pompous, fun-loving man and referred to me as a “Commercial Sex Worker”. Mr. Trivedi was an old bachelor who paid me for my companionship. He was charming man with silky grey hair falling on his shiny forehead. A small dimple adorned his right cheek. He was one of the few people who bothered to know whether I had eaten and slept properly. A number of young boys were a part of my clientele. They all experienced common problems like failed relationships, unemployment and frustration.
Nothing really changed after I met Anish. My life was still the same except for our occasional talks on the phone and Google TM talks during nights when I was home. As our conversations increased, so did my guilt. I had spun a false identity for a boy who had started to love me and me him. On many occasions, I was on the verge of telling him the truth but something held me back. I wouldn’t have feared if it was someone else…but it was ‘Anish’…I was afraid he’d hate me if he discovered the truth. It then struck me that I had started liking him too. It wasn’t intense love initially. It was the feeling of finding the right person who understood me and with whom I could share my thoughts. It would be ironic to say, “Who knew me well”. I had never given him that chance.
We met again after two months. I was with one of my clients at Hilton towers. It was 7 am when someone knocked on the door of the room.
“Mr. Malhotra?” he whispered softly.
I got up and put on my night gown hastily. My bra was lying on the floor and my panty was lying on the other side of the dressing table. The room still smelled of Marlboro lights and Antiquity from the previous night. What happened after I opened the door was something that I have tried hard to forget but not been able to. He was terrified with what he had just seen. I thought he wanted to slap me hard but he clenched his fists and controlled himself as he glanced at Mr.Malhotra, his boss, who was still in bed, with the mink blanket just about covering the lower half of his body. I had betrayed Anish. I had cheated on a person who was so close to my heart. I knew he wasn’t my boyfriend and that we weren’t committed. However, somewhere down the line we both knew that there was an unspoken, unusual bond that we shared.
“Ann-Aniishhh…please let me explain…wait a minute…please…” I said as he walked away in rage.
“What do you want to explain now? Everything is over! I can’t believe you could….” He said flinging his hand I was trying to catch.
“Aniisshh…at least listen to me…” I said following him round the confusing corridors.
“Leave me alone Kamini…and don’t talk to me ever again…” he said as he banged the door of his room on my face.
This incident changed my life. I called him, messaged him, and mailed him, but in vain. He blocked me on G-talk too. I do not blame him for what happened. I was scared to tell him the truth because I would then lose him. But now, I had lost him. No amount of crying was going to help. Cigarettes and hard drinks had made me fragile and weak to an extent where I couldn’t even glance at myself in the mirror. My tears smudged the kohl under my eyes making it even worse. I looked like a tuberculosis victim.
I never thought that my strong personality would disintegrate so rapidly because of one man. There was nothing I could do to make things better. Anish had a strong influence on my life. It wasn’t that I couldn’t live without him, but I knew I needed him. There were times when I had longed to be in his arms and cry. I wanted to belong to him and only him…but it was too late for that.
That night I was called by a client at the Renaissance. I entered the room to find a boy sitting on the edge of the double bed. He seemed to be in his mid-twenties. At least his body language and his choice of clothes depicted that. He wore dark blue jeans with a cream tee tucked carelessly into it. His was hiding his face by cupping his palms. The room smelt of fresh roses. I entered slowly into the room so as not to break the silence.
I was in no mood to pursue my profession any further after what had happened. However, it would take a while to find another job. It was around half an hour and the boy did not show any signs of getting close to me. In a way I was relieved. My guilt was anyways killing me. After about five minutes, he came and sat next to me.
“How much do you charge for a night?” he asked. His face was red from crying. Only a break up or a death in the family can do that to a person.
“Uhh—Eight Thousand” I said, with an expression of discomfort.
“I want to spend the night with you. I won’t touch you. I only need your company.” He said wiping his tears away.
I did not know how to respond. I had never come across a client who cried so intensely. I consoled him by giving him a glass of cold water.
“What’s wrong?” I asked patting his shoulder, adding-
“You can tell me if you want to…”
“God is unfair…I loved her more than my life…for five years we were together… five years… do you know what that means…and then ‘HE’…that f**king ***hole to whom people pray, worship and dedicate flowers and sweets killed her in a train accident last week. Our dreams are shattered to pieces…and as I helplessly try to pick up these pieces and put them together, I cut myself…I hurt myself…I cry, scream…but destiny shows no mercy…” he said wiping his nose to a soiled napkin.
His name was Rishi. Our life stories weren’t similar, but I could connect to his feelings. I had lost my partner too. We talked to each other almost for the entire night. He felt better listening to my story. We sometimes like to see other people suffer when we ourselves are going through a rough phase in life. I think it was a little bit of that for both of us. Just speaking to him made me change many of the pre-conceived notions that I had about myself. I realized my real worth, my true potential. I was now confident that I could do much more in life than just being a “Call-girl”. I wasn’t meant to be just that. I did not charge Rishi for that night. Not because he did not touch me…because he had unconsciously and unknowingly shown me a brighter path in life.
I applied for the post of a fitness trainer in a nearby gym. I had pursued a one year course in Fitness and Yoga after my graduation. My greed to earn quick money and wear expensive clothing and chic accessories had landed me into this profession. I earned 8,000 a month- what I charged for a single night earlier.
The subsequent sudden but positive changes in my life made me feel proud. I quit smoking and the cocktails were replaced by mock tails. I regained my lost weight through a healthy diet. It felt good to take a glance in the mirror now. My skin was glowing and my hair had regained its lost silkiness.
After about three months, as I was standing in the queue to buy a ticket at Bandra, I heard a familiar voice- a voice that was strange, a voice that I was on the verge of forgetting. I turned around to see ‘Anish’. It was the second awkward meeting in a row. We did not speak for five minutes. I could actually sense the tension and decided to break the ice.
“Hi Anish. It’s been quite long…” I realized the lead was stupid. I shouldn’t have spoken in the first place.
“Hi...” he said in a reluctant manner. There was something holding him back. He had the same look in his eyes that he had six months earlier when we met for the first time. I knew he was charmed by my appearance. I seemed healthier and all the more gorgeous this time.
“I want to apologize for what happened, Anish. I did not want to hurt you in this manner. I realized a lot of things after we stopped talking to each other…” I could not speak anymore. One, because of the stinking platform and then, because I thought he knew what I wanted to say.
“Can we please go and sit somewhere if you have time?” I asked, hoping he would say ‘Yes’.
“I think…we should…” he said hesitantly.
We went to a nearby coffee outlet. It had been six months, and I wanted to pour my heart out to him, hug him and tell him how much I had missed him. I told him what had happened in the three months after. He listened to everything I had to say without uttering a word.
“Don’t you want to say anything?” I asked, unable to handle the suspense he had built by keeping quiet.
“Kamini…I just want to tell you that I did love you. But… I don’t know if I still love you…You…or the false identity that you had created for me…I missed you too…but the feeling of being deceived still haunts me. Had I not come into Mr.Malhotra’s room that morning, I would never have known the truth.”
I could sense that the matter was getting extremely difficult to resolve. I had hurt him and he would never in his life give me a second chance.
“I’m sorry Kamini…I tried getting over you but I’m still confused. Accepting whatever happened is not so easy…At least for me. I need some time…” he said. It felt like he wanted to run away.
“Ok...I’ll leave you alone. Take your own time-” I said, leaving the half-filled coffee on the table.
I walked out of the café without turning back.
“Some time…I really don’t know what he means by that…” I said to myself.
I came home. I hadn’t told Anish anything about my plan to go to Bangalore. I was going to open my own Yoga institute and that was quite an achievement for me. It was not so easy for me to forget him.
I opened my diary and wrote on the last page of what I had titled “An Unforgettable Companion”…

I met Anish for one last time today…At least that’s what I think. I don’t want to say that I am disturbed. Of course I am…I’m human too. But this meeting was essential. At least now, I know what he feels. I don’t blame him for his strange behavior. I don’t blame myself either…and that’s because I have reformed myself.
In the coming years, we may meet, we may not...but I will never forget that it was ‘Rishi’ who contributed the most towards bringing about this drastic change in my personality, profession and lifestyle. I’m flying to Bangalore tomorrow morning to pursue my goal with confidence and without regrets. I hope everything will work out fine.
I slept quite well that night. In the morning, I cleared my apartment. The cab was waiting for me downstairs. I loaded it with my belongings. I took a last look at the sea face…at my French window…I was leaving all this behind to embark on a new journey…to begin a new chapter on a fresh page…a chapter that would make my life more fulfilling and enriching…