The Woman And Her Woes
The Woman And Her Woes11 mins 218 11 mins 218
“Ankush, I think you’ll be perfect for this. Be in our team please,” said the guy next to him. “Ankush, remember we won the last time? We are always perfect together. Please be on my team,” Kiran said. Everyone was looking towards him waiting for him to answer. He seemed to have no second thoughts.
“Kiran is my best friend. I am always on Kiran’s side,” he said. Succinct. Straight. Clear. “Thanks, man!” Kiran said happily. “These gays are so loyal. Haha, another win for us,” Kiran said walking away.
The clock struck four. “I’ll leave for the day,” Ankush said. His college is a walkable distance away from his home. He started walking back home with lots of thoughts in his mind. He hated being treated like an abnormal person. He wanted to be treated equally. He spent another sleepless night. The next morning, the first thing he noticed was red lipstick on the table. The new bright red lipstick.
His mother walked into the room just as he was about to apply her new lipstick. She was startled. He was startled. "What are you doing with my lipstick? It's new...I haven't used it so far. Couldn't you have waited?" He smiled and handed it back to her. "I forgot to tell you...I am playing Draupadi in our college production... rehearsals start this evening."
“That’s very nice to hear, Ankush. I think Draupadi must be a lady. Is it why you’re applying the lipstick to see how you look like?” “Maa, how come you don’t know about Draupadi? She is an important character in Mahabharata.”
“You need not remind me how uneducated I am. You can just tell me who she is.”
He felt sorry for hurting her. “Maa, I am sorry. I love you. Education has nothing to do with true oneself. Being a single mom, I feel so proud of how you’ve brought me up.” She remained silent.
“By the way, why don’t you come and see for yourself? Like you say, actions speak louder than words. You’ll love the play,” Ankush continued.
“When is it?”
“17th November, Maa.”
She was excited but got reminded that 17th November is Friday. Unlike other jobs where weekends are for relaxing, her job demands more work on the weekends. “How I wish, Anku. But I have an appointment. Maybe the next time.”
“Maa, there is no way you’re not coming. Please. One day.”
“Umm, I am not sure.”
He was upset. She hated seeing him upset. She wanted to cheer him up.
“Anku, so what are the plans? Have you practiced yet? Who else is performing with you?”
“Kiran and I are the main roles. We will practice tomorrow. I have a good idea of the role. So I will practice directly in the rehearsals.”
“That’s great, Anku. What about Kiran?”
He remained silent.
“Anku, is everything alright?”
“Maa, is being gay wrong?”
Before she could answer, he continued, “When I first told you that I was gay, you said it is okay, right? You didn’t even give much thought to it. You said it shouldn’t make a difference to anything. That it’s absolutely normal. When I told you that I liked playing makeup games like girls, you said that that wasn’t wrong. Were you genuine, Maa? Or is it that you didn’t want to upset me?”
Sarita remained composed. “I am always genuine with you. There is nothing wrong about being gay. We need not even talk about it.” Ankush stayed calm for a moment. “Maa, then why does Kiran always say, ‘These gay people’ and everyone starts chuckling?”
She was furious but tried to keep the composure. “The world is always ready to point fingers at you. It’s up to you how gracefully you respond to it. Never stay calm. The more you stay calm, the more you are encouraging the behaviour.”
Ankush was listening curiously all the while. He had tears in his eyes by the end. “Maa, but why me?” he blurted out. She hugged him and kissed him on his forehead.
“It’s just that the majority of the world is straight. You are one among the minority. That’s all. That shouldn’t make them bully you. Learn to answer back, Anku.”
“Maa, does that mean I am special?”
“Being gay has nothing to do with being special or not. It’s an accident and this shouldn’t make you special. What makes you special is how you embrace life as it comes. What makes you special is how you stand out of the crowd with what you do.” Ankush looked relaxed now. He looked content after listening to her.
“Maa, I want to be special.”
“Work towards it. You will be.”
“I will perform well in the skit. Will that make me special?”
“It will, Anku. Time for work. I should leave early today.”
“I love you, mom,” he said going to his room.
“I love you too, Anku.”
She left for work after doing the touch-up to her makeup.
“Madame, please let me take a leave this Friday. I came early so that I can compensate. I will work more till Friday.”
“You’re lucky. We’ve customers already today,” said the lady in bold voice ignoring the later part of Sarita’s talk. Sarita spent the next three days coming early and serving the customers.
The clock struck 12 and the date changed to 17th November. She was excited about the day. He was excited about the day. Sarita’s phone started ringing.
“Sarita, listen. Just come here once. This client thinks only you can do the job well. Just do the job and leave.”
“Madame, I worked for those three days only to skip this day. I don’t think I can make it now.”
“Weekend is the time you get so much work and you say you can’t do it. You’re coming,” Madame said and cut the call.
“Anku, all the best for today,” she said and left.
Sarita had no option but to go to work at that odd hour. She served her customers continuously.
The clock struck 2 P.M. “Get the job done soon, please. I need to go,” she said with a straight look on her face. “I… I am scared,” he said with tears in his eyes.
“Madame! He is a first timer. Not doing the job,” she shouted.
“Sarita! Don’t waste your time. There are other people. Send him here.”
“Stop your dramatic tears now and go to Madame,” she said opening the door to let him go.
He ran outside crying.
“Madame, send someone else. Not first timers, please. I need to go in a couple of hours. I can’t waste my time with the first timers.”
“Forty year old this time. Experienced too. You can go back in an hour,” Madame said.
A man opened the door and came inside. Dressed in formals, he had long hair. Long curly hair. He came into the room setting his hair. “I have to go back in a couple of hours. We should do it soon.”
“Talk about it later,” he said spitting the pan he was chewing.
The job took more time than expected. The man didn’t leave till 4:30 P.M. Ankush’s play is at 5:00 P.M. She wanted to make it to the play and surprise Ankush. “4:30 already. I need to go,” she said and left the room.
“Madame, it’s already late. Please give me the cash for today. I will leave.”
“Here, take 5000 rupees.”
“Madame, why? I came early today and a good number of clients came.”
“But this is the peak hour and you’re leaving.”
“Madame, please.” Madame laughed hysterically. Knowing that Madame was not going to give, she left the place.
“Auto... auto... Xavier’s college?”
She didn’t sleep the whole night and served her clients continuously. Too tired and too much in a hurry to negotiate, she got into the auto without saying a word. She reached the college at 5:15 P.M. Giving money to the auto driver and going to the stage inside the college took another five minutes.
By the time she went there, Ankush was on stage. Ankush wore a beautiful sari and looked beautiful with the bindi, lipstick, bangles, and other ornaments. Sarita was occupied looking at him. She was inattentive to what others on the stage were doing.
Moments later, Kiran starts disrobing Draupadi. “What’s happening?” Sarita thought. “O Lord! O ruler of Dwaraka! O All-powerful ruler of the world! Save my honour, my Lord! Save my honour! O Krishna!” Draupadi pleaded.
“Dushasana is so evil,” said the lady beside Sarita rolling her eyes. “I think he can be regarded as the most evil character in the whole Mahabharata. How can someone pull a woman’s sari?” seconded another lady while glaring at Kiran.
“So Kiran is Dushasana,” Sarita thought.
“Krishna, Krishna!” the lady started shouting again. Like she shouted, Krishna indeed came to the rescue.
Dushasana unwrapped layers and layers of Draupadi’s sari. As her sari kept getting extended, everyone looked upon in awe, and Dushasana himself was forced to stop due to exhaustion.
Everyone in the crowd started clapping. Sarita followed the crowd but her thought was somewhere else. Body present there, mind somewhere else.
The stage started to get veiled with a maroon curtain. “On the 16th day of Kurukshetra War, Dushasana gets killed. This goes on to say that no one who insults a woman will be spared. Not even the great princes,” said someone in the backdrop on the mic. Everyone got gleeful. Sarita broke down into tears.
She got reminded of how she was raped for the first time when she was 12. Pulling her hair and tearing her frock into pieces, four men took all of her. They bit her, licked her, and took her away. She was taken to an odd place where women were roaming half naked. There were posters of porn stars. Elder women were chewing tobacco and counting cash.
She was thrown near one such lady. Everyone called her Madame.
“New piece,” the men said.
“Well, she deserves that. Fresh?”
“Was fresh until this morning,” they said and laughed.
Madame joined the hysterical laughter.
“Hey, what’s your name?” Madame said tapping Sarita with her feet.
“Madame, I want to go back home,” Sarita said crying in pain.
“This is your home from now on,” Madame said and asked another girl to take her into a room.
“Hi, I am Latha. See, once you come here, you can’t go back home. No matter what.”
“But I want to go home. It’s very painful. All my body is hurting. I want my mom. I want my dad. Please let me go home. Please,” begged Sarita.
“Look, the beginning is always like this. After a few years, it’ll be difficult for you to even think of leaving this place. First, you’ll hate this. Then, you will get used to this. And then, you’ll not be able to survive without this.”
“Please let me go home. Please.”
Latha gave up and went into another room to fetch Sarita some food. “Look, have this. You got to have the energy for the night. Have this,” Latha said. “No, I don’t want anything. Just help me get out of here.”
Latha came closer to Sarita. “Please have this. Please think of me as your mom.” Sarita started eating. She didn’t like the flavour, colour, taste, or anything about the food she was eating but her body wanted something.
“I know it’s difficult but sleep for a while. I will be around you.”
“But can’t I go home?”
Latha took Sarita into her lap and caressed her saying, “No.”
The first night was quite difficult for Sarita. Strange men came, selected her, and played with her body. The following night, she was down with fever.
“I gave 20k for you, understand? I feed you, give shelter to you. Still, you fall sick?” Madame yelled at her. “Latha, I don’t care. I want her to serve at least one customer today.” The second night seemed more difficult. She complained to Latha about how a man continuously bit her. “They are men. So they can do anything to us,” was Latha’s reply.
Weeks passed by and her health got deteriorated day by day. “Waste of giving 20k for you,” Madame said and kicked Sarita with her foot. “This is the reality. You should accept it. Go and massage Madame’s feet so that she forgives you,” Latha said. Sarita obliged.
As months passed, she started getting used to it. Years passed and she got acquainted with this life.
She got pregnant when she was 20. Madame was angry with her but Sarita begged her to leave her alone for a year. Sarita wanted to have the baby. She wanted someone in her life.
“I will work more time after the child’s birth. Please, Madame?” Sarita pleaded massaging Madame’s feet. Sarita took a flat away from the brothel. She shared the flat with a working lesbian.
Next few months, the women spent knowing each other and talking about life. Sarita liked the new perspective. The world looked different to her. Staying away from Madame and that world, Sarita realized she didn’t want to be there anymore. She wanted a new job. A new dignified job. She roamed places but nothing worked.
Ankush was born. Sarita took an oath to keep Ankush away from all these things. She was determined to never let Ankush know any of these things.
She ran out of cash soon. She went to Madame again. Madame and Sarita came into agreement that Madame should pay Sarita on a daily basis. She stopped searching for any other work now. Because it was the only quick and more paying job she could fetch herself.
Years passed and Sarita could no longer leave the job. Brutal but high paying job. When Ankush asked her what her job was about, she used to tell him that she is a customer service agent and so she needs to go whenever there are customers. Irrespective of the hour, day, health.
Sarita was lost in thought. She felt nauseated watching the skit. “Men who disrobe women without their consent are to be punished,” she thought to herself.
“The addiction I am into is more dangerous than anything else,” she repeated to herself. Ankush came running towards her then.
“Thank you, thank you for coming. This is the best surprise ever. I was so glad to see you. How did I do?”
“Too good to be true. That’s a great skit.”
“Yeah! Thank you. I am so glad you came. How come there are no appointments today?”
“No more appointments from now, Anku.”
“I want to get a life,” she said.