It is quite late at night and as the world outside settles in quietude, the loneliness gets heavy within the house; Tanu’s house, the only house in the block with its lights still blazing, announcing the sleeplessness of its occupant. It has stopped raining. Tanu felt restless. It’s been like this throughout the evening. The TV soaps seemed routine, the music made her edgy and the latest gossip column were nothing less than boring. She stood in front of the stained glass window. In the morning, the light percolating through these uneven coloured scraps has a magical effect. But now there is no light, only the opacity, only the reflections. She scrutinizes her reflection minutely on the window panes, a funny image. Is it really her? Taking off her slip, she observes her twisted and distorted body; her head pyramidal and perched on an overstretched and cork-screw neck, her left breast green and uneven, the right one concave and ochre, a blue abdomen…. She observes with amusement, and tries to come out of her oppressive evening blues.
‘You have a brilliant brown complexion.’ Soumya always flatters her, ‘It’s unique.’
‘Your ex was Afro-American, wasn’t she?’ Tanu quizzes.
‘Not exactly. Renee was of European parentage, you know. Her mother's forefathers emigrated from Africa long back.Her complexion had the rich dark shade of coffee liquor with a drop of milk. It was attractive, in a sexy kind of way, but not as beautiful as yours.’
‘She is mocha complexioned, more pinkish and very unusual, but it does not appeal to my senses,’ Soumya had replied with a wicked grin.
‘But Jamaima definitely appeals to you, doesn’t she?’
‘Oh, come on! I am fond of her company because of her intelligence, her ready wit and devil-may-care attitude. Once we did have a fling. But that was just that, a fling. We are just good friends, now, there’s nothing more to it Tanu.’
‘Didn’t you ever fall in love with Jamaima, Soumya?’
‘Forget it, Tanu. Don’t act naively, just doesn’t suit you. I am saying we are friends now, and that’s it, finished.’
‘But you two were physically so intimate, how could you label this as a casual fling?’
‘Tanu, Tanu, you are getting too touchy on this physical thing. Who cares about physical intimacy or sex now days? Well, we used to sleep together, and we both cherished those moments; it was fun, sex can be fun, you know… there was no romantic angle; we had a good time, without the love baggage.’
‘You were not in love, there was no romantic angle in your relationship…then how could you sleep with each other…. and perhaps still do?’
‘Sexual pleasure is also important, isn’t it? Haven’t you ever felt it Tanu? A romp for the sake of a romp? Have you never had a physical urge for someone? You don’t necessarily figure out the intricacies of love, when you are in the mood, right? With Jamaima, besides the instant attraction, there was also the cosy comfort of companionship. That’s out of sheer mutual trust, not love!’
‘And what about me?’
‘Oh, I am madly in love with you, Tanu, and you know it.’
‘Soumya, tell me honestly; is it my attractive complexion that you are in love with? Or is it me, Tanu, that you love? I know I am brown, and you love to see me lying naked on my pale yellow bed spread; you enjoy my nubile writhing brownness, you get a primal kick. Is this visual treat, the reason you love me?
‘Talk sense,’ Soumya vaguely commented, as he eyed Tanu lying spent, her brown body all flushed; it was a Sunday afternoon. The only time they had left the bed was to get some coffee. He let his eyes rove on her body, an intent and appraising look, the look of a collector valuing his latest acquisition. He lit a cigarette, and inhaled deeply. Tanu seemed to melt under his hypnotic gaze, hot flames of desire burning her. She was so naked, her desire open and inviting. She searched for her wrap. Still holding her gaze, Soumya rolled over. He touched her shoulders to assess their angularity, tracing his fingers across the gentle curvature of her neck, then with one hand he cupped her breasts, weighing them, feeling their volume, and his fingers traced their supple roundness. Tanu shivered and drew Soumya, her nipples taut in anticipation; pushing her down on the pillow, he pinched the nipples and watched the rich-brown perky points prominent against the dapper round contour. His hands moved slowly across the dip of her abdomen, his fingers rose along the gentle slope of her shapely pubis … without any passion, as if Tanu was just a mannequin.
His eyes were bright with possessive pride of a feudal master, rather than tenderness of a lover. And then he moved away, suddenly loosing all interest in his subject. He crushed his cigarette in the ashtray, and pulled on his faded pair of Calvin Klein, and asked, ‘What about a cup of coffee?’
‘Of course, I’ll prepare some, but after I get my answer.’
Soumya unmindfuly zipped up his denims, and then put on his solid black Versace tees, and casually ran his fingers through his long dark brown locks. How smart he looked in his two-day stubble, and the thin golden spectacles! Tanu’s heart wrenched in pain; an overwhelming love, an uncontrollable pain and a dawning realisation….Soumya pulled on his soft brown Gucci moccasins, and hugged Tanu, casual and rather offhand; Tanu clung to him…oh Saumya! An unmindful peck on the cheek, and Soumya was off, coffee forgotten, leaving Tanu staring into a vacant space, which till the other moment was full of promise. His Azzaro perfume lingered in the air like an unfinished dream, long after he had left.
That was two days ago. After that they had spoken quite a few times. Soumya was stuck in his office. His voice was distraught, when at the middle of the night, he called to say that he couldn’t make it. ‘God… Tanu, I miss you so,’ he had said huskily, making Tanu go all light and breezy. Assignments! He had not even returned to his apartment in the last two days….story board, meetings, deliveries, one meeting after another. He has been virtually living on coke and coffee, an occasional sandwich or burger to munch on. Today he had called late afternoon, ‘should get free early tonight. You have become an addiction, can’t get my mind off your brown body, that exquisite feel of silk under me.’ She has been waiting for him since seven, bathed, perfumed and dressed in his favourite orange teddy, and then around 11:30 she received his SMS, ‘con call, can’t get away.’
Tanu had called up at his residence impulsively, and when the receiver was picked up, Tanu prepared herself to hear Jamaima’s voice. And sure enough, it was Jamaima, ‘Oh, Tanu, Soumya got held up at the office, otherwise he was supposed to shack out at your place, as far as I know.’
‘But what are you doing in his flat, Jamaima?’
‘What’s wrong with that, Tanu? Do you suspect me being Soumya’s second fiddle? Come on! You know me. I have enough integrity not to bed him behind your back. I have been working on some of his unfinished portfolios.’
‘Well, Jamaima, what are you wearing now?’ Tanu asked before she could stop herself.
‘Just tees and shorts, why?’
‘What’s the colour of your tees?’
‘Pale pink. But what’s up Tanu, quite kinky questions, coming from you that is,’ Jamaima laughed, a little nervous.
‘No, just curious! Soumya once told me that you have a Mocha complexion. You must be looking sexy and saucy in your pink tees, and if I guess right, black pair of shorts.’
‘Tanu, you are spending too much time with Soumya. You have become obsessed with colours, so like him.’
‘How much time do I spend with Soumya, Jamaima? I am sure he spends much more with you.’
‘Tanu, you are paranoid. I just can’t help it.’ Jamaima disconnected curtly, without much ado.
It had been raining heavily since early evening. The patter of fat raindrops, drumming incessantly on the rooftop, on the window panes, a monotonous patter, the low hanging dark clouds, all added to Tanu’s loneliness. Tanu longed for Soumya, she wanted to throw herself in his arms, the moment he would appear on her door step; just to hug him tight, very tight, a never ending embrace. She felt an amorphous void gathering round her, it coiled and snaked around her, damp and slithery. She tried to imagine Soumay in her arms. Soumya had a chiseled physique, the result of regular gym, and swimming and cross countries. She loved to trace her fingers on that body. To feel the muscles ripple with his feline movements. What is his complexion? Must be on the fairer side. Dark and solid colours suited him; especially black, white too. She tried to focus….how does he look? He was extremely handsome, but the details eluded her. He loves it when she caresses him all over; she loves it when he groans with pleasure, as her tongue finds every mysterious part of his body. She can anticipate his desires and act his will. But his physical details elude her now…she can not recall it… only a sharp desire spreads through her body, warm, molten, waxy…she takes off her slip, she runs her hands over herself. She stares at the reflection on the window panes, a distorted, skewed reflection…not she, but then it is her’s…a collage of geometric shapes, orange and green and cobalt blue and ochre yellow. What is her actual complexion, she can not recall, but how obsessed Soumya is about the colours of her body, her complexion, her hair and eyes! The walls of her room is painted pastel yellow, her bed spreads are cream, her dresses are to Soumya’s liking, lemon, beige, pastel orange, her bathroom tiles are buff. Soumya educates her. ‘Use complimentary colours’, and Tanu obeys, without questions, without protests, without any resistance.
She remembers the Award’s Night function. Soumy’s ad film, a now legendary one, had been screened. They had been introduced by mutual friends. He had swept Tanu off her feet with his mesmerizing eyes, his soft and husky voice, his intelligent and sensitive comments, and his Adonis look. The magic of his charm worked and Tanu actually ditched her date for the evening and allowed Soumya to drop her off. A brush on the lips, and he was gone. The promised call woke her up next morning. She became his muse, none other than Saumya Roy! Tanu let Soumya fiddle with her, sometimes amorously, sometimes casually, sometimes treating her like an inert object, even like a doormat. She never complained. She became a willing slave, he her undisputed master. She wore what he asked her to, and shed off at his command. She danced naked with multi coloured hula hoops for hours, to the tune of ‘Brown girl in the ring…tra la la la la…’ because that amused him, and helped him think creatively. She posed in all possible and impossible, often degradable and deplorable postures, because he just wanted to click her in ‘different’ ways…she satisfied his varied fetishes, did the role-plays that got him in the mood. He tied her to the bed posts with colourful silk ropes while making love, and flogged her brutally with leather belts to get a good hard on, it was endless. Tanu loved Saumya, and nothing mattered.
Standing there naked, the coloured scraps throwing distorted images of her body, Tanu, for the first time felt that all the colours of her dreams, her imagination, and her self profile were fading. The fabric of her clothes sucked the pigments off her skin, the perfect body was getting de-shaped, distorted, skewed and twisted. She could not identify herself in her reflection. How does she actually look? Tanu realized with horror that she does not know; she believes only what Soumya tells her. She looks what Soumya wants her to look. When Soumya whistles ‘The brown girl…’ she dances his tune, she becomes the brown girl. She believes that she is that brown girl. But is she really the brown…or even a brown girl for him? She needs Soumya to dispel her doubts, but where is he? Is the city flooded? Is he caught up in office? Why hasn’t he called?
Perhaps the walls of his boardroom has seeped away all the colours from his imaginations! Utterly helpless, Tanu cries out. Her eyes well up with tears, warm and wanton. The colourless drops roll down her brilliant brown cheeks. Where has all the colours gone? She calls on his mobile. She knows that the tune of ‘Brown girl in the ring’ is playing on the other side…. that’s to denote her calls. Does that tune play on the other side now? The phone goes on ringing... She waits eagerly to hear Somya’s reassuring voice on the other side…it is ringing…and ringing…and ringing….and then suddenly, someone disconnects the call…..