It was now beginning to pain a little bit. But she was not thinking about it. As always, her mind was wandering else where. She had made this compromise with herself. Every time she was on the job, it was important for her to think of all the good things. And she was trying it hard to do just that. As the activity became little fierce, she gripped the side of the cot tightly with one hand while digging her fingernails on his shoulder with the other. He responded with quick and hard strokes before letting out a cry… and then he fell limp on her body. It was over… for now.
Punerva hadn’t chosen this life. It was thrust upon her. She had faint memories of her childhood. She was one of the victim of the racially motivated massacre in Bhagalpur, Bihar. Unfortunately, she was saved. Along with few others, the five year old kid was tossed from centre to corner before the country forgot about them. That is when Vaijayanthi took the girls under her stride. She ran a brothel in Erode and, during her younger days, was the most popular face in the red light area. Vaijayanthi would occasionally pick up some girls from the streets and raise them at her old mansion. There she would raise them as her own kids. They had teachers to teach them, good clothes to wear and most importantly they had food and shelter. But every one knew what was their future going to be. Often half of them ran away while only few stayed and obliged to Vaijayanthi’s demands. Punerva was one of them. She had no one to go back to. It was a cruel world outside. Besides all she had to do was make some compromises.
“You were very good Pannu…” said the man as he tried to come close to her again.
“Get lost you limp. Just pay your money and leave!” Punerva curtly replied as she got up and walked inside the bathroom.
Staring at her naked body in the mirror, Punerva thought she was out of shape for a 23 year old. But she had never had a need or time to work on her body. It was always some one else who worked on her. It had been 6 years since the first time… and the memories of the first encounter were still fresh in her minds. Vaijayanthi, who had taken care of her for 12 years had sold the pretty virgin to two businessmen for a sum of 30,000. As the sound of flipping of new notes grew louder, Punerva’s agony and pain grew deeper and colder by the day. In all these 6 years, she had met innumerable devils who paid to use her as a machine that satisfied their need, lust!
But then some thing happened few weeks back, which Punerva did not expect. That evening, Vaijayanthi told her to be ready for a special guest from Chennai. She got ready as usual, expecting a wealthy businessman in his middle age. But she was surprised to see a rather timid looking young man entering her room. He looked scared from the moment he entered in. Punerva’s second surprise came when the guy turned his gaze away from her half naked body. She was used to desperate people who wanted he naked immediately. And here was a guy who stole his gaze away from her. She asked him if he was okay. He didn’t respond. Punerva tried going near him. But he moved further away. 5 minutes later, the guy said some thing, which took her by surprise. Since then she had been trying to locate him. Brothels generally don’t keep contact details of their clients, unless they are esteemed. So there was no way Punerva could reach him again. Days became weeks and she got on with her life again, still hoping to meet him once
On a lazy Sunday morning, another girl Latha came running with an advertisement in her hand. A large silk emporium from Chennai had opened their branch in the new mall in Erode. They were giving away inaugural discounts. The offer was too exciting and the girls decided to visit the showroom in the evening. Little did Punerva know that it was going to be a memorable evening. As they entered the showroom, she met her fourth surprise associated with the same guy. He was sitting right on the cash counter and busy making bills.
“Hello…” she said rather loudly, “Nice to see you again.”
But it seemed the guy did not like being identified. He nervously got up and started going inside the shop, as if he was trying to hide himself from her. Punerva followed him
“Hello mister, excuse me! Did you not recognise me?”
“Yes I did.” He said, looking very nervous. “But what do you want now?”
“Oh nothing. I had been thinking about you and I just wanted to…”
“What you wanted money? I thought so. Alright but not here.” He said interrupting her.
“Money? No No… actually I just wanted to talk to you. You are…” He was surprising Punerva again.
“Alright… but not here.” He signalled some one to man the cash counter. Then turned to Punerva and said, “Come with me!”
Since the mall was newly constructed, many shops were still empty. Making sure that no one was looking at them, he found one with half of the shutter open and took Punerva inside.
“Look! I’m the only son of a reputed business family. Coming to you that day was my mistake. I was forced to do that by my friends as I’m getting married in few months. But I didn’t do any thing wrong with you, did I? So why are you black mailing me?”
“No sir I’m not. In fact I was…”
“See it is fine. If you want money, I can help you with some. But only some. Please understand that I’m a simple guy who fears the society image, family, reputation a lot. I cant face the wrath of all. Besides, I can’t be be spotted talking to a prostitute here. So you please…”
“Hmmm, I see! Now I understand why you were so reluctant that day. I should have understood on the same day. I was fool to think that you were different. You blinded me with your dialogue. Do you remember? You had said why do I spoil myself with this flesh trade when there are other better things to do in life. Let me tell you mister that I did not choose to be what I am today. I have my own share of agonies. But what will you do listening to them? After all you have made a conclusion that I’m a prostitute and I’m not worth talking or spending time with. Par sahab, humein bhi seedhi sadhi zindagi jeene ka haq hai. Even you are a businessman. Probably you wanted to be a pilot. But you still are a businessman today because it is your family profession. May be your father forced this on to you. It is no different for me. I was also forced onto it. But I don’t blame my family, I don’t have one. I blame people like you who have forced themselves onto me time and again. They came, threw money and used me as a machine to satisfy their lust. Yes mister, I am a victim of lust of people like you. You guys have torn me to shreds and will continue to ruin me. You all are just…”
“What is your name?” Interrupted the guy. He was watching her all along the conversation. His expressions changed with every sentence of Punerva.
“Tell me… I want to know” he said as he pulled out his mobile phone.
“Full name?” He said again as he took a picture of her in his mobile phone.
“Do you think I have a family name? Anyway, I have had enough. Go and complain, if you feel so. Good bye mister, whoever you are!” said Punerva rather strongly as she walked away from the guy. He followed her and kept watching until she disappeared at the end of the corridor. She didn’t turn.
Few months later, Punerva got a letter on her name with Vaijayanthi. Thankfully Vaijayanthi was not around and she got to open it herself. It contained two documents. One of them was a fixed deposit certificate. Some one had deposited 5 lacs on her name in the State Bank of Travancore. It also had her picture, which she immediately recognized. The other was a hand written letter. It read…
This is Balamurugan Shanmugam. I’m sorry I did not get a chance to introduce myself to you. I’m the same guy who met you in the Chennai silk emporium. I too have been thinking about you since you left that day. I did not have courage to come and meet you or call you. As I had said that day, I’m a family fearing, society fearing guy who cares a lot about his and his family’s reputation in the public. I’m not brave enough to do some thing noble and save a prostitute’s life, although I’d love to do that. But I had to do some thing for you.
So I’m sending this fixed deposit on your name. I’ve signed on your behalf. But it is easy and you can replicate. And please don’t think that I’m trying to help you financially. There are people out there who want to pay money and buy you to satisfy their lust. This is my small attempt to protect you from them. By this money, even if I can buy the lust of 1000 Balamurugans like me, I’ll feel I have achieved my life’s objective.
You are a nice girl Punerva. Thankfully we didn’t do any thing that day. But now I wish if we had done it. The memories you gave me are not enough.
Foot note: This story is a tribute to all sex workers who have compromised their lives to satisfy the demons in us. But I hope we stop some day and some where.