It was either for the scorching sunrise that hurt her eyes or the cold breeze that blew scratching the fresh wounds on her arms, but Disha could tell that her friend had tears in her eyes for some reason or the other.
“Nothing,” Razia said, when confronted by Disha, hiding her eyes as she wiped her tears with her hands.
“Got paid?” Disha enquired.
“Yes.” Lied Razia while walking towards the place she has been calling home from the past couple of years.
She headed for the bathroom as she entered her room where two girls were sitting, one smoking a cigarette while the other wearing make-up in front of the broken mirror in the room.
Razia cleaned her skirt that was smeared with her blood. She wasn’t prepared for it. After all it was that 14- year old’s first time. Not the first time that she had been “ridden” by men, nor the first time that she bled while bearing the intolerable pain the men gave her, but for the first time that she painlessly bled indicating a cycle of bleeding that would follow every month from then on.
By the evening she had her fears and worries buried as she walked out of the brothel as a new woman wearing fresh clothes yet a sullied self. Memories of the last night still flashed before her eyes as she sat on the stairs near the brothel where men would come to choose their pick for the night.
The previous night hadn’t gone well for her; not that any of her nights were good but there were, no doubt, nights where she would enjoy whatever her owner for that night did to her, at other times it was just the usual practice of closing her eyes and waiting for it to get over soon. Last night she had her “cursed night” as women in the brothel called it, as no Saheb would pay for a girl who is bleeding.
But she wasn’t looking for a Saheb that night; she knew very well of the consequences and so she was sitting on a rock as lonely as her, near the beach. It was then that she was forced upon by three men who cared not whether she was bleeding or not. Needless to say, there wasn’t any payment done afterwards.
“Rape”, educated people call it; but how would Razia use the word when she had no idea whether she was allowed to use it. Isn’t an intercourse without the consent or will of any one of the persons involved, an instance of rape? And hadn’t it always been against her will, right from the first day when she started her business? Hadn’t it instead been the decision of the woman and the man who owned that brothel?
But she had kept quiet when they first brought her here and may be that was her only fault, the one she would regret all her life hereafter.
Her train of thoughts broke as a man in his early twenties came and stood near her with a smile.
“I am not working tonight, Sir,” she said gesturing at him to leave and look for other women who were exposing their scantily clad bodies near the street lights of that road.
“Hey, I am a writer. And all I want to do is to talk. Don’t be scared.” He tried to reassure her but somehow failed to do so for she stood up to walk back into her home, the brothel.
“Hey, wait.” He grabbed her arm pleading her to stop. She complied.
“How old are you?” He asked gesturing her to again sit on the stairs she had been sitting.
“Eighteen,” She lied like the way she was told to lie.
“So would you like to share something with me? About your past?” He asked her showing as much compassion as he could. But he knew very well that he lost her trust when she looked at him in a look that spoke of disbelief and loathing. He introduced himself to her to make her trust him. He knew it was a futile attempt.
He was a writer and his next novel was on prostitution and to ameliorate it he thought of talking to actual call girls to know their stories; and when he saw a distressed young girl sitting on the staircase of a brothel, he knew there was a story worth listening to. But he, unlike his novels, wasn't prepared to face someone so real.
Razia knew that the man in front of her was as impatient to listen to her past as she herself was in seeking to forget it. And although it was the first time she felt the urge to tell her story to the one man who showed sympathy towards her for a change, she knew it would make no difference in her miserable life afterwards. All her life she searched for that single soul with whom she could share her feelings and when she finally found one, she knew he wasn’t worth it.
How could she bare her soul to someone who would just use her tears to sell his own book? How could she tell him that she had a little brother to send to school every morning after she returned from her “work”? How could she tell him how she wished to elope from the place and how she couldn’t just to feed herself and her brother?
How could she let him know how disgustful she felt of her own self? And would he understand when she would say that she had no other option but to do what she has been doing from the last couple of years? And would he believe her when she would say that her father was brutally murdered in front of her eyes as he was caught committing a petty theft? And what would he say when she would tell him that her mother eloped with her lover as soon as she heard about the death of her husband? And was it more shameful to be born with such an ill-fated destiny or to have such an ill-famed family?
“So, how can it be that a face so beautiful yet so sad doesn’t have a story to tell?” He asked again breaking her train of thoughts. “There must be a reason you’re here. There must be something inside you that is scratching you from within, insisting on you to let it out. You must have been forced into this profession, were you not? Tell me what made you come here? “