The Modern Scheherazade

The Modern Scheherazade

I grew up in the narrow dark lanes of the metro city. It took me years to understand where I belonged to. I had no father. My mother couldn’t give me his information. She hided this, I later understood.

I observed how every day men would flock to her. There’s no fixed time. My mother had to be prepared always. With a heavy make-up and that reluctant yet enticing smile she was ever-ready.

That day, I was suffering from high fever but she had to answer the call of the duty! Teary-eyed she went out from our cold and dingy small room.

One day she herself fell sick. She could barely move. However, she couldn’t rest for the malkin would punish her brutally. Moreover, she was the choicest one. How could she disappoint the customers and her malkin?

From that day onwards my hatred towards her began. I always prayed for a different life where I can rest and live on my own, without my mother and such pressures.

Gradually I entered my teens. I was a young chick, fair and lovely, waiting to be cooked and eaten! The malkin had her evil gaze on me. I knew it. I often told my mother about this but she shrugged me off. She was helplessly staring at me.

“Beta, escape from this place. You do not fit here.”

I looked up to my mother. Stunned by her I simply said, “And, you?”

“My life and death belongs to the malkin!”

Something inside provoked me to ask her about her story but she refused.

“May be later when time will be right!”

It was raining heavily. The raging storm accompanied it. I was happy since I thought no guests would come tonight.

To my surprise, I heard the malkin’s voice,

“Oye Sheila, call your daughter. The babu is waiting. He has seen your daughter and only wants her!”

Even this stormy weather couldn’t prevent the burning desire of the rich men, unsatisfied with their own partners!

“Beta, hurry! Leave quickly before she approaches!”

“B-u-t where will I go? I’ve never gone beyond this area!”

“Just go out. Save yourself from the hungry monsters. When you go outside you’ll surely meet an angel. God will take care of you.”

“Par maa! W-h-a-t a-b-o-u-t  y-o-u?”

She turned her back, never to see me again.

I left the home with the noises behind. The blustery weather prevented people from coming out. Drenched in the water I managed to come out in the open. I was stranded on the dark and lonely roads. For how long, I didn’t remember!

The winds were howling, desperate to topple the trees. The latter, however, bended, swishing their leaves and branches but they won’t give up.

I looked here and there but I didn’t know what and how to do! It was hard for me to find out my path. But God did send me an angel!

Suddenly a black car stopped. I was flabbergasted but I had no other way to save myself.

A pretty lady came out of the luxurious black car. 

“Why are you standing here alone? Don’t you know how they are unsafe for women?”

As if I didn’t know, that too after coming from such a place but I chose to remain silent.

Without any further query she asked me to get inside the car. I didn’t know why but I followed her order.  The car drove off to her big mansion.

Asha didi was my sister over there. Despite the sickening condition she always planted a seed of hope in me.

“Meenu, you’ll shine one day. I’ll be waiting for your name in the papers and through the mouth. You’ll definitely do something against this flesh trade.”

Didi couldn’t flee for she was captured even before she could think about it. Besides, she needed money to treat her ailing mother. Her brother was useless, continuously asking her for money for his drugs!

The sunlight fell upon me. I woke up in a cosy bed. As my senses came back I realised I was in the house of the lady of the black car.

She was standing in front of me. Smiling and carrying a tray with my breakfast.

“Call me didi”, she was loving, like my Asha didi. She fed me since I was too weak to eat it by myself.

“You’ll soon begin your studies once you get well!’ she instructed, “Till then, read the books from my library.”

Didi was a working woman. That meant I spent most of the time alone in the house.  Didi had an amazing collection of books and I read them greedily and heartily. Rather devoured them one by one.

I was really enjoying the days here. I was learning new things, etiquettes, manners and everything required to survive a posh life. 

The bell rang.

“At this odd time!” I was stupefied to see a man standing. He was in a casual tee and jeans, carrying an American Tourister with many tags attached to it and showing-off his Rolex watch.

I was hesitant to let him in since I didn’t see him before. However I realized seeing him with didi in the photo frame. He was her husband. 

I had startled him because he didn’t know me. But he was in awe of this young chick before him. I could see him almost salivating. I got those experienced eyes seeing the rawness of otherwise socially reputable men! 

Soon, he started fondling me. Whenever didi was out he would take milk it.

At first I was sceptical. Then, I decided to go with the flow because I didn’t know anybody in this city.I needed shelter as well as strong support. I had to do something about myself.

Then, one day, when didi was gone for her official tour, I slept with him. I gave him my consent. Willingly! It happened again and again.

One thing I learnt was to take good care of myself. I trained hard every single day. I maintained a healthy lifestyle inspired by didi. A good skin care routine also followed. So I ensured that the glow was from inside out.

I finished my studies. I got good marks. I even managed to get a good character certificate.

I remembered I had to satisfy the lust of my Maths teacher of the school to get pass marks. Later, he got caught for his indecent acts. I got him caught once my purpose was fulfilled. 

Next, it was time for job hunting. Didi wanted me to be independent and strong.

“Girls get away easily!” I have heard it often. However, didi emphasised on talent and capabilities. Good looks might work but not in the long-run. Besides,

“Beware of venomous bites from pretentious friends!” she advised. I understood.

Because of didi’s connections I got a call from a reputed organization. The young CEO would personally take my interview.

In a room, I was alone with this man and again I knew.

He came close to me. Very close. I could hear his breath. I could even feel his organ stiff and raised, brushing against me. Nevertheless, I didn’t utter any word.

Instead, I unabashedly asked for official confirmation of my job. He readily agreed. Again, I understood.

Promotion was easily achievable and so was scaling the ladder of success. This was what I had been waiting for ever since I left that dingy place.

In the tallest skyscraper I had built my empire. I worked day and night. I hardly took rest. Neither was I interested in showing off and parties. I was getting obsessed with the power, name and fame I was getting every day. Men were working under me. I was always in the news, as my Asha didi had wished. That gave me a strange satisfaction.

Today, when I was buried under piles of work the world came to a screeching halt. Lockdown was declared. I didn’t know what or how to do. I’d return home. Every work would now be done online. 

It was dusk. The sky painted a brilliant hue. After many years I’d been noticing this priceless and unconditional beauty of Nature. I went to the big window, opened it ajar and inhaled the fresh air. I stared at the world outside for some time. It was time for introspection. It was the first time in so many years I was facing myself. I wasn’t afraid anymore. It felt like confessing in the church!

For a long time I was scared I’d find out I was like my mother. I had been using the men to reach the heights. I was not a good woman. Like my mother I was a prostitute. So, I had squashed those voices within me whenever they tried to lecture me.

But, today I couldn’t. I surrendered to those aching voices inside me. I had been long pestered. I had long suffered watching myself in the mirror. There were days I couldn’t eat or sleep. Yet, I couldn’t vent out my feelings to anyone.

Humiliation and misunderstanding frightened me. What if didi threw me out of her house? Where would I land up? I wanted a secured shelter.

I remembered how I hated my mother for being unavailable to me. I had even cursed those men and perhaps, my mother too.

The world was brutal. I was a feeble being, and those times if I’d have protested I would have been mercilessly crushed, as was the way of the world. I grew up seeing those agonizing faces of women around me and the innocent laughter of the children. Those sneers and those squeamish new faces had disturbed me for long.

I was always hunted by my mother’s defenceless face and the writhing pain due to poverty and debt. I was desperate to make my own money. I had to stand out. I had many plans in my mind. I was adamant of writing my story of rags to riches with my bleeding ink. I took this route of pleasing the men, blinded by bodily pleasure, not through their tummies but through their organs.

“I don’t think I was wrong! Or was I wrong?”

“May be not! Sometimes you have to beat the world in its own game. Moreover, everyone is a marauder, pillaging other’s happiness some way or the other.”

For the first time, those voices appeared considerate.

I could see my reflection on the window glass. I sighed. I took a long breath and made the decision of my life. It was a life-changing one. Before the lockdown started I decided to sell off my empire. I wanted to release myself from this never-ending staircase of success and failure. I was exhausted. How many times the men had wanted to sleep with me first before signing on the papers? How many times I had surrendered? Sometimes I had retaliated. But very less.

I had to pay my gratitude to the place where I grew up and to the people who had shaped me. I severed the superficial glossy bond. And I finally returned to where I belonged to. That brothel in the shabby allays.

Many years had passed. Out of the many new faces few old ones could recognise me. I met my mother. A wrinkled face with trembling hands, she was of no use to the trade. Yet she was there. She had nowhere to go. Since she was an old soul she was allowed to stay there. She didn’t expect me to be here. But I was intransigent.

“Why have you come here?”

“I thought you’d be happy to see me back!”

“You know this place, don’t you?”

“But many years have passed in-between. You don’t know me now! I’ve changed. I’ve grown. I’ve expanded. I’ve my own thinking.”

My mother gave up. I was a hard nut to crack.

I spent the first few days or may be months observing and understanding the place with all its elements. How had it changed? Was it a bad or good one? How can I play my part? How can I fulfil my plans? So many things hovered in my mind that I became restless and impatient.

The malkin had died. She was stubborn and heartless. She never cared for the health of the workers. Whenever one fell ill or unavailable for few days she would be dumped. Some would even be killed silently. That policeman was always her aide.

I came across Asha didi’s place. How beautifully she had transformed that one small room into heaven. Whenever she was free she would paint or stitch. Her home was filled with her artefacts. I had always loved to be at her place.

“If I’ve to live here I’d make it comfortable and my home!”

A new woman had entered her place. I inquisitively asked about my Asha didi. Very few knew. Those who knew didn’t want to tell me.

I couldn’t meet Asha didi. I had lost her. She had died. That day, despite her rebuff she had to take back-to-back clients. That took a heavy toll on her. The evil malkin, I wish I could kill her with my own hands.

Asha didi had so many dreams and wishes. Deep within even when I was uncertain about my own future, I eagerly wanted to fulfil hers. That was my love for her. Perhaps, that was why I returned to this place.

Did a few drops of tear trickle down my cheeks? I quickly wiped them off. But I vowed that I’d do everything that she wished for. It would be my homage to her angelic soul.

From that day onwards this brothel would write a new chapter. I was determined to make it happen.

The little children, born out of fiery desires of selfish men, would get a bright future. I arranged for their healthy upbringing with the help of my friends from the outer world. Even the genuine NGOs were a great help. I had made enough contacts that would help me anytime.

It was hard to convince the women but I worked tirelessly to gain their trust. Besides their children, they too would be studying and pursuing their passions. I remembered Asha didi’s love for stitching or painting. I encouraged everyone to do their bits in their own ways. I was aiming for community effort to pull down this adult entertainment show! 

Men would come but they would return happy and gay, refuelled with their desire to spend time with their friends and family. I personally took many clients. I felt like Scheherazade but with a twist. I listened to them like a friend without judgement. That did the trick. Every night I met a man burdened under suppressed pains for ‘boys don’t cry’. As he unburdened himself he was lighter than before. As the doors of my room opened I never met that man again in the vicinity.

At least I’d learnt this lesson from my years in the outer world. I breathed in my experiences. I exhaled them through generous and empathetic deeds.

I didn’t know whether I would be born again or not. This was the only life I had. I got to use it optimally. I was desperate to make things move. I would force the shining bright light enter through these crevices of the hypocrite lustrous big city life!

I had achieved power and position. I would utilize them along with my every breath to wipe out this flesh trade business from the earth. It would be difficult at the start but not impossible.

I looked up to the sky. The stars were twinkling in the onyx sky. Was that one Asha didi for it was shining the brightest? I felt relieved. Finally, I was on the right track. I had answered my call.

“Nothing is impossible for a person to achieve under the sky!” These were Asha didi’s last words when she had waved me good-bye, smilingly hiding the separation pain.

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2 thoughts on “The Modern Scheherazade

  1. A story full of pathos for the protagonist. Life certainly was not easy for her. There were too many grammatical errors which marred the narrative. The role of ASHA Didi was lost in the plot. Good attempt but keep practicing and writing.

  2. Loved the story’s theme. At times Asha Didi’s motives were not very clear to me.
    However the story was very engaging.

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