9 Mar 2010
December 11 '08, 6.47pm
The clock showed 6.47pm. It made noise with the tick of every second, but nobody heard. It has become a part of the din of the day. The evening faded and the layer of dust on its top thickened.
Aslam entered the room with haste. He closed the door behind and moved toward the bed. His steps were loud. Sarah lay on the corner of the bed. She heard the approaching steps and cried, "please do not". The protest was lame. It was a pleading. She was thoroughly languished and had barely any energy. Her back was bare and bruised. She couldn't feel her legs anymore. Tears filled the eyes that reflected emptiness and blood trickled from the corner of her mouth.
"Please do not", she pleaded again. She knew it was futile to plead. In the last 90 minutes, six men ignored her words. She resisted, even violently, the first two. She hit the third and he punched and kicked her. When the fourth walked in, she began to accept her fate. Hope faded; energy gave in; will broke. Six men. From behind. 90 minutes.
Aslam looked at her thighs. When he moved closer, he noticed the blood on the pillow. He couldn't see her face clearly. He stopped and observed for a few seconds. "Please", Sarah said, tears running down her cheeks and soaking the pillow. Her voice was barely audible. "Scream!", Aslam said in an audible whisper. Sarah was too much in shock to comprehend. "Scream!" Aslam raised his voice. Sarah heard him now, but she failed to construe his suggestion. Even as she strived to understand, Aslam explained, "Look! If you don't scream, they will feel something is odd. You must scream. I won't fuck you. Don't worry. But you must scream".
Sarah thanked his gesture with a glance. She could do whatever at that moment, if only it saved her from another round of rape. Another round of fucking. But, has it ended? What if there's an eighth who is waiting for his turn? What if there are more? What is she? What is left of her? Sarah started screaming. Aslam sat on a chair and watched her scream. A kind fucker watching a helpless woman, raped and sapped of her life. For the moment, though, he was the saviour. Fifteen minutes went by when he stood up and walked out.
Sarah looked into the mirror. She sought to find herself. She couldn't. Tears, blood and void - that's all she could see. At the foot of the mirror, she noticed the burnt remains of her passport. Two hours before, she was a woman with dreams, wishes and hopes. In two hours, she saw her life slip by. Forcefully taken, caged and mauled. An erased identity, shattered dreams, quivering frame, pulsating heart and lifeless soul are all that remained.
Aslam walked toward Varadan who was engrossed in watching television. Aslam fastened his belt, tucked in his shirt and pretended to adjust his hair. Varadan looked at him, gulped a sip of beer and winked. "Awesome, wasn't she?" he asked. "The best bomb, boss!" Aslam smiled. Both of them shared a good laugh.
December 11 '08, 4.00pm
The car was speeding and Sarah's hair was swaying with the breeze. "I'm so excited", she said, looking at Asghar, her spouse for three years, who was driving. "After a year when we will have saved much money, we will come back and take mom along with us. She will be so happy", she shared her plans with glee. "A small house, and she will have her own room". She tapped on Asghar's shoulder. "And, you know, we will...", she continued when Asghar's phone rang. "Varadan", the name read. Asghar answered promptly. "Yeah yeah!" A pause. "Soon", he kept it brief. Sarah was lost in her world of dreams. She looked at the sky and noticed the solitary bird flying at leisure. She imagined herself cruising through the skies, comfortably seated in aircraft. "Can't wait to get into the flight... just a few hours away!" she enjoyed a brief monologue.
Sarah turned to Asghar. She put her arms around his neck and asked lovingly, "You will come soon, right? I will miss you, love!"
"I will join you in three weeks, sweetheart", Asghar assured.
"Listen! Do they serve wine in flight? I will try two", she said. Asghar smiled and said, "I am tired. How about stopping by at a friend's?"
Sarah continued, "I won't get tipsy, don't worry!"
A moment later, she nodded, "Yeah, sure dear! We can. You can take me wherever you want. So long as you drop me at the airport next morning on time! I'm all yours, honey!". She gave a quick peck. Asghar looked at her. "We will have a ball", he teased. "Airport will just be 30 minutes away. I will drop you on time. Worry not", he assured.
Sarah looked at Asghar fondly.
December 11 '08, 4.25pm
Satya opened the door. Asghar smiled and walked in. Asghar took Sarah's purse and asked her to come in, too. A gentlemanly gesture. Sarah followed him. Satya smiled and stared at her. It had the suggestion of being lewd, and it inconvenienced Sarah. They walked in to a spacious hall. Varadan was playing a game of cards with Irfan and Mitra. As they exchanged greetings with Asghar, Sarah noticed three mugs of beer and a few butts of cigarette on the table. At the corner on Irfan's side, there was a briefcase. On its top, she noticed a pistol. She moved closer to Asghar. As Irfan and Mitra looked at her admiringly, Varadan grinned and said, "Welcome home!"
"Thank you!" Sarah said, with a hesitant smile. It was a formal, ingenuine response. But it seemed like nobody cared.
Irfan took the pistol and pushed it into his pocket. Irfan was swift. Sarah observed the gesture with extreme alertness. None of the others did.
Suddenly she felt a hand slithering across her waist. She shuddered instinctively, held Asghar's hand tight and looked back. "Sorry! Some insect", Satya said. Sarah looked at him but didn't say a word. His was a sly smile, and Sarah noticed it. She moved further close to Asghar and whispered, "You want us to stay here?" She actually meant, "I don't feel good at this place. Let's go!" Asghar looked at her and assured, "Relax! Nice people".
"Killed it", Satya told Sarah as he crossed her to stand beside Irfan. Satya sported a wide grin. It repulsed Sarah.
Sarah overheard a few men shouting and clapping in the room behind Irfan. It felt they were enjoying a cricket match. She was unsure of their number, but she was sure they would be at least three.
Satya pulled the briefcase up and looked at Varadan. They communicated with glances; a code they had agreed upon, practised and perfected through years. Sarah could not comprehend anything. Her impulse was to just run away. She wished Asghar would change his mind about staying there for the night.
"Here, dude!" Satya handed over the briefcase to Asghar. Asghar gave Sarah's purse, in exchange.
Sarah's heart skipped a beat. The code wasn't private to the group. Asghar also, she realised, knew the code. "Asghar!" she meant to tell him to not give the purse.
"Passport?" Mitra asked.
"Yeah. Everything in", Asghar replied. "Thank you", he told Varadan. It was clear to Sarah that something was amiss. Asghar let his hand off Sarah's grip and made a move. Sarah was nonplussed. Mitra pulled open the zips of the purse and held it upside down.
"Excuse me! What the hell are you doing?" Sarah asked Mitra. Asghar walked toward the door. Mitra pretended he hadn't heard. Varadan looked intently at Sarah. Irfan and Satya laughed. Sarah made a frantic move. "Asghar! Where are you going? What's going on?" she shouted. Asghar ignored and walked ahead. Sarah ran towards Asghar and held him by the collar and pulled. Everyone enjoyed a good laugh. "Chill, babe!" Irfan said loud. "This is your home", he laughed.
Mitra emptied the contents of the purse on the table. He found the passport and gave it to Varadan.
Asghar turned back. "Where are you going??" Sarah yelled. A muscular fellow, he pulled Sarah's hand off his shirt and pushed her with force. He heard her no more. He won't answer. Sarah almost fell down, but Satya held her from behind. He had his hands press against her breasts. It was deliberate. "Easy, sweetie", he said. Sarah was irate. She tried to loosen his grip. "You bastard! You can't do this to me. Don't go", she shouted at Asghar who was opening the door. "You can't do this to me!" Tears rushed down her cheeks as she still wrestled with Satya and yelled at Asghar who closed the door and walked out. Without a word. Without a trace of remorse.
"I loved you!" Sarah cried. "I loved you!"
She tried helplessly to remove Satya's hands. She attempted to run toward the door. She wanted to run away. However hard she tried, she was too powerless for Satya. He lifted her and took back to Varadan. "Let me go, you asshole!" she dug her nails against Satya's hands. He laughed and ignored. Varadan held her passport up and licked her photograph.
"Fucken assholes! What do you want?" Sarah yelled.
Mitra picked his glass and threw the beer on her. Her eyes were fuming with anger and the chilled drink hit hard against her face. "You", Mitra said with a smile. A pack of wolves ready to pounce and gorge on the prey. Sarah was the prey. The hunt was complete.
"How do they feel?" Irfan asked Satya.
"Let me go!" Sarah pleaded.
December 11 '08, 5.17pm
The room was dimly lit. Satya finally let Sarah off. "All yours, boss!" he told Varadan. He quickly walked out and bolted the door. Varadan walked close to Sarah and sprayed perfume on her. He threw the bottle on the bed and moved closer to hold her. She moved back. "Dare not touch me, you fucker!" she warned.
Varadan smiled. "You are in, honey! There's no going out from here".
Sarah rushed to the door. She tried to open, but it would not. She banged the door. "Open", she shouted. "Open the door, filthy bastards". Varadan approached her with ease. He was absolutely sure of the opponent's moves. He was in total control of the game. He ran his fingers through her hair. She quickly turned around and pushed Varadan fiercely. "Don't!" she reminded. Varadan was unmoved. He moved closer as Sarah avoided him. He clasped her hands. She tried in vain to avoid him. He tried to kiss her lips. She quickly turned away her face. He bit and licked her cheek. Possessed by rage, Sarah kicked him in the abdomen. Even for a rugged, strong man that Varadan was, it was painful.
It took him a few seconds to collect himself. He punched Sarah on her face. She fell to the floor. "Remember the equation, doll. I am the Man", he said.
"Shameless bastard! One must be a disgusting worm to hit a woman. And you call yourself a man! You are just a male. Not a man. You can never be".
Varadan moved towards the mirror and picked the lighter up. He pulled out Sarah's passport, air ticket and other documents from his shirt pocket. With an arrogant smile at Sarah, he held them against the flame.
Sarah hurriedly crawled toward him to stop. "Son of a bitch!" The documents were on fire. She held his legs and tried getting up. He slapped her hard again. She fell down. At his feet. The burned remnants of her documents slowly fell beside her. She held his foot and bit his leg with all her strength. Varadan grabbed her hair, pulled her up and threw her on the bed beside. Sarah fell down on her face. Varadan threw down the burning documents. He admired her body for a moment and stripped her skirt. She tried turning around and kicking the fellow. He held her hands tight from behind and pressed her against the bed. She couldn't turn. He stripped her undergarment. Sarah lay naked from below the waist.
"I will show you who the man is, you intelligent cunt". He unbuttoned his trousers.
Outside the room, Irfan, Mitra and Satya were playing dice. To decide whose turn it would next be. "There! Me next", Irfan revelled.
"She's a tough nut", Satya said.
"My foot! It takes just a few weeks even for the toughest to crack", Mitra joined. "Third week on, one starts adjusting. Six weeks, she begins liking it", he shared his insights. "Six months down, this same tough nut will be a professional whore, liking it every bit. Wanna bet?" They laughed. Sarah's life; their joke.
December 12 '08, 2.12pm
"Hello?" said the voice from the other side of the phone.
Sarah restrained breaking down. "Hello?" she heard the voice again. A pause later, Sarah greeted, "Hello, mom!"
"How are you, darling?"
"Fine, mom. Reached an hour ago. How are you?"
"Found the place? Did Asghar's friend come and receive you?
"God bless Asghar! I always knew he is right for you. Else, I was worried how you will go".
"Yeah. Asghar was a great...", Sarah's voice choked. "...a great help".
"Is it very cold there, Saru? Wear sweater. And did you take the medicine last evening? I hope you didn't puke on flight!"
"Ya. Took the medicine, mom".
"Is this the new number?"
"Yes. Ah... no. No, this isn't. This is a kiosk. Will tell you the number later".
"Oh, you haven't reached the place yet?"
"No. I did. Mom,... I will give the number later".
"Tell me the address, Saru. Let me write it down. Wait, I will get the pen".
"Mom. Wait! I will... I will write you a letter. I don't know the street number and zip yet. I will write you and let you know".
"Okay. Write soon. And take good care of yourself, child. I always think of you".
Sarah was in tears. "Yes, mom... you do, too. ...and..."
Irfan cut the line and took the pistol away from her forehead. As he put it in his pocket, he said, "Good job. One call a month. One letter. Some bucks. Don't worry, the old girl will be fine".
As he walked away, he turned and said, "You wanted to go to the U.S for fast bucks only, after all. You will make more here".
January 09 '09, 10.53am
"I don't want to fucken eat!" Sarah yelled at Mitra who brought her the breakfast.
"All right. One call from the boss and they will fucken pump ten fucken bullets into the fucken brains of your fucken old woman. How about that?" Mitra left the breakfast on the table and left the room, closing the door with a bang. He took away the envelope addressed to Sarah's mother. It had a letter and two five-hundred dollar notes.
Sarah wept. She had no choice. She remembered her mother. The unwritten words remained with her. "Dearest mother, I am dying. Please save me!"
February 10 '09, 01.16am
The last client left ten minutes ago. It was a long day for Sarah. She lay naked on the bed. She looked up. The ceiling was white. Quiet. Empty. Emptied. Like her eyes. She got up and walked toward the window. She pulled the curtains open. Behind the iron railings was the glass window through which she could see the enire city. Shimmering in lights. Speeding cars. Weary pavements. Trampled cigarette butts. A sleepless metro hosting millions of dark lives.
As she focused hard, she saw her own faint reflection in the glass.
April 06 '09, 4.34pm
Sarah gave the envelope to Aslam. A letter and four five-hundred dollar notes. "Careful", Sarah reminded. "Absolutely", Aslam reassured.
Aslam walked out and shut the door. Sarah looked at the door. "Dearest mother, I am retreating. Don't let me go!"
April 06 '09, 11.03pm
Sarah sat naked against the pillow and sipped wine. The young man pulled out his wallet and counted the money. "Look. I don't want money. I made plenty. I make...", Sarah said and paused.
The chap looked at Sarah. "Come again!"
"Look. You said you are with government. I want a passport and a pistol".
The young man shrugged. "Why?"
"I will pay you 10% more".
The man threw two five-hundred dollar notes on her and left.
October 22 '09, 12.23pm
"How about the day after? He's a rich ass. He will give you two trucks of gold for an hour", Irfan asked Sarah. Varadan laughed. "Didn't I tell you I'm busy all this week?" Sarah commanded a reply. "Only after November 2nd. Till then, ask him to cool his dick in gold". Varadan burst into laughter. Irfan couldn't help laughing, either.
Irfan took the envelope from Sarah. He wanted to try again. "He is a dude with great power. Will be good for our business", he tried to convince.
"Power! Power is when you have strength but don't use it. Not when you do", Sarah replied. "He who exercises strength is not powerful; he is a weakling. An ant is more powerful than such a shaky ass", she added. "Fuck off!"
Sarah liked Varadan. She made the best business for him, so Varadan showered her with incentives. It was easy, now, for her to command everyone. Stockholm syndrome didn't perplex her anymore; she learned about it the hard way, in real time.
"Dearest mother, I am vanishing. Don't let me go, please!" The unwritten words, yet again.
March 01 '10, 11.41am
"We will go and visit her. Don't brood. She has been put in the best hospital in town. Rizwan knows everyone. He is running the show fine", Varadan assured Sarah.
"I need to visit my mother", Sarah insisted.
"We will get your passport in a day. Irfan is doing the tickets for us. Relax. Don't brood. You are a strong slut".
Sarah looked at Varadan. She reflected: "Strong? What was I? What am I? What is left of me? A woman who walked out of home to chase her dreams. An abject pawn in a chilling tale of ruthless betrayal. A professional whore with a dead soul. A living commodity for the needs of lust. An involuntary accomplice in the cruel game of abuse of humans".
"Dearest mother, don't leave me alone. Please! I am coming. I am coming home". She never uttered these words. Her mother never heard.
"Irfan. Three tickets. Dubai to Mumbai", Varadan reminded Irfan.
March 08 '10, 6.19pm
Sarah put the flower gently on the grave. Varadan and Irfan stood behind, at a distance. Sarah looked at the inscription.
(September 21, 1946 - March 06, 2010)
She ran her fingers along her mother's name. She longed to feel the warmth of her love. All she felt was the cold of the stone. "Dearest mother. I have come home. But where am I? Where are you? Where are dreams? Where is love?" Tears rushed in cascade.
March 08 '10, 6.47pm
Irfan accelerated the car as they hit the expressway. He spotted a huge, brightly-lit billboard a few metres away. The ad read:
For the beautiful half of the world
Happy Women's Day!
99 years of celebrating womanhood. Share your vision. Call: 9000933399 E-mail: email@example.com
It featured the smiling face of a model. Irfan looked at her and she reminded him of Sarah. He looked at her from the rear-view mirror and fantasised abusing and fucking her.
Sarah opened the window. Her hair danced wildly in the breeze. The sun had just set. In the fading light of the day, Sarah looked out of the window and noticed the retreating waves of the sea.
Her eyes, devoid of all dreams, would not seek to stop her retreating soul anymore.