The story uptil now……..
(She was a salesgirl and had caught the eye of Rohit. There was something about her that charmed him, that made him feel that he had known her before. But, where, when? There, Latha the salesgirl was petrified. Was somebody after her? Had this man been sent to find her? How much more could she run?)
She remembered that day so vividly. The aunt whom she lived with since her parents died, the woman she loved and depended on, had betrayed her trust.
‘I was just fifteen…. An impressionable age. I never suspected that my aunt had business plans for me. She was a socialite who rubbed shoulders with the rich and powerful. The parties we attended were lavish. I was so impressed by the glamour and style, the rich food and drink, and the admiring looks of the men who congratulated my aunt. “Your niece is quite a beauty, isn’t she? So young and attractive,” they said. I was puffed up with all that adulation. My aunt told me we wouldn’t be going home that night as it was very late, and that I could sleep in one of the guest rooms.’
Latha had observed a group of young men at the party. They had been drinking all evening and were laughing and joking among themselves. Now in the dead of night, one of them staggered into her room.
“Just what the doctor ordered,” he said, “But I asked for just one of you. Why are there two girls here?” He was so drunk that he had double vision. “Okay then, the more the merrier,” he said, and threw himself on the bed, shoes and all, and was soon snoring loud enough to bring the house down.
‘My lucky day!’ Latha thought, ‘I’ve escaped the horrors of the night. Tomorrow when we reach home I’ll have it out with Aunt.’
She settled down on the couch hoping that the man would sleep till morning, and she could escape before that.
But he woke up from his stupor in the wee hours.
‘Good Grief! Where am I?’ he muttered, turning on the lights. He saw her crouched on the sofa, fear mingling with her tears.
‘Oh my God! What have I done?’ he mumbled, dashing out of the room as if chased by seven devils. Latha never saw the man again until he came up to her table today.
But she could not escape from the clutches of her greedy conniving aunt.
“From now on, you will do as I say and go where I send you. You are my goose that lays the golden eggs’ and I will never let you go.”
Latha took up Rohit’s card and stared at the name on it.
‘I don’t think he’s a bad man even though our earlier meeting was not under pleasant circumstances. I need to trust someone. Tomorrow I’ll tell him my story and ask for help. I’m sure he won’t betray my trust.’
She spent a restless might troubled by dreams that her aunt had found her and dragged her back into the degrading call-girl racket. At work the next day, all she could think was of her coffee break, when she would meet Rohit and pour out her story. But he didn’t come and Latha felt she had chased him off with her rude behaviour. Sometime during the day she summoned up enough courage to call him.
“I need your help. I’m in trouble. Can we meet after work this evening?”
They sat on a bench in the park. Her story tumbled out between tears.
“I was pushed into the call-girl racket by my aunt. She has been my guardian since the death of my parents. You were my first customer.”
“Not, it can’t be. I’m not in the habit of visiting call-girls. You’re mistaken.”
“You were too drunk to realise what you were doing. You passed out as soon as your head touched the pillow. That’s how you have a faint recollection of my face. But you ran away as soon as the effects of your booze wore off.”
He was embarrassed by the revelation.
“I’m glad of that. No damage done. Now tell me what I can do for you.”
Latha told him of her short stint in the business. It ended when a brute laid her low with unprotected sex. She didn’t tell her aunt that she was pregnant until it became difficult to hide. By then it was too late for an abortion.
“You stupid girl!” her aunt scolded, “Now you’ll be of no use to anybody until the baby is born.”
After house arrest for the rest of her pregnancy, she was taken to a private nursing home where she delivered a male child.
“But they never let me hold him. He was whisked out of the labour room and I don’t know what became of him. They said he died of aspiration pneumonia. I know he didn’t. I’m sure they must have given him to the lady in the next room who had a still birth. I tried to bribe the nurses and ayahs to give me my baby. But they all said he was dead.
I knew that if my aunt took me home, it would be back to business again. So I slipped out of the Nursing Home when no one was around. In my weakened state I couldn’t run very far. I sat in a bus going toBangalore. I’ve been here for the last four years, sheltered by this old couple who took pity on me. They helped get on my feet again.”
“And what kind of help do you want from me?” Rohit asked.
“I want to find my son. He will be four years old. I have a steady job and I can take care of him. In my sleep I hear him crying out for me with his arms outstretched. So help me please.”
“This is not a wise thing to do. You have your independence now. You can start all over again……Move on. Build a new life. You’re young and you’ll get married some day and have a family of your own.”
Rohit felt the fire in her eyes as they bored into him.
“You think a call-girl has no right to look after her own child? That she cannot take on the responsibility of motherhood? That I’m only to be used as a plaything and then discarded? Remember, I was pushed into the trade. But I’m no more in the business. I’m free and I lead a clean life.”
….to be continued