A Stripper’s Only Wish

Ass

Not family, not babies, not respectability, then what?

There was mystery about the bungalow. It was large, almost palace size, but in disrepair. I lived in the room above the unusable garage in one corner of the compound well away from the main building. For two weeks I did not see a single resident of the bungalow. It certainly was tenanted for cars, about seven or eight of them, came in every night about ten, and in the early hours of the morning they came again disturbing my sleep when the headlights flashed into my room as they turned the driveway. Some sort of illegal activity was going on assuredly. I suspected they were smugglers, or maybe even counterfeiters. It was not comfortable sharing a compound with desperadoes.

I liked the room so much that I was prepared to brave the dangers. The rent was very reasonable, and it was perfect for my needs. Set deep in the garden it was far enough from the busy thoroughfare to reduce the traffic noise to a hum. It was walking distance to my office, and was near my usual haunts—restaurants, the central library, and movie theatres. The small balcony gave me a view of the garden with the tall and stately jacaranda trees, and large canopy-like cassia trees popularly called red shield bearers. From the comfort of my cane chair I indulged my hobby of bird watching to my heart’s content. The vast unkempt compound was flush with bird life.

The only person who must have known what was happening was the gardener, and he either looked the other way when our paths crossed, or scowled if we made accidental eye contact. This added to the mystery.

A fortnight later a neighbour solved the mystery for me. I regularly took my evening coffee in a restaurant in the street corner. One day a middle-aged man with a Groucho Mark moustache, whom I had often seen in the street, sat at my table.

He obviously wanted to start a conversation for he darted glances at me, and when our eyes met he spoke

“Good evening,” he said.

“Good evening.”

“I believe you have taken the rooms on top of the garage in the compound of ‘The Royal Oak’.”

“Yes,” I said.

“I am a neighbour. I live in the house opposite yours.” He gave the impression that he had more to say. I waited. “Do you know who lives there?”

“No,” I replied.

“Have you come to any conclusion from your observations?”

“I thought of smugglers,” I said.

“To live in the same compound with smugglers sounds dangerous, is it not?” I nodded. He pulled his chair closer to me and said in a hoarse whisper. “Call girls, hundred dollars plus a night category girls.”

“Why should they live hidden?”

“They have to. If the neighbours see them out they will surely complain; they’ll have to vacate.”

“What’s your advice; to shift or continue to live there?” I asked straightaway.

“Why shift. You can’t get such a room in this city for three times that price. The agent of the owners wants someone to stay visibly in the compound lest it be considered unoccupied and attract squatters. The idea is to sell it once the hundred odd persons who have a share in the house agree to sell.” I thanked my informant and left.

The mystery was gone but romance took its place. I observed the bungalow with increased interest and excitement. My interest was not wholly prurient. Once a student of social sciences I knew a lot about call girls in the mass; I hoped I would get to know a few of my co-tenants as individuals and learn their stories first hand.

2

I had to wait two months to meet one of the residents face to face. It was a Saturday morning. For some days I have been hearing the ‘boom-boom’ call of a Crow Pheasant, a large woodland bird. It should be most unusual for that bird to find itself in the crowded centre of a city. I went round the jungle intent on spotting the bird and reporting it to my society of bird watchers. I was not successful. On my way back I was walking along a disused path in the rear part of the bungalow when I heard human voice, something that had not happened for the three months I had been a resident here.

“Good morning Birdman.” It was a woman’s voice. I stopped and turned. The voice was coming from behind a closed weld-mesh door. I stood and watched, and soon my eyes got accustomed to the darkness.

“Good morning,” I said. The woman came closer to the door. I was less than ten feet from her. I saw see her clearly.

“Did you get your bird?”

“No,” I said. I was not feeling too comfortable. I had no experience hobnobbing with call girls.

“If you are busy I won’t be detaining you,” she said probably noticing my discomfiture.

“No,” I said. “I am not busy now,” I added to make the meaning clear.

“I hope your cough is better.”

“Thank you for asking, but how do you know I was troubled by coughing?”

“We can hear you, can’t we?”

“I can’t hear a thing from your house.”

She laughed. “That’s the beauty. We can see and hear you; you can do neither.” She sounded pleased.

“You speak in the plural. Who are almanbahis adres the rest of the ‘we’?’

“We are more than half a dozen staying in this house. As you are our only neighbour we take an interest in you. Any objections?”

“None at all,” I said promptly. “Rather I am pleased, even honoured.”

“Thank you,” she said. “Why don’t you sit down so that we can have a chat?” I sat on the wall of an empty water trough.

“And you can step out,” I said. She shook her head, regretfully I thought.

“If the women in the neighbourhood see us they will kick up a row that will cease only when we leave. It has happened to us before, and we don’t want to leave. We like this place. The vast open inner courtyard reminds us of the open spaces of our home town in Goa.”

“Are you all from the same place?”

“We are from neighbouring towns.”

“May I ask you a question?”

“Charge ahead.”

“Are you all call girls?”

“Thank you for asking so plainly. Some of us are. I am not; I do the strip tease in Gayland.”

“Strip tease?” I gasped.

“You interested in strip tease?”

I took time to answer.

“I am of course. I do not think of it. I simply can’t afford it. What does it cost?”

“Quite a lot. First you must become a member of a club. And then a hefty fee comes with every show where you have to pay for food and drinks even though you may not want it.”

“Non-members?”

“Only for foreigners; they must pay in dollars.”

“Oh! So I have to fall back on my powers of imagination.” I suddenly felt bold. “Stand where you are but just open the door so that I can see you better.” She bent double in peals of laughter.

“B.B. is bold. Next he may ask me to strip where I am,” she said. She opened the door and stood square so that I can see her whole. She was magnificent. Tall and shapely, fair and with chiselled features. She was a beauty.

“Why do you call me B.B?”

“We all call you that—Bird Boy. Are you offended?” I was not. Five-four when standing on the tip of my toes and weighing 40 kilos after a full meal I grant to others the right to call me a boy. I have never been sensitive on that point.”

“I am not offended but in case you want to know my name I am not averse to let you into the secret,” I said.

“We know it—Sivagnanasundaramoorthy,” she said. She had difficulty in pronouncing the name. “B.B. is better, is it not?”

I nodded. “What’s yours?” She did not reply for quite a while. A shadow of sadness passed her face.

“Shamu, that’s my name,” she said slowly. She was silent as if asking her name has kindled sad memories. “Here no one here calls me by that name. In Gayland I am something else.” She sighed. “We will meet again, won’t we?”

“Of course,” I said and left.

3

Call girls and strip teasers they may be but I was thrilled to be under the keen observations of these beauties. I groomed myself with greater care, and while venturing out I powered my face. I passed the scene of my adventure on Saturday mornings creating conditions for a second encounter. It came a fortnight later.

“Last Saturday I missed you by a whisker,” she said. “I blamed myself for not being down earlier.” She paused. “Did you miss me too?” She looked anxiously at me.

“Yes,” I said truthfully. She must have sensed that I was not just being polite for she smiled with satisfaction.

“Are you not uncomfortable to be with a woman whose is not a respectable person?” She spoke casually as if it was a natural thing to say.

“I am not thinking of your profession when I am talking with you,” I said. “To me you are a person like any other.”

“Unfortunately you are the only person I meet who thinks that way. The men I meet are disgusting persons. They eat me up with their eyes.”

“In other words you have scant regard for your audience.”

“Regard? I abhor them, each and every one of the baldies.”

“Baldies?”

“Yes, I do not know why, a majority of my audience is bald to varying extents.”

“An interesting observation” I said. “Must be due to hormones.”

“Shall we talk of pleasanter things,” she said.

“Go ahead.”

She had difficulty starting. I felt that she was on the point of calling me B.B. but desisted at the last moment.

“B.B. is perfectly OK with me,” I said. She chuckled.

“B.B.” she said taking me at my word, “tell me about your girl friend.”

“I have none, no doubt because I have hair on my head,” I said. She chuckled again.

“Have you ever kissed a girl passionately?”

“Not so far.”

“Then I win,” she said.

“Win what?”

“The bet of course.”

“You mean that you are all betting on my love life?”

“Why not?”

“Interesting. A bet on kissing; any other bet?”

“None other. Offended?”

“A little.”

“We all are pretty sure you are a virgin,” she said, and looked quizzically and winked.

“Well if you want me to confirm or deny I just am not going to do either,” I said.

Saturday encounter almanbahis adresi became a regular feature. One day I saw a couple of girls move in the semi darkness behind Shamu. I asked Shamu to invite them to join us. Shamu that she had also asked them to but said they were too shy to do so. I was surprised that call girls should feel shy to meet a man, but later I thought over it and found it not so strange. Outside their professions they may well share the normal feelings and inhibitions of women.

Back in my room I understood that these Queens of the Night must have indeed been observing an innocent little watcher of the wrong type of birds with amusement. It appeared as if I had assumed the role of a mascot for them.

Every Saturday morning at the end of my bird watching in the jungle behind the bungalow I walked past the door near the dry water trough. Shamu will be waiting on the other side of the door. Our meeting lasted half an hour (timed). I came to know a lot about the lives of these women. The residents of ‘The Royal Oak’ seemed an unhappy lot. ‘No past, a disgraceful present, and a hopeless future’ Shamu said. Shamu’s mother was a mistress successively of three rich men in Bombay. Her father’s name in her records is what her mother told her to write down when she had to fill in her school application. Shamu knew nothing more of her father. She has no curiosity about knowing more about him. Her mother wanted her to study and take up a respectable profession. She studied in a convent for five years, but when she developed into a beauty a nightclub scout spotted her and her mother was in no position to refuse her.

“We earn well, but we are worse than prisoners. Unlike prisoners we have to remain hidden, and there is no date of release.”

“You can take up some other job, can’t you,” I asked.

“Sooner or later our past would be known and we would have to leave.”

“I believe that there are many women’s organisation that help.”

“They are tiger hunters. Interested only in the trophy no in us as humans.” She stood brooding for a while.

“But I do have a simple wish,” she said slowly.

“What that?” I asked.

“I don’t think it is worth telling you that,” she said.

“Family?”

“No.”

“Babies?”

“No. Not being considered respectable citizens either. You can’t guess in a million tries.”

I was to know later that it was far simpler; something that most people have as a matter of course, but for her it was almost unattainable.

4

One day Shamu abruptly invited me to watch her show. I declined. I told her I was too shy and diffident to dare mix in the social circles of the rich company that watches these shows.

“I was not suggesting that,” said Shamu. “I want you to come as my guest.”

“Your guest?”

“Yes. You sit with the band and watch.” I did not relish that prospect either. That day Shamu did not persist, but she invited me every time we met till one day I agreed. We chose the coming Friday for my expedition.

I dressed in my usual pants and slack for that is how Shamu asked me to dress for the occasion. I was to present myself at the Bell Marshal’s box. I approached that functionary with considerable diffidence for the six feet two gate man designated a marshal was in the uniform of the Five Star General epaulettes and all. When I handed him the chit Shamu had given me he took it without any expression whatever. He turned and told something to an attendant in his box who led me through devious passages and elevators to a large hall. He pulled up a chair to a dark corner next to the grand piano and gestured me to sit there. The members of the band did not even flicker an eyelid to acknowledge my arrival.

It took me some time to adjust myself to the grandeur of that misty hall with its chandeliers and carpets. A conjurer was doing tricks with a set of balls. I was not interested in him. It was the audience that I was observing.

The patrons sat round dining tables, two or three to a table, arranged in a semi circle round the foot high platform. There was no preponderance of bald or balding men. Shamu was wrong on that count. I was also wrong in expecting an all-male audience. There were no women by themselves but I counted five accompanying their men. I tried to imagine their reaction at the climatic of the show. They must be watching, not the dancer but their men, with a mixture of amusement and pity.

I was not looking forward to the show with excitement. To one who includes in his treasures three copies of Playboy magazine I should have been agog at the prospect of watching an attractive woman undress herself to total nudity. It must to owing to my nervousness.

After the conjurer a woman wearing a glittering very low-necked gown sang some popular songs in a husky voice; then some girls did a group dance. By now the hall was full. The MC stepped forward to the sound of bugles. The men showed the first sign of excitement by clapping. The MC in a sonorous singsong voice announced that Las Vegas Laila was next. almanbahis adres For the first time I knew the stage name of Shamu.

For a while nothing happened. Then the lights dimmed and then went out. We were in total darkness except for the candles on the dining tables. Again there was the sound of bugles. Spotlights followed, as Laila made a dramatic entrance. Covered as she was in her seven veils she was not recognisable. When she started shedding the extra baggage I saw more and more of her splendid figure, and I wanted to see still more and more of her. The men in the audience were getting excited. They were clapping and making strange noises and bobbing their heads to the rhythm of the music. In that dim light the pate of the bald men reflected stray rays of the spotlight; this was giving Shamu the impression that her patrons were mostly bald.

Soon she had shed most of her dress. The music was now hot, and the men were clapping and tapping to its rhythm. She now had only knickers and a scanty bra on. The bra was the first to go revealing the splendour of her breasts, slightly sagging but splendid nevertheless. She danced, and the men were openly demanding that she strip completely. Then there was sudden darkness, and when the spotlights came on she was with nothing on her except a turban-like headdress. She danced briefly. A misty white cloth descended as if it was a cloud. Shamu plucked it, and wrapped it round herself, took a bow to thunderous applause, and was gone.

A young lady asked me to follow her. She took me back stage into a dressing room. She left, softly closing the door behind her. Shamu walked in still wrapped in the misty cloth.

“How was the show?”

“Wonderful,” I said.

“Even though you only saw mostly from behind,” she said. I had not thought of that.

“Now you can see from front,” she said and dropped her wrappings. I stood stunned. This time she did not have even the turban. She was magnificent. She wrapped herself again, came close to me, and hugging me she kissed me on the forehead. There was no animal passion in that kiss, only tender affection. It was touching. She rang a bell. The young lady came in. She gestured and I followed her. Soon I was out on the street behind Gayland. I walked up to a bus stand and sat on a bench. My mood was not upbeat.

Suddenly I realised what the marshal and attender and pianist and castanets player and drummers the rest of them who saw me that day would have thought of me. They are unlikely to have considered her my mistress, for paramours of strippers do not watch the shows. In their opinion I could only be a kept man. A kept man of a strip teaser—as low as any man can get to. I pressed my throbbing head with my hands and groaned. ‘He who lies down with dogs will rise up with fleas’ my father used to say, and that has proved true in my case.

The next day I cheered up. ‘What does it matter to me what the underlings of the hotel think of me,’ I said to myself, but from time to time my mind wandered back to that moment and I became miserable.

The next day was Saturday. I had no desire to meet her. But the Saturday after that I had recovered sufficiently to honour the tryst. She was waiting.

“Last Saturday I saw you leaving. Nevertheless I waited just in case you came,” she said.

“Sorry I was not able come,” I said.

“Did I offend you in any way?”

“You have certainly changed our relationship,” I said. When I said that a shadow passed over her face. She was silent for a while. She closed her eyes and shook her head in disapproval of her action I thought.

“I’m sorry,” she said. “My instincts let me down. When a man pleases a strip teaser she gives him what all the men she had ever known had wanted. She knows no better. Please pardon me.” She was so miserable that I was touched.

“Forget it Shamu. Tell me all about Las Vegas.” I asked. She chuckled.

“I have never left the shores of India,” she said.

We resumed our old relationship and met every Saturday. One day I found her eyes swollen with crying. When I asked her the cause she said she was having problems but did not say what they were. The next week she was calmer but still not her usual self. Then came the next day, the Sunday that I can never forget.

5

It was about midnight. I had just completed my journal and had put off the light when I heard creaking sounds on the stairs leading to my room. Some one was walking up to my room. Soon I heard scratching sounds at the door and then a tap. I switched on the light.

“Whose that?”

“It’s I Shamu.” I was stunned. I opened the door. She must have noted my stunned look.

“If you want me to leave I’ll do,” she said.

“Come in,” I said and she slowly crept in.

“Please sit down,” I said and pointed to a chair. She did so. An awkward silence prevailed. She stirred in her seat. The reception was cold. Cold enough for her to make a run for the door and disappear. I had by now collected my wits together. If I had let her go I was sure I would regret it all my life.

“Welcome,” I said somewhat hoarsely. “Sorry I took such a long time to say so.”

“I understand,” she said, “I rather expected you to fall in a faint. I almost thought of bringing a packet of smelling salts.” She chuckled. I chuckled too.

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