Life is not a bed of red roses to everyone. There are some who have the toughest times in their life which we couldn’t even dare to imagine. The cribbings over the petty issues we complain about are long lost as we come across these individuals who have had a wholesome rollercoaster experience in their life!
This is Life, through their Eyes!
It was 1980, Guwahati and I was the 15-year-old daughter of a rickshaw puller – Actually a school teacher who was forced out of his town, profession, lineage, country by ’72 war and took to the job of a rickshaw puller like many other teachers, bankers, businessmen who had lost everything to the war. The slums of Guwahati were brimming with “Bangladeshi” immigrants who took new jobs, degrading jobs, quickly forgetting who they were. Hunger does it to you and when it does, trust me, it takes just a few minutes to accept your new life.
My father died; tuberculosis coupled with inhuman labor took just five years to reduce him to a tiny skeleton, and in a way, his death was a relief for me. I could not see him struggling to carry fat aunties to the ‘Mandis’ coughing blood. But the relief was short, so was the grief because hunger subdues all other emotions a person can have and reduce him/her to an ‘it’- an animal. I was not good at household tasks and my father had me read books than cleaning utensils back in Purbabanga (That’s what we called Bangladesh back then). My aunt, a cousin of my dead mother, slowly began to refuse the single bowl of rice she used to offer. I was helpless, I was clueless and I let myself being guided by the only emotion I knew- Hunger. Sheikh bhai took me to Nasima Begum who ran a brothel in paltan bazaar area.
When I realized what was that, I was horrified. I was just fifteen and knew nothing about sex. But looking back, I feel grateful, for Nasima in her own ways consoled me. She helped me with the tricks of the trade and the first night of that dark journey began. I sobbed as day after day, men after men paraded into that tiny bamboo chamber – drunk men, men stinking of potatoes, perfumed rich marwaris, and it went on and on. Nasima was kind to let me keep 40% of the money I earned, 20% of which I paid back as rent and catering charges. But I had no family, no future and no dreams to live for, so I spent my remaining 20% on things that I loved most – Books. Books of Shankar, Sarat Chandra, William Golding etc. filled my shelf, watching over my sweaty body which I used to buy more of those. The customers that came to me, all frowned at me for my “nasty” habit, and I kept on ignoring.
One day when I was waiting for my first customer of the day, I saw him walking hesitantly inside the rickety house. I knew he was a first timer the moment I saw him. He was tall and like all tall boys back then he wore a bell bottom. He was accompanied by his friends, 3–4 boys of the same age. One of the boys, his friend, who was acting very smart pointed to me and said,
“****** get her, you deserve the youngest tonight”. He shoved the tall man whose name I learnt to be ****** towards me. He was unsure whether he wanted to do this and I lost no time to pull him to my cottage. Such customers were most sought after as in most cases they did not harass you and were way gentle than the regular street thugs that frequented the brothel.
“You have read Fountainhead?!”
He asked with wide eyes eyeing at the copy of a book I got two weeks back. I nodded and proceeded to undress. He stared at me with lust if I remember correctly and suddenly that expression changed into something else. He asked me to sit beside him and he started asking questions about me. I said things, about the slums and my father, and he kept pressing for more information. He could not believe that the daughter of a rickshaw puller would spend a fortune to get a book mail delivered from abroad.
He just sat there and spoke about himself. That day was his first day at the job and hence the celebration in a ‘brothel’. But there was a guilt in him for having to pay money for sex.I wondered what was the source of the sudden guilt. I thought it could be the realization that there was a prostitute in the brothel who understood the moral dilemmas, ethics and principles of the world that belonged to the rich and the educated. But surprising me, he visited again a week after. Then he visited more frequently, always looking for me. And we talked all night. About his family, his father struggling with cancer and my life back in Purbabanga. Nasima became anxious as I was not earning her much. So he paid the balance to buy my company. Somebody paid for my company and not my body, and that realization made me feel for him in a different way. I was even bold enough to call it love but it would not take seconds to dismiss it. What right to love does a prostitute have? By now you must have predicted, one day he proposed and married me after a long fight with his family. I tried my best to fit in a society long forgotten. I had issues, pity, sympathy, even abhorrence from people for my past. But I moved on. I completed my education and am now teaching English in a government school. Right now, I am typing this answer from a tablet gifted to me by my daughter, sitting in the patio of our own house in a respectable neighborhood. I owe this future to my husband and that evening when he met me. *******, I hope you can read this answer from amidst the sky and know that I Love You.
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Content Writer: Anonymous
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