I had just moved to a new suburb from the main city. My new job was in town. I used to leave office by 7-7.30 in the evening. It was fairly dark by the time I reached my suburban train station. From there, I used to walk to my apartment. There was a long bridge which I had to cross before I reached my locality and then home. At a distance from the bridge, there was a parallel footpath. Very few people used that footpath. It didn’t have lights, but moonlight and lights from the bridge shone on it. Halfway through that path there was a slight bend where a few women would stand every day. They stood there as if waiting for someone. But looking at their clothes and careless way of standing, I realised they were actually prostitutes. It took me at least a week to reach that conclusion though, as I had never ‘seen’ prostitutes, only heard about them.
I would observe those women every evening while crossing the bridge. They would stand there: sometimes chatting, sometimes quiet, but always swaying their bodies in a particular way; and always clad in sarees. If I were lucky I would get to see one of them walking with a customer, away from the footpath and bridge. I do not know if those prostitutes had rooms of their own or it was the customers’ responsibility to take care of a place. I have no idea how the whole thing worked. I had never visited a brothel or had sex with a sex worker (or anyone for that matter), or ever talked to anyone who had. It intrigued me to think about those sex workers and their customers. How did a customer approach them? What conversation transpired between them? For how long? I never got to see the exact encounter (not that I would have been able to hear anything but I would at least have gotten to see their gestures); whenever I saw the sex worker-customer pair, they were already walking away from the footpath.
I was in my 20s and a virgin, and so I used to think about sex a lot. There used to be oestrus-like periods when I used to think about it even more. While crossing the bridge, whenever I spotted the sex worker-customer pair walking together, it would mildly arouse me. Gradually, I had warmed up to the idea of fantasizing about the sex workers. I wondered what it would be like to have sex with one of them. Would I be able to do it at all? What would her hut be like? Would she patronize me? Would the flesh of a woman who was not only a stranger but a few years older than me, was overly decked up, seemed sort of unkempt even with that extra make-up — would it repulse me? I obviously didn’t have the answers, nor was I very keen to find them. It was just a sort of game I used to play while crossing the bridge. But one day I thought — what if I actually did it? What if I took that footpath, approached the prostitutes, and took one of them with me? I was new in the suburb; no one knew me, so there was no chance of someone identifying me from the bridge.
One day, I decided to take the plunge. I am generally very shy, and utterly at loss for words while talking to strangers. But that day I don’t know how but I was feeling very courageous. I was in a sort of daze. My mind was working in a mysterious way. I was feeling quite concupiscent too. My mind had started working on the fantasies in the office itself. All through the train journey back home, I was imagining stuff I would do to the prostitute once we had reached her hut. It was giving me mild sensations. I had gone in a reverie. I wasn’t aware of anyone around me. I was slightly wet too.
But as my stop came closer, I started to think about the preliminary stuff: how to approach the prostitutes and what to say, etc. I started to imagine scenarios in my mind. I couldn’t come up with a single workable one. I started to become a little worried. How to strike up a conversation? What to say? I decided not to panic, hoping that the plan would work somehow.
It was around 9.30 pm when I got down on the station platform. The station wasn’t crowded. I started walking towards the exit. I took the bridge which led me right outside the station towards the footpath. I had set off on my adventure after all.
I think my mental state was surprisingly normal: I was breathing normally, my steps were steady. I don’t remember what my thoughts were though. I don’t think I was thinking anything anymore. I guess I had given up on coming up with any workable scenario. I was hoping I would come up with something on the spot. But as I started to approach the spot where the prostitutes were standing, I started to shake a little and my heartbeats increased. As I became aware of my perturbation, the pace of my steps increased too. I decided that I couldn’t do it after all. I had taken a glance at the women when I left the station. There were four. I had not even decided which one to choose. But now that question was redundant. I had lost my confidence. I was feeling slightly frightened too. I had given up at the last moment.
But I kept walking on that footpath, a little faster now. When I came closer to the spot where the prostitutes were standing, my heartbeats increased. I started breathing heavily, and when I reached the spot, I almost skipped a few beats. I didn’t have the courage to even slightly tilt my gaze. The pace of my footsteps had now tripled; and as I just passed the prostitutes, one of them yelled in a slightly husky rhythmic voice, “Aye chikane.” God, I had a such terrible impulse to run; run as if I was chased by a tiger. And I did run, eventually, when I was out of their view… I reached my apartment panting heavily.
Obviously, I didn’t take that footpath ever again. And after a few months I left the suburb too.