Short stories | Whore

A monthly column of new, original short fiction
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First Published: Mon, Dec 24 2012. 04 59 PM IST
‘Every morning for one month, you will get on the bus to grind your hand into my waist or grab the back of my thigh.’ Photo: Hemant Mishra/Mint
‘Every morning for one month, you will get on the bus to grind your hand into my waist or grab the back of my thigh.’ Photo: Hemant Mishra/Mint
Updated: Mon, Dec 24 2012. 07 39 PM IST
Prompt: She entered into the cocoon with that caterpillar
I will meet you on a bus. I will be thinking of the Pulvelli song from Aasai when you will come up from behind and put your hand on my hand. I will not realize what you are doing until your hand is on the side of my breast and you are whispering “sexy whore” into the back of my neck. I will turn suddenly and this will make people think I have dropped something. An old man will shuffle to the side and a boy with a backpack will point to a broken earring on the floor and say “there, there”. You will have a scrubbed face, white teeth and clean hands. This will make me think it couldn’t have been you. I will look for men who are dark and dirty with red eyes but I will be too shaken to see anything. It is only when you get off the bus and wave at me that I will realize it was you. At work, I will hear someone say that newspapers only report rape cases because of the sex appeal. Someone else will say that Delhi offers cash incentives for men to rape women. Everyone will laugh at this and I will laugh with them while the Pulvelli song runs in a loop inside my head.
***
Every morning for one month, you will get on the bus to grind your hand into my waist or grab the back of my thigh. You will usually pinch the side of my breast and say “sexy whore”. I will try to move to the front or to another bus. I will try to stab you with pins, geometry compasses and fountain pens. I will try to stamp your feet, scratch your hand or hit you in the groin but nothing will work. Each time it starts, I will tell myself it is just the edge of the seat, an aunty’s handbag or my imagination. When I can no longer tell myself these things, I will stare out the window with the Pulvelli song in my head and think that you are right, I must be a whore because I am letting this happen. Over the next month, I will develop ulcers and patches of eczema on my face and arms. I will stop wearing T-shirts, jeans, short-sleeved salwars, earrings and open-toed sandals, even though this will not make any difference. Friends will tell me that I have a vitamin deficiency and I should take better care of myself. I will take multi-vitamin supplements but that won’t make any difference either.
***
I will dream of you. I will be walking in a crowded building with walls that keep swallowing small children. People will laugh and pull the children out while the Pulvelli song plays in the background. You will be surrounded by young women who watch as you crack open a dusty cocoon and drag out a tiny, naked girl by the hair. They will clap when you dangle her above your mouth and sing “Jumma Chumma De De”. I will try to call you a motherfucker, throw hot oil in your face and grind my heel into your blistering eyes. But all I will be able to do is clap along with them.
***
After a month, it will all be over. You will disappear and I will panic each time I see someone who looks like you. My face and arms will be peppered with scars from the eczema but my ulcer will heal. I will have the national anthem as my ringtone. I will like someone’s Facebook post that says “most rapes would not happen if girls dressed and behaved with common sense, this is not the West”. I will pin my dupatta to my kurta. I will stop talking to the men at work. I will not take the bus. I will tell myself that it is no big deal and no one has ever died of this. Sometimes this will make me feel better.
To submit a prompt (a word, phrase, quote or brief idea), mail Kuzhali at kuzhali.stories@gmail.com or tweet it using the hashtag #kuzhalistories.
Write to lounge@livemint.com
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First Published: Mon, Dec 24 2012. 04 59 PM IST
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