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The house is ugly. The street dogs scattered in front of it are handsome and the road leading up to the house sparkles under the sodium lights. But the house itself is ugly and Shalini feels glad that we don’t know who lives here. We pass the handsome dogs and enter the ugly house because the Telugu guy needs to meet someone for five minutes and then we are leaving.

“Five minutes," says the Telugu guy and we say okay, no problem, sure. We wait for him in the kitchen where a cockroach is running round the rim of a bowl of vegetable soup. Youngsters with accents and faces like heavy cream stumble in and ask where the party is.

“This is the party, son," says Shalini, like she is from Kansas or something, like she has always called people “son". The youngsters walk through to the living room and do not come out again. This makes Shalini believe we are in one of those whorehouses that have chunkywhite English-speaking girls from Mumbai who fuck you for very less money.

“How much very less money?" I ask.

“Like very much less," says Shalini. “Like, eight hundred rupees or something."

We momentarily feel bad for these chunkywhite English-speaking girls from Mumbai and hope they will go for computer classes and get better jobs in the future. We try to set fire to the cockroach with Tina’s pink lighter. Then we send her to look for the Telugu guy. She comes back and says everyone wants us to come into the living room because they don’t want us sitting in the kitchen anymore.

******

VOLUNTARILY HOMELESS YOUNGSTERS

“You’re very clean for a homeless person," says Shalini. “And you speak English well. I usually can’t understand what homeless people say. Because they’re always like ‘ammaamma’, you know? Ammaammaamma."

“Those are beggars," says Vinay. “Beggars are different."

“Amma," says Tina. “Amma, amma. Amma."

It rains. It stops raining. The Telugu guy tells someone to forward him their pertinants. A girl shows Shalini her tattoo and Shalini says it looks like a sea of green vomit. Homeless Vinay goes home, which he apparently does three times a week to shower and check email. It looks like there are fewer youngsters than there were before. Shalini says they must be in the rooms, fucking the chunkywhite English-speaking girls from Mumbai, making sounds like dying animals because youngsters make a lot of noise when they fuck.

“Because it’s still exciting for them you know?" says Shalini. “It’s still exciting for them to see boobies or a peepee."

The ugly house sits and stares at us, waiting for us to go home. The remaining youngsters drape themselves over the rexine sofa, kiss each other like they are sharing secrets, ask us what time it is. Tina says there are people here who were born in 1990.

“What does that even mean?" she says. “How can people be born in 1990?"

Then she says she wants to fuck a chunkywhite English-speaking girl from Mumbai too.

“Or I want to watch," she says, standing up. “I want to hear what it sounds like."

Shalini and I wait for her to sit down again. But she walks away, like the women in commercials who have just shampooed their hair or bought life insurance and aren’t afraid of dandruff, death or anything.

To submit a prompt (a word, phrase, quote or brief idea), mail Kuzhali at kuzhali.stories@gmail.com or tweet it using the hastag #kuzhalistories.

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