[Man, includes woman, despite the best possible grooming, schooling, endowment of reasoning, is, and can become, everything and anything from a beast to a buddha, but not any one of them consistently throughout his life. His nobility at times reaches uncharted horizons just as his meanness stoops to unfathomable abysses. The endeavor of a conscious, introspective, rational being should always be to be conscious of this erratic oscillating interval so that he can conduct himself to the best possible extent, close to the golden mean of civility.
Unlike other writers predisposed to ascribe a divine nobility to their characters than bring out the human virtues under testing circumstances, I believe, Chalam conscientiously uses his situations and the moral dilemmas his characters undergo as touch stones to establish the frailties of flesh even amongst the acclaimed noblest and the fortitude of the meanest amongst us. To put it simply, it is the circumstances, he establishes, that define and mold our character more than our standing and perceptions that conduct us.
This story stands to prove the essence of this maxim.]
I came to know about Sitaramayya in the club. Degrees and rank in society were a precondition for club membership. He was the only exception. Nobody was interested in giving him club membership. But he threatened that he would beat if anybody opposed his admission. People were aware that if he had said he would beat anybody, he would beat them. So, they kept mum. Even after giving him club membership, we did not accept him as one among us. But his attitude seemed to say, ‘I know how wretched you people are. Emulous of you I joined the club, but your nonacceptance is to my own good. My dignity is intact.’
Not only was he a pucca rowdy, but also a spendthrift. We came to know that the money amassed by his miserly father, counting every penny forgoing even his basic comforts, he spent away on a prostitute, that too, an ugly roadside one. And whatever little remained, he was now spending for the pleasure of roaming around in a motor car. His father, who was abused with every epithet for being a cheapskate, now garnered public sympathy. The world is such that it ignores all your immoral escapades and respects you so long as you preserve your riches, no matter how you accounted for them. One could understand his arrogance when he was floating on money; but how could one account for his abounding impudence, happiness and meanly behavior with people even after the money had dwindled?
“What makes him to be so insolent?”
“Fine, let him enjoy his Rambha. Why this bragging before us?”
“Maybe because we don’t have such Rambha!”
“Phew! I saw her. She is not that beautiful.”
“You know her price in Guntur earlier? Just six annas and two marigolds!
“She was after him.”
The conversation ceased as the arrival of Sitaramayya was noticed.
Sitaramayya was a good friend of mine. If there was any pleasure, I felt in going to the club, it was in the hope of finding him there. But people used to talk ill of him there saying… that while his father had amassed wealth depriving himself of basic comforts of life Sitaramayya had already spent substantial part of it on a call girl and was wasting the rest roaming around in a car with her. But I never came to know who she was or her nature.
It was about one year into my friendship with him at the club that he stopped turning up at the club. People said he was sick. He was out of the town for some time and returned. People rumored that he was suffering from TB and his car and building were auctioned out. I came to know he was residing in a small hut on the outskirts. I wanted to visit him once. I had never visited him before. I was not sure if he would like my visiting him. Besides, his family life was quite notorious and was the talk of the town. So, I refrained. But within a week, I received a message from him asking me to visit him once. When you are a doctor, you cannot choose your patients based on your likes and dislikes.
I was surprised in the first place after visiting that cottage. It was hard to make out if he had left his palace-like residence out of poverty, or he modelled this cottage out of his fanciest dreams! There were quite a few flowering plants in the foreyard. The bamboo walls were decorated with flowery wallpaper. Some exquisite photo frames were hanging on to the walls. Glazed chintz-print cages were hanging by the ceiling here and there. Around the patient’s bed, everything was looking clean and neat. The floor was smeared with dung and decorated with beautiful patterns with chalk and flour. Flowers and flowerpots flanked both sides of his bed. The overall cleanliness gave me a pleasant feeling and satisfaction. Then, ‘she’ arrived. I turned to look at her. And that very instant my soul realized … that moment was going to leave its lasting footprint on my life! Not that she was exceptionally beautiful… no! She did not have wide eyes, sharp nose, shapely limbs, or eye-riveting chest. But I noticed a strange halo of serenity, piety, purity, chastity, and splendor about her. Her smile had made an instant friendship with me. An inadvertent idea flashed in my mind what if one chose to live here oblivious to the existence of the rest of the world? I could imagine what limits of happiness my friend could have touched in her company, and how bright and glorious his home and heart were gleaming under her radiant smiles. Left to her care and watchful eye once, what matters if somebody was confined to bed as a patient?
Every day, then on, as I walked into that house, her serene smile and eyes teeming with kindness greeted me at the threshold, and made me feel a whiff of coral flowers, a feathery moonlight, and the vast expanse of the sky enveloping about me. Leaving that place to get back into the mundane world gave me a disenchanted feeling of leaving the Ashram of Saint Kanva to enter the Dandaka Forest. I could never really make out how such charm and serenity radiated through her. Rarely we come across such people in our lives that the moment they cross our path, we forget all the drains, sooty walls, crimson dust and dirt, and filthy water around us, and suddenly a celestial door opens in front taking us to some cool enticing shades of beautiful woods. And suddenly, vast verdure meadows and unblemished white pristine lakes with wide petalled lotuses emanating out of waters below, reflecting the azure skies above come to memory, our heart rattles swooning with a sweet, perplexing ache. Such beautiful recesses, sources of fulfilment and deliverance from our insipid lives, disconcert our stale, present, unnatural, cigarette-like lives. We never knew since how many births we have been accumulating these strong ineluctable impressions of… camaraderie, coffee hotels, defaulting patients, selfish, loveless, gossiping friends at the clubs and the distinct smell of Iodoform but, we forget all of them before her and her presence would prompt and lead us to live contented amidst farmlands, on the banks of some pond or over the cliffs of steep hills.
The day I saw her first in the morning, I felt drained out of all my energies for the rest of the day that day. Everything filled me with discontent, and everybody stirred up disgust. It was the kind of feeling a devotee gets after seeing the glorious form of his beloved deity: all the worldly pleasures seem mean and ephemeral. The fees pressed into my hands; the grateful thanks of the patients appeared meaningless. My fame and bank balance did not give me any satisfaction. Whenever I looked at flowers, heard of benevolent actions, listened to music, she used to flash in my memory and an inexplicable pain seized me.
I introspected all through one night if all my angst was out of infatuation and my subconscious longing for her body. I for once even imagined that she had accepted me, and I embraced her to my heart. But no, that did not give me any gratification. Instead, I detested myself for getting that very mean lecherous thought. It seemed impious like licking a soft silken rose wafting sweet scents; like attempting to warmly embrace the cool gleaming moon; or, like uttering obscenities at the pristine hour of daybreak. I long deliberated over the crazy feeling that did not desert me. I could find no reasonable answer to the teething problem that night. ‘She was neither beautiful nor at the threshold of unfurling youth. This angst for her was both a weird and extreme delusion. I must come over it.’ After analyzing and reconciling that there was no earthly reason to crave for her, I slept soundly that night.
The following morning when I first saw her, I searched for clues behind her charm, and her power in unsettling my mind. I was not sure if I found in her eyes the serene reflections of the cobalt skies in lakes, or I found in her gait the tottering steps of migratory birds or I saw in the tufts of her hair the dark shades of turfs or smelled in her gleaming body the nascent scents of rain washing the soft velvety mountains afar, but the more I saw, the more I thought, like a bird struggling caught in a trap, the more my heart burned with desire for her.
My life had become insufferable within a week. Ignoring my self-esteem, righteousness, friendship, fairness I wanted to fall at her feet. But then, what would I ask of her? Should she ask to tell her what all I wanted, what could I answer? I was not sure of what exactly I wanted from her. But one thing was for sure: that she should stay with me; must enliven my life and home with flowers and her brilliance. To that extent I was clear in my mind. I knew it was hard for me to live without her. But how could it happen? Why not? When she could leave someone else and started living with Sitaramayya, why couldn’t she leave him and live with me? But can I dare this society for her sake? Instead, well… letting her continue to stay in that cottage and if I secretly…? Phew! My mind rebelled. Will she consent if I invite her into my life? People of this kind would trade off their flesh and soul for money. Sitaramayya was a heavy liability to her in the present circumstances.
I deeply regretted the sin of entertaining such mean thoughts about her. I was angry with my impudence and my color blindness. There were times when I felt that she would readily consent to whatever I asked of her … for having ameliorated his pain and suffering. But soon, when I imagined her possible reaction when a person like me, whom she trusted so much, made such proposal… and … the way her eyelids dropped down in disbelief, and the pleasantness in her face steadily dissipating like cloud yielding room to anger, reflected in her cheeks, and her turning away from me without uttering a word, biting her lip unable to decide what to say in turn… filled my thoughts with grief and dejection.
Starting from gold bangles and precious ear-studs, I noticed her Jewelry disappearing from her body one after another. Her gold necklace disappeared finally. First, I halved my bill. I chanced to overhear her once talking to somebody in the kitchen: she sold her saree for eight rupees. I saw that saree before. It was worth at least fifty. The saree had a small chink. The buyer returned it and was insisting her to pay him back his money. She was explaining to him that she had spent the money and left with nothing. I was shocked. I went home and sent fifty rupees in a sealed cover to Sitaramayya with a request to accept the money.
Next day, she put the cover back into my hands.
I left the place unable to say anything.
“Is it necessary to continue with apples and grapes?” she asked me another day.
“I think it would be better. Having understood your position, I did not insist.” I said the latter words, rather, inadvertently.
“Don’t take it that way. As a doctor, please advise me what all he should take.”
I helplessly noticed with my own eyes her getting emaciated. I understood she was skipping her meals to save money. She lost some sheen of her otherwise bright and cheerful face. With her beloved bedridden, and her penury pinching, she lost grace in her gait. Her proud lips, which always smiled about challenging fate and the world, succumbed to the burden of life.
How could I forbear that?
Another morning, standing close to me she said,
“He is recovering better. Why should you waste your time on us unnecessarily?”
The patient turned towards the wall with a heavy groan.
“Okay. But let me speak to Sitaramayya before I leave,” I said.
She left the room, leaving me to him.
“Forgive me for my interference in your personal matters. But please treat me more like a friend than a doctor. You need continuous medical advice for months to come. If you feel delicate to take my advice free, you can pay me later. But if you stop medication abruptly now, your condition will come back to square one,” I said.
Tears swelled up in his eyes.
“My wife disagrees. Please don’t visit us again. Don’t send medicines either.”
I returned home.
After deliberating long within, I sent ten rupees anonymously for four days every day by post in a sealed cover.
Ten days had passed since I last visited that house.
My life was as ridiculous as a man dancing in the sun, unable to reach out to a coconut plantation at handshake distance. When I contrasted her sacrifice with my casual gestures of benevolence and generosity, I was mortally ashamed of going through such silly and perfunctory motions. One should have the strong will to ignore everything else to seal every trickling paise to amass wealth to become a billionaire or sacrifice everything he had to embrace penny. Of what use is a life that grudgingly and reluctantly feeds and clothes his own siblings and ilk, and occasionally throws for fancy a penny in donation?
While sitting at a table with a sumptuous meal before me, if I recalled her noble character in sleeping on an empty stomach, I could not relish the food. Or, while regaling at the club playing cards going on a coffee spree, when her restless image of a bondmaid flashed in my mind, I used to get up throwing away the game. Whenever people talked loftily of fortitude, sacrifice, and service to the nation, I was tempted to make a mention of her. When I once made mention of her name, Parvatisam, one of the members said immediately,
“You mean that b***h, Sitaramayya’s keep? Can’t you find a better comparison? Of course, it is natural. These days you are frequenting to treat…”
“Shut up!” I said with anger in my looks.
That’s it. Never did they dare mention her name in front of me. But they never forgot about her.
“She is still with him, you know. She must be cleaning him up to the last penny. She has already tonsured him clean. Infected him with the disease. She should have left him at this! Poor fellow! She will not leave him until he is dead.”
Strangely, people started pitying Sitaramayya these days.
I recalled how, sleeping by his bedside, she undergoes the same agony and excruciating pain Sitaramayya suffers in every one of his prolonged bouts of cough through the night.
A refreshing breeze was blowing gently over the fields, soothing my tiresomeness. Swimming to the edge of the water, the frogs were watching me with curious eyes. The marigolds and inflorescence of the snake gourd creeper caught my attention. She was standing in the open yard before her cottage. Her looks seemed to ask me why I returned to that place again.
“Just a casual and friendly visit, nothing more. If you don’t like even this I will not be here again,” I said apologetically.
She suddenly took my hands into hers and said, “I feel so lonely after you stopped coming. Even those few moments of pleasure seemed to disappear from my life altogether. Please do come in the evenings everyday… at this hour,” and suddenly stopped, as if she had realized she had already talked too much. She turned around abruptly and went in, restraining her tears. I sat with Sitaramayya for half an hour. After he dozed off feeling tired, she put my chair in the foreyard and brought a cup of coffee.
“Won’t you take your seat?” I asked, watching her continue to stand.
She sat on the marble slab on the ground. Her cheeks sagged, and I could see dark rings around her sunken eyes. ‘How could I help her?’ was my chief concern. She did not seem to have used the money I sent anonymously. We idled away the evening as she chattered about the people she knew in her well-off days. It seemed enough for me if she sat by me looking into my eyes with passion. Neither her withered body, drooping shoulders, disheveled hair deterred my desire for her. It seemed like an appeal of one soul to another. There was not a moment, for the entire length of my stay there, my soul stopped its solicitation for her.
‘At least, I want to present you with flowers. But I am afraid I might anger you,” I said.
“I cannot put up with insults.”
“Where is the insulting there?”
Here lips shivered. Poor girl! What sad, old reminiscences, blind male chauvinism, insults of arrogant ‘man’imals made her so sensitive!
“Take it from me that I never insult or demean you. If only I could properly express my respectful feelings, triggered in me, ever since I saw you for the first time!”
“I could guess it from the way you addressed me in the respectable ‘You.’”
Poor soul! How harsh this murky world might have treated her, hurting her ego, and self-respect! Taking leave of her, I walked into that faint moonlight … happy and contented. These crops, waters and insects seemed happy, and resting contented under the gentle moonshine. That night was a kind of epiphany for me when I realized the meaning and purpose of my life.
That was a full moon night of lunar month Aswayuja. Sitaramayya’s condition continued to be severe when I reached him, and he was moaning heavily in pain. As usual we were sitting beside the jasmine twine in the foreyard. She was shuttling into the house and out to attend to him.
Finally, I suggested,
“Let me take leave. You better sit inside to attend to him.”
“Not necessary. Let me have a breather, however brief it might be,” she said and as an afterthought, added,
“I got accustomed to talking to you in the evenings. I am getting lazy. Only because of you.”
When he was so seriously ill, there was no trace of tiresomeness in her except love for him. With fortitude, and exceptional love and devotion she had been serving him.
She brought me a cup of coffee.
I said what I had been hesitating to tell her:
“If you give me coffee, I stop coming. If I send you some medicine as a gesture, you won’t accept. Don’t you think I too have some ego?”
“When I come to your house…” and tapered off bashfully.
“Yes, when you come to my house…?” I repeated for her to complete what she wanted to say.
She said nothing.
“Won’t you say what you wanted to say?” I entreated.
“No. There must be something you wanted to say.” I persisted.
“It is meaningless. How could I come to your house?”
Then it struck me. Will my wife even bid welcome to her?
“Suppose you come. Then?”
“Then, offer me some medicine instead of coffee.”
Sitaramayya was coughing heavily. She did not return for quite some time. Moonlight won the battle over the fading sunset. Lotuses bloomed in the tub. The doves cooed. To the vagaries of breeze, flowers of grass tossed their heads. She suddenly came out and requested, “Please come in once.”
Sitaramayya vomited blood and fell unconscious. After that fit was over and he recovered, we came out. I could not but wonder at her stoicism in attending to his needs with fortitude, despite concern and anxiety. I remembered how people go euphoric about how Sita followed lord Rama to the forest, how Savitri fought with Lord Yama for the life of her husband, or how Durgamma threw her fine saris into the fire and took to course Khadi or Suramma talked eloquently about the loftiness of monogamy but are blind to the devotion and fortitude of women display in front of their eyes, every minute of the day, but never find a mention in any newspaper. How much rigorous effort, and for how long, had gone behind to achieve such mental fortitude? People believe Savitri bringing her husband back to life beating her chest and wailing at the top of her voice in Rag Mukhari, but can they ever trust and acknowledge a parallel devotion and fidelity in a depraved woman like her?
“Leaving already?” she stood behind me.
There was an anxious pleading in her voice asking me to remain.
“Then, you should allow me to give him an injection,” I said.
“Is his condition so bad?”
I kept silent feeling her closeness to me.
“Won’t you tell me? Please don’t hesitate to tell me the truth,” she implored.
There was a hint that I was not aware of her mental courage.
Placing her hand over my hand, she looked up straight into my eyes.
Disciplining my hands, I took a step backwards.
“There is nothing serious. In the absence of treatment for the last one month, his position has come to square one. If you really love him, I beg you to forget about your self-respect for the moment and administer him medicine,” I said.
With her downcast eyes, she abruptly snapped the affectionate words swelling up in my voice.
“You don’t worry. I will take care of the things needed,” I said.
I could not restrain touching her loose-hanging hands as she stood like a lifeless statue. I did not dare to look back at her.
How could I endure seeing her like this? Expecting what hopeless angst of separation?! Won’t there be any hope? Will there be no end to her patience? Won’t she get exhausted? Won’t money and freedom lure her?
Strange! Not for once, the condition of Sitaramayya and the state of his disease come to my mind. ‘What happens if he suddenly dies?’ For a moment I was sorry to get such an unholy idea to my mind. But what if? That idea did not leave me.
That hope, perhaps, shall not leave me forever. Stopping the injections that night might speed up his desire to fruition. Love shall not hesitate to commit any great crime! I laughed at the meanness of my thinking.
It was ten in the evening. Thanks to the unwavering devotion of this woman, the family boat is afloat the ocean of moonlight.
She came out listening to my footsteps.
“He is asleep. Let us sit her until he wakes up,” she suggested.
The backdrop of a blooming trellis, the enveloping scents from the twine, the humble cottage, and the expanse of limitless white sea about me, and the lady sitting next to me…. Oh, how sweet would it be if I could be oblivious of the fire raging within! I was burning with fire which was not out of fever.
“Hope there is nothing to fear?” she said in a faint voice.
Poor woman! She was sitting all alone next to that corpse-like figure!
What assurance could I give her?
If I could restore him to good health, would I be able to see her again?
Will there be room for another person in her thoughts?
Will she be warm to earthly desires?
Will she brighten another household?
What should I sacrifice for the sake of this woman?
I would sacrifice my money, my status, and my character without a second thought.
“Why don’t you answer me?” she reminded.
“Don’t think otherwise if I speak bluntly. You have already lost every hope of recovering from this disease and leading a normal life again. Am I right?”
She was silent.
While I tried to bolster her spirits from without, I was equally trying within to hurt and break her resolve.
“Whatever we try to do, it is only to prolong the inevitable. Nothing more.” I said in a matter-of-fact way.
At last, she attempted to say something. The moon was gradually crawling up the sky. The shadows dangled behind her. A vine dropped a jasmine adorning her head.
“That is painful to him, as well as to you! Isn’t it?” she said.
“If I had not this service before me, I would have ended my life.” She added.
I said nothing. What was there for me to say?
Slowly the following words came out of her… not sure if she was speaking addressing me or in soliloquy to the moonlight:
“I lost my parents when I was young. There were no near and dear. I never heard of a husband. I utterly lacked wisdom about the ways of the world. One day, my so-called brother-in-law convinced, deceived, and seduced me and sold later to a moneyed-relative of his. He, in turn, after enjoying me, set me off against his dues to another friend. After that, I changed hands of many mean men. I learnt so many things in the process. I desperately tried to get out of this rut and hell but there was no salvation. A woman without dough, beauty, character, and respect isn’t worth a blade of grass amidst this sea of humanity. She had to surrender to the mercy of a passer-by. That taught me and I took this firm vow that I should not accept a penny gratis from anybody. People offer you money unasked. They liberally help in cash and kind but extract their principal with interest from your body. When I was desperate to commit suicide unable to get out of this mire, this gentleman had saved me extending his helping hand. He is a lion amongst men. Make no mistake: he is cruel amongst the cruelest; merciless. But he made me his uncrowned queen and forced his followers to respect me. My word was writ; my signs were instructions, and my anger was a veritable deluge… so did it run. He spent fifty thousand rupees, for my pleasure, for my luxury, and for my fancy in three years. Did I really ask for it? No. But taking nothing is valuable before me, he enjoyed lavishing money for my sake. Because of me, he had reduced to this present state. What amount of service would recompense my indebtedness to him?”
The words slowly tapered off as if she gradually slipped into sleep.
I was lost in thoughts again. Shadows lengthened. A crane was wailing relentlessly on the high branch of a tamarind tree nearby. The patient woke up. We went in to administer an injection. When he slipped back into sleep, we came out. I did not want to leave her for that night, but I should return home.
“Let me take leave,” I said.
I thought her eyes did not consent. She did not speak a word.
I did not really want to leave.
But what was there for me to speak?
Particularly, after listening to her story! Any attempt to say something seemed to pale out before that.
I did not dare to console her any other way.
Will a burn with her look or a word, heel for life?
“Heed to me carefully. Without administering medicine, we can’t hope for him to survive long,” I said.
“You intend that I should lose all hope, isn’t it?” she asked.
I was taken aback.
“What do you mean?”
“Nothing bad about it. You only intend that I should be relieved of this burden and live happily,” she explained.
“One thing is for sure. Considering what you are undergoing, I am at a loss to decide if one should be happy that there are people who sacrifice their lives still or pity people like you for undergoing what all you are undergoing.”
“Both of them are false.”
“Let me leave.”
She did not respond.
“First clear me this doubt. Should I send you the medicine?”
She made a silent assent.
“Shall I come in the morning?” or … “in the evening?”
“You can come in the morning for his sake, and in the evening for your sake. Okay?”
“But you should send me the bill.”
“If I send the bill?”
“Don’t worry? They will not be dishonored,” she smiled affectedly.
“You don’t insist later not to send the bills?”
“Forget about the bills. Let him recover first.”
“How could he be otherwise?”
She took my two hands into her hands and muffling up her face in devotion she said, “I am not sure if I should bow in veneration for your pleasing words or to pity you! Without your taking care of us like this, what would become of us?”
I was sure that that if I had taken her into my warm embrace at that moment, she would not have mistaken me. But should I be so mean as to take “advantage” of that?
She promptly reminded me to send the bill after one month. I sent her the bill. Wallowing in penury, how could she make payment? She sent word through the messenger asking me to see her after dinner.
She came out for the sound of my bicycle. Passing through the jasmine vine, the cycle lamp focused on her. She was in a clean white saree. She tucked beaming flowers in the casually braided tresses. When was the last time I saw her in such a pleasant disposition? She was also wearing a new jacket. Her attire surprised me. Was she going anywhere? Or was she expecting some guests? Somehow, she looked more natural and beautiful in her everyday attire … of rags-like saree and short-sleeved blouse, with locks freely tossing over her cheeks. Why is this sudden change? Did the patient’s condition improve so remarkably as to beg her to dress up smartly for that night?
She took me straight into the kitchen. Sweeping away all the wares to one corner she set up a jute-twine cot there. A clean bed sheet, perhaps washed by herself, she spread over it. On one side was an old chair, and in the niche of the wall was a bell-metal tankard with betel leaves, flowers, and water. A faint scent of attar was emanating from somewhere. Bidding me to sit in the chair she stood in front pretending bashfulness. Everything looked strange, ugly, and awkward. I kept mum afraid of speaking. She was still standing there. The lamp in the niche was burning steadily. I could hear the heavy, painful moaning of the patient from the adjacent room. Finally, I asked,
“Why don’t you say something?”
“What is there for me to speak. I am ready for you,” she said, greeting me with her sly looks.
“Ready for what?” I asked as my heart started beating faster. She threw such a look at me which purported I was making fun of her.
“For your pleasure.”
I was clear to me.
My body trembled. My head reeled.
What is this? Why did she do it all? I was lost in thoughts.
“Come, sit here,” She sat on the cat holding my hand in hers.
“What is this all for?” I asked.
“To repay your debt,” she replied.
“This is the only way I knew of. There was nothing left in this barren house.”
“Then, is it acceptable to you?”
“My acceptance has no relevance here. It is my bounden duty.”
“But what about my acceptance?”
“Why? Don’t you have any interest?” she threw voluptuous glances.
“What made you to suppose like that?”
“Having seen this wide world for long, how can I fail to read people’s intentions?”
“There can be occasional exceptions, here and there.”
“But I am sure about you.”
“Since how long?”
“From the very first day,”
“Then why did you delay subjecting me to long sufferance?”
“I was not as wretched as I am now.”
“But is it fair on your part?”
“For an unchaste woman like me, is there anything fair and unfair?”
“Don’t you know that I regard you as one of the devout women?”
“If that were true, what for that craving?”
“That was the craving of the man within me. Not that of me.”
“I am paying the bill to him.”
“Won’t that be doing injustice to me?”
“To suppose that I will be satisfied with a heartless body.”
“May be you don’t. But the animal within you will, I suppose.”
“This is not what I expected.”
“Then what did you expect?”
“That was already dedicated to someone else.”
“Then, are you selling the body, like a prostitute?”
“Worse than a prostitute, do you want me take favors free?”
“You can take them from a friend.”
“I neither have friends, nor can have them. And we don’t need your help whatsoever.”
“Is acceptance a must.”
“Yes, it is.”
I thought for a while.
Then, will you permit me to take only what was my due? Isn’t it unethical to take more than one’s due?”
I touched her cheeks with my hands.
“I know how much blood you might have shed even for my indiscretion.” I said.
“The bill might have been paid, but your affection was not recompensed.”
She reached for my face and planted a kiss.
“This repays all bills that I can submit for the rest of my life,” I said.