An Air Warrior who has published over a100 short stories and 8 books on fiction.
Sally was a journalist and frequently travelled to India and abroad. It all began in 1983. I might add she had a broken home and a husband who beat her to hell with a belt, till she left him. She now wonders if this life with her last husband has something to do with the strange event that took over took her like an avalanche in Calcutta. She had come to Calcutta to do a series of articles on life in the city. Being free in the evening her colleague Mala Bhattacharya suggested a night show at the Lighthouse. After the movie, they sat at the bar in the Cinema Hall. The lighthouse has a quaint bar which is over a 100 years old. After a couple of drinks they emerged from the cinema hall located near the Esplanade.
Outside the Lighthouse there was a nip in the air and a cool breeze wafted along. The sky was ever cast and a distant rumble could be heard. It was clear that it would soon rain. Mala shook her hand and left immediately. She felt a little high and was eager to get back to her hotel and hence decided to take a rickshaw. There were not many rickshaws standing, as all were getting engaged. The rickshaw in Kolkata is something quaint as it is pulled by a man. As the rumble increased, she quickened her pace and approached a rickshaw. It was the ricksha puller who caught her attention. He was dark, light and strong. He was also muscular with biceps that bulged.Moreover, he was young and would take her faster to her hotel. The man smiled at her, “Kither (Where to) memsahib?”
Droplets of rain began to fall. That quickened her resolve and she climbed into the rickshaw.
As the man lifted up the rickshaw his biceps bulged and she could fathom the power in them. She wondered how it must feel to be taken in those arms and crushed. Lascivious thoughts, but sometimes they cannot be helped; or maybe it was the effect of the Macallan at the bar.
The man again smiled back at her and began to tug the ricksha forward. The rain seemed to quicken. Lightning flashed across the sky and soon the rain had turned into a downpour.
Sitting in the rickshaw she could not escape the rain falling on her face and arms. The ricksha puller was all wet, but he didn’t seem to mind.
“Stop,” she said “I am getting wet”
Over the brink
The ricksha man looked back at Sally and smiled again. His white teeth sparkled in the darkness.
Hell! Why did this chap keep smiling? “Ok, memsahib”. He stopped and turned to the right. A few more steps and through the rain she could make out a dilapidated building.
She wondered how Calcutta abounds in such buildings. The rickshaw puller drew the vehicle into the foyer of the building. It was deserted. The rain continued to lash all and sundry, but at least she had some protection. The man again smiled “Memsahib, the rain may not stop for some time”
“Don’t worry,” she replied, “I will pay you extra.”
“Oh, no!” the man smiled again, " it doesn't matter."
She felt a slight chill as the wind blew. So she took out a cigarette from her handbag and tried to light it. The matchbox was wet and the flame didn’t flicker. She threw the match box away. Spontaneously, the rickshawala pulled out a lighter and held it for her. The cigarette lighted and she inhaled deeply. There was a lightning flash and for the first time, she saw his eyes. Did there lurk a secret behind them? he reminded her of Mephistolis.
The man pulled a cigarette from his pocket and lit it.
“Did you like the film madam?”
“Yes,” she replied, “it was a good pass time”
The ricksha man puffed at his cigarette and blew the smoke upwards.
“My name is Bihari” he volunteered. After a momentary pause he continued “Memsahib, it was a nice story”
“Yes,” she replied, not knowing what to say.
“Yes,” Bihari carried on, “it was an exciting tale”
“Bihari, that movie was in English,” she felt foolish after having said it. Bihari didn’t answer for a long time and then replied," why madam, can't I see an English movie?" There was a moment of silence and then Bihari said in an almost inaudible tone “Memsahib, you appear to be unhappy?”
“Yes and no,” she whispered. Somehow she couldn’t fathom why did she admit this to a mere ricksha puller. She was reminded of her love two decades back. She was only eighteen then and her lover had vanished like the morning mist. She was also reminded of her husband beating her with his belt and she could never fathom why. All around the rain was beating on the earth and people who have been to India will know that the Indian monsoon can be ferocious. In the prevailing atmosphere, she wished to pass the time, and what better way than to try to understand the life of a plebian.
“Bihari,” she replied, “please tell me about yourself.” Perhaps she thought she could write a nice story on the life of a ricksha puller. A flash of thunder rent the air, lending an eerie feeling to the atmosphere.
“Memsahib” began Bihari, “it‘s a long story almost like a dream”
“Continue,” her mind was made up to listen to Bihari’s tale.
It appeared that for a moment Bihari was lost in reverie, but he suddenly appeared to wake up.
“Bihari, what next?” she asked quietly, somewhat afraid to interrupt his thoughts. What was he thinking, she could not tell. With the rain falling all around, she realized she was in a piquant situation.
Lightning flashed and she saw the eyes of Bihari. She was a little apprehensive after seeing his eyes and looked around and there was an ominous silence. Then something happened which at that time did not surprise her; it was something that she had dreamed but would not have liked to become a reality.
Bihari lifted her from the rickshaw and pressed her to him. She was in awe of his strength. She should have said ‘no,’ but…..
She knew his intention. But she could not resist and he kissed me again and again and thrust his tongue deep in her mouth. He had brute strength but he was also gentle, like a powerful lion courting a lioness. All the while he whispered soft words,” you are so special.” She wondered if at the age of 39 she was still attractive. Rain beat on the earth with greater ferocity. A decade and a half of pent-up emotions burst forth and she felt herself responding as never before.
It was still raining when Bihari arose and kissed me.
“Forgive me, madam. You looked so much like a goddess”
The unfinished ending
Satiated she was lifted and put on the rickshaw seat. It was still raining and though she was relatively safe Bihari was wet all around but he didn't seem to mind. He took her to the Oberoi Grande and dropped her there. “Are you OK madam?” he asked
At the back o her mind, she was wondering that should she call the watchmen and tell him to report the matter to the police. The watchmen came and asked, “are you, OK Madam?”
He helped her get off from the rickshaw and led her inside. She never made any report to the police. She looked back and saw that the rickshaw puller had vanished. Surprisingly she had a tinge of regret and thought it would be nice if she met this man again. But Bihari had disappeared. It appeared like he had been swallowed by the great city of more than 10 million people. Needless to say, she never met Bihari again.
But then she did write a story on him and wondered what came over her on that fateful night. Was it ordained by God or the effect of the Macallan, or her own frustration? She wondered how she acquiesced to all that happened and why so easily gave herself to Bihari. A mystery she has never been able to solve. And that friends, is the tale she related to me and honestly, I just listened and made no comment.
MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on February 08, 2021:
Thank you Meg,so nice of you to have commented.
DreamerMeg from Northern Ireland on February 07, 2021:
Another good story. Who knows why anything happens? Sometimes, it is a necessary happening and maybe she was in the right place at the right time!
MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on February 07, 2021:
Pamela, so thoughtful of you to spare time and comment.
Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on February 07, 2021:
Perhaps her story was a dream sequence instead of reality. That could be a possibility.
Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on February 07, 2021:
This is another interesting story, MG. I don't think it was ordained by God, but by human emotions. They never met again, which is kind of sad. The fact that she came out of an abusive relationship may have been the reason she gave herself to this muscular man. This is a very good story.
MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on February 07, 2021:
Jennifer, thank you very much for commenting. I think you're correct in your observation.
Jennifer on February 07, 2021:
A lovely sentimental story. An abused woman can find love anywhere and that is a fact