20th August, 2005
Old Port Area
Shweta kept riding on the dusty path. They said he would be somewhere there, only not exactly where. She looked around as she drove her Scooty, trying to get the ‘subtle hints’ as told by her friends. She will not be allowed inside, but she has to say a name. Shweta ridiculed herself to be doing a thing like that over a weekend. She then understood that the real mockery about herself was something more, something else.
She finally arrived at the gate. It was time to act like a guilty mole. Shweta parked her scooter on the sidewall and walked towards the big rusty frame with an equally rusting signboard. She glanced inside to see a guard.
“I want to meet Tiwari”
The guard looked at her from top and toe and chuckled. He opened the gate and asked her to head left. Shweta did as she was told. There was another guard there, with the obvious signs of being the Tiwari. The previous guard called out to him.
“Tere Liye Aaye Madam”
“Kya hai?” Tiwari asked her, with an annoyed face.
“Gangu se milna tha” she replied, looking around in slight tension. Was this a port or a lair for goons, she thought.
“Uss pe Jaa” he said, pointing her to an old wreck on the corner. Shweta promptly clicked her heel, literally running in the direction.
The old lady looked nothing short of misery and wretch. The cracked walls showed the tell-tale signs of a once grandeur cruise that fell to its doomed fate. The old dame was called ‘Mantra’. Nothing magical about that.
Shweta knocked on what looked like a front door of the doubled up hideous dwelling. There was no answer. She could hear the music inside get closer to her as someone opened the door.
“What?” the man said, looking at her with frustration. The sound of Bon Jovi playing inside filled her ears.
“Gangu, right?” she asked, studying the dope head in front of her. He looked like a poor man’s Bon Jovi himself.
“Damn you right” he laughed loudly “Come in. Check out fast and get out” He spoke fine English for a local boy, she judged.
Shweta went in, followed by her drugged tyrant. The smell of marijuana filled the room with stuff all over the place. She looked around to see the cherished beauties scattered, not cared for. They looked lonesome and pricey as hell.
“300 bucks? You’ve got to be kidding me” she said, holding up a fake shiny Versace jacket
“Go spend 30000 bucks then” he chuckled, walking about the room that was once a classy rig “Why do you guys come bargain when you can’t even afford the fakes”
Shweta found his comments rude and insulting. He was a good looking guy with real bad teeth. The fact that the shabby Bon Jovi threw around attitude meant that he had good business going on. From her own building, perhaps.
“I will take it” she said
The Bon Jovi grinned, nodding his head “That Old Navy is a select edition, darling” he said, pointing to the fleece jacket. “My local guys are also bidding for it, in case you want it. Otherwise you can check out the fucking new Gucci gowns that corner. Make it fast”
“I’m done” she said, pursing her lips “Will come back. Here is the cash”
Gangu looked at her with intrigue. He laughed loudly. Shweta looked at him angrily
“What the fuck? Only one? And you want to come back. He he..”
“What so funny? You dope head?” Shweta blurted, not caring for what will happen next. Abandoned ship, stinking rig and the wretched looking rock star did not bother her.
“Everything’s wrong with you, fuck face. Why are you giving me that?”
He just called her a fuck face. It was time to play along
“Cos you are not making any sense in your state, fucktard” she shouted
“Oooh..Fucktard huh” he mocked at her “Go now, shop’s closed. Some other better looking girl with nicer figure will wear it then” He stashed her jacket into a dirty polythene bag.
“Hey Hey” Shweta shouted “Don’t you shove that in that thing, and screw you, nobody will be interested in that dress. Maybe that whore who is sleeping around with my ex-husband right now” she closed it off on a personal note. She was definitely screwed. And before she knew it, tears rolled down her cheeks.
Gangu stared at her in shock.
“Woahh..divorced huh?” he asked her, observing her closely with pin point eyes
“Yeah, I’m a screwed up woman. Now who is not” Shweta sat down in one of the corners with her bag. “Now, I try to dress up and look good, beat the competition inside my very head like a fool. Look at me, I’m also putting on weight stress eating. All thanks to that bastard”
Gangu let her vent. He watched as Shweta tried to compose herself. She looked at him in a defiant way.
“Sorry I broke down like a retard. I’m leaving”
“Woah, Woah” he stopped her “Sit down. Calm down first”
“I’m fine” she said. The situation was so vulnerable that she would have hugged the dirty Bon Jovi and made out with him. She didn’t care. Someone actually listened her out after a long time. Maybe, she was venting it out to an absolute stranger and was feeling good about it.
The Bon Jovi went in and brought her a Bud. Shweta smiled at him and took the bottle.
“Cheers” he said, clinking his bottle with her’s. He said down near her, real close. Shweta felt even more vulnerable.
“Why do you care?” she asked
“Cos you are a fuck face like me” he smiled looking at the broken wall in front of them with his head up. “We are all broken, fuck face, we all are”
Shweta found the man interesting.
“How old are you?” she asked, putting aside every other normal overrated cover up conversation.
“40” he said.
“Woah!! You look like 30” she laughed, wiping out the remaining tears on her face.
He stared at her.
“Do you have friends here? You are definitely not a Vizag girl”
“Why not?” she asked
“Cos our girls beat the crap out of any fucker who messes with them” he said, not checking for her reaction.
“I have friends, but all at work. I don’t talk personal shit with them” she said, sighing.
“Then go see a shrink”
“Forget the fucking shrink. I’m from Kolkata. And clarify that trivia about Vizag women” Shweta said.
The conversation got super smooth with the junkie. Gangu looked at her, and then back at the wall again.
“Unless you are marrying me I’m not telling you my secret” he said, smiling.
“Screw you. Tell me now”
“That also works” he laughed “well, my mom was you like thirty years ago. Abandoned by the man she married out of caste and shit. They kind of eloped”
Shweta listened attentively as he went on
“She had to raise all the three of us. One of the guys, my younger one, he is a brilliant chap. Brainy. I couldn’t do much with mine, though. So, used to help out mom. Like doing all those shitty side jobs, odd jobs. Lifting weights and shining shoes. We did not know the world outside, so we were fucked right here with what we had”
“What about your other sibling?” she asked, feeling completely attracted to the man.
“We married her off to a well settled guy in another city. But she continues to have her own share of marital miseries” Gangu said. Taking out a pack of cigarettes and a lighter.
“Don’t you feel bad about all this?” Shweta asked him
“Feel bad about what?” Gangu continued “Sweetheart, life is such. It presents all kinds of shitty scenarios to people. That Tiwari outside, he has lung cancer. That’s why I don’t smoke around him. He is also a family friend. That’s why he lets me do this illegal shit. So I have some money all the time to take care of things.
Shweta felt composed and in control. She was going on and on, complaining over her one misery, whereas there he was, the true rock star. Doped and duped, he continues to fight back.
“Listen fuck face, life is not doing any favour to you, nor the people around you” he said, leaning closer “Not even your own parents. This is your life. Live your fucking way.”
“True” she sighed, staring into his eyes “You know, nobody ever let me in like this before”
“What will you gain sweetheart, letting people in” he said, puffing away “most of those assholes out there will try and sleep with you first. So, don’t let anyone in. Be this way. Just don’t blame yourself for anything. If that fucker divorced you, let him fucking go to hell. You go on and enjoy the free life. You are entitled to a freedom of your own. No one can fucking control your mind”
Shweta looked at him with admiration. “Thank for your 40 years’ experience” she teased him “but jokes aside, whatever you said made a fucking sense”
Gangu lifted her up from the rig. Shweta moved an inch closer to him, trying to understand if he will let her in. The Bon Jovi stopped her right there and planted a peck on her cheek.
“Seriously fuck face, you think I’m one of those assholes?”
Shweta laughed loudly along with the rock star. She hugged him tightly.
“You are a doping angel, you know that?” she said, smiling “I’m so glad to have met you”
“And you are my fuck face” he laughed. “Wait here”
Shweta waited as he came back with another bag. She took out a dazzling red Gucci gown and stared at him with surprise.
“1200 bucks otherwise but free for you” he said “put that on tonight, head out to the pub, have a drink and celebrate”
Shweta has tears one more time in her eyes.
“No more water, mermaid. Off you go”
The people of Vizag fight their adversities in Style