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She Loved Bananas
28 March, 2005
When the third man stood up, after raping the young white woman, her body supine on the ground, he began adjusting his trousers, and zipping up. Then he bent down and pushed a flower up the aching vagina, like an artist, appending his signature. The two other men, as was their custom, had raped the woman in the dirty cheap hotel room, while the third man held a knife over her anguished head, whispering that if she made any sound other than quiet moaning, he would slit her throat. He liked observing the action from where he stood, at the head of the bed. His turn would come later, when he wanted it. He spoke a little English. He had been to school.
The three men walked, quickly through the park, away from the naked white body, lying under a mango tree, her clothes in a neat pile, together with shoes and handbag. in a remote corner of the hushed park, towards the gate. It was two o’clock in the morning. They reached the taxi, parked in a lane leading off the silent street, north of the park. The first man unscrewed the number plates, front and rear, replacing them with two others. Then the second man started the engine, backed neatly, and drove slowly away, keeping the car in second gear, lightly pressing the accelerator, until they felt secure enough to speed away -- to nowhere.
The police officer was experienced and alert. “No cash in her handbag, only traveller's cheques, and a letter, which turns out to be from a sister living in London. So we have an address we can contact at once.”
“The last time a white tourist was attacked, it was by a youth on the Maiden, late in the afternoon. Persons nearby heard him shout anti-British slogans - you know, the usual rubbish. That started the bogus terrorist scare two years ago. Nothing serious of course happened after that. And now this happens!
“What puzzles me, Sir,” said a younger inspector, “is how and where she got mixed up with the thugs who did the bloody job I’m sure there must have been more than one man involved, the nature of the crime indicates that. She must have had some cash in her bag, which they took. I wonder how much she will wish to tell us.”
The Consul picked his cigarette case off the table, put it in his jacket pocket, and said, “We’d better go round to the hospital and take a chat with the poor girl.”
The young woman lay on a narrow bed, her face drawn and pale, her eyes blinking. The effects of the sedative had worn off, and there was still a dull ache in her head, and a hard knot of pain still throbbing down below, in her loins.
“I don’t think I could identify them,” she replied to yet another question gently put to her. “There were three men and it was dark inside the taxi. They wore caps which partially concealed their faces. Clothes? Pants and shirts, nothing special . . .” She moved a little to one side, feeling the pain move with her.
The woman felt uneasy about going into too much detail. She thought there would be an investigation, and she did not much care for that. Nor for the publicity which would inevitably follow. She wanted to get away as quickly as possible from Calcutta, and head homewards. She became evasive.
“I told you before - I walked out of the cafe , saw a taxi parked by the pavement, and got in. The driver and two others were packed in front. We drove off at a terrific speed, one of the men toppled over the seat, and got on to me, pressing a knife to my side. I was too terrified to scream. He told me to keep quiet - in English.”
She turned her face towards the window. It turned into a sort of screen, on which she saw projected what had really happened . . .
“Want taxi memsahib?” This was the third man. One of his front teeth was gold. He was rather attractive. Janet thought. A lithe body. his was her idea of sex appeal. Janet usually knew what she wanted, and sometimes got it.
“Will you drive me to the Victoria Memorial?”
“Certainly,” the obliging man replied, opened a rear door, helped her in, a hand gently patting her bottom. Once inside his hand quickly went up under her dress, and the taxi sped off up Park Street - but not towards Chowringhee!
A renewed spasm brought Janet back to the reality of the situation. She pressed a bell button to summon a nurse.
“Sister, the pain is coming on again. Please do something.”
The Consul said to the two police officers that they ought to leave the poor young woman in peace - for the time being. He thought that the Calcutta Police were very thorough, and perhaps would ultimately catch the culprits.
Amor walked into the Titz Bar, and went straight to his usual table, which was unoccupied. sat down, and put his cloth bag full of books on a chair beside him. He had reaped a good harvest in the second-hand bookshops of College Street, after two hours of browsing. How he loved his afternoon literary ambles down the Street, on the pavement outside his old College. He took out one of the nine books from the bag - an early edition of Crome Yellow, by Aldous Huxley. He looked up as the bearer placed a thin glass with a peg of his favourite brand of Indian whisky in it on the table, and then a bottle of cold soda water beside it. The old bearer smiled at him, and he smiled back. Amor began reading Chapter One, and the smooth prose of the master’s early hand was as heady as the smooth whisky which he sipped.
Amor looked up from the book and saw a woman walk briskly up to the counter and perch herself on a stool. She was wearing jeans and a navy blue shirt. She looked as though she were around forty. and she was Indian. Removing a fat handbag from under her arm, she plumped it on the counter, and beside it she placed a brown paper parcel, out of which tips of bananas could just be seen. He heard her order in a loud voice a large rum and lemonade. He winced at the thought of such a sickly mixture.
Amor was 31, and had been working in an advertising agency for six years, first as an accounts executive, and then as a copywriter. He had written several short stories, some of which had them published in magazines and Sunday newspapers. He knew a novel would soon be on its way, but he was patient. When the time came to begin, he would be ready. A seed had already been planted. There was time, and he could wait.
The General Manager of the ad agency had paid attention to some of the layouts for which Amor had composed copy, together with eye-catching captions, and hard-hitting slogans for posters. His texts for brochures and medical pamphlets were written in careful, impeccable Presidency College prose. During creative staff meetings, the GM had caught with a sharp eye glimpses of Amor’s doodling on scribble pads, which indicated an interest in visual composition - a sure sign of a budding visualizes! As a result of these observations, the GM had asked Amor to visualize a newspaper ad and show him the layout. Good. Then he was asked to produce a teaser ad campaign for a new brand of tea, and the result of this effort was shown to the Client. Approved. Great! It was not long before Amor was promoted to Creative Director.
Amor Sen’s “arranged” marriage had gone well for five years, and then suddenly something happened which was to change everything. The something which happened was Rita. He took a large gulp of his whisky- soda and thought of their first meeting.
It had taken place at a bohemian party, to which Rita had been taken by Amor’s friend Nirmal Chatterjee, a successful journalist. Nirmal introduced them and made a bee-line for the drinks table. Amor invited Rita to sit on a sofa beside him, and looked at her with an appraising eye. She had a delightful oval face, honey-brown complexion, a pair of limpid brown eyes, and a seductive smile. Under her light blue saree, and tight blouse, her figure seemed to be trim and well cared for. Her brown hair was knotted in a bun at the back of her head, with just one small yellow rose stuck in it. The tout ensemble was very chic.
Nirmal returned with a soft drink for Rita. “Ah, two kindred souls have found each other. When she flips through a magazine, Amor, she studies the ads, and makes critical corrections, very arch, very conceited. I’m going to leave you together, to discuss the mystique of advertising, which has proved to be such a disaster for civilization! I’m going to join Dev, who’s standing over there, and the two of us are going to get steadily but discreetly inebriated, and, Amor, you can drop Rita home.”
The conversation flowed effortlessly between them, meandering through literature, films, and classical music. She was 22 years old, studying at a posh arts college a good at free hand drawing, and she said she had a wonderful sense of colour. She had always been attracted to commercial art, and wanted eventually to work in an advertising agency. But her parents were against any idea of her becoming a working girl. At least not until she was married off and settled. Rita must learn the virtuous and duties of a Bengali wife, before she could take up a profession. Rita explained that Nirmal was her cousin, took her to interesting parties such as this one. Her parents were quite liberal and trusted Nirmal. When the party heated up, and more people crowded into the small flat, and conversation became impossible, Amor decided to drop Rita home.
They became a happy trio - the married man, the lecherous but amusing bachelor, and his beautiful cousin.
Amor and his wife now almost led separate lives. She was working for a social welfare organization, and they were polite and kind to each other. The two children, boy and girl, who were growing up were healthy loved their parents. Family life was full of fun. It was a happy home. Amor and his wife liked and respected each other, Amor was a gentleman, but he knew that utmost care and discretion must be exercised, if trouble was to be avoided.
The scene faded from his mind, and Amor was back in the Titz Bar, staring at the bare opposite wall. Then he noticed three men sitting at a table in the distance, drinking beer. One of them was staring at the plump pigeon perched on her stool. His eyes constantly traveled towards her, and then back to his companions. They talked in low voices. Again, in a loud voice, the pigeon ordered another large rum and lemonade. How many has she had? Amor wandered. Just then she turned her head round and looked directly at him. He looked at her blankly, and her large mouth opened in a wide smile, showing small even teeth. Amor studied her face for a few seconds, until she suddenly turned it away. Altogether large eyes, penciled brows, the lids beginning to droop slightly, and a short tense nose, her black hair bobbed and in disarray. She wore several gold bangles on each wrist, long gold earrings, and several rings on her fingers, studded with precious gems. The bearer came up with another drink for Amor. When he looked in the direction of the counter, she was looking boldly and enquiringly at him. He forced himself to smile. She managed to get off her stool without falling, picked up her bag with one hand, and the paper parcel with the other, and walked up to his table, shifted a chair back with a knee, and sat down heavily. Amor became alarmed.
“Relax,” the pigeon said, “I’m not going to peck at you. I like you. Tell the bearer to bring my drink over.” Amor did as he was bid.
The woman leered and said: “My name is Rita. Call me Rita.”
Amor felt as though he had been struck an unexpected and brutal blow. He shook his head as though he had not heard that name uttered, his mouth foolishly open. Then he quickly recovered. After all, there must be thousands of women in the world with that name - Rita! But what a dreadful coincidence!
He looked across the rim of his glass, and found that the two round eyes were beginning to fill, and her lips twitched. Amor registered alarm again. Is she going to start crying?
“I’m so sad. I came here from Lucknow, to get away from it all, and I find I cannot. He has left me for another woman, another harlot.” She had a strong UP accent, but her English was educated, and good. “Shall I tell you? Shall I tell you all about myself? Will you understand? You have such a kind face. I tell you, believe me, he left me for another whore. For three years I kept him, gave him everything he wanted. But it was never enough. He sometimes really acted as though he cared for me. But he was only acting. What he wanted, was to sleep with a succession of harlots. Ha, ha, ha . . . It’s quite funny, because what I really enjoyed was acting like a harlot myself, a cheap prostitute. We did a lot of acting together. And it was fun. But sooner or later you realize that there are certain pleasures you have to pay, heavily for, certain sexual fantasies which get a hold on you, and which are dangerous and expensive... especially if you are an ugly, rich, sex-hungry aristocrat!”
Aamor finished his drink, and put the novel back in the bag.
“Please don’t go,” she pleaded, her eyes staring desperately into his. “Have one drink with me first. Please.”
“Very well, but just one. And you must let me pay for it.”
“Why? You don’t know the Lucknow family to which I belong.” She mentioned an illustrious Nawab family name. “Yes, and I’m rich, rich, rich!” She opened her bag, and took out a thick wad of 100 rupee notes, waving it wildly above her head. Amor looked away in disgust, and saw one of the three men at the far table look at her hand, and then turn his head quickly away. Then he got up, and walked slowly out of the exit door. Now she will make a ghastly scene, Amor thought. But instead she lowered her voice, and leaned forward towards him.
“You are not rich, but I can see that you are a gentleman. You’ll oblige a lady, won’t you? Come with me to the Grand. I have a suite. Let’s finish out drinks and go. You are lonely. You sit in a bar and read books. No one to go home to. Not married. No girl friend. I can always tell. Come with me. I give you a nice time, baby!” The words were becoming slurred. Amor saw clearly that the drinks had caught up with her at last.
“I have never been loved,” she whimpered, drunkenly. “I have to buy love, by which I mean sex. I want you. I will show you how to suck pleasure out of sex such as you have never sucked before! When you leave me I will hand you money. You will slap me, and spit in my face. I shall scream and fall on the carpet. You will call me harlot, whore, and kick me. Then you will leave through the door, and I shall never see you again. Come on, come with me to the hotel.” She was in her fantasy.
She carefully tore open the upper corner of the parcel to reveal the tips of a bunch of bananas. Slowly, lovingly, she peeled one.
“I love bananas!”
She slid it slowly into her mouth. Slowly she sucked it, moving her tongue around the top, looking at him, eyes ablaze with excitement. She had covered one side of her mouth with a small hand, and nobody could observe what she was doing. She looked at Amor intently for a reaction. But his face was devoid of any expression. She flung the banana away. “No,” she whispered harshly, “I shall not be raped by you! You can’t do it anyway, you impotent bastard. Ah, I should have known! Your pretty face. You’re not a man! Go to your filthy boys. That’s what you want, isn’t it? You swine of a homo. I’m going!” She got up, swaying, and caught a chair for support. She picked up her bag, put it under an arm, and grasped the parcel of bananas. With short dignified steps she tottered towards the exit door of the Titz Bar, which a bearer held open. There was a deathly silence. Pointing a finger at Amor, she shouted in a triumphant voice: “He’s a homo! A bloody woman hater!” And she passed through the door. Amor saw two men get up from their table, and quickly follow her. He wondered at their swiftness, and took a gulp of his drink. They’re going after her. The bangles, the rings, the money! He rushed to the door and out. The taxi was put into first gear, and jerked forward.
“Stop, stop!” he yelled. Rita’s head came out of a back window.
“Help. Help. H-e-l-p . . .” The taxi began to accelerate. He ran after it. Her head was pulled back into the horror of the taxi. He stopped and memorized the number on the plate, as the taxi gained speed and merged with the heavy evening traffic.
He walked back quickly to the bar, and back to his table. He beckoned the bearer. He needed another drink. His head was throbbing, his hands clammy. What would they do to her? He shuddered.
He got up and walked to the Manager’s desk, on which a telephone rested. He asked him for the number of the nearest police station. He spoke to the Officer-in-Charge.
It was after 1 a.m. Rita was lying naked on her back, in a remote corner of a hushed park, arms stretched out, wrists and fingers bare, her legs widely parted. The three men had really gone to town with her, as punishment for the scene she had created in the Titz Bar.
The third man had finished, and was adjusting his pants. The second man stuck a banana in her bleeding vagina. The three men walked rapidly out of the broken gate, towards the taxi, parked in a narrow side street. The first man took a screwdriver out of his pocket.
There would be another mystery to confound the police later in the day, before the three men boarded a plane at Dum Dum Airport on a flight to Bombay.