“How am I supposed to recognize you, if you don’t send me your pic?”, she had asked exasperatedly on the phone.
“Hey… let the blind date be blind”, he had replied in that heavenly baritone. “I will be wearing a white formal shirt; look out for a lavender pocket square peeking out.”
Giggling softly, Sharmila disconnected.
Wearing her sexiest lingerie, she readied herself for the encounter with a man, whom she had never met. Not for her the idea of going slow and steady. She loved her men to be lusty, lascivious and hungry. She knew how to trigger their passion and initiate the first move. The move to the bed…if available; or wherever a little privacy could be grabbed. After wearing the gown, she pulled at it from the front, just a hint of cleavage and she was ready.
The Coffee Shop selected by her date was in Northern part of the city. Hiring a taxi, she was on her way. Then it started pouring, catching the denizens of Mumbai off-guard. Thankfully she was inside the cab but she reached 15 minutes late for the encounter.
Getting down, she made a dash for the Coffee Shop. As she entered inside, she glanced all across the room but her date was not to be seen.
As the minutes ticked by, she was seething with irritation. She stormed out of the Shop, fuming.
She was relieved to see an empty cab coming down the street, with a lady driver. She flagged it and entered.
She glanced into the rearview mirror and saw a pair of cold eyes staring at her.
“You bitch! You destroyed my life and now it’s my turn”, screamed the driver. “You will pay for all the transgressions.”
So saying, she stepped on the gas…
Sharmila, who had barely noticed the driver’s face when she had stepped into the cab, was alarmed at the unexpected aggressiveness. She looked into the mirror with mild trepidation. The contours of the driver’s face emerged in the reflection of head lamps shining from the cars on the road.
She was taken aback – “Tripti!!”
“Finally, you took notice of me.”
“What is this? A cruel joke -”
“The joke was always on me, Sharmila. It took me too long to realize.”
“T, we have already spoken about this – “ Sharmila tried to subdue the confrontational mood.
“Enough of your shit.”
Tripti blared the horn conveying her annoyance. Her breathe compounded in its heaviness at the mention of ‘T’ – the self-proclaimed title with which she wielded authority as the Senior Sales Manager at Ashirwad Motors; and as the dominant partner in her relationship with a woman, now appeared to be losing its sheen.
She rolled down the windows and hurled abuses at no one in particular.
“So – you are hooked up with this guy now?” She asked derisively staring at Sharmila’s cleavage in the mirror.
Sharmila quickly banished the memories of the amorous ways in which Tripti had fondled her breasts before rousing desire in her body on several occasions. “It is just a one-off thing,” she replied flatly.
“I am no fool to be taken in by your lies and your pretence. Why should I care, anyway, how many men you see to satisfy your sexual urges?” Tripti let go off the last line loaded with sarcasm and repeated – “your sexual urges.”
On any other day, Sharmila would have acknowledged this as her lover’s compliment for her gorgeous lips and a fully endowed bosom that instantly attracted most men. At 23, she knew her beguiling charms too well; one who was adept at the art of titillation and employing her feminine wiles to enrapture the male gaze.
It was the first time that Sharmila had used her charm with a woman under whom she was hired as a trainee. T was a rare combination of subtle beauty and fierce personality. Within few months of working with her, Sharmila had measured up T as the most successful salesperson at the firm, yet one who led a lonely and loveless personal life. Now in her early thirties, Tripti felt drawn to Sharmila’s vibrant personality. They went out Friday evenings for small thrills at the dance bars, watched movies together on off-duty days and sang lewd songs at parties. Before long, they discovered passion for each other and ended up in bed. Physical intimacy was verily acceptable to both women. Tripti found much needed love and comfort in another woman; men were to be competed with and not made love to. Sharmila found the best strategy to make swift progress in her career – what else than fulfilling the desires of your boss; and surprisingly, she found making out with a woman spicy and satisfying.
In a momentary sense of iniquity, Sharmila felt bad for Tripti who had always supported her at work. But after two years of torrid affair she had to move on. It wasn’t meant to be forever.
“I don’t have to talk about my personal life,” said Sharmila after a long deliberation.
“Then why the heck did you interfere with mine?” screamed Tripti bringing the car to a screeching halt. She jumped over to the back seat in a sudden move and struck Sharmila’s face with quick blows.
“Such a whore. Didn’t you throw yourself at Vinod too?”
“I didn’t go after him. He came to me.” Sharmila shouted in defence.
Tripti grew uncontrollably angry. She pinned down Sharmila and spat on her.
“There – there – you women are getting wild in the back seat. Wild in love, wilder in fight,” said a male voice from the other side. The door was flung open by a man with a scrawny face and a twisted jaw. “Namaskar madam,” he addressed Tripti, “did I join the party at the right time?” and chuckled menacingly. Tripti gave him a wry smile and looked away. Before Sharmila could react, her hands were tied behind her back and her mouth gagged.
“The bloody dickey didn’t shut properly. And the rain poured in all over me. What a nuisance,” he said pulling at the wet trousers sticking to his legs. “Thanks to the Old Monk, I stayed warm.” He howled in laughter and took a wild swig from the bottle. As he took charge of the wheel Sharmila felt a rush of fear run through her spine. Those ungainly arms reminded her of dark encounters in the past. Then she caught his eyes in the mirror. It was Govind Mhatre, her distant uncle from Nasik. A calculative smirk appeared on his face.
“I had warned you, I will hunt you down.”
He brought the engine back to life and started to drive towards Vikhroli Eastern Express highway.
“I wonder how your blind date was?”
He turned around completely so that Sharmila could view him clearly. White formal shirt, a lavender pocket square peeking out – he was the date she was lured into.
“What can one say whose date never showed up? And even worse, falling into the hands of a woman spurned in love.” Lighting up a cigarette he winked at Tripti.
“Our dear Sharmila has ran out of luck after cheating on both of us.”
“Opportunistic bitch!” said Tripti running her fingers on Sharmila’s face with disgust. “First, you ruined my love life. And then you are out to take my position by sleeping with my boss? I am an old hand at Ashirwad. Don’t mess with me!”
“Don’t worry, T,” said Govind. “I will finish this off for you. A deal is a deal.”
The rain had now stopped though the air outside felt humid and the interiors musty. Sharmila felt her chest pounding heavily. What kind of a situation she had put herself in. Govind Mhatre was her first lover and suitor when she was still 17. He was besotted with her, splurged on her, bought her expensive gifts, took her out on luxury holidays and even sponsored her education. Sharmila had indulged in all the attention she got from him till she felt suffocated by his insistence on marriage. How was she to get married to a man almost 20 years older than her? As soon as she found a job she had escaped to Mumbai and extricated herself from his clutches.
“I think this place is isolated enough,” said Govind as he approached an unlit stretch of the highway. He ignored Sharmila’s muffled protests. “I would kill you if I had my way. But Madam T has a better plan.” He pulled out a huge can from under the passenger’s seat and opened the lid. A pungent smell of burning sulphuric acid assailed their senses.
A horror-stricken Sharmila shook her head pleadingly. Her eyes begged for mercy. Govind pushed further and handed over the can to Tripti – “Will you?” Tripti hesitated slightly from further execution. Could she really disfigure whom she had once loved passionately?
“I must say the sex was good as long as it lasted,” interjected Govind dragging wantonly at his cigarette. “Only an older man like me can satisfy someone like her. Not a woman trying to be a man in bed.”
Tripti felt incensed by the slur on her. “Dare you insult me again!” She leapt forward and punched him hard in his face. Govind lost control of the wheel. The car swerved, he slammed at the brakes, but it rammed into a massive concrete block on the roadside. Sharmila’s head crashed into the glass window with a heavy thud. She passed out immediately.
When she regained consciousness, Sharmila found herself on a hospital bed. She experienced an unbearable heaviness in her head and grimaced in pain owing to the lacerations on her face.
“Only the dressing can keep your pitiable face together,” a voice said. Sharmila turned to find Tripti sitting next to her.
“An unidentified man was found dead in mysterious circumstances in an abandoned car north of Vikhroli – “ Tripti read out haltingly from the morning newspaper. “The police are still investigating the case, if it was a mere accident or a premeditated crime. What do you think?”
Sharmila’s head was too muddled to think about anything.
“I know the kind of questions looming in your head. Govind met me, a few months back. He said he dealt in used cars and we could do business together. Though I was repulsed by him in our first meeting, Vinod liked him, I don’t know why. He got more business too. But his methods were unscrupulous; and his lecherous behaviour was sickening. The character sketch I drew of him was very similar to that of your uncle you had once mentioned about. And then he identified you at the showroom one day. He deliberately avoided meeting you but followed you everywhere to learn everything about you; and everything about us. I must admit his ingenuity – he saw the cracks in our relationship and approached me with a plan – ‘She has wronged both of us. How about a deal to get rid of this ‘used’ model?’ Rejection in relationships was always hard for me to accept. I readily joined hands with him and passed on your dating identity – ‘Search for storm_in_t_t_cup. She is always available on the app’.” Tripti gave a dramatic pause to gauge her ex-lover’s reaction.
“How did this happen then?” asked Sharmila with a bewildered expression still unable to comprehend that Govind was dead.
“When the car hit the concrete block, the acid container slipped out of my hand and spilt over Govind. Instantly his face, neck and arms burnt violently, and his skin tore apart. I watched him writhe in intense pain with sadistic pleasure for few seconds. My rage against you had dissipated by then. I noticed the acid began to rapidly flow on to the floor and pulled you out from the car before calling the police.”
“Thank you,” mumbled Sharmila.
Tripti remained unaffected. “That asshole had the insolence to ridicule my sexual preferences at a large dealership networking meet. People thrive in prejudice; things have never been the same at work for me since then. I wanted to see him burn in hell someday in future, little did I realize it would be quite too soon. I have given my statement to the police. But you ought to pay for this! You have been fired from Ashirwad with immediate effect.” She added in a hurtful tone – “Love is about letting go when needed. I have set myself free from you” – and walked out of the room leaving Sharmila still dazed by the turn of events.
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Credit – Edgar Gomez