Year does not matter. What matters, is the fact that it had happened; another remorseless betrayal of the solemnity of marriage. I have never been faithful and do not think I ever could be. My faith resides in my recklessness that runs deep into my existence. I have never tried to reform myself for I see there is nothing worth reforming in me. One is born with that and one has to die with that. Between those two points lies the zone of self-control.
I have self-control just enough to keep myself out of the long hands of the laws of the land. What makes one a criminal, I ask myself. Is it his inability to evade the hands of law? Or his ability to commit crimes thinking that what he does is nothing but just a normal thing? Out of the legal system of a given land what defines an act as criminal is just a relative case. You could do avail something that could be seen as a horrendous crime in your land but seen as just another dispensation of customer service elsewhere.
That thought had emboldened me. I was far away from my place. I was anonymous. In Bangkok, it was just normal. You could check into a hotel, dial the reception desk for a girl who would do the things that you want against a payment, ah yes within the given time limit.
“They don’t allow me to stay beyond one hour,” the faceless girl who had come to my room with a fresh fluffy white towel, a small pouch full of instruments for pedicure, some lotions and a bottle of aromatic oil. Any machine, well-oiled functions smoothly.
I had just arrived at the Suvarnabhoomi International Airport at Bangkok. While admiring the illustrious episode of churning the ocean by the gods and demons beautifully sculpted and covered with gold leaf displayed proudly by authorities in order to herald the mythical depths of a country that flourished in pleasure tourism I felt the quirky irony of that symbol; the churning.
After the official meeting with the people who had airlifted me to their country and a prolonged hospitality that included a dinner at a semi-cruise ship with lot of pep talk by the hosts on the qualities of art and Thai curry-rice combination, I was dropped at the hotel which was no less than a five star facility.
The folded palms and the practiced ‘namaste’, the eternal smile that had lost its tenderness at some point and had turned a bit sour and threatening, on the faces of the girls at the reception desk were just enough to unnerve any first timer in the country and one felt reassured only after getting into the bed with the hotel manual that flaunted all its facilities including the number of a pay channel that played adult films throughout the night and day as well. That was for the beginners, I thought. I wanted the real ones.
The pleasant voice on the other side brought the ferocious smile at the reception desk right inside the room and it hung in the air like the smile of the legendary Cheshire cat in a wonderland. It was slowly proving to be a wonderland full of surreal experiences; she promised me to send the required assistance once she had checked it with the ‘girls on duty’ that night.
By the way, I had only asked for a foot massage. It was a test doze. I would be there for four days and there was enough time for experiments. Foot massage is a normal procedure in most of the hotels there. If you walk down the streets there are open shops and interiors with glass walls where girls kept soothing the travel worn feet of the tourists with their practiced fingers and other tools.
Once you enter those shops, they welcome you with folded palms and a great smile. You are supposed to walk in barefoot. In such shops you cannot choose the girls who would press your feet. A man or woman at the next chair must be serviced by an extremely beautiful girl according to your standard and a very ‘ugly’ one must be at your feet making you wonder whether you are unlucky or you are in the right place at a wrong time.
They offer you a cup of green tea and place an incense stick or an aromatic candle beside your feet. Then they wash your feet with cold water. With one towel they dry them. Then again they wash with warm water and wipe you dry. They may be asking you to drink your tea or simply sit back and relax. But you are already relaxed. You are transported to a different world where only pleasure exists. Moving fingers press and they press on taking you to different heights of pleasure. It takes a lot of time to come down. In the semi-darkness, you wouldn’t know how many currency notes you have given to them. You are dazed.
She came inside with all her paraphernalia. She made her customary Namaste. Surprising me, she climbed on the bed and sat at my feet. Then she opened her small pouch and started taking out the contents one by one. Then she works at my feet.
So here is a room, you are alone with a girl and she is at your feet and her fingers running up till your thighs and bit up. You yearn for her to move a little further. And she must be in the business for long and she knows where to stop and run the fingers down. You are at a sea shore and you don’t dare to go so close, but you expect the waves to come and wash your feet. They do come but recede leaving a micro distance between your feet. You want the waves to touch you but they don’t. It’s a game. She seems to be very good at it. Then she touches once.
The sword is now drawn and it needs to see blood before it could be sheathed. She knows it more than I do. The game goes on until I turn weak and plead her to do something more. She teases me saying that I have the biggest organ that she had ever seen in her life; definitely a sale pitch but no sale pitch sounds a sale pitch when it is uttered. Then she plays the coy game. She pretends as if she does not know anything about sex. She touches it with her fingertip like a child who has seen some eerie caramel custard. She giggles. I plead.
She says she could give a hand job. But she takes another amount which is not marked in the bill. It is an unauthorized act. She is risking her job. I know she is telling lies. Desperate and exasperate I agree to pay up in cash. She does a matter of fact job, takes the money, collects her thing, says that hollow Namaste again and clears the place. She does not forget to give me that hollow smile again.
Day is full with site seeing and official meetings. When night comes everyone is tired; suddenly everyone seems to have developed some pain below their knees. “Today’s walk was too much,” someone says. As that is the sentiment of all none says a word. We wait at the elevator and out comes a group of people whom we had seen at the breakfast table in the morning with their wives. They are perfect Indians with perfect middle class values but this time they have left their wives in the room or have sent them to some shopping. They are on their way to the local foot massage centers where happy ending is offered on a discount price. (You may wonder how I know it. I had seen them on the previous day at a local foot massage center asking for happy ending services and the lady at the door showing them the loft while I was led to the ground level where the normal pressing was done).
I should have read or slept off. Instead I dial the receptionist. A few minutes later there is a buzz at the door. I open it and see one of the friends who have travelled with me. He tells me that he has just come to check whether the girl whom I have asked for is good looking or not. He laments that the one who has just come to his room is just plane. He is looking for an exchange, if possible.
He waits till a girl comes to my room. He takes a good look at her and tells me that he got a better one than this girl, anyway. He hurries back to his room. The girl comes in and she starts the charade without much ado. Soon I realize that she does not speak even a little bit of English. She speaks to me in gestures and does all what the other girl had done a couple of days back.
As I look at her I feel pity for her. From her face I realize that she is not a really a ‘young’ woman. She must be in her early thirties. She massages me as if she was mopping the floor; dispassionately, like a boring job. I ask her to stop. Then through gestures I tell her to lie down on the cot.
I anoint her feet with the lotions and oil. She looks at me aghast. She tries to stop me. I gesture her to lie down. She lies still. I pick up the little tools and start working on her feet exactly the way the other girls had done to me. For almost half an hour I massage her, tenderly. I could see tears flowing down from her closed eyelids. I ask her to lie down on her stomach. She obeys. I massage her lower back, her buttocks, I run my fingers along her spine and I press her shoulders. She feels like a small bird.
I run my fingers on her scalp. I press her eyebrows, eyelids, nose and lips.
Then I ask her to wear clothes. She gets up and gets dressed.
“Nobody in my life has done this to me,” she says. I know though she does not use any words this is what she has said.
She embraces me and sobs for a few seconds. Then with her folded palms says a Namaste and smiles.
I stand there. She is gone. I feel that is the most sincere Namaste and smile I had in Bangkok.