He entered the room and closed the door behind him. It took him a few minutes to get used to the darkness. The girl was sitting on the bed. Her back was to him. He approached the bed and coughed. She turned her head to look at him. For a moment he was too shocked to say anything. The face that was looking at him was familiar, very familiar. It even had a name he knew'.Radha. Was it really Radha sitting here in front of him? But what was she doing in a brothel in Hyderabad?
'Ra'.Radha,' he stammered. His mind was in a whirl. There were a thousand questions he wanted to ask. But all he could do was stare at her. He sensed that sometime was wrong. While he struggled with his thoughts, battled with his emotions, she just sat there; oblivious it seemed, of his presence. Her face expressionless, her eyes blank, she looked through him as if he didn't exist.
'Radha it's me'.,' he blurted out. There was no glimmer of recognition in her eyes. She just sat there immobile, like a life less statue. Only her lips trembled and she murmured'.Radha Krishna'.
Twenty minutes later he came out. He was sweating profusely. The sudden meeting had unnerved him. What was even more disturbing was her condition. He had tried his best to elicit some response, some sign of recognition. All his efforts had proved futile. Finally he had stuffed a five hundred rupee note in her hand and walked out. He decided to talk to Sitamma the madam, who owned the brothel.
This was his fifth visit to this brothel. The first time had been almost a year ago. He had come along with his friend Badri. After that too Badri had accompanied him on every visit. Today was the first time he had ventured alone. Sitamma had immediately recognised him.
"Come babu," she had said, 'I've got a special girl for you. She is as fair as you are. She's young but full and ripe. You'll like her.'
On entering the room little had he realized that the 'fair girl who was full and ripe' would turn out to be Radha'.
Sitamma was sitting in the verandah chewing paan. On seeing him she said.
'How was she babu ? Pretty No?'
'Sitamma, I want to ask you something. Where did you get her?'
She looked at him, immediately suspicious.
'Why do you want to know?'
He gave her a hundred rupee note.
She looked at him and then at the note, sighed deeply and said, sit down babu I'll tell you.'
He sat down on a chair beside her. Sitamma stuffed a paan in her mouth and started her narration.
'Two months back I had gone to Vijayawada to visit my sister. She is a respectable lady, not in our bijnus. She has a large grocery store. Anyway, as I was telling you I had gone to stay with her for a few days. This girl Radha used to stay next door.
I often used to see her sitting on the front steps. One day I tried to engage her in conversation. But she just sat there like a dumb girl. I sensed that there was something wrong with her. Later I asked my sister, about her. It seems that Radha and her mother used to work in a contractor's house. Radha was seduced by the contractor's son. That young devil's name was Krishna, I think. A few months later the scandal broke out. Radha was pregnant. The contractor was of course a big man. His son was packed off to Hyderabad. Radha's father Pochayya was given five thousand rupees to get rid of the child.
That devil spent the money on liquor and gambling. Having no money left he gave the girl to a quack. God knows what the quack did to her. The girl lost the child and along with it her senses. Poor Radha, it seems she didn't want to lose the child. The shock proved too much for her. Now, on hearing this story an idea came to my mind. I decided to get the poor girl here. I wanted to do something for her.
I told this to my sister and she took me to Pochayya. I offered him three thousand for the girl. The whore's-son wanted four thousand. Ultimately we settled for three thousand five hundred. The parents were glad to get rid of Radha, and I was happy to get such a pretty girl.'
Sitamma paused, stuffed another paan in her month and continued, 'She is a nice girl babu. I have tried to give her a new name and a new life. She is no more Radha, I call her Sundari. For the first few days I tried to talk to her, to teach her a few things. But she just doesn't understand or is unwilling to understand. Now I have decided to leave her alone. Left to herself she will probably recover, that is, if the Lord wills it. But one thing babu I'll never allow the drunkards, thieves and pickpockets who are our regular customers to touch her. She is meant only for people like you.'
Sitamma stopped her long narration and looked at him.
He waited for the inevitable query.
'Why are you interested in her so much? Are you ' she paused and stared at him, her narrow eyes almost disappearing in her fat face.
'Yes, I'm Krishna,' he said and walked out.