All of 16 - full of life, adventure and frolic, Janet was saving every penny for the international travel. A small town girl from Arizona, simple and suave. A thousand dollar check from her father knocked her doorsteps on her birthday. It was a wonderful gesture from her father dearest, who worked in the construction industry on the East coast. He knew his darling was saving for the Asian tour. Thailand, India and Sri Lanka was on the travel agenda. Now she had Ten thousand dollars, sufficient to call the travel agents and book the cheapest flight tickets. Her mother couldn’t accompany her as she was down with viral. She didn’t want to take chance with the south Asian hot humid weather. She suggested Europe, but Janet was firm. South Asia, it was going to be. The warm beaches of Goa, the densely populated Kerala coastline, palace city of Jaipur, and the capital city Delhi were the places she was eagerly waiting to visit. She wanted to ride the mighty Thai elephants and dig into the spicy authentic native cuisine. The final leg was the majestic monasteries in the island nation of Sri Lanka.
“Next year Janet,” her mother pleaded with her, “why not postpone the trip by another 10 months? I’ll accompany you then.”
“I’m not a kid, mama,” rebelled the vociferous teenager, “I’ve booked the tickets anyway.”
“Child, think again. You’ve to travel across the globe, live with complete strangers and visit unknown places.”
“There’re guides whose services, I’ll hire. Some motels allow online reservations. They’re expensive. I can rent small motel accommodations for cheap fares. Joe told me his adventures. I’ll simply follow his footsteps.”
It was on a Friday. A warm hug and a soft kiss. Janet waved her mother a big goodbye and bounced joyously through the sea of humanity in the international airport.
They called him dada. Yunus dada. Dada is slang for boss. His area was the outskirts of Mumbai. When dada went on his usual rounds, the petty vendors never complained. They palmed into his huge hand, a rupee or two. He was better than the cop who came on rounds. The cop wanted 5 rupees. Ask him why? Tat came the reply, “The money has to go all the way up the ladder.”
But dada was different. Yunus dada saved the obedient and slayed those who stood up against him.
Dada employed 50 uneducated youths who found no constructive role in the society. They were from poor slums. Yunus dada, trained them to pick pockets in crowded bus, rob at knife point and yank gold chains from women’s necks. After the crash course, the young man were let loose for field work. If they were caught by the cops, their families were well taken care of by the dada. And dada often came to their rescue, bribing ministers and top brass police to secure their release.
Dada’s cell phone buzzed. His men stopped talking. It was their usual afternoon in the Blue moon tea joint, a decent café that served only tea and non vegetarian snacks. A joint were women never set foot in, despite the well kept furnishings and low cost. The pungent smell of cigarettes filled the air and cheap country liquor made its way stealthily on some tables. The men sat in groups. Some of them since two days, ordering tea after tea. The hotel owner never dared to ask them to leave or pay. The men would pay, not today, but when they strike booty. They would toss hundred rupees bundle on his cash counter and tip the waiters handsomely. Such hotels are spread across the country, a place for goons to meet and chalk out their plan of action. Half the most wanted criminals can be nabbed in these open dens. But who wanted to catch them anyway?
“Booliyee saab,” Yunus’s polite reply to every cell phone buzz.
Yunus’s eyebrows narrowed. His face frowned.
“Shall I send a prostitute instead?”
Yunus was getting irritated. The caller seemed to be pleading. Dada was reluctant.
But the caller seemed persistent.
“Let me try. Give me time.”
Yunus banged the phone on the table. The constant chatter across the tables stopped for an instant as though there was police raid. Every head turned at Yunus dada’s table. Then the different gangs went back to their group chatter.
“I know only the one case of Canadian tourist who had come to see the birth place of Lord Krishna. She was the only straight one. Poor woman, raped and murdered by the tourist guide. The cop, the local rickshaw puller all knew it. Nobody to fight for her. Except for a few like her, all the other white skins are here for the drugs, ganja and cocaine, banned in their soil. And last week the little girl was hacked to death in the God’s own country by the drug peddler, theft, rape and murder.”
Yunus dada sipped into his tea that was getting cold. His men looked on waiting for him
to spell out orders. A short bald man, his oldest faithful was cleaning his ear with a matchstick. He closed his eyes as he delightfully rolled the stick in his left ear. Then he suddenly cut into Yunus’s conversation.
“I get you the biggest money, dada. I bribe the cops. My money goes till the assembly and sometimes the parliament. How do you thing I manage to sell drugs in the open? Doesn’t local police know it? Everyone knows it. It’s drugs, drugs and more drugs. They come for it. They get drugs, I get money.”
Yunus looked at the bald man. He hated him. This stocky ass had almost got Yunus into trouble. He had raped and murdered two British women and killed a German tourist who was haggling for drugs. He had bartered sex for more drugs.
“Ass how much I had to pay for you, to get you out of trouble. 5 crores. That is not half what you’ve earned for me.”
Yunus would have ignored him, let the bald ass rot in jail. But the bald man threatened to expose Yunus’s underworld mafia. Not that Yunus was afraid of him, but didn’t want to get into more trouble. Yes, his friends in the police had assured him that they would knock his head in an encounter at the first opportunity. But for now, two uneducated labourers from Orissa languished in the dark dungeons of the prison on the rape and murder charges. The laborers had simply no idea of what rape and murder was and why they rotted inside. But they were given the names of the bald ass and his associate drug peddler, hauled before the magistrate and handed down the sentence. Their pleas of innocence remained locked within the iron prison gates.
“I lost so much money because of you, bald ass” ruminated Yunus.
“Don’t forget that you make the most money from me,” came the retort with haughtiness, “Anyways the foreign chicks don’t mind it. It is normal in foreign. Sex before marriage, after marriage, extra marital, it’s natural for them. So, what I want to conclude is that white chickens don’t mind rape.”
Yunus pulled out a revolver and pointed it straight at the bald man’s huge forehead.
“Bastard! I’ll pump the whole load into your fat head!”
Beads of sweat slided down the huge bald forehead. He trembled in fear. Yunus’s hand quivered in anger. The bald ass wept then suddenly laughed, laughed like a mad man.
“You can’t kill me, Yunus. I’m your precious little bald ass. You …”
Bang. Bang. Bang!
Three shots. Smoke. Then silence. Yunus and his men stormed out of the hotel, leaving the bald ass for dead.
Janet basked in the beaches of Goa. There she met many Americans and British tourists. It was fun! After a week she boarded a train to Kerala. At the face of it, the trip was rejuvenating, soul scratching. But deep inside there was the strange uneasiness, a veil, a veil that shrouded her and her alone. The other tourists never spoke of it. They cracked jokes and she blinked. They talked of something in hushes, which she wasn’t sure. They talked about dope, marijuana, she believed. She didn’t ask them. She didn’t come here for that. She wanted to see places. She boarded the second class compartment. But her mind was uneasy. She felt someone was watching her. Someone was breathing down her neck. She turned around. There was no one. The railways station was buzzing with people, men in uniform, porters in red, the poor and rich. But there was someone watching her, watching with evil eyes.
A hand suddenly grabbed her from behind. A white handkerchief with a pungent odor covered her nose. Her eyes drooped down. Her body swayed out of control. In fading consciousness she managed to grab a glimpse of the man who tried to pin her unconscious. It was the taxi driver, the good man to whom she had tipped $20.
Yunus dada looked at the cell phone again and again. Its black face had all stains on earth. He wrenched his wrists in anxiety. It must ring. Why didn’t it? Then finally the black instrument jumped to life.
“Yunus dada! We have got a foreigner. A woman traveling alone to Kerala. The taxi driver has bundled her from the railway station. A pretty fish.”
“Got her? The politician is behind my neck on this. I’m getting calls every half hour. When will I get her?”
“24 hours. She’ll be yours.”
“How are you sending her?”
“By truck. Petroleum tanker.”
There was a chuckle on the other end before the line went dead.
Yunus murmured under breath, “ The rogues want a foreign chick. They’ll never get caught. One lady dies. Some poor laborer goes to jail for no crime. The politician’s party continues. Justice served. All ends well.”
He dialed the politician’s number. He had to convey the powerful criminal that his requirement was on its way.
“Why do these women travel alone to a foreign land?” wondered Yunus, “How many women must die before they realize that the world is a bad place, a very bad place!”