• kewal sethi

not a good beginning

Updated: Jun 25, 2020

(written probably in late seventies)

i met saxena through a mutual friend – his name does not enter into incident that i am going to describe. suffice it to say the my friend, or so he thought, saxena quite well. they were class fellows and had known each other for a long time. the occasion to get introduced was a post which i aspired for. george was the person who mattered and saxena and george (all names are fictitious here) were trainees together and had served together in the same organization for a number of years. and who can deny that now a days, the posts are won not through merit but through connections and pull and push. saxena was obliging and said he would speak to george. he got my bio data and other details. he had not spoken to george when we went to know the result after about ten days, but he apologized handsomely and immediately rang up george and let him have the details. another week and another telephone call and he told us that that he had fixed up with george to meet us – myself and the mutual friend. we met george and he asked some more questions and was most sympathetic. another week went by and i went to meet saxena, alone this time, for how many times can you ask someone to accompany you. saxena asked me to come after two or three days for he hoped to meet george shortly. now, on the appointed time and date, i met saxena at ab0ut 4:30 or so. he at once got into touch with george and told me that something could be fixed up and that george wanted to see us about 5:30 in his office that day. could i come back in an hour’s time. i did and we took an auto rickshaw to go to george’s office. the office was in south delhi, a regular office area but a trifle isolated place. the office was a little off the road. we left the auto rickshaw on the roadside and walked up to the office. i remember remarking to saxena, as we approached the building, that it looked very deserted. saxena had, very casually , observed that office closes early but george worked late. it was not of much significance. george was a nice person. he asked us to be seated. the office was nicely and quite tastefully decorated and i noticed that it opened into another room behind which was as well decorated. the curtains were heavy. the windows were closed and the room was air-conditioned. there was, however, an peculiar smell around, rather unpleased. as we sat down, i noticed george looking me over in a marked manner. i may remark that i am not a bad looking young girl. in fact, modesty apart, i am very good looking. i do not know if i felt a little awkward but i should have for george opened the conversation with a remark that came as a bomb shell. ‘miss lata, i have the appointment letter all nice and ready, but you see, it has, unfortunately got locked up in the almirah over there and the key is in the next room. if you want to get it, we would have to go there’. it would be an understatement to say that i was shocked. i was stunned. and that gave a chance to george to continue, “now there, you are a nice looking girl and i can see that you will be very cooperative. you really do not know all the trouble that i have gone through to get these orders. can you ever imagine an offer like this, an appointment in the grade of 300 – 750 just like that and without any experience except the experience of having good time” i still did not comprehend. i looked at saxena. he sat with a dead pan look on his face. what did they want? rape me, both of them. so that was the set up. the place was deserted. my shrieks would not he heard. there was no one about. they had chosen this place very cleverly. oh! why did i not look through saxena. all this time he was calling me again and again till he got me to come without the protection of the mutual friend. did this class fellow knew this aspect of his character. oh! what a spot i was in. i do not know how long i sat like that. but i heard george say, “come on lata, be a sport. you cannot make us sit like this all night. i am sure you want your posting order early. no point in delaying it”. i fought the tears that came to my eyes. my throat was choked when i blurted out, “you bloody rascals, you and your nefarious schemes. you dare make such suggestions. go home and offer your posts to your sisters and mothers”. but george sat there smiling – blast him. “now, now. don’t get excited i am making a very fair offer. what is it after all. a nice lifelong career for what. just a little favour – just for one evening. is it a very heavy price? just a mite. come, don’t be a spoilsport”. i was besides myself with anger, swear words, which i never thought i knew, came out without any conscious effort on my part. i blasphemised their entire families. and all the while george sat there smelling, adding to my anger every time i noticed it. even as i cursed, my mind was working on the theme that they had me on the mat. whether i was willing or not, they could have their will. i was so near the tears. and all the time george sat smiling and saxena sat there with a dead pan look on his face. ever since i entered that room, he had not spoken a word as if he was not listening to all this conversation. the brute. he was behind all this. i felt my abhorrence rising more against saxena than even george, if that was possible. i was more and more convinced, these men would pounce on me/ what could i do? time, i felt, was running out. and so was george’s patience. “come on now, lata. don’t be a fool. don’t go on making faces. your language shows that you can be quite cooperative”. that put a stop to my curse as he continued, “and we cannot go on waiting indefinitely.”. with these words he got up from his chair. i was nervous. could i run ? where to? was the door just closed or locked ? did the other room had an exit. could it be locked from the other side. i did not know and i was paralysed with fear. i also got up but … suddenly saxena spoke. “now, george, just a minute but we agreed that it would be with the consent of miss lata only. wit for her verdict, she has to decide”. “oh! go to hell. what about her verdict. she has to get the job. she has to pay the price. or did she think that she can oblige me by accepting the job and nothing in return for me.” “nevertheless, she is to have the choice, and no hurry. let her decide.” did this give me some hope. nope. they were both in it. it was merely a tactical move already agreed between them in order to soften my defences. no, i must firm up. each had his assigned part and was playing it for all it was worth. i must tell them clearly. my tears had dried up. i felt composed and determined. for what? but still i believe, i spoke very calmly , “listen, you sons of swine, you are not going anywhere with all this talk. fie upon you and your jobs. you can keep it. i would never, never, agree”. “there. what did i tell you that you cannot get ghee with a straight finger”. :wait, miss lata. do you think you are sure. it is a question of now or never. this nice job can be all yours if you so decide. i have seen the orders myself. if not, you can say no.” “no. no. a thousand times no” “well the george.” “well. then what. do you think i can let this opportunity slip away like that. whether she likes to have the job or not, she has no options regarding the other matter. she is here and she is not going away. not until we have had her. she will never seek a job again”. with that he started walking around the table to come to the side where i was coming closer, he flashed his hand. i backed away. his hand just slipped from my shoulder along with the palloo of my saree. courage, courage. i tried to slap him but my hand just met empty air. and then saxena came in between. “shut up, george. you are not yourself. get back to your side of the table. we have to talk this over. it is with miss lata’s consent or not at all” it was funny his still talking about my consent. “nonsense, we cannot waste our time. get out of my way. you and your manners. my foot.” “sorry, it is with consent or not at all”. “bloody swine, i would see who stops me from taking her”. “i”. “you? you soft headed, chicken hearted person, you, now don’t try to come in my way or you will be sorry. get out”. george tried to push saxena out of the way and he might have succeeded. he was so much better built than saxena. all the previous effort and this sudden turn of events had left ne bereft of nerves. i wonder why i did not run away . nevertheless, i now did make n effort to run to the door and george shouted. “stop her, she is getting out”. and then suddenly he laughed, “he, he. but the key is here in my hand. it is an automatic lock. i do think of everything . he, ha.” he was pleased with himself and he had reason to do so as he leered at me “where can you go, my beauty, saxena or no saxena, you are mine. at least for tonight. “ but even as he spoke, saxena flicked the keys out of his hands, the next moment i saw a knife, a long knife in his hands. “get back george. i could smell it. your intentions were no good. i told you it would be with her consent, or not at all”. “you? You?” said george even as he was careful to remain out of the reach of the knife. “miss lata, would you kindly tale the keys from me and open the door”. i took the keys with a trembling hand. i opened the door . i crossed the door to freedom and saxena came out with m. he closed the door after him with a bang which drowned the voice of george who was now pouring out abuses. “there is no need to run, miss lata. you are out of all this”. i slowed down. we were out now as he said . i had a chance should anything start now. the main road could provide someone to help. an auto rickshaw stopped. i stepped into it. saxena followed. “connaught place.” he said. some twenty five minutes later, we were at ramble’s sipping coffee. i had recovered in the fresh evening air during the ride. i still could not speak there. i was just out of a traumatic experience. but now i could feel easy. i thanked saxena and he said nonchalantly, “i am sorry you could not get that job. it was a nice one”. i still do not know whether i should have thanked saxena or should have been angry with him.

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