I was getting impatient to get back to my room in the hostel and lie down calmly so long as I liked to, but others seemed like they never wanted to return. I remembered that for the last couple of days I hadn’t eaten properly but surprisingly it had affected me in the least. Mohan and Nirupama could eat anything anywhere and still relish it and Vani enjoyed starving herself, or so it seemed to Mohan who kept jeering at her saying that it was all affectation. She according to him was eating so little to impress us the boys that she was too delicate. As to me, I was in no mood for banter and I didn’t bother about anyone right now, least of all Vani. My thoughts kept wandering to all the lectures that I had missed, all the comfort of my cozy room, the evening swigs of drinks with Vijay, my translation sessions with Hiremath, the part-read novel by Shivaram Karanth that was lay on the table and my ambles through the botanical gardens.
When we reached Dharwad it was just after seven in the evening and darkness was descending fast. We got down at the court and I felt immensely happy smelling the familiar air thick with the aroma of mirchi bhaji, a popular snack of the evening. But I was puzzled when Mohan called a rickshaw and huddled all of us inside. I was sandwiched between Vani and Nirupama while Mohan sat on the edge with part of his body hanging out of rickshaw. I felt most of Nirupama’s bosom touching my shoulder and arm and quickly forgot Vani too clinging to me! But the pleasure was going to be mine only for about five minutes, for the rickshaw came to a grinding halt opposite a three storied hotel building on a narrow lane. Mohan entered the hotel and went to the counter while we waited out.
“Why have we come here?” I asked Nirupama.
“Because we cannot go back to our hostel after seven in the evening.”
That meant I was doomed to spend another night in the hotel with Vani! I tried to hide my disappointment looking away from the girls. Presently Mohan came out of the hotel and called me to have a private talk. I walked to him warily, expecting some trouble. “Harsha, we have to stay in this hotel for the girls can’t go back tonight. The problem is I am, in fact the girls are running short of money. How much do you have?”
I gave him whatever money I had but I knew it was still not sufficient. “I told you right in the beginning that I hadn’t brought money Mohan, I have less than hundred rupees, not even sufficient for the drinks and dinner at our usual place,” I said by way of explanation though there was no need for it.
“I know Harsha. You guys stay occupy the rooms and I will fetch money from the hostel,” he replied and signalled the girls to follow him. All my hopes that he would decide against staying in the hotel came down crashing.
The rooms that were opened for us were under the stairs beside the reception counter. I observed that men after men kept coming accompanied by women, paid cash at the counter, collected the keys and went upstairs. In most cases, women seemed to be leading the men and obviously the receptionist knew them well. Not a word was exchanged between the customers and the receptionist, nor was any entry made in the register of occupants. Although this was all a bit weird and eerie to me, and shocking to my sensibilities too, I understood in a flash what was all this about and hoped that the girls wouldn’t see it and tried to obstruct their view. Mohan observed it and gave me a knowing wink and a ‘don’t worry’ assurance smile. No sooner had we entered one of the rooms than he left hurriedly.
Nirupama sat with us till Mohan arrived in a few minutes less than an hour, carrying two big bulging polythene bags, obviously containing liquor and food reminding me that I had been starving and my craving for the drink had also set in. This was the third night in a row that I was spending away from my hostel, without any information to my parents and however much I tried; I couldn’t keep this thought coming to my mind. What ashamed me even more was my bother of yet another possibility of failure.
“You know what some guys were talking outside?” Mohan whispered to me, “They were saying that they have spotted two new birds!” he giggled.
“What are you two whispering?” Nirupama objected with a raised brow, “No private talk when you are in a group.”
“This concerns only men,” Mohan winked.
Observing Mohan pouring two glasses of whiskey that he had brought, Nirupama asked, “What about this?”
“This too concerns only men,” I replied and Mohan nodded in affirmation. I had gathered that he didn’t like Nirupama drinking.
Dharwad then was a small city and it was quite possible that men who had seen the girls in the hotel might come across them again somewhere. It bothered me but the girls didn’t seem to be concerned at all. I took a swish of whiskey and winced as it tasted very bitter, for in a hurry to get over with dinner, Mohan had not diluted it much.
“Where did you get the money from?” I asked Mohan in a whisper. I knew that he couldn’t get much from the friends.
“The mess contractor,” Mohan replied with a victorious smile. “Just as I got down at the bus stop, I saw him.”
I couldn’t help myself hoping that Mohan would ask me to go to the other room where Nirupama would be staying, though I had realized that I was hoping against hope but Mohan and Nirupama promptly walked away after dinner, with Nirupama saying, “Have a good one!” with a wink, before she followed Mohan. I cursed her silently for being so impervious to my feelings. I craved for another drink but whatever little Mohan could bring, we had gulped down in hurry and the hotel we were staying in, had neither a bar nor a restaurant of its own. Then where was the money to get the drink?
I lay on one of beds listening to the voices from the counter. The flow of customers, instead of ebbing, had increased twofold. I was sure the same women kept coming back with new customers. It was abominating thought. Presently Vani came out of bathroom wearing the same night gown and instead of proceeding to the other bed, came straight to me, and inclined to kiss me. I allowed her to kiss me but it broke my belief that only men take initiative in such things. I really wonder what a fool I had been back then, though some may prefer calling it innocence. I used to believe that everything was done only by boys, and the girls didn’t like love-making, in fact, they considered it blasphemous. It was an unclean act, unholy, dirty for the girls who were angels and who were virtuous, pure and beautiful but boys being boys, enjoyed it. Why, I couldn’t tell!
“Vani, you better go to your bed. You know I do not have protection today,” I said trying to evade her. She understood that I was too shy to use the word ‘condom’
She laughed heartily and asked, “You mean Nirodh?”
All were familiar with the word ‘Nirodh’ back then because of the government family planning advertisements that ran in the cinema houses. I didn’t reply.
“I am grown up enough to know that by kissing and fondling I can’t get pregnant” she said and laughed even louder.
“Shsh..” I said in a whisper, “Remember this is a hotel, not your hostel. Moreover I cannot stop just at kissing.”
“I know you can’t do anything anyway” she teased me but I was offended.
“Don’t jump to conclusions. You don’t know what I am capable of!” I said testily.
“Yes. I want to know what you are capable of. Please…” she persisted.
I tried to push her out of my bed but she clung to me hard.
This went on for such a long time that I began running out of my patience. At last I told her, “I am going to remove all my clothes. Then I will see how you can continue to stay in my bed.”
“No, please don’t do that.” She didn’t look she believed me. But she held both my hands trying to prevent me from reaching my clothes. With a jerk I could free my hands and took away all my t-shirt. But she still hugged me tightly and said, “No problem even if you aren’t wearing anything!”
“But now it is your turn. If you do not return to your bed, I am going to tear your clothes. Don’t blame me later for anything!” She still didn’t budge. Till then I had not realized how powerful she was though she looked fragile. She could resist my attempts at undressing her for not less than an hour and later I was presented with another problem of getting her cooperation. It must have been four in the morning when I overcame all the resistance and penetrated her and dissolved into a blissful exhaustion. All of a sudden, a fear might have gripped her, for she immediately rushed to the bathroom. Before she returned I had drifted into sleep.
By six in the morning, Mohan came knocking at the doors and before anyone could notice us, we took off to the campus.