Friday, February 13, 2009

An Impromptu visit to Neelkamal Palace, 14th January 2009.

When I goal-keepered for the 1st time in my life, purely based on instinct, people called me Oliver Kahn; when I did Karate, people thought I could be Van Damme or so did they say. But when I told them that I wanted to learn dance, they did not even call me a Tushar Kapoor or a Jackie Shroff or even an Abhay Deol (who by the way is a good dancer) and were like 'hah ha ha.. that was a good one' or 'naidoo tuuu??? rehne de'.

I was determined though and wanted to give it a shot just for fun's sake especially since I had full support and co-operation of my good friend, Ambrish whose enthusiasm for the same far exceeded mine. Last November itself he found out the address of this 'Rainbow Dance classes' and some other place on some flyer, somewhere; he swore, several times, that these places were in fact the very centres of excellence we were looking for and we made a pact that we'll join after exams at the beginning of this semester.

So, the day had finally arrived, I thought. The day was 14th of January, a day after I was back from an awesome Rock-Climbing camp. Ambrish could not come with me that day and so I set out, all alone, to find that place and join immediately, if possible. Needless to say that evening my mood was truly elevated: I listened to 'Dance pe chance maar le' about three-four times on my way to Shyambazar metro station, boarded the metro there and got down at Shobha bazar, the immediate next stop and began asking where this Exide service centre was.

I was directed and walked a fair bit and finally found the board of 'Rainbow' adjacent to the service centre, went in and began talking to the watchman, who, naturally, was a 'chinky'. He understood very little Hindi, if at all any and so after a great difficulty, I learnt that only kids were taught there and people of 'my age' were taught dance right behind the present place in another building. But to get to that place one had to go around the present building and three-four others through bylanes since there was no back entrance to that building. The name of the building was Neelkamal building and I thought that it was a decent name, decent enough to host a branch of 'Rainbow dance classes' and so I proceeded as directed.

Then I went around and reached this really busy, narrow road that ran parallel to main road. There was something really odd about this place but I couldn't make out what. It was full of people and a lot of 'well-dressed' women were out on the streets. I thought some local festival or something was going on. I then asked a store wallah where the building was and he said it was the next one. There were men sitting on benches on both sides of the entrance and as I reluctantly approached a man got up and said, "aayiye". I was puzzled and asked him. "yaha pe dance ke classes hothe hain kya?". He replied, "haan haan, aayiye" and I hesitantly followed him willing to bet that this could not be the place where dance classes could go on. The place and the people looked so downmarket.

He then took me inside the building and through a door that opened into a corridor. I followed him, walked a couple of steps and then he pushed aside the curtains that previously concealed half of the corridor.

When the horror of what I got myself into, dawned upon me, a couple of moments later, I was shocked to the core, to say the least. At the far end of the corridor, which was not really that far, two girls were to be seen. One standing, who just then happened to turn to see the visiting guest and the other sitting, on a stool cross-legged. They were then joined by another lady who came out from an adjacent room.

The rooms looked really plush and cozy with beautiful sheets, blankets, nice furniture and mirrors all around. For a second, I thought of getting in, locking myself up from inside for a while and then happily emerge elsewhere upon reopening the door. But then I decided against it, and thankfully so.

I do not want to start describing how they were dressed not only because that would be inappropriate but also because I do not know what those things are called; but looks wise, two of them were so beautiful that any guy would be tempted to say yes and marry them without even knowing a thing about them. They are the kind of girls you dream of marrying and spending the rest of your life with, happily everafter, without even asking where they came from.

I knew that I had only one choice of action and just as I was beginning to think of something like turning back and running away, he spoke, "aayiye Sir, andar baithiye aur jis se bhi baath karna hain, baath keejiye". Then, all three of them, together, gave what they call an inviting smile. That was a task, really well done and I did not find it surprising since they were professionals after all.

I dont really have a heart of steel and was already in a daze. Presently, my mind went blank, knees weakened and I was having a tough time making mysefl believe that it was not really a dream and so with a heavy heart, I ruled out the option of waking myself up.

I then finally spoke, with splendid authority, nevertheless, that is so characteristic of me:
"nai, nai"
"nai, nai, nai"
"yeh sab nai.... "
"mujhe tho dance seekhna tha.. yaha pe kahi dance sikhathe hain kya?"
What a brilliant thing to ask! I then, couldn't curse myself enough. He replied by saying that I'll get to learn all kinds of dance and continued saying things similar in gist.

As I absent mindedly began looking at the girl who was sitting, she must have gathered that it was she I was 'interested' in and so, to take over the proceedings, she smiled courteously and slowly straightened her legs in order to get up. My sight slipped, she noticed it and provided an even greater visual access, sporting a naughty 'gotcha' kind of smile.
I, now, lost it completely, even my anatomy gave up on me.
It was just the kind of scene where your eyes pop out, jaw drops and a couple of tweeties go round your head in opposite circles tweeting away merrily.

After being convinced that I've had just about enough, I think, she finally got up and proceeded towards me. As she took a couple of steps. I turned away from her impulsively and my sight lay upon an inanimate body of a woman lying in the first room of the corridor which I hadn't noticed till now. She was lying on her back, wrapped in white sheets, presumably naked, only her face visible, with eyes wide open gazing up at the roof but looking far beyond. I could tell that she was simply hoping to disappear.

The expression on her face told the whole story: what she'd just been through, what it meant to her and how it made her feel. She wouldn't have blinked her eye even if earth beneath her had opened up and gobbled up everything around her. If I summed it up by saying that I was looking at a dead body gazing from the Hades, even the most censorious critic wouldn't have blamed me had he seen her lying there like that.

She was Death Incarnate.

There are moments in your life when you feel totally detached from the world, nothing in it and beyond bothers you. Like when you are resting in the arms of your beloved or when you've just reached the peak of a mountain all alone and you raise you arms and look around in triumph. I felt the same way then, in purely abstract terms though, although there was nothing 'good' about it. It was like getting pushed to the extreme first and then beyond.
My knees were not weak anymore.

And the girl who walked up to me and stood in my way now finally spoke: " saab rukna nahi hain tho 800 rupaiye me 'short' me fuck karlo..". It never occured to me that a girl speaking that language, like that, would be so disgusting and insulting in real life. (Now, thatt, is some knowledge, brothers!). I just gave her a look, she got the message and moved aside. My legs did the rest.

As I walked out, I saw all kinds of people enter and go upstairs: old, young, fat, filthy. I then thought about those girls and then stopped imagining anymore partly because I was rendered incapable of imagination of any kind.

I don't remember what went through my mind on my way back. I had a bad taste in the mouth, heavy heart and restless mind.

But soon afterwards, my mind was filled with hatred and disgust towards the society that allowed such 'business' to flourish and what disturbed me even more was the plain fact that I was also a part of it, after all. Mine is not a moral concern, lets not get there; the point is how can anyone allow human beings to be treated like dogs? And this was worse. Even dogs would be ashamed of this and wouldn't approve of this. These girls deserve a life too, dont they?

I later came to know that that place was actually licensed to carry out such activities and so the business usual is a perfectly legal affair. I then simply gave up even hope.

In the end, in retrospect, when I come to terms with the fact that what I was thinking of doing, given the kind of situation that I found myself in, and what I actually did were sustantially different I realize how close a shave it was and how lucky I was to come back unscathed from there (I heard, from one of my well informed friends, afterwards, that there are places where once you enter, a payment has to be made irrespective of whether you decide to be entertained or not: else, you'll be lucky if you are sent off in your undies).

I thank merciful God for letting sanity prevail when it was most needed.