“What exactly are these bookings for?” she spoke in a meek voice.
There was an eerie silence in the room suddenly. She wondered if it meant a threat to her spirit of employment but then at that very moment Suyash dragged a chair towards her.
“What do you think I make you do, Ramya?” he asked her in softer tone, surprisingly.
Ramya couldn’t bring herself to speak.
“Say anything that comes to your mind,” he continued in the same mellowed way he was speaking.
The room became filled with another bout of long silence.
His intense gaze didn’t fade one bit which clearly indicated that Ramya had to give reply to move forward the conversation.
“I think the bookings are for,” Ramya stopped short in halfway.
“Go on,” he prodded.
She held nerve and brought all the lumps of courage together and said, “Trafficking, human trafficking.”
She saw his eyes twitch a bit at the words, her heart almost jumped out.
“You mean to say prostitution? Right?” he spoke, this time with a much more bland tone.
Ramya nodded uncomfortably.
“When you already know about it then why did you have to ask,” and with these words he left the room.
At first she thought he was a little miffed with her and hence walked away but then in flat five minutes he entered the room with a file.
“You might want to read this, this is the list of activities that one gets when they book a woman with us. Every single ‘favour’ has a price. I should have made you go through on the first day itself. Ramya this is my profession, legal or illegal I respect it. And I guess now its your job too, learn to appreciate the activity that gets you bread and butter,” this time round his voice was harsh and sharp.
* * *
Rich and famous. That’s what she wanted to be.
“And now what will you do?” Shekhar asked softly.
“Did I tell you this one time my father almost lost his leg?” she spoke holding a strange expression on her face.
Shekhar didn’t reply, only continued watching her intently.
“I was ten at that time. My father had a bad fall. My parents didn’t have money to pay for his treatment. At the last moment my mother sold some of her jewels to arrange cash. Doctors said if they had been a day late, his leg could have got infected,” she maintained the same blank look and voice.
Shekhar’s impassive face made no movement.
“I was ten but I knew what had happened. She had begged for money from her seven brothers. Not even one had stepped forward to help. They told her they had their own family to look after. Earning the bread and butter for their kids,” she began to look down at her feet at the end of this.
“I understand Ramya,” Shekhar whispered encouragingly.
Ramya suddenly jerked her head up to meet his eyes, “You know nothing Shekhar, nothing at all. When Suyash spoke about earning his bread and butter through it, I didn’t judge him. I understood him. I don’t need your sympathy, I need your sufferance.”