Shyam Rao Apte was munching roasted peanuts and strolling lazily along the water’s edge in Chennai’s Marina beach. The sun had just set, in a resplendent display of orange brilliance. Hailing from Nagpur in Maharashtra and never having lived in a coastal city during his twenty-eight years of life, he found the experience exhilarating.
He was leaping away from the breakers and surf in the nick of time to avoid getting his feet wet. He found the game exciting. During one of those small leaps, he bumped into the girl, the slim, tall, beautiful girl with large doe eyes and black wavy tresses dancing on her shoulders.
The funny part was, unlike Indian movies, she saved him from a fall onto the wet sand.
“Watch it, mister…,” she cried sharply.
Her eyelids fluttered. Shyam Apte’s heart pounded away in his chest.
He muttered, “I am sorry, miss. I was…I was trying to avoid getting wet. I jumped…”
She smiled. His heart missed a beat.
“I know. I saw it.” She paused. “”Hey, I am Sunanda.”
She extended her hand. He held and had a heart attack, well, almost.
“I…I…I am Shyam, Shyam Rao Apte.”
“Well, Shyam…I can call you Shyam, can’t I?”
“Sure, you can, miss.”
“No, no, no…Sunanda.”
“If you are not busy jumping in and out of the sea, would you mind walking with me for a while?”
Shyam’s blush would put to shame a bride on her honeymoon.
…and they talked the walk for a while.
Shyam Rao Apte was a business development executive for a machine-tool manufacturer. He had come to Chennai on some official work with a local client. The day’s work finished, he took an autorickshaw to visit the famous Marina beach, where he bumped into Sunanda.
“That’s exciting, Shyam!”
“What’s exciting in sales, Suni? It is routine and boring, nothing exciting. Got to earn a living. So…”
“You, silly fellow, I didn’t mean the work part of it. You must be travelling a lot and seeing many different places. That must be exciting!”
“If you put it that way, yes, it is. You see, this trip to Chennai, too, would have been boring if…if I hadn’t met you.”
“Isn’t it now?”
“Isn’t it now, what?”
“No, it is exciting, Suni.” He paused. “You are so…so…”
“So what, Shyam?” She asked demurely, fluttering her eyelids.
He blurted out, “Delicate and beautiful.”
She was silent.
“Are you angry? Have I offended you?”
“Silly fool. How can I be offended when you are praising me?” She laughed.
“Thank God!” he sighed.
She suddenly blurted out, “Shall I make it more exciting?”
“What! How? I don’t understand.”
She was silent for a few moments.
“I am a call girl…” She said.
He was shocked, initially.
“You’re shocked. You hate me, don’t you?”
He flustered, “Why? Why would I? It is your personal matter.”
“Fine. What’s your answer?”
“I said I could make your stay more exciting.”
“I…I…I don’t have that kind of money.”
“Have I said anything about money? I like you.”
Shyam fell silent.
“Well?” She prodded.
“In which hotel are you staying?”
Shyam was lost in the bliss of frenzied lovemaking.
He sat smoking in the bed with his back resting against the headboard.
She lay wrapped in the soft bed sheet.
“May I ask you something?”
“How did you come into…this…this…?”
She laughed at his discomfiture.
He nodded and took another puff. Her expression became sombre.
“I was exploited by my lover. Several years ago, my lover invited me to a birthday party at his boss’s seaside holiday resort. He, his boss, and his gang of friends…” she paused “…gang raped me…and…”
Shyam interrupted her.
“I am sorry, Suni, you don’t have to describe the ugly details. Let’s forget it and love each other, once again.”
“No problem. It happened long time ago. I just wanted to tell it to you.”
“Wait; let me switch off the light.”
“Don’t trouble yourself. Let me do it.” She smiled and stretched her arm.
Her smile transformed into laughter, a maniacal laughter, as her arm grew in length and kept growing until it reached the opposite wall and switched off the light.
“…and I died that night…” The demonic laughter reverberated against the walls of the room.
Shyam Rao Apte screamed.