Letters to Domai
Letter from India
It was the summer of 1981. I passed out my Accountancy exam and went for an audit in a place called Harshini Tea Estate. The Tea estate, like any other, was a vast place of tranquility inhabited by simple workers, who work in the estate for a meager earning of about 30 US dollars per month. I reached the nearest rail station in the night and arrived at the Tea Estate in the car sent by the company. The driver was a man of my age about 21 years. His name was Chahel [all names are changed]. As we chatted in the car, Chahel told me that he stays with his wife in a small cottage inside the fenced perimeter of the bungalow where I'll be staying. Since I was the auditor, I could understand I was given a lot of privilege -- a big bungalow fenced by barbed wire for staying and a car with a driver to take me to different places for audit.
The next morning as I woke up from the sleep, I found Chahel waiting in the drawing room with a lively young woman. He told me that she was his wife Banhi. Banhi looked at me and greeted me with folded hands. Chahel told me that Banhi takes care of the bungalow -- by dusting, cleaning, making beds etc. Banhi was dark in complexion, had bright lilting perpetually smiling eyes and her youthful charm and glow had a magnetic attraction. My guess was she would be around 19 years of age. She asked me what time I want her to come in the morning to do the cleaning. Her voice kept on ringing in my ears. I took an early bath and went out with Chahel in the car to the administrative office for my work. When I came back in the evening -- I was driving the car. Chahel was not well and immediately on arrival to my bungalow, I sent him home to take rest.
After having a quick dinner, I went to bed. I woke up by a desperate knock at my door. The outside was still dark very early in the morning - I looked at my bedside alarm clock - it was 3 o'clock. With sleepy eyes I opened the door and found Banhi weeping outside. She told me that Chahel was down with high fever - she needed my help. I went down to their cottage, helped Chahel get into the car and drove to the Tea Estate hospital in that wee hours with the help of Banhi's direction. Banhi stayed on in the hospital to attend to her husband.
It was a horrible three days for Banhi and Chahel. I visited the hospital every evening after office -- initially things went from bad to worse for Chahel but after many a swings, Chahel was on his road to recovery. On the fifth day, when I went to the hospital, Banhi was glowing with happiness and she told me that Chahel would be released from the hospital next day at noon. I told her that it being a Sunday, I can take her to the hospital in the car and bring Chahel back home.
At 10-30 or so next day, I dressed up and approached Chahel's rundown cottage to take Banhi to the hospital. It had only two rooms -- the first one was a kitchen cum drawing cum dining room and the other a small bedroom. The entrance door was open and I went inside the first room -- the bedroom door was also open and as I looked in, I found to my surprise that Banhi was changing her clothes inside. I should have moved away but could not. I watched Banhi taking of all her dress one by one with her back towards me. I was rooted to the spot when I saw Banhi absolutely naked from behind - the dark, wide yet round buttocks and the deep canyon in between mesmerized me. In couple of minutes, Banhi dressed up wearing a blue cotton sari, a black blouse, a black bra and a white petticoat, which is a loose undergarment under the sari tied at the waist-level to cover from the waist to the ankle. After finishing her dressing up, she turned around when I made a feeble attempt to move away. She came out from the bedroom and seeing my flushed face, must have understood that I had been watching her all the while.
We started towards the hospital in the car -- myself driving and Banhi sitting by my side. Banhi was looking very sexy (this is the language we used to apply to refer to an attractive girl when we were in the college). While going in the car, she told me that it was for my timely help that Chahel had survived. I told her that my work in Bijonbari is over and I'll go away by the night train. I felt relieved that she did not mention about my watching her undressing.
After about fifteen minutes, as we were driving through a forest, she suddenly asked me to stop the car as she had something to say. She told me that she wanted to thank me and I could ask anything from her. Seeing my surprised face, she told me, I know I am poor but if there is anything that I have and can give to you as an expression of my gratitude, I will. I looked at her eyes and a suppressed desire came on top of my mind. I told her, Banhi- I want something, which you can agree with if you want to‚. Seeing my eyes watching her body with possibly looks of desire -- she hesitated and then asked me straight, Do you want to sleep with me?‚ I did not answer. She continued, I have not slept with anybody other than Chahel, but as I owe you a deep gratitude, I'll come in the afternoon to you -- you can enjoy me the way you want.
As she turned her face away, I said, Banhi, I do not want to violate the sanctity that you have preserved so long by having you in the bed. I wanted to ask for something else. Banhi was surprised and said, tell me what you want. I said, „Banhi -- I want you to take off all your clothes so that I can watch you absolutely naked. You have a beautiful body and I want to watch you naked and convey my appreciation."
Banhi remained silent for a while and then got down from the car and asked me to follow her -- and she started to walk into the forest. I silently followed her not knowing where she was going. The forest was absolutely lonely. The silence of the forest was broken intermittently only by the chirping of an unknown bird. As we went away from the road into the forest, Banhi looked back and smiled -- and then she started taking off her clothes while walking and threw them back towards me one by one. First she took off the sari, then the black blouse. She stopped for a moment to stretch both her hands behind to reach the hook of her black bra and untied it. By then, Banhi had the last piece of cloth on her -- the loose white pettycoat. I saw that we were on the edge of a small pond with crystal-clear water. Banhi turned around to me, with her rising large breasts, smiled and paused for a moment then with a deft movement she untied the knot of her pettycoat and let it go. I saw a smiling absolutely naked Banhi standing in front of me. My young face flushed -- I was excited beyond description -- but a sudden sense of appreciation of Banhi's naked beauty came from within, overpowering the sexuality of my thought.
Banhi smiled and told me -- "Don't loose this opportunity by feeling shy -- watch me, tell me how do you want to see me -- I know you have watched me naked from behind in the morning -- so now take a good look from the front. There's nothing wrong in appreciating the beauty of a female body. Lust for flesh and appreciation of beauty are two entirely different things."
Banhi lifted both her hands to untie her hairs -- her two heavy breasts vibrated with her actions. And then she turned around to walk into the pond absolutely naked. As she walked away to the pond, I kept on watching the rhythms of her swinging buttocks. She dipped herself in the water and came out of the pond like a mermaid. Her wet dark body created a contrast against the bright sunlight of the woods. I was mesmerized by her large full breasts, the deep bellybutton. She created a sense of mystery with her body. She stretched her hand towards me asking for a piece of her cloth that I was carrying so long, to dab herself dry. She looked at me and smiled and asked me, Is it the first time you are watching a woman naked? As I nodded, she said, Do you like it?â I hesitated to answer -- she lowered her eyes, she smiled and said, I know you have liked it. More than anything, I see the appreciation and not hunger in your eyes. Let me be honest with you -- I also liked it -- everybody in the world likes to be appreciated. I also know that neither you will ever forget me; nor I will. She put on all her clothes one by one and then said, Can we go now?
Time, the preserver of all things beautiful, locked my pleasant experience hidden in a secret corner of my memory. It was resurrected to life by Dariya -- if possible, let her know my appreciation and regards to her beauty and to Mr Goncharov, the photographer who brought that beauty to surface for all of us. I still wonder how an uneducated village woman from a remote corner of India came to know the truth, which so many of us are horribly confused about -- "Lust for flesh and appreciation of beauty are two entirely different things". Whenever I see a beautiful female, Banhi's words keep ringing in my ears till this day.