Sweet Hell (Part 2)
“Wake up! Wake up!” his grandmother called, “Nobody sleeps this late. Your lunch is cold.”
Ayyea was still dazed. Had lunch and scattered to Women’s Lane. He walked a quarter when he started to hear footsteps following him, then laughter, giggles and a cry of a female, “Hey Ayyea! Kish is here.”
He glanced around but there was no sign of a human being. He could see quite some ground in this cleared area. He continued on. Suddenly, she appeared in front of him, about a hundred yards away, she was leaning against a palm. The woman in red dress, the harmless ‘hundi’ Ashwar mentioned. “She was facing me. I knew if I get closer I could see her face, find out who she is, but something inside was telling me to turn back, turn back now. I could still hear voices.” So Ayyea admitted seeing this woman. “I turned back and voices ceased, I can’t hear the footfalls behind me. But then I walked and walked the same path of the palm grove, I feel like I come to the same point every time, like I can distinguish the spot. I take rest and start again. People call this phenomenon a ‘path-blinder’, a hallucination. I was lost. I sat down in sweats. Then in a pause I glanced up, a big moon was rising in the evening sky. It would get dark soon. I got up and began to walk keeping the moon in focus, I knew the village lies in that direction. Finally, after dark I reached the village, to my surprise I climbed from the northern side of the island. I couldn’t say how I got there.”
Ayyea arrived home safely. He joined the crowd and watched the stage show.
“That was our final show,” Mannan explained, “Shortly after that we had a moonlight rambling on the western end of the island, a long way from the village right down Woods Lane. Moonbeam caressed the beach and the waters. We dived in naked bathing. We felt the breeze but not too much on this side. Lit a fire and with our hollow guitars, we sang, we drank, we danced, we had our last bottle of Bacardi Rum.
“There were ten girls, some from Male’. Sherin and Umé were drunk, flat on the beach. We had a good time until dawn.”
After midnight, Ayyea stepped on the gate to see a spark outside Badi House. Ayyea reached to find Farida seated outside on the row of a rope-woven perch, so-called ‘joli’, smoking a fag. “I’m waiting for you,” she said. “I have something to show.”
“What is it?”
“I think you know. Come with me…”
“Listen,” Ayyea sat down next to her, “I saw the hundi today and I got lost. Is it real?”
“It is real. You shouldn’t bother to go there.” She was in her blue dress, bell-bottoms. “Stop thinking too much, it’s over. Come!”
Ayyea entered her room in the glow of the oil lamp. Kish was sleeping in bed wearing the sleeveless mini dress. “Is she sleeping?”
“She’s resting,” voices were down to whispers, “She has leaked to her panties.”
“I can see that but what about her family?”
“They know she’s here. Her family is fine with me. Go, sleep with her.”
He sat down beside her, patted her shoulder. “She’s gone limp…” She was soft like cotton. He blew a kiss on her cheek. “I guess you are related.”
“No. Tailor Don has no choice. I am lead to the dance group. His place is supplied with electricity from Sosun Club. He has to send a girl to perform in dance.”
“That’s the deal.”
A local doctor visited on Thursday. He set a desk by the open stage and this community gathered in numbers to check him out. He was indeed slow checking every child and woman very carefully, passing doses of injections and medicine. It was organised by the Roshan Club and Multi-Ibre voiced his curse, “I can do better. I am WHO trained.” He picked an ampoule from his pocket. “This is for Hepatitis. Now I need a syringe and a needle. He won’t let me, says this has expired…”
Ayyea cried, “You better let the doctor take care of it.”
“You think I don’t know a thing?” Multi-Ibre left angrily.
When the doctor took break at noon, Multi-Ibre placed a desk right next and sat down to see patients. “I can double this effort,” he said. Roshan Club heads got annoyed.
“Then came an old man with a difficulty in excretion.” Ayyea continued, “Ibre searched the doctor’s medicine cabinet and pulled out a syrup, he asked to take it straight up. He did and he could not leave the ground,” Ayyea laughed. “Poor chap expelled in a loose motion right there.”
For doctors who made trips to the islands in the era actually had successful records to fill in with pleasure mostly because antiseptics and antibiotics worked effectively on indigenous people never exposed to medicine; healing took place instantly.
Friday morning he got stirred in bed to hear the loud noise of the helicopter. It went on for a long moment and stopped. In a while Multi-Ibre knocked on his door. “Get up! I come to pick you.”
Ayyea opened the door, “Where do you want to take me?”
“Women’s Lane,” he said.
“I’m not going,” he shut the door.
“All are there. We are blowing up the reef…”
“Who are?” he opened.
Ayyea climbed the Triumph quiet reluctantly. When they reached the beach exposed to a lively breeze, his mood changed instantly. There were women passing drinks. Wheelbarrows loaded of watermelons, coconuts and fruits. Few steps away a pile of TNT bags dumped on the beach and guards of the national brown shirt were in action.
Out on the reef, waves were high, rocking the boats. The brown shirts dropped TNT bags and finally set up three explosions. Each time the waters shot into the sky some hundreds of feet high. Then it was up to the islanders to pick the rocks and clear the passage. Ayyea joined them to the reef on a rowing boat. “He’s actually an amazing guy.” Ayyea praised, “Ibre stays nine minutes under water in skin diving, hammering and levering the rocks with a pinch bar.”
Day long they worked. “I certainly missed the Queen of Spirits,” said Ayyea, “Sherin left to Male’. She was fun. The band gone too. Still it was fun out there throwing women into water.”
Three months later in the scattered rains of the great easterly monsoon, Male’ roads filled with pits and puddles. Nation observed an ill-fated cholera epidemic. Ayyea was at Hakura Fare, “It was a stampede, crowded that night. I caught the seventh note and still ringing in my ears. TT Bum Blues Band playing ‘Bootleg, bootleg, bootleg, howl’
“In a break it announced the next leg of the Island Beauty Pageant. It was still raining in a drizzle but the show continued. Two dozen girls in plain white bikinis climbed the stage and we watched captivated. We hoot, we shout, we push, blow whistles and crowd pressed on my back. I was just inches from the stage. Farida Ikhtak was among the girls. You don’t miss her red lips and strong black hair, great shape. I called, I screamed, ‘Farida! Farida!’ but she couldn’t hear a thing. After that TT Bum Blues Band was back playing ‘Feel Like Making Love’. In another leg those girls came up in full dresses. She was crowned the Beauty Queen.
“And the most awkward moment was that, she came out penetrating through the crowd in the rain and picked my hand. It shocked my friends, my girlfriend too.”
She cried, “I’m at Sharif’s place. I noticed you. Come and see me sometime. I’m going to the VIP now.” She strayed back into the crowd with the bunch of girls. The VIP, a private room next to the liqueur shop and that belonged to the royals, of course.
“I was flattered. Farida Ikhtak, the Libran and the Queen of the Night, was my friend. People turn to look at me. She was so professional on stage, trained by the First Lady,” revealed Ayyea, “I dropped my eyes at my girl…the band was playing ‘Juanita’…ironical, isn’t it!”
A day later, Ayyea visited Farida and what he learnt was shocking. She got married to Sharif and the Bandiya of the Sosun Club in Thoddo dissolved. Because she called the girls to Male’ and formed her own group to perform at the resorts, obviously that would bring money. Many girls came leaving families in the blackout. Sosun Club cut off electricity from the houses of girls who deserted. Farida managed to bring eighteen girls, among them Kish too.
Sharif’s place called Salty Breeze was huge. He was out. She called Kish and Ayyea to an extravagantly furnished sitting room, tiled in red, isolated from the backyard crowd. A Grundig radiogram placed by a wall. It gave such good sound. She played an LP of ‘Beautiful Sunday’ for a shot.
“This house caters a huge crowd now lodging here and I’m so busy doing the costumes particularly to perform for the First Lady.” Farida said, “Eighteen girls, more than enough to start with. Sharif obtained several bookings from the resorts and we are already on the go, busy practising some new steps. You can come and date her.”
“What happens to Sosun Club now?”
“Cut down by half and they miss Independence Day invitation to perform in Male’. Instead Roshan Club will be here. Sosun Club is left with a bunch of old girls, single mothers. It is chaos there, club owners angered.”
“I want to take Kish out to Olympus Theatre, a date and have a private talk.”
“Come on, you can have private talk here. Girls have strict rules, they can’t go out often and not after eleven. Have you spoken to her?”
Ayyea glanced at Kish sitting very quietly. “Not the way I want to.”
“What are you up to these days?” she asked.
“I’m working at Club 33 Male’ Office.”
“What resorts? Can you book us?”
“We have LH and Velessaru. I will mention to the Swedish Manager.”
“Well, I will let you take her out but only once. After that if you feel happy, you can come and date her here. You are free to do anything, you know that.”
“I’ll buy two tickets for Friday Night Show.”
“Friday night we are going to Aurah Island, the presidential retreat, and day after booked at KV, Sunday booked to Furana.” Sharif managed to attain the cream of contracts such as the First Lady and the Universal Group. She could easily obtain Male’ stay permits. “After three shows in a row, she’d be extremely tired. Monday she will rest.”
“Then on Tuesday night for a movie?”
“Fine,” she agreed.
Ayyea saw them going to Aurah Island on 10th March, Friday. The dancers of Club Rehendi walked all the way in a queue with their bags and dancing tools, each carried a bandiya pot. They wore their new dancing costumes, mini blue slips, for the island was very close and left at six in the evening. Huda and Gulish were in the batch. On the Marine Drive, waterfront was a lively spot, on-going activities and crowd on the move, half-naked tourists and fast moving boats.
Salty Breeze got tall white walls and two gate access. One facing the inland road gave access to the snobbish sitting room and remained locked. The other blue gate facing the seaside led to a corridor of stock rooms and still another door accessed to the ground in the backyard. This ground was lit up and the girls were getting ready for practices. “She reached me in a black frock and high-heels, dressed neatly. Farida waved me from a distance. I picked her out to the movie and the worst part was that I had to walk all the way carrying my bike and the girl. I really felt bad about it.” Ayyea shrugged, “You know, sailors and bandiya girls, they have a bad name. And this is the lewdest thing if a friend sees me. Those days it was hip to go bike riding with girls.
“Under the streetlights I noticed Kish’s dress was transparent, I could see her white panties and the silver girdle glittered. I asked where she got this dress.”
And she said, “First Lady gave us new clothes, these shoes, make up kits and facial powder on our trip to Aurah.”
“Really! Did you meet her, shake hands?”
“Yes, she talked to us.”
“Shit! I’ve dropped a heel.” Ayyea was halfway between Salty Breeze and Olympus Theatre when he realised one of his heels was missing. “I could have dropped it at your place. I can’t turn back. We’ll lose my bike and change shoes at my place.” He walked the girl carrying his bicycle and dragging a shoe.
The movie ‘Bobby’ was a Bollywood hit released in 1973. It gave a sober moment but by the end trailers on the silver screen prompted for late night show. Many left but they stayed for a picture. Usually, late night shows brought explicit material and this night no different. Audience got engaged in private things with partners. Ayyea decided to leave, rather they switched to televisions.
This couple walked to the east end breakwaters and entered a pub for a coffee drink. He said, “I thought Gulish got married to Ashwar.”
“They are still married but on the brink. She’s under influence…”
“Yes, they do fanditha and throws her ‘in the middle of the island’, that’s just a phrase, it means she sleeps with anyone.”
“Who does that?”
“She raises the Anzala and provokes the Fahsha in a girl and then they send a guy to mate her.”
“They do this until the husband discovers and grows intolerable of her wrongdoing and divorces her. Once she’s divorced it’s over. People fall in love with virgins only. That’s the reason why Thoddo boys don’t like to marry island girls. In second marriage, nobody really cares what she does. Mostly girls remain single and end up in Bandiya.”
“Are you under the influence?”
“Not that I know of. I am not married.”
“I see! Girls who give birth without a father are labelled like ‘island-middle’, these girls are like that.”
“Something like that, every man on the island must be responsible. You can’t finger point to say who. All in it, isn’t it?”
“That’s right. Let’s go home. It’s going to rain.”
It started to rain and the couple took shelter under an overhanging roof. Kish said, “I need a toilet urgently.”
“Hold it. It’s raining too much.”
“I can’t,” she said.
“Where can I take you?”
“I’m coming, I’m coming, hurry up!” she cried.
“Come!” They dashed in the rain across the street. He took her to a friend’s place. Rifat was out. His mother was there. “This girl needs a toilet.”
“Oh dear girl!” cried Rifat’s mother, “You are so wet. Come this way. Do you want to dry your clothes?”
Ayyea continued, “We got very wet. I could see her nipples, the girdle and the whole skin in that dress. I didn’t notice the white panties, maybe I wasn’t paying much attention there. We came to my place, picked my Raleigh bike, placed her on the crossbar and paddled all the way to Salty Breeze.
“There again I looked for the missing heel, turning the dynamo on, she was revolving the wheel in the drizzle, looked everywhere I stepped on. I couldn’t find it. Back home I saw it dropped by my gate. All this time, guess I was drunk, I cycled up, walked down here, without it.”
He made a mistake in mentioning the bandiya group to the local manager at his office. This round, dark guy, Majid said, “Don’t mention it to Jörgen. I can fix it. Show me this lady, Farida. I will talk.”
Hasan Zahir, a senior colleague was there. They rolled in a bumpy car to Salty Breeze and met Farida. Three new resorts were booked and she was glad. Those things Majid arranged later with her remained unknown to Ayyea. He knew that Majid asked resort managers to raise staff fund to pay for the shows.
He met Sherin at a disco house one afternoon. “Ayyea!” she cried, “Long time! What are you doing?”
“Hi Sherin! I thought I’d never see you.”
“Hush!” she gestured, “I am on a date with the club owner. My ex doesn’t know where I am. I can’t talk much here today. Maybe, we meet another day.”
“I’m at Club 33. Give me a ring.”
“You in resort…I’d love to go,” she whispered, “I go now. I’m going to dance here tonight.” She left.
Hasan Zahir asked, “Who is she?”
“Someone I met on Thoddo trip.”
Sherin called a day later and asked to take her to a resort but Ayyea was busy. “I can’t go today,” Ayyea told her, “Let’s make a date out, Hakura Fair or the rock concert, a disco?”
“A disco! No,” she cried, “Rock concert…”
“I have some drinks. We can only have them in a lodge. Shall I book a place?” Ayyea’s mother would be horrified if he entered home with the smell.
“That’d be a great idea.”
Ayyea took her to Siktir Lodge at sunset. In a while they got drunk, some beers and a drop of liqueur. She was running naked. She even took a phone call at the counter. A local family was there, kids and a mother in the lobby watched astounded. It wasn’t far from Club 33 office and Ayyea had to drop in for updates. Hasan Zahir noticed her.
It was a thrilling night they moved from his office to the rock concert at Galolhu Grounds and back to his office and lodge. He had to chase her, hold her from running astray on the roads. It wasn’t a hand-in-hand lovers’ stroll.
He told Hasan, “She’s fun but she gets drunk too fast. She wants to go to a resort.”
“You introduce me,” said Hasan, “I can take her for an overnight.”