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Tuesday, July 07, 2015


by Vidya Panicker

It was business as usual at brothel 59 in Delhi's GB Road, which houses more than 4,000 sex workers. What was unusual on the night of June 23 was the deliberate gait of Sameer Tyagi, a regular client of this brothel. Sameer appeared a bit jaded, busy on the phone, scanning the faces of about 20 odd garishly painted faces of women as they waited around for the next deal. It was 10pm, humid and a Bollywood number was playing loudly. —Anasuya Basu, Daily O, July 3, 2015; Image: Oil painting of a prostitute from Lahore's Red Light District, by Iqbal Hussain. Source: The Express Tribune (Pakistan) Blogs.

Here, and there,
the women behind the curtains
do not strip for you.

Through the folds of their
saree, and the pinched
fabric of their blouse
you occasionally catch a glimpse
of a sagging breast
or a tummy with overlapping stretch marks.

you ask the one you choose.

She smirks at you
with her betel red lips
which she wipes with her palm,
pinches out two condoms from a tray,
lifts her saree and skirt up in a swift motion
and spread her tired legs on you.

Your desperate self is ready
needing no foreplay, apparently.
You lay back, relax
imagine the shudders
are a jolly lorry ride to Ladakh
or something better
while she works on you.

In about two minutes, or less
you zip up your pants
and walk out of the door.
Someone else quickly moves in
for his turn.

The painted face smirks again.

There is a daily quota;
a number signified
by the missing condoms on the tray
and later, she would run
like the rest of them—

Run home
to a sleeping child or a drunk husband
or a pimp who smacks his lips
but more often,
just to pee, and to cry out loud when the warm salty
liquid touches the bruises
that are never left to heal.

Based in the God's own country of Kerala, Vidya Panicker’s poems have appeared in The Feminist Review, So to Speak, Shot Glass Journal, One sentence Poetry, Three Line poetry, Aberration Labyrinth, Bangalore Review, and 4and20 Poetry.