Sunday, 15 July 2012

Rock, My Ass!

The noise level inside the room was deafening. The heaving and slithering crowds near the stage were elbowing and chopping at each other in the mosh-pit – teeth and bones in the line of fire. The air was thick with sweet smoke, and once his eyes got used to the dimness, Neil could make out some hazy silhouettes of couples huddled against the rough walls, smoking pot or just blowing smoke into each-other's open mouths.

Before entering the venue, he'd seen some boys and a girl dressed down in black rags, doubled over the flower borders of the manicured lawns, puking at their shoes. Their friends and companions, also similarly dressed, were either speaking on their mobile phones or smoking nonchalantly, blowing thick lines of smoke out of their nose while talking to each other in-between, swigging from a can of beer being passed around.

It was just too much for Neil’s senses to adjust to. Within minutes of entering the throbbing room he knew he had made a mistake coming here. He was interested in music and loved Rock and Roll in all its avatars but, this? This was just too much - an attack on his nerves. He suddenly realized that his blue silk shirt and expensive shoes were as out of place here as he himself. The realization made him balk and immediately sweat broke out – bubbling out of his clean shaved upper-lips and unlined forehead and oozing out of the pits under his arms and at the back of his knees.

He was a misfit here in this heaving throng of pulsating music and inebriated youngsters. He had felt a similar urge to turn and run away, the moment he had come out of the airport and into the crowded city. He was almost choked by the burden of humanity the city was carrying. 

Looking at the scenario in-front of him he thought, ‘what was it about big cities that everything that is looked at in contempt in the smaller towns is celebrated as fad here?

"Hey dude! Move it."

It was the girl from the puke party outside. He recognized her by the weird hair style. She has really dirty long hair tied up in a hundred untidy braids. She looked like a bat out of hell, Neil thought, with black painted nails and lips and loose dark clothes. Even the T-shirt looked scruffy with the famous fork through the eye picture of Marylin Manson scaring the living daylights out of anyone looking at her mid-section.

She was poking him again and her dark Goth lips were near his face. He could smell vodka and puke.

“Hey move it wannabe…”

He looked at her for a minute, maintaining eye contact and sliding away from the door into the throbbing room.

The group on the stage was covering a hard metal band and groveling into the mike starting a frenzy of head butting in the mosh-pit.

“What’s your problem man? You from Delhi?”

The aggression was apparent in her voice. He had forgotten how he, like any north Indian was in the habit of openly staring at people. It was OK up north but, here in Bombay, people really hated staring. But, this woman was so strange from any he had seen before outside of movies or fiction that he could not take his eyes off her.

“Sorry! Did not realize I was staring at you… and no, I’m not from Delhi. Chandigarh is my home.”

He tried to engage her with a grin. He was shouting at her to be heard he realized. She acknowledged by rolling her eyes and puckering her mouth to blow an errant bang off her eye.

She had perfect lips, he noticed with a start. What was he thinking? She was wearing black lipstick for Christ’s sakes!

She peered at him again and he realized that he had not stopped staring even after apologizing.

‘Sorry,’ he mouthed soundlessly over the loud music. A new band was on the stage and from the frenzy of the crowd it was safe to conclude that a lot of their friends were in the audience cheering their tuneless attempt at making maximum noise.

She continued staring at him. After a while he realized that she was trying to give him a dose of his own medicine and laughed at her shaking his head.

She shrugged and mouthed, ‘I tried.’ Then, she smiled at him for the first time…

In 32 years of his eventful existence, Neil had never been sucker-punched by a woman’s mere smile. It was like a knock in his gut. He remembered a few football matches when the ball had hit him squarely in the stomach robbing him of his breath and making his lungs burn. This was not too different.

What? He was breathless at a smile from this dirty, scruffy ill-dressed, ill-mannered, foul-smelling and drunk girl?

Neil was from Chandigarh, a city is renowned across India for its beautiful and comely ladies. There were eye-catching classic beauties of true Aryan stock where he grew up. He had never felt floored by smiles post-teenage, which anyway does not count.

This was insane! He hadn’t even touched a drink – not yet reached the crowded bar at the back.

She was looking at him once more with her face scrunched up.

“Are you good?”

Her speech was slightly slurred, sounding almost sexy. His blood stirred and his ears were burning for being so close to her mouth. He swallowed once and looked up to see the tipsy girl was following the path of his Adam’s Apple with serious eyes.

Closing his own he started counting to 10, drowning his senses in the noisy music and overpowering smell of pot. By the time he reached seven, the girl had grabbed his right arm and was pulling at it.

“Hey! You OK?”

The mouth was almost in his ear. Her breath stirring his lobes… Gritting his teeth he opened his eyes and looked straight at her right cheek which was in his line of vision. It was flushed and the high color was visible even in the semi-darkness. Her cheek looked very smooth like his new-born nephew’s cute pink bottoms.

Shaking his head slowly from side-to-side he indicated a ‘no’ trying at the same time to clear his head and extricate himself from her clutch.

The band on stage had finally finished its raucous set list and was rolling up their equipment. Another three-piece was making its way on the stage and checking the mike.

She tightened her grip stopping him from moving away.

“Dude your eyes look glazed. You did not do any chemical before coming here? Did you? I think you should get some fresh air.”

He looked at her, startled by her concern. Laughter choked his insides. He thought, ‘she thinks I’m high and need fresh air – what a joke!’

A part of his brain nudged him, ‘Shut up you moron. The dame wants to mother you – she likes you!”

Quickly squelching the bubbling laughter inside him, Neil looked at the girl in the eye and nodded his head.

“Shit! That’s bad. You should never do chemicals. They are bad you know. Weed and alcohol is fine. Stick to safe stuff in the future. Plus, if there’s ever a raid, they’ll lock you up if you test positive. Come, it is better outside near the sea. We can come in later.”

He followed her out of the dark noisy room with the sounds emanating from the huge floor-to-ceiling speakers and reverberating inside him. The next band had started its act.

“Hey man, how you doin’?”

Another disheveled boy high-fived the girl and then hugged her lightly. Neil felt sudden anger uncoiling inside him. A few more guys staggered in and the same process followed till they reached the door. It was a good thing there was no one outside who really knew her otherwise the lighting would have revealed his expression.

She was walking briskly now towards the garden of the seedy hotel that tumbled into the beach. The cool air was like a balm on his sweaty skin. Clearly silk was not a fabric to be worn in Bombay with its soaring humidity levels.

He had a sudden urge to rip the clinging shirt out of the waistband of his jeans and letting the cool air dry his vested torso. His hands itched but, he had been trained to be a gentleman by his grandfather who had insisted on following the Army traditions at home even after retirement. As his only grandson, Neil had been groomed to become an officer but, his dreams were shattered by a hairline fracture at the football field.

Still his grandfather had insisted upon the values and discipline that were a touchstone in his life and Neil like others in the family had always complied knowing it only made them better human beings.

And now here he was, after years of disciplined lifestyle, lusting after an unknown girl who was not only unkempt but also high. How the mighty fall.

They had jumped over the crumbling wall of the hotel where the gig was taking place and landed with a soft thud on the sandy beach.

The girl was already on her haunches, ripping the customary black Converse with a skull motif off her feet. He saw that she had very small feet. They were pink and smooth with black polish covering the nails.

He did not know that the sight of bare feet could act like aphrodisiac. She looked up at him all the time massaging her tired feet with a brow raised in question.

Neil smiled and sat down next to her taking his expensive Italian loafers off and rolled his designer denims up to his shins.

She went back to massaging her left feet, concentrating hard on the job on hand. It looked like her feet were hurting her. Hesitatingly, Neil took her feet out of her hands and into his. Slowly he started kneading the middle with soft pressure. Her response was a soft moan. His fingers moved to her heels and she closed her eyes with satisfaction. Her foot was soft and pretty despite the offending nail paint. They were pink like a lotus in bloom and suddenly he remembered the small auspicious feet his mother used to draw during Diwali saying they were the imprint of the feet of the goddess of wealth, Lanxmi.

His mouth quirked, now he was likening the drunk and dirty girl to a goddess most revered in all Hindu households. This was getting weirder by the minute and he suddenly realized that he was enjoying it – like an adventure!

He continued with his massaging and moved to the other foot thanking his years as a football player when their coach had taught them simple Acupressure techniques to sooth painful muscles.

She seemed to have fallen asleep under his ministrations. So, he looked at her face illuminated by the halogen lights on the beach. She was young. Probably still in college. He looked at her flushed cheek and realized they were natural pink not make-up. She was not strictly fair but, a lovely shade of honey and turmeric.

Her hair was a mess but, it gave her the careless appearance of a hippie – though no self-respecting hippy would probably be caught wearing so much black. Her legs were encased in over-sized harem pants that were gathered at the ankle. Thank God there was no skin on show – otherwise it would have been really difficult for him. He felt happy and sad at the same time. He imagined she’d have slim and shapely ankles of the very young and the thought made him grin like a lightheaded fool.

He was pulling on the toes of her right feet, getting rid of the knots in them when she suddenly opened her eyes and caught him staring at her.

Gathering herself together, she sat up pulling her right feet from his kneading hands with a murmured and pre-occupied “thanks.”

He nodded in acknowledgement sitting up on his knees and smiled at her confusion.

“You are not on drugs are you?”


“You must think I’m some tease or a maniac.”


She looked up at his answer with confusion in her eyes.

“You are not a serial killer are you? You look too preppy for that.”


He grinned and got up stretching his right arm towards her. She looked at it for a moment debating internally and then, put her own palm in his. He pulled her up without missing a beat.

They walked away from the wall side by side moving towards the shore.

“How did you end up at the gig?”

“I saw a poster outside my hotel entrance and asked the valet about the venue. He pointed it out across the road and because I had nothing to do, I walked in.”

“You don’t live here then, do you? You said you are from Chandigarh.”

“No. I told you my hometown is Chandigarh but, I live in Delhi.”

She giggled suddenly, making him look sideways at the musical sound.

“No wonder you stare. You can’t help it can you?”


The sound of his husky denial made her look up at him. The sight of his eyes made her almost choke and look away.

“I’m sorry. I’m normally very well-mannered but, you are very different…”

Boy, did that sound lame and adolescent? Neil cringed at himself imagining the girl laughing at his gawkiness.

When he heard nothing, he surreptitiously looked sideways and found her concentrating hard at the sea.

“Did you come with someone? Will they miss you?”

She did not answer him for a long time and then turned around to face him.

“No one will miss me – really. I’m OK.”

“Are you feeling any better now?” He indicated to her dainty feet now dirty like the rest of her, smeared in wet grey sand.

“Oh yes, thank you. My feet were hurting. Those shoes are very tight. They did not have the same pattern in my size…”

He answered with a raised eyebrow. She smiled – her hundred mega-watt, heavy-duty and heart-beat accelerating smile.

His heart kicked into high gear and then pumped enough blood into his brain to sharpen all his senses for a few seconds. The lights became brighter, the air soothing on his arms, like a gentle caress and he smelled her special scent which was neither alcohol nor puke but, female musk.

He looked at his watch to check the time and it was midnight. Cinderella came crashing into his memory out of nowhere. This could not be real. His sixth sense was suddenly on the overdrive.

“I think we should go back to the gig.”

“Let’s walk a little. This is so nice.”


He dragged his bare feet a little further and his spine tickled. It was trying to tell him something. Suddenly her palm was clasping his. His ears buzzed at the touch as if he had hit his head against a rock – it was an intoxicating feeling. They walked a little further down and suddenly the hair at the back of his neck stood on end.

He was sure they were being followed. He turned suddenly, pulling the girl against his side and she lurched on unsteady feet putting up her small palms on his side for support.

He was totally distracted by her softness when a punch hit him on his chin. For a second it disoriented him and the girl shrieked. Then, even before he could get his bearing back another punch landed on his stomach making him double over in pain.

Then the kicking started. He heard her shouting, “No Mickey, Jack, don’t hit him so much. He may die. Just take the money and go away guys. Leave him alone!” Something like fire entered his side and burnt his whole body. Then there was excruciating pain. He was hurting and burning – his eyes closed on their own accord and he drifted off.


The smell of the hospital had always been associated with his nightmares. Daddy in the hospital bed, tubes running into his arms, machines beeping around him  – the smell, always the smell of death.

He must be dead, like daddy. He tried to feel his body with his hands and his tummy felt solid. He was not dead after all, not really. He was lying on a hospital bed and his eyes were closed. He tried opening his eyes and he was rewarded with the vision of his mother slumping next to him.

He closed his eyes again and went back to sleep.


“He is fine. Thank God the girl got him here in time.”

“Yes, otherwise he may have died of blood loss. Imagine, those thugs plunged a knife into him and left him on the sand to die.”

“Doctor, I’d like to thank the girl personally. Did she leave a number?”

“No Colonel sa’ab she did not. She entered your Chandigarh address and phone number in the register. She said her parents may not like police interference. She was so young that I did not insist. She found his address in his wallet from his driving license.”

“I understand that but, what was doing on the beach so late at night and why did someone stab my grandson if they did not want his wallet and watch?”  

“No idea sir. The city is full of maniacs of all kind. The girl was at a Rock Show nearby and said she had come out for a smoke. Your grandson would be fit as a fiddle in a day or so. We have just kept him sedated to let his wounds patch-up quickly. I suggest you and your daughter-in-law both go back to your hotel and rest for the night. If we need you, we’d call. Though I don’t see that happening tonight…”


Neil opened his eyes. The room was dimly lit and cool. He suddenly recalled everything very clearly. He had been mugged at the beach and stabbed. He felt a throbbing sensation where the knife had entered his side like fire.

The girl was a decoy. He had fallen hook, line and sinker for an age-old trick and played right into the hands of a bunch of junkies. He felt angry at his own vulnerability and irritated at his foolishness. He was thirsty, his throat felt parched. He tried to go back to sleep but, the scratchiness inside his mouth would not go.

Finally, he tried to sit up and search for a drink. The slight movement hurt his ribs on the side where the knife had entered. He grimaced in pain and struggled with the blanket and the tube in his arm.

His movement was reflected in the chair next to the bed. He had subconsciously not expected anyone to be around. He recalled snatches of conversations that he thought were a part of a dream. So, the scruffy girl had actually got him to hospital. Strange! Stranger still was that she had got his wallet and driving license with her. Or, maybe he had imagined the conversation.

“Oh, you are awake. Are you OK? Should I call the nurse?”

He stilled at the voice. It was the girl from the gig. Looking at the chair he saw a small figure was standing next to it. It was so slight that no wonder he did not make it out in the semi-darkness.

What was she doing in the hospital with him?

“Switch on a light.”

It was a command. He was fully awake. A light flickered next to his bed and he saw her bathed in its tepid yellow glimmer. She was scrubbed clean today and wearing a white T-shirt without the hideous black lip color. Ever her hair looked clean despite the braids. She looked even younger standing there near-tears. He felt sad and sorry for the girl. She was pretty and very young. Without her stage make-up she was just another kid – no magical allure and certainly not a femme fatale   yet.  

“Pass me some water please.”


Neil blanched. He was probably old enough to be her uncle. The water she proffered was cool and she held his back to support him while he drank it. He felt nothing.

“I’m sorry I did not know they’d be so stupid, trying to kill you.” 
Her voice was husky but, scared not seductive.

“My brother is into chemicals. Got into them a year earlier. It is an expensive habit. He needed money that day to score and asked me to help. I did not know how far they’d go. I agreed to help him this one time and he almost killed a man, you.”

She was crying and he felt bad. Almost as bad as her brother who had used the kid. He was no better, thinking of seducing her on the beach. Gawd, she’s a child.

“Are you in school?”

“No, junior college.”

“What stream?”

“Science. Medical.”

“How are you here at night?”

“I came to check on you and the nurse recognized me. She thought I was here for night watch since your family has gone home to rest.”

“Your folks are not worried you are not at home?”

“Mummy is in Rome. She’s an airhostess.”


“He’s on a tour. In the US.”

“I see. Where’s your brother?”

“I don’t know. Haven’t seen him after the… attack. Told them I’d call the police when they used the…the knife on you…”

“I see.”

“How did you mange to get me here?”

“I called the ambulance. Said I’d found you on the beach, mugged. I’m sorry but, I could not save all your money. They snatched some of it away…”

“That’s OK. You saved me and you got me here. Thank you.”

She looked at him incredulously.

“You are not angry at me?”

“No kid. It was as much my fault as it was yours. If anything, I’m more to be blamed than you. I’m years older.”

He tried smiling at her and her face crumpled.

“I’m so sorry.”

She was sobbing again.

“It’s OK. Just don’t fall for anyone’s hair brained schemes any more. Do well in your studies and become a doctor. You seem to have the right instincts for it.”

She had crept up to him by now and was looking at him as if he was mad.

“No, I have not done chemicals. It is only painkillers that they are pumping into me. Now let me go back to sleep and you run off as soon as it lights up and no more late nights at the asinine Rock joints. Understand? And no more drinking and smoking pot. Look at your brother. This is how it starts.”


Her smile was packed with enough power to light up the entire city but, it was the smile of a relieved and happy child and Neil smiled back in return reassuring her that she was exonerated and safe.



  1. that is a nice short story there. you have to make a compilation of them, you are good with details. just one thing, i think it is massaging and not messaging and since you have repeated in a few i thought i would point out. i know when we dont have a proof reader there is always an oversight. keep the stories coming, they are a good read! cheers xxx

  2. Hey Indira,
    Glad you liked the story. Thanks for your input. I made the change you were right. Sometimes when writing, I just don't stop and look for mistakes. It is nice if someone points them out later. It helps.


Thanks for reading the post and commenting. Please come back for more.