Inspector Harish was not happy with the new posting. His station and beat were in the notorious red light area of the city. The area was the haunt of pimps, mafia and the pleasure seekers. As there was a sudden surge of complaints of intimidation, extraction of money, harassment of passersby and even frequent violence, his higher authorities knowing his integrity and hard working nature had chosen him for this beat. He was known to enforce the law strictly and not succumb to the lure of the money or women. But he was not accustomed to deal with type of people who live in this area or its shady visitors. The owners and their pimps can be harsh to hapless girls, deceive the innocent ones and force them to lives of shame. . He rather preferred to face a rowdy known for violence and murder than these slimy guys.
Harish had to go frequently to these houses of disrepute when he got a complaint that needed his presence. Being a handsome and muscular young man, the women would look at him lustily both in fear and admiration. He never paid attention to them though he sympathized with these women. So long as there was no force and women did it willingly, he had no complaint. But he came down heavily when someone has been tricked and forced into this profession.
He hated two things; the smell of chloroform and phenyl in the hospitals and the smell of cheap scents used in these houses. The men who visited these places also covered their foul smelling bodies with cheap attar or native pungent perfumes in jasmine, rose and thazhamboo. The mix was heady and unique particularly in one large house that had maximum occupants. The odour so assailed his nose that he was compelled to cover It. He hated the interrogation with the plump matron with her pan stained teeth and loud voice. He hoped for a transfer as this posting was much sought after for the money and thrill it yielded.
Meanwhile he married Lalitha, a charming young woman, with the blessings of his parents and set up a home. She was qualified but worked for the deprived, handicapped and poorer sections. She visited blind schools, destitute homes and taught illiterate adults. Harish was proud of her.
One evening soon after the marriage when he returned home his wife brought him a tray with tea and biscuits. Suddenly the smell of the perfume of the big whore house assaulted his nose. He inhaled twice and the odour was unmistakable. Refraining from asking directly he asked her “How was the day?
She looked at him intently and said slowly “Nothing special, it was like any other day.”
“Did you go beyond your usual places?”
“Only the usual places. Why do you ask?” she asked
He did not reply but pushed the tray away.
“What happened? Aren’t you taking tea?”
“Slight head ache. I would like to close my eyes and relax. I hope you wouldn’t mind” he replied.
She took the cue and left him alone. Harish was certain she was in that foul place that day .Why did she go there and why is she hiding the information, he wondered? He decided not to be rash in judgment but watch for few days. He came the next few days early and on a few days he could smell the stench of cheap perfume. He was convinced that she was frequenting the place in the afternoons. He avoided her. She was perplexed at his strange behavior but did not know what brought about the change.
He on his part decided to catch her red handed. He told her that he would be going out of the city daily for a few days and be back late in the night. He went next afternoon to the whore house on some pretext. The matron was startled initially but wondered why he came without any valid reason and whether he was also like any other. Though somewhat happy in not finding Lalitha, he went the next day also. To his utter shock he found her car parked outside. Would she be so foolish to come to this despicable place publicly in a car?
As soon as he entered, the matron asked what brought him again and what exactly he needed. Harish said he wished to meet all the girls and women at one place. The matron without questioning took him to the interior hall where to his great surprise he found all the women sitting on the floor listening to Lalitha in what appeared as a lecture. While all the girls stood up, Lalitha ignoring him totally asked them to be seated and continue to listen.
The matron took him aside and explained the lecturing lady along with her assistants from a NGO visit once a while to talk to them about the danger of HIV/AIDs .The inmates are wiser now and are overwhelmed about the good work she is doing voluntarily particularly visiting the place where no respectable lady would visit. He didn’t tell her that she was his wife
In the night Harish said ”I am sorry Lalitha.I could have asked you directly about the smell of scent instead of sulking. I should have realized that you work for all types of social causes.”
“I should also have been frank when you asked me where all I went. I was hesitant as I did not know how you would react to my visit to such a place. Let me trust you more. I am also sorry” Lalitha said.