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This true story of a sex call operator is far from what is generally believed about them. Are our films and a culture of patriarchal entitlement responsible for that?
(This is as told to the author of this article. Names are changed to protect identities)
My name is Pragya. I live in a small town of India. I’m the only daughter of my parents, who own a small boutique. I graduated from college a year back. Now I’m doing my BEd. I want to teach in a Govt. school. At present I teach pre-primary students in a private school. I take private tuitions. I went to a Govt. school and then to a Govt. college. We were never rich, nor poor. We had the necessities of life. I always wore what my parents stitched for me, two pair of shoes and had only a few dolls. Holidays meant a few days at Jalandhar where my grandparents lived. I’ve never travelled to any city but Delhi, twice. But we had a contented life. My parents are dignified, respected people. They dreamt of the day I got a Govt. job after which my marriage will be fixed.
It was a slow, contented life, until one day my parents decided to expand. So, they got a loan on the house. Within a year it failed. I’d just started teaching. Everything was at a loss, and we needed to pay back the loans too. My parents again started to work in the small place where they always worked. Life went back to square one, but with a loan on our heads. And we had no idea how to repay it. I started taking tuitions too. But I was new to this field, so not many students were coming. We had no idea where the money would come from. We tried asking for help, but nothing worked out. Those were the worst days. We just kept working without much money coming our way.
One day I went to the market to get some vegetables and I saw an advertisement pasted on the wall that asked for female operators. The work was supposed to be home based. I quickly noted the phone number that was given. Once home I called up the number. The lady who responded very kindly said that I had to talk to men who would call. The salary would depend on the number of phone calls I take. I could work for any number of hours I chose. They were looking for sex call operators.
Not something I would ever want to do. My middle-class ethics kicked in. I cried for two nights. But the loan and the fear of losing our house was lurking. If we lost our house, we would be on the streets. So, I decided to try it out for the extra money.
The first ten days were the worst. It made me feel like an object. But then I regained my senses, as money was my dire need. And it became much easier once I understood that the woman on the phone is different from the woman who teaches in school.
Not every call is a sex related call. And I don’t orgasm talking to strangers. It’s my job. And I’m completely detached from the woman who talks on the phone. So, men often ask me what I’m wearing, the size of my breasts or if my pubic hair is shaved or not. I say whatever I feel like that day. It gives them a thrill that they can openly talk about sex with a girl. It’s funny at times how I’m just cutting the vegetables and make noises as if I’m getting an orgasm. For me it’s acting. For each call, I get paid. And I play along. One day I was scrubbing the washroom and the man on the other side of the phone was imagining Switzerland, where we are supposed to make love exotically. I completely went with the flow, while scrubbing the bathroom floor. I laughed out loud once the phone was disconnected.
There are a lot of requests for role-play. The most demanded one is ‘devar-bhabi’, where no matter what, you are supposed to have big breasts. The devar is always innocent and seduced by the bhabhi. Also, most of the men who call want the woman to be dominating, take charge sexually. After devar-bhabhi, it’s boss and secretary. Many men want to be abused verbally as they masturbate on the other side. Some also ask for incest, which I don’t do.
Many men are married and the ones who are not are the urban English speaking boys of Corporate India. They are mostly engineers or MBAs. And no, all men don’t talk about sex. Many men call up to just talk. Some are bored with their marriages. Others call to cry. Some call to rant. Some just to talk about everyday life.
I remember this call, one night. I picked up the call, the man on the other hand was sobbing. He kept saying that his girlfriend has ditched him and he has no idea what to do. It seemed he was hurting too much and he could not cry elsewhere. I listened to him, counseled him and offered him hope. He was more sober by the end of the call. Another time, there was a man who called up to share that he could not get over the death of his grandparents. He was 40 years old, living with his family. He said, he can’t show his weakness, but wanted to talk to someone. Some men call up because they get jitters before their weddings. Others call to take tips on dating. Some call because they are lonely. Then there are ones whose wives are not compatible.
With the coming of money, the loans have become easier. The day the money comes, I repay a part of the loan. That way our debtors are taking it easy. Because every first week, I meet them and pay a part. Debt is a strange ghost; it drives away friends and family equally. It eats away your self-respect and dignity. It makes you feel lesser as a human being. It sits in the back of your mind all the time. Sometimes strange fears haunt me. What if the phone calls stop coming? Will we sell our house then? Sometimes, I have to be extra good to people whose money we are yet to return. I smile too much when I see them. There are people maybe I would not want to engage with, which I have to do now. We still owe them money. It almost feels like shame. But as I continue repaying it, I feel lighter, each month.
It will take me a few more months to repay it all. I’m just waiting. Then I will move on from this. My BEd too will be complete. I hope to be in a better paying place. And life will move on as if nothing has happened.
Am I guilty for doing this? Honestly, I’m not. Society will deem me to be immoral. It will break my parents’ hearts. But this thing is keeping our roof on our heads. My parents know that I do some online teaching and the money is coming from it. Also, society won’t repay my debts. They won’t feed us. For me it is a deep need not a fleeting choice. Also I’m not cheating on anyone. Everyone who calls me knows that the names and identity are fake.
Will I ever reveal it to anyone? No. Our society is not yet ready for this kind of honesty. It will not only hurt my future life but people close to me. The shame will be too much. Let ignorance be bliss, for everyone involved.
But sometimes I wonder about the double standards of society. I will be hounded for life, if someone finds out. But no one for a moment will question those men who call. Now that I’m repaying the debt, not asking for any help, our social relationship with everyone is normal. God forbid, if I ask for help, people will scatter. The standards of morality will render us homeless, but not one person will put us back together. I often wonder, for all the things we do in the name of society, what does it actually give us back?
Published here earlier.
Image source: pixabay
Proud Indian. Senior Writer at Women's Web. Columnist. Book Reviewer. Street Theatre - Aatish. Dreamer. Workaholic. read more...
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I recommend reading Manjiri Indurkar's Origami Aai alongside her memoir to have a fulfilling and enriching experience of telling one's story with grace.
It’s All In Your Head, M famed author Manjiri Indurkar’s debut poetry collection, Origami Aai, is independent and yet an extension of her memoir in which she speaks with utmost grace about all forms of abuses that she has survived. In this book of intriguing and evocative poems, the poet weaves words to form images of the everyday life of her middle-class family, love found and lost, trauma, and healing.
The collection is divided into four segments, beginning with the family, slowly moving towards the world, and finally colliding them together.
We aren’t in mourning, but we are creatures of habit.
So we talk of each one who died of drowning,
and I listen to her stories with the patience
of a chronicler.
– Funereal Stories
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Time and again, there is one phrase that keeps coming up in the social media discourse on feminism. Any guesses?
Ah, no prizes for guessing the infamous “itni bhi feminist” or “too much feminism” phrase, a classic eye-roller for me, and I am sure for many more of my tribe, in the realm of gender equality discussions.
Pray tell me, how can an ideology, a movement be too ‘much’? It’s not salt or the seasoning of your soup where you can go, “Oops, too much salt, only one spoon was required”. Either you stand for what feminism stands for, or you don’t.
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