Why Did Men Consider Her Game For Anything Just Because She Was Single?

She sat down heavily on a bench and held her head. So many raging voices, echoed within her as a deep sense of betrayal set in. All those words of admiration were for this? Was none of it real?

She sat down heavily on a bench and held her head. So many raging voices, echoed within her as a deep sense of betrayal set in. All those words of admiration were for this? Was none of it real? 

Maanasa found herself smiling as she appreciated the earthy ambience of the restaurant with its mud walls, bamboo and greenery. Unexpectedly, even the company of the small crowd that had gathered for Neeti was pleasant. Perhaps going out a little and meeting people wasn’t that bad a thing after all, she thought to herself.

She indulgently waved at Neeti, the slim, strikingly beautiful birthday girl who was her bosom buddy, as she joined the motley crowd of Neeti’s friends.

Later, in the restaurant’s ladies’ room, she examined her own reflection. The mass of loose curls she never bothered to fiddle with, the wide forehead with the almost bushy eyebrows that were sparingly shaped, the heavily kohl-ed eyes that looked calmly back, the dark-toned rounded cheeks that dimpled lightly, the juicy unvarnished lips that barely covered the extra teeth giving the impression of a perpetual smile, the almost-double chin held up by a surprisingly tender neck that gave way to strong shoulders and ample breasts firmly held in place beneath the sparkly wine coloured dress, that shimmered as she moved farther back to see more of her nearly six foot frame. Maanasa liked what she saw. In fact, she loved it!

“I’ve missed your touch…” Someone was talking in a low voice on the phone in one of the stalls, Maanasa realised. “The whole day at office, I could not focus… mmmm please yaar, stop or… and I still have to get home… shhhh” Maanasa’s flush matched her dress. The voice was dripping with intimate longing. Her own wetness arrived unhindered.

“It has been nearly three years now, ajoon how can you have this effect on me….” That is when she remembered that conversation “You are such an inspiration Maanasa. So young, so accomplished. In fact, after having known you only professionally, today am even more blown away by how warm you are personally. Quite a package!” Saahil had said. So was she, by his open admiration.

Though they met regularly Saahil being one of the Vice Presidents in her client’s company, this was the first time they were meeting outside of professional circles. Quite a legend himself, for his innovation and team building, early in her career Maanasa was among the many young recruits who had hoped to be picked by him. So today she was quite chuffed. Recalling that moment now simply doubled her pleasure.

The conversation in the next stall continued to stoke her desire. Guiltily she listened. But the voice was growing progressively desperate “Arrey but… I haven’t gained yaar… C’mon, don’t you love holding my love handles…?” Just then, a couple of teenagers walked in chatting loudly. The voice in the next stall stopped abruptly. The misty magic of those moments evaporated in a flash, and Maanasa self-consciously touched the almost double-chin, then felt for the weight of the roll around her own waist. Tears burned behind the kohl in her eyes as she walked out.

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The scrumptious vada pavs, kothimbir vadis and ragda pattis vying with the delectable karanjis and kesar shrikhand in earthy matkas momentarily vanished along with the table that held them. All the people milling around it seemed to be frozen into a grotesque tableau of gluttony. Fleshy arms exposed by sleeveless salwars, tummies tumbling out of tight dresses, sagging hips held in place by stretchy pants was all she could see.

She blinked. The petite serial lights strung around the filigree of the balcony morphed into a million large suns, blinding her to the details she did not want to see.

“Come-on! It is cake cutting time,” someone called. The world became real once again. The very normal looking people unfroze and crowded into the balcony, and Maanasa was relieved to find the table back in its place. Soon, the bright cheer in the chorusing voices matched with the twinkling lights around. There was clapping and laughter that drowned out all else. That moment was forgotten. How Maanasa loved the food. It sang to her soul and comforted her like nothing else on earth could.

When Maanasa stepped out of the restaurant into the breezy street, the nearly-full moon had risen unnoticed amidst the loud street lights. She found Saahil, briefcase in hand, trying to hail a taxi. The earlier conversation once again warmed her memory, and though a small voice warned her that she was due to meet with him on Monday to sign off a large contract, she went ahead and offered him a lift.

In the cosy intimacy of the car, they spoke about their respective careers, about ex bosses, the teams they had led, the ebb and flow of the industry… The admiration she had for Saahil multiplied a million fold and she knew the feeling was mutual. For Maanasa, who was used to towering above her peers, literally and figuratively, Saahil’s company, whose acumen and success could stand shoulder to shoulder with her, was pure joy.

Wanting to prolong the unexpected magic of their time together, they continued over a steaming cuppa in a quiet upmarket café. Speaking of their friendship with Neeti, they both ended up discussing their respective singlehoods. Maanasa made Saahil laugh when she mimicked the snide remarks of married women, the invitations to parties that were somehow lost in the mail, the sympathising tut tuts from friends and the long lectures from the self-appointed aunties. In turn, Maanasa was fascinated to hear about how different the male experience of being single was.

Then when Saahil asked Maanasa why she hadn’t settled down yet, she said that no connection had clinched into place for her to commit to anything long-term, so far. The passing headlights flashed and receded as they turned the corner of the road where the popular cafe stood. She asked him the same and he casually replied that he had decided to remain single for a little while longer so that he could “get it up with as large a variety as he could find.”

Maanasa almost choked on her coffee – his crude words stood in sharp contrast to the rest of his refined self. She simply blinked, uncomprehending. “You should know” he winked “Otherwise what is the point in being single, right?”

Maanasa still couldn’t find the right words to respond. “But am very scrupulous about it. I never do married women. Nor any of my juniors or star struck teammates. Only with express consent. Who wants a messy afterlife, right? So that really does narrow down the choices. And, of course, no Behenji types, where is the excitement there? The curves need to be in the right places. But, what do you say Maanasa, don’t you think one should try everything? Who knows what mystery could unravel from a large love handle, right?”

Maanasa gulped, beneath the table her fingers held that roll around her waist as she remembered the desperate voice that had asked “C’mon, don’t you love holding my love handles?” Saahil was looking at her intently. Maanasa was incredulous. Was he waiting for an answer? She deliberately faked a rattling cough. He immediately held her arm, his fingers brushing against her breast, as he patted her back to help relieve the cough. His touch worsened it. Signing to him that she needed to go to the ladies’, Maanasa hurriedly grabbed her handbag and rushed towards the restroom with curious glances from other patrons, still coughing wildly.

She sat down heavily on a bench and held her head. So many raging voices, echoed within her as a deep sense of betrayal set in. All those words of admiration were for this? Was none of it real? Why was she not allowed to find simple joy in someone’s company? Why was she considered game for anything if she was single? Really, why was it ok to solicit sex so brazenly just because she was single? He seemed to imply that he was doing her a favour by asking to sleep with her!

She tried hard to force herself to breathe deeply and find her calm. Looking up Maanasa saw her reflection in the mirror of an anonymous ladies’ room, a second time that night. The eyes that had looked on appreciatively earlier, could only see the roll and the nearly-double chin now. Behenji? Why are men’s beer bellies never an issue but a small bulge in a woman’s body, a big deal? A frustrated tear, dyed black by the kohl, trickled to the floor as she sat there feeling sorry for herself. As the voices continued unabated, the bench receded into nothingness and time became suspended. The love-handle remained stubbornly in plain sight.

The trick question had begun to seep in, however. “What do you say Maanasa, don’t you think we should try everything?” With the impending meeting on Monday, any indication that she understood what he had really propositioned would just create a huge mess. It had become a trick situation. The longer she sat feeling sorry for herself, the less sorry she felt. Irrationally “It was called a reverse something or the other” one voice quipped. “There isn’t time to get into that now” another voice warned “That was all he was after”, another mocked. “He wanted to do it with you because your curves are in the wrong place!” one more sneered. “Shhhhh” Maanasa hissed loudly, killing the voices. What should she do? She needed to first leave before the situation got trickier. Thinking on her feet, she fished out her phone, pulled up her ringtone and left the restroom.

Saahil asked “Are you alright?” as she approached. She touched the phone inside her handbag surreptitiously and the ringtone played. “Oh! Sorry Saahil. Let me take this call” and turning away from him, she spoke quietly into her phone. When done, Maanasa said, “Am so sorry Saahil. I have to leave now. Aayi has slipped and sprained her neck. I need to rush home as soon as possible. So, will have to leave right now” in a voice strained with concern.

Saahil was crestfallen. Maanasa watched his hope for steamy sex dissipate. “Oh” he mumbled.

“But you please finish your coffee and catch a cab home, will you? Sorry to drop you like this but am sure you understand. See you bright and fresh on Monday morning. Bye!” Maanasa said and left in the blink of an eye before he could respond.

Driving down the main road, bedecked in the glowing red of the taillights of the cars ahead, under the bright gaze of the street lights standing to attention, “I hope you are peacefully asleep in Satara Aayi!” Maanasa said, giggling. Grabbing an icecream at the Naturals shop on her way she was almost euphoric as she parked at her housing society, having licked her tender coconut ice-cream clean.

As she climbed up the stairs to her flat, she spared a thought for all the women out there who ingeniously escape from tricky situations every single day and many more who didn’t manage. A heaviness threatened to settle down in her chest. She resolutely pushed it away. Tonight, she wanted to celebrate her singlehood in all it’s imperfect glory.

First thing she did was to remove her dress and chucking it into the washing machine, as it whirled “Come out clean. You can then hug my curves, right and wrong” she ordered aloud. She knew her insecurities would return but she could deal with it, along with whatever Monday’s meeting brought up. For though she had been unprepared for what had transpired, it wasn’t the first time she had safely wiggled out of the insensitivity of entitled men!

Changing into her soft silky nightie, she opened the balcony doors to allow the gentle sea breeze to caress her skin through the fabric and asked the lone moon if she enjoyed her singlehood too… then too tired to indulge her pleasure, she settled into her cozy bed, gently touching herself.

This story was shortlisted for our July 2021 Muse of the Month short fiction contest. Our juror for the month Jane De Suza says “An excellent inner voice narrative that can be expanded into a longer format by fleshing out the seeds of the stories that are seen in this short piece.”

Image source: a still from Four More Shots Please

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