Deva Dasi

Deva Dasi




One of Ataullah Mardaan's works for the Olympia Press, Deva Dasi is the tale of a woman who turns to prostitution as a means of creating a better life for her children. It's quite possible the reader will learn more about India than he or she will about sex, but still a fascinating work.



Publié par
Date de parution 07 janvier 2013
Nombre de lectures 22
EAN13 9781608728367
Licence : Tous droits réservés
Langue English

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Deva Dasi

Ataullah Mardaan

This page copyright © 2003 Olympia Ebooks.

Part One. The Way of the Dasi

Chapter 1. Birth of a Dasi


The little bird hopped onto the colored cards spelling out adventure, a voyage and a dark man. Manorama drew her threadbare shawl away from her face and peeped questioningly at the fortune-teller. The red-bearded sadhu (an Hindu holy man) smiled at her enigmatically, collected his birds with a wild sweep of his hand and dropped them, fluttering, back into the cage. Then he methodically straightened his colored cards, blew the birdseed off the necromantic signs on the straw mat, and busily began counting the dull copper coins that lay in a pile beside him.

The woman sighed with impatience and shifted her weight from one foot to the other. The sadhu looked up as if he suddenly saw her for the first time and frowned.

“You cannot hasten Destiny, my daughter.”

“I know, Sadhu-ji, but I must be home before sundown. Is there really nothing more?”

“I cannot tell you more than my birds. They have the gift of divination, not I. I am merely their keeper. The Lord Shiva bestowed them on me as a reward for my prayers and penitence. I cannot alter what they say nor hasten what they foretell.”

The woman got up slowly. She was of middle height, slender, dark, and dirty. She dug into the tight waistband of her loose pajamas and pulled out a small knotted handkerchief. She carefully undid the complicated double knot and dropped two copper coins onto the mat.

“The Lord Shiva bless you. Thank you for your kindness, daughter.”

Manorama joined her hands together, bowed her head in greeting, then, pulling her thin shawl over her head, turned and walked down the dusty street.

The heat rose in shimmering waves off the dusty streets, while a burning sea breeze carried the putrid and decaying odors of the beach to mingle with the smell of frying spices, rotten vegetables, and the small fly-covered dung heaps that lay scattered across the surface of the road like some strange tropical disease. It was past midday and yet people were everywhere. They lay on the streets—thin skeletons offering themselves as passive victims to the all-devouring sun. They walked like strange ghosts only to be jostled once again by long sleek cars painstakingly trying to weave their way through the shifting wall of humanity. They spilled into narrow alleys, until it seemed that the walls of the narrow houses would burst in an effort to accommodate the flood. They moved—each one alone—unconscious of their great number, unconscious of the hundred million lives that throbbed and sweated around them—unconscious that in them lay the true wealth of India.

Manorama walked, shielding her face from the crushing weight of the sun. She turned down a maze of narrow winding streets until she came to a crumbling one-story building. The facade had once been pink, but had long ago been bleached and macabre remains of an old mural still clung to the wall, giving the house an air of decrepit festivity. She lifted a bamboo blind that served as a door and, stooping low, entered the tiny room. For a moment she stood still—peering blindly into the darkness. Then, slowly, as her sun-dazzled eyes became accustomed to the darkness, the familiar objects in the room took on a misty shape. The three string cots, the little table, the kerosene lamp, the day stove, the little oil lamp burning under the silver gilt picture of Krishna.

“Hari, are you there?”

A bundle stirred on the little cot, and a sleepy voice answered.

“Where have you been? The girl has been complaining all afternoon. Maa took her to the sweet shop to keep her quiet.”

“I went to the ghats to bathe.”

She came into the dark room, carefully picking her way past the crowded objects, and collapsed with a sigh onto one of the string beds.

“Hai Ram! I am so tired—it is so hot. Nobody asked for me?”

“Yes, a man came from the Bania. But I said you had gone to the pooja and that you would be back about five o'clock. You had better go—we still owe him money for those lamps, and you have had the whole afternoon off. God knows if I were a strong man, I wouldn't have to depend on you—lying here helpless until the Begum sahib decides to go and make some money! Hai Ram! What did I do to deserve such a fate in this life?”

His voice had risen to a high-pitched whine and Manorama knew that in a few seconds he would start to sob, and then he would feel so bad that he would be forced to go down to Chand Babu's for a drink of toddy and the warm sympathy that the Babu lavished on all his steady customers.

Manorama rose with a sigh. She sullenly got up and walked to the far end of the room where a little barred window, high in the wall, allowed a strong ray of sunlight to penetrate one corner to the dark godown. She pulled a small box from under the bed and took out several old jars and a broken mirror. Holding the mirror up to the light, she carefully underlined her dark eyes with black kajal, put a little bright rouge on her cheeks and lips, oiled her hair, and walked toward the door.

“Change your sari at least, you dirty slut! Then perhaps you could charge a few annas more for being clean! Oh, Ganesha! This woman is completely without sense. Why did you curse me so?”

Manorama stopped in the doorway, blinking like a sleepy owl in the sun.

“It's not worth it—for something the Bania finds.”

Slowly she covered her head with the end of her sari, and once again walked down the crowded street.


The Bania sat cross-legged in his little shop. His huge stomach lay passively on his knees, like some huge jellyfish thrown onto a warm beach. His thin shirt and dhoti were of fine white muslin, now stained and soiled by a hundred yellow grease spots—the unspoken evidence of many meals of rich saffron curry and fried chicken pilau. Few people had ever seen the Bania move. He sat like a fat, untidy, mustachioed Bodhu, shouting constantly for service—but never moving from his cross-legged, squatting position. Sometimes people wondered whether the Bania sat, cross-legged, immobile, behind the iron shutters, all through the long and lonely hours of the night; or whether, when everyone was asleep, he quietly rose and hung another picture on the wall. His pictures were the Bania's pride. They covered his walls from floor to ceiling. They were all extravagantly framed and were hung with abandon all over the room. A stern-faced Queen Victoria glared with regal disapproval at a purple representation of the elephant god Ganesh, while Edward VII (with real sequins for medals) stared benignly at a brick-red portrait of Rama Rao Chungtu—an illustrious ancestor of the Bania. Goddesses, monarchs, legendary heroes, actresses, singers, great aunts and uncles, hung higgledy-piggledy all over the shop, provided a startling frame for the immobile but living statue that was the Bania.


Manorama stood shyly, intimidated by the accusing glare of a hundred painted eyes. She slipped the sari off her head and looked kindly at the Bania.

The merchant opened his eyes a fraction of an inch and without stirring shouted, “Budhu! Budhu! Is that Muslim still there?”

A thin figure came scurrying out from the back of the shop, bowed briefly to Manorama and squatted before the Bania.

“Yes, sethji, he is still here.”

“Well, tell him the woman is here now—but first he must pay his twelve annas!”

He turned to Manorama. “Go now, and when you have finished come and see me, as we have some matters to discuss.”

Manorama nodded her head in assent and followed the servant out of the room. He led her into a tiny, cubicle-like room, bare as a prison cell, except for the traditional string bed.

“Wait here and do not take too long...” With a knowing smile, he closed the door and went away.

Manorama sat in the dark and absently counted Budhu's retreating steps: 5, 6, 7, 8... Then he was going toward the kitchen. She wondered who would presently come in. She had waited in so many similar rooms so often since she had come from her southern village as a tender bride of twelve, that she could not even remember how many men had possessed her. Was it hundreds or thousands—and yet every time she waited alone for the next anonymous male to crush her, she felt once again the familiar surge of excitement, of wonder... Perhaps, it was indeed true that women were made for love. She sighed, lay back on the bed and waited. The silence was heavy and solid. Only her heart beat like a clock in the darkness—and then she heard them ... voices ... steps ... a laugh... Her stomach contracted with excitement. The door opened and shut. She did not look up. She felt the man walk slowly around the bed and sit on the edge.

“You are but half prepared. Or do you expect me to take you with your clothes on?”

She sat up and looked at him. In the dim light, she could see that he was short and stocky. He was smoking a strong-smelling biri and one hand was hidden in his huge pajamas. Manorama guessed that he was stroking his organ. Feeling her eyes upon him, he made a brusque, embarrassed gesture. Manorama quickly rose, wound off her sari, and slipped off her short blouse. She stood quietly, waiting, her dark, thin body, smooth and hairless, with its long, soft breasts scarcely discernible in the dim light. The man got up, carefully stubbed out his biri, and came toward her. He touched her tentatively, slowly, like a blind man trying to see her with his hands. He molded her body with his palms—following the curve of her thin neck and shoulders, over the protruding collarbone and over the long, soft breasts with their big, swollen nipples. He gently pinched one of the darkened points and laughed softly.

“Now I understand why the Bania is so cheap!”

Manorama drew back slightly—but years of submission had trained her to accept insults along with praise, and brutality along with tenderness. She did not reply. She stood dumbly offering her too-passive body to his reluctant taking. The man continued his soft exploration, slipping his hand down her loins, across the small sharp buttocks and up her thin back. Suddenly, he twisted his hand in her thick black hair and pulled her down on the bed. She fell back with a shock, her buttocks hitting the wooden edge of the cot, her legs dangling helplessly over the side. The man inserted his body between her legs and in one swift motion untied the cord of his pajamas, letting them slide to his feet. He took his small, thick organ in his hand and pushed Manorama's head toward it. Mechanically she gathered the soft rod in her mouth and started to bite and twist the organ. She felt the rod stiffen and swell within the soft chamber of her mouth. The man stood above her—his lips twitching as he felt the delicious contraction within him. He swore softly under his breath, calling her tenderly all the obscene names he could think of. His hands gathered her long, sad breasts and kneaded them in mounting anguish as his need started to burn within him. Suddenly he pushed the woman flat on the bed and raised her legs with each hand. Once again, he explored the strange mountains of her thighs until his finger found the hidden valley of her womanhood. He stroked the moist lips absently for a moment and then fiercely inserted his finger as if to explore the cavernous comfort of her body. But now he was all fire. Swiftly, he pulled the woman toward him and, mounting her, he rushed his throbbing center into the pulsating mouth of her desire. He rode her fiercely, his hands grasping the long breasts like reins, and his loins working ... working ... forcing the responsive juices out of her body until her own loins joined his in the most primitive of all dances. Her body caught his fire and she struggled to throw off her assailant, whose fierce battering drove deeper and deeper into the center of her body. Yet every desperate spasm of her loins only allowed him to penetrate even more deeply into the center of her struggle. Manorama cried out as she felt the quickening rhythm of his attack and she knew he was soon to culminate his pleasure. Her own hips twitched to match his swift ascent. Together they rose toward the flooding climax. Then, in that infinitesimal second before his body poured out his liquid satisfaction, he swiftly withdrew, fiercely pressed her mouth open, and spilled the golden contents of his pleasure down her helpless throat.

Manorama lay still on the bed, tasting the bitter fruit of his desire. It was usual, in such cases, to go unrequited. The men very seldom waited for the women they bought to fulfill themselves. Fear of the consequences caused them to withdraw, leaving their partners with a forlorn feeling of emptiness. The man had already left, silently, without a word. It made it easier, strangely enough, this anonymity. Slowly she got up and dressed. She felt tired and depressed. She put on her sandals and left the room. The servant was waiting for her outside. Without a word, he led her back to the Bania. Manorama came to the Bania's house at least ten times a week—yet the cautious merchant never allowed her to wander around the house alone. She was always met by the faithful Budhu who accompanied her from room to room.

“Temptation is too hard to resist,” the Bania used to say with a fat laugh that invariably turned into a burp as his digestive system once again asserted its domination over him.

The shutters were already closed. This meant that the Bania's legal trade was over. But his real commerce only now began—for it was after the iron shutters closed over the open shop, like a protective lid over an eye, that furtive men with strange gems and pleasure-giving drugs stole quietly through the side door.

Manorama walked into the front room and stood before the Bania. He raised his eyes and called to the servant.

“Budhu, bring a chair and put it opposite me—Shabash! Now get out!”

The servant quickly withdrew, leaving the Bania and Manorama alone. The Bania made an imperceptible movement with his eyebrows. Manorama understood immediately, and she quickly undressed once more and sat naked on the chair facing the Bania. She parted her legs wide, and slid down onto the seat, thus exposing her soft pink sex with its round thick mouth to his view. She held this position for several minutes. Then, rising, she pushed the chair away and knelt on the ground before the merchant. She turned her buttocks toward him, raised them high in the air, and with her hands, she parted the thin cheeks to expose her small dark, furry anus. She slipped her two forefingers into the little opening and stretched it as wide as she could. She stayed, thus exposed, until she heard him gasp—then getting up, she put on her clothes.

The Bania had not moved. Only the unnatural flush on his face betrayed his emotion. He waited until the woman was dressed and then called for the servant. The servant appeared, and with that second sight that is the hallmark of a good domestic, he carried a cloth. He hastily sped to his master and wiped him off beneath his dhoti (a white cloth wrapped around the waist and drawn between the legs), then without comment, he withdrew from the room.

The Bania looked at the now fully dressed Manorama and said, “Twelve annas from the Muslim. That is seven for you and five for me. Eight annas from me—that is fifteen annas in all, but you still owe me four rupees—so I will keep eight annas. Budhu! Budhu! Give the woman seven annas!”

The servant came hustling back with a little black box; he scrambled under the master's knee and pulled out a key. With the merchant's weary gaze fixed upon him, he opened the box, counted out the money, closed the lid, and put the key back under the Bania's knee.

“Please sethji, can I not keep ten annas? Hari has promised me some money soon.”

“I know your husband, Manorama. He is so busy lifting the toddy-mug all day that he has no time for anything else. I cannot give you credit continually—I am a poor man myself. What about that daughter of yours—she is old enough to work now. Send her to me. The first time she'll get as much as fifteen rupees—virgins fetch that much these days.”

“No, Laxshmi is not to do this work here. I am going to send her back to the village this year.”

“You are not only getting old, Manorama, you are getting sentimental. If you wish to persist in this stupidity, that is your affair, but I strongly advise you to think about the future. You are getting no younger and that daughter of yours is already making herself known. So be sensible, think this over carefully.”

Then he burped loudly in dismissal. Manorama thanked him and quickly withdrew, accompanied by the silent Budhu who let her out of the house and prudently locked the door behind her.


When Manorama got home, the old woman and the girl were back. Laxshmi ran out to greet her mother and Manorama noticed with pride that men already turned to look at her daughter. Laxshmi was one of those rare flowers that sometimes bloom in the most dismal streets. She was a slender girl with a golden skin and fine bones. She walked with the grace of the born dancer and was disturbingly conscious of her beauty. Manorama had once caught her proudly surveying herself in the tiny broken mirror. She watched quietly, not making her presence known, taking an equal pleasure in her daughter's oval face with the bold arched brows, the long black eyes, small nose, and disproportionately large, full mouth. A mouth that seemed to have been expressly designed to trap men, as the translucent colors of a spider's web attract the dazzled flies. Her slight, untouched body showed promise. Her breasts rose like sharp pointed thorns against the slender stem of her body and her tiny waist bloomed into vaselike billowing hips. Most enchanting of all, her smooth round buttocks were blessed with twin dimples—Shiva's handmark, an old Brahmin had said one day—and perhaps that was true! She had often talked with Hari of the possibility of dedicating Laxshmi to a temple—her daughter was too lovely to be spoiled by the common commerce of human flesh. She was indeed a feast for the gods. Manorama tried hard to protect her, but life on the Napier Road was hard, and the children that grew up in the shacks followed their mothers into the cages, prisoners to the lust of men, until one day, when the cage finally opened to release them—they were too old to fly.

“Why did you cry, Beti?”

“I was alone. Bapu would not play with me, and you promised to take me with you but you forgot.”

“So, Nani took you to the sweet shop?”

“Yes, and I ate two big geelabees!”

“Now you will not eat your food this evening and Motilal gave me some fish especially for you today!”

“Oh, yes I will! I can eat and eat and eat and eat...” And the young woman skipped away into the house.

Hari was not, of course, at home, but the old woman had already started the evening meal. Manorama gave the seven annas into her safekeeping and started to help her with the meal.

“Is this all you got?”

“Yes, we still owe the Bania four rupees.”

“Let us hope you have a good evening.”

“Maybe an Englishman!”

“Oh, such things rarely happen.”

“You never know, they often come.”

“Yes, but they all go to Ghoongroo Rani's, because she has the virgins. Now, if only you would send Laxshmi out.”

“Nehi, Nani! I do not want you to talk like this in front of the girl.”

“Girl, this is no girl! She should be helping her sick father instead of behaving like a queen.”

“If your son worked—and didn't live off his wife, and didn't drink up all the money I bring in—we would be better off.”

“That's right, blame my poor son. Aré! Aré! What is in my karma to deserve this! Insulted in my son's house by my own daughter-in-law!”

And the woman burst into tears. Manorama went on preparing the meal. She was used to these fights and, after all, the old woman helped her a lot with the girl. Also, both she and her son realized that Manorama was too valuable, and so the quarrels never went much further. Nani would never risk being solely dependent on Hari—she knew her son too well for that.

Manorama called the girl and the old woman, and the two of them sat on the floor while Manorama served the fluffy white rice onto their plates and then poured the curried gravy on top. The fish she divided into small pieces, giving the largest portion to the girl, some to the grandmother, and almost nothing to herself. She ignored her absent husband. She saw the old woman look up, a question on her lips, but she suddenly decided against it and went on chewing her food between her toothless gums.


As the huge orange sun dips over the horizon, the dirty city of Bombay becomes a fairy tale. Lights flicker on one after the other until the night is pierced with a thousand pinpoints of golden light; lights go on in restaurants as people get ready to dine; lights go on in cinemas as people gather for the nightly dose of anodyne; lights go on in homes, and the little red lanterns wink brightly as the women enter the cages. The cages are attached to the various houses on Napier Street and the women sit in them like gilded birds, calling softly to the passers-by. Their voices float softly out into the night....


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