A story by Umes Shrestha
Manish felt a sudden rush of a thrill as he sneaked into a ‘nude’ dance bar for the first time. The bar was the most happening joint in Thamel. It was dark, noisy, full of smoke – but warm. There were men – young and old but mostly rich old men with a bald head, thick moustache and bulging belly – smoking, drinking and dancing to sleazy Bollywood music.
Manish settled on a table and ordered a chilled beer. For a few seconds, his face shrunk low with shame and guilt. What if my wife finds out about this? But he quickly shrugged off the feeling as he gloated over a semi-nude girl dancing on the ramp, just ten feet in front of him. She seemed so surreal and so near. Seeing her, Manish got so luridly excited that he longed to caress her creamy skin. He wanted to know her, he wanted to be with her, he wanted to have her.
But there he remained at a distance, sipping Gorkha beer and munching on sukuti. As if for reassurance, he reminded himself – I am a journalist, not a sick pervert. In the morning, his editor had told him to hunt for the ‘sensational news’ and he had set out on the grand mission to unearth Thamel’s shady skin business. As an investigative journalist, it was his first night, the first bar and first nude dancer. And there she was, his first subject, dancing like a goddess of fire.
He ordered more beer and sukuti. The young girl turned into a luscious apsaraa, leaving the men gaping at her in trance. They started spraying elephants to her and the bar erupted into drunken chaos. The beer (and her dance) began playing havoc in his mind, but even in that helpless state, he visualized a juicy storyline along with a catchy headline. He fished out his trusted Nikon Coolpix from his pocket, turned off the flash and secretly took a snap of her. Nobody noticed. Nobody cared. This story is going to make me famous – his grin was as wide as Tundikhel.
It was already 11.45 pm when Manish lumbered out of the bar. He waved for a Maruti taxi and slumped into the back seat. Jawalakhel. 500 rupiya dinus hai. la la. The taxi whizzed off. He took out the camera to preview her photo. He got quite thrilled that even without any flash, the shot had come out pretty sharp. But something made him look deep into her face. His eyes instantly turned misty and fluttered with discomfort.
He noticed her dry smile. It had sad old stories – untold and unresolved. And, her frozen eyes. They had depressing nightmares – concealed and repressed.
It started raining miserably. The raindrops spattered on the windowpane, and he felt his career aspirations crashing hard against his morality. I’m not like them, he shook his head, no I’m not like those cheap-ass journalists. It was below his dignity, beyond his philosophy. And it was too yellow for his taste. So he pressed ‘delete’ button on the camera, the only right thing to do. A message popped up for confirmation – Yes or Cancel. He hesitated. What about the glory I deserve?What about the glory she deserves? He began to swing awkwardly in and out of the piercing dilemma.
While the indecision was shredding his conscience into pieces, the taxi ran over a pothole and his thumb inadvertently pressed ‘Yes’.