For those of you who haven't read the first part, please do so here before reading this.
[image source: Stefan Kuhn]
"Place that side table by the bed," Jenny instructed, as her brother did most of the heavy lifting. Relocating to a new apartment was definitely not an easy task.
Jenny and her brother Zuala had just moved in to their new apartment at Koregaon Park from their former Spa accommodation, and there was a lot of work to be done. Hiring movers and packers, booking Tempos, patiently transporting some of the bulkier furniture via the lift, overseeing the movers, fixing some of the household amenities like broken bathroom flush and faulty kitchen tap, signing rental agreement and police verification forms etc etc. Yeah it was a hectic day.
Fortunately, two of her former colleagues from La Fontazella Spa managed to find some time to assist them. The others were busy at work as it was their last week before they all move to Mumbai.
"Careful with the vase," Jenny said while unpacking a cardboard box full of clothes.
It was the door bell.
Thinking it could be the electrician or plumber, she opened the door nonchalantly, only to find a dashing tall man in his mid-twenties. He looked like a Mizo.
"Hi," the man greeted Jenny and then spoke in Mizo, surprising her. "I'm from Mizoram too, I live right next door. I couldn't help overhear people speaking in our language!"
Jenny smiled, "Oh that is awesome, having a Mizo neighbor."
"I'm John," the man said.
"I'm Jenny," she replied.
John was a Claims Manager at a BPO unit for British Airways. He worked nights and days alternately every month. As is a Mizo unwritten practice, John immediately dived in and helped Jenny and Zuala with the unpacking and rearranging. That night, they all had dinner at John's apartment next door as Jenny's kitchen was still a mess.
During the first week of their stay in Koregaon Park, Jenny and Zuala didn't get to see John again as he was working the graveyard shift. They were out by the time he got back from work and again they had already slept by the time he was leaving for work.
It was also during this time that Jenny found a job at "Thai Desiree Spa".
The first few weeks of working at "Thai Desiree Spa" was a horrible experience for Jenny. Even though she didn't actually have to provide extra services to her clients, she still felt very awkward about it. After all, in those three years she worked at La Fontazella Spa, not a single client of hers ever demanded anything like that.
She also felt odd sending in Nam or Kwan or Mindy or Priya once she was done massaging her clients. In fact, she didn't talk to them at all initially. She judged them for what they did inside those closed doors.
If only those walls could talk, she thought.
But slowly, she got to befriend them, and they turned out to be really sweet and friendly people once she got to know them well.
She learnt that none of them enjoyed the extra work they did, and that the only reason they did it was because they needed the extra money. Priya was an orphan in Kolkata and ran away from her orphanage after the warden molested her. Mindy got married while she was in college and then was divorced after the doctor told her husband she was barren. She couldn't find any matrimonial matches again after that and dropped out of college after her own family disowned her.
Kwan actually had a son out of wedlock back in Bangkok and her single mother was looking after him for her. She would send home around 1.5 lakh rupees a month to her mother for her son's education, food and clothing.
"1.5 lakh!?" Jenny exclaimed, while she mentally calculated her salary and tips and realized it was far too less than that amount.
Kwan smiled back.
"How much do you charge anyway inside those rooms?" Jenny inquired inquisitively.
"In fact, what is it that you do inside?" Jenny too laughed as she asked.
"Well… if you really want to know…" Kwan clenched her fist and moved it up and down quickly, "I charge them three thousand for that," and then brought her fist close to her mouth, "Four thousand," and then her hands removed an imaginary front part of her blouse like Clark Kent who's just about to become Superman, "Five thousand."
A bewildered Jenny gasped, "My God Kwan! You mean…" she giggled a bit, "you actually do it inside there?"
Kwan slapped Jenny on her elbows and laughed, "Of course not silly! I'm in this job doing all these things only because I brought in one little fucker into this world, I am definitely not planning to bring in another one as of now."
They both laughed out loudly.
"I do a topless body to body massage for five thousand and let them touch my breasts, but no sex!" Kwan said casually like it was an everyday normal conversation. "Nam does the sex though," she continued, "but only to some of her regular clients that she knows well, not everyone."
Jenny felt like she was in another dimension. She was actually impressed at how they were able to hide their displeasure or discomfort so convincingly.
When she got home that night, she could hear muffled sounds of music and laughter coming from the neighboring apartment.
Guess John is having a party, Jenny said to herself.
But as she was about to ring her doorbell, she noticed that her apartment door was locked from the outside. A message next to the lock read: "I'm next door at John's place, sis."
Ufff, Jenny sighed.
She rang John's doorbell.
The music suddenly became loud the moment John opened the door. She heard Lilzo playing on the speakers. She spotted her brother immediately, who was busy feeling the music and clutching his chest as he sang, "Leng… leng… leng… lung a leng…"
"Welcome welcome!" John said as he led Jenny inside. There were around 10 people inside his apartment, all Mizos, drinking and partying.
"Heyyy sis!" Zuala exclaimed, obviously tipsy. Jenny looked at him disapprovingly.
"Relax," John said as he patted her on her shoulder. "So my night shift month has just ended. From tomorrow onwards, I'll be back to day shift, so I usually throw a small house party to mark this occasion," John explained.
He then introduced her to all his friends, who were also working in different BPOs.
At first, Jenny was a little hesitant, but as John handed her her fourth pint of Bira beer, she started letting her hair down a bit. But she still glanced at her little brother now and then to make sure he wasn't crossing any lines or drinking too much.
Maybe it was the alcohol talking, but Jenny really enjoyed that night talking and laughing with John and his friends in his bedroom. They made fun of different Mizo politicians and celebrities, and even talked about the many unfortunate events they had faced. It was definitely a memorable night for Jenny… until the situation drastically changed a few moments later.
As they sat there laughing and joking about different topics, John's friends suddenly said they had to go outside the room and get a refill. They winked at John as they got up. John nodded.
Suddenly Jenny was all alone inside John's bedroom with him.
She could still hear the music playing outside, along with a lot of drunken laughter and shrieks. Great night, she said to herself.
John suddenly moved next to her and kissed her.
As much as she was shocked by his action, her inhibitions were lowered because of the alcohol and she complied.
She really did enjoy the kiss. It had been more than six years since she kissed anybody. If she was not drunk, she would have definitely said no. And even if she had allowed herself to be kissed, her first concern would probably be whether she was doing the kiss right or not. But right then, she was like, damn it, bring it on soldier boy.
As they enjoyed the magical moment, John's hands moved further, deeper, around her body.
It was only when he slid his hands inside her bra that Jenny first resisted. But John easily overpowered her.
"No…" she uttered.
But John didn't stop.
He kept trying again and again until he managed to remove her bra. Jenny by then was trying to fight off the physical advance while the whole room was spinning around her. Before she knew it, her panties were already ripped off. And then like a bolt of electrocution, she felt the excruciating pain of John entering her. She screamed out loudly, but the music outside the room was louder, rendering her helpless. Even in such an inebriated sense, tears streamed down Jenny's face as John entered her again and again, until she felt a hot stream of liquid entering her. The madness stopped right then, though she knew it had only just begun for her.
John kissed her one more time but all she could feel was shame. And anger. Anger directed not at John but herself. The room was still spinning around but she could feel so much disgust. She continued lying down, coiled up in a foetal position, wishing all this was just a horrible nightmare.
John got up and pulled up his pants. He caressed Jenny's hair one more time, but she flinched away immediately.
"That was awesome… you were awesome," John said gently.
Jenny tried her best not to puke.
"I'm gonna get a beer, you want one?" John asked.
Jenny didn't answer.
"Ok I'll get one for you, my princess," John said in a seductive voice and left the room.
The moment he left the room, Jenny immediately got up and put on her clothes, the fragments that she could find. She had to get out of that hell-hole before he returned. She looked in a mirror to see her face messed up by the mascara and tears combined. She quickly wiped her face clean and rearranged her hair as best as she could. And then taking a deep breath and putting on a very brave face, she stormed out of John's bedroom.
The music was still loud outside. Jenny staggered across the room. People were laughing in small groups, and she couldn't help but think they were laughing at her. All the faces were hazy and blurred, but she managed to find her brother who was sitting cozily next to a Mizo girl way older than he was. Jenny grabbed his arm and sternly said, "Let's go."
"But sis…" Zuala protested.
"I said it's time to go. You have classes tomorrow and I too have work." Jenny reprimanded him, trying her best to keep a normal face. She definitely didn't want her brother to know what had just happened to her.
Zuala meekly got up. As they were leaving, John came out of the kitchen holding two pints of beer.
"Hey???" he exclaimed questioningly to the leaving pair.
Jenny didn't acknowledge him, as she barged out of John's apartment holding her brother's arm. That was the last time she ever spoke to John again.
"Is everything alright sis?" Zuala asked as they stepped inside their apartment.
"Yes of course, everything's fine," Jenny replied. She tried to smile but wasn't sure if she was successful or not. "Go change, Zual. And take out the garbage. I'm going to take a shower."
The moment Jenny stepped inside her bathroom, she removed her clothes completely, knelt down and cried again. And then an overwhelming feeling of nausea overtook her and she puked her guts out inside the toilet commode. She managed to turn on the shower, and as the hot water hit her, flashback of what had just happened kept reoccurring in her head. She washed herself thoroughly, and the more she cleaned her intimate part, the more she was reminded of the shameful ordeal.
That night, Jenny couldn't sleep. Even if she managed to doze off for a few minutes, dark bloodthirsty monsters chased her in her dream, waking her up to a distorted reality. She clutched her mouth shut in case she ended up screaming from the nightmares because she didn't want to wake her brother up.
The next day, she somehow managed to find the strength to show up at work. She smiled at everyone, though she didn't speak much. She waited for all the girls to change into their Spa uniforms, and once they left the changing room, she pulled back Kwan inside.
"Hey, what's up?" Kwan asked.
"Hey… urmmmm…" Jenny said shyly, "Do you have an… emergency pill with you?"
"Pill? What pill? Ohh you mean…" Kwan smiled at Jenny excitedly. Then Kwan sang in a musical tone, "Somebody got some last night…"
Jenny cringed, but forced a fake smile.
"I don't have one, but I'm sure Nam has, lemme check," she said as she walked out of the room. Jenny just stood there motionlessly, like a kindergarten student sent to the Principal's office.
"Here you go," Kwan said as she reappeared and handed Jenny a packet of i-Pill.
"Thanks," Jenny said meekly, as she tore open the packet and swallowed the pill, along with her dignity and pride.
Jenny was never the same again. But she tried her best not to let that incident affect her daily routine. None of her colleagues including Kwan or even her brother suspected something was wrong. Walking into a massage room to see a perverted client remove his towel and demanding sexual favors was no longer what she despised the most. What she dreaded the most was that moment she stepped out of her apartment to go to work and the moment she returned home - in case she happened to meet John or worse, be stuck in an elevator with him.
Fortunately, she didn't get to meet him again. And few days later, Zuala informed her that John had gone back to Mizoram for his vacation. Jenny heaved a huge sigh of relief inside.
Back in Mizoram, John was having a good time catching up with his family and old friends. There was the usual mix of Royal Stag and Old Monk bottles littered across his table. John and his homies were just chilling at his room, talking about different topics ranging from sports to the latest Mizo sex scandal videos.
"Can you believe it?" Siama said. Siama was John's classmate throughout school in Mizoram. "Can you believe that lucky motherfucker got to bang three young chicks while we can't even find one?"
"Speaking of banging chicks," OPa, John's cousin joined in. "Tell us about your life in Pune, John, and I mean the sleazy part, not your boring call center job."
"Yeahhh," chimed in Siama.
"I'm sure you must be shacking up with some hot chick, you bastard," OPa continued as they all laughed.
"Well…" John said, smirking.
Siama and OPa immediately went, "Ahhhh, you son of a bitch! There is someone, I knew it!"
"There is this really hot Mizo girl who moved in right next to my apartment," John said with much pride.
"Lucky bastard!" Siama interrupted.
"The only problem is," John continued, "she works at a Spa."
"Dayymmm," OPa said. "So… you don't trust her?"
"It's not about that, I haven't got to know her that well to know what type of a person she is," John replied.
"But the real question here is," Siama butted in, "did you poke her?"
Both Siama and OPa laughed out. John too let out a light laughter. Their fourth friend Mapuia who was silent all this time and just listening to their drunken locker-room talk raised his eyebrows, and then got back to playing Clash Royale on his phone.
"Urrmmm…" John grinned.
"Oh you bastard!" OPa exclaimed.
"So how was it?" Siama asked.
"Well, she came to one of my house parties. She was pretty much fun, we were all hanging out in my bedroom, and then we clicked really well so my friends left the room and gave the two of us chance…" John remarked casually, as if he had rehearsed those lines a thousand times. "chance min pe a."
"Well considering she works at a Spa, she must be pretty easy huh?" OPa asked. "a easy em?""
"Actually… no. She was putting on a really big fight!" John said. "a fight nasa ve khawp mai!"
"Oh did she? How long was she resisting?" OPa asked again. "eng anga rei nge a fight?"
"Eventually she gave up and I succeeded," John said proudly. "a tawp a tawp ah chuan a fight peih tawh lova, ka hlawhtling ta a."
Both OPa and Siama exclaimed in celebration and yelled out loudly as they high-fived John.
At this point, Mapuia who was clearly not joining them in their enthusiasm, paused his ongoing game and placed his phone down. He hesitantly cleared his throat and said, "Urmmm… guys…"
They stopped their bromance and looked at him.
"Isn't that…" Mapuia asked cautiously, "rape?"
The room was suddenly silent for a brief moment. Pin drop silence.
And then Siama threw a cushion at Mapuia and said, "You nerd. Rape is different. Rape is when a woman is beaten up badly and forcefully fucked. This is different, women always put up an initial act of resistance so as not to be deemed too easy or a whore."
"Exactly," OPa joined in. "You don't know anything about flirting or sex. This is perfectly normal in our society."
And with that the night ended. A night of convoluted misconceptions and preconceived fallacies.
John did think a lot about Jenny the next few weeks that he was in Mizoram. He even bought a couple of vawksa rep, bekang ro and nghapih for her.
Once he was back in Pune, he nervously rang her doorbell.
Zuala answered the door.
"Oh u John, you're back?" he exclaimed.
"Yeah just landed today," he replied. "Urrmmm… is your sister here?"
"She's still at work," Zuala replied.
"Oh ok. In that case, here, take this, I got you all some of our Mizo delicacies back from home. Enjoy. I'll speak to your sis tomorrow then," John said.
Jenny got home that night, tired as usual. Zuala had already prepared dinner, the good brother that he was.
After she had taken a long refreshing shower and changed into her nightie, she sat down with her brother to eat, when she suddenly spotted bekang chutney.
"Where did that bekang come from?" she asked her brother.
"Oh, from u John-a," Zuala replied.
Jenny froze for a second.
"He's back?" Jenny asked.
"Yup, he landed today. He got us a lot of bekang ro, nghapih and even 1 kg of vawksa rep!" Zuala said excitedly.
"You shall return them all tomorrow," Jenny said sternly.
"Don't argue with me!" Jenny snapped.
Zuala kept quiet.
After a minute of deafening silence, Jenny broke the ice. "I'm sorry Zual. I shouldn't have shouted at you like that. I had a tough day at work today. It is not nice to take gifts from people we don't know well."
"I know him quite well now," Zuala meekly replied. "He's a very nice guy."
Jenny squirmed inside. oh if only he knew what type of a person he really is, she sighed silently.
The next morning, Zuala woke up and returned the food items to John. When John answered his doorbell, he was quite surprised to see Zuala there.
"I'm sorry u John," Zuala said, "but my sis told me to return this to you."
"I understand," John said, as he closed the door.
As John got ready for work, he started getting quite infuriated. The more he thought about it, the more he seethed. How dare she reject my gifts, he thought. She, a lowly Spa worker.
OPa was right, these Mizo girls who work in Spas do not know anything about our tlawmngaihna, all they care about are their rich clients or those habibis who can provide them anything they want, he said to himself angrily as he put on his office clothes.
Just as he was leaving for work and locking up his apartment, he glanced towards the elevator to see Jenny hurriedly pushing the button to close the elevator door.
"So it's gonna be like that huh?" John shouted, as the door shut.
And then slowly, he pulled out his mobile phone, dialed a number and spoke on the phone.
"Sir, how are you… yes, yes, that thing had been sorted out a long time ago… I'm good, sir… I'm actually calling now because of a different issue… you remember telling me you wanted to make a big bust? Well, I know a Spa here in Koregaon Park that is running a prostitution racket… Yes I swear, you can trust me on that… feel free to go undercover, you will know I'm telling the truth… the name of the Spa? It's Thai Desiree Spa, sir. On one of the alleys inside… Yes you can take my word for it."
That evening, John watched the local TV and social media exploded with the news of the cops busting a prostitution racket in Koregaon Park. He didn't have to do anything after that, the Mizo online community was already in full action, publishing Jenny's personal photos everywhere, branded as the beast, 666 and she-devil reincarnate.
Two days later, he opened his door slyly to see Jenny and her family taking the elevator with all their belongings to go back to Mizoram permanently. He chuckled.
Good, he thought. Better than living right next door to the Beast.
Little did he know that Jenny was the one who was the Neighbor of the Beast…