She tottered into the crowded coffee shop, on four inch heels, and parked herself by a window. She kept fiddling with her earring and that ridiculous nose stud. The staff shook their heads in despair. Another eighteen year old Behenji, wanting to become the next big model or actress. You could always tell the type. The Rapidex English, the short and tight dresses, the overly made up faces and high heels, at 3 pm. Pretty, but dumb. Easy prey for the sharks that swam these waters.
This particular prey had been stalked for over three months, by a very sweet-faced shark, who was now moving in for the kill. The shark, a has-been television actress, ordered two cappucinos, and joined her prey. As they waited for their coffee, she studied the bimbette. She had been so easy to befriend. New to the city, probably from a small town, where everyone knew everyone else. She had first met her in a beauty parlour, which was one of her favorite hunting grounds. The poor thing couldn’t even decide which nail colour to use. She had dithered between a garish red and a shiny gold, as she babbled on about her portfolio shoot, and had finally asked for help. The shark told her to go for a French manicure.
“It’s so much classier, Beta. The shiny ones look so gawaar.”
The motherly touch worked every time. From DIY skin care tips to diet advice to name dropping, the girl lapped it all up. After that, it was easy to invite her over for a home-cooked meal. There was the unsaid promise of introductions to casting directors. The silly girl probably thought that she had made her first useful contact in the industry.
After three months of about three auditions a day, and no work, the girl had started to lose hope. Her new friend sat her down for a heart to heart, and told her that she needed to get realistic. There were plenty of girls, like her, better than her, who were fighting for the same jobs. Meanwhile, she needed to pay rent. A day job would be helpful, but, it would leave her with no time for auditions.
“Out of sight, out of mind, darling. These casting directors have the attention span of a fly. You need to keep meeting them, till you get a break”.
The girl was close to tears. There seemed no solution, and going back home, with her tail between her legs, wasn’t an option.
“Please help me Aunty”, she begged. “I can’t pay next month’s rent.”
Aunty hemmed and hawwed. There is one option, but you need to be very open minded. The girl was suitably horrified.
“Either you do it for free, on the casting couch, or you make good money out of it. It’s up to you.”
“I would never..”, she began.
“The industry is no place for a sati-savitri”, snapped Aunty. “It’s not for ever. You can stop when you get a role. Nobody is forcing you to do anything.”
“But how? Will it be safe?”
“Leave it to me”, reassured Aunty. “Meet me at the coffee shop tomorrow afternoon. I’ll introduce you to this guy. He will make all your arrangements. Easy money in your pocket.”
The girl kept fiddling with her earring, as they waited for the guy. He arrived. Shredded jeans, designer stubble, definitely not your average pimp. Terms were discussed discreetly. The girl still needed a little convincing. So, terms were discussed more openly. Rates, percentages, places.
“When do I have to start?”
“Tomorrow, if you can. There’s a party at a farmhouse in Karjat. A jeweller from Surat needs company.”
The girl pressed her nose stud, and asked, “Got it?”
As Aunty and the guy looked at each other in confusion, four cops in plainclothes got up from the next table, and said, “Loud and clear.”
They tried to run, but their way was barred by more cops. They were led away in handcuffs.
The staff stared open-mouthed, as the girl who had tottered in so nervously, now, sauntered out coolly, as she took off her mike/nose stud and earring/ear piece.
Another prostitution racket busted.
Another mission accomplished.
Another feather in the cap of The Blackbirds.