"Let’s go into the park." Simi said, smiling, and there they were, those fantastic dimples, like two invisible pins poking her cheeks.
Didn’t you read it in the papers, he wanted to say; last month an American couple strayed into a neglected region of this park, the man was bludgeoned to death, the woman was raped, the police were still clueless.
"Come on, Neil!" Simi said and held out her hand. It was large and fleshy. He resisted the urge to hold it up, to examine it. This was their first meeting; she had responded to his matrimonial advertisement in the Times of India. They met at Blue Star Café and after some talk and soda, she said she wanted to visit this park. "I want to walk amongst the bamboo and the Flame of the Forest," she’d said, smiling away, tantalizing him with those dimples.
They went past an old woman squatting behind a pile of boiled peanuts, past the man packing up his cheap toys, past three cars slanting immaculately at the curving curb.
"I can help you a lot,’’ Simi said. "I can do the correspondence, answer the phone calls."
"Yeah, I know." He’d told her about his work, the free-lancing for several companies, the designing and printing of brochures and promotional material. She would make a great assistant, no doubt about that.
To the right, a thicket of bamboo flung outwards in several blurs, like a rebel’s painting. To the left was the children’s theatre, its doors shut. In the distance several Flames of the Forest loomed, blood red flowers now turning dark, dying flames resting on green canopies.
Then out of the curve ahead, they came, two of them, jostling each other in that easy camaraderie characteristic of shared aspirations. The blue and white striped shirt was talking. "She wants to meet me."
"Tell her to get lost," responded his companion. A thick gold chain rested on his throat.
They were hardly six paces away. The sodium lamps above came on, faint warnings taking their time to deepen. The striped shirt nudged the gold chain and both of them studied Simi. Neil watched them take their time to rape her from throat to ankle. She bent her head and those dimples appeared once more.
"You know her?" The man with gold chain whispered.
"Know? I have…"
Neil didn’t hear the rest of the words. A breeze hurried up from the right, loaded with the smell of dung. Farther down the road, a constable in khakis came up, a dull gleam swinging in one hand.
"What is it?" asked Neil.
"Let’s go back."
"But why? You were the one who-"
"I know, but I want to go back now."
He saw the anxiety in her eyes as she watched the constable. The man stopped on the other side of the road. "Anything wrong?"
Before Neil could reply, Simi spoke, "No, no…nothing."
"Sure?" The constable enquired, smacking the baton in his palm.
"Yes, of course," said Simi and she was careful to not smile. "We were thinking of going back."
The constable hesitated, as if he had expected a different reply, but finally nodded and walked away. The oglers were almost near the gates now, yet they looked back over their shoulders every now and then.
Simi smiled again. "Let’s go?"
Neil nodded, but he didn’t see her dimples now. His mind was busy analyzing her words, her gestures, her responses to the oglers and the constable.
"So, are you coming to see me tomorrow?" she asked.
"Yes," he said, but he knew he wouldn’t see her again.
RAMESH AVADHANI from Bangalore, India, has had more than 70 articles and stories published around the world. He contributes regularly to World & I Journal(Washington), Dragonfire (
The motivation for this piece remains his secret for now.