5 March 2019



The Gateway of India
What a wonderful day of sightseeing I had in Mumbai! We managed to see everything that was on my list. 

Our taxi driver, Viraj, was a mine of information but it turns out that Sweety knew next to nothing about Mumbai's main tourist attractions and historical sites. It appeared all new to her and she listened to Viraj as intently as I did. Though she was a most attractive young woman, she was a hopeless escort. Incredible as it may seem, she had never seen The Gateway of India before in her life! Flabbergasting! Just wait till I reported back to Mr Singh!

The three of us had lunch in a traditional cafe overlooking Juhu beach. I forget its name but it was owned by Viraj's brother-in-law. Excellent curry cuisine though Sweety ate like a hedge sparrow.

When she visited the "Ladies" I remarked to Viraj that Sweety's escorting skills left much to be desired. In fact, I seemed to know more about the places we were visiting than she did! Viraj was enjoying a mouthful of tarka dhal and spluttered most of it out as he burst with laughter.

"Very good Mister Yorkie! Most funny!"

At that point Sweety drifted back to our table.

In the afternoon we drove out to the Kanheri Caves north of the city. Wow! What a spectacle! Natural cave formations mingled with ancient rock carvings and shrines. Hindu chanting echoed through the chambers and the still air hung heavy with the aromas of incense and candlewax. It was another place that Sweety had never visited before. She clung to my arm for security as though far from her comfort zone.

We arrived back at The Hotel Kohinoor in the late afternoon. I paid Viraj handsomely and shook his hand as he shook his head from side to side in that curious Indian manner. 

"Nice meeting you Mr Yorkie!"

And he drove off into the endless traffic jam as Sweety Patel and I waved him goodbye.

Up in my room, I needed to deposit something most unsavoury in the lavatory bowl. I will save you the details.When I emerged from the en-suite, Sweety Patel was half undressed. She had also pulled the curtains across and thrown back the bed sheets.

"What? What the hell's going on?" I exclaimed.

She sidled up to me and whispered, "Now we go jiggy jiggy Mr Pudinge?"

There was another whelk-like kiss which again I pulled away from with admittedly a soupcon of regret. My morality held me back like leather reins on a bronco.The penny was starting to drop. She wasn't a tourist guide after all. She wasn't the type of escort I had naively anticipated.

"Get off me Sweety! I'm old enough to be your father! No! Your grandfather!"

Tears welled in her dark eyes and she sank onto the bed in despair, her face buried in her hands. 

"You don't liking me sahib? Achetbir give no money!" and she sobbed like a child.

She was so distraught that I sat beside her and tried my best to comfort her.  Gradually, the tears and the sobbing subsided and through her distress her story began to emerge.

She belonged to one of the lowest Hindu castes of all and had become an "escort" or what most people would call a prostitute in order to subsidise her family. Achetbir had requisitioned her when she was just fourteen years old so she had been "escorting" for almost seven years. The money had also allowed her to take up a college course, learning English and I.T skills. 

"I want to work in call centre Mr Pudinge. I so sick of men. Like pigs,"  and she imitated the sound of a grunting hog which made us both chuckle.

I told Sweety to get her clothes back on and insisted that I would accompany her on her journey home. She seemed horrified but I was adamant.
At Lokhandwala with The Patels' shack in the middle
Over an hour later our taxi arrived in the Lokhandwala district. There were tall, modern apartment buildings but the taxi dropped us near what appeared to be a vast shanty town of  tin and plywood and cardboard huts all squashed chaotically together.

Sweety tried to rebuff me but once again I insisted that I would lead her right back to her home. We delved into the malodorous shanty town with its barking dogs and small children wailing and thin men sitting on overturned oil tins and tyres. It was a veritable maze.

And then we arrived at Sweety's place. It was one of the better shacks on the alley with a new tin roof  and the ground outside neatly swept. 

Inside, her parents were startled to see us. I doubted that Sweety had ever brought one of her clients back home before. I shook hands with her mother and her father who was lying on a day bed. He had only one leg and there were crutches close to hand. Her parents didn't speak a word of English.

Standing upon an old wooden dresser there was an ornate statuette of the elephant god - Ganesh. Incense burned amongst orange blossoms and I also noticed framed photographs of Sweety's siblings. She was the youngest.

Though Mr and Mrs Patel looked much older than me they were in fact younger. Sweety explained that her father had lost his leg in a road accident and could no longer work.  Her mother's face sparkled with the joy of life even though she lived in a slum. The lines on her face spoke of laughter and contentment.

It was clear that Sweety's escort income had been vital to this family's survival though she explained that pimps like Mr Singh always helped themselves to the largest slice of the cake. 

"He take money for clothing and cosmetic," she said. "He take money for taxi."

Outside, another Bombay night was merging with the shadows of the slum. Somewhere a radio was playing "Bohemian Rhapsody". I bid Sweety's parents farewell and she "escorted" me back through the maze to the main road. 

As we waited for a passing taxi, I told Sweety that she deserved a medal for supporting her family in the way she did. It wasn't my place to deride her for her demeaning escort work though I encouraged her to keep up her college course and get a job in a call centre. It was an achievable dream.

Just then a white Suzuki Swift pulled up beside us. It was Mr Singh but his golden tooth was not glinting any more. He said some angry words in Hindi and reluctantly Sweety began to climb in the back. She was visibly trembling.

"But I paid for twenty four hours!" I yelled, reaching through the driver's window and grabbing Mr Singh's face with both hands added. "You little shit!"

Like a dog, Singh tried to bite me and then he put his foot down and the car zoomed off sending me reeling back onto the side of the road. Sweety waved through the rear window and I never saw her again.

Twelve hours later I boarded my flight home determined to never again respond to a scam escort advertisement in the blogosphere. But I was also thinking about Sweety Patel and her parents and what I might have done to help them, later reminding myself that their situation was by no means unique. Nevertheless, at least I had at last visited Mumbai and stood before The Gateway of India as my parents and had done in the summer of 1942.  Another item ticked off my bucket list.



  1. Ahhhh...this is better. Kermit has given his nod! Or you're getting ready for St. Paddy's Day! :)

    And, from this day forth, Mr. Pud...you will not be allowed out and about...overseas or at home, without an escort...one, by the way, who goes by the name..."Shirley"!

    1. I am not entirely happy with the blog's new look but it's better than the temporary version you saw.

      As for being escorted, I am happy to follow your instruction.

  2. Well done Mr.Pudding, well done.

  3. Chivalry is not dead! Good for you, Mr. Pudinge :)

    In all seriousness, it's not a friendly world for a woman in poverty, and not just in India.

    1. You got my main point Jenny! That's great.

  4. I like the new template! Very summery.

    You did a fantastic job with your short story. Have you actually been to Mumbai? You certainly speak about it as if you have. I am reminded of the book "Shantaram" by Gregory David Roberts, which takes place partly in an Indian slum. It's long but pretty interesting.

    1. No I haven't been to Mumbai Steve. Isn't fiction sometimes about telling lies? As for the new template...it wasn't meant to happen but thanks all the same.

    2. Well, you lie very convincingly! LOL

  5. I think you should have adopted Sweety, brought her home to Yorkshire, enrolled her in an English class and gotten her a job at the local pub where she could earn enough money to help her parents move out of the slums. Perhaps they could even move to Yorkshire too! She and her mother could open a restaurant together. Obviously they have amazing work ethics.
    Seriously, though. You did very well with this story and I've enjoyed reading it.

    1. I think that Sweety Patel and her parents will find the weather in Florida more to their taste. I know you have space in your home but I don't think your beloved president will be supportive.

    2. I think you are correct on all counts.

  6. What saddens me is that there will be many thousands of people like that and some will be in the UK.

    I'm not sure about the blog change. I got used to the last one. By the way you can always back up your layout before you start tampering.

    1. I should have backed up my old version. This one wasn't meant to happen. I was just trying to change the picture at the top and then it all went wrong. I was just happy that it didn't all disappear. When I have got my breath back I might do a bit more tinkering.

  7. Such a gentleman.

    1. I never wanted to treat anybody - man or woman - as an object for my pleasure. Does that make me weird?


Mr Pudding welcomes all genuine comments - even those with which he disagrees. However, puerile or abusive comments from anonymous contributors will continue to be given the short shrift they deserve. Any spam comments that get through Google/Blogger defences will also be quickly deleted.

Most Visits