She would never kiss them on the lips.
“No Frenchie kiss saahib” she would say with cardamom scented breath.
Other than that her body belonged to the men. Those who came to her didn’t need courtship, so she would strip quickly and hang her clothes over the pegs on the peeling wall.
She would help their flabby bodies out of their scuffed belts and crumpled shirts, grope their limpness to erection and slip on a condom, while they bit her neck and pawed at her breasts. She could always recognize the men who were likely to tip her after they ejaculated inside her. From others she would ask for a bottle of overpriced beer.
Tonight, when her fourth customer pulls up his trouser over the cum-stained briefs, she too packs up her belongings.
On the fast local train back, she wipes off her lipstick and kohl. By the time she reaches the chawl, her son is already asleep, while her mother watches a daily soap on the small television they had bought last month.
She picks up her son’s schoolbag and settles down in a corner. Pulling out the new uncovered books, she wraps them in brown paper and thin cellophane. She holds the last one just a little longer before slipping it back inside the schoolbag.
Tomorrow, she will wake up early, bathe, and dress Ankur for his first day of school. She would click a photograph of his in the new school tie and hang it on the only wall in her house that does not leak.