An extract from:

Charles H.G. Nida, Chota Sahib: you’ve had a busy day (2007), edited by Ian Clark

ISBN 978-1-898728-11-5

My temperature rose and my face and body began to burn.  I was finding it difficult to breathe.  When the operation was over I was wrapped in a large towel, taken to another chamber and told that when I had dried off and reverted to my normal temperature I was to go into a further chamber and dress.

It was a quarter of an hour before my overheated blood came down to a level where I dared go in and do that.  But at the end of it all I realised what the attraction was.  It had such an invigorating effect on me.  I couldn’t remember ever having felt so physically whole and complete.

I stretched my limbs to their uttermost extent.  I felt fit for anything.  Pushing open the door which I had been shown, I found myself in a dimly-lit room.  It didn’t take me long however for my eyes to get accustomed–and then I saw that in one corner there was a bed.  On it lay a slight figure.

On closer inspection it turned out to be the person of a native woman–quite naked.  Murmuring hurried apologies I hastened to take my leave.  Then out of the corner of my eye I noticed my clothes neatly arrayed over a chair.  This actually was the place where I was supposed to dress.  Was this woman all part of the treatment?

I took a step forward to take a closer look.  She lay motionless upon her back on top of a blanket, one knee slightly raised, her pretty head of jet-black hair tilted to one side and her eyes cast demurely down.  She was, I quickly decided, rather short of stature to be a grown woman.  Still totally puzzled, I opened the door, but there was no one there.  I was now in no doubt about it–this girl had been provided for my satisfaction.

She looked so young–so innocent.  I stood there in indecision.  Why me? –I asked myself.  Why should I be assailed with this temptation?  I had not asked for her.  My upbringing had directed me to believe that I should be committing the fourth of the seven deadly sins unless I resisted her, but I was surprised by the strength of my desire.  No doubt it was something to do with having just had a Turkish bath.  Half of me was frantically casting around for some way out of this predicament.  The other half was hunting equally frantically for some dispensation which would sanction my surrender.  With my mind whirring I gradually pulled on my vest, drawers, shirt–and at long last my trousers.  Having got that far, the rest was easy.  On went my jacket, five rupees got thrown on the bed and I dashed through the door and made good my escape.  Worming my way through the throng in the street I got back to the hotel.  At that very moment a gharry drew up and out stepped Hitchcock.  Perhaps it would have been more polite to have waited for him.

“Oh there you are,” he said brightly.  “They told me you’d left.  I did wonder if she’d eaten you up.”  He peered into my face with a mildly satisfied smile.  “How are you feeling?”

I blushed.  “I’m fine, thanks.”

“She’s good, isn’t she.”

“Yes,” I said, pretending to be a man-of-the-world.

“I had her last month,” he remarked.

“Yes…”  I slid nervously into the supposed deception like a rabbit in its burrow.  “Er–excellent.”

“I bought her for you as a present.  Well now, you can come and buy me a drink.”

So into the hotel we went.  In the bar I ordered two burra pegs.  I don’t know about Hitchcock, but I wanted mine pretty badly.  We sank several more before we turned in that night.

We said our goodbyes there and then because he was due to be off early in the morning.  He gave me to understand that he might be in Bombay in a few weeks’ time and he’d make a point of looking me up.  Then I could return his hospitality “in full”.  I understood entirely what he meant.

Before I fell asleep that night I wondered what I should do if he did turn up on my doorstep.  Should I share with him my life as it was and its simple pleasures–which would bore him out his mind, no doubt?  Or should I enter into his style of things and take him to the Khamatapura District?  It struck me as strange, to say the least, that a man of his age and responsibility, with a wife and a growing boy at home, should act so completely as if he was footloose and fancy-free.  I thought of how I despised my fellow lodgers at the CMC who furtively crept into their beds in the early hours.  Was he any better than they were?  Was I old enough to judge?

…to be continued.


See also:

Chota Sahib – Foreword

Vocabulary Of The Raj