Wednesday, May 10, 2006

The White Mercedes

The white Mercedes Benz with a Saudi license plate was parked outside a seedy three-star hotel on Exhibition Avenue in Manama. The tinted windows would have made it impossible to see the occupants but the windows were rolled open and - in the two minutes that it took for me to drive past them - I was able to take a peek into a strange and unfamiliar world.

The man at the wheel was young - about 30 or 35 - and appeared to be enjoying a fuss his companion was making. She was slumped in her seat and instead of addressing him directly, she was looking at the road ahead and was rattling off a litany of complaints, or so it seemed. It looked like a lover's quarrel in progress and my attention was immediately directed towards what, I thought, might develop into high melodrama. But nothing of the sort happened.

The man continued to ignore the woman while his eyes began to furtively scan other cars on the road. He had a look of pride on his face as if he had accomplished something really big, and his posture gave the impression that he wanted to be noticed. It had that 'look' that seemed to say, here I am look at me. And one glance at his companion made it abundantly clear why this was so.

She was an attractive woman in a saucy kind of way. The type with lots of garish make-up and the slinkiest possible attire. The type that makes heads turn and wives a little worried. The type our parents usually warn us against. The type whose company our man was definitely enjoying.

His mind was, obviously, contemplating on what he might do with her tonight, and hence, the woman's complaints were proving ineffective because they were falling on deaf ears.

And just then I noticed her eyes.

They looked empty and lifeless. There was a blank look in those eyes instead of a fiery stare that would have seemed more appropriate. The vacant glance appeared to suggest the fuss was all play-acting, nothing serious, all make-believe. I could tell it was all part of an act. Maybe a clever little way to add a human touch to their interaction. Or most probably, a cheeky way to get more money from the man. Both options - whichever way you looked at them - clearly indicated that the two were not lovers. They might have met an hour ago, the previous night or they must have had a financial arrangement or a contract-of-sorts to meet each other whenever he drove down from Saudi.

I was unable to wait at the spot for too long, and hence, I'm unaware what eventually happened to the two of them. Did the girl finally get what she wanted? Did the man respond to all the fuss and complaints? Did the two really kiss and make up?

My guess is as good as yours, but one thing for sure... it was a very sad sight because, however much you rationalise, affection - or even acts of affection - were never meant to be a purchaseable commodity.

Never.

4 comments:

Pragya said...

It is always interesting to come across a fellow observer of the human condition...living life as a photographer, cataloguer, even when the camera isn't around :) It was a very interesting scene, a scene I would have been compelled to write about had I witnessed it.

Can't help but agree with the conclusion that love can never be a purchaseable commodity but are there other conclusions that could possibly have been drawn about the couple in the car?

Ashish Gorde said...

Well it was a seedy hotel and it was clear as daylight what that girl's 'profession' was... but it was her eyes more than her clothes that really gave it away. The deadness in them was so obvious... sad, uh.

Larry James said...

Nice writing! Good to catch a glimpse of your world. I will put your blog on my favorites list! Visit my blog when you have a chance!

Anonymous said...

I would disagree with the last line. Affection is not traded in such transactions, it is traded when a young woman / man marries an older partner... In such transactions, affection is not the traded commodity. The man seeks a reassurance that he is able to arouse someone, and that is exactly what he gets. Nothing more and nothing less. - lordrkg