Tales of the Wretched: Fantine – Chapter 1: Haunting Rue des Pâquis

 

Tales of the Wretched: Fantine – Chapter 1: Haunting Rue des Pâquis

15 October 2017

prostitute southcoast.co.za
Courtesy southcoast.co.za

Fantine quickly put on her coat and rushed down the stairs, her suicidally high shoes almost tripping her as she ran down the narrow staircase. She was slightly irritated at her mother for staying so long on the phone with her that she missed the first half hour of the prime time. This was the time between five o’ clock and seven o’ clock when most of the customers came as they could still invent a late evening at the office excuse without it looking suspicious. It was now half past five and Fantine was still not out on the Rue des Pâquis where her regulars would surely be picked up by some of the newer girls who did not respect quarters.

As Fantine emerged from her building sure enough she could see some of her regular customers being chatted up by the new girls. She rushed towards them and shooed off the girls who did not dare question her authority as she was one of the older girls in the neighbourhood and benefited from police protection as one of her boyfriends was a police man and she also knew how to pay the others without the related money looking like a bribe. Indeed, although practising as a sex worker was allowed by the government and followed a strict set of hygiene and other rules, it was a criminal offence to bribe a policeman.

Fantine always chose an appropriate gift that the policemen could convert into cash as she made sure she gave them something that could be refunded at the counter. It was usually costly perfumes, cigars and expensive clothing that her boyfriend gave to his colleagues on her behalf. One could think of him as her beau but strangely enough Fantine never introduced him as such but always referred to him as agent Patrick. Although there were not huge fights in those alleys, it was always good to be able to count on the police doing a tour of the streets and Fantine felt better that they always came up and down the Rue des Pâquis several times per night so that no customers got any strange ideas.

Several weeks before Fantine had been late for her regular haunt of the Pâquis because agent Patrick had paid her a visit but it was seldom that he resorted to passing time with her in her small bedroom. Today, she could see him at the corner of the restaurant where they usually met to chat casually and smoke. Agent Patrick liked chatting with her because she was one of the few women he could talk to without feeling inferior. All the other women intimidated him and he felt too shy and awkward to start a conversation with them. With Fantine on the other hand, the words flowed freely and he could feel the burden come of his chest.

It was thanks to these conversations that Fantine grew to know absolutely everything about agent Patrick. She sometimes felt more like his psychotherapist than his girlfriend and he surely did everything to make it feel that way aside from the very rare times when they would share a certain form of intimacy. Fantine signalled to agent Patrick that she would need some time with her current clients before she could come and chat with him. He did not voice out anything but signalled back that he would be waiting and indicated the number three. To Fantine it was clear that he was telling her to come after her first three clients and she mouthed back yes.

Her first client was finicky and insisted that she bathe first which she had already done before going out but she humoured him and started doing so while reminding him that her charge was per the hour. He asked her to bathe slower so that he could watch her while she did so. Fantine started to soap her body much slower and it seemed to please the young man who told her that his wife was pregnant and he had liked to watch her shower but now he felt she looked horrid and missed those moments.

After her shower, Fantine lay down and started compiling mentally her list of things to do as she usually did when someone shared their emotional secrets with her. It was her way of keeping a distance with all the emotional surcharge that was poured at her by so many clients. Very few clients dealt with her as a commodity because most of her regular ones had come to know and had recommended her as a witty woman who was also soulful and could be trusted with secrets. Fantine on the other hand was not always happy to carry around these little secrets and these peeks into the sad parts of her clients’ lives. She preferred to see the clients as a means to an end and that end was having enough money to buy a house back in her hometown, get married and have enough money to live off when she would become old.

Some of the girls laughed when she shared her views on retirement because they could not see how anybody would want to marry a prostitute but Fantine would also laugh shake her shoulders and tell them that nobody in her hometown knew what she was really doing for a living. Her mother had told all the folks at home that she was a seamstress and Fantine laughed inward thinking that yes, she was definitely stitching back the burst seams of men whose life was often in shambles.

After her third client, Fantine showered again and went to meet agent Patrick. He did not seem in a very good mood today and was sulking rather than talking as he usually would. She ordered a shawarma meal for both of them and put the money on the counter between them. Next to the money she also laid the monthly bag of gifts for agent Patrick’s colleagues but he pushed it away.

  • We have a new commissioner, he said
  • So what, she answered
  • He has mentioned rumours of police haunting the Rue des Pâquis
  • Is that a crime?
  • No, but receiving money in exchange for their extensive visits to this area is so we need to tone down the gifts or find another way
  • What about including him after finding out what he likes best?
  • He’s one of those tough nuts to crack and we were told that he does everything by the book

Fantine sighed and looked at the other customers of the dine-in. They were either clients that she recognised or some tourists. Funnily enough, despite being the red district area of Geneva, the Pâquis attracted a lot of tourists because of the artistic atmosphere there. On occasion though some fights would start and it was better that the police be around to make sure nobody got seriously hurt. She knew from experience that the men who haunted these streets did not have much to lose and often thought of women, especially prostitutes as the right target for their unjustified fury after a few drinks. She sighed again and started thinking of what she could do to make sure the new commissioner would not change the status quo…

Alone in the Dark – Flaer Smin

Stardom and financial solidity

Stardom and financial solidity

2 October 2017

nicolas-cage-1498559227
Courtesy Getty images

 

We all have watched movies and some of us may have envied the stars for being in a job that joined passion and profitability but probably few of us ever thought about how these stars managed their finances. I was just reading an article today and was surprised to see certain names of stars who purportedly are « broke ».

For those of us « mortals » with defined income streams at modest to slightly higher than modest levels, it can appear difficult that someone earning millions to tens of millions could ever be « broke » in a lifetime let alone in a decade but the truth is just staring us in the face. While the emphasis is on the stars in this article which I attach a link to below, it is clear how the same can be applied to the uber rich or the Very High Net Worth Individuals (VHNWI) including high earners in the sports arena.

In this context, it is clearly visible that not only the financial advisor to a star (or a VHNWI) has to have a proper “backbone” and try to talk them out of the impulsive spending but also a star (or a VHNWI) has to seriously consider – at the onset of the relationship – entering into a contract where the financial advisor is sufficiently empowered to curb such spending. Where required, a projected budget taking into account spending requirements of the star (VHNWI) should be made on an annual basis. Reaching a balance between a good lifestyle as desired and leaving a proper cushion for future availability of cash should be one of the top priorities for such contracts. Sadly, as with most advisors dealing with VHNWI, advisors do not approach the subject allowing their clients to deplete their wealth inconsiderately.

For those of you advisors who are able to mitigate your clients’ request and convince them of appropriate spending habits in line not only with their current earnings but also keeping in mind their projected earnings and lifestyle over their lifetime, I salute your temerity and hard work as I know it is a difficult task. Till then, you can read and be bemused like I was at some of the names in the article.

Article on stars who are “broke”

http://www.nickiswift.com/1169/celebs-fame-fortune/sl/johnny-depp

johnny-depp-1498559227
Courtesy Getty images

 

Roquefort, baguette, pineapple juice and the Daily Thanthi or the unsung hero of a disappearing generation

Roquefort, baguette, pineapple juice and the Daily Thanthi or the unsung hero of a disappearing generation

26 April 2017

 

Those who follow my blog since a while and whom I personally thank here for their continued support and interesting comments would have come across articles regarding my father and his adventures in India. For those who are not aware, you can look up the previous articles about him and a part of his adventures (Celebrating life – https://geethaprodhom.wordpress.com/2015/09/23/celebrating-life/ or The plight of the elderly in India – https://geethaprodhom.wordpress.com/2013/06/21/the-plight-of-the-elderly-in-india/ ).

 

For those who had not followed earlier my blog and don’t have time to look them up, I’ll just summarise saying that my father went through a difficult land grab experience followed by the forced sale of his house and his kidnapping to a remote location in Tamil Nadu where I finally found him after months of searching for him, going to and fro between Dubai where my children lived and India which I visited every weekend for almost a year until his situation was sorted.

 

My father has now been with me for around three years and has recovered from his adventures. He also went from being confined to his bed in an old age home in India (where he was awaiting the preparation of his passport for months – forget about the supposed immediate access to passports for senior citizens) where he was spoon fed and lifted to go to the bathroom/shower to an almost fully independent status save for cooking for himself which he now rarely does.

 

A very spiritual and erudite person, my father remains mentally very active albeit in a remote way as far as the link to human beings around him is concerned. While he keeps himself very well informed thanks to a Tamil newspaper called the Daily Thanthi and to the news reports that he follows almost religiously, his links to the reality around him are less intense and he is often immersed within his own world which paradoxically is made of very deep analysis of all the phenomena happening in the world. I realised that what I took for indifference about the matters of this world was rather a form of detachment made of absence of intensity regarding the outcome despite the very deep analysis of the subjects he examined. It appealed to my own quest for detachment which I practice albeit in a different form as I believe that the heart should remain at the center despite the lack of intensity regarding the outcome.

 

This got me thinking that there were so many people in this world like my father, living in this world but barely in it so to speak and content with very little. In a time where so many human beings are literally killing each other over access to resources whether basic or of a higher level and in a society where consumption of goods, even those which are absolutely not necessary items of life, is the driving factor, I remain at awe of this generation of human beings who hardly had the need for all this wastage and who are so content with the small joys of life.

 

For my father, a great source of joy is to be able to enjoy a slice or two of bread with some Roquefort cheese together with some pineapple juice and followed (if not preceded when he is hungry for news) by the reading of his favourite Tamil newspaper. Whenever he is able to have all these items together, his happiness is palpable and I regret that sometimes the newspaper is not available at the store where they know my father and tell me that he is apparently almost the only one who buys it. When I think of the cost (spread out for the Roquefort) of that happiness, a mere AED 22, I feel that it is truly amazing. There will be those who come from humbler origins who would of course be happy with much less but my father was a doctor specialized in pulmonary diseases so one would expect that his standards and requirements to lead a happy life would be fairly more demanding.

 

I have to say that even when he was younger, my father led a simple life and was always willing to help others, to the extent that he sometimes drove into the Tunisian desert to provide medicine to those who could not visit the city. While he may have had some faults, I truly believe that my father is an unsung hero, a sample from a generation that is becoming extinct in this day and age. Every time I think of anything in life that causes me any discomfort, I always think back to my father’s approach in life and to the little things that give him immense satisfaction and I feel an immediate quietening of all discomfort I may experience.

 

My father will be 85 this year and I do hope that he will get to live to a hundred walking around and sitting as he does with his back straight and with such dignity and poise. I am including a picture of my father who has more of a Tagorean beard now. I find it particularly endearing as he does not button his shirt fully because it is then easier to unbutton 🙂

 

Together with my father, there are all those other unsung heroes of India, some in the open and thriving, others perhaps lying on a small mat in some isolated place, who have contributed so much during their active lives to a society that can barely acknowledge them for what they represent. Perhaps this acknowledgement of all those unsung heroes, a program to actually visit them in their houses and have social workers perform a follow-up on them for those living isolated would be and retain to some extent, the measure of our humanity.

Dad

Life of the Bird – The Cinematic Orchestra

 

 

The Cleopatra Tales 4: Initiatory Blessing

The Cleopatra Tales 4: Initiatory Blessing

2 February 2017

christian-schloe-linger-in-the-shadows-prints

Please feel free to retweet or share otherwise if you feel inclined to do so

I See You Baby

I See You Baby

2 February 2017

earthstillness11
Courtesy fifthdimension.org

 

Ma’s cradle

Always in the shade

No needle

Neither blade

Only mama’s white Sunshade

Baby everglade

 

Baby’s lost

Running in graveyard

Mistaken

Green backyard

Hearts and guts are beating low

Lost in dusty flow

 

Inky glow

Uncovering deep

Maidens sleep

Do they weep

All you see is frightening teeth

Perhaps none beneath

 

Ma’s paddle

Tells you what to trade

The weasel

Says the grade

All love by which you’ll abade

Losing the parade

 

The soul’s cost

Trimming in billard

Forsaken

Green orchard

Stunts and brunts are beating brow

Death is costly blow

 

Pinch me slow

Awakening sleep

Husbands creep

From wells steep

Now they see the edge of heath

My life now bequeath

 

He crawled out

In tatters from thorns

His head bled

Bloody red

Mama Dove shows blue in me

I See You Baby

 

earthstillness10
Courtesy fifthdimension.org

Reading of the poem:  

City – Jain

Say my name – Jain

Makeba – Jain

Bad Day – Jain

You can Blame Me – Jain

All My Days – Jain

Age Quod Agis

Age Quod Agis

27 January 2017

I wanted to share with you a lesson learnt from an anecdote from my life and a prayer as a gift.

We often hear the motto “practice what you preach” and if you look around you, hardly anyone is really willing to do that. You can see this reluctance in every domain from the personal, to the social, to the political to the religious and even to the spiritual.

I don’t think I need to even go into the detail of how we fail this motto on all those levels. Suffice to say that if you look at the world and take a really good look, the examples are so clear they’re almost a slap in the face. You can of course turn the other cheek or believe me when I say that the examples of failing that motto are really numerous.

Taking a step back, I realised that I had always wondered whether one could actually truly live this motto even when faced with dire personal circumstances and the wise ones will always caution you “be careful what you wish for” because you might just get it. Now laden with lessons but never with regret, I stand wiser and know that while in that distorted pattern of mathematics that one tries to term economics the past is not an indicator of future performance, it stands very true on the level of all that is natural, including for humans. The past is an indicator of what went wrong if your present is not quite what you wanted it to be. While not all may be able to see beyond and understand what could possibly go wrong in the now, some whom we may call visionary are given to see without seeing what could go wrong in what we are doing now. Some may wish to speak the truth seen and some may just hold their peace.

Another motto that I really like and that comes to me from my childhood school called “Good Shepherd Convent” in India is “Age Quod Agis” and I think it is a beautiful motto so I thought that I should share it as well with you. I would add that whatever you are doing, do it with Love which would equate to doing it the right way. If Love cannot be a part of what you are doing, then you are not doing the right thing altogether.

I pray that we will always learn from our past be it today or tomorrow and would like to gift you this prayer in the form of an intent to overcome karma, to retrieve soul memory and to heal from not just the past but also from any future afflictions. If you like it and it resonates with you, please feel free to share it and/or to link to it within your blogs or other social media.

Reading of the prayer – 

christian-schloe-watergarden
Courtesy Christian Schloe

Dragon Heart – The Old Code

Overcoming Karma, soul memory healing prayer – Geetha Balvannanathan

A sign of the rampant hypocrisy that plagues our world: unsustainable sustainability

A sign of the rampant hypocrisy that plagues our world: unsustainable sustainability

1 August 2016

earthstillness18

Last month, I get a DEWA bill which for water alone shows a consumption of over 45 thousand gallons resulting in a net water bill of circa 3,500 AED which is of course impossible given our very measured consumption. My initial thought is that they have mistaken the neighbouring villa for my meter as that one harbours 70 maids all squeezed in tight into the same kind of villa as the family of my landlord has two identical villas side by side in Um Suqeim.

 

I file a complaint with DEWA considering they profess to be green and saving water and all that jazz. The result of the complaint is that a guy comes checks the meter and goes back to DEWA happy to have done his job. My complaint had however clearly mentioned that it was impossible to have that level of water consumption because we are very careful with water.

 

Parallel to that, just in case, I make sure the landlord’s company is aware that there might be a problem as we also had a shortage of water once or twice. As is usual with local landlords, the Indian staff keep saying that somebody will come but nobody turns up at all so we keep trying to live with the issue of shortage thinking that DEWA will come back with a solution to the issue. Meanwhile we have of course looked absolutely everywhere but cannot identify a leakage to the extent of all those gallons lost.

 

The next month, I get a bill with 69,000 gallons for circa 3,800 AED for water alone!! I don’t know if you understand my shock as it is more than impossible. I complain again saying this is quite impossible and even at the peak of consumption when all my children were here (they are now off for summer holidays with my ex) and we also had guests, the maximum it went to was 1,400 AED or a consumption of less than 20,000 gallons so could they please check properly. I highlight that there is visibly a problem because so much consumption is not possible and clearly water is being lost somewhere. I don’t believe even the 70 maids next doors could be reaching that level of water consumption.

 

Pom popom, the DEWA guy lazily comes in again and checks the water meter and is all set to go. We tell him that it can’t be just that and can he come and have a look inside the premises. After all DEWA is professing to be GREEN and to be saving the environment. I’d think trying to prevent over 40,000 gallons from finding their way to a desert grave would be incentive enough for an entity that professes itself to be GREEN and so connected to saving the environment.

 

The DEWA person assigned to review the complaint matter onsite has a wayward look everywhere, shrugs this thing off and says it is not DEWA’s problem if water is lost (sic!) and it is for the landlord to try to find out what is the matter as it is inside the premises.

 

Ahem, perhaps you want to rephrase that, I think almost aloud. We all know how local landlords are. We’ve been trying to get the landlord to fix the shortage problem. Imagine them thrashing around the place to find a potential leakage of water which is nowhere really to be seen. We venture a feeble “Don’t you think DEWA should be enforcing on landlords to make sure their property is per norms when they are renting to expats like us?” and another feeble “we can’t force these local landlords to do anything” but he is not too concerned. He mumbles that if we are not happy then we can go back to our home country. He is right and I would LOVE to do just that except that I simply cannot do that for now for personal and financial reasons

 

As somewhat of a solution to the whole problem with divine intervention, the pipe actually bursts yesterday night and we are now able to find out where the problem actually lies. As I write, I am sitting here now waiting for the landlord’s company to finally come and repair the whole thing instead of going to work as my helper is on vacation for the whole month. While I have been paying off the small items like issues with the ACs and the toilet blockage etc, I can’t see how a landlord, even local, can expect to see me pay for his whole water pipe system. Then again as the saying goes there is enough for everyone’s need but not enough for everyone’s greed. Incidentally, perhaps that is why there are these poor 70 odd maids packed like sardines in the next door villa, which is quite appalling if you think of it. Add to this fact that I have not even received my tenancy agreement as it would seem the landlord is not too keen for me to register it with RERA although he made sure to cash the check.

 

Now I am left wondering who is supposed to pick up that tab of circa 7,300 AED for water alone. Water I have not even got to use because it just seeped back into this empty desert sand. I am afraid the very green DEWA is simply going to wash its hands off the whole issue like they could not care less that a consumption of circa 600 AED monthly jumps all of a sudden to over 3,000 AED month after month. I am afraid the landlord might also attempt to wash his hands off the whole story and try to leave me with the damages to pay. Of course there are no proper consumer protection laws that would allow one to get appropriate compensation.

 

If you think of it, the fact that DEWA could even dismiss the discrepancy in the consumption is the clear proof of that two-tier hypocrisy system. Probably DEWA was under the impression that the landlord must have resorted to renting this villa out as well to another company housing another 70 odd maids within its premises like what he did next doors. Funnily enough this is a practice that is officially not allowed but it is becoming more rampant now in Jumeira and Um Suqeim while it was contained only to Jaffiliya and Bur Dubai before.

 

While I understand the need for two or three families to share a villa given the insane prices we have to pay in Dubai for housing as compared to our home location, the cramping of so many individuals inside the old houses because it is a cheaper option than a labour camp is simply appalling. It would seem that the old houses now are a better option to most companies housing their slightly more senior staff as the newer labour camps with proper arrangements that the government has been supporting are simply considered as too costly by these companies.

 

People only target the government for the problem of the labour camps but suffice to see that it is a matter of greed which goes back to the companies themselves. Indeed,  the new enhanced labour camps and other arrangements for mid-level personnel are available and they simply stay unoccupied as most companies are not willing to pay more to house their personnel under humane and acceptable conditions.

 

It is sad but very much a fact of the human condition that those who can change things fail to recognize that it is only in the establishment of a system that is palatable, steeped in truth and fair to everyone that you can build real sustainability.

Unsustainable – Muse

Second Law, Isolated System – Muse