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To the women in Mumbai Chawl Who cannot Moan

It had been 6 months I last vacationed and the traveler in me had become impatient. So a sudden trip was planned on a shoestring budget and the four of us took off to Nainital. My mother cannot walk much and I felt it unfair to leave her alone in the house. So we booked a deluxe car with cushioned airbags and large armrests to avoid spine jerks and to keep the budget in limit, we booked a single room.

At night the four of us (me, partner, mother, and the kid) jostled to sleep in a linear fashion with the kid sandwiched in between us the couple and ma. The tranquil weather, cold air, warm quilt, strawberry colored thick curtains and sponge bed can rekindle the dead erotic desire of married couples. We still call us lovers in a live-in relationship. The mood of the partner deepened and he yearned to make love to me.

It was difficult to restrain oneself in the act of lovemaking. His fingers ran through my hair, his gym trained muscled chest pounded on my bosom. He cupped my face in his palms and slobbered my face with his wet kisses. The sweat dribbled from our bodies. Oh! I want to moan! I want to sigh! I want to drag him savagely towards me. Swaying and swirling up and down, right and left. Our bodies in motion like undulating waves of ocean!
But I cannot! I was alert as the mother slept just a foot away from us. I was anxious and embarrassed of getting caught in the mid of lovemaking.

We thus communicated our desires through sign language and gestures of fingers. We tried to read our lip movements to decipher what the other person wants. There was no gentle undressing, layer by layer of clothes like peeling of an onion, instead the skirt was lifted in one quick go. I somehow felt discomfort at this quickie minus any languorous foreplay and retracted. We had no sex that night.

It was later while coming back to Delhi as the car veered through snaked mountainous roads, I reminisced about my one week stay in a chawl in Dadar, a popular suburb in Mumbai. The building housed hundreds of one room flats with almost ten kholis in one floor. A single clothesline had clothes hanged of all families who lived on that floor. Big families of parents, their adult kids and grandchildren spend their lifetime in that cramped up space of one room. I wondered then how would couples had intercourse, let alone long, sleepless nights of passionate lovemaking.

Would the other family members pretend to sleep as the husband thrusted inside his wife? Or would a father who wanted to pee in the midnight controlled his urge as he sensed the hushed noise of lovemaking on a bed near the toilet? Would the woman just short of reaching orgasm is abandoned unfulfilled by her husband as one of the family members gets up to drink water? My experience of that one night in the hotel room of Nainital taught me, how clandestine and wretched sex must be in the kholis of Mumbai chawl.

Intimacy is a skill.

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