It was a scorching summer month of May. I was sitting in an air-conditioned bus at Ranchi bus stand. The bus was yet to start as it had not been fully occupied. Like a deft suitor, the conductor called out passengers and lured them to take his bus. It looked like a Swayamvara, hoards of buses stood at the junction waiting to be chosen from people who otherwise have a limited say in their lives.

Inside the bus it was all hot and humid. The AC is not turned on as the gate had to be kept open. Emaciated, I slid the jammed window pane with great effort and looked outside. Small shops (gumtis) outlined the inter-state bus junction. That sold betel leaf, cigarettes, mineral water, tea and daytime snacks. A traveler’s affair, I thought!

There was a large public wash basin with four taps in a row. Travelers queued the basin and filled their empty Bisleri bottles from the basin. A beggar woman stood from the wash basin at a distance. Her body was clumsily wrapped in an ash colored dhoti; she wore no blouse. Her uncombed hair was tied in a loose bun with some hair strands falling on her moon like face. She wore copper bangles and carried an aluminum lota in her hand. She scurried towards the washbasin as the men left the water platform.

Once there, she filled the lota with tap water and started pouring it on her body. The luster of water made her voyeur palpable. The wet dhoti stuck to her body and made its each curve visible, like an S turned around. Her breasts felt like two ripe papayas laden with juice of lust. Her small hips looked like chalice of rum. Her supple frame looked a nuptial bed of Gajras. The dhoti wrinkled in the join of her thighs to make a V shaped secret.

What struck me most was her indifferent attitude. She bathed in full public glare like a skilled iron-smith. Carefully undoing parts of her dhoti to smear the pink color lifebuoy soap and then unfurling the cloth back to where it once belonged. It was all vivid yet none was see-through. I studied her body with an intent gaze, sketching her contours with a pencil in air. For me she was the incarnate Venus.