Year 2075, Bengaluru, India
A young lady walks with her head bent down through the narrow steaming gullies between the tall buildings. It is dark and a mild rain spray-mists the air in billowy swathes. The tap tap of her stilettos echoes like tiny shots in the dark. She seems resolute as she heads downtown through the cold deserted alleys.
Through the murky darkness of the night, a figure looms up suddenly scaring her witless. It was the dealer. He had on a cheap leather jacket and a black Stetson. A thick gold chain glinted in the dark dully.
“Do you have it?” she whispered looking around fearfully.
“Do you have the money?” rasped the dealer staring at her face partially covered with the silk scarf. She was beautiful. Her fine cheek bones accentuated her oval face giving it an ethereal beauty. She took out a hand beaded purse that must have cost a fortune and removed a bundle of notes. He grabbed the money greedily counting it again and again. Satisfied, he pocketed the money and removed the precious commodity she was seeking. Her eyes glazed in anticipation and all thoughts of the grave danger and risk to her health and reputation vanished in a cloud of hope. She wet her lips nervously. This was her third day of cold turkey and she had finally managed to steal her mother’s pearl necklace to buy the stuff. Her father had cut her off funds a long time ago when he had gotten to know of her addiction. Selling pieces of jewelry was her only option. Her mother never knew. .. not with the vast collection of jewelry lying unused in her cupboard.
Grabbing the precious cargo from the dealer’s hand she raced home. The dealer stared at her receding back with some contempt. He had seen the worst cases of addiction in his days, but this was probably the worst. Tearing his eyes away from her, he shrugged and retreated to the dark corner of the street to wait for the next buyer.
She reached home and crept up the marble staircase like a wraith. The house seemed to be in deep slumber. Closing the bedroom door behind her, she opened the packet. In the crumpled piece of newspaper, lay the precious stuff. She raced to the toilet and switched on the lights. She looked at herself in the giant mirror and flinched. She looked quite horrible she felt.
She removed some of the white stuff from the container and wiped it gently on her face. Three days of going without Fair and Oh So Lovely cream had made her feel black and ugly and downright contemptible. Her self esteem had taken a beating. She felt useless.
Spreading the cream on her face she thought she would be fair and lovely soon and then she could step out of her home to resume normal life. She did not worry about her next stock up. The dealers were always there, lurking in the dark. It has been years since the government had banned fairness creams. But the underground factories and network of dealers evaded their quest to abolish its manufacture and trade. It’s devastating effects to self esteem and self worth nevertheless; millions of women bought it illegally fuelling the ugly business to dizzying heights.
She smiled at herself in the mirror. She looked radiant she felt. She dropped the tube into the flush tank and walked out of her bedroom her head held high. Fifty grand was worth it if it bought you happiness and a feeling of well being she thought before stepping out to face the world confidently.