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‘Hey,’ I said and held out my hand.

He took it and shook it and didn’t let go.

Kolkata’s a bit like the internet. There are all these layers of crap you have to get through before you find the good stuff.

‘Hey, what you want today, eh? Charas, Weed, Speed, Ecstasy, you want Coke?’

‘Nah, nah, nah – you know I don’t buy.’

His voice hushed, ‘Girl tonight? Little girl? Boy? What are you looking for? Tell me, c’mon, tell me, you can say.’

‘What I’m looking for right now…’ I said, looking around, ‘is a cup of chai.’

In Sudder Street the hustlers come thick and fast. Dogster rather enjoyed it all. He saw it as a challenge.

‘Sit, sit. Two chai!’ the hustler shouted to the street boy.

‘Two chai!’ the urchin shouted in reply.

‘What a day, what a horrible, horrible day…’ he said.

I laughed. ‘How’s business?’

He pulled a face. ‘Stupid Japanese girl. She wants to screw. I tell her no, I don’t screw. I said I find her someone to screw but she wants me. What to do? I don’t screw.’

‘Why not?’ I said, curious. ‘You’re a very handsome man, why not?’

He wasn’t in the least handsome, but Indian men are very vain. Tell an Indian man he’s handsome and he’ll believe you, even if incontrovertible evidence to the contrary stares him in the face every morning when he takes a shave. Perhaps that’s why there are so many barbers in India.

‘I never mix business with pleasure,’ he said, with a perfectly serious face. ‘I find the girl, I find the boy, I find the place to go, I bribe the man, I get the room, I wait, I bring beer, I bring smoke, whatever they want. I don’t do the screw, I sell the screw. That’s different.’

He reached into his pocket, pulled out a wallet bulging with bills.

‘Here. My card. My name is Jimmy,’ he tapped the card. ‘Jimmy the Fixer. That’s me.’

‘Looks like your business is going O.K., Jimmy,’ I said. ‘You don’t need me.’

‘I’ve been looking for my uncle,’ he said, sweeping the streets with a glance, ‘I’ve been expecting him but he doesn’t give me a call.’

He opened up his wallet and prized out a dog-eared photo.

‘Here he is. My uncle.’

Leaning against the wall of a Kolkata slum stood Uncle, a white haired German in his late sixties. He was smiling broadly and holding a beer, one finger raised in that ‘don’t you take my photograph’ position. He was old and overweight, wore a loose white singlet, his gut hung over a pair of khaki shorts.

‘Uncle’s good for business. He comes here three times in a year. He stays in the same apartment, my sister goes to clean, I look after him. He has many, many girls.’

I was still inspecting Uncle. I handed the picture back with a sniff.

‘He likes the girls,’ my friend said, slurping heavily on his chai. ‘Bam! Three or four times a week. Viagra,’ he said, tapping his nose. ‘Very good business. He likes them young – very young. Ten, eleven, twelve.’

I was sitting very still.

‘He wants to screw a virgin,’ he said dismissively, as if this was not an issue, ‘so I find him virgins.’

We were sitting on a low bench, our backs to a corrugated wall, sipping chai. The passing traffic nearly rolled over our feet, it was so close. A child of ten, eleven years of age scurried across the lane, bring chai and plates of food to the others sitting round us.

‘Where do you find the virgins?’ I said, blank-faced.

‘Ahhh, they’re everywhere. Some of them have been virgins half a dozen times. He doesn’t care. He just likes them young. I bring them, two, three at a time. He loves that, two or three. I take the pictures.’


‘That’s what I do. That’s my job. I take the pictures.’

I gasped. Jimmy seemed blissfully unaware there might be something wrong with this scenario. He scanned the crowd. A herd of white goats, each with a fluorescent smudge of pink on their rump, turned into the lane from Sudder Street, blindly heading for death and the market.

‘Ooh, gotta go,’ said Jimmy the Fixer and with a leap he was gone. ‘See ya!’ he shouted over his shoulder. Maybe he saw Uncle.

The goats ambled closer, driven on by four men with sticks and a lot of noise. Gobsmacked, I stood up on the bench to let them pass, fifty or sixty goats filling the road, a bobbing sea of fluorescent pink, felt their sticky flanks brush up against my feet, heard a ‘mwa-a-a-a-a!’, a ‘me-e-ee-eh!’, another whack!

‘Chai! Chai!’ shrieked the little boy.

‘Go on!’ hissed the goatherd. Whack! He slashed at the nearest goat.

‘I take the pictures…’

‘Phhht! Whoa! Go On!’

‘I take the pictures…’

That was all I could hear.

I paid for the chai and followed the goats, through the lane to the square in front of New Market. The sun was coming down; rush-hour, the streets awash with people – but somehow that flock of goats made it through, over the road chock-full of honking and snarling, through rickshaws and children, down Fenwick Bazar Street to the crossroads of life. A smart little goat would have run away right then and there in the confusion, dashed sideways and into the slum – but goats aren’t really very smart, I was discovering, not where matters of imminent mortality are concerned.

Jimmy counted them off on his hand.

‘I’ve had Japanese girls and Chinese girls, Spanish and Italian girls, French and Belgian, American and Swedish…’

This is a different Jimmy. These hustlers are all Jimmy to me.

He lost count. ‘How many is that?

We were both squashed up on the floor in a clothing cubicle at the back of his tiny shop in New Market, a cup of chai in hand, killing time.

‘Eight nationalities!’ he said proudly.

I expressed the requisite amazement.

‘Why not?’ he said and shrugged.

I was starting to see it from their eyes, this flood of backpacker girls, the fresh meat of New Market. They were everywhere; young, British, blonde and gap-yearing, diverted by Mother Theresa on their way down to Goa; the Europeans, bronzed, independent and fiercely naive, the Asian students, wide-eyed, no-brained and relentlessly facile, inexplicably drawn to India and not-so inexplicably drawn to Indian men.

Jimmy was one of India’s Natural Resources. If you were a tourist gal he was just what you needed. Softly charismatic with innocent wide brown eyes, a spruiker, a fluker, a joker, a thief – this Jimmy could lie with the ease of a child, stare you down with a flash of those guileless eyes; a charmer of epic proportions, a rogue. Jimmy was of an age and temperament that found the hunt much more interesting than the trophy – the pleasure was not in the fish itself but the fishing, the trawling, the dangling hook.

‘What kind of girls do you like?’

He thought for a moment. ‘All kinds,’ he said.

‘Backpacker girls?’

‘Phfwahhh! Beggars,’ he scoffed, ‘they live in cheap hotels and work for Mother Theresa, they buy Indian clothes and eat Indian food. They are beggars. No money. I like tourist girls.’

‘Do they give you money?’

‘Well, not exactly…’

‘Pocket money?’

His eyes brightened. ‘Yes, pocket money.’

‘A lot?’

He proceeded to list names, dates and amounts. It was clear this was a thriving cottage industry. Jimmy was just one of many stall-holders with a range of goods not obviously on display. More to the point, there was no shortage of customers.


I was sitting in another cupboard, slurping down the chai. It was mid-afternoon, muggy and hot, business was slower than usual. Time to talk.

Jimmy’s cousin has a twinkle in his distinctly middle-aged eyes. He specializes in ‘ladies of certain years’. It appears that backpacker girls are not the only spices to be found in New Market.

‘Mmm-m-m, I like them forty, forty-five,’ he smiled, ‘up.’

I wondered how far ‘up’ went.

‘What about that woman?’ I said, pointing at a tourist lady buying pashminas over the way, ‘how old is she? Sixty?’

‘Too old.’

So there you have it ladies, fresh from the horse’s mouth. Apparently you have a use-by-date. Somewhere between forty-five and sixty you fall off the Jimmy horizon.

‘I don’t pretend,’ he said, ‘I tell them, if you want it – it’s available…’

He wiggled his head and twinkled his eyes. What a rogue.

‘We get a room, I turn out the lights… boof, it’s over.’

For Jimmy’s cousin, maybe.

‘A little bit pocket money…?’ I asked.

‘You get more from the old girls.’

I’m wondering just what the old girls get from Jimmy’s cousin.

‘Do you have a big dick, like Jimmy?’

‘Nah, any dick’ll do for the old ones.’

About the only thing the Baldwin Piggery has going for it is the look of blank confusion on the face of the owner when I come in to visit. There’s a wall-size mural there of Red Indians chasing pigs across the wide prairie which I find strangely compelling – then, on the opposite side, staring disapprovingly at the marauding Red Indians, a large and unflattering portrait of Mother Theresa.

A display on the wall lists fourteen different pork items for sale.

‘Frank Futter’ is 160 rupees.

The pink goats were ushered past the Piggery, past the public urinal, along Chicken Row to the butchery halls of New Market. Now they were under cover in a vast crumbling hall, moving through a Dickensian display of dangling beef, dead chickens, pig’s trotters and offal.

There was probably a sign that said ‘Goat Futter: 100 rupees’ but luckily none of them looked up to see their future, they all trotted calmly to the end of their lives and bunched themselves contentedly in an aisle at the far end of the market. Every so often a man would drag one goat away and slip it secretly into a black door. A minute or so later, another goat trotted off into the tunnel of doom. I was sitting directly on top of this. Another goat. Another goat. Where did they go?

The tunnel, of course, led along under my feet into the neighbouring alley where the goat would soon get a brief and terrible shock.  Tomorrow morning a plump Indian lady from down the road will amble in and look around.

‘Mmm-m-m,’ she’ll say, ‘I think I need some nice Goat Futter for dinner tonight.’

And, exclusively on her dietary whim, one confused goat with a pink patch on his back will be called to perform his final duty, plucked from the tunnel and slaughtered, especially for her. She might wobble off over to Nahoum’s for a cheese pastry; by the time she was back her pink goat would be futtered, packed and ready to go.

Down in Sudder Street another bunch of fresh goats, already marked pink for sacrifice, waited in a huddle.

Under an umbrella in the garden of the Fairlawn Hotel three young German tourists leant together sharing secrets.

‘His name is Jimmy…’ one gushed to her friends.


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