Encounters

by Rafael Henry

There But For Fortune

Joan Baez. I bought the album and I have loved that song ever since. What a performer she was, and still is, and beautiful with it. Those words too…….I'm sure there's truth in them. Life is so much to do with luck, or the lack of it……where you happen to be at any one time, who you meet, who you know, and what circumstances you were born into. I was one of the lucky ones.

I was born a boy, as it happens, and I'm now twenty four years old. I was born into a middle class English family, with a splash of Indian blood in it, and had every educational advantage. I am also, as the saying goes, as gay as a large pink tent, and very happy to be so. Having said that, my first sexual experiences, in the plural, were with a girl and not as you might have expected, a boy. Perhaps I'll elaborate on that one later, but I'm conscious of the fact that this is a short story which will necessitate a degree of brevity, which doesn't really suit me, but I'll try. As my older sisters tell me, 'you do go on Michael'.

Yes, I'm the slightly precocious little brother, but not when it came to puberty. At fourteen my parents began to worry. I looked about eleven, and showed no signs of growing up, physically. My grandmother was from Udaipur in Rajasthan, the Venice of the East, and as a consequence, my skin is a shade darker than the average northern European. What with grey/blue eyes and all, I have been 'looked at' from an early age. Great height does not run in the family. My mother is barely five foot six, and I'm not much more…..five foot eight to be precise……and of slim build to go with it. Aged eleven, I looked like a nine-year-old. Looking back at photographs of me around that time, posing for the school photo, you would have to admit that I was a nice looking little boy……..pretty almost…..eleven going on nine. I knew I looked 'girly', and I found some girly things interesting, as well as Dinky toy cars of course. My sisters would tease me, whilst loving me, as I love them. We were all close in age, and they saw me as some sort of plaything, made more interesting because I had boy's 'bits' as they called them. At that time, I was the only boy that they could have any kind of intimate access to. I can just remember their delight at the involuntary erections I produced at bath time. The girls would put a finger on the tip of my little rod, push it down, and watch it spring up again, much to their delight. Dressing up was an occasional game we played, me becoming a girl, lipstick and all. They knew what to expect just as I did, when boys' underpants were replaced by girls' knickers. I loved it. But that's where the game ended with sisters, but not with cousin Jenny. Occasionally I would spend a weekend at their large Victorian house in Trumpington which is not far from Cambridge City centre. Her bedroom was next to mine at the top of the house. When I woke, I would as she requested, go into her room for a cuddle. I liked her very much. This was my first awareness of matters sexual. Up to this point I was not aware. She would call it 'playing mothers and fathers'. Arms encircle me as I feel her mouth on my face and neck, making me giggle. I knew what was coming next. Her hand feels warm as it slowly makes its way to my 'bits'. It feels good, and I respond quickly to the gentle massage she gives my immature penis and balls. She pulls me on top of her and guides my hard little tool to the precise place she wants it. She has told me exactly what to do. Now I'm rubbing myself against, and then between her soft puffy folds of skin. I have to do this until she tells me to stop. I'm very keen to please my cousin Jenny. Eventually she does stop. I think there's something wrong with her but she smiles, and assures me that there is nothing wrong. I don't understand, but I'm pleased for her.

'Was that right Jenny? I did try.'

Of course it was, but it's not all over yet. There's someone else to consider, someone else to play with, lying next to her. Soon, I learnt the precise difference between a boy and a girl. Jenny was the first and last girl I ever touched. From then on, it was the boys for me.

They tell me it was my looks……the bluish eyes that looked very grey in some lights, and the darker than usual skin tone. I didn't look for boys who would enjoy mutual comfort, because they tended to seek me out. Lucky me, you say. Of course I was.

I loved Justin…….and still do. It's a familiar story. Our first meeting in the park, and then so many more at odd moments out of a busy and controlled day, summoned by bells. There were holidays spent together, beds shared, and we are mature enough now to give and receive the loveliest of sensations, and all before we knew what an ejaculation was. We kissed until our mouths ached and rubbed each other until we were sore. On my thirteenth birthday, Justin asked me what I would like from him. I told him there was something that I had heard was fun……but extremely rude. At the weekend, sleeping over at our house, he gave that 'something' to me. In the morning after a blissful sleep, I asked Justin if he would like me to do for him what he had done for me. He said he would. I did not let him down. We revelled in being queer. Everyone knew we were.

I was not a great success at school, unlike Justin, who was far brighter than I was. He was clearly going the musical route, like his father. I was going we knew not where…..nowhere probably. My father, who worked as a kids' consultant at Addenbrookes hospital, was disappointed in me I'm sure, but never said so, to his credit. Following my less than promising primary education, my parents felt compelled to fork out for the private sector, where suddenly and to the great credit of one teacher there, I flourished and acquired an urgent desire to learn. He was a truly beautiful man, who I later realised was a man who loved boys. I genuinely believe he loved me, as I did him, all on a platonic level of course. He was a truly honourable boy-lover. He would fix me with those clear green eyes, which at first alarmed me, but later I realised why. I would have given myself to him unconditionally, if he had asked me, but he would never have allowed himself such an indulgence. I wrote to him just after my last exam at the school. I'm far too embarrassed to set it down here before an, albeit very limited, audience.

At the end of it all now lay a career for me in medicine, to the great surprise and delight of my doctor father. When I finally qualified, we had a family party. He took me outside the room at one point, took me in his arms and hugged me. No words were spoken, but we both cried, and we both knew why. He was a good man who lived for the benefit of others, and was truly happy that I would try to do the same. Justin in the mean time had graduated from John's with a first, and a job as Organ Scholar at the College. Clever boy. My physical relationship with him had long since ended, and was not to be revived. I have led a reasonably celibate life since, but I live in hope of a lasting relationship with a nice bloke who likes animals and might agree to us keeping a dog.

My father thought I deserved a break after medical school, so I was duly sent off to India for six weeks to find at least some of my roots, and to get what he called the 'India Experience'. He still had vague contact with an uncle there. He was right. It was much more of an experience than a holiday.

India. My plane landed in Delhi, which was a chaotic scene, much like the rest of the India I was to 'experience'. My principal aim was to see the Golden Triangle which included Agra and the amazing monument to a decent man's wife, the Taj Mahal, and then as a last port of call, Udaipur. I had previously booked a cheap hotel in Delhi for a couple of nights, and it was from there that I toured the sights in a taxi driven by a very nice fellow called Krishnan. He miraculously avoided everything that the city could put in our way, including overloaded tuc tucs, bicycles, motor bikes, cars and waggons of various sorts…..and of course plenty of cows. Persuaded by the hotel owner and a large amount of whisky I wasn't used to and supplied free by him, Krishnan drove me all over Rajasthan. Amidst the chaos and my fears for our survival, my driver announced that 'God will decide if we shall live or die'. I found that concept a trifle scary, but in another way, deeply comforting. I could of course fill a book with my India 'holiday' but time and space will not allow.

Very oddly, I found myself of a night wanting, rather than needing, sex. India makes you want sex. Maybe that's just me. I don't know. Maybe it was being faraway from home……a sort of liberation. Suffice it to say that I didn't get much. I had left home with a good supply of 'Durex' condoms in my case, and a tube of KY gel, more in hope than expectation. About the age of fourteen, Justin and I had achieved penetrative sex, with me underneath. I doubt if many boys that age had dared to do such a thing, at least that's what Justin and I liked to think. We considered ourselves pioneers in the sexual emancipation of boys. I liked it that way, but I never had Justin like that. It suited both of us. I enjoyed being 'done to' as much as Justin enjoyed the 'doing' bit. I could concentrate on loving his body which in turn stimulated him to the reach those wonderful and fulfilling energetic peaks. Made slim and not too long, he was the ideal partner for me, and I couldn't wait for the next instalment, once we became technically confident. And so it was in Jaisalmer in hot and arid Rajasthan. My guide at one of the great havelis in the town, Patwon Ky Haveli, was a very handsome young man, eighteen I think he said, but he certainly didn't look it. He immediately clocked me as gay, and like most tourists, he assumed I was relatively wealthy and a handy source of income. I slept with him for the two nights I spent in Jaisalmer. As our tour of the haveli came to end, accidentally on purpose, we were on our own for him to initiate a conversation. I summoned up enough courage to ask him what he did in the evenings. His eyes lit up visibly, so I asked him if he would meet me somewhere in the town. Did he know anywhere? He came to my hotel after his day ended at the haveli, and as is the custom before any intimacy takes place, we showered together. He made sure I was clean, insofar as one can tell externally, just as I made sure he was. After our mutual inspection, we lay down on the bed for some extended foreplay. I gave him a pleasant time orally which he found irresistible, as did I. He had a beautiful medium sized penis which came forth very generously within five minutes of receiving the attention of my mouth, tongue and lips. I assumed that because he'd come the once, when he was capable again, it would take him some time to come again inside me. When the time came, he asked me which way I would like to take him. I explained that I wanted him to take me. He did in fact last very well, during which time I came in a series of deeply seated dull spasmodic waves that seemed to last for ever. As we de-coupled, he noticed the tiny amount of moisture that I had deposited on his lovely tummy. The dribbles of translucent white against dark skin looked truly exotic. Since he had my hands and fingers exploring around and inside his bottom, he was at a loss as to how I'd managed to expel any semen. I explained in detail which was all news to him, my dusky boy-god. I'm ashamed to admit that he was somewhat better at lasting than dear sweet Justin, who always came far too soon for my liking. This delicious Indian boy had given me several deeply satisfying sessions by the time Krishnan and I left Jaisalmer. But my kisses were not convincingly returned, which rather suggested he might not have been gay himself. I imagine there are advantages for the bi-sexual. Anyway, it doesn't matter. I liked the boy very much, and we got on well.

Arriving finally in Udaipur, we looked around for some suitable digs for the two weeks I had left. I should say here, that one's driver had alternative accommodation provided free, as the tourist wouldn't be there at all without him. I selected The Lake Haveli, which had a few really quite nice rooms with not too filthy ensuite shower cubicles, which I always insisted on inspecting before I made any financial commitment. Several times on the trip I had visited a ghat, the most famous being the one at Pushkar. I had a reason. There was always a chance that one might get sight of some young men and boys bathing nude. What beautiful lithe creatures they are too, dark hair flattened against their skin, and smooth pointed little penises bobbling about as they frolic together in the shallows. These boys are perfectly lovely, and more than happy to be observed by an ardent admirer.

My room at The Lake Haveli faced the Fateh Sagar Lake, as opposed to the larger and grander Lake Pichola with the fabulous hotel in the middle of it, and very fortuitously had a slightly obscured view from my window of some bathing steps. The man at the desk had seemed pleasant enough, and dealt with the formalities efficiently, watched by what I assumed were his two children. We have now arrived at the crux of the matter.

Calamity. They looked like brother and sister…….in fact they were, the boy being the younger of the two. The girl was dressed in a faintly grubby floral-patterned summer dress and plastic sandals, hair a little unkempt, and unsmiling. The boy wore loose beige shorts, and with his legs held quite naturally, as boys do, wide apart as he sat with feet high up on the seat of a wicker chair. He wore nothing underneath in common with ninety-nine point nine per cent of Indian boys. He looked around eleven years old at a guess, but might well have been younger. His large round eyes observed me with interest, but there was no trace of a smile. He was well worth a second look from me which the boy became aware of, as he took his feet off the chair thus removing his boy-bits from my view. As the check-in formalities drew to a close, the man separated the relevant key from the others and asked……

'Do you want room service?'

'What is that?' I replied, uncertain of exactly what that might entail.

'Whatever you want.'

Intrigued, I wanted to know a little more.

'What do you offer?'

'As I said, anything you want. You are travelling alone. Perhaps you will not want to be on your own at night?' he says, glancing at the girl and boy who were still sitting staring at me.

Suddenly the penny dropped. This small and rather obscure Indian establishment offered a service not available in the average English bed and breakfast establishment. I looked back at the boy and girl. Neither looked too happy, as they waited to find out if one or other or both would be required by me that night……or someone else perhaps. Realizing I may have stumbled upon child prostitution, I wanted to know more.

'How much please?'

'An extra one hundred rupees, or one hundred and fifty for the two of them…….from six in the evening until seven in the morning……or fifty rupees an hour.'

'What about all day……..and all night?'

'Ok….the same amount for twenty four hours. That would suit me.'

'Why?'

'To take them off my hands for a day. They are only here on charity.'

I could feel the anger rising in me. I looked back at the two figures who now appeared rather forlorn, neither no doubt knowing what their fate would be at the hands of the western visitor standing in front of the grubby desk negotiating their immediate futures. I had to know yet more.

'Will you tell me why they're here……please?'

Actually, I suspect that the manager is moderately honourable. I passed him a fifty rupee note, and he was consequently very forthcoming. Pocketing the banknote, he considered that I had bought the story.

The children's family had hit trouble. The breadwinner, the father, had died as a result of an accident at the chemical factory he worked at, despite being in a managerial position, leaving the family semi-destitute. The mother still had casual work as a cleaner, but nowhere near enough regular income to keep the children at the fee paying school they attended, where all the pupils became bi-lingual, which is considered to be a major advantage in their future lives.

When I consider the advantages I have benefited from in my life thus far, the sight of these two figures in front of me fills me with an overwhelming responsibility to do something.

'How long are you here for?' asks the manager.

'I'm not sure……a week…..or two…..maybe more?' My plans have suddenly become more flexible.

'Take them……both of them. They're yours. Five hundred rupees and you can keep them for as long as you like.'

I gave him the cash, but I had another question.

'How long have they been here in this situation? ' I asked, pointing at the boy and the girl. They may have been subjected to all manner of abuse.

'They arrived this week. You are the first. They know what to expect……but there is just one rule.'

He made a loose fist with one hand, and then pushed the index finger of his other hand through the hole made by the curled fingers, sliding it back and forth, obviously simulating the sexual act, and then crossed his hands several times. That's something at least they will not be subjected to assuming clients respected that rule. But will they? I doubt it.

'Make good use of the shower. They're probably filthy. They will know what to do for you. Let them do it. They have been told. Enjoy.'

They had nothing with them……just the clothes they stood up in, which wasn't saying much. I managed to extract a good deal of information from them as their English was surprisingly good. They lived about a five-minute walk away. Their mother had persuaded the sympathetic hotel manager to take them on for a tiny weekly wage, plus a little food from the kitchen at midday and early evening. But sympathy in this place goes not far. There are the realities of life to consider. I doubt if their mother knew what their job involved. Perhaps she did.

I found out which school they both attended until very recently……Amal and Aru, which she told me meant 'bright eyes'. Indeed so. I managed to extract a smile from my new friends. Progress.

I explained to Amal and Aru that they were staying with me for two weeks, and in that time I intended to find some sort of a solution to their problem. Right now, I have no idea, but the more I can find out about them, the better the chances of a successful outcome.

We found a good shop…..the same one that supplied clothing to the better off folk in Udaipur, and all the uniforms for the local schools that required it…..a few of them displayed in the window. Aru pointed out the uniform she and Amal used to wear to the moderately priced Amrit Bharti Public School. How pretty the two of them must have looked, and what a short journey it is in these parts from having everything, to having nothing.

Six hundred rupees later, Amal and Aru emerged carrying two large bags of new kit. We are on our way……with both tears and smiles, and hope in our hearts.

My father had given me the address of my distant relatives who still live in Udaipur. One of my first tasks here was to locate them. He had written to them and received a reply, so when I turn up on their doorstep to introduce myself, I won't be entirely unexpected. As I mentioned earlier, my grandmother lived here as a child, until she was claimed by my medical missionary grandfather. At home in England, we had no idea of what kind of circumstances her descendants enjoyed or endured now. The address I have sounds encouraging…..143 Kalka Mata Road, which according to the manager of our hotel is towards the University and via the Meera Colony, whatever that is. I, or rather we, are going tomorrow. I'm nervous about it, but also very excited, especially as Amal and Aru are coming with me. I'm not leaving them alone here. I have a good feeling about all this. In the meantime, my new charges need a good dose of soap and water.

Power cuts are all the rage in this town, as in most of Rajasthan they tell me. By some dint of good fortune our shower is reasonably hot. Amal and Aru have no issues with nudity, which is a relief because I don't either. Undressing didn't take them long, as they looked at me wondering why I still had my clothes on. They are used to seeing adult family members naked. Aru got the shower working and bundled Amal into it with her. She washed him all over, as he did her, apart from her more private parts. It was so cute watching them from the open entrance to the not-at-all-pristine enamel cubicle. The separate lavatory was fairly revolting, but needs must. I had told the children to use it for however long it took, before showering. They did.

At thirteen, Aru is about six to eight inches taller than her brother, and just as you would imagine a slim Rajasthani girl to look…..very beautiful. Amal is a smaller version of his sister, but with a perfectly formed immature penis, and shorter hair. Aru looks capable of childbirth already with the beginnings of breast formation and a neat patch of pubic hair just above her labia. As she bends to pick up the fallen bar of soap, her sexual kit and anus look perfectly healthy, thank goodness. Interestingly, Aru carefully cleans Amal's penis, easing back his foreskin like a professional. Amal, looking down at what his sister is doing, watches as she gently arouses the neat little object. She makes a thorough job of it. She's probably been doing this since he was a baby, and hasn't stopped. As she works on her brother's back, and then gently working her fingers between the boy's buttocks, Amal's arousal is complete. What a handsome boy! He obviously rather proud of it, as he faces me and sticks his tummy out for me, smiling in that open way that Indian kids do.

Amal thinks nothing of it as Aru dries him off with a once-white towel. Now dry, he finds a kids' comic on the bedside table and begins to read it standing up. I tell him to lie on the queen-sized bed. He does, knees raised. I look again, as I turn to enter the shower. Aru is watching me. I'm wondering what she's thinking, or been told to offer a client. She's holding the worn bar of soap. Do I want to be hand washed by her? Is that what she's offering?

I smile and shake my head, and then look towards Amal. She turns and speaks to him in what I assume is Hindi. He puts the comic down, gets off the bed and walks over to where Aru and I are standing. She says more to him in Hindi. He nods and looks at me……

'I have shower with you. I wash you nicely. You see.'

Amal smiles, and I'm left with my imagination……

He's good…….very good. There's no way he hasn't done this before as he kneels before me as I gently hold his head. Then I tell him to let me go and stand up. I want him to finish me with his hand. I watch as he does so, several spurts of my seed splashing forth onto the white porcelain shower tray, the residue on the small dark hand that still holds me hard. I'm breathless and tell him not to let me go….not yet.

A fantasy of course, and not the reality. Yes, Amal is sleeping beside me, but at a distance….far enough away that I can make myself come without disturbing my little friend. Aru is at her home now. I saw the manager and he agreed that as I was paying, there was no reason why she couldn't be returned to her mother. In the late afternoon, I was taken to their house at my request……a five-minute walk along noisy streets. Their mother was understandably distraught that she had effectively 'bonded' her children to work for a cheap hotel, no doubt to be used badly. There must be millions of youngsters in the same position in this wonderful country, unable or unwilling to attend a school……even if there was one. I asked if I could be allowed to buy new clothes for her children. She smiles and agrees. Just as well, as I had already bought them.

I can see where Amal and Aru get their looks from. She impresses me, draped and enclosed in those beautiful Rajasthani coloured fabrics. I ask her if Amal could stay with me at the hotel. She doesn't speak English so Aru explains, then her hand gestures tell me what I want to know. I feel an unbreakable bond forming with this family.

Morning. Amal wakes, a little disorientated and on an emotional cliff-edge it seems. He is more than willing to fold into my arms. It's a symbolic gesture on my part……..just a natural thing to do. A little later, he's curious about my body and wants to see for himself. I show him. Then he shows me his. He has questions too……..

'Where is your wife? Why isn't she here?'

'I don't have a wife Amal. I'm not married.'

'Will you be……ever?'

'No. I'm a homosexual person. I'm not really interested in girls…….just people of my own sex.'

'Oh. Will you marry a boy then?'

'Who knows. I don't know anyone who would marry me……..not yet anyway.'

'You have me. You have paid money for me.'

'Yes, I have you…….just for a short while. Maybe I'll marry you when you're grown up?'

Small comfort. Amal holds me tighter……and I hold him. I love the feel of his skin, still fresh, and gently coated with sleep. I don't let him see how I'm feeling now. I'm just very very sad about all this.

The visit. The house on Kalka Mata Road is fronted by a neat garden with a narrow drive to the left, and a motorcycle stands on the concrete. It's an old army one……a Royal Enfield. In other words, ex-Indian Army. This is going to be interesting indeed.

Our welcome was an Indian welcome, in other words, fulsome. My Great Uncle met us at the door, gave us a broad smile, shook my hand, and showed us in to the house. We were there two hours, and what a two hours it was! Amal and Aru were understandably overwhelmed, and just spoke when they were addressed, which wasn't often. It was a situation that sat uncomfortably with me. These people are not aristocrats by any means, but army class, if that means anything, and they consider poor Amal and Aru as inferior beings. That's the truth of it. That's how it is here. But…….they are not without a social conscience……and Amal and Aru are with me. About half an hour into our meeting, having heard our story, Uncle takes the two children into another room. I hear them talking in Hindi for some time. Eventually they emerge.

'Maybe we can find a sponsor for them?' says Uncle Yamal.

Bingo!

How strange. Amal and Yamal…….meaning 'one of a twin', as my erstwhile military uncle pointed out. Maybe that did it……that tiny little detail. It's often small things that change lives.

A new beginning? Yamal knows some important people, one of whom is the principal of the catholic secondary school in Udaipur. The Board of Management at S. Paul's can award bursaries to deserving cases and is government funded. Uncle Yamal will try to arrange interviews. Sorry, but in this place, it's who you know, not what you know.

But we are in a hurry. Can it be done in two weeks?

What? In India? No!

Tidying up.

I saw out my stay at the Lake Hotel, with Amal for company most days, and every night. Aru stayed at home with her mother. I told my family by 'phone my story, and they immediately offered to subsidise Amal and Aru so that they would remain safe at home until a decision had been made about their future, which was expected in about six weeks. I can't stay here until then, but in the meantime, I can enjoy Amal's company each day as he shows me his city and all the little places and things that the tourist won't ever see or know about. Then each night we sleep together. We talk about life in India and my life in England. It's a fascinating insight for me, as Amal explains the Hindu attitudes to life and love, insofar as his limited understanding allows…..and we listen to music. I was never going to come to this place without my music. I've brought a collection of cd's and a 'walkman'. Of course Amal knows of the existence of such bits of kit, but has never owned or used one. In bed, and close, we share the sounds through one ear piece each. His favourite piece is from a collection of Mendelssohn compositions. Justin gave me the disc ages ago. The John's College boys and men recorded it. I'm hoping that the sound of this kind of sound will awaken something in Amal…….just maybe.

Every morning we shower together. He loves to be washed with my bare hands. His body is a temple indeed, as the sensations take hold……a meeting of our physical beings, and the spiritual.

Quite out of nowhere, comes a voice…….Amal's voice.

It's a poor attempt really, but there's an intent there….a spark of interest.

Each day, we make progress. He even sings it in the streets. There's an unmistakeable joy there. After three days, he has it, almost perfectly, and he wants more. It will be agony to leave him.

Home, and at Justin's flat in Balham. I haven't seen Justin……..not properly……for quite a while. We have been so busy with getting qualified and so on, so all that sex stuff just seemed to naturally fall away. I think we must have packed in so much in our mid-teens, we needed a rest for a few years. It was good, believe me. But like me, he had flings with various people, mostly with young men he had met in the course of his duties, but nothing permanent. I have a few days leave from Addenbrookes so I'm making the most of it doing a bit of 'rekindling' with Justin……and very nice it is too. It's been a while since I got properly 'satisfied'. Justin has lovely kit……..not too long, lovely firm balls which are full of it, and with a delicious upwards curve on his dick…..just right for my purposes when I'm on my tummy. He is what's known as, to put it crudely, a very good fuck. But there was another reason to make contact…….a bit of business to combine with pleasure.

'You ok this morning Michael?' Justin asks with a wry smile on his face.

'Just about. A bit sore in certain places.'

'You shouldn't be such a sexy bastard should you. You asked for it.'

'And I got it, at least that's what my bottom is telling me. Is the bottle empty?'

'Why? Do you want a refill?'

'In a word, yes I do.'

'Oh……you want the other half too?'

'Yes please.'

I felt him. Justin is well up for it, as am I. I almost came last night…….no hands. Then Justin put me out of my misery pretty promptly. I'm hoping for better luck this morning.

One hour later. It's a negative. Justin was far too quick, but I paid him back in another way. He knows I like to humiliate him like that. It's just a fun game. Actually I think he rather enjoys it, but he always feels the need to apologize for the undue haste.

'Sorry Michael. There's just something about you that causes it.'

'Don't be sorry Justin. It was ever thus, was it not? Anyway, you got your cumuppance did you not?'

'So to speak? Yes, I certainly did, you filthy bastard.'

We laughed.

'Anyway, tell me more about your Indian boy. What's the latest? He sounds utterly gorgeous. How old is he again?'

'Eleven, but a young one. Plenty of time for him yet.'

'And you didn't?'

'No! I could hardly rescue the little mites and do that could I? Haven't you heard of the Hippocratic oath?'

'I don't know. You might have gone all pedo for all I know. Weren't you tempted….just a soupcon?'

'Not a good question Justin. We showered together and……'

'And what?'

'It was an all-over job……..with bare hands.'

'No flannel involved?'

'No…….just skin on skin.'

'No reaction from Junior?'

'A very beautiful reaction actually…….but you know the statistics about the size of the sub-continental penis don't you?'

'No?'

'Second to bottom of the list.'

'Really?'

'Not like you darling!'

'Flattery will get you everywhere, dear boy.'

'I know. Anyway, there are enough Indian children aren't there? Something must be working.'

'I told you size didn't matter didn't I…….when you were getting all exercised about your anatomy ten years ago?'

'Yes you did, you cheeky sod.'

'So while Junior was getting excited under your slippery palms, what about you?'

'None of your business.'

'Nothing to frighten Junior?'

'No, and why should it? It's just a natural thing. It's what boys do Justin. Anyway, sex is a sacred thing for Hindus. Things like masturbation and bisexuality aren't frowned upon……even being gay. There are a lot of openly gay boys in Delhi I noticed.'

'If you say so.'

'I do say so. I think you know what happened?'

'Yes, I heard from Dad, but tell me again now.'

'My uncle Yamal's efforts had not been in vain. Amal and his sister Aru had been seen by the admissions Tutor at S. Paul's, and then again by the Bursary Distribution Panel. They had impressed them, and were both duly admitted to the school one week later. It was, in my book, a miracle. I believe they do happen.

Then the next quite extraordinary event took place…..a week or so after Amal and Aru had joined the school.

Being a Catholic institution, albeit full of Hindus, Muslims and others, they paid I imagine a kind of lip service to the Catholic liturgy, which included the singing of hymns. Every pupil was supplied, as happens in some English schools, with their own hymn book to be used at assemblies and other events. One morning Amal had forgotten his, and it was noticed by one of the teachers at the front of the hall, and poor old Amal gets hauled up onto the stage to be made an example of. Poor boy, he's mortified.'

'No hymn book Amal?'

'No Sir. I forgot it. I'm sorry.'

'Yes, you will be sorry my boy. Indeed you will be.'

'Why Sir?'

'Then the master announces loudly to his audience of first and second year boys and girls……..'

'Now let the plight of this…….forgetful individual, be a lesson to all of you. So you have no need of a hymn book eh? Ah….how clever you are! Then you shall entertain us all will you not? I think you shall indeed. You will show us all, exactly how clever you are!'

Ooops!

'He told Amal to sing a song, knowing that he would embarrass himself horribly. So let the punishment fit the crime!

Never underestimate the resourcefulness of a bright child, or his ability to turn a tricky situation into an opportunity.

In half an hour of my teaching him, Amal had been word and pitch perfect, as we sat up naked together in bed. Oh, beautiful bright-eyed boy! And so was his rendition that morning, standing before his audience of two hundred of his peers, of 'O for the wings of a dove'. I only wish I had been there to witness it…….and Mendelssohn too no doubt! I can't imagine how that teacher felt……humbled I hope. Apparently, the whole hall erupted in applause. That might have been the end of Amal's brief career at S. Paul's, but the staff concerned were just as big-hearted and enthusiastic as their pupils had been. After school that day, Amal received a message from the Principal himself…..a summons in fact……a command performance. He would see 'this musical boy' in the hall at four o'clock when lessons had finished for the day. The Head Man was mightily impressed. Something had to be done.

I explained the plan to Justin. He was interested…….

'So what are the chances then? I heard that Dad got a tape sent to him from India. He said it was a bit rough around the edges, but there's massive potential there Michael.'

'That depends on his mother….and Aru as well. It's a massive thing for Amal to take on. Dad said he's always wanted to do something like this.'

'So how will it happen…..if it does?'

'I'll fly out and bring him back with me. He'll go to the school at John's College on a scholarship. It would be the opportunity of a lifetime…..and for his family too. Dad is 'phoning my Uncle Yamal on Friday. They will know by then.'

'Are you nervous?'

'Unbelievably. I'm scared shitless if you want to know.'

'This boy……..do you…….you know……. love him?'

'What do you think Justin?'

'I think you do……and so you should. I think I do too, and I've never even met him. Isn't that funny?'

'No, not really. Just nice……love from afar is still love.'

'Maybe soon to be closer? Where will he live?'

'With Mum and Dad. They will be legally in loco parentis until he's eighteen…..unless things don't work out for him. I suppose he would just go home.'

Three months later……..Cambridge, England. 'Are you going towards Trumpington?'

'Yes.'

'Can I walk with you……it's Amal isn't it?' asks the other boy, looking up at the boy from India who can sing.

'Yes, alright. You're Otta aren't you?'

'Yes……weird name isn't it……nothing to do with the animal.' The boy jokes. Secretly he's rather proud of his name. His father's name too.

The boys walk on, identical rucksacks with school logo printed on, hanging on their backs.

'Where are you in Trumpington?'

'Twenty three Addenbrooke Road.'

'How funny. That's not far from my house. We're at Fullbrook Avenue….down at the far end.'

Amal smiles, and the boys walk on, neither knowing quite how to continue the conversation.

'We go past mine…..on the way to yours.'

'Do we?'

'Umm.'

It's another fifty……..maybe a hundred yards even.

'Do you want to come in…..when we get to mine? My mother makes good tea. Do you have tea?'

'Yes. I like tea.'

'Good. Come and meet my mum. I think she's been to India.'

Otta has a key to his own front door, in case his mother isn't at home. She usually is. Today she isn't.

'How long can you stay Amal? Would you like to see my room?'

Amal follows Otta up the stairs of the Victorian terraced house. He has left his bag near the front door. Amal is feeling nervous because not everyone has been friendly to him in Cambridge, and he likes Otta. He was the first boy to speak to him at practice. Amal follows Otta into his bedroom. It's quite big with lots of interesting things in it.

'You can sit down if you want.' Says Otta, dumping his bag on the bed.

'Do you mind if I get changed?'

'No.' replies Amal. Questions follow, as Otta undresses down to his vest and underpants. Amal tries not to watch.

'Do you like it here Amal? How did you get here? Where did you live in India? Have you got parents there?'

Questions and more questions. Amal is used to this by now.

'Yes, I do like it here.'

'How did it happen Amal? Will you tell me about it?'

No one has asked Amal how it all came about…..how he came to be in Cambridge. Otta listens to Amal's story of discovery and self-fulfilment…….one lost boy's redemption…….purely by chance……here because of fortune……for no other reason than that. Otta listened for twenty minutes, and when Amal had finished, there were tears in Otta's eyes.

'Have you any friends Amal?'

'No. I don't have much time for friends. There's so much work to do.'

The boys are sitting together on the bed. Amal has finished his story and Otta, a sensitive boy, has listened to it and felt his sadness and joy. Otta has known little else than the kindness of others, and the unconditional love that has surrounded him all his life. What he does is neither out of duty or any kind of obligation to a new colleague, but is driven by his simple humanity……

'Can I then……be your friend…….if you will let me?'

Of course he did want him to be his friend……desperately. He just wanted someone to hang out with like other boys do. Someone to share his young life with….and to grow up together.

He thought about his mother and sister so far away, as feelings he couldn't control welled up inside him. He felt himself slipping out of control. It was Otta's gesture of friendship that did it as he collapsed sideways onto the bed.

It must have lasted for five minutes, but when it was all over, he heard Otta's small voice behind him and felt his new friend's hand gently stroking his shoulder.

That gesture from Otta spoke more than a thousand words.

Amal had no idea what it meant. All he could think about was the stroking feeling. He knew that it was a loving and caring thing. Otta didn't want to stop. For the first time in his young life, he could offer to another human being the kind of gift he had received from those around him. It was a liberation for him….the power to be kind to others.

The two boys walked back home together most days, calling in at Otta's house on the way most times. They felt relaxed together, and often their play was quite physical. One afternoon, it became too physical……too boisterous, and in the back of the boys' minds, they knew why. Amal had pinned Otta down, and almost in temper rather than self-defence, he lunges out with and open hand and closes it around Amal private parts. Still pinned down, the boys look at each other, and Otta does not let go. Moments later Amal's body subsides on to Otta's. Still Otta does not let go. The play fight is over now, perhaps for ever. Their breathing gradually slows. Something quite different has just begun.

Amal thinks about his new friend at night, just as Otta thinks about Amal. Both of them think about new things that have happened in their lives in the past few days…..nice things……exciting things to do with each other. Amal thinks about his own nakedness in a new way as he runs his hands around his body, just as they did that afternoon…….two boys together, discovering. Amal finds the root of his bodily pleasure, just as Otta had found it. Now they share a secret together.

Six months later. 'Do you remember that day Amal…..when you first came in here……when I said I wanted to be your friend?'

Amal smiles at Otta. There's an intensity about Otta's expression as he looks back at his friend, but he doesn't need reassurance. Of course Amal does indeed remember.

'Are you glad?'

Amal smiles and nods his head. Their faces move closer together, each boy feeling the breath of the other on their skin. It's a supreme moment of intimacy. It's the lightest of sensations as Otta's lips touch Amal's open mouth, warm sweet air mingling…….their bodies painful with desire.

Amal Prabhaker M. Mus. Choral Studies. 'Are you ok Michael……you don't look it.' observes his long-time friend and lover, Justin.

'Yes, just about. It's not easy though.'

'No, of course not.'

Justin looks at his watch as the organ voluntary begins…….

'Do you recognize that Michael?'

'It's by a French guy…..can't remember his name…….double barrelled job. 'Choeur des voix humaines'. Yes that's definitely it. Nice isn't it?'

Justin casts a glance at his friend. He sees Michael attend to his right eye……..got something in it probably……bit of dust or something.

'And all this from a forgotten hymn book…….and you?' Justin remarks quietly.

The place is full. It always is when a new appointment takes up his post……first service in charge and all that. The boys and men file in, music folders held in crossed hands, followed by Amal, then the dean and Chaplain, and finally the Master of the College.

Justin feels for Michael's hand and squeezes it gently.

Michael didn't want to sit at the front. Far too conspicuous. He could see Amal's mother with Aru, Amal's sister…..second row back on the left. So nice that they were here.

The End

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