Saturday, August 28, 2010

You cant blindfold an entire nation...we still demand justice.

My dear friend Dr. Gols lends his Avatar to the cause of justice for Muneeb & Mughees.

Keep em coming friends. =)

Going to the Bazaar in Chains - Maheen Usmani

One of the best blogs, I have read on this issue. Makes us question and realize our "not in my backyard" mentality.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Justice for Muneeb & Mughees

Call it Blind Justice....Call it what you want....

You maye Blindfold us with your lies and trickery....but we still SEEK justice. We Demand Justice!!!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Odd Jobs!!!

Now, I’ve worked several absurd jobs in my lifetime, but whenever – and if I ever – mention my uncensored work history to another, they always stub and obsess over just that one section which would read something like:

Occupation: Stripper/Go-Go Dancer
Duration: One semester in college and a summer after graduation.
• Danced diligently on a pole for a diverse clientele from Wall Street businessmen, media celebrities and NYU frat boys as Rosa The Latina Firecracker.
• Mastered the “flirt” and the “upside down pole-split”....

The only section of my resume which then incites a prying check on my references: Rocky the bouncer, DJ Stan-O or even from my coworkers like Ebony the Nubian princess, Snowflake the vanilla goddess and Double Debby for those who like their dancers like their Big-Macs; a little on the pluz-size. The weird thing is that my resume – both the one I actually use as well as the one hidden in an imaginary box of shame – have many such sections of equally peculiar jobs. I mean seriously, wouldn’t you much rather hear about my experiences as an office gopher cum administrative assistant to an ad exec? Or when I was promoted to Special Assistant; just another glorified gopher with a higher salary and more travel? Face it, those jobs are just as odd and demoralizing as all my other hustling gigs. Yet, who wants to read about those, right?

Why yes!

But truth is, that before I ever paid my bills as a management prostitute to the advertising world or as a risqué bartender for private parties or even as Rosa the exotic pole dancer, I did 3 very odd jobs in just one summer of self discovery in Philadelphia which led me to shed all inhibitions once possessed. They will all be detailed in due time but lets start from where we left off.

I had a 20-dollar bed in an adequate hostel and only the first week was paid for. For the rest of the month, I needed to find at least 150 bucks a week to keep this roof over my head. That estimate would only pay for the “Makaan” in this equation as I still needed additional funds to pay for the “Roti”. I mean sure, I look damn good skinny but a sister still gots to eat a meal every now and then! So with just fifty bucks (part of it was going to pay for my weekly bus pass, the other thirty was going to be used for the week’s food) I knew I had to find a job and I had to find one fast.

In the beginning, I looked at all the obvious places. Desi restaurants, coffee shops and even thrift stores. But all those ‘get paid in cash’ jobs were already snatched up by younger kids with dyed hair and lip-rings. Since high schools were officially out for the summer, so were any chances of me finding a cash job. In the end, it was off to a job market a little less conventional than the rest where I finally found my calling. Jobs which finally paid for my roti, kapra and makaan…well actually only if I took the kapras off.

Nude Art Model:
On my first day at the hostel; I woke up early and walked around the busy streets knocking on doors. By 10am, I returned to my room disheartened with a cup of coffee from Xando’s (remember them before they became COSI?) and a Philadelphia City Paper. I decided to spend the next couple of minutes on the top bunk searching the jobs section of the free paper. An hour later, the only listing I could circle was an ad by two artists looking for a nude art model. No other specifics were shared except their contact info and a blunt disclosure in bold Sans Serif, that ‘THE JOB SHOULD IDEALLY NOT BE THE PERSON’S ONLY SOURCE OF INCOME.’ Great, so I guess I shouldn’t expect any health benefits either! Still, I scheduled an interview for the next morning. Desperation: not a very cute color on me.

In class that day, I vented my frustration out on the clay we were coincidentally instructed to channel our emotions into. After class, I sat in the computer lab relaying my tragic dilemma to Nickolas. My only friend in class, an extremely effeminate raver with bleached hair spiked always under the same orange visor, a glow-in-the-dark barbell on his tongue, oversized smiley-face jeans below an emaciated torso and a pacifier hung loosely around his neck. If you have read me for a while, you must already recognize by now that I am an eternal fag-hag, a gay-boy magnet. But then again, so is Madonna, Cher, Barbra Streisand, Bette Midler, Fifi Haroon and Madam Noor Jehan. Add me to the list of divas too! Anyway, as we checked our emails and I complained about how my life had turned into an upside down mess, he surfed various gay chat rooms and hookup sites. A promiscuous little boy, that Nickolas – and yes, the word sounds funny coming from me doesn’t it? But Nick’s entire sex life revolved around dates arranged with anonymous strangers from the internet. A full-time student at Moore; he bragged about the time his roommate woke up and found a forty-year-old man walking around in tighty-whities in their room and immediately requested a room change. Left with a room all to himself, he now proudly boasted of an invisible revolving door, which allowed various cyber strangers into his room like clockwork. Some of those wham-bam love-affairs as frequent as three a day. Gotta, love my gay boys! Anything I’ve ever done, they have done…already…five times last week. Mama always said, if you want to feel less like a sinner, stand next to a gay club-kid. Your sins will seem like kindergarten play dates.
As Nick described his internet sexcapades to me; I poured my heart out to him too. For the first time in my life, I needed a job or a place to stay more than a man. Although my girls would agree that dealing with a man is a full-time job in itself, which requires plenty of unpaid over-time. Ever wondered why the words blow, hand or even head are followed by the word job? Exactly, expect my bill soon, Visa or Mastercard? Somewhere in that conversation, Nick suggested a website as a solution to my woes. A website he usually frequented where I could also find – apart from a quick lay - places to sublet, couches to surf or even menial jobs. It was an internet bulletin board of a sort, very similar to Craigslist but for local Philadelphian college students. Nick mostly surfed it for Mr. Rights or Mr. Right Nows and the website has since closed down. But back then, it served as my savior. Immediately I posted an ad for an angel in Philly who was willing to offer me their couch for free. The website should have just shot me back an automated response with the words ‘Fat Chance in Hell’ because it yielded zero replies. On my way back, I did stop by the job board at the local library and grabbed several numbers from ‘House Cleaner Wanted’ ads.

Oh by the way, in my times of distress, I did learn a few tricks though. I think its my duty to share some of those with anyone who may find themselves in a similar situation. For the rest of the week, I bought a 12-inch sub from Subway for lunch, which came roughly around to six bucks back then. I would eat half and then save the other half for dinner. That way, I managed to spend only three bucks a meal. Genius, right? My best friend, Jenny taught me that trick. Also, who needs soft drinks when you can drink tap water. Great for weight management too. I was quickly becoming my own version of the optimistic Pollyanna Barbie. That night, as I ate my remaining 6-inch sub in the hostel courtyard, I called all the numbers I had brought from the library. I spent about four bucks on unsuccessful calls on a payphone. I thought the fact that I was young, bilingual and enrolled in a decent college set me apart from the rest of the applicants, I soon realized those were merely prerequisites for this job. What was then needed were references from past employers, my work history and some probably expected FBI clearances. Geez, you’re hiring a jamadarnee not a top secret Fed.

The next day, I woke up early for my scheduled nude art model interview. I’m not going to lie, I spent over an hour deciding what to wear. I was always told by snooty businesswomen at college internship fairs that one should always dress to impress. But how does one dress for a job which requires you to not be dressed? Surely, I could walk over to the interview in my birthday-suit but that may lead to an added accessory of handcuffs which I don’t really want, unless I ask for them of course. Wink! Now come on girls. All of us have secretly aspired to be a supermodel. Don’t try to tell me that you haven’t cat walked in your room or practiced the seductive lip pout with your reflection picturing yourself on a runway in Paris, Milan, Dubai or Karachi with the Vinnies, the Zoellas, the Bibis and the dum-dums.

I decided on an outfit that emphasized my sexiest traits. A black tank top to draw attention to a tiny waist, low neckline to not only pop good cleavage but also accentuate my come-hither shoulders. Then, to just be very Avant Garde, I threw in a tight pair of leather trousers, which left very little for the imagination. My hair, I left in the wet, sexy, just showered look and my make up more vamp-ish than sedate. With the address forced into my tight leather pocket, I decided to save money by walking. Bad idea, especially when you’re dressed in all black and leather in the dead of summer. When I finally arrived at the address on Spring Garden Street, sweat and makeup raced each other down my face. Luckily after being buzzed in to the door, I realized that beauty nor sex appeal was required of models here. As serene music played in the background, a young Caucasian couple sat and painted together on a piece of canvas. Ladies and Gentleman, in front of them was their previous nude art model: a man in his late sixties (and I’m being generous) with his entire skin folded meticulously into wrinkles, an unshaven crotch which could now only be salvaged by a weed-whacker instead of a razor and a beard which was probably grayer than good ole Santa Claus. I was clearly, over-dressed and over-sexy for this job! The artist couple told me to wait in the hall. I guess that meant that I was still in the running to be America’s Next Top Model. It was at that point when skinny Santa came over to me – still naked mind you – with a freshly popped open can of root beer.
‘So you’re going to be the new model huh?’ He asked animatedly.
If you can even call yourself that? ‘Yeah!’
“Great, it’s pretty easy.” He grinned a toothless grin ‘They’re a laidback couple and I enjoyed myself.’
I bet you did old man. Yet, still helpless from habit I sustained the small talk with the man I was going to be replacing. Interesting fellow though. A modern dance instructor at UPenn, he was also an avid exhibitionist who liked to spend his summers in nudist resorts. (Note to self: Cancel any future plans to nude resort for the next sixty or so years to blend in with the others.)

When I was finally summoned in for the interview, I realized that the couple was as dysfunctional as John & Kate plus Who Cares! The girl, a bossy little blonde with a bad bob and a stuck up nose. The so-called ‘man’ in the relationship; more of a stoned, vegan, feminist hippy. One who had probably checked both his masculinity and dignity outside the chapel door before he entered into a ‘till death do us part’ contract with this witch. Immediately they began to shoot a few generic questions my way.
Your name? Goli Mar Kee Ranee!
Past experience as a nude art model? I wasn’t alive to witness the first World War if that’s what you’re looking for.
Why are you interested? I need the effing cash cuz im sleeping in a hostel and eating a 6-inch sandwich for dinner when I don’t ever put anything less than seven inches in my mouth! Does that warrant good enough interest?

Once the questions were answered, they immediately asked me to take off all my clothes. ‘Now?’ I asked? ‘Of course’ she answered slightly irked. I swear, it took every muscle in me not to plunge at her and scratch her face out in front of her man but I let professional judgment prevail. So one by one, I began to shed each item of clothing and then stood before the couple in a work of art far more beautiful than any mixed-media Picasso-esque concoction they would ever jointly produce with their sorry palettes. The look on her man’s face was priceless and for that moment, I didn’t even care if I got the job or not. Still, they pointed at a couple of abstracts on the wall and asked me to recreate them in my own interpretation. How in the world, does one pose as random colors splashed clumsily on white pieces of paper? But since I had already left the last scrap of logic and dignity at the door, I began to instantly strike poses! Shantay, sashay, pirouette. Whirl my hair around, squeeze my eyes, pout my lips and now…bang, pose for the camera. Only problem; there was no camera. Just two smelly artists trapped in a loveless marriage probably embarrassed for me.

‘Thank you!’ the girl nodded and then resumed stroking her brush on the canvas in front ‘You’re gorgeous, absolutely stunning but that’s exactly what we don’t need, the whole universal beauty. We are not really painting magazine covers here. We’re looking for beauty a little less conventional.’
Yeah, something more along the lines of an old geriatric on his deathbed with a private so shriveled it looks like a zit between his legs. You’re just intimidated by me because you’re afraid your man would run away with me, you dumb waif. But instead of saying all that, I grabbed my clothes and headed for the door. I was already prepared for many such, degrading and unsuccessful job interviews ahead so it behooved me to tough it out and move forward.
‘I disagree.’ the man finally spoke up. About time buddy. Let her know that you got balls. Sorry, old, nudist, model man…I’m sure you had some too at one point but since we really cant see them right now, we’ll just leave you out of the whole ‘be a man’ conversation for now. You just drink your root beer and work on your will. Its all hunky dory in Viagra land, so send us a postcard every now and then.
The look on blond-bob was priceless as she allowed her husband to continue. ‘I think it will be different. We’ve been working on a very redundant perspective for a while, the inner beauty concept, it would actually be a welcome change to try and capture what the world considers the norm for beauty.’
Pretty much, everything you aint, blond bob but I’ll keep quiet, I may just get a job out of this philosophical mumbo jumbo!

A couple of minutes later, I was back in the hallway talking to the old-man; now dressed in a pair of cargo shorts and a Woodstock tee, as he pulled out his bicycle (I guess expecting a ride home is also pointless.) The husband who had miraculously received miracle growth for his balls by moi, shared his gratitude by letting me know that I would start the next morning bright and early, right after their meditation and soy breakfast.

I had found my first job but in truth it wasn’t much of a job once we discussed the particulars. I was going to be paid 25 bucks an hour. That clause in the imaginary contract brought a Cheshire grin to my face. But I was only going to work four hours a week. The Cheshire grin reduced to a half-smile. Oh and by the way, the job was only for a week. Even the faintest smile now replaced by a scowl. Still, it was a start!

The week at the job went well. I would wake up at 8 am and with a breakfast of free coffee at the hostel and then head straight to their apartment. There, I would lie down on the floor naked, reading a book or talking to the couple while they painted me. Once the hour was up, I would get dressed and head to class. The couple always painted together. They claimed to only work together and signed a combined version of their name at the end. Painting without the other would be the equivalent of infidelity in their eyes. So, she threw in some colors on the canvas and he threw in some more strokes from his brush, and together they savored their own twisted substitute for monogamy. Blond bob and I even made peace in the end. She wasn’t really that bad of a person, just a little rough around the edges and probably just needed to get laid. The completed masterpiece in the end looked nothing like me either. In fact, it looked nothing like a person. More like the puke of a pallid monster on paper. No eyes, no arms, no breasts, nothing. Just a whole bunch of black and brown blotches on a canvas that could easily be among cards held up for a homicidal criminal during a Rorschach inkblot test.

In the end though, I enjoyed the experience. I don’t really know if they ever got to sell my portrait at some chic art gallery in Manayunk and how much it went for. Hopefully more than the measly 100 they paid me. But back to reality, clearly my income from the modeling job was not going to suffice. I needed other jobs and more money. Enter Padash the Naked House Cleaner…

Naked Housecleaner:
Although, I had enjoyed the whole nude modeling stint and unleashed the exhibitionist in me, I still needed to find other jobs that week. I placed a few ads for a housecleaner on the Philly bulletin board website. Most of the responses were flaky replies of disinterest but finally came one woman’s promising request. Her housecleaner had gone home to Salvador and after bidding farewell to messy weekend guests; she wanted someone to clean up. I agreed and scheduled the house cleaning for that Saturday. I arrived at 10am sharp and she immediately began to instruct me on what needed cleaning. A large and busty black woman with untamed salt and pepper dreads. She resembled Toni Morrison a great deal and was probably also aware of the fact, evident from the proudly autographed copy of Sula resting on her bookshelf. First, we engaged in brief small talk as customary assessment of each other’s credibility. I informed her of my degree and how I was in the City of Brotherly Love to take a summer pottery class at Moore while paying for my lodging at a hostel. I never mentioned the part of growing up as Daddy’s princess in marble mansions and exclusive country clubs. She, on the other hand was an eloquent African American studies professor at Temple and an avid slam-poet in her spare time.

Once the small-talk was over, I was asked to get down to business. If you truly want to know someone, you need to clean their house. What would have left me with an image of a very articulate, educated and impressive woman had I merely met her for coffee or a drink, was replaced by the reality that she was one of the messiest pigs in North America. Not a corner in that house, comparable to the pleasantry she exuded. The bathrooms mucky, the furniture layered with many coats of gathered dust and a laundry basket erupting with a season’s worth of unwashed clothes.

Once I was done, the woman handed me some lemonade and a check for 80 bucks. Yes, a measly 80 bucks. It was my own fault really, she had mentioned that she paid her Salvadoran housecleaner just under a 100, but still I was thinking more like 99 bucks (true that aint much either) but only once I received my payment did I realize that it barely matched the amount of work I had just provided. I walked out with a fake smile and a renewed sense of respect for every Spanish woman I have carved the words Basura for on a discarded box. You literally take what you get in this land of opportunity.

After this dismal job, I had at least made enough to pay for next week’s lodging. Even some twenty bucks to take care of my weekly Septa pass to ride the buses and trains around the city. Now I needed some more dollars for next week’s meals. As I described my predicament to Nick, he made a very good point. I am almost mad I didn’t think of it before.
“Of course honey,” He clicked his tongue “What ya need to do is become a naked housecleaner. Shoot, that’s what I would do!”
Pure genius! I was already getting naked for one job and housecleaning for the other. Why not combine the two skill-sets and pioneer my very own business.

The idea of naked housecleaning is actually not as novel as I had thought. Still, I placed an ad peppered with just the right details that would catch a cluttered pervert’s eye. My age, my ethnicity, the fact that I was a student (for the whole college girl fantasy element), and my body type. Heck, I wasn’t voted the top 5 hottest girls on campus by my school’s fraternities for nothing! Immediately, the next day, I had 5 emails in my inbox from interested parties. I called each and every one of them and scheduled appointments.

Whoever had the eureka moment to realize that sex sells, knows true brilliance. Because trust me honey, it does. I bet you anything that even at the sabzi mandi, a mango shaped like a voluptuous woman will sell before and at a higher price than your regular, aam sa “Aam”. Its just the way the world works. Why not milk the concept for your own benefit. Marketers have been doing it for years, trust me I work in the field and was aware of the fact long before I sold my soul to advertising. The first day, I already had three back to back appointments. The first one was with an old, retired, widower whose house was in immaculate shape but he only needed eye-candy to tickle his pricey furniture with a duster. An hour later, I walked out with 200 in cash. I spent the rest of the few weeks, juggling a tight schedule before or after class between naked housecleaning or Indian massaging (discussed next) and was making anywhere from 200 to 300 a pop. One generous man even offered to pay 500 if I agreed to wear French-maid lingerie that he had picked out himself. Show me the money and bonjour it is!

I made a lot and the business savvy woman I was, I even offered a discount for a second cleaning, if they found me a referral. Yes, my dear friends, Padash the naked housecleaner could have quit school and started her own business because by the end of the week, the subway diet I was on was left for Jared to fend. I was eating expensive meals and back to my spendthrift, super indulgent ways. I no longer spent my evenings on my bunk bed or smoking away the stress in the hostel courtyard with new roommates each night. I was bar hopping on South Street and dancing at my favorite club in Philly, Egypt.

Sometimes, the clients would make odd requests too. Instead of being naked, they wanted me to dress a certain way and for the most part, I would try to oblige most requests. Some of the wishes I was able to fulfill besides naughty French Maid was uptight school teacher and one even wanted me to wear nothing but roller skates as I cleaned his house. I definitely got a hefty tip for that one.

Indian Masseuse:
Now, you wonder, what exactly is an Indian masseuse and how does one master the art of Indian massage therapy. Well, there is no such thing. However, though the whole, naked housecleaning idea didn’t really score much points in the innovation department, I can proudly attest to the fact that my Indian Massage idea is as novel as the first halal personal shopper. I came up with it, partly out of greed and partly due to my thirst for adventure. It was almost intoxicating to be able to fool these men by merely pretending to clean their house and being paid double the amount of what a real housecleaner would charge. Let it be known, most of my clients also had actual, proper, clothed housecleaners to come in. I was just an excuse for eye-candy.

The idea came to me as I sorted through the many emails I got requesting a naked housecleaner. It was time to post another ad so I figured, why not try something different. Something a little less exhausting than cleaning houses in Victoria Secret’s lingerie. Instead, I posted an ad on a whim with ‘Namaste’ as a salutation and the sentences which followed, peppered with broken English and deliberately inserted words like ‘Chakras’, ‘Karma’, ‘Shivasna’ and ‘Sutra’. Lo and behold, I had over ten emails the next day from men, women and couples interested in an appointment with Shanti the Indian Massuese. By the time I got back to the hostel, I already had two appointments lined up for the next day. Now I needed the costume and the accessories to appear legit. After digging through my suitcase, I pulled out the token sleeveless shalwar kurta for those agonizing variety shows organized by the international students in college, a packet of bindis, my Afghani jewelry and my Phoolan Devi CD, I like to fall asleep to when I’m stressed. Then, I ran down to the local Border’s (or was it Barnes & Noble) on Rittenhouse square and grabbed a book aptly titled Massage for Dummies. Spent the next three hours curled up on their couch learning a few techniques. By the time, the bookstore closed, I had even taken a few notes for myself. When I returned to my room, I described my plan to my roommate, a gorgeous Sudanese girl en route to Amsterdam. She too was intrigued by the idea and wondered if she ever could pull it off herself if she were ever broke and stranded in Europe.
“Do you have a Sudanese outfit? Sudanese music? Fake a strong Sudanese accent?” I asked.
“Yes, yes, yes.” She nodded each time.
“Well voila my dear” I chuckled as we both sat by our window smoking “You have mastered the art of Sudanese Massage Therapy.”
I even practiced on her that night and she agreed that I had created such an amazing ambiance, she hardly knew nor cared what I did with my hands.

The rest of my clients felt the same way. Most of them were just curious or interested locals who wanted to try something different. Something to insert into pretentious dinner and cocktail conversations to impress a date.
‘And on Saturdays, I have my Indian Massage Therapist come over for a Devdas massage. You really must try it. Its quite divine. Remind me to give you her number before you leave the party, she trained at the Devdas ashram with a guru her whole life.’
I was amazed at how many of them were just Americans who had once traveled to India – or wanted to. Just so excited to talk to someone about their nomadic experiences. I would nod along and fake a very quiet and content, almost meditative persona. Sometimes I would add a trancelike reply with philosophical pensiveness: ‘Your place of complete surrender does not have to be good nor bad, it is both because nature is both.’ To which they would contemplatively nod and ‘ah’ while returning their over-worked and exhausted minds to the stress of their current lives.

So I would show up in my kurta, glass bangles, Afghani jewelry and a bindi. My hair tied into a tight braid, I would draw the curtains and throw in my Phoolan Devi soundtrack and light a few incenses (a trip was made to a desi store in Upper Darby just to buy those nag champa agarbettes). Then I would bestow a relaxing and soothing massage experience for my goras. I did have a strict rule that I offered no happy endings for various reasons mainly to uphold the legitimacy and revere my guru from the Devdas Ashram. (Don’t worry I didn’t really name it that but something not too different.) I am lucky that I was never spotted later that evening dancing away on a speaker at club Egypt in a tube top and booty pants, smoking my cigarette and chewing my gum loudly.

So that memorable summer in Philly was spent either cleaning houses naked or giving Indian massages as my alter-ego, Shantee the Devadas Massuese. In the end, I was not only able to pay for all my weeks at the hostel but my meals, my transportation and some personal indulgences as well. I managed to save over a thousand. Save me the lecture of how much of that money was made shamelessly, I already know and don’t care. I find my current job as a prostitute to the corporate world just as demoralizing and shameless.

Everything worked out in the end, I even enjoyed myself in Paris on the way home and once I got home, it was back to the cushioned life once again. Breakfast in bed, wishes made on intercoms to armies of servants, shopping sprees, high teas at country clubs, fancy dinners or just hanging out in grandiose dance floors of high school parties. Millions of others spoilt brats lighting up their cigarettes and talking about how much they enjoyed college and were now enjoying a summer of doing nothing but lazing around.

But I was a whole a different person this time around. I knew I wanted more from my life and wanted to care very little of how it would look on honorable mantelpieces in esteemed houses. We spend our entire lives viewed through society’s eyes and for their acceptance. What school we go to? What family we marry into? When we plan on finishing our third Phd? How much salary we make? But after spending that summer working those three odd jobs in Philly. I realized that life is far too short to be lived for others. So what if you ever scrubbed a toilet in a rough time or worked at a gas station or shed every sheath of your pride at a job interview? Remember, days from now, it will merely be an interesting memory for you and only you to cherish.

So what will it be? Visa or Mastercard? ;)

Monday, August 9, 2010

Homeless Hoes!!!

I once worked as a stripper. One of the many confessions which deem my past sordid enough to receive the barrage of emails from readers who tell me I’m going straight to hell. Well, at least I have guaranteed VIP access somewhere! And although I had initially wanted to write a piece on my experiences as a stripper, I decided to take a few steps back and write about the equally sordid odd jobs I did before my debut as Rosa the Latina Firecracker on a Pole. I don’t mean odd like waitress, sales clerk or even janitor. I mean jobs truly, truly odd like naked housecleaner (hence taking my clothes off for money was already on my resume when I applied for the stripper position), a masseuse specialized in the art of Indian Massage (don’t ask me what that is, I made it up because it paid my bills) and a nude art model (clearly my resume was stretching into a CV with such vast experience in nudity). But then I thought, I should probably take a minute to explain why a spoilt, rich daddy’s girl needed to work such odd jobs in the first place or any jobs for that matter. The simple answer would be because it was the summer of 2001 in the city of Philadelphia. One of the best summers of my life and my favorite cities in the world. But more specifically it was just one night that ignited it all. A night in May when I found myself homeless, penniless and clueless on the streets of Philly. Trying my best to not write as long-windedly as I talk, I’m going to write about just that particular night for now. But down, down boys, there will be plenty of opportunities to write about Padash’s work history in sleaze. Let me first lay the foundation of how it all fell into place. Shall we proceed?

Why Yes!

Sophomore year. It had ended just as perfectly as it had started. Life was great and I couldn’t have been happier. Great friends like Julie and Jenny, a great social life and boy did I look my best. Most of all, I was doing everything I had always dreamt of. Examples:
A) Club hopping: I now had a fake ID thanks to a cousin in Pakistan. Ghetto pieces of paper stapled together with the year 1977 printed next to random Urdu but what bouncer knows what a Pakistani driver’s license is supposed to look like. With protein shakes substituting brains, they dumbly stared at it for five minutes, turned it around a few times and then pulled away the velvet rope to beckon me in. They probably spent the next few minutes wondering if Pakistan was that small town near Texas.
B) Bed-Hopping: I was a beast on a journey of sexual exploration. I don’t really know how or why but I had begun to slowly loose weight in my A-levels. By the time I started college, I was loosing the freshman 15 rather than gaining it. Like a snake, I was shedding layer after layer of skin every week. Encouraged by people who noticed my body, I immediately enrolled in every fitness class on campus. Dance, yoga, spinning…you name it, I was there to sweat. Pretty soon, I was voted the top 5 hottest girls on campus by 5 of the 6 fraternities. The 6th frat voted me as the eighth hottest but then again the expertise of those judges was always questionable. Let’s just say that frat was rumored to be more interested in each other than girls. You know the kind: secretly think about jocks to perform for a cheerleader in bed. Anyway, those of you who have faithfully read my earlier columns know that I didn’t grow up with a lot of self esteem. I would never call myself ugly but I sure was 180 degrees away from sexy. Now all of a sudden, I was desired, chased and fantasized about. The feeling sure was addictive and I realized why friends like Aliya craved such attention. Walking into a room and being soaked in lustful stares. Noticing heads turn from the corner of your eye. Abrupt silence my compliments, curious whispers my praise. Sigh!

My plans for the summer were going to be just as perfect. It was all planned out. I was going to take a pottery class at Moore College of Art in Philadelphia and stay with my friend Donna and her boyfriend in his apartment on South Street. We would party and get drunk every night with underground drummers, guitarists and vocalists. Dad’s permission? Sure, I had to pull a few strings and dig deep into my bag of tricks but I had managed to accomplish challenges way more impossible than this. The fee for the class wasn’t the issue for my Baba but leaving his girl alone in Philly was a whole different story altogether. So first, I made sure to enroll in the class before he found out that my Khala who lived in Philly (hereby referred to as Khala 1) had already planned to leave for Pakistan a week after the class started. Once Baba found out, I acted just as surprised but made sure to share a feasible alternative (crafted long ago) before he even suggested a refund from Moore.
‘I can stay with my Muslim friend Aisha and her Muslim mother in their Muslim apartment in Philly!’
In truth, I knew no one called Aisha but the part of Aisha and her Muslim mother was played diligently by Donna and her older sister on the phone. It was quite easy really, the sister was instructed to begin every other sentence with the word “Akhee” and end with “Mash-a-Allah” and by the end of the phone call Baba was convinced that I was in safe hands.

A little about Donna’s boyfriend now. His name was Bo, a member of an underground band and sported just as many tattoos as piercings. A fact, which Donna’s catholic stepmother disapproved of. Still, the two had carried on a long-distance relationship ever since they had met and hooked up at a dive bar where his band had performed and Donna had immediately slid into the role of groupie and then girlfriend. She was now going to make up for the long-distance part of their relationship by spending three months living with him. She and I had known each other only a few days when she asked me to join her for a summer of debauchery and there was no way I could decline. It sounded like too much fun; live rent-free and be surrounded by cute boys in tight girl-jeans and dyed hair. Where do I sign up? To top it all off, I even had an offer from another friend to stop over in Paris for a week on my way home to Pakistan. She was a friend from A-levels who was going to be there at exactly the same time to study French history at the Sorbonne. She had painted a very enticing picture and I had immediately begun to fanaticize about eating crepes under the Arc de Triomphe, shopping at designer stores in Champs Elysees and hopefully meet a dashing Frenchman who would make love to me by the Seine. Enchante Monsieur!

I arrived in Philly exactly a week after finals. From 30th Street Station I headed straight to Khala 1’s house in Bucks County. I was only to spend a week there but it was going to be the longest week of my life. You see, Khala 1 and her family live a very different life from mine. They run a local Dunkin Donuts with another partner and often forego unaffordable luxuries that I view as basic necessities. Their two young daughters obediently gave up their room to my highness and while my Khala and her husband spent most of their day at the shop, I spent my days lazing around. I would crawl out of bed somewhere around noon; just in time for a leisurely shower, hop on the Septa train to attend my one-hour class at Moore and then meet up with Donna and Bo in Center City. Later, I would reluctantly bid them farewell as they headed off to a bar and arrive back to Khala 1’s house at a ‘decent’ time but always with a different shopping bag in my hand. I would barely eat the food in front and retire to my room with snobbery because I truly couldn’t wait for the week to end so I could move in with Donna and Bo and party without restrictions. Baba had given me a thousand bucks for the summer, which was more than enough considering I had no rent to pay and the class was already paid for. The grand would merely be used as spending cash for clothes, a few meals, cigarettes, drinks (though men usually bought us those) and club covers. For the week in Paris, he had arranged a friend to give me another 500 the minute I arrived at Charles de Gaulle airport. So yes dear readers you have probably realized in an instant what took me an entire summer to discover. Here, I thought I was living life on my own terms but truly I was just another brat living a wild life fully funded by a father. I had no idea about the price of independence but I was about to find out very soon.

On my last day at my Khala’s, I had accompanied her along to the mall so she could buy gifts for family members back home. Watching her count her dollars and cents seemed petty and annoying at first but then I realized, I had no idea what it was like to not live the cushioned life I was so used to. When we came across a booth which was giving out a measly 5 bucks for a 30-minute survey, my Khala jumped at the opportunity. I could not fathom why anyone would wait in line almost an hour for a 30-minute survey. All for a measly five bucks. But Khala was adamant on getting her money. Just the same way she always remained stubborn on taking the bus home rather than a cab. On the way home, I noticed her content smile and probed further.
“You won’t understand” she explained “All the money we make at the store goes straight to rent, groceries and other stuff. These opportunities are for my savings.”
“So how much have you managed to save?” I asked sarcastically. 5 bucks to me wasn’t anything worth saving when a Big Mac meal cost more than that.
“I don’t know, its not in a bank. Any time I get some extra cash not made at the store I put in an envelope and don’t count it for a year. It’s always a nice surprise at the end of the year.”
The conversation left me baffled. I now despised myself because it finally dawned on me how despicable I may have seemed to not only her but her kids as well. How I had thumbed my nose down at things, which were all they could afford. When we got home, I saw my Khala lift the mattress of her bed and squeeze the five bucks into a white envelope. True to her word, she made no effort to count the bills inside. I, on the other hand was dying to know.

The next afternoon, I snuck into her room and counted her savings: 1500 dollars. When the guilt ate at me in class that day, I made my spur-of-the-moment decisions which usually get me into a heap of trouble down the road. I have always reacted spontaneously instead of responding rationally, but that’s just the way I was raised. Raised to believe that my actions had little consequences because there were always others to clean up messes that I left behind. After class, I headed straight to the bank and cashed out a thousand bucks. With only a hundred dollars left in my account, I thought I would still be ok. Besides, I would just find a job and work like everyone else. How difficult could that be, right? When I got home, I stealthily snuck the cash into my Khala’s envelope and never told her about it to this day. But that night I sat back and watched her hum as she packed excitedly for a trip home. A trip they took every three years as a family. The same trip I took twice a year.

The next week was as much fun as I had imagined it to be. I slept on a couch in Bo’s apartment and even found a job as a server at an Indian restaurant where I worked five hours in the evenings for tips. Donna worked at a jewelry store while Bo continued his side-profession as a barista at a graffiti laden café to tide him over till his fantasy record deal came through. After ceramics, I would head straight to my restaurant job where I served greasy curry alongside a very nervous South Indian girl under the supervision of three very horny and desperate men with guts in their third trimester. I’m not going to lie, the job wasn’t as easy as I thought but I was determined. After work, I would meet up with Donna and we would walk over to Bo’s coffee shop to hang out and drink free caffeine on the house. Once he closed the shop, we would head off to bar hop on South Street. We would smoke and drink at every dive bar where aspiring - inked and pierced – musicians bought me drinks and then kissed me. I was on my punk rock kick those days, so all my men that summer were the full-body tattoo sort. Yum! Tips made at the restaurant usually took care of the 3am breakfasts and then somewhere before sunrise; we would retire back to the apartment where I would try to ignore the sound of Donna and her boyfriend making love all night in a very sadomasochistic way.

Perfect right? Sure. But, all good things come to an end and true to the idiom this perfect arrangement came crashing down just after a week. First, I quit my job on a whim. The three perverts always yelled at the other waitress and her inability to speak English so one day, I lost my temper, rushed to her defense and informed them that they only had our tits to thank for their lunch rush. I even tossed my apron at them and walked out with gusto because I had already made enough to last me for the rest of the month and a half. So I thought! Then, the next afternoon on my way to class I was confronted by an old Italian lady whose tone meant business. She informed me that Bo hadn’t paid rent in months and if she didn’t get a check by the end of the week his stuff would be on the street. If the threat of eviction wasn’t bad enough she added urgency to her demands with “And don’t think I don’t know about the pot ya all are growing up in that apartment. All I need to do is make one phone call to the police and have all your asses dropping soap in the lockup.” Ladies and Gentleman, problems in our perfect little world had officially begun. As much as I didn’t want to be chucked out on the street, I didn’t want to end up being deported for drug-dealing charges either. Immediately after class, I shared this interesting twist in our perfect summer plans with Donna. Just as shocked as I was, she headed straight home to confront Bo while I headed off to a date with a biker. When I arrived back to the apartment I was greeted by the noise of smashed vases, tossed furniture and hurled curses. I hadn’t expected Donna to react this way over some unpaid rent but when I walked in I realized that rent was no longer the issue. Apparently Donna had walked in to loan her beloved the rent money only to find him in bed with another woman. She assumed it was some skank but when her yelling and screaming was answered by a punch in the face by the woman it was also subsequently disclosed that shaved-head skank was the mother of Bo’s four year old son back in town to reconcile with her baby daddy. An hour later, Donna and I were sitting on our suitcases outside the apartment building. It was around ten at night and we had nowhere to go. We were now officially homeless. At least for the night.

As I frantically tried to chart out a plan for survival, Donna smoked and nursed her black eye. Our first stop was refuge at the Cheap Art Café: a filthy 24 hour diner which doubled as a rest-stop for trannys and hookers who took turns to charge their cell phones. The menus here were photocopied papers stapled together and the food was apparently as shoddy as the clientele. Still, thanks to a similar crisis earlier in the year on a botched spring break I had taken a lot of mental notes of my best friend Jenny’s dexterity in such situations. There will be more on her later but she was my best friend; a walking image of poise and class yet raised in the projects and thus one of the most streetwise women I had ever met. So that night I found myself in the dignified role of calm trouble-shooter while Donna relied on me as her savior. First things first, we needed a place to store our suitcases. We walked the few blocks past the working “girls” (term used loosely to include both biological girls and chicks with dicks) to the Greyhound station. This was pre-911 so both Donna and I were lucky enough to find lockers large enough to store our suitcases for a few quarters a night. Then, we had to find something to do. Immediately, I took Donna to a local bar where the patrons were very ‘sophisticated’ (euphemism for extremely old). We were to hang out at the bar till closing and enjoy drinks bought by Viagra-popping men who probably thought we too were for hire. As Donna spoke endlessly about how deeply hurt she was by Bo’s infidelity, I tuned her out because I had work to do. I conscientiously flirted with the geriatrics around me who flashed their smiling dentures. Luck came in the form of a skinny, gray-haired man who closely resembled the Q-tip I had waxed my ear earlier in the day with. He offered to take us to a local after-party and we agreed. An utterly dumb and risky move, I know, but it’s what we did that night after last call even though we realized we could have ended up chopped up in a garbage can. The after-party was at an old woman’s house, peculiar but lovingly referred to as “Mama” by the attendees. Drugs were plenty and the diversity of the partiers ranged from old trolls to young and busty blondes to even a few muscled and effeminate men in tank tops. Donna and I sat on a couch, trying not to appear too uncomfortable while everyone around us did lines and bumps with straws and dollar bills. By 5am, Q-tip man (now beet-red from all the cocaine) came over and whispered, “I have a room upstairs if you wanna go and hang out. Let me give you a backrub.” I smiled politely and told him I needed to freshen up first. Instead, I grabbed Donna and ran out of the back door. We laughed all the way back to 13th and Chestnut and then passed time by walking around and watching the “girls” work the streets. At one point when a man slowed his car for us, I leaned in and jokingly tried to pimp Donna out. It would be meaningful to know our going-rate in the market of whores. Donna stood in the back screaming “Padash, what the hell are you doing?”
“How much for her?” I asked as I noticed his wedding band.
“I want you.” The man replied.
“How much for her?”
“How much you want?”
“That’s not a real woman by the way.”
“I know I can tell….”
Still he was a decent man because when I declined his rate, he drove away. Once again, dear readers, I realize I was being very stupid. The things I have done in my past, I am amazed, I’m still alive.

We even tried to befriend an Asian tranny called China. She was fabulous and flawless. A pair of perfect Double D’s, which I envied, collagen lips perfect for….eating lollipops (you perverts) and a skirt which hugged her thighs and buttocks as if sewn onto her flesh. As we watched her hop in and out of cars, we admired her sass and wished to be flies on the wall when she did her ‘bidnizzz’. There was just something about her that enticed us women even; a je ne sais quoi of a sort that I wanted to compliment her on.
“You’re gorgeous honey!” I smiled at her as I smoked a cigarette sitting on the curb.
“You really are” Donna chimed in “You’re outfit, your make up its all perfect!”
“What ya all need to do is get the hell up out of my face before I cut ya all biotches…!” China snapped. I guess she wasn’t very appreciative of compliments. Needless to say, our friendship with the fiercest drag queen in Philly ended before it could even begin.

At 6am Donna and I headed back to the Cheap Art Café for breakfast. We now craved nothing but a warm bed to sleep on. Anything soft enough for us to curl into and sleep. A local cyber café where I sometimes checked my email on the weekends opened up at 8am so at 7:55, Donna and I were promptly waiting outside for the owner to let his first desperate customers in. Donna sat and watched as I navigated search engines for a local hostel. We found one just a few blocks away with no curfew, cheap bunk beds and both a nightly as well as monthly rate. We arrived the next minute and made our way gratefully to the 2-person dorm, smiling sleepily and sluggishly at backpackers heading out to sight-see the City of Brotherly Love. Once in the room, Donna and I didn’t say much to each other. We just immediately stripped down to our underwear and curled up on our $18.99-a-night beds to fall asleep.

It was way past sundown when we woke up again. To rid that icky feeling of waking up in the dark, we instantly resumed the evening’s plans. Brought back our suitcases to the room, showered, changed and headed off to a bar. Good distraction from problems at hand by surrounding ourselves with liquor and drunks. The good thing was that we didn’t have to leave the room till the next morning so at least we had a place to return to that night.

“What are we going to do?” I asked Donna at the bar. She casually flicked her cigarette, sipped her drink and shrugged that she was going to head back to her father’s house in Delaware for the summer. Although she despised her stepmother and they had always hated her boyfriend but her dreams of a fun summer had somehow perished overnight. Giving up was just that easy for her. I was disappointed, irked, many things but not surprised. You see, Donna was a perfect example of the majority of students that I went to college with. Self proclaimed hippies who wished they were born in the sixties where drugs and sex were free and limitless. They reincarnated the times by adorning tie-dye, barely bathing, rereading highlighted passages from Kerouac and Kafka, quoting Ginsberg and Burroughs, getting stoned, liquored and hoping that they too were on an endless journey of discovery like the Beats. Only when you looked closer you realized, these so-called rebels were all privileged youth of American suburbia; private-schooled and now in the confines of a fully funded liberal arts bubble where words like “deconstruct”, “gender”, “hegemony” and “sexuality” consoled them that their defiant brains were actually being intellectually stimulated against the norm. Their futures, just as predictable as their present. After graduation, they were probably going to backpack across Europe; hostelling, couch surfing, dropping acid and sleeping with strangers. After six-month of unsuccessful self-reflection funded by Daddy Dearest they would finally accept that they couldn’t after all “beat the system” or “damn the man.” Almost immediately, they would trade in their tie-dye for white coats and follow their fathers footsteps to medical school and a six figure salary. Communists and Socialists would then become republicans. The change they were to make in the world now reduced to annual checks to ‘bandwagon’ philanthropy.

All exactly like me! I too now realized that as much as I harped and debated about leaving home to ‘discover the world’, ‘find myself’ and ‘live life on my own terms’; my argued independence and the above clichés were only reliant on Baba’s wealth. On my own, I couldn’t move a muscle. However, unlike Donna and my friends, I sure was going to try. I would be damned if I didn’t take this situation as a challenge and prove to myself that I could do it too. Especially when Donna casually remarked
“It’s not that bad Padash, what are you worried about? Just call your dad and he will immediately put you up in some place fancy hotel on Rittenhouse square. If that doesn’t work, just drop that stupid class, get on a plane and head back home early.”
I smirked and simply kept smoking. Neither were options for me. Option A meant confessing to my dad that I had lied and deceived him (I just wasn’t read to do that) and then Option B…well it meant the same thing. I was also invested in that trip to Paris at the end of the next month. Greed and selfishness don’t fade overnight!

When we got back to the hostel, Donna immediately met a beautiful but unkempt Dutch boy. By now, all the hostellers had gathered around the courtyard after a day of sightseeing to busy themselves with desperate attempts of flirtation with each other in broken English. For once, I wasn’t in the mood for men even though a group of boys insisted – almost with desperation – for me to join them for another beer. Yaar, I had the pick of Europe from Germany, France, Holland even an Irish lad but I still excused myself and retired to my room because I had other things on my mind.
“Come on, these boys are cute! Free beer, free weed, cute men…what else do we want? Worrying wont solve anything, might as well enjoy our last night here.” Donna tried to convince me and she did have a point.
“I really do need to clear my head and come up with a plan for next month. Room service at the Hotel Sofitel or going back to Pakistan early are not viable options for me. You have fun!” I still declined.

For the first few hours, I read in the room to distract myself. Later I walked back to the courtyard, which was now empty, to smoke a cigarette. Strangers from around the world were probably now exploring each other’s bodies on bunk beds. I, one the other hand wanted to avail this sudden renewed sense of strength and courage. Maybe I could do it. Maybe I could still spend most of summer here. Donna had needed me to save us the whole night and I had succeeded. That proved that I could be tough enough to survive here on my own without money. Besides, I had no one to blame but myself. I had made my bed and it was time to lay in it, even if it cost 20 bucks a night. So I went to the front desk, pulled out my check-card and extended my stay for the rest of the week. I was now down to a measly fifty bucks. That meant I had to find a job again to pay for my weekly accommodation. Whatever it took, I was ready.

And yes my dear readers, everything worked out in the end. I survived. Of course, finding another job at a restaurant was impossible because all the high-schools kids had snatched those up but to pay for my bed at the hostel each week, I had to think of something quick. Unless I wanted to end up homeless on the street again fighting over clients with China. And that my friends is how I became a naked housecleaner, an Indian Massage therapist and nude art model for the summer. With such truly odd jobs, I not only managed to pay for lodging but also my meals, septa tokens and club covers. In fact, I even managed to save up over a thousand that summer.

How and what, you ask? Well, I guess that can be explained in my next piece. For now, be assured, that after that night of homelessness in Philly, I stuck it through till the end. One tough biotch, aint I! Sure, I’m lucky the craigslist killer wasn’t going to med school at Upenn because, then, my next piece wouldn’t have a happy ending. I would be a robbed and left to die Indian masseuse.

The most important thing is that certain night and the summer that followed, shaped the person I am today. Strong, determined, fearless! It prepared me to know that fleeing my parent’s nest to discover the world is not the bed of roses I had imagined it to be. It came with a heavy price and that summer wasn’t the only time I paid it, but I paid it successfully each time. And that, my friends is what matters!