The story provides a perspective on the economics of prostitution as a business model, and also engages with the social implications that the business has on those involved in sex work.
Just a month before the examinations, it was customary for the staff to invite the students to a picnic at some countryside spot not too far from London. No shop talk was allowed, and students and staff played cricket, drank beer, and otherwise had fun. That year, we were taking our wards to Leeds Castle. About sixty students accompanied twelve staff members, some with families. In the course of the picnic, I saw Fiona and waved at her. She told me that her paper was progressing well. While we were chatting, who should come up and greet us but Saul Perlman, accompanied by a Panzer Tank of a woman already ruddy and sunburnt from the mellow Spring sun. Saul hadn’t noticed Fiona, who had her back to him. ‘Heh…Heh…Meestair Muck…reji, you have not, aah, met Sarah, no?” Sarah glared at me, but before I could open my mouth, Fiona intercepted smiling sweetly and cooing, ‘Oh, Mrs. Perlman, you have absolutely no idea as to how sweet and supportive Saul has been in all my efforts at LSE!’ So saying, she kissed Saul on his cheek. Saul leapt in the air and yelped as if he had been bitten in some fleshy part. We left the couple, even as a verbal avalanche engulfed Saul shutting out the sunshine from his soul at least for that day.
The picnic was the last I saw of Fiona. Soon the dreaded exams arrived, went, and those of us who had enrolled for a doctorate got busy with our thesis supervisors, hoping that our MSc results would be good enough to qualify us to continue. I had dropped in to my cubbyhole once to return some stationery and bid Debbie Fricker goodbye. On my desk stood a magnificent bottle of The Macallan (20 year-old single malt), accompanied by a note with the words ‘Thank You’.
Two or three years passed. I was back in India when one day I chanced upon a copy of the Guardian at the library, and read that Fiona Drummond, a socialite of London, had married to a leading heart surgeon, Majeed Hayaat Khan, from Pakistan. Some discreet enquiries led to the information that Dr. Khan belonged to one of the twenty families that virtually own the country. He was reputed to be a leading cardiac interventionist surgeon in the world, having worked with Dr. Michael DeBakey in Houston and Christian Barnard at the Groote School, Capetown. He had a Cricket Blue from Oxford and regularly rode to the Hounds. The tabloids knew very little about how they met and not even a whiff came out about Fiona’s background.
A year later, I came to know that Dr. Khan had returned to Pakistan with his English wife to oversee the construction of the largest and most modern cardiac unit in Asia, dedicated to his late mother. News from Pakistan used to reach New Delhi in dribblets. The Khan family, it appeared, were politically extremely astute, having good relations with both major political parties and the all-powerful Pakistan Army. Dr. Khan’s project was nearing completion, and the ‘Begum’ was not only busy in various social projects to help slum children, but had also set up a flourishing business in exporting Pakistani cotton clothes to the West.
However, after seven years of marriage, Fiona and Dr. Khan broke up. By all reports, the divorce was amicable, and Fiona returned to London with their three year-old-son and put up at a town house in Kensington. Her business was thriving and required little personal supervision, and Fiona became an integral part of London’s social circuit.
Looking back, I recalled what she had told me eight years ago at LSE: the life of a top escort was an extremely lonely one, and there was no way she could integrate with society at large unless she made a clean break with her past and reinvented herself. She had, at the age of thirty five, been able to do just that.
Though my official work used to take me through London very often, I refrained from making any efforts to meet her, because I presumed that I was a part of the past that she had worked so hard to erase. I was therefore surprised, when during the course of a visit, the receptionist at the hotel Rubens at the Palace handed me a sealed envelope when I checked in. It contained an invitation to drinks at Fiona’s house the following evening.
It was with a feeling of misgiving and trepidation that I found myself in the elegant Kensington mews knocking on a polished door. On the second knock, the door opened and there stood Fiona, as cool and collected as ever. Ushering me past the foyer she asked, ‘Whatever took you so long to meet up with me?’ It was as if we had last met the previous week at my LSE cubbyhole. She turned to a man whose back was to me, crouching over an Adam fireplace, stoking the fire with a poker. ‘Mr Prime Minister, I want you to meet Dr.Mookerji, the man who taught me all the Economics I know.’
Note: This story is purely a work of fiction. Though some of the personae peripheral to the story (such as Professors Desai and Goodhart exist), the main protagonists are fictional. Any resemblance to known figures is purely coincidental.
This is the sixth and final part of the short story The Adventures of Fanny Hill at the London School of Economics.
Fanny Hill-Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure: an erotic novel written by John Cleland and first published in 1748.
Boz is the nom de plume of a retired IAS Officer with experience in Finance. He was at the IMF and possesses a PhD in Economics from the London School of Economics.