“Long time since we saw you,” commented Dolly. “Been busy,” I responded. “Too busy to care for yourself?” Dolly murmured , her teeth clenched on the thread as she got ready to shape my wild and unkempt eyebrows. I just shrugged and braced myself for the gruesome ordeal of scores of hair being uprooted from their snug bed on my upper-lip! Dolly kept commenting on the growth… She would…it was business for her. The more she evoked the guilt in her customers, for lack of self conscience, the more her income. Just to stop her, I gasped out that I wanted the works as I had the time for self indulgence for a change. A contented Dolly yelled out to her assistants to get the wax heated and get the pedicure paraphernalia ready. A small girl, seemingly younger than my own daughter, materialized from behind the curtain. Dolly curtly instructed the girl to start my pedicure as she turned her attention to another customer. I looked at the girl. She seemed unhappy. Almost in tears. As she soaked my feet in warm soapy water, she kept muttering ‘Stupid….stupid…stupid…’ For a moment I thought she meant me for having neglected my feet so much… but she was hardly looking at my feet. Then I saw her gulp and wipe a hand across her cheek. Definitely she was distressed. As gently and quietly as possible I asked her what the matter was. She looked up, startled, unaware that her pathos had been noticed. She shook her head, but I could see that tears had started rolling down her cheeks again. Fiercely she rubbed them off, sniffed and tried to control herself. I don’t have a reputation for poking my nose in others’ affairs, but I just could not ignore the woebegone face of this slip of a girl. I decided to pry. “Is it Dolly?” I whispered. “Does she scold you?” With a horrified look, the girl shook her head. “No…Madam is fine…She is kind….I am stupid.” Tears again! “What is your problem…” I took a tissue from the box next to me and told her to wipe her tears. The girl did, then like a child blew loudly into it and threw it into the bin. She stared massaging my foot with cream and suddenly looked up at me and said, ‘I am stupid.’ ‘So you have been saying,’ I said, ‘Now tell me why you are stupid.’ She told me her sad story. She was the fourth among the eight children in her family. The youngest was born the previous month. She had come to the UAE looking for a job. And some agent had sent her to madam Dolly. “How old are you,” I interrupted. She hardly looked sixteen. “Eighteen ,” she said defiantly and stared at me defying me to contradict her. I smiled at her gently. Leaning forward, I whispered, “Come on…. I won’t tell any one.. how old are you?” ‘Seventeen,” she said and as I kept shaking my head, She mumbled, “Fifteen”. ‘How did you get a job visa?’ I asked. “I don’t” she mumbled and started weeping again. “Am on visit. And tomorrow my visa will expire. What I will do… stupid …stupid…stupid…” She looked up at me again. “We are eight children at home. My eldest sister married and has 2 kids. My second sister in Saudi. My third sister …no leg…can’t work. My little brother working in Manila. The others are going to school. My Papa… no job. Mama works in plantation. Oh….stupid …stupid…stupid…” She started weeping and muttering again. “ I don’t want to go back. I want to earn…want to send money home…” “Shall I talk to Dolly?” I said. May be she will give you a job visa.” “No…Madam angry with me…she won’t…give visa… She gave me visa…and I said No….stupid me…stupid me…” She started rocking to and fro.I felt helpless. Later, as Dolly started blow - drying my hair, I asked her about Madeline. Dolly was heartless. “The little idiot,” she said. “I had a visa taken for her and she made me cancel it, saying she won’t work in a beauty parlour. She wanted a desk job, it seems. Now who would give a chit like her a desk job? It is obvious she has forged papers and certificates. Some compatriot agent had promised to get her a job in some office. But he has washed his hands off at the eleventh hour. Tomorrow her visa expires and if she is caught, she has to pay penalty for every day she has overstayed for face jail.” “Can you not help, Dolly?” I asked. “The poor girl is so distressed and seems to need a job very badly.” “I had to use that visa for another girl from Mumbai. Now I can’t do anything,” said Dolly. I looked at the teenager who had left her country in search of a livelihood. If she fell in the hands of unscrupulous people, she’d be ruined for life. She looked younger than my own daughter. I shuddered when I thought of my own daughter in a similar predicament...God forbid, I murmured to myself immediately. Before leaving Dolly’s I went up again and pressed a fifty Dirhams note into Madeline’s hand. “I can only do this now,” I said. “I hope your problem will be solved. Shall pray for you. Good Luck.” Inside the manicured, pedicured, blow-dried, waxed and threaded me, my heart hurt for a chit of a girl… a helpless child in an alien land. “ God, be kind to her”, I prayed, my eyes shadowed with gloom.