This blog is an entry for Ring the Bell contest presented by Breakthrough and IndiBlogger. For more information on this topic, refer to www.bellbajao.org/
This incident happened 2 years back in Hyderabad. It was a working day. I was standing outside a mall waiting for my friend. The area was over-crowded. There was a bus-stand nearby. Commuters were jostling for space at each and every corner. I looked at my watch. It was 10.30am. My friend was late and I texted her to come faster. She replied that she would be there in another ten minutes. Suddenly a group of young men arrived on their bikes. They stopped a few distance away from me and I instinctively moved away from there to another place. Soon they were laughing and chatting loudly. Two of them started smoking. That smell itself was too much to bear, let alone high levels of smoke coming out of vehicles on the highway. I started coughing loudly and that brought me to their attention. Openly pointing at me, they started laughing more loudly.
I was just deciding to go to another place when I saw my friend getting down from a city bus. Thank god! She came quickly, breathless and sweaty under the hot sun and smiled. We entered the mall and started exploring the place. We had just gone a few steps further when one of those men whom I had seen earlier approached us.
“Excuse me?” he asked, pointing at me.
“What?” I asked politely.
In a few minutes, he explained to us his predicament. He wanted our help. He said that his sister wanted to come out of a nearby coaching institute due to an emergency at home but couldn’t. Boys were not allowed to go inside. So he wanted one of us to accompany him, act like his sister and get his own sister out of a class by asking the concerned faculty’s permission.
As if we were going to! My friend looked at me and understood by my expression that we were both thinking the same thing- this man was downright lying.
“Why don’t you ask any older women out here? That would be more helpful to your sister” my friend challenged him
“No, I cannot convince them. I have already tried. So, please one of you accompany me” he asked beseechingly.
“Sorry, we can’t! We are busy at the moment” I said and we turned away.
He left too. I was a bit surprised at the turn of events. Now when I thought closely, I realised that he was the same person who had smoked earlier and laughed at me. I conveyed every bit of this information to my friend who listened with narrowed eyes.
“Do you think he followed us?” she asked and started scanning the mall.
We were climbing steps to reach the third floor. As soon as she uttered those words, I turned back to check whether we were indeed being followed. And my heart missed a beat. There they were alright, the group of those men. Now they were openly watching us. And that stupid cock-and-bull story teller was also with them. They were total five in number.
Feeling a bit scared, I turned to my friend. After telling her everything, she seemed more relaxed than me.
“They just might be kidding around for a stupid bet or something” she said and dragged me inside a shop. We purchased some dress materials and got out after 25 minutes. We did some more shopping in other shops. Two hours had nearly gone. We had three large plastic bags with us by now. As soon as we started walking, someone pushed me from behind. I fell on my two inches heels and one of the plastic bags split open.
It was the same man. His friends were with him eyeing the pair of us. Becoming self-conscious, I quickly got up and started collecting my things. Those idiots just stared and refused to help us. My friend became furious.
“Why did you push her?” she demanded.
“I didn’t” he replied and smiled more menacingly.
I had enough of that rubbish. I started walking away and my friend joined me. At the cash counter, we stood in a queue to pay for our purchases. When I looked to my left, there was a couple standing in another queue. The wife looked very young but her face showed a different story. Her eyes were puffy and had deep dark circles under them. Her one side of lip was swollen which her maroon lipstick couldn’t hide. She was thin, unhappy and looked very ill. She was constantly looking down as if she wished nothing more than to go deep underground and hide herself inside forever. Her healthy husband stood in front of her looking as if he ate her share of food as well, which probably he did. He looked happy.
The face of that women ignited flames of fury in me. I wanted to go towards her, console her and take her to a cafe to let her eat whatever she wanted. But I couldn’t. Her scary husband was standing there, looking like he would knock down a couple of wrestlers if he wanted. God, this was so unfair. My hands were totally tied up but my heart wanted to free itself and help the needy woman. Suddenly, there was a familiar loud laughter from somewhere behind our queue. I looked back. They were there, no surprise in it at all. They were standing at a distance waiting at the entrance for who knows what. Or maybe we knew.
My mind started to clear a bit. Maybe after looking at the woman, I had realised that anybody could be in her place. Any women, I included, if I cease to speak up or take timely action against injustice. If I don’t stand up for myself, tomorrow maybe, god forbid, I too could land up in her place. The thought itself made me angrier. In that instant, I had made up my mind. I promised myself to speak up.
I walked my way out of the queue. My friend followed me, a bit surprised at my behaviour. I came directly in front of the group. They hadn’t expected that. They thought we could be easily scared off and wouldn’t dare to cross their paths. The presence of so many crowds around us gave me more courage.
“Why are you following us?” I demanded looking directly in the eyes of the story maker.
“I am not” he replied getting a bit surprised at my loud voice.
“Yes, you are” I accused them all looking at each and every one in turn.
Two of them started staring at the ground. The story-teller looked at the crowd. People were now beginning to hear us. He didn’t want to get cornered. He started to move away.
“Now where are you going? Back to your SISTER?”I shouted.
Everybody in the vicinity stopped. They stared in my direction.
“Please stop shouting!” he whispered.
“And you stop following! Or I will call the police” I said in a determined tone.
Those words made one of them laugh weakly. Next second, I had removed one of my heel sandals and pointed it directly at the stupid fellow.
“Why are you laughing? Is this some circus going on, you think?” I demanded while blood rushed to my forehead.
“Ghar main maa behen nahi hai kya? Hamme kyun follow kar rahe ho?” my friend spoke on my behalf!
A security guard rushed on the spot. Some of the women from the crowd came to us and started abusing those men in different languages. Some older folks arrived and tried splitting up the argument. But there was no need of splitting. Those men wanted to get out from there as soon as possible. They just couldn’t because of the surrounding women of all age group that had cornered them. Hey! That was a scene indeed. In all the mess, I remembered something else. I went to the nearest cafe and ordered some pastries and parcelled some cakes. I rushed with the food items towards the queue. The woman was still standing there and her husband was nowhere to be seen. He must have gone towards the crowd around those men. It was providing a lot of entertainment to everybody, no doubt! I was lucky. I went directly towards her.
“Hey hi” I said cheerfully.
She looked up with timid eyes.
“I am selling these cakes as free samples to people” I said and forced the cake box directly in her bag.
“No, don’t! I don’t want...” she hesitated.
“It’s absolutely free of cost. You can taste it at home...but these pastries you have got to taste now....please I insist” I said and took her hand and placed the pastry in her palm.
She hesitated again. To make her feel comfortable, I started eating mine and encouraged her to do the same. She took a bite, scanning the room for her husband at the same time. When the coast seemed clear, she started eating fast, smiling at me. I felt instantly satisfied and a bit...rebellious. My cell phone vibrated. It was mum!
“Hello! Mummy....you won’t believe what happened today.....”