IT was 11.34 p.m. when the concert ended and all of them jumped into a waiting rickshaw from the stand to reach the nearest bus-stand. They waived out to each other and took their route. After some time Naina and Nikhil were giving each other company. Nikhil was not the guy who would walk an extra mile for a friend and Naina was not the demure kind to look out for help. For some strange reasons, Naina was a bit uncomfortable that night. Nikhil said “You will manage, nah, I don’t think there should be any problem; nowadays the streets are crowded way past 1.00 too, thanks to the Call Center’s odd working schedules”. Naina sealed it with a smile, Nikhil raced towards the exit waiving out to her, “Do call me up if there is any problem, let me get off at the signal, it is easier to walk back home from here. See you babes” the voice and the person vanished in thin air.
NAINA has walked back home many times past 12.00 and it is not the first time she is doing it. Strangely, today she was feeling perturbed. She has not been able to rule it out and now Nikhil getting off a bit early made her more edgy. She looked around in the bus and noticed see she was the only woman! She inched towards the driver and then got off at her stop. She saw another man getting off with her. Naina wanted to know which way that man is taking. She had to cross the main road and take to the street, a cool 12 minutes walk to her home. The street broke in to many smaller lanes both in the left and right side. The street which was hustling and bustling with activities till 9 at night was deserted at 1.30 a.m. She saw a man walking 700 meters ahead of her; she wanted to catch up with him, but in vain as he disappeared. Where the man who got off with me went, wondered Naina. Why is she so worried about a stranger? She had no clue. Her heart was pacing fast, there was no one on the road and she could hear her own footsteps which were louder than required as she was pacing fast down the street.
SHE tried to recollect the vada-pav stall, the pani-puri stall at the bend, the tailor who never stuck to the delivery date, the dairy milk shop which was always short of curds; she smiled a bit and paced faster. She felt something or somebody is behind her, trying to catch up with her, who it could be, may be that man – who saw Nikhil getting off and trying to follow me! Naina decided to be defensive too. She pulled her shoulder bag in front and kept her right hand in the outside pocket where she always hid a small scissor! In case, she needs to….
HOW can I succumb to these men, she questioned herself. I will give a tough fight, I will knock him off, tall, short or forceful does not matter. I have to win today otherwise my parents will have to hang their head in shame, my family will have to face the aftermaths, I too will lose my freedom forever and my future will ruin for the silly reason, that fear dominated me and I did not try to fight back. I will fight and I am sure about it. Should I turn and look, if there is anyone behind me, who is he? At the very moment she recollected her aunty telling her, “After 12 past midnight if you hear anyone calling you from behind or feel anyone following you from behind never stop and turn, just walk, in case you fail to do so, the ghost will win and capture you, enter your body…..”. “Aunty, why the hell you have to insert these liners in my head, look they have popped out when I am in defense mood” Naina consoled herself, if it is a ghost, then… She will never be able to convince the world she encountered one! She let the thought at rest and preferred it to be a human who is following her!
CONTD DOWN BELOW