It happened one night  

Posted by Nitu

When my office car dropped me at the Cyber Tower corner, it was still drizzling thick, forcing the driver to pull the twin screen wipers from time to time. My mobile's tiny screen glowed at 10.30 p.m. The usual large gathering of home bound office-goers had thinned out by then. On any other day, starting from 6.00 p.m., one can witness them jostling and scurrying for hitch-hiking or catching a bus or auto-rickshaw. I reckoned the bad weather might have driven them away soon that evening.

From here to my residence location, the distance is around 1.5 kilometers. On a good mood and weather, occasionally I even walk this part. But mostly I board an auto-rickshaw occupying a seat along with three or four co-dreamers of a recurring dream-"one day I shall buy a sexy car and ditch this auto for ever". It doesn't cost much though. 5 rs. and 10 minutes if the autowala is not a crazy Telegu movie fan. Otherwise, 5 rs. and 5 minutes(note the speed improvement) and a lingering drone in your eardrum afterward. The drone is fanboy's gift to you as during this short flight he will play a hit Telegu song so loud that it will shake his steering and send you wondering whether you have entered a pub or a three-wheeled moving sound box. Other than these considerations, this is pretty much a routine both for the co-dreamers and the fanboy. An usual short jaunt that ends before the fanboy's song ends. Too brief to experience an unusual moment.

Well, until that night.

As I raised my hand to call an auto( means auto-rickshaw, this is how we address it here), a girl too closed in.
Before I uttered my destination, she said to the autowala,
"Bhaiya, Madhapur, petrol pump?"
Her hastness and tense was evident.
"Haan."
"Ayyapa society road wala naa?" she added more clarity.
"Haan."
"Kitne aage hain?" (how far is it?")
"Thoda aage." (a little.)
Reticent people are hard to elicit an information from. I guess our autowala bhaiya was one such thick tongued guy. Moreover, his experience has taught him a good lesson-short trip needs only short and point blank talk. 10 minutes talks in a five minute flight is a waste.
Anyway, all these led the girl to hesitate. The apparent mechanical and laconic answer didn't give her the needed assurance to board the auto.

Clearly that was not a time and weather to wait for a dilemma to subside. I had my own worry for the night. Earlier my roommate had tipped me that my cook hadn't turned up that evening owing to bad weather. So better manage outside or cook on your own. And now I was mortally hungry.

"Get in. It goes there." I said hoping that, may be it would help her make a mind.

And so did it. She boarded, nestling next to me. She appeared still anxious, unfamiliarity looming dark over her eyes and forehead. She was neither slim nor fat, had a complexion straddling between brown and fair. With a trinket ring on the left side of the nose, a faint mascara on her lashes and brows, a white top striped in light beige color upto her waist length and a blackish blue trouser, she was not a striking beauty, but bore a girl next door appeal. Might be earlier she had even sprayed a little perfume, but the drizzles had rinsed it off I guessed.

On the way, she asked me to notify her when we would reach her destination. She told that she was unfamiliar to Madhapur and to Hyderabad as well. So I assured her again that she could relax and loosen her nerves. I told her that I stay there and so I could help her. Soon the auto reached the petrol pump and we both got off. The Ayyapa society road runs exact opposite to the petrol pump on the other side. I asked her could she recognize something, did the big glowing nameboard "Bharat Petroleum" hung above ring a bell. But it seemed her anxiety had killed all her memory. She helplessly replied that she was still clueless.

"Do you remember any temple?"
"No."

Though my residence falls to back-side of the petrol pump, I decided to accompany her for a little more time. I thought of buying vegetables from the stall which stood by the Ayyapa society road anyway. As we trudged along, she explained.

Only the previous day she had arrived alone from Delhi where she belonged to. And she had boarded in a hostel. She had come for her MBA internship work for one month. She added that she didn't have any friend here in Hyderabad. And that she had forgot to take a note of his new hostel address or contact details in the morning when she had left. The only thing she remembered was the road name and the petrol pump. She added that she had been on loss-track for quite sometime now and one time she had felt so miserable she had almost cried in the middle of the road. It appeared that in her willy-nilly searching of her hostel, she had already crossed the petrol pump once and ended in the other part of the city where from she was returning now.

Now a hostel is not a clue at all, at least not in this Madhapur area. A few years back, before a suave Chandrababu Naidu kicked out his special economic project, naming this part of the suburb as HITECH city,
this was a village by all definition, full of people not so educated, who could speak only Telegu. But as new software companies started setting up their development centers here, people like me from other states have thronged into. This in turn fueled the rent, sky-rocketed the real-estates. And the indigenous people came up with ingenious schemes to take benefit from. They started converting all not so required garages and garrets, store rooms into a hostel- dividing them into dingy congested cellars. And then they hung a board on their gate or first floor balcony, "Women's Hostel", "Boy's Hostel", "Reddy Guest House" etc. So, searching for a particular hostel is like a needle search in the hay.

Soon we passed the vegetable shop. She still couldn't recall a thing. So, we passed the Hanuman temple. No, she had no inkling that a temple exists there in Ayyapa road. As the main road started showing branches and the sibling roads look so alike, her confusion multiplied. We kept walking and hopping through mottled potholes and water puddles. But none of the building harbored the hostel that we were looking for.
Hunger caught me after sometime. I guessed her too. But food was the last thing on her mind for sure. It was past 11.30 p.m. With the words that I was not going to desert her half-way (by this time I think she developed a feeling that she could trust this stranger), she agreed for a dinner. So we went to the only restaurant which remains open till that hour. We ordered whatever was readily available to serve and ate ravenously.
When we came out, the street was almost deserted. Here and there a couple or a small circle of friends were sauntering or returning home. On a sunny day night, the ice-cream seller would be still selling ice-creams in his push-through cart. But not that night. It was all gloomy now, getting darker by minutes. So there started our second quest now, her face gloomier than the sky, tears gathering on the corners of her eyes. Not a good sign for a guy like me who had never consoled a girl's tear. I felt bad and sorry for the girl and prayed mutely for a breakthrough this time. But it seemed god had a different plan for the night. We failed.

We plodded back, each step heavier than the previous. For her it was fear, for me it was what to do next. The two lines of shops on the two sides of the road stood shutter closed now. With fatigue on our back, a gentle rain slapping our feet, we sat down on the lower stairs of the SBI building. Deserted building and dejected souls. And there she broke down, her tearing gushing out inconsolably. It is hard to console a stranger, harder it is to console a person who self blames for everything. I tried my own way. Few onlookers cast their intriguing eyes on us. I was sure they took me for a worthless boyfriend. When eventually, she composed herself, I asked her whether she wanted to inform her parents. She disagreed. "I can't let my stupidity or carelessness ruin their mind" - she argued. So I broached her options -1. she can stay in a hotel for the night. At least one or two hotels should still remain open. 2. If she want, she can stay with me.

She said she didn't have much money left and not sure it would cover the expense for a night. I said I could pay for her. But she didn't like me paying for her either. After a good deal of pause, she said, "I am going with you."
I asked her whether she was sure of it, whether she felt comfortable and secure enough with the idea of going with a stranger. She nodded and said, "yes."
"One day or another day, I have to trust someone. Ain't I? Nobody can't remain papa's innocent girl forever." she added as a second thought.

We left the marbled stair with heavy drops of rain drumming on our backs.
It was 1.20 a.m.

This entry was posted on Saturday, September 5, 2009 at Saturday, September 05, 2009 . You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments feed .

2 comments

This was a great read! I was drawn in quickly and left wanting more.

September 6, 2009 at 3:20 PM

interesting and amazing read!

September 7, 2009 at 9:51 AM

Post a Comment