Bhilla and Ranga were hardly 20 but had all the vices. School dropouts after they failed successively three times they relied on their wit to make some easy money. They were not nimble with their fingers for successfully picking pockets. They generally haunted railway station and central bus stand for filching small suitcases or bags when one of them kept the owner engaged in asking direction or about the next train/bus. They spent the ill gotten money on food, booze, drugs and women who sell sex.The last time they pilfered a laptop, there was a minor ruckus as the owner found Bhilla making a hasty exit. Ranga too ran with the owner to nab the culprit but Bhilla dropped the laptop and was too fleet these days footed for the fat owner to catch him. Ranga retrieved the laptop and the owner rewarded him with some money. Since then they avoided the station for a few days.
By nature Ranga was timid and did not like the way he was messing up with his life. He wished to get out of this but Bhilla the wily and ruthless of the two threatened him of dire consequences. Bhilla, heavily built and slightly older than Ranga was prone to sudden rage and violence. He drank more and spent his share mostly on women.
They had no money these days for booze and for other pleasures. Even the small balance they had for food was just enough for a couple of days. They dusted some old receipt books in the name of a fake home for destitute and orphans they had printed some months back when they had money. They had earlier duped a few gullible people saying they did social work part time by collecting money for the home that was in financial straits. Even small amounts would do, they would stress, as they needed cash instead of cheques. They hired for a day a pair of jeans and T shirt from the local dhobi and set out trying their luck. Many turned them away with some reason or the other. It was hot, the sun was scorching and throat parched.
They found a small house at the end of the street with vacant plots on both sides. When Bhilla knocked the door, a young girl of 18 opened slightly and asked what they wanted.
“We have come to collect donations for a destitute home. We work part time normally after college hours. Today there was no class. Can you please call your dad or mom?”said Bhilla in soft voice.
“Both are away. Mom is expected in an hour. Please come in the evening or some other day” she said and was about to close the door.
“One moment, we are very thirsty having walked in the hot sun. Can you kindly give us cool water? We would be thankful”
The young thing hesitated for a moment but on second thought went inside to fetch water. It was then Bhilla went inside dragging Ranga. When he closed the door, Ranga said”Bhilla, it is not proper. She has gone to get water trusting us. No harm should befall her. Open the door and let us wait outside”
“You fool, stay away from this. She looks good and it has been long since I went to a woman. If you so wish, get out before she comes” Bhilla said. Ranga could visualize how ruthless and beast like Bhilla can turn when a hapless woman were to fall in his hand and felt very sorry for the girl who had meanwhile come with a bowl of water and two steel tumblers.
The moment she noticed the door was locked from inside, she grew suspicious and asked “Who closed the door? Please go away”. As she moved towards the door, Bhilla with a smirk on his face caught her hand and dragged her close to him. As the young girl in fear shouted at him “don’t touch me. I will scream and have you caught by the neighbours.”
Bhilla laughed loudly and remarked “No one will hear you. I will be done with you in a short time. Do cooperate otherwise you will get hurt badly, I warn you”. He clasped her in a tight hug and pulled her to the sofa nearby. When she bit his hand, he slapped her hard and pushed her violently on the sofa.
When the girl looked at Ranga pleading for help, he stood for a few seconds bemused at his companion’s violence. When Bhilla started tearing and disrobing the girl, Ranga unknown to himself although he was no match to the strength of Bhilla, plucked courage and hit him on his head hard with a chair. When he slumped at the sudden assault, Ranga hit him again with chair repeatedly. He shouted to the girl “Go and change your clothes before he gets up and run outside. I do not think he will get up for quite some time”
By the time the girl came down in a minute or two in fresh clothes, Ranga had disappeared from the scène. She found him missing and came out of the house locking it from outside. She shuddered at the thought of what would have happened to her at the hands of the beast but for the kindly guy who turned out to be her benefactor. She gratefully remembered his face.
Tucked away in a corner in a general compartment without ticket, Ranga was in a train bound for Mumbai intent on starting a new life from scratch and was thankfully thinking of the girl who indirectly changed the course of his vicious life to an honest one.