Monday, March 16, 2015

A late night journey

I could not start earlier from the hospital. Uncle had just returned to intensive care unit after a major  surgery. I had to be with my aunt to provide her company and moral support. I could leave only after the attending doctor said uncle’s condition was stable. It was past 11 pm.I was afraid to take a cab at that hour. As I came out I found one three-wheeler at the gate. The driver had a monkey cap over his head and had a woolen blanket over him to ward off the cold wind in the wintry night. From his face he appeared to be past 50.
When I was hesitant to approach him, I heard him tell “It is late, beti. Tell me where you wish to go. I will drop you safely”
“How much would you want to go to Paschimvihar near Jwalahiri Market?”
“Pay me whatever the meter shows. It has not been tampered with”
As soon as I got into the vehicle, he tried to cover the side openings with Tarpaulin curtains.
Let them be open. Do not cover” I said
“Are you crazy? It is biting cold outside and windy too. Do not be afraid,” he said and continued to cover the openings despite my demur. I was tired and in no mood to argue. I hoped he would not engage me in conversation.
“Who is not well? Any of your close relatives?” he asked as the auto rickshaw started moving along the ring road. I knew he would ferret out more information from me. I did not reply him.
“It is ok if you do not wish to answer. Your fear is justifiable. The city has gone to dogs in the last three years by the wicked acts of a few but bringing bad reputation to many,” he said
“Sorry, it is not like that. I am very tired and stressed out. It is my dear uncle who is in hospital,” I replied
“I am sorry. Do you mind my smoking a beedi? It is very cold”
“No you can smoke” I said. I was not taken in by his deferential attitude and questions that expressed concern. I was happy that I was not travelling in a speeding car. Three wheelers are slow moving vehicles with openings on both sides. The driver was also within reach. I unzipped my bag and took the pepper spray in my hands.
He did not talk thereafter and continued to drive the vehicle at steady speed. It was dark and slightly foggy outside. I could only see the speeding street lights. I knew we had crossed JorBagh and was nearing Naraina. It was a desolate patch for a short distance. The vehicle made strange sound with jerks before it came to a grinding halt. I looked out .It was dark.
“Do not worry. I will set it right in a few minutes” he said as he climbed down the vehicle.
It was 11.45 pm. Some cars whizzed past. Memories of gruesome rape of a young and unsuspecting lady came to my mind. Is this a ruse and a prelude for some sinister act, I wondered. The pepper spray gave me some confidence.
As if he read my mind, I heard him sighing from darkness.”I know you are thinking of the recent rape and wondering why this man has stopped the vehicle. The snag is set right and we will be proceeding to Jwalahiri market now”
I did not like his presumptuous remark about the recent rape I cursed myself that my mobile was without charge but pretended to speak to my dad telling him that I am stuck near Naraina and would be home in 30 minutes.
As we were crossing Punjabi bagh, he admonished me for travelling late in the night “Don’t you educated people ever learn that Delhi is unsafe in the night for women? Why do you young women tempt the evil minded drivers by travelling alone?” he said
My anger grew at his audacity to advise me on what I should or not do. I decided not to answer him then but to give a piece of my mind when I reached my complex. I could see the vehicle turn into Paschimvihar road and my fears subsided when I saw the familiar surroundings. I was ready to forgive his unsolicited advice.
As he drew the vehicle to a stop after reaching my complex, I checked the meter and gave him 50 rupees more than the entitled night fare. Instead of accepting the money, I saw him crying and wiping his eyes with a kerchief. I asked him what the matter was and why he was sobbing. “Nothing, young lady” he said
When I insisted on knowing, he replied “Last year on this date in the same month, my daughter of your age foolishly but innocently took a three wheeler after late night shift. The driver stopped midway and took another accomplice in the vehicle only to destroy her dignity at a lonely place. She committed suicide the next day. Memories of her filled my mind when I saw you looking for a vehicle. May be I should not have advised you”
“I am extremely sorry, uncle, for misjudging all by the nefarious acts of a few. I have no words to express my sadness at your grief. Here take some more money” I said as I opened the purse.
“I don’t need any money, beti. I only want  my daughter back” he said as he cried inconsolably.






20 comments:

  1. Hmmm....don't know how many fathers in Delhi are crying like this. Well narrated story. I was a bit tensed while reading it.

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  2. Ohhh....words fail me...To tell the truth, I could not take the suspense and as soon as the auto stopped, I had jumped to the ending to know what has happened
    If only we were compassionate, if we were a little humane....if only....

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  3. Very well narrated KP.. I was almost on the edge of my seat while hoping that this would be a good guy. Everyone has a story to tell. I just wish we had more of such decent people around.

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  4. Isn't it sad that while reading the story I was sort of waiting for it to take an ugly turn? Our world has become such a bad place that good people like this auto-wallah just go unnoticed.

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  5. Well Narrated KP. Sensed he would be a good Samaritan but then you will never know these days since there are more sheep in wolf's clothing. We need more than pepper spray, some self defence techniques are a must.

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  6. So sad. Very touching.
    A few bring a bad name for all. Trust is at stake. We are extra fearful & cautious...

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  7. The suspense worked well, in this story. Although the end was not totally unexpected, it was still gratifying. When people say something strong, we ought to develop some empathy and think what made them tell that. Who knows, they might have been through something awful like the auto driver, here.

    Destination Infinity

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  8. A few wicked ones paint the entire tribe with a black brush ! Best for a young lady to stay put within closed doors at night than venture out in to the wicked roads of evil Delhi ! Even pepper sprays may not be of much help.

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  9. If such touching stories reach those that commit crimes, then probably we may expect some change in the society. Beautifully narrated.

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  10. Although we keep saying that we should not paint everybody with the same brush, still one cannot lose our prudence and trust everybody. Just because he was old doesn't rule out that he can do no harm.
    I think it would have been better for the girl to have stayed in the hospital itself and take the tension of reaching home safely. Although we keep harping women should be allowed to freely move around at any time without fear, I think it would take years for such a situation to happen. it is just not India, everywhere such incidents are bound to happen, unless we are trained in some Martial arts to defend ourselves.
    It is indeed sad, not just women, even men are not safe if they want to move around at unearthly hours.
    Nice story full of suspense.

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  11. One incident scares all of us. Throughout the story I was thinking it was going to have an ending that I wouldnt want to read. These days it is so difficult to even trust people we know, it has come to that!

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  12. Hmm , you used the oft repeated crime as a plot that lurked in the background, to craft a good story.

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  13. nicely penned down. We have got the attitude to mistake all the people because of the rowdy few! But its tough to believe and have faith too! :|

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  14. That was a very touching story Nana. But sadly, this crime has been firming its foothold in almost every city of India.

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  15. Heart wrenching tale, so well narrated. When will this end? Can India put an end to rapes?

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  16. So well written GP... Heart wrenching it is...
    I have experienced a similar situation where I had to take auto in Kerala... Late night and the auto driver was advising me that night time is unsafe and all that..

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  17. Appreciate the driver for what he did. We judge people easily, and sometimes we aren't aware of their good intentions.

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  18. Hmm..sadly that is the state of women safety in the country, no wonder women of all ages look at everyone with a hint of doubt.
    Not even an elderly nun was spared of the heinous crime...so fear is justifiable.

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  19. As usual I was hasty in passing judgements and almost yanked the spray from her to be like a knight in shining armour..literally taken for a ride..me!

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