It was raining heavily. She gazed at the busy street in front of her. She was Anika. Dressed in a pretty sky blue salwar, she looked pretty as a fresh flower. Her curly hair blew on her face wetting her glowing face. She was a typical college girl waiting for her bus to reach college. It was a busy Monday morning. The sound of honking horns pierced through her ears! The traffic was at a snail pace, and people have started getting irritated. They had to reach their offices, colleges or schools in time. Speaking of college, she had a class test today. She quickly memorised her portions. She had left few pages. Ha! That is enough! I will pass for sure. This is not university exams to worry too much!
Yes! A bus is coming! She quickly boarded the bus jumbling with her half-open umbrella. She looked around. Luckily there were some vacant seats. She sat on the front row seat and gazed outside. She loved looking out of windows and gazing at the people outside. Then, a woman boarded the bus. She sat next to Anika. Anika stole a glance at the woman. She wore a baby pink saree, thick gold necklace and gleaming studs. Wow! Maybe someone from a well-off family! She guessed. Rain has stopped now. Thank God! Otherwise, I might reach college like a wet puppy.
The woman smiled at her. “Hi dear..where are you going? College? ” she asked..Anika smiled back and said, yes aunty..St.Ann’s College. I’m a final year student. Oh! The woman heaved a sigh of relief. “I also have to get down at the same stop. Going to see my daughter at a textile shop near to your college.” She said. Yes, I know that shop. We often go there for shopping, Anika replied. She noticed that the woman’s eyes were welling up. What happened aunty? She asked, concerned..”Nothing dear..it is almost three years since I saw my daughter. She fell in love with a man from another caste. My husband didn’t allow her to marry that man. I pleaded with my husband to let her marry him. After all, what do we need other than our kid’s happiness?” She sobbed quietly. Oh! Anika felt sorry for her. She touched her shoulders and said, it is ok aunty. Please don’t cry. What happened then? The lady continued. ” Well, both were adamant! My daughter said she would marry that man itself. My husband got angry and slapped her! That night my daughter eloped with her lover and married him! Now, it has been three years since that incident. Still, my husband is angry at her. She now has a baby. I never even got a chance to see that baby. Today, she called me and said she is coming to this textile shop to buy dresses for her sister-in-law’s wedding. So, I decided to go and see her without my husband’s knowledge after he went to the office. What else can I do dear? I’m also a mother. I want to see my daughter and grandson.” She stopped and looked at Anika whose eyes were now welled up in tears hearing the story. “Can you do me a favour dear?” She asked Anika. Yes aunty, anything to make you happy! ” Nothing big dear, can you take my bus ticket? I don’t have money with me as I came without my husband’s knowledge”. Oh, is that all? I will take aunty. Anyways, I also have to take a ticket to the same stop. She called the conductor; two tickets please..she said handing over the money. The woman seemed lost in her thoughts. Poor thing, thought Anika as she gazed at the traffic outside.
After some time, the woman got up and went to the conductor. Where is she going? Anika wondered.Ah! Whatever! She gazed back at some little kids playing in the street.
The woman went up to the conductor, “brother, I need your help.” She said in hushed tones to the conductor, glancing behind to check whether Anika was looking. “What happened ma’am?” Conductor asked. The woman replied, you see that girl over there? She had taken the ticket for both of us. “Yes, ma’am, I saw you both talking,” the conductor replied. Yes, the same! She is my daughter. She had a love failure and is very depressed. Recently, she had been showing signs of mental disturbances. I’m very worried about her and want to get her treated. I had called up Dr Deepak, the famous psychologist at the SPV hospital next stop. He has agreed to check her and counsel her if needed. But, the problem is that my daughter won’t allow to come if I told her I’m taking her to a doctor. So, can you please help me to get her out of the bus? Rest, I will manage somehow..she stopped with bated breath and looked hopefully at the conductor. The conductor glanced at the girl, a pretty girl..good chance to touch her! He smirked! “Yes, ma’am, I can help you, don’t worry” he replied. The woman heaved a sigh of relief! Thank you so much, brother! God bless you!
Anika turned back again and looked. What is this aunty talking to the conductor for a long time? She wondered. Then she saw the conductor glancing at her with a smirk on his face! She felt uneasy and quickly looked back to the street, unable to comprehend what is happening.
The bus screeched to a halt at the next stop. The woman and the conductor rushed to her. She stared at them bewildered and unable to understand what is happening. The woman grabbed her hand and pushed her down. The conductor also grabbed her. Her mind was in a whirl, what is happening? She screamed out loud, “what are you doing? Leave me, please! Who are you? Why are you doing this aunty? I don’t know her! “She cried at the top of her voice! The passengers looked up questioningly.Nothing! This girl is mad. Her mother is taking her to hospital. The conductor shouted at the onlookers. Anika stared at him..” Mother? Mad? What are you telling? I don’t even know her! She is not my mother!” She cried desperately! They were pushing her down the steps. Her pleas fell on deaf ears!
Stop! An elderly man shouted! That woman is lying! She is not that girl’s mother! That girl is not mad! I was sitting behind them and had heard them talking. That woman is lying! Leave that poor girl! He shouted angrily! Everyone stared at the old man and looked back at the woman. The conductor loosened his grip and looked at the woman. Her face turned pale; sweat broke from her eyebrows! She knew she was caught! She left the girl’s hands and immediately rushed out of the bus..An Omni van was waiting for her. She rushed inside, and the van sped off!
Anika was still trembling in fear and sobbing uncontrollably.The old man touched her forehead, “Don’t cry dear, better you go back home and rest.” He said. She looked up and touched his feet. “Thanks a lot, uncle. You saved me” He smiled. ” Never trust a stranger dear, the world is not a good place! Always be alert!” She nodded her head amidst sobs!
NB: This story is a true incident. Just the character names and places have been made up by me. It happened years back, and I remember hearing it and being afraid to talk to any stranger when I was a school girl. Recently my friend reminded me of this incident and asked me whether I could write about it. He said he feels women and girls should be aware of this incident. I guess he is right!