16th December 2012.
Who does not remember that dark, unfortunate night? Who can forget the atrocities that generated widespread national and international coverage, the incident that was widely condemned, both in India and abroad?
Yet many still comment, “Its sheer foolishness for a girl to ascend a bus in the national capital after the sunset”.
Well then I believe we all might have done something foolish at some point of time in life. It’s only that we didn’t have to face few monsters as some unfortunate people do. Today I will share with you something which could be deemed as complete FOOLISHNESS on my part.
Year 2004! I was working in England and had already spent two years in the country. I was young, lively & daring and as per some, agreeable in terms of looks.
That evening I was euphoric. I had already set off my journey on one month vacation to India to attend a close relative’s wedding. As my flight was at 5 am in the morning from London Heathrow I booked my coach to Heathrow at 11 pm at night just to be on the safer side. My cab reached the bus stop on time and I found some 15-20 passengers waiting in the bus-stop for the same coach as I did. The coach would have stopped at Stanstead, Heathrow as well as Gatwick airports; yet to our surprise it never came. Whatever might be the reason, it was something which was unheard of in a country like England. Soon the crowd started receding like an ebb tide. Like me most of the passengers had to catch flights in one of the three airports and after waiting for 30 minutes and raising complaints at the central coach association many rushed to have some alternative arrangements on their own.
I was heartbroken. After preparing for this moment for a long time, applying for a month’s leave, good amount of shopping for the wedding and weaving thousand dreams to get reunited to my family after a long time, this was the last thing I had expected. I was on the verge of tears when heard his voice.
“Young lady would you like to accompany me till Stanstead?”
I looked up and found myself facing a tall well-built British man might not be a day more than 32 years old. The first emotion creeping up inside me was fear followed by uneasiness and cough. On a normal day I would never have accepted such a dubious offer. I was about to say “No” when my alter ego stopped me. I was tempted, may be because I didn’t wish to let go my expensive ticket that I purchased out of my hard-earned money, may be because I was dying to meet my parents and my whole family eagerly waiting for me back home.
Soon another old lady in 60s came to him rushing and he immediately agreed to give her a lift too. I heaved a sigh. The man had to take a flight from Gatwick and like me he too was in a soup as the coach didn’t appear on time. He lived nearby and hence had quickly grabbed his car and offered me and the old lady to accompany him till Stanstead. The old lady had to travel till few stops before Stanstead, I had to go to Heathrow and the guy had to go as far as Gatwick. I must have staked my life when I agreed to that super fast plan with my heart beating faster & faster. After a full day of work it was difficult, yet I promised myself not to sleep, and kept on pinching myself from time to time. I had my cell phone ready in case I required it for any urgency or well mishap. But Alas! Despite all my attempts I lost all senses and fell into a dark dreamless sleep until I felt a gentle tap on my shoulder.
“Miss, we have reached Stansted airport. You can get an airport connecting coach from here for Heathrow. Please hurry up. I have to catch my flight in 4 hours” The man said. Then I realized that the old lady must have left long back and I was alone with a stranger in a car in a foreign land. Like a zombie I collected the huge trolley bag from the dickey and saw him leave. I still can’t recollect whether I paid him a proper gratitude as the next coach to Heathow was about to leave. Reaching Heathow just in time I almost ran to the scheduled Gate as the last passenger on board.
Hours later when I was safe and sound in my cozy economy seat of Virgin Atlantic flight and enjoying the much-awaited fragrant Biryani, I recollected last few hours of one the most unforgettable day of my life.
Like any traditional middleclass family I was raised by my parents with loads of cautions. As a little girl, obedient and most humble, I learnt them. Yet life made me unlearn those rules from time to time. How many times I have spent nights at workplace for project delivery, I have lost count. How many times I have travelled at midnight both inside and outside India for work, I have lost count. If not for pleasure, yet for duty I risked something or the other as and when required.
At times I have encountered monsters; I have come across with angels too.
This article is written by Debajani Mohanty. She is a well known writer who wrote “The Curse of Damini”
Reach Debajani on: debumonty @ gmail.com
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