It was 1.30 am. The Ola cab did not turn up. I was in a fix. I wanted to go home safely but it was late. For a girl staying in New Delhi, transportation at such an hour may not be a problem but reaching your destination safely becomes the primary concern. My phone rang with an interval of 5 minutes each time my dad called up. But what can I do now? Take a lift? That’ll be nothing but inviting danger, my brain answered.
Minutes later, I found the best possible solution for myself. Be a man. It was cold winter. I was in black jeans and a blue windcheater. My bag had a black muffler too. Within the next two minutes, I became a man. Sorry, I tried to disguise myself as a man. I started walking down the road without having the least wish of taking a lift. I tried to collect all my strength, mentally and physically to combat any danger. Fear engrossed my mind making me weaker second by second. And here was my karate training that was continuously combating with the fear of getting raped in the city. It was this karate training that had fought against so many patriarchal confinements: be it my decision of not marrying at an early age of 22 or my family’s ‘problems’ of not letting me become a journalist. Karate had given me enough mental stamina and now it’s time to prove its prowess.
My thoughts were interrupted by an unknown phone call. Who’s calling at this hour? My phonebook contained all my colleagues’ phone numbers and so possibly it’s not from any of my colleagues. Neither it’s from my home nor from my roomie. My thought processes lengthened and finally the call was missed. But the next moment, my phone screamed again and here was again that number. This time, I received the call.
“Hello, it’s Srijoni .”
My heart screamed. My brain dizzied. All my thoughts jumbled. It was a phone call from my once-upon-a-time, so-called “bestie” . Who knew my best friend was going to be the killer of all those beautiful moments of my life!
“I have some good news, Shinjini. Just wanted to share my joy.”
I became silent. The other side didn’t stop yet.
“Hey, today I became the mother of Adi’s son.”
“Congrats. Enjoy your motherhood. All the best.”
I disconnected the call and switched off my phone. Tears rolled down my eyes. My muffler was strong enough to hide them from the rest of the world and to keep my disguise intact. But now the fear of walking down the road at midnight was overcome by the memories that Aditya had given me.
For nearly five years we had been close friends. My college and varsity friends thought that we were in a committed relationship. But we weren’t. I did love Aditya but did he love me really? This question revolved in my mind at moments of seclusion. No doubt we were close friends and the intimacy we had slowly grown, had given rise to some special feelings in both of us. Nonetheless, no one spoke about it but always felt it; at least that was the case with me. Day by day my emotions piled up and it outpoured in front of my best friend, Srijoni. I trusted Srijoni and confided my feelings in her. Who knew after some years, I would be surprised to see Aditya getting married to Srijoni! This was what my friendship paid me. Srijoni was a good friend of Aditya but my feelings had catalyzed in molding the friendship to an affair!
The mental turmoil within me caused me so pain that I had started to hate friendship. For me, the world was gradually becoming devoid of some soothing adjectives: trust, friendship, love. Day by day my friends’ circle decreased until it tended to zero. Outside I was merry for my family but my inner soul was burning. Life became a solemn desert. Amidst this desert, I got a job in a reputed newspaper as a journalist. My family objected violently only to surrender to my indomitable nature. Journalism was the bread and butter for both my stomach and mind. Shinjini Bose was created by journalism but Shinjini was alone in her heart. Still, my professional life had the power to overcome the grief of betrayal in my personal life. However, this phone call suddenly pricked in this cover, bringing in another phase of tremendous pain.
My contemplation was again disturbed. This time, it was a tyre puncture of a private car. The man on the driver’s seat came out and looked on the road for help. His dress well indicated that he wasn’t a chauffeur but someone from a well to do family. Within the next thirty seconds, he stood in front of me.
“Hey bro, can you please help me out?” he said and pointed towards his car.
“Yeah. Sure.” I replied.
Both of us replaced the worn out tyre with a new one. He started the car and it started off smoothly. I turned towards the pavement and started to walk. The car went about 2 meters and stopped. The man came out of the car again and waved at me.
“It’s late. May I drop you at your place, bro?”
“No … thanks.”
“Where’re you going?”
“It’s okay… don’t worry.”
“Arre … speak up, bro.”
“Ganeshnagar … Lotus temple stop.”
“I am going on the same way, bro. It’s late. Come along. I can drop you there.”
I had to give in to his persistent requests. Soon I got down at the stop and bade him goodbye.
“Thanks and good night.”
“Good night, Ma’am. I should be thankful.”
I was taken aback. My feminine voice spoke, “I…I mean…how did you know?”
“Your nails are painted mauve.” he said with a grin, “Noticed it while driving the car.”
I fell short of words. He took out his card and gave me.
Mr. Siddharth Choudhary, IAS read his card.
“Call me if I can be of any help to you, anytime. Friends, eh?”
I was at my doorstep when I remembered my Mom’s words.
“Beta, where have you been for so long? Don’t you know roads are not safe for girls these days? We were so tensed.”
“I am back, Ma. There are still good people; not all are Aditya and Srijoni. Good night.”
I turned towards my bedroom; my mind was still captivated by Siddharth’s thoughts.