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A collaboration over too much coffee.
coffee and pen

11 April, 2005

One Sultry Summer Evening...

It was a sultry summer evening when the young girl emerged from her French class into the growing darkness of the city. Since she lived on the opposite corner of the city, rickshaws usually refused to go there unless she paid them double fare and public buses that she usually relied on, catered to the unsavoury sorts at that hour. So on days that she had classes in the evening, she usually had to ask either her father or brother to work a little late so one of them could pick her up on his way home. That day both of them were out of town, so she swallowed her pride and asked one of her nice-gentlemanly-sort-of-male-friends to do her a favour and drop her home...

Being the perfect gentleman, the man in question rose to the occasion and agreed to come to the rescue of this dainty damsel. He was there on time. Her professor, as usual, took his own sweet time in winding up the class, so she came out a few minutes late. The first one to leave the class she came out slightly out of breath from running down to meet him, feeling guilty about having made him wait. She shouldn't have bothered for she found him lounging on his powerful bike, admiring the pretty dames that emerged from the other class. Cheekily reminding him that he had a fiancee waiting for him in another city, she tapped him on his shoulder and gestured to him to start up his bike. Her friend grunted in response, revved his bike and then turned around slightly with one eyebrow cocked waiting for her to climb on behind him. Bracing herself with one hand on his shoulder, she swung one leg over his bike, and settled behind him, taking care to tuck in her gossamer fine white Lucknowi kurta underneath her, so it wouldn't get entangled in the bike's tyres.

The bike shot off like a rocket into the twilight zone. He took the longer route via the Cantonment, as he was prone to. This route allowed him to show off his skills on the bike, since it had wider, better laid roads and wasn't subject to heavy traffic. So he could zip from one side of the road to the other, revving his engine up when he wanted and letting it idly coast along the slope when he felt like that. Meanwhile, she leaned back in her seat and let herself get lost in the web of leaves that covered the roads like a canopy. She loved doing that. It filled her with a feeling of exhilaration and made her want to stretch out her arms and let the wind caress her body. She had to restrain from doing that, lest her friend promptly stop the bike and ask her to hop off. Apparently only he was allowed to indulge in histrionics of any sort! The stars twinkled back at her through the leaves and the breeze ruffled her hair into a tangled mess. She'd have to spend a long time brushing her hair out when she got home...

Lost in her own world, she was taken by surprise when her friend suddenly stopped in the middle of the road cursing heavily. She looked beyond him to see a road block and a traffic policeman steering all traffic through a gate stating "Defense Area. Trespassers shall be prosecuted." The policeman informed them that the bridge ahead was undergoing repair and so they would have to take this small deroute that would bring them out into the heart of the city. "Just one left turn and then one right turn, and you'll be out of this Defense locality." Her friend wanted to turn back and go via the main city. She reasoned that if he did so, they'd have a very long ride ahead of them and urged him to take the deroute. After all as the policeman said, it couldn't take them longer than a few minutes to get out of this region and back on their usual track!

Little did she know...the tiny lane that wound it's way through what seemed like a Research campus maintained by the Defense, stretched on for an eternity before finally showing them out into strange surroundings. Densely populated only by trees, there was no sign of human population for as far as they could see. Darkness had spread it's shroud over everything, and they peered into the inky blackness of the night trying to figure out what area of this was. The looked to the left, then right, but all they could see were trees. No sign of human inhabitation. He turned around and glared at her. "And what would the madam like me to do now?" Refusing to see any possible danger in the situation, she relied on her keen sense of direction and asked him to turn right...

They must have been riding down the long road that cut through the trees for nearly half an hour when they passed a bunch of old villagers. It looked like a funeral procession. "At this time? And why are there only old people in the procession?" she leaned forward and asked her friend. "Don't ask me," he shot back, "you were the one who wanted to come this way!" A little later they crossed some men lounging under a Banyan tree. Deciding to stop and ask for directions, they turned around and asked the men which direction was the main city. In response one of the men lurched over and asked her friend what he was doing with a pretty young girl in such an area, after sundown. He was reeking of alcohol. Before she could even understand the man's insinuation, her friend had revved up his engine and shot off again. She wondered if they should have turned back from that road block after all. As though he was reading her thoughts, her friend spoke up and told her in a terse note that this was reminding him of the time when he was driving down such a deserted area and a bunch of drunk hoodlums stopped his bike and beat him up. He turned his head slightly and added, "I was alone that time. This time I have you with me and I'm answerable to your parents..."

A sudden vision of a bunch of drunk men beating up her friend, before turning to her, sent chills down her spine. Surely this little deroute cum adventure to narrate at home wouldn't turn into something she'd regret for the rest of her life? Pulling her Bandhini dupatta tighter around her body, she squinted into the darkness looking desperately for some landmark that would guide them back to civilisation. She shut her eyes, praying fervently that they would approach civilisation soon.

Someone up there must have heard her prayers, for suddenly her friend exclaimed in delight. A few metres ahead was a bridge beyond which there seemed to be a small village. As her friend made his way across a cobbled she cursed under her breath, for with every bump her back lightly hit the back of his bike. It was hurting her in the same spot as she'd hurt herself when she'd slipped down a flight of stairs five years ago. She'd have one hell of a sore back the next day.

As soon as the cobbled path got over, they stopped at a Paanwalla and asked him how to find their way back to the main city. He asked them to go straight ahead and turn right at the third crossing...10 minutes later, they saw a familiar building loom up at them! It was a church that lay in the Cantonment region. Had they not been derouted they would have crossed it just a few minutes after that road-block. Instead they had spent over an hour riding through unfamiliar territory, their imaginations subjected to all kinds of horrific incidences and their backs getting screwed on cobbled paths that were definitely not made for bikers!

Half an hour later, he delivered her safely home, none the worse except for a slight bump on her penultimate vertrebra that would probably require a gentle massage and a heat-pad later that night. Exhausted, she trudged up to her house, while he turned back to make the long ride back, across town to his own pad....


Blogger livinghigh said...

hmmmm... surprised the lucknowi kurta escaped unscathed! ;-)

12 April, 2005 00:06  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Edit. Edit. Edit. :)

12 April, 2005 21:13  
Blogger Geetanjali said...

Livinghigh - Ooops, did I forget to mention that she her kurta was quite dirty by the end of the long ride back home? ;-)

Anon - Pray tell me what to edit and who i must "thank" for this precious comment on the follies in my text! :-)

12 April, 2005 22:58  

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