AS THE WORLD SAW IT...
The little girl came bobbing down the lit podium, two fat trophies clenched in her bantam hands. The top of her tiny head barely visible above the two patches of glistening silver, she came bustling straight into the woman’s arms, dizzy as she was with excitement. The woman felt proud of the little girl, of her miniature bundle of talent, of her own ability of bringing up the child as genuine a fairytale as can be; in the face of profound hurdles. The applause, sweet, jingled in her ears, as she scooped up all three as un-clumsily as she could, already overladen as her arms were, with baby and bags.
And at that fateful moment of reunion, poof! went the lights.
The entire school was plunged into darkness. Peons and staff rushed about the suddenly-sinister premises in apparent confusion. The Annual School Gathering of M.I.T. had almost reached a well-sketched-out conclusion, with the prize-distribution ceremony being the last but one. The HeadMaster, having forsaken his congratulatory end-of-function speech, had zipped away in his Jag minutes ago. No one considered it worth spending a few thousand units of completely-funded power to start up the sole generator of the institution to see its menagerie safely outside. However, with no clue how, the entire campus emptied in ten minutes flat. With the lady and her crew left stranded at the gate. The girl clung to her, her smile of triumph astray, as the baby fought for escape. Hesitantly, the woman approached the watchman fumbling with the lock.
“ Excuse me…suniye bhaiyya…”
“ Memsahib, jaldi ghar jaiye. Itni raat ko yahaan par akele rukna theek nahi.”
And the next second saw him furiously pedaling away on his bicycle.
So much for the advice, she sighed.
Once again, she was left completely alone at an unearthly timing in an alien city at one of the only two places she was familiar with [the other, being home]; with no car. Her husband was away on tour. As he was, most of the times. She didn’t know the local language. And she had two kids, and baggage in tow. But she couldn’t linger there for eternity. She shouldn’t.
She got out of the lane and into the main road. The few souls in sight passed her by as if she were an invisible soul walking the earth.
At least, I know the place I am in.
And, as if hope begets hope, a cabby stole across the baleful road towards her. Relief, warm and fiery, crept over her skin, erupting into goose bumps.
“10, Station Road.”
The lady thanked all her lucky stars as she cajoled her kids in. What would she have done, but for the godsent chariot?!
Five minutes into the journey, the hope that was apparently begotten revealed its true self.
The cabbie led his beauty into a desolate bylane.
“Memsahib, full return mangata hai.”
“Kya? Lekin….aapne pehle kahaan bataaya...”
“Ab bataa rahaa hoon na, madam. Kyon baat ko bevajah bigaadne par tuli hui hain! Aapke liye kaunsi badi baat hai!”
Expectant, secretive smile.
“Main half-return doongi….aap hi ke association dwaara banaye gaye rules ke mutaabik. Aap…aap zabardasti nahi kar sakte..."
The next minute witnessed the cabbie pulling up his vehicle to a screech, pulling the helpless woman and her kids out mercilessly, and driving away; with malice in his eyes, and ice in his voice.
“Paregaon se aake akadh dikhaati hai, saali!”
Classic! She’d forgotten. Misery begets itself more than hope does. Much, much more. Fate seemed to take heavenly delight in tossing her around. Picking up her own words and transforming them into double-edged tools. Now she didn’t even have a name for the ground she ventured an uncertain step forth.
The girl clung on tighter, and she felt like clinging back....