She could feel the movement of hot sweat on the side her right cheek. With centralized AC around her, Rashmi was suffocated with heat in her body. “I need to get out” she kept reminding herself. “That’s it”. She took an early off from work and left for the day.
While she was walking towards the parking lot she could sense somebody following her. Heavy steps, a man. Following her constantly! She couldn’t run or scream, she was paralyzed. She somehow managed to walk briskly. Her brisk walk became a run behind the pillar to wait till those steps subside. After waiting for 3–4 minutes she decided to peep out of the shadow. Nobody was there. She looked again. But nobody was there. “Was that all in my head? No it can’t be, it was so clear and near!”
She ran further! As fast as she could, she ran towards her vehicle. In haste she pushed down the helmet over her head and rode. No sooner did she start, she realized taking a cab or an auto would have saved her the dread of parking lot. But it was too late. She was out now. She cannot stop or go back. She had to reach home before it turns out to be her worst nightmare of her life.
Riding at a speed of 80 km/hr was not making things easy. She could feel all eyes on her. The sweaty guy on the cycle, the frowning pedestrian, that girl with her dark sun shades in the car, those wide-eyed children in the school bus, everyone, every single person around her was looking at her with suspicion and distaste. She rode through a route which she could no longer recall. She knew she was being followed and watched continuously. Whatever courage was left had to be used to drive till she reaches her safe zone, her home.
Only if she was cautious when she left her place this wouldn’t have happened.” her nagging mind kept throwing the same question at her.
Her phone rang. She disconnected it after 4 rings. But somebody kept calling her again. Same unknown number kept flashing on the screen. She couldn’t pick up the call for 3 reasons- first, she was on wheels and it was against the law to pick up calls while riding, second, stopping and taking call would cost her time and she can’t afford to do so, third- what if the call belongs to a certain somebody, who can make her current situation worse. She switched off her phone.
“Almost there. Once I cross the signal I will be safe”. But to reach that signal there are 2 small signals. She jumped the first one easily. While she was skipping the second one traffic police noticed her and tried to stop her. But she didn’t stop. She had to keep going. She ignored the law and crossed the signal. Police noted her number, but that can be sorted in future.
She was on the final signal. The longest signal of the city. She was relived and restless. While she was celebrating her safety she realized she was surrounded by a military bus in front, a police man on bike on one side and a police jeep at the back. Young, mature, female, male, dark, fair all sort of officers were there. They could see her clearly head to toe. She could feel the redness spreading across her face. She was stuck. She looked up at the countdown: 44, 43, 42… All she could do is pray and hope. 41, 40, 39… They were all watching her or she thought they were. 38, 37… She adjusted herself and her clothes trying to behave as casual as possible but her soul was screaming and shouting out loud.
She was staring at the mirror in her place. She made it there after final 15 minutes of dread at the last signal. She wanted to look her best today with her favorite grey top. She checked everything- Accessories, shoes, pants to be worn today but forgot about the “Pink Bra”. It ruined itall. No matter how much she tried to adjust the “Pink Bra” with its pink neon straps it kept popping from the sides and showed her classless self. She knew something was wrong before she started for work but she realized it after some hours at work when she reached forward to pick her coffee mug in office. Like a spy she tried many means to hide it but failed and finally had to leave office without telling the reason of doing so. She had been conscious all day long but as they say “what’s done is done, all thanks to the ‘Pink Bra’”.
Illustrated by: Theresa Nguyen
Written by: Shalvi Govil