It began just like any other day. Saldna and I started off to catch the 7:20 bus to the college. It came just as we reached the bus stop and we got in. The proximity of exams had made Saldna a religious girl. So after getting off the bus, she decided to give a short visit to the temple before entering class. I only waited outside. Not because I don’t believe in being close to God, but perhaps, because God doesn’t believe in being close to me. She came back out in ten minutes and it was time for college.
Just before we entered the class we heard an uproar of sound come from inside. As soon as we went in, we were informed that Mr. Bhagavantam Subramanian Iyer, the lecturer due for the first hour, was absent. We joined the cheers!
The Cool-kitz gang took no time to assemble.
“Wonder what’s up with Bassy!” said Saldna. ‘Bassy’ was how the class conveniently referred to the particular lecturer. He was known for his regularity and hence the news of his leave was taken as a surprise.
“Heaven knows!” replied Abhilasha, Saldna’s best friend.
“Hey Abhi, don’t think we forgot. When is the treat?” cried out Vikram. This was the regular practise. Let alone birthdays and other regular celebrations, a treat was asked for at the slightest excuse- a prize at a sports competition or in some culturals, a sibling or even a cousin’s wedding, and of course on getting high marks. Abhilasha Raghunath had won Rs.10,000 in a national level project presentation competition. An achievement of such scale guaranteed that the treat would not be overlooked.
“Why bother with treats? I’m throwing a party this evening. 5’O clock. My place. The whole class is invited!”
The class was known to be noisy even under normal circumstances. With two such exciting upshots early in the day it went wild in celebration. Later the second hour lecturer came to put a full stop to the cacophony. The rest of the day was uneventfully gloomy.
By 5:20 that evening the road in front of Abhilasha’s house was crowded with two-wheelers. Shruti, Vikram, Nina, Sunita, Sidharth, Anu—they were all there. Eleven students of the class could make it to the party and most of them came on their bikes. Saldna and I came by bus.
The house was in perfect condition for a party. Both her parents having left the city, Abhilasha was left alone in the house. So, with no elders to be disturbed loud rock music blared from the stereo. The fridge was filled with two-litre coke bottles. Pizzas were ordered. Eating, chatting, laughing, shouting—all went on at once. And when you make merry, time slips by quickly. Before we knew it, it was almost eight. The guests began leaving the house one after the other. By now Abhilasha’s house was in quite a mess. Since our house was just 15 minutes away by walk, Saldna decided to stay on to help tidy things up. Some more chatting went on and by the time we left the time was almost ten.
We had walked this road often but never so late. It was surprising that it could seem so strange and lonely. We moved on nervously.
Suddenly, out of the darkness, came a large shabby-looking man. From the way he was shaking and shouting he was certainly heavily drunk. He looked at Saldna, a chill went down her spine. He stared at her for sometime and then began walking unsteadily towards her. And in a broken voice came the song, “Rooppu tera... mastaana....” Saldna stood still, frozen in fear.
The man was now dangerously close. I could feel Saldna’s hand gripping me tightly. I alone could do some help. Then in a fraction of a second, before the rogue could realise what was going on, my sole landed on his hairy face in a powerful blow. That one shot seemed enough. The villain stumbled, fell over and lay motionless. We rushed to the safety of our home.
Later that night I lay thinking what a strange day it had been. It started so well, was full of fun and in the end it became such a frightening adventure. I hope I don’t have to face a day like this ever again. But hey! I got so busy speaking about it, I almost forgot to tell you who I am. I am the pair of high-heeled sandals, Saldna has been wearing for the past two years!