I landed at Indira Gandhi International Airport today morning at 8. It was a bit chilly outside the airport. I tightened the scarf around my neck, and extended my left hand out to stop the next cab.
-“Delhi Institute of Engineering”, I told the driver with an inquisitive eye.
Before getting into the car, I felt my left pocket to see if the pepper spray was in place and easily accessible if required.
Priya knows about my yearly visits to Delhi, though I have never talked to Nitin or anyone else about these before. I remembered that I had forgotten to mention Priya about my visit this year, though I knew she couldn’t be any less supportive. The last time I saw her was when I stormed out on her four days ago. I made a mental note to patch things up with her once I got back. After all, she was another half of me. We were like peas in a pod, two bodies but one soul.
The cab stopped in front of the institute main gate. I paid the driver the fare, gave him a little tip and said him thank you. I took my bag pack over my shoulder and took a little sip from my water bottle and placed it back in the side compartment of the bag. I looked at the signboard on top of the main gate, took a deep breath , and placed my foot inside.
Ten minutes later, I stood leaning at the gate of the cafeteria, my eyes on the table at the farthest corner. He was sitting there, as usual alone with his Kulhar of hot Chai on the table.
As usual he was just staring at it, biting his lips, deep in thought. Few seconds later, he looked up and I realised he had spotted me. He waved his hand.
-“Hey”, I doubt whether my voice had reached till there, I could barely hear myself. My lips were pressed tight.
He got up from his chair and slowly came towards me. After staring a few seconds at me, he hugged me. It was a strong but gentle hug. I felt a chill down my spine. I hugged him tight and closed my eyes. Well, just looking at him brings back a vast array of memories.
George is the only person who knows me best, even more than Priya or Nitin does. He is the only person, who knows who I really am and I can be completely myself with him.
-“So, you still are in Delhi?” I asked him, my right hand on his left bicep, my voice now barely a whisper. I asked him, though I knew the answer.
-“My brother is here.” He said. I could feel the pain in his voice. He held my left hand tight.
-“You know you don’t have to do this.” I was staring at our hands, tightly held together. I couldn’t make up the courage to look at his eyes.
-“I do. My brother is here. Even though I am only a minute older than Tom is, still that makes me the older sibling. I need to take care of him.” His voice was much louder now.
-“No you don’t. You need to get out of here and get a life.” I could feel my eyes welling up.
-“If you think so, why do you keep coming back here?” I could feel his eyes on me now.
I freed my hand from his. Taking a deep breath in, I said, “This is my place. This city, this college, this place and I have a history. I left my soul here”
The conversation was going nowhere
-“Shall we go?”George asked.
He put his hand gently on my shoulder as we walked till the main gate in silence. His car was parked there. He held open the passenger door for me.
-“Thanks”, I said as I got inside.
In a few minutes we were on the highway. It was chilly outside but I still didn’t feel like closing my side of the window. I wanted to look outside and take in as much of the sight, as much of the air outside.
As the forests on the side started getting denser, I could feel my hand on his left hand which was controlling the gear. My grip was getting tighter. Tears started coming in my eyes as I looked outside.
Eight Years earlier... 19th November
-“You know you are a pretty romantic boyfriend. Giving your girl the first ride in your car”, I smiled; my teeth all out as I looked at him driving calmly.
-“Yeah, a special girl like mine deserves some royal treatment.”
I folded my arms around his left arm and placed my head on his shoulder.
It was 10 pm and we were returning after watching Pride and Prejudice. I remember every little detail of the night very clearly.
-“You know I envy you. You are so lucky, getting a car from your parents on your birthday” I sneered at him romantically.
-“Well, my brother and I are supposed to share it. And it’s more like getting into college gift rather than a birthday gift. My parents always thought we were not even smart enough to become waiters” He laughed loudly.
I loved that childish laugh on his face.
As we neared the highway, we saw a police checking post far ahead. My hands froze. I am personally not very fond of the police. He must have sensed my dilemma.
-“You ok?” He asked, concerned.
-“I am not particularly very fond of the police. Wherever they go, problems follow them.”
-“You are making me laugh. Don’t worry. Must be some regular check for drunk driving.”
He gave a pat on my hand.
I wasn’t sure. As we neared, a policeman signalled us to pullover.
As we stopped he came from behind and knocked on the window glass with his stick. Tom pulled his window down.
-“Girlfriend, Eh? You two where going at this time of the night? Doing hanky panky eh?”
The policeman said, leering at me. His mouth stinked.
-“Sir, this is my wife, and Dhanaraj Sharma is my father-in-law. If you want you can talk to him right now”, Tom said in a bold voice as he scrolled through the contact list through his phone. I doubted whether we did really pass off as a married couple.
Whatever he said, had done its job. The policeman became stiff. “No sir, why disturb big sir at this time of the night? We do some routine checks sir, drunk driving kids, you see sir.
Not safe here. You and madam go sir. Sorry sir, for disturbing ”, he blabbered with a smile on his face. I hate that smile.
As we crossed the checking post, We both burst out laughing. I couldn’t control my laughter.
-“Who the hell is Dhanaraj Sharma and how do you know him” I asked Tom.
-“Well he is your dad and since I married you, I know him.” He laughed his patented childish laugh.
I slapped him on his hand, there was a big smile on my face. “No, I mean for real.”
-“Stupid, he is the director of our college. As far as why that guy was scared of him, I have no idea.”
And we both again burst out laughing. We were on the highway now. As the forests started getting denser, I could hear a screeching sound.
-“What’s that?” I looked at Tom.
-“I don’t know, never heard that before”
Five hundred meters further, our car jerked and stopped suddenly.
-“What happened?” It was getting late and I was worried.
-“Lemme check” Tom said and got out of the car. I went out behind him.
It was getting colder and I could hear some voices nearby, so I told him to hurry up. Tom was handling a car for the first time, so he couldn’t make out what the problem was. The voices were getting closer.
-“Maybe we should see who is coming and ask them for help” Tom said.
-“Okay” I was reluctant and a little scared too.
They were a group of seven men, with bottles in their hand, which I presumed was alcohol.
-“Hey, can you guys help us. There seems to be some problem with the car”, Tom asked one of the guys though I wished he didn’t. They didn’t look like the ones you could trust.
-“Sure buddy!” The biggest one of them said while pushing Tom aside.
-“Hey!” Tom really gets angry at such bad manners.
My breathing stopped as I could feel the other guys looking at me with hungry eyes, leering at my breasts.
-“What buddy you said something?” They big guy said and taking a big gulp from his bottle threw it aside. The bottle landed with a crash on the road. “Look, boys, this guy wants to say something,” He said with a mocking laugh. Tom had sensed the danger at this point, but it was too late.
Three of the guys came towards me, with eyes like a prey, hungry. They stinked. I wanted to run, but my feet were frozen to the spot. I tried shouting but one of them already had his hand on my mouth.
-“Hey you!” Tom was really angry now. He tried to come and save me from the grip of those savages but there other men had stopped him midway and was shoving him away. I was desperately trying to shout.They all came over me. I tried to free myself. But they were strong. I could feel my clothes being stripped off. Someone grasped my breasts. It hurt. I didn’t know how many they were. I could hear Tom’s voice in the distance. I tried to fight. But they had pinned me to the ground. They were cowering over me. They were hurting me. I was scared. It was cold, it was painful. I wanted it to stop. It seemed like eternity. I passed out.
I opened my eyes. I could see no one
I was cold. I was in pain.
I wanted to shout. I couldn’t
I wanted to move. I couldn’t.
I passed out again.
I opened my eyes. I could see someone. No, I couldn’t.
I was cold. I was numb. I couldn’t feel the pain anymore.
I wanted to shout. I couldn’t
I wanted to move. I couldn’t.
I was dying
I opened my eyes.
I was warm.
I could see people in white around me. Then I couldn’t see.
Maybe this was heaven.
I closed my eyes.
I woke up. There was a girl wearing a white uniform standing beside me. She told me she was a nurse and that I was ok. She told me to sleep. I slept.
I opened my eyes. Now I was awake. I could see Tom standing beside me. I tried to speak,
I still couldn’t. I wanted to smile at him. I didn’t know whether I did or not. Then I realised it was George. They looked alike, they were twins. Only very close friends can tell the difference. There were friends, and doctors, and police.
A smiling lady doctor came up to me and sat beside me. She asked me how I was feeling. I tried to nod.
-“You were raped. Some people found you and brought you here a week back. You were being assaulted using sharp and blunt objects. Your uterus and intestines were affected. You were suffering from sepsis. We had to operate on you thrice. We are sorry, but we had to remove your uterus to save your life.”
I nodded. I didn’t want to hear anymore.
George shook me out of my thoughts. “We have reached.”
I could feel my eyes wet as I looked from the glass. I didn’t want to get out of the car.
-“Aditi”, George placed his hand on my shoulder.
I got out of the car. We went inside the cemetry.
I kneeled down and placed the flowers on Tom’s grave.