Resting my head on the armchair, I was trying hard not to let my thoughts wander but to focus on the situation at hand. Recollecting my happy childhood days, I glanced around the room. The pleasant smile of everyone in the family portrait that decorated the entire front wall, made me shift my ground. Just about when I was having second thoughts, the phone rang piercing the deafening silence that was engulfing the house. Instinctively, I jumped up and ran towards the phone. Fearing that my mom will wake up, I quickly answered the phone as my mother shifted on the bed. Her sleep was disturbed by the noise at this ungodly hour.
I answered the phone and heard a blunt “Hello” from the other side.
“Are you ready?”, he asked
“Did you pack everything?”
I nodded silently.
“Is everything fine?” , he asked after a moment’s pause.
“I was just thinking that….”.
“Oh, NOT AGAIN!!”.
He cut me short, even before I could complete my sentence.
It was as if he read my thoughts and knew exactly what I am confused about. Probably, he’s the only person on earth, who understands me better than my own parents. We grew up together and he has been with me through thick and thin. We live in the same neighborhood and went to the same school and college.
“Please don’t do this again. I booked the tickets and spoke to my friends in Delhi. They will take care of the accommodation. Your dad and brother are out of town, and we wouldn’t get a better chance than this. Is anyone awake at home?”
“No. Everyone’s sleeping.”
“Ok. I will be waiting at the end of the street at half past 12”
Not waiting for a reply, he cut the call. He knew I will talk him out of it, if I speak any further. I grabbed the duffle bag hid under the cupboard in my room. Stealing a last glance at my mother and grandmother, I stepped out of the house.
In the pitch darkness, I could see a silhouette of a bike standing under a banyan tree. Leaning on the bike was the well-known tall, lanky figure. Hearing my footsteps, he turned back and quickly scanned the surroundings. Before I could utter a word, he grabbed the bag and started the bike. Submissively, I sat on the bike and before I could even realize, we were on the highway and all I could see was the faint lights from the arc lamps in the street far away.
“Get down, quick” he said firmly.
The coarse voice brought me back to reality and I looked around to see where I am. The honking sound of a train arriving at a distance, the big station board
informing the passengers of the place-name, the acrid stench emanating from the garbage piled up in a corner suddenly seem to hit my senses. Parking the bike, we stepped into the station and headed towards platform 2. A dull voice announced the arrival of the train as we got off the footbridge and waited for the train to arrive.
“Did you check if all the necessary documents are there?”
Coming from a rural background in India, my parents were reluctant to let me read, let alone work. I have never accepted the constraints that society has imposed on me and went on to pursue my undergraduate, the only girl from the village who studied past class X. On reading my white paper on ‘IoT in Agriculture’, I received an invitation from a prestigious university to pursue my gradution. Instead of being ecstatic, my parents got furious and denied permission. My efforts to reason out was in vain. It’s considered a dishonor to let girls outside the house before marriage. Conforming to the social norms, my parents started looking for a groom. Despite all odds, I was determined to pursue my dreams and decided to go against my family.
The train arrived and I bid goodbye to the only soul who supported and encouraged me to take the decision.
“Call me as soon as you reach and don’t worry about your parents. I will take care of them”, he said nervously.
As the train started moving, he waved a final goodbye and headed back home. It picked up speed slowly, as the lights of the station shrunk into a tiny dot, eventually vanishing into the empty darkness.