|Pic Credit: Livingston Church Of Christ|
She leaves the concert with her two best pals – a guy and a girl. Better to leave a little early and get a head start than to leave later and get stuck in traffic, they reckon.
He gets behind the wheel of the car and starts the ignition. They settle in and take off; melodies from the past hour fresh in their minds. All around them, people walk, cyclists go past, bikers whiz past and it’s just another night in the bustling suburb. Until it isn’t.
Two motorcyclists go past them, riding in the opposite direction on the footpath next to them, trying to get back down on the road. Losing their balance, they crash. Well past the car. The men fall off; both in different poses of getting back up. Seated in the backseat of the car, unable to see them entirely – she shrieks, worrying that the car might run the men over. Watching the happenings in the rear view mirror, her friend knows they’re well away but in that split second, decides to not drive forward until the men move away. And that’s where they make their second mistake; the first one being her request to stop.
The men, evidently drunk and rowdy, now start creating a scene. Pretending to be hit, yelling and cursing, they amass more supporters. In a few minutes, the car is surrounded by people and there’s no way to drive off. It is soon apparent, they’re locals; probably unemployed and looking to make a quick buck.
Inside the car, the man and his woman passengers start to worry. Outside the car – reasons for the car to have ‘hit’ has progressed from ‘hit’ to ‘hit because the car owners are wealthy and this is how they treat the downtrodden lower castes of the society’. She’s appalled. And terrified. They try pleading with the bystanders for help. She tries reasoning with them. Anger emanates off them and they curse the man further, yelling at her to shut up. Women are not to speak until spoken to. Worried about the safety of the women, the driver backs down. He offers to take the men to the police station or even to a hospital, clearly declaring though that he’s not at fault. Ten feet away, the gates of a private hospital beckon. The men turn down the offer, still ranting and raving about the discrimination of rich over poor. All this while, they do not allow the passengers from the car to alight.
A couple of bystanders understand the drama being a ploy for money and intervene. They’re shoved away. The men finally ask the driver to alight but the women care too much to let him go alone. Dark thoughts rush through their mind and they decide to stick together. One for all and all for one, they say. Huddling together as a group, they push ahead leading the way to the hospital. The men hang behind, unmoving. And the situation unravels itself, as clean as a whistle. One from the mob walks over and talks in hushed whispers to the driver asking him to ‘settle’ by paying 500 bucks and then driving off. Reluctant to take blame where not at fault but wanting to get the situation over with, they hand over the money. The men are not appeased, they want more.
And suddenly out of nowhere, a different group of men arrives and there’s infighting. In that split second, two good samaritans make a quick decision and nudge the terrified group into their car. In low voices, they ask them to take off and keep driving. With trembling breaths and paced heartbeats, they take off into the night –the group of men realizing too late they’ve been outfoxed, trying to give chase and deciding it’s not worth the effort.
The good samaritans stay at their tail, riding their own bike, the pillion rider looking back every few seconds – back at the scene of the ‘crime’ to make sure no one else follows. A couple of kilometers down, they thumb down the car and instruct them to take a back road or go a different way but not to stop anywhere on the way. And then, they ride off into the darkness. Nameless faceless strangers who decided to do good, for no reason, for nothing in return.
The three reach their individual homes and rehash the episode on the phone, all of them mentally and physically exhausted; the concert long forgotten. The pain and disappointment lingers long after, simmering just below the surface. The ease with which the crowd gathered, the easy manner of accusations and the convenience with which caste and discrimination was introduced in the equation. There’s heartfelt gratitude attributed to the unknown helpers but the general mood is one of being disgusted, let down.
And then with time the episode, long forgotten, gathers dust in corners of their minds.
Turning on the right indicator, she slows down and follows the traffic turning right. On the opposite side, she watches a truck turn left and in that instant, she sees a motorbike carrying 3 passengers slide onto its path. The bike crashes, coming under the wheel of the huge vehicle. She watches, horrified as the rider screams at the truck driver to backup, his leg stuck somewhere in the bike; pain evident in his voice. The other two fall off. She watches the 3rd rider yell at the truck driver, commanding him to get down – she knows this would come to blows in a bit. She watches the horror stricken face of the middle pillion rider and knows he’s genuinely shocked and scared. And she shudders involuntarily. She looks on for two more seconds blankly, watching the scene unfold. Physically she’s present, but her mind’s traversed the boundaries to the event. And then, shedding off the cobwebs of the past, she gets a grip on the steering again, turns right and drives on.