“I don’t want to get married, Dad”, I shouted feeling upset,” I just got the job. I have dreams.”
“Be practical”, my father advised, frowning at me,” you are 24. I am a heart patient, I want you safe and secure before I die.”
“I am safe and secure. I have a job, have my own house and I have a dream for the future.” I said, pleading with my father.
“It's not the same. A girl always needs a man”, he said, crossing his arm against his chest, glaring at me.
“Why can't a girl live alone?” I asked, glaring at my father.
He sighed. “Honey, you don’t understand…” he began, looking helpless but I decided to walk out on him at that moment.
“It’s a free country, Dad”, I said, angrily, shutting the front door behind me.
‘I was not having a good day. I always get worked up every time my father talks about marriage. I didn’t want to get married. My father was a single parent, a heart patient. How was he going to live alone once I went to live with my husband? What if he gets sick at night? I am not going to let him spend his savings on dowry. I just want to look after my father who sacrificed his entire life for me. It's only fair I do the same for him’, I thought as I walked to the bus stand
I missed the bus by a second. Just great! Now I had to walk to the auto stand and I was already late for a very important evening.
“Mam, would you like some pens?” a small eight-year-old girl asked holding out a hand full of pens. She looked so adorable with her sweet little smile, wearing an old faded red dress with polka-dots.
“Don’t you go to school?” I asked her smiling at her.
“Yes, I don’t go on Friday. I sell pens on Friday”, she said smiling lightly.
“What do you do with the money you earn?” I asked her.
“I give it to grandma. We buy food with it”, she said tugging at her skirt.
“What about your parents?” I asked her.
“Dead”, she said simply, not even understanding the intensity of what it means.
“How much for the pens?” I asked her.
“60 Rs for ten”, she said.
I reached into my purse took a 100 rs note along with the chocolate bar my dad bought for me.
“Here you go, sweetie”, I said handing her the money along with the chocolate.
She gave me the pens but I refused.
“Sell it to someone else”, I said ruffling the child's hair.
“No, it's yours”, she said placing the pens on the ground before me before running off.
The child's honesty moved me. Children like her were supposed to be wearing good cloths, getting a good education, and wrapped up in the love of her parents. Maybe if my father wasn’t there I would have ended up in a much worse condition. Suddenly I felt guilty for shouting at dad.
I was late when I reached the office as expected. The boss was not happy when I walked into the meeting late and I screwed up the presentation. I was having one of those days where everything just goes wrong.
“Sakshi”, my co-worker interrupted me, as I was typing away a file
I was supposed to send in this morning,” the boss wants to see you”
Raj was one of the nicest co-workers. He wasn’t much of a looker as people found his scar on his face, unattractive but he was a gentleman in every way.
“you might want to brace yourself”, he said,” The boss is not in a good mood”
“So am I”, I replied smiling nervously.
I walked to the cabin rather nervously and took in a deep breath before opening the door lightly and asking,” may I come in sir?”
“yes, Sakshi”, the boss replied frowning at me,” what happened to the file?”
“It is not finished”, I replied feeling embarrassed. I hated situations like these and I made sure nothing like this happened. But today was different.
“NOT FINISHED?” he asked, slowly taking a deep breath,” Since this is the first time I will give you an excuse but I want the file sent in today or you are fired”, he said emphasizing the last word.
I couldn’t lose my job, it was the only way I could pay for my Dad’s medicine. So did the most practical thing, skipped lunch, and worked with all my might. By the time I had hit send, it had gone late and most of my co-workers had left.
I slowly got up, used the washroom, and took my bag, and left the office. I couldn’t afford a cab so I decided to walk to the bus stand. I had never been out so late, and the scenery looked beautiful. The stars had come out twinkling in the sky, the moon shined in its glory, most of the stores were closed, the roads illuminated by the street light.
A feeling of happiness and satisfaction filled my mind. But my happiness soon turned into fear as I sensed that I was being followed by two unfamiliar men and I could hear their footsteps behind me.
I reached into my pocket for my phone so I could call dad and ask him to pick me up but it seems I had forgotten my phone at home because of our argument. My heart hammered in my chest as I knew these two men who were maintaining a safe distance would approach me as soon as they got the chance.
I felt relieved as soon as I saw a store and I went inside. An elder man was reading a newspaper.
“Sir”, I said and he looked up,” please help me. Those two men are following me.”
The older man looked down at the newspaper he was reading ignoring my pleas for help.
With a heavy heart, I walked out of the store, felling scared than ever, praying to God to help me out, to get me home safely., when I saw an old woman across the street.
“Grandma,” I said with tears in my eyes,” please help me, those two men are following me”
She nodded. “Sweetheart”, she said rather loudly so that the two men could hear, “your papa and I were worried. Come let us go home”
She pretended to be my grandma and after a while, they stopped following us.by then we had reached the bus stand.
“Thank you”, I told her feeling grateful.
“No, I want you to come home with me”, she said,” it is not safe for young girls to be out at night. I won't let you take the bus. My son will drop you at home”
So we walked to her house which was again a 5 min walk. Her son appeared to be a kind guy just like the old lady and he immediately offered to help, while scolding his mother for going out this late without telling anybody.
The car ride was silent, he just asked me for direction,” The white house is yours, isn’t it”, he asked
“Yes,” I replied,” How did you know?”
“Your father is pacing on the street, you must have scared him”, he said smiling lightly.
“Thank you”, I said opening the door of the car.
“Don’t take this as advice dear. But please be careful the next time you decide to work late because some girls may not be lucky to go home alive to their parent”
I nodded and thanked him.
My father as soon as he saw me came running and crushed me in his embrace.
“I was so scared. You left your phone at home”, he said barely in a whisper still not believing that I was safe in his arms.
“Dad you are right”, I said looking into his brown eyes,” we might be living in a free country but it is not a safe one.”