She could not believe her eyes. A baby as tiny as it was, lay there by itself on the footpath. It was around 10:00 pm and the streets of Bombay can begin to get lonely around this time. She watched from her car for a few minutes but could not contain herself any longer. She turned off the ignition and started to walk hurriedly towards the baby on the footpath across the road to where she parked her car. All kinds of thoughts began to flood her mind. Her heart raced thinking of all the kinds of bad things that could happen to her if this was a trap. She kept looking in all directions for someone, anyone who could share this moment with her. Share the plethora of emotions hitting her – the rage and the fear and the concern. She was almost audibly blurting out words which she did not even care if anyone heard –
“What on earth?”
“Who on earth?”
“Who leaves a baby like this?”
She was hoping it was alive and not hurt. All kinds of evils presented themselves in her mind. The kind of news that was being printed in the newspapers each day was something she did not even like to think about, leave alone talking about it. She was hoping that the worst had not happened.
She reached the footpath. The baby looked fine. It did not look like it was harmed in any way. But it did seem like it had been crying for a long time and was tired. She looked in the eyes that she did not want to look into. She felt ashamed on the behalf of humanity. She wanted so bad to just pick up the baby and go home.
“I should call Tejas.”
She hurriedly started to dial his number.
“Teja, Teja there’s a baby deserted on the road Teja! Can you come down here quickly?”
“Okay, Okay. Calm down darling. Calm down a bit. Where are you?”
“Right here Teja, right here opposite to D’Mello street”
“I’ll be there in ten minutes darling, don’t do anything. Please be careful. I am coming there right now. Don’t worry. I’ll be right there. And hang up and call the police now. Tell them everything. Okay. Okay?”
“Yeah! Yeah! Yes. I’ll call the police. Okay. Come soon Teja please. Bye!”
She felt some relief. She was sitting beside the baby now and put her hand on the baby’s forehead. Just looking at it and examining a bit to see if it was hurt in anyway. She finally lifted it and held it up. The baby did not cry. But it was awake and looking at her.
She put the baby on the lap and dialed the 1-0-0. No answer. She dialed again.
This time there was an answer.
“Hi. I am calling from D’Mello street. I have found a baby on the footpath. There’s nobody around.”
“Hello. Ma’am, can you tell me your name?”
“What is your exact location?”
“D’Mello street. Right in front of the Atlanta Apartments. Can you please send someone? Please!”
“Ma’am, is there any other adult around? And is the baby hurt in anyway?”
“No. No. The baby is not hurt. But there is nobody around. I cannot see anyone around.”
“Ma’am, please be careful. We are sending our men out there. Please look around for any attackers, Okay? Please stay on the call.”
“Yes, Yes I am looking out. I do not see anybody.”
The baby had now started to cry with her continuous yelling. She tried to pat on the baby’s chest and calm it down. She could not tell if it was a girl or a boy because it was wrapped in a cloth. And she did not have the heart of unwrapping the cloth by herself. She just kept patting its head and chest as gently as she could.
“Ma’am, are you there?”
“Yes, Yes, I am here. The baby is crying. What should I do?”
“Ma’am, please try to calm the baby. Is there any way to get water around?”
“I have it in my car. It is parked on the other side of the street. Should I carry the baby there? Wait, Wait, my friend is here. I can see his car. I will ask him to get it. Ma’am how much time for your officers to arrive?”
“Just a few minutes, ma’am. Please be on the line.”
“Teja! Teja! Do you have water in your car? Get water!”
“Yeah! Yeah!” he replied rolling down the window and trying to park the car at the same time.
He got out of the car and started running towards her. And almost out of nowhere a guy with a knife in his hand came running towards him.
“Teja! Teja! No! No!” She could not believe the guy was attacking him.
She left the baby and ran towards him. She barely reached near him. And in the next moment the knife was coming down on her. She could see the lifted hand and then the knife coming down on her face. It was like it had slowed down suddenly. All of this was now happening in slow motion. How was this possible? And then the knife reached her face.
She woke up with a shock. It seemed so real. She immediately realized it was a dream.
“Oh God! Oh my God!” “What a dream! Oh No!”
“The baby, the baby! Oh God! Thank God it was a dream. But the baby’s face, I still remember the face. Is there a baby with that face? God! I can’t forget that face.”
“And who is Tejas? What’s with that? I don’t even know anyone with that name”
“Weird. Weird. Exhausting. Early in the morning.”
“How is one supposed to go on with a dream like this?”
“And how on earth did I manage to call that guy or the police even? I can’t remember that part. What was that?”
She was wide awake now. There was something amiss. Something about the dream seemed weird. She could not remember a telephone booth being around in the scene. That is what perplexed her.
“As if we have less things to worry about in this country” she thought to herself sadly. Her heart was beginning to sink now realizing the dream was over but there was a real and more imminent danger facing her, facing them.
No one in the country had come to terms yet with what had happened yesterday. She got out of bed and walked to the door to fetch the newspaper. In her already dull eyes, tears were now beginning to well up as she glanced at the headline –
“The morning when the sun set: November 1, 1984”.