A cold sweat broke out on her forehead. With centralized AC around her, Rashmi was suffocating with the heat in her body. “I need to get out” she kept reminding herself. “That’s it”. She took an early off from work and left for the day.
While she was walking towards the parking lot she could sense somebody following her. Heavy steps, a man. Following her constantly! She couldn’t run or scream, she was numb. She somehow managed to walk briskly. Her brisk walk became a run towards the back of the pillar. She waited there till those steps subsided. After waiting for a while she decided to peep out of the shadow. Nobody was there. She looked again. But nobody was there. “Was that all in my head? No, it can’t be. It was so clear and near!”
She ran further! As fast as she could, she ran towards her vehicle. In haste, she pushed down the helmet over her head and rode. No sooner did she start, she realized taking a cab or an auto would have saved her the dread of the parking lot. But it was too late. She was out now. She cannot stop or go back. She had to reach home before it turns out into her worst nightmare.
Riding at a speed of 80 km/hr was not making things easy. She could feel all eyes on her. The sweaty guy on the cycle, the frowning pedestrian, that girl with her dark sun shades in the car, those wide-eyed children on the school bus, everyone, every single person around her was looking at her with suspicion and distaste. She rode through a route which she could no longer recall. She was sick. Sick with the fact of being observed by a ghostly disguise. All this made her weak at the knees. She managed to collect herself to drive towards her safe zone, her home.
“Only if you were cautious, this wouldn’t have ever happened.” her nagging mind kept on throwing these stones at her.
Her phone rang. She disconnected it after 4 rings. But somebody kept calling her again. The same unknown number kept flashing on the screen. She couldn’t pick up the call for 3 reasons – first, she was on wheels and it was against the law to pick up calls while riding, second, stopping and taking calls would cost her time and she can’t afford to do so, third, what if the call belongs to a certain somebody, who can make her current situation worse. She switched off her phone.
“Almost there. About to reach the signal”. But to reach that signal there were 2 smaller signals. She jumped the first one easily. While she was skipping the second one traffic police noticed her and tried to stop her. But she didn’t stop. She had to keep going. She ignored the law and crossed the signal. Police noted her number, but that can be sorted in the future.
She was at the last signal. The longest signal of the city. She felt relaxed and restless. Such was the irony of the moment. While she was celebrating her safety, she realized found herself stuck among, a military bus in front, a police officer on a bike on one side and a police jeep at the back. Young, mature, female, male, dark, fair all sorts of officers were there. They could see her clearly head to toe. She could feel the redness spreading across her face. Her mind was on high alert. She could feel any and every movement on or by her body. She looked up at the countdown: 44, 43, 42… All she could do is pray and hope. 41, 40, 39… They were all watching her or she thought so. 38, 37… She adjusted herself and her clothes trying to behave as casual as possible, but her soul was screaming and shouting out loud.
She was staring at the mirror in her place. She made it there after last 15 minutes of dread at the last signal. She wanted to look her best today with her favorite gray top. She checked everything – Accessories, shoes, pants, but forgot about the “Pink Bra”. It ruined it all. No matter how much she tried to adjust the “Pink Bra”, with its pink neon straps kept popping from the sides and showed her classless self. She knew something was wrong before she started for work but she realized it after some hours at work when she reached forward to pick her coffee mug in the office. Like a spy, she tried many means to hide it but failed and finally left from the office without telling the reason for doing so. She had been conscious all day long, but as they say “what’s done was done, all thanks to the ‘Pink Bra’”.
Illustrated by: Theresa Nguyen
Written by: Shalvi Govil