‘There are times when you simply are at the wrong place doing the wrong thing at the wrong time with the wrong people.’
I would never have stopped her that day if she wouldn’t have put on that resigned smile and told me she was going to die.
It was common for her to just walk past me with a same formal greet every evening in the bus home. We had worked for the same firm for the last 2-3 months and the only thing I knew about her was that her name was Hina. Well, yes I knew too that she was probably the most beautiful sight in the clockwork lives of all our colleagues and that she could have piled up another Mt. Everest of compliments she received everyday from them. That is, if she would ever be listening to any of them.
Work had been tough at the start. There was constant struggle between the new-comers to ascertain their position in the more than much observant administration. That was the beauty of our call-center. Every year there were freshers who thought they could sweet talk the entire world and be a ‘rags to riches’ record-holder. Then there were those shrewd ones whose job was to involve the entire team into doing everything under their shadow and get a promotion. And it was easily felt the number of people trying this had increased in my time – including me.
Hina was a senior. I had seen the team leaders reporting to her and more than often, their lusty smiles would be a far cry after receiving a proper bantering from her and the cold smile with which she dismissed all projections of warmth. They had her named the Hard-Nut. More than often the name was used with derogatory implications.
But that wasn’t why a junior seeking to attain the heights didn’t try to get a hang of the senior who shared his bus. Nope. The reason was that: I couldn’t utter a single sensible word in her presence the last time I was sent to present the report in absence of Tiwari, our team leader. I had simply gawked and stared while she orchestrated about the report and pointed me the door with an expression heavy of disgust. Since then I had never tried to face her again, lest my sociological hormones put me into some real trouble.
I froze and watched her smile fixatedly. If death was how she initiated conversations then probably my belief of me being the worst conversationalist in the world was being shattered before my eyes. I instinctively smiled, my numerous fat books on etiquettes taught me to do that whenever a senior spoke to you and especially when it was a lady. But as her words sunk in, her specs reflected the shock on my face and a revealed a growing pain on hers.
Her stop came. She turned with a fleeting goodbye, the bus stopped, she got down. I followed.
Having calmed down a little, during which I was subjected to an overwhelming hospitality betraying the gravity of her situation, Hina finally slid into her couch and lay there staring blankly at the ceiling.
“You didn’t have anything with me, fine, but what about your dinner? What about the medicines?” I perceived she was passing into oblivion of sleep. She stayed alone in this apartment. There was nothing much of furniture here but lots of books about everything and anything in this world. The walls were all decorated with sketches and paintings, all her creations and of which she had pointed me some and told their history.
There was simplicity in this house which went perfectly with her mildly smiling lips. Not a hint of her office hours presented themselves until on close inspection. It has always been a miracle to me how a girl can make pull off office files and registers as decorations!
She mumbled something weakly in response. I hesitated and then decided I could do the least by arranging her dinner. I went close and leaned on her. She held my arm and smiled.
“Go home,” she said.
“Leaving you in this state? No way!”
“I’ll die happier knowing you are far away, safe.” She pushed me.
Before I could reply, she closed her eyes and merely pointed towards the exit.
As I stepped down the final stairs of her place 3 bikes came to a halt at the front gate.
He shuts the door behind him. Pawan. Yes, he came like a gentle breeze. But why did he come?
He was just another guy at the office. Yet there was this inexplicable warmth in his presence. One that left you striving for another moment of smile. The other day he had come to my office…they way he shivered! Maybe he didn’t get a single word of the praises I put to him on the reports or maybe the fellow was illogically shy. Anyway, he had come today for me.
Hina got up from the couch and moved to the basin. She looked at her messed up hair in the mirror and then produced a gun from a hiding.
Smiling for a last time, she raised the gun to her head and whispered, “Pawan.”
A shadow crept up behind her and hit her hard on the head.
Mounav screamed in rage as his men failed to find the girl in the apartment.
She had been here. He had seen her shadow on the curtains while coming. He moved towards the window and felt the cold winter chill on his face. Hina. Why can’t the stupid girl see that she has no other option than being his? Wasn’t his very name enough to bring shivers into the cowardly idiots of the city? No guy would dare talk to her let alone stand between her and him.
He took a sideways glance at the room. Her belongings were lying on the floor, his men had turned the entire apartment upside down is her search. Her green top was there – the one she had wore the day he had first met her. She had always liked green – it was the colour of nature. He sighed, a mixture of anger and longing for her body.
A car screeched to a halt in the street below. He looked down and instinctively moved towards the basin. He knew she hid a gun there. He had given it to her for protection when she was with him. Instead he found a piece of paper.
Someone was carrying a limp form into a car. His instinct told him it was her.
He had managed to give them a slip. Madhav knew he was the best in the world at these stuff. It was often that his friends called upon him for such works – kidnapping, hit and run, chasing down enemies, the list went on. The city was his empire and the car his limb. They said Madhav could get a car through where you couldn’t get your imagination. And he did.
Madhav dropped his friend and the girl they had kidnapped at the friend’s place and went off to lower the heat on the car after the task was done. There would be a jovial chat on any other day but he had no doubt that this was going to be a fun night for his friend and didn’t want to interrupt it.
It came to him as a surprise when Pawan called. He wasn’t the type to call him for ‘work’. It took an entire minute to digest that he wanted a kidnap to take place. The urgency in his tone forced him to stall all his other tasks and rush to the given address at once.
It had been an easy task overall except where he was supposed to lose Mounav – the guy he worked for.
She had woken up beside me and after a brief spell of being dazed, she had cried. I would have stayed mum and watched if she hadn’t thrown herself around me.
She had kissed me then and had laughed idiotically through sobs when I froze and gaped at her.
Now she lay in my arms deep in slumber. Her head pained and she had taken a sleeping pill. I stared blankly at the ceiling recounting the never could have imagined incidents of the day.
The door slammed open.
Men filled in the room around me as I tried to grasp what was happening.
Mounav came forward grinning viciously. “Hello, Pawan.”
“Hi,” I responded calmly.
“You know that’s my property you’re treading upon. I can have you killed for that. But oh! Maybe you don’t even know what you did. Yes, it is all her fault. What didn’t I try? Pleaded, threatened, beat her like an animal and yet she lured you. Not your fault, no way!” He came upto the bed.
“How did I know your name? Here,” he threw a piece of paper at me. “But now dear Pawan, you must pay! Why? Because any one who assits a crime is a criminal himself!” he turned to his men. “Teach him.”
The men stood petrified as Mounav fell. Hina screamed. The men fled a moment later. I placed the gun back under my pillow and read the paper – ‘A gun for a friend you gave me. I found Pawan.’
‘There are times when you simply are at the wrong place doing the wrong thing at the wrong time with the wrong people. And still the best happens.’