Medha was an uptown girl. She was independent and lived on her own in a big Indian city. She worked in an Advertising Agency as design executive. Medha’s mode of conveyance was the public transport. She had not yet saved up enough to pay for her own vehicle. Although certain aspects of using the public services were very irksome, she had no option but to deal with them and move on.
“I hate getting stuck at the University gate traffic signal. There are too many ‘hijras’ bothering daily commuters.” Medha told Riyan who was a friend as well as a colleague.
“Oh yes. Tell me about the ‘hijra’ menace; and the incessant clapping when you try to ignore them. The government should do something to ban these people from being on the streets.” Riyan replied.
Soon a few more people joined the conversation. Rohan, Purushottam, Vimal, and Disha nodded in agreement as Riyan elaborated his frustration further.
“These chhakas are a cause of plight to office going people. The other day I told one of them that I did not have change. And you know what? She immediately took out a large bundle of tens and said ‘Kitney ka chhutta chahiye tereko?’ (How much change do you want)
Purushottam chimed in with aggression in his voice, “Bloody hijras think that we are scared of them because of their claps and shouts. They will have bundles under their blouses and still ask for more; such greedy bunch of nuisance. Once one hijra threatened me and said ‘if you don’t give me money, I will lift my saree.’ I laughed and said lift as high as you want. You will have a large audience. But no one will pay aunty! I think she got offended and left immediately. And people stuck at the signal thanked me for shutting her act.” Laughter erupted from the listeners. Medha also joined in, but somewhere she felt slightly bad for the eunuch’s humiliation.
The day moved on and Medha got engrossed in her new assignment. The firm had bagged a new ad campaign for a lingerie brand and Medha along with the design team had to get the outline of the storyboard ready. It was late; so Riyan, Purushottam, and Disha decided to go to Medha’s place and crash for the night as they lived at the other side of the city and it would be midnight before they reached home. The four of them hired a cab to go to Medha’s place. It was about 7 kilometers from office. On the way they crossed the University Gate signal. Medha notice a lone eunuch walking by the roadside. Her makeup had come off, her thin hair was carelessly tied into a knot. She walked more like a man than a woman. Unlike their regular gait, there no undulation of the hips as she strode off towards the Dasipur slum area. Medha could not help but feel pity for this person.
“You know guys I think we were a little too harsh on the eunuchs today. I mean whatever they do is to sustain themselves. What options do they have? Even if they wish to get into mainstream living, society will not accept them. I mean, how many of us will be comfortable working with an eunuch in office. And who will hire them?” Medha said to the others.
Hearing this Riyan snapped. “Oh C’mon Medha, now don’t get all ‘senti’ about the damn hijras. They are a curse to civilized society. I mean you heard Purushottam’s experience, right? If you don’t give them what they want, they will lift their sarees. I mean how raw and uncivilized can this be?”
“You are absolutely right Riyan. I mean give them a piece of land and let them live, rot, die there. If they cannot be counted as mainstream population, why let them live among decent people and make travelling hell for us.” Purushottam voiced angrily.
Soon they reached Medha’s house and the discussion was forgotten amid a round of beer and KFC’s fiery chicken bucket.
Life went on in its usual rhythm. The ad campaign was a hit and with its launch commercially, it was time for the team to celebrate. The happy clients invited the CEO of the ad agency along with the design and creative teams for a party at a five star lounge. Medha was like the celebrity of the evening. It was her design that won the clients. Everyone praised her as toasts were made celebrating the success. Alcohol was flowing like water. At around 11:30pm, when more than four people had passed out, the CEO decided to call it a night. Taking cue the teams also packed up.
“Medha, are you sure you want to go home alone? Puru, Vimal, and I can drop you home first. Disha’s husband has come to pick her up. Shivani and Priya will be dropped home by Disha. So you are the only girl travelling alone.” Riyan was all chivalrous.
“You guys are high. I haven’t had much of a drink so I guess I will be able to handle my sanity and go home safely. I will take a cab. Anyways Shashtrinagar is not as far as your part of the city.” Medha said.
“Who lives in Shashtrinagar. I could give him or her lift. I will go on that way towards Mistry Road.” Manav Rastogi was the Lingerie firm’s brand Manager.
“Umm, well thanks for the offer Mr. Rastogi, but I think I will manage on my own.” Medha replied.
“I will not force you. You are welcome to do as it suits you.” Manav replied, but it sounded as if he was offended.
Riyan quickly sensed the tension and said, “Hey Medha why don’t you get dropped by Manav sir. Anyways we have to stop at the gas station near your place to refuel Puru’s bike.” He intended to tell Medha that they will be right behind her so she need not worry about being with Manav Rastogi alone.
Medha was still reluctant and decided to call the cab service. Unfortunately it was Friday night and cabs were busy. The operator said that it would take atleast a couple of hours before she got picked up. Worried that she may have to wait in the pub alone for two hours, she gave in to Mr. Rastogi’s invitation. Atleast her friends will be riding alongside, she thought and dispelled all worries from her mind.
She got inside the massive Audi Q3 and immediately felt a rush of luxury. Manav got in from the other side and perched beside her. Instinctively Medha put her handbag on his side to maintain distance.
“Kumar, take the Shashtrinagar route. Madam will get down there.” Manav told his driver as the latter put the gigantic vehicle into first gear.
Soon the Audi sped off towards Shashtrinagar.
“By next week your designs will be up on billboards all over the city. I guess you are as excited as we are.” Manav made an effort to strike a conversation.
“Oh yes. We are all very excited about the big launch.” Medha replied with feigned interest. She just wanted to be back at her cove. Manav was alright, but there was something about him that made her uncomfortable. Maybe he was extremely rich and too very impeccable in his manners; or maybe it was something else.
“So do you like our lingerie line? The design you made reflected your taste in female undergarments. You look ravishing in the lavender top. Which lingerie brand are you wearing now?”
Medha was shocked at Manav’s question.
And then Manav did something even more terrible. He pulled one side of Medha’s top.
“You did not reply so I thought of checking it out myself.” Manav had a cruel demonic smile playing at his lips.
The windows and doors of the car were auto locked so there was no option to open any of them.
“Mr Rastogi, please stop the car. I want to get down.” Medha sounded like a scared wounded animal.
“So you think you can have a free ride in my car huh? You are in for a surprise then. Haven’t you heard that one never gets a free lunch? Everything comes at a price Missy.” Saying this Manav began manhandling Medha.
“You think you can do what you want because I’m alone? You are wrong. My friends are riding behind this car.” Saying this Medha began to hit on the window glass.
Manav gave a smug look and asked his driver to stop the car. He got out and waited for Puru and Riyan. The bike halted as expected.
“Is something wrong Manav sir?” Puru asked, surprised to see the car standing.
Medha was still locked inside and she was frantically banging on the window glass. And then she remembered the cell phone. Quickly she took it out and dialled Riyan’s number. Riyan’s mobile began to ring but before he could receive the call Manav called out, “Hey Riyan, I don’t think you want to take the call. It is your friend, Medha calling. She is a little too drunk and is feeling uncomfortable with me inside the car. You know right how women make mountain of a mole hill when they lose control over their alcohol. Now you are smart guys with very bright futures in your company. You don’t want to believe that I am a molester or something trying to harm your friend. I know her address and I will drop her home safe and sound. You boys can go home now. And I will send a recommendation to your boss about the excellent work that you have done for my campaign.”
The phone was still ringing. Riyan had to choose between his friend and his future. Puru was waiting for Riyan’s reaction. He knew his career could be jeopardized if he chose to help Medha now.
“I am a man of repute and I will take care of your friend. So don’t worry. Go home and relax.” Manav assured them and opened the car door. This was Medha’s opportunity. She punched Manav on his stomach as he was about to enter. As Manav lost his balance she swiftly got out of the car and began running mindlessly towards her friends. Puru was frightened by the whole scene and started the bike. And even before Riyan could protest he sped off.
Now Medha was all alone on the road with no one between her and Manav. Just when she was about to lose all hope she saw the same lone eunuch walking towards Dasipur Slum. She shouted out to her, “Hello there. Please help me. This man is trying to harm me.” First there was no reaction. And then the eunuch turned towards Medha. Seeing the panic stricken girl the eunuch ran towards her. By then Manav had caught up with Medha with his driver at his heels. The sudden arrival of the eunuch halted Manav for a moment. And then he grabbed Medha’s arm.
“Oh poor girl, now you think a hijra will come to your rescue. Come on stop acting and get inside the car.” No sooner did he say this than he felt a sharp pain shooting from his face to his brain. The hijra had slapped him hard across the face. She started clapping like a maniac and kept muttering curses. Suddenly Medha saw a group advancing towards them. These were the same people she was irritated with during the commute through University Gate signal. But at that moment she thanked her stars for the signal and these people.
There was fear on Manav’s face as he saw these many eunuch marching towards him. The clap of the lone eunuch had alerted the others. And they had come out to see what was happening. As Manav tried to run away, these people sprinted towards him. They thrashed him till he was black and blue. With logs and sticks lying around, they damaged his Audi Q3. Medha was dumbfounded at this scene. As Manav was slowly getting on his feet, there was the sound of a bike.
“Medha I could not leave you with this monster. We knew something was wrong. So I persuaded Puru to come back to save you.” Riyan sounded all chivalrous and brave.
By then the eunuchs had stopped their rampage and were cooling down. The lone eunuch walked towards Medha and said, “Is everything fine? Are you hurt?”
“I am fine. I do not know how to address you. But I will not say a mere thanks and try to repay your debt. No man could do what you have done for me. I will forever be indebted to you. In no way can I ever repay you.” Medha said with her voice choked with gratitude and fury at the same time.
By then the eunuchs had assembled near her and were listening to them. One of them came forward and said, “This is our Tara mousi. She is a crackpot. She sniffs Kores all day and then keeps wondering around University Gate like a ghost. But she is a gem and a very brave soul.”
“I am a crackpot is it Bindiya? What about you? Eating and getting fat like a cow. You can’t even move in a festive dance owing to that huge belly.” Tara mousi retorted. Everyone burst out laughing. Tara mousi and Bindiya mousi both took Medha’s hands. Bindiya mousi said, “See girl, this world is a bloody nasty place full of wolves ready to devour the innocent. But as long as we are here you don’t have to worry. If you are ever in trouble in this city just call me or Tara mousi. Some one of our group will help you out.” She took out a worn out Nokia mobile phone from inside the fold of her saree.
By this time Manav and his driver and stealthily driven off. Riyan and Puru looked guilty for abandoning their friend when she needed them the most. Medha kissed Tara and Bindiya’s hands and then began applauding for the brave Tara and her group of eunuchs. Everyone around them started clapping loudly.
Medha went up to the men, Riyan and Puru who had stood cowardly at a distance. “I know you can’t fight like a man, but I hope you can applaud like a man…at least?”