“It was a good thing they decided to stop by the police station.”
“…a good thing they’re giving us a ride.”
“We hardly left them any choice.”
“Even so, lucky us.”
There were four of them sitting at the backseat of the car. Squeezed together like playing a game of poke-a-rib.
Two of them were boys, similarly dark and lanky. The grumpier one was called Ganesh. Long haired, angular nosed, arched heroine-like eyebrows, a mole on his upper lip that bobbed when he spoke. Hands that stayed clasped on his laps. A stiff body. Stiff movements. Very angry. His friend was Vinod. More genial. Gaunt cheeks but huge bags under his eyes and chin. Bruises on his forehead. Welts under his eyes. Nervous movements. Constantly scratching his head. As if checking for lice. Or blood.
Next to them was a very dishevelled woman in her thirties. Shilpa. She looked as if she had just gotten out of bed. Hair in clumps over her forehead and ears. Her well-tailored clothes crumpled. Necklace awry. Lipstick smudged, Kohl running down her cheeks. The corners of her mouth were pulled down in a permanent grimace. She looked like a disgruntled mannequin.
And last was an old man. Avinash. Generously built. Slightly bent. Slow, deliberate movements. In green kurta and white pyjama. Sports shoes on his feet as if he had just been out for a walk. He was the most pleasant looking of the lot. Smiley. Twinkling eyes.
“Why wouldn’t the damn constable release our vehicles?” Ganesh grumbled.
“He was totally ignoring us,” Shilpa said.
“Both the car and the bike were in pathetic states,” Avinash murmured.
“Do you think we’ll ever get them back?” Vinod asked. “Or get back in them?” Chuckled.
The four of them, save for Vinod and Ganesh who were childhood buddies, had grown friendly during their visits to the police station. The outpost was located ten kilometers from the first toll naka after hitting NH228. Usually they hitchhiked on police vehicles but today they’d gotten hold of a kind couple and had just started back when they stopped. It was ten PM and growing rapidly isolated. They did not say it but wished they’d get a move on.
“Do you think I should comfort her?” Shilpa whispered, jerking her chin at the woman weeping in the front-passenger seat.
“Fat lot that’s gonna help,” Vinod murmured. He was always doing that, discouraging and criticizing people. The worst ever pillion, Ganesh told him atleast once every day. An irritating, nagging extra. Why not just come to the front and do what you want me to do? Vinod never did that though. Too afraid. Too bored. He was the archetype backseat driver and played his role to perfection.
Then a voice piped in. Like a sage from the mountains. “You could try talking to her,” Avinash said, “but I doubt she’d hear you, the state she is in.”
The weeping woman was Arohi, in love and betrothed to the man standing outside, smoking. He was trying to calm himself down as was she. Usually cheerful, funny and level-headed, Arohi was right now sulking after a fight…a fight that had been recurring with her fiancé Veer for many months now. They loved each other with a crazy kind of zeal, but Veer loved something even more. Racing. Cars. Racing his fancy sports car on empty streets. Or even what only looked like sort of empty streets.
After a few minutes, Veer leaned to look inside. Exchanged glances with Arohi. Then tentatively smiled.
Shilpa sighed softly. “Ah, to be in love…”
“It’s not easy…and not all black and white,” Avinash muttered.
Read what happens next…