“You may leave by the 10 45 cab.” Words that unhooked my heart, and sent it flying as did i, frantically signalling to Preetha, “its time to run, before he changes his mind!”
She obligingly complies, we fly, giggle, soar down the staircase and out onto the the now relatively damp, dark and desolate MG Road. Everything goes into shutdown mode by 10 pm around here. Kingfisher, CNBC, Levi’s and now DNA adverts blink neonly in the twilight of our day. The day that begins, effectively, at 3 30 in the afternoon.
At this hour, there are only the rich car owning suave night birds, the auto wallas who wait for tyres to get punctured, the stray dogs who wait for the tyres to get punctured so the night birds and the auto wallahs may fling away any food they might be partaking of, and two stray women who don’t like tonight’s mess menu, on the road. Although the two stray women might not mind being treated by the rich night birds to rich dinner on 13th floor of Barton Centre, Murphy doesn’t want such things to happen so he makes sure there are no punctured tyres.
Then, we and the auto wallas are left at each other’s mercy. Again, we soar as high as our flat wooden soled cappis can take us, amid wails of ‘auto! auto?!’, hoots, songs sung to attract the attention of the ladies, to the haven of chicken, otherwise known as KFC.
KFC, on Brigade Road, is another happening place. Outside, is parked a car that belongs to the 60s, with a man at the wheel, who’s probably singing in his head, “I wish i was a punk rocker, with flowers in my head,” with friends leaning in and one particular punk, past his expiry date, asking in tones that might be directed at all people on Brigade Road, “Dude, have you been to the latest Floyd concert?” The other punk has a joint dangling from his lips, which seems to be as old as he himself was, going by the remaining strands of grey on his head. He spies us, the old pervert, dunks his head inside the car window, and stage whispers – “dude, women!”
We bolted in some confusion, wondering if crossing the street to KFC had led us to another planet called Mars, the absence of femininity in the neighborhood was conspicuous.
Inside KFC, amid frying pans and oils and fountains of Pepsi, stood about a gang of blonde chinky boys – the blondeness put KFC’s lighting to shame, and made them look like cloned ‘Dollies’. loose shirts, ties with skull-print, pierced lips, underlips, brows and whatnot, and shifty looks in the slits of eyes made them unlikeable to me – which is a first, since i generally admire the whole lot. No discrimination intended.
And as we made our way out, loaded with cholestrol dripping yummy goodies (salutations colonel Sanders!), and as the beggar (the only other woman ‘out’ that night) and dogs hounded us for food alike, and as we crossed the street to buy Pree’s Classic Milds (60% of which, in Dr Pree-thha’s theory, i smoke, all passively, so she wants ME to pay), it dawned on me, that it’s only hunger that would make women mad enough to roam the streets at that ‘ungodly’ hour. Unescorted, i mean.
Why? Why o why o why?? Why do men leer and grin like its Christmas or their goddamn birthdays when they see women out on the road at night? Why do my ‘well-wishers’ want me to not go out in the dark because it is unsafe? why do men have to make it unsafe? why is women’s honour such a big deal? why do men, as a dangerous cannibalistic tribe, have to make women all feel like they’re being preyed or being readied for devourment, once the sun is down and they dare to step out on their own? why does the social animal aspect of being human forget all the social-isms and retain the animal hood, like wolves on a spree?
We walk to one such group, with their yellow and green automotives ready to whisk us away, and the gleam of recognition in their eyes, as they quote our address to us with question marks, we contemplate backing off. With no other options around, and still haggling prices, we get in and the auto driver put on his headphones. Music always went well with driving. When we reach our residence, the man, takes off his headphones and considers it fit to advise us on the undesirability of loafering about on roads at 10 in the night.
The audacity of my ‘well-wishers’ is beginning to piss me off.