‘Why couldn’t I be like other passengers who quietly walked away’

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Illustration: Mayanglambam Dinesh
Illustration: Mayanglambam Dinesh

After having a fairly tiring day, I was hoping to find a corner seat in the Delhi Metro to catch up on my sleep. Having managed to sleep through most of the way, I finally woke up to some kind of confusion.

My befuddled mind took some time to focus when I realised that a young man sitting opposite me was having a seizure. People around him had started to panic and hence the commotion. The man’s teeth were clenched, his hands were fisted into tight balls and his eyes seemed to be popping out of their sockets.

It was evident that something needed to be done and that he needed medical attention at the very earliest. Water was sprinkled on his face and the man next to him was trying to fan him. The seizure, however, was not letting up and much to everyone’s shock the man fell on the floor with a thud. Now he was not moving and a whitish substance oozed out of his mouth.

Till now I had been a passive observer but a part of me was urging me to act. The train pulled up at IFFCO Chowk and passengers started to disembark. “I have a car and we can drive him to the hospital,” I heard myself say. Though my heart was thumping loudly at the enormity of what I had proposed. There were three other men helping the poor man on the floor of the train. I had just proposed to give a lift to four unknown men.

In the wake of the Nirbhaya tragedy and several more that seem to have become a part and parcel of our lives, was I being sensible? Why couldn’t I be like the other passengers who had quietly walked away? Maybe I should alert the Metro authorities, call the police — anything. I definitely should not be in a car with four unknown men. What if this was a ploy to exploit women?

All kinds of thoughts ran through my head, but I found myself rushing to the car park and driving my Innova to where the three people supporting the unstable man stood. I opened the rear door for them and without saying a word they adjusted themselves on the rear seat. By then I was scared to even look at them. It was almost 7 in the evening and the late November winter chill had set in. My heart was hammering against my chest as I expected the men to whip out a pistol or something else at any moment and my worst nightmare would be played out.

In my mind I could also hear my friends and family shaking their heads and wondering why I would commit such a folly. Wild thoughts ran through my mind as panic mounted though I continued to drive. Under my breath I prayed for the young man — praying that he holds on. In the same breath I prayed for my own safety. It was a mere 10 minutes’ drive but to me it felt like eternity.

At last we were at Fortis Hospital. I got out of the car and held the door open as the men trooped out. The young man was still unconscious. They continued to support him as they took him inside the hospital. I drove off. A part of me wanted to go back and see how he was faring. The other part continued to goad me to carry on and reach home as my family was waiting for me. I drove homewards in a flurry of guilt and overpowering relief. It had not been a ploy. I had not been raped.

The guilt remained — I had not asked after the young man. It also brought into relief the larger existential question — is this why no help was forthcoming on the streets of Delhi/ncr as we were enveloped in a shadow of fear?

Being a woman aggravated it further, so much so that a man in distress had for a moment appeared to me as a conspirator and a killer.

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