“No! No! Please don’t do it. Please! Leave me alone. Ahh! It hurts!”, Kavita’s frantic pleas turned from a shocked loud scream to a subdued whimper.
“No! No!” I heard her crying. My heart came up and choked me.
Sunday December 20, 1981
On a fine Sunday afternoon,I slid deep into the makeshift cushion (with blankets and my comforter) I had placed on the hard concrete floor next to the shaded side of the water tank on the terrace. My sunday sojourn of two hours, for reading books, without any disturbance.
My right hand plunged into a packet of crisps as my eyes and mind devoured the thriller held in my left hand, supported by the bent knees. Just then I heard some one, no two people coming close as I heard them talk. I hated to be disrurbed.
It was Sarang and Arun. I could recognise their voices. They both were my neighbours, well built manly looking 16 year olds and among them Sarang ,a bully. I had always kept myself away from them. I did not want to be disturbed and hoped that they would go away soon after doing whatever they came to do- a smoke may be? They started talking. They did not come close enough to notice my presence.
Sarang: You stupid …what took you so long? I told you to be here at 1:00 pm sharp right?
Arun: I know yaar. But what to do, my good for nothing dad wanted me to go and get beetal leaves for him to chew. I couldn’t say no. You know his temper.
Sarang: Ok.ok. Now, you are ready na? I explained the plan to you. She would be here any moment. We must show her what we are made of.
Arun: All that is fine. But I am scared. If my dad gets a wind of it, then I am not sure what will happen to me. I am scared. ( He repeated.)
Sarang: You pussy foot. Nothing will happen. I will take care. But we must do this. I want to show her- the miss all know and I am the queen- what we are.
( My heart started to race with an unusual speed. Who are these fellows talking about. Is it me? I know I am not in their good books. May be I should have been in their good books, considering whatever evil they have planned.)
Sarang:Be ready. I hear her coming.
(.. coming? meaning someone else not me!’oof! Relief poured and just then I heard Swetha my next door neighbour, a pudgy looking girl, but very good at studies,who had always pined for the boys to take a look at her- harmones running high. Oh! My what is she doing here?… I didn’t get time to ponder…)
Swetha(panting): Hi Arun! … (and hesitantly) hi Sarang!
( I could sense the uneasiness in the second greeting as Sarang is more aggressive looking between the two).
Arun: Hi Swetha. Good you came. I wanted to talk to you in private. That’s why I called you.
Swetha: Private? But him!…
Arun: He is ok. He is my friend and he is fine. He knows about us.
( By this time my curiosity piqued, I dared to peek and saw hesitation and a slight fear writ all over her face. She was facing Arun and me. Arun’s back was to me. Sarang the rowdy was now slowly edging behind Swetha as if to round her up.)
Swetha: Tell me soon. My mom will look for me .
( I noticed that she had taken extra care in making her rotund face for this meeting. An inch thick kohl on her eyes made her face grotesque and not appealing at all. Surely she wanted to impress Arun. She noticed Sarang’s move behind her and there was fear in her face and voice.)
Arun: (inching closer) I know you like me. I too have come to like you.
(Just then I saw Swetha’s face register terror as she was staring at something that Arun held in his hands and screamed.)
(Fear gripped me. I was paralysed. By then Sarang from the back had reached her front as if to fondle her breasts with both hands.
Arun: Sh! Sh! You scream, I am going to leave blade marks on you.
(Saying so he held her hands tight.)
Swetha:No! No! Please don’t do it. Please! Leave me alone. Ahh! It hurts!
(Swetha’s frantic pleas turned from a shocked loud scream to a subdued whimper as Sarang has landed his hands on her breasts and was fondling them with a roughness and a wicked grin on his face made it horrendous.)
(I heard her crying. I could not see properly anymore as Arun’ s bulk hid her almost completely.My heart came up and choked me. I wanted to scream, hurl myself at them, rescue Swetha and hit the boys, but I did Nothing.
I felt my legs heavy like leads and I was a statue. Just then Sarang saw me and that shock was just enough for him to release Swetha.
Three things happened at the same instant.
One, Swetha saw me too and got energy to push Arun away and run towards with me.
Two, Arun turned with surprise and anger towards me as I saw clearly on his face that he had begun to enjoy the rude play of Sarang on Swetha.
Three, Sarang began to move at a fast pace towards us.
Rage spewing from his nostrils as he puffed and moved with a great speed intending to harm us both for the spoilt fun.
A fourth miraculous thing happened. A cable television guy who had come to check on the antenna for some repair, entered the terrace followed by the 1st floor Sadasivam uncle whose cable connection was not working for the past two days.
This fourth interruption made us all stand frozen. Swetha’s back to them and clinging to me. I was staring at all. Arun and Sarang close to us, their backs also towards them, but at a decent distance still, which could not be misconstrued. All they could see was my face which could not say much.
Sadasivam Uncle: Hey ! Kids. What are you doing here?
( As others stood tongue tied, I spoke for the 1st time..)
I:Huh! Uncle we are discussing for a group project in science.
Uncle: Ok. But should you not be inside anyone of your homes rather than at the terrace? It is hot here. Go!
( He dismissed us and it was Swetha and I who quickly rushed after picking my make shift cushion and crisp packet. We rushed before the boys caught us. We noticed that the boys did not follow us immediately and we heard Sarang’s cultured voice – all drama- asking about the problem. The smart ass who managed to erase all doubts, if any, from Uncle’ s mind by his feigned interest in the cable issue and the faithful Arun stood by him, absolving his sins too in the process. We both seethed, but that was all we did then.)
And that was the end of the harrowing episode. After what seemed like endless delibration we decided to scale down the severity of the event and tell about Sarang and Arun’s harrassment. What we got, in response from our parents ,were enough reprimanding and chastising for creating a situation where boys could take advantage and was ordered to stay put at home at all times and not to go any where alone and in particular avoid those two boys. That is all.
The boys went scot free.
Even though Swetha got over the embarrassment eventually and forgot the event , I could not forgive myself for not reacting sooner. That guilt will stay with me always.