She wrapped up work as quickly as she could. It was seven already, and the sun had set. And the way back home worried her, it wasn’t very ‘safe’, you see. She hurried off, barely getting herself together in the elevator, jumped off, and walked, ran almost. The street was bare, she walked at a steady pace, hoping not to catch too much attention. Unfortunately for her, she did. And it three this time, three beards of proud manhood.
They were slow to start off as she passed, whistling and moving towards her. She was scared, agonized, but couldn’t show it right off. Dare she not. They called behind her, names that sounded like howling of the wicked. She walked faster, hurrying as fast as her legs could carry.
And from behind the howling came a different voice. A man’s voice perhaps is different from howling after all. She wasn’t sure what she wanted to do about it, but she carried on. Couldn’t stop. not a single second. The voice shouted a name, and it came closer. The howling stopped, not entirely but enough to confuse her more. A light tap on the shoulder and her heart missed a beat.
She turned around. A face she didn’t recognize. But the face had a smile, a broad, simple, warm smile. “I’ve been shouting your name forever, couldn’t you just stop?” Her expression wasn’t any better, but she tried to make something of this face, to fit it into so anybody she knew. A low howl, almost a bark, and a fear returned.
“Come on Chayya, don’t act like you don’t remember me, ok? Samir, from Kendriya Vidyalaya, remember?” Oh now she did not. She never went to, knew or met anyone from KV. This guy must’ve been mistaken, she thought. A whistle forced her to abandon the conversation and run, for this guy she didn’t know couldn’t possibly be of any help, right?
“Wait up dude! I’m not letting you go this easy. I have to meet Uncle & Aunty, it’s been so long!” She had to stop him, right here, right now. Her phone slipped off her hand and fell with a low thud. She looked down, a corner of her eye catching three beards, ready to pounce. Her anxiety gave way to a sudden plan. Quick & Easy.
“Oh My God, Samir! I’m so sorry I didn’t recognize you. It’s been so long”, she said as she picked up her phone. “If you aren’t busy, come right up, Mom & Dad will be happy to see you.” He happily obliged.
Making small talk on the way, she noticed two things. One, Samir knew a lot about Chayya and readily agreed to whatever she made up. two, the three beards gave up any hope, and had stopped on their tracks, turned back and returned.
She reached her home, turned around, and almost apologetically began, “Look, Samir, I’m so sorry. I’m not Chayya. I might look like her or something, but I just played along to get your help and get out of that street. You noticed those three guys following me? I didn’t mean to use you or anything but I just didn’t have any choice.”
“Hey, that’s okay. I’m sorry too. I know you’re not Chayya, neither am I Samir nor did I ever go to KV”
And maybe that’s why perhaps, a man’s voice is different from a howl or a bark.