The time was past 10.30 PM. It was early January 2015. Winter in Delhi was at peak. Cold waves were forcing to shiver each one outside. Nikita wearing a black jacket and woolen scarp, was standing in front of her reputed MNC company at Noida after finishing her office duties for the shift 2 PM to 10 PM, and waiting for her cab to come.
Presently, she was staying with her maternal uncle Sandeep at PVH, Lodhi Road. Travel distance to the residence was not less than one hour. By this time, she was supposed to cover much of the distance towards residence. In metro cities, it’s very normal that boys and girls work round the clock. They are attuned to such situations.
She was working as a software specialist in that company, recently joined, just three months back after resigning from her previous company. Today, aspirations of young boys and girls are very high. They need money, dignity and comfort at the cost of sincerity, hard work and high educations. It hardly matters, whether they’re working in day or night time or in any of the three shifts.
While leaving the office at 10 PM, she was told that cab had gone somewhere to drop a colleague and stuck there in traffic jam, so there could be some delay. But, so much of delay! She didn’t think of.
After a while, her mobile rang, she picked up the call. It was a call from her office PRO. “Madam, cab is reaching you within 5 minutes.” PRO informed.
Nikita took a deep breath thanking God. At last, God had been kind enough to alleviate her anxieties.
In the meantime, as usual she was getting frequent calls from her parents living at Patna. Every time, she used to give some kind of assurance that cab would reach her in short while, there is no problem, she’ll manage…nothing to worry about and so on. She was not willing to disturb her parents at Patna unnecessarily, who were sitting 1000 kms away from her.
But, how could a mother be quiet when her daughter is outside in a metro NCR at night after 10.00 PM! She used to call her every now and then to know her safety and safe home coming. With passing of every minute, the anxieties at Patna were more intense.
Still the cab hadn’t come to her.
Today she had been waiting since long. In night, though vehicles movements were seen on the road, but crowds were not seen on the road side. All shops were closed barring few big malls and restaurants. One could see the crowds and cars being parked there.
For the last three months, she had been availing the pick and drop of cab facility provided by the company, but never faced such moments of anxieties and delays. Previously, she had been in Mumbai, having experiences of travelling in late night, and worked there for three years, hence she wasn’t that fearful, but it was Delhi NCR, she had spent a small time in Delhi, many adjacent placed were unknown to her.
She looked around in search of other means of transportation, thought if cab didn’t come, then she should find out some alternative like auto rickshaw or taxi so that she could reach at least Noida City Centre Metro station. But, nothing was seen around her. Time was trickling fast. Gradually, whatever movements on the road side were further fading away.
Fear along with anxieties were succumbing her. If she will not do something, then after a while she would be perhaps left alone on that street.
On the other side, at the residence at Lodhi Road, Uncle’s daughter 7 year old Rani and son 11 year old Anand were eagerly waiting for Didi to come. Normally by 10.30 PM, Nikita used to press the call bell indicating her arrival. Whenever she pressed the bell, Anand would open the door and Rani would hide herself to frighten her will some terrible sound.
Nikita knew all these activities of her small brother and sister, still every time pretended in such a manner that as if she had really terrified by their activities. Such surprise expressions of Nikita at that moment always cheered her little brother and sister.
Normally, after 9.30 PM, either Anand or Rani, one of them used to engage papa’s Smart phone by invoking ‘WhatApp’ to ascertain the whereabouts of Didi. Sometimes, it was simple text message, but maximum times there were voice sms with picture befitting expressions. Sandeep used to hear those calls; they were very sweet and outbursts of intense bond of relationship between brother and sisters.
‘Didi, when’re you coming?’ It was Rani’s sad voice.
“Haa…Babu, now it’s only 9.30 PM. I’ll come by 10.30 PM. But, why is face so down!” it was Nikita voice after seeing Rani’s picture.
“Didi, Rani wants to play with you,” Anand’s loud voice from a distance as Smart phone was with Rani.
“Okay, let me come, today we’ll play new games,” Nikita’s voice with an affectionate lovable picture.
“Okay…Bye, see u…” Rani and Anand voice together.
Many times, Nikita like a responsible Didi used to reply on every such SMS as ‘Babu, now I’m in the cab, just 10 minutes more…or something like that…”. These were just those common statements which always assured them of her cheerfulness and safety.
Such conversations used to begin from 9.50 after each 10 ~ 15 minutes interval till the call bell was pressed by Nikita.
Today also, as usual, Rani and Anand had their talk with Didi from 9.30 PM and presently were expecting Didi to press the call bell at any time as it was around 10.30 PM. But, it didn’t happen, rather there were no calls even it was 11 PM. It was a matter of worry for all of them.
Today, there was inordinate delay in Nikita’s arrival. She had also not informed anything adverse to Ruchi, her mami.
Anand took papa’s smart phone and sent a voice sms on the ‘WhatsApp’ to her again. Sandeep could hear the voice when it was played before sending, “Didi, where’re you at present? Didi come soon, we’re waiting for you at Dinner.” It was mixed voice of Anand and Rani. They became impatient to hear the voice of Didi.
“Haa…Babu, today I’ll be late as Cab has not come, waiting here for cab to come…don’t worry, I will come soon.”
“So, what time you’ll come then?” It was Anand’s sadness.
“Babu, I can’t say right now,” Nikita’s choked voice.
“Mamma, today Didi will come late.” Anand informed Ruchi.
Ruchi thought there might be some extra assignments, so she might be coming in the morning after finishing her job unlike normal days. She thought to clarify the facts from Nikita.
“Hello, beta what happened? Why late today?” Ruchi said over phone.
“Mami, as usual, today I came out of my office, but cab was not there. I was told that there would be slight late in arrival of cab. The cab came after half an hour. I sat in the cab, after 100 meter from the office; the driver said he’ll not go further as the cab is having some problem. I came out of the cab. The cab left. I was alone there for 5 to 10 minutes, searching for some alternatives like auto rickshaw or taxi. But nothing was available, finally came back nearer to my office. I’m standing here since then. I’ve informed my PRO about this, he has said some alternate arrangement will be done soon” Nikita replied under depression.
“Okay, don’t worry, you be there only, we will be coming to pick you from there.”
“Mami, my mobile is getting discharged; hence I will keep it switched off at present. If you get my mobile switched off message, then, don’t worry…,” Nikita further said in distress.
“okay, fine…,” Ruchi ignited confidence to her.
It was almost 11.30 PM.
“Let’s move now,” said Ruchi to Sandeep.
Sandeep wore a long black coat which he’d bought from Turkey. That was first time he preferred that long coat as winter was at pinnacle. He took his car key. Anand and Rani, as usual were ready beforehand hearing their decision to bring Nikita from her office, as if they four were heading towards some mystery exploration.
The fact is that Sandeep was recently posted at New Delhi and was not conversant to Delhi NCR locations except some places very nearby to his residence. But, under such circumstances, you never know from where courage and commitment just comes in! May be from that unforeseen super power!
Sandeep was about to leave her residence gate. He saw the Security Guard, enquired about the location for Noida. The guard indicated the direction which was sufficient to energize him to head towards that path.
Sandeep had already assured his brother-in-law and didi that they need not worry as they all were going to bring Nikita, still after a short interval, he was getting call from them to know how much they had progressed, though they knew very well that the place where Sandeep was moving were all not less than mystery for them. Moreover, it was dark night; they might not get people on road for any help to get correct direction!
When you are in adverse circumstances, your acumen and senses work best! In the meantime, Anand had activated GPS tracking in the Smartphone; guiding them towards the destination. It was really great excitement when you know nothing about future recourse in such a dark night but fully dependent on a device and its discourse. It was appearing at that moment as if Sandeep was hearing doctrines from Sharathi Shri Krishna and he had to execute them like Arjuna. Sometimes, due to poor network, the GPS tracking was stuck and Anand was not able to guide him further.
“Papa, pl. stop the car or go slow, I’m not able to see map tracking as network is poor,” Anand’s advice to Papa.
“Okay beta, slowly driving from extreme left,” his sincere rely to Anand.
“Yes, Papa, it has come, move to right after 100 meter from the next red light,” Anand’s further instruction to Papa.
Likewise, they moved ahead and crossed a lot of distance. Many times, calls of Brother-in-law from Patna on the same Smartphone were also distracting the GPS tracking. It was obvious that from such a distance, how one could be quiet!
Time was already 12.30 AM, means the date had changed.
They’re heading towards Kalindi Kunj as instructed by Nikita. In the meantime, she had talked to her friends and colleagues Samir and Iqbal. They’re staying very near to Kalindi Kunj. They assured her that they would come and drop her to the destination.
After a while, Nikita again called saying, “Anand, where’re you at present?’
After confirming from Sandeep, Anand replied, “Didi, we’re at present nearing Fortis Hospital.”
Nikita, after a pause, said again, “Anand, you just wait there in front of Fortis Hospital main gate, my friends have come, and they will be dropping me there, hardly take 15 to 20 minutes to reach.”
Sandeep heard everything, safely parked the car on the road side. It was almost 12.45 AM. Roads were all empty, which rarely noticed in day time. Anand and Rani were enjoying a lot. Sandeep came out of the car to have a look around for Nikita’s arrival.