Mobile phone rings.
It’s seven in the morning. It’s an absolute crime for someone to call at this time. And an even bigger one to call on a Saturday. It better be important, the person or their reason to pick the phone.
I reached for my phone and it was mom.
“Your sister’s not come still. We’re worried.”
“Wa……(yawning till my eyes well up)What happened?”
My body was yet to fully wake up to the panic, my mind had woken up to.
“Her train from Hyderabad was to scheduled to reach Chennai at 5.45 and it had arrived on schedule. It’s 7.30 now and she’s still not come.”
“Ok. Probably a delay. Did you call her.”
“Ya. Several times. It’s either not reachable or goes to the voice mail which speaks Telugu. We’re worried.”
God. Suddenly the distant empathy I’ve hitherto felt for those breaking news stories were starting to become personal. The possibilities it was impregnated with, this news was breaking me from within. The several instances of misogyny, violation and sexual assault that’d taken place in my backyard and left me disturbed for a while— before I could vent out in the form of an angry tweet or a post or launch into a diatribe about women safety with some acquaintances —were sprinting across my head from ear to ear. I was sweating like a virgin murderer on a cold Bangalore morning. I was terrified of the possibilities.There’s no way I could let out my feelings. Not now. I had to put on my brave face, if not for my sake, for my parents to not cave. The gravitas of the situation was sitting on my chest like a giant toad.
She’s my baby sister. We’re good people. All’s well. All will be.
“Don’t worry ma. She’s not the brightest of bulbs. Her phone’s either died or on silent and she’s probably asleep. It’ll be fine. Let me try calling.”
My head was running without a harness in directions I didn’t want it to. The “what ifs” were freaking me out as I kept getting her voice mail with every attempt to reach. I then reached out to the railway police to be safe than sorry. I needed all the ammunition I could get and needed them fast. Meanwhile I told my parents to go the railway station and launch a formal complaint. Every minute was precious. And we couldn’t let her be off the grid for any longer, not in a place that’s teeming with ten deviants per every plot hole on the road.
I was looking for the next flight leaving to Chennai, when mom called me again.
“Your sister called. We were looking at the wrong train. She was asleep.”
“Fuc….Anyways. Thank god. Let me try and get back to the sleep I was having before this.”
And like that, the storm we were preparing for, turned into an unpungent fart. But those long thirty minutes weren’t merely painful. They were unsettling. None of our heads went to the possibility of a wrong train like it should’ve. Instead, it went to the news about a group of pedophiles who violated a eleven year old from a week ago. Or to the possibility of a long delay or of her being asleep like it should’ve. But to the possibility of a looming threat of another lurking deviant who stepped from the shadow. It was just a very brief period to let the mind come up with such morbid iterations. But trust me, it was the most helpless we’ve felt as a family in a really long time. The fact that we live in a time, we can’t suppose the safety of our women on the collective decency of the society is a worrisome-irrefutable truth. We (think we)know the men in our lives by the masks they choose to sport- of a decent looking guy, well-natured uncle, father’s friend, pious old man, nerdy accountant, carpenter, preoccupied bookworm, introverted socially awkward guy. We just can’t be sure anymore, that they will be the same men when their mask comes down in a moment of weakness. Hope this nation that’s often personified as a mother, feels safe for her daughters some day soon enough.