While typing the last few words on laptop I glanced on the clock. It had already 6.00p.m. I had to get ready for dinner at an inaugural function. Anticipating a longer outing at night I switched the TV for current forecast.
One after another the sequels of women atrocities that range from five yrs old victim to forty plus flashed on the screen.
In yellow lights of MUV, the zooming engine had been piercing through the woods of plateau region. A narrow stretch of metalled road was reflecting in front. Through the abound chitterling of crickets the atmosphere was fragrant with flowers of Palash.
The air of advanced spring at 7.30 was breezy. The darkness was serene except for occasional distant howling of jackals.
I regretted my decision to visit the place after the dusk before dusk the scenery around could have been better enjoyed. The drive through the forest to guest house was of about forty minutes.
After the drive of more than fifteen minutes through the woods Bidyut the driver seemed clueless and turned the vehicle at different passes. Puzzled in local dialect he yielded I took the wrong turn. “Hmm…. ask someone,” suggested Adi.
In past twenty minute we had crossed occasional hamlets along the path. Most of the routes were deserted through the forest. In abundance the orange blooms of Palash were strewn on the road.
When the vehicle took a turn and rode a bump we saw a girl in red attire was standing at the turning. At the turn the vehicle moved swiftly and I caught the glimpse of her big eyes. At the distance others were too heading in groups.
“They are going for Bihu festival’s fair ”- Bidyut mentioned. We were hearing the faint chorus of folksong at the distance with rhythmic beats.
The ride for next ten minute again passed in silence listening the howls of wilds and occasional rhythm of beats. The grooves of bamboo were on both the sides of the road.
Fortunately after sometime an old man was seen walking on the path with a girl behind him. Ask them Adi retorted- “you came many times at this side.” “But that was during the day,” countered Bidyut.
Nearing them Bidyut rolled down the glass. The duo stopped - in local dialect the old man explained something pointing to a side lane. I felt girl’s gaze on me. The moment I moved my attention to her the vehicle moved ahead. Thus I managed only the glimpse of her big, longing eyes and red attire. Bidyut slowed down the vehicle and they walked ahead with us for the time being to show the right lane.
I moved to Adi thank god, we found the way. When the vehicle moved ahead both of them were still standing at the corner of the road. With gratitude I viewed them from the rear screen. Her expressive eyes were still at me.
The MUV took the turn through the thick bamboo groove on its side and in five minutes we were at the venue.
In dining hall for women I took the place at the far corner near the window. Through the windy breeze the folk songs with vibrations of beats strained through the open windows.
At the central courtyard of quest house the presentation of local artiste was going on. To continue the sequel of the events the artiste were passing through the passage near our chairs. Again I felt a gaze on me through the passing group. The same girl in red attire, while moving ahead she smiled. Her smile and gaze puzzled me.
Around mid night we were heading back to home, a forest official was accompanying us on the front seat. Then the vehicles were coming out in fleets. After the drive of few minutes MUV rode to the single strip road.
“Few hours back a fair was going on here nearby- somewhere near a side lane. We had asked the path and had taken the route,” Bidyut broke the silence after the ride of five minutes.
Ranger stated solemnly –“only a single strip goes up to five kilometers and after that the nearest hamlet starts.”
Next day I saw her image in the local news paper, she was the daughter of an old man.A local had persuaded her in the relationship promising to marry. But after a while he stopped responding to marriage proposal-the girl fed up with his sexual advance had been seeking help. Unable to cope with dishonor and bad name, she ended her life.
I was dumbfounded. Why was I getting her frequently? Why the red attire and her eyes were so evocative? Whether she was aware I had recently been helping and working with local women commission. Was she wanted to be heard and knowingly following me everywhere or was its just a coincidence?