The Evening !

(Facts are stranger than fiction !! Sometimes, you find yourself in a weird situation that numbs the senses and leaves you in the state of total shock. One can’t rationally analyze what had happened then …. You don’t want to recall the incident but had kept it in the dark closet of your heart all these years !!)

This must have happened almost  12 years back.

We were staying in Sahakarnagar which was relatively secluded locality that time. Pune was not as bustling as it is now and ‘early-to-bed-early-to-rise’ was adopted mantra of all middle class households. It was Diwali vacation time. Many families had gone to their relatives to celebrate the festival.

I was studying in college. Life was going on. This year, we had decided to spend time in Pune itself.

To make most of the holidays, we used to start our day very early with the game of Cricket.

Ground sports, watching TV, reading books were important tasks of the schedule.

Evenings were normally spent on scenic Taljai hill which was just nearby. A casual stroll on hill top for watching sunset had become a routine then.

Even today, many people come there for evening walk, chit-chat for some time and vacate the place before it gets too dark. Though Taljai table top is very serene place, it can appear quite intimidating during night times.  Thanks to unavailability of street lights, no human habitat and dense jungle located on other side of hill……

It was one such lazy evening in the month of November. None of my friends turned up for the games, citing some or other reason. Frustration level increased as I was not in best of my moods. Bored like hell, I was perhaps badly needing some fresh air.

My parents had gone out to see a Marathi play that would go on till 9.00 PM. There were no cell phones or other communication gadgets then. So after waiting nearly about half an hour, I decided to visit the hill by myself.

Some familiar faces waved at me while climbing up. One of Dad’s friend made a point to stop and ask me about my studies and future plans. I was perceived as introvert person in my relatives and acquaintances. Living up by that reputation, I cut him short. I was not having any intention to get engaged in some useless talks with any elderly person in such beautiful climate.

Walk was just fine. However I could easily notice less density of hill-dwellers inspite of it being a weekend. And there was a reason for it.

If my readers could recall, those days there was an unknown fear among Puneites – especially people staying in Sahakarnagar and Satara Road area. Three people were killed in mystic manner in the span of one week. All victims were from well-to-do families. Police were trying hard to catch hold of this ‘Serial Killer’ but didn’t have met any success so far. Rumor factory was running at full throttle. This whole episode had started giving birth to a new story everyday.

Contrary to today’s time, private television was not as empowered and effective then. Only reliable sources of information for local happenings, were newspapers, social activists and tell-tales getting exchanged during corner talks.

If the leading Marathi daily to be believed, nobody had seen that psychopath serial killer in person. This very fact was making life hard for investigating officers. There was a strange terror in minds of common people. However, everybody was trying best to get along with daily chores.

When I reached the hill top to take my pet location, sun has already started its descent. I had spent many evenings sitting here and watching the sheer beauty of drowning Sun. Silence in the surrounding, fading shades of trees, gently blowing breeze makes a person forget everything including his own existence. I started getting more and more into deep meditative state. Weather was nice that turned me in poetic frame of mind – to savor the nature’s music. In such high, you hate the materialistic world. You want to be in your own intimate company.

Sat there for a long time…. Engulfed in my thoughts….When I came out of my trancelike state, I realized that it had started getting dark. Since this place was never known to be safe late evenings, I immediately decided to start my journey back home.

Regular walkers had left the place long back. Road was deserted. Hardly I could have walked hundred meters, near the very first turn, I noticed a young girl sitting on the bench and sobbing. She appeared to be very cultured and simple. I was surprised to see her there, staying back so late.

She was really looking sad and weeping continuously. I stopped by and said hello.

She suddenly stopped crying and looked at me with puzzled look. I asked her what had happened and what she was doing there so late. Initially she didn’t speak. I gave my identity and told her that it’s highly unsafe for her to stay there alone. I also drew her attention to the newspaper in her college bag which prominently read the news of the ‘Serial Killer’ in our locality.

Perhaps now she had the gravity of situation.

In very scared voice, she told me that her name was Sheetal and she was daughter of well-known businessman Mr Mehata from Dhanakawadi.

That evening, it seems, she had bitter fight with her family over some issue. I tried to console her. Darkness was slowly increasing. I badly needed somebody’s company till my colony, So I asked her to immediately start walking down. By this time, she also had realized the situation.

We started walking down hill slowly. Nobody was speaking anything. There was unknown fear filled in the ambience. Suddenly I noticed a guy walking behind us from distance of 15-20 feet.

He was a well-built, black rowdy man with arrogance spread all over his face. His actions were suspicious. On next turn, I could confirm that the person was indeed keeping an eye on us.

My heart was racing fast.  Wave of cold shiver went straight through my spine.

The girl – Sheetal – also realized the danger. I signaled her to stay calm and keep mum. We came down the hill and headed towards Sahakarnagar. Street was deserted on that chilly evening….. No sign of Autorickshaws  or any other vehicle.

I looked back. The guy was still chasing us. We increased the pace, he followed.

I told Sheetal in deliberate loud voice “ I stay in nearby housing complex. Why don’t we go home? My dad will be back any moment now. He can drop you to Dhanakawadi on his scooter.” She looked convinced. My thinking was very clear. Moment we were in our society, it would be safe for both of us. I took a short cut to reach home faster.

While entering through our colony gate, I looked back. The guy had stopped behind the main gate. He was carefully observing my movements.

With shaking hands I took out keys from my pocket.

Me and Sheetal entered in the house.

I didn’t want to take any chance and wanted to seal the door from inside. But then there was an unknown girl with me. I didn’t want her to feel awkward. So I pushed the front door gently – without locking it. While doing so, I observed that the black goon was already wandering in front of my home.

I started feeling horrible. He was pretending to be a trespasser but I knew for sure that he was keeping a close watch on us.

Sheetal was looking pale and exhausted. I asked her what she would have – tea or coffee.

With slight hesitation, she asked me for a glass of water. I went inside the kitchen.

Still thinking of the events, I poured the water in glass. I reached the hall where Sheetal was sitting and I heard a loud scream.

Sheetal was screaming frantically…………

I saw the black guy storming into our house…

opening the door……..

he was whistling……….

He was a policeman…….……

and…………….. and….

…………………. the Knife fell off from my hand !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

(Inspired from a famous Marathi Story by Ratnakar Matakari)