After working twenty hours straight with naught to eat or sleep, except for some gruelly coffee (two words that should never be together), I decided to walk home. It wasn’t really late but it was 9:30 p.m. - the time rickshaw fellows enter their doozy nocturnal timezone to charge midnight fare. Really, how do they tell Cinderella’s story in their world? She left the ball early and sat polishing the fireplace in her taffeta gown waiting to be turned into a turnip that didn’t happen until much later. (Turnip meant figuratively, although that too would have been a sweet turn of events.) Takes the magic out of the fairy tale, I think.
Anyway, I was a little tired and heavy headed but thought I would walk home anyway. I just needed to have a chewy thought to engage my mind. Therefore I turned my meager faculties (meager at that time only. Otherwise, I’m an impresario of intellect) to how nobody ever laughs, ‘Hyuk! Hyuk!’. Now, as anyone who has read Archie comics would know, ‘Hyuk! Hyuk’ is the sound of hearty laughter. Like when you’ve heard something like this Valentine ditty: ‘What inspired this amorous rhyme? Two parts Vodka, one part lime?’ or Sohail Khan as a college student in ‘Krishna Cottage’ or the ‘story’ credits in Jackie Chan films. Stuff like that.
But even though one may thump one’s hands while doubling over in mirth, one doesn’t exactly go ‘Hyuk! Hyuk!’ It sounds more like when you’re trying to hiccup with an accent.
So, just to see how ‘Hyuk! Hyuk!’ sounded aloud, I thought I’d give it a try. There was no-one on the bridge I was walking over, so no risk of being apprehended for disturbing public peace. ‘Hyuk! Hyuk!’, I shouted. No. Won’t work like that. So I smiled and went, ‘HYUK! HYUK!’
Just then, I heard someone say, ‘Hi. I’ll give you a lift?’
A burly chap with brown moustache had come up on his bike soundlessly. He didn’t seem to be perturbed at looking at a woman in scarf going ‘Hyuk! Hyuk!’ at random. I smiled politely, said no thank you, and carried on.
No ‘Hyuk! Hyuks!’ now. I had turned my attention to Mr. Lodge’s ‘Egad!’
A few minutes later, I see the guy turn and come back on a one way street. ‘Where are you going?’, he asked with an oily smirk. I realized I had made a mistake by smiling at him.
“I’ll manage”, I say curtly and walk faster.
Suddenly, I look around and realize that there is no-one else on the bridge – not even those nosy street dogs.
He comes again, this time a little closer. “Really? It won’t be a problem. Just tell me where I can take you?”
I don’t answer and walk quickly – briskly- rapidly. After a while, I turn back and I don’t see him on the bridge anymore. Relief.
And then in the dim pool of the one street light that works, I see him waiting for me the end of the bridge. No cops, no people, no dogs, and one idiot walking with a scarf on her head.
I have half a mind to turn back, but then decide not to. I just hope he isn’t armed or with friends waiting on the other side of the road.
I reach the end of the road and he asks me again, “Hey! Come on! Where to?”
I stop. I turn. And I bellow,”ENOUGH! GO!”
Woman in scarf laughing to herself and now shouting loudly enough to wake up everyone on Dholepatil Road. He vamooses.
I can see him on the other side of the road slowing down. That’s the lane I need to take. I stand and stare at him. He’s looking at me and blinking his headlights. He doesn’t budge.
I finally spot a rick. And turns out the one guy who should be interested in taking me home is busy reading the newspaper (at 10:00 in the night).
Cluck of tongue.
I feel a little helpless now. I mean, I’m tired and all and that burly guy is now talking to another fellow. They both keep looking at me off and on.
I need this rick fellow to take me home.
I think he realizes that ‘No’ wouldn’t quite cut it with me. He puts down his newspaper and tells me, “Unke saath jaana tha, aapko. Pune vaise safe hai.” (You should have gone with him. Pune is safe that way.)
I decide to take his word for it - that Pune is safe, even though my fists are clenched in my pant packets. I decide to go home walking. I cross the road where the guy and his friend are standing. They look at me and wait for me walk by them. I do, slowing down as I approach them.
He then turns to the roadside stall and buys gum.
I carry on thinking how appropriate the word “Whew!” is. That word I can relate to.