"Sticks and stones may break my bones,
But words will never harm me."
- Nursery Rhyme
The Kind Stranger
It was the year 2006. The first year when I'd finally been allowed to travel to and fro school alone. I was so excited to be making the trips alone. In fact, I had actually been quite excited about traveling alone. Being sixteen, of course, the first taste of freedom always seems like a little bit of heaven.
With great excitement, I boarded the auto rickshaw, next to young man. He looked about twenty years old. I had never been fond of the middle seats in autos, because you get crammed between two strangers. And sometimes the experiences are not pleasant. Since many a girl and woman have become victims of eve teasing in that very seat...
Anyway, this twenty something had with him a huge box from Dominos. He caught me eying the packet, and then grinned at me, when our eyes locked. Now, right before the auto could start, another man took the other seat in the auto. He was reeking with the smell of alcohol, and he almost had no control over his body, it seemed. Instinctively, I leaned towards the twenty year old man.
He looked around and noticed the newcomer. He smiled at me, "Sister, why don't you exchange places with me?"
I nodded my head blankly, not quite sure how to react. We traded places, and he shifted himself at angle so that there was no way the drunken guy could grope me or harass me in anyway.
"Do you want some of the food?" he asked, pointing to the Dominos food packet.
I shook my head. I wasn't quite used to seeing drunken men in broad daylight. Before this, I was always traveling in the safe shelter of my mother or father, or an older sibling. I'd never faced a situation like this before. And till today, I don't know what would have happened, had the nice twenty year old not traded places with me.
"Relax," he told me, when it was his turn to get off the auto, "You will find people like him all over the place. The trick is to keep calm and protect yourself."
I wanted to tell him a lot of things.Like how I would also find people like him as well. Ones who stood up for women, you offered their protection to women they didn't even know. They took one look at a scared kid and at once began to call them "sister", not out of habit but because they really want to.
I never did find out what his name was. But he was there on the very first day I stepped out into the world on my own. I believe he was the guiding light. Perhaps the Universe's way of showing me, not every stranger I meet would have terrible intentions.