Some days back while coming back from my exam center. I boarded a bus which dropped me and some other people on Chanapora bypass flyover a place in kashmir. While boarding off the bus I saw an elderly man of near about 85 years of age struggling to get off the bus. It made me uneasy I wanted to reach out to him but a part of me was too reluctant to help a complete stranger. As being brought up in a place like Delhi I was programmed to be vary of strangers. It was when he reached to the last step of the three step staircase of bus that I could not control myself and stretched my hand to help him and then the conductor of the bus who was collecting fares from the passengers lend his hand to him and helped him get down. I gave my fare and crossed one lane of the double lane flyover only to look back and find that old man struggling to cross road. I took one step towards the other lane and then turned back again and reached to that old man stood there, vehicles were very far so I walked slowly thinking he will follow. Only in the middle of the road I found he was still standing there. I went back and asked him why he was not crossing the road. He said he has low eyesight and he can’t figure how far the vehicles are. His words touched me and reminded me of my grandfather. I asked him if I can help him in crossing the road to which he happily extended his hand for me to hold. I felt happy and helped him cross both lanes. To catch another vehicle we had to reach down to the road crossing below the flyover through the stairs. I let my hand loose but he didn’t free his grip off my hand. I realized it was hard for him to climb down the stairs so I again held him and started to move down. He pressed my hand occasionally. Initially I didn’t mind but when he held my hand from his another hand I looked at him only to see his aged cataract eyes as if a cloud over his vision. He smiled and said you are strong. I smiled back, said thank you and started moving forward down the stairs. On our way back he started with all the questions regarding where I live, what I do and all that stuff elderly people are somehow curious about. I answered his every question. Not answering would feel rude and I didn’t like being rude to people who are smiling and good to me. When we reached near the stop, he asked me where I was going I told him nagam name of my village. To which he happily said then we will catch somu(public velicles in kashmir) together, I have to go to chadoora-sit next to me ok (Nagam is one or so km ahead of chadoora)? I didn’t know in that moment how to feel or react. Old people are like child I thought to myself that excitement and curiosity it touched my heart. He sounded like an old college buddy asking to travel together I smiled and said ok why not. There came a sumo and strangely it had only 2 seats empty that too next to driver. I asked him to sit to which he had a disappointed look in his eyes and said wont you come? I said you sit first I will sit next to you. We sat and somu left.
The old man was all curious. He was blessing and praising me. Kashmir is a place where somehow people know someone from every place and family, they are very social people I always thought to myself. This old man sitting next to me also was trying to figure out who I was till he concluded that my grandfather was his classmate. Told me his name and that he lives at exact location of my home. So now I felt like he was a family. He asked me to have tea with him at chadoora to which I politely refused asking him to come home someday to meet his friend and have tea which I’ll make for them.
What a jolly good man he is totha( grandpa) will be happy to know about him. I was thinking about all this that he placed his arm over my shoulders. He must be tired I thought to myself, not reacting to this sudden closure with him. It didn’t felt awkward my grandpa could also do the same if his arm fatigued.
Everything seemed ok till he tried to hug me with that arm pressing me hard towards him. I didn’t knew how to react. I moved a little forward to free his grip from my shoulder. I succeeded only to find his hand on my waist again pressing me towards him and gradually moving down.
In that one moment I felt a rush of anger, disappointment, guilt and doubt running through my veins. Anger that how he dare touch me like this. Disappointment that I thought he was a good man. Guilt that why did I thought of helping any man , being a girl we are not suppose to be gentle to anyone. And still one part of me was in doubt thinking maybe I am reading it wrong. Maybe I am over reacting.
I got a phone call when we reached chadoora I stepped down to let him get down and turned to continue talking on phone. When I finished and turned back to sit back I saw him still sitting there. Its chadoora tehsil why are you still in the vehicle? You had some work at tehsil isn’t it? I asked him. Yes but I thought somu will move further he replied. What do you have to do with it moving further? It’s your destination step down. No, trust me I was not rude we were at the door of tehsil exactly where he had to go. But he was still sitting there of no apparent reason. He stepped down grabbed my hand and started pulling me with him saying please let’s have a cup of tea, it will take only five minutes. Everyone was looking at us. I didn’t feel like making a scene out of it that too when in somu we were talking very nicely to each other. So I refused politely but wrenched his grasp and sat quickly on the seat and shut the door.
On my way home for some strange reason I was thinking- had he crossed the road to tehsil safely? Did he actually misbehave or was it all in my mind? Was I over thinking? I mean I was decently dressed head and body fully covered no makeup no perfume nothing. And even if I was dressed sensually with makeup and all those things that attracted men how did it matter that old man couldn’t see vehicles properly how could have he seen me, my dress, makeup and all properly.
What was wrong?