At first glance, Bhadra, analyst at a leading BPO in Bangalore, was your average Joe. For that matter, even after several glances and beyond, he would probably remain one. He liked Cricket when India played, and preferred to watch movies on TV, mostly universally acclaimed hits. He believed in ‘settling’ down in life and taking the middle path. To that end, he got married.
Bhadra was a proud Bangalorean and spoke Kannada. Whenever he sensed slander by ‘outsiders’, he would quickly launch an offensive. His stock phrasal retorts included Chennai’s heat and chauvinism, Hyderabad’s white-collared forgers, Kerala’s communist leaning, Mumbai’s underworld and terrorism, and Delhi’s rapes. Did I mention ‘rape’? Bhadra echoed the popular theory that women invited rape.
It was a pleasant Sunday evening. Bhadra and his wife had planned a visit to Orion, the new shopping mall of a few million square feet. Hailing from a neighboring village, Rekha the blushing bride was as acquainted with western attire as would an Arab be to a kilt. To keep with the city’s fashionable ways, and her husband’s wardrobe preferences, she wore a simple black tee over sulfur blue jeans, but salvaged some of her cultural ground with glinting gold bangles and a symbolic black dot on her forehead. Bhadra was at his casual best in an orange round neck tee, with ‘I was born intelligent, but education made me stupid’ screaming across his torso and the ‘stupid’ firmly planted on his potbelly.
Bhadra and Rekha walked almost a kilometer from their tenement in Jangasandra, to flag a rickshaw. The road was deserted, and most of the shutters were down, a usual Sunday evening sight. The young couple walking hand-in-hand made idlers, present in pockets, all curious. Rekha started feeling nervous. She and her husband were clearly getting all the attention. Bhadra was oblivious to it for around a minute, then saw that his wife was treading cautiously, looking at the muddy ground beneath her feet. He assured her everything was OK, and people new to the locality got the attention. Right under the veneer of composure, he was praying desperately for time to come to his rescue. No sooner than he got busy with his prayers, did he hear a voice to his left bellowing a recently released Kannada serenade. He turned and produced a hesitant scowl, only to be met with jeers and whistles.
Rekha was praying as well. She prayed for nuptial intervention, and a swashbuckling one at that. The reality however was of nervousness, and feigned nonchalance.
They came to the main road presently. Within a couple of minutes, they were inside the relatively safe interiors of a rickshaw.
Bhadra broke the ice and told his wife, “as long as we live in this area, please wear loose-fitting salwar kameezes. Don’t forget to have full sleeves stitched.”
“I feel unsafe here. Can we move to a different locality?”
“Nah, don’t worry so much. These are just boys out to have a bit of fun in the evening. They’re known to be boisterous. Don’t pay heed to these jokers. “
“But that’s not good, is it?”
“I understand, but feel happy it’s only this much. We aren’t as bad as Delhi yet.”