Hell, the mythical inferno of molten lava and smouldering fire where presumably every damned soul is doomed to suffer in their passage after life in a bid to purge itself before being able to break away from the cycle of life and death and find peace. God, has his own system of justice where sinners are punished before they can earn his mercy; life, has its own quirky system where , more often than not the innocent are damned to suffer , sometimes at the greatest cost to their dignity and self-respect.
The Year 1999. Place – Patna. Reeling under the anarchy and lawlessness of the last political regime in Bihar which left Patna a hotbed for hooligans. Life, for young girls like us, stepping out of their homes, hoping to carve a niche for themselves in the corporate world, returning home, post sunset, was imminently fraught with danger.
Fresh out of Graduation School, had managed to secure a dream job opening in one of those rare MNC.s which had dared to step into Patna in the face of such adverse socio-economic milieu. Bubbling with fresh ideas, brimming with enthusiasm, I was all set to make my identity matter in the outside world.The work was challenging, colleagues supportive and the prospects brighter. However, all this came at a heavy price, a price which I had to pay through my sores and blisters as I travelled across hell, each day to return home after office.
The off-beat last stretch of road that led to my home once I broke away from the main road was the infamous SalimpurArha, known for being the den of the right hand of the ruling party , the dreaded sanctuary of some of Patna’s nefarious crime-lords. Riding back home in a rickety rickshaw in those dreaded after hours was a hellish experience. Their gleeful expressions as they devoured us with their eyes, cat-called and eve – teased us, passes lewd comments is the worst kind of hellish experience which any woman can go through. This, too in times when there was no taking recourse to law for such harassment cause justice stopped at their door steps.. Extortion, kidnapping, rape, even murder were not issues serious enoughto warrant the intervention of law in these dark corridors.
One could either grit her teeth and bear it or give up on her dreams and sit back at home. I dopted for the former. I tried to become invisible, dress as inconspicuously as possible, remain in the shadows and not draw any unwarranted attention, to myself. When that also failed to deter them and ensure my security, I like, hundreds of othersswitched cities. I came to the comforting security of another city, which, since then has been my home, in the hope that I would leavethefear behind. Such is the indelible scar of those years that never again, no matter, which part of the world I may be, have I ever felt secured or comfortable to venture out after darkness , on my own. I carry the burden of my own personal hell, on my back.