The bus was late again. The afternoon heat was killing, and Aditi felt drained. There were hardly any passengers at the bus stop. She was on her way home from the library as exams were just around the corner. At nineteen, she was a small girl with a round face and sweet smile, clad in a simple salwar kameez. Her eyes were her best feature, almond shaped and long lashes.
Aditi had the feeling of being watched. She looked here and there; but saw no one. Maybe it was her imagination, she thought. But she was unable to shake the feeling away. Harried, she looked again towards the road, willing the bus to come. There it was, finally! As she settled into the window seat, Aditi heaved a sigh of relief. A moment later, a young man was sitting next to her.
As she turned, she realised that he was staring at her. Feeling unnerved, she asked, “What happened?”
He replied, “Nothing. You look familiar. I don’t know but I feel I have seen you somewhere.”
Aditi didn’t know what to say. He nudged her and asked, “Where are you coming from? College student, right? Where do you study?”
Not wanting to answer any questions, Aditi retorted, “So, what does it matter to you? I don’t like talking to strangers.”
She took a closer look at the man. In his late-twenties, he was dressed in a grey trouser and blue shirt, with a small briefcase in hand. He looked like a normal office goer, but there was something about his demeanour that put Aditi on guard. She knew a fast talker when she saw one. She had read enough stories in the newspapers about young girls being lured by men pretending to be good and become a part of human trafficking eventually.
The man was not put off by her curt replies. The bus was crowded and there was no other empty seat to sit. And her stop was still a little further away. Aditi was at her wits end. Suddenly, the man asked, “Are you Shyamlalji’s daughter?”
Aditi was shocked hearing her father’s name. She turned to him in surprise. “How do you know that?”
“Oh, so it is you. I have been looking for your father since I moved to your city. I even visited your old house, but I was told that you had moved away six years ago without any further address. My father, Raghu and your dad were great friends in the village. I saw your picture with my father taken many years ago while you were visiting. You almost look the same, but it took me a while to place you. I have been thinking about it, since I saw you at the bus stop.”
Aditi remembered Raghu Kaka and she now knew that this young man was his son. As she headed home with his contact number in her hand, she realized how mistaken she was about the man’s identity!
Salwar-Kameez – traditional Indian outfit comprising of a long tunic with loose trousers worn by women
Kaka – Uncle
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