The Stranger

The Stranger

Anshul hopped out of his office at 4 pm. 

No sooner than the elevator approached the ninth floor and its doors opened, Anshul jumped in, almost frightening the only other person inside; a young man like him.

 “Sorry, I am in a hurry,” Anshul apologized.

“You getting excited is not going to accelerate the lift’s speed.” The man, who looked very courteous, grinned.

 “Where are you rushing? Hope everything is fine,” he asked as the lift lazily touched the sixth floor.  “Sorry for prying,” he added apologetically, introducing himself as Vishal, a sales manager with an electronic equipment company, who had come to the premises for a client meeting.

“I need to catch the 4.20 local to King Circle. My sister’s first dance performance is at the Shanmukhananda fine arts….” 

The sudden halting of the elevator interrupted the conversation.

“Oops! The electricity has failed unusually. Some men were working on the backup system when I came in the noon. I heard its pace has slackened.”  Vishal’s information jolted Anshul.

Anshul fidgeted in his pocket and retrieved his handset. He realized that the battery had drained.  

Vishal’s radium dial flashed the timing as 4.10. 

“I have ten more minutes to take the train, but that is if this bloody lift moves fast.” Anshul pressed the alarm.

“Don’t worry; I am traveling towards King Circle. I will drop you in my car.” Vishal offered to drive him to the venue.

 ‘What a coincidence! That is some fortune on an otherwise bad day.’  Anshul heaved a sigh of relief.

The lift slowly moved.

Things had gone haywire since the morning for Anshul.

He couldn’t concede to his sister’s request of taking an off due to the presentation in the office.

A flat tire in his bike had forced Anshul to hire a taxi to work. Similarly, he had planned to travel by taxi to the auditorium in the evening. 

A flash strike by the taximen’s union because of some altercation that one of their drivers had with a bus conductor sabotaged Anshul’s plans. They had forcibly stopped private cabs too.

“Bhaiyya*, how are you going to reach on time for the program?” Ankita almost cried over the phone.  

“The presentation will get over by 4 pm. I will take the 4.20 local and reach on time to escort you to the dais.” Anshul promised his sister.

As Vishal’s car approached the venue, Anshul was baffled to see his parents and sister come rushing towards him with tears in their eyes.

“You did not travel by the 4.20 local?” They cried in unison. 

“The train met with a terrible accident as it left Reay Road. Many have perished.” His mother caressed his cheeks.

“Your phone was not reachable. People have gone looking out for you. God saved you.” Emotions engulfed his father. 

Decked in her Bharat Natyam attire, Ankita hugged him and cried, not worried about her makeup getting spoilt.

Anshul looked gratefully at Vishal, who was a stranger to him till an hour before.
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