Walker of Parks
Nanda, it’s getting late. Are you leaving work soon?
Nanda… She hated it when they called her that – it sounded so local. She had thought she would have outgrown it by now but the world was not a wish granting factory. She had learnt that by now. Doesn’t mean she had to like it.
Yes, shutting down in five minutes. Meet you in a few.
Angela could handle pretty much anything except leaving town late on weekdays. She couldn’t afford to take a cab every day of the week, so she focused on what she could – leaving office early so that she wouldn’t have to be in the park after dark. Nanda had been getting taxis from paaka enkadde for as long as she could remember so she was used to it.
Men old enough to be her father/grandfather dying to touch a piece of her skin, shouting how she was their size, looking at her as though she was naked. She couldn’t remember the last time she had cringed when she heard the ‘sister sister’ calls and whistling that usually came with it. In her defense, it wasn’t intentional. It was one of the things that simply happened.
One day she went to the park, and she didn’t feel insulted by their actions. She had too many battles to fight so she had let that one go.
Angela, on the other hand, couldn’t take it. It’s not that Nanda hoped she would one day get used to it as well, because that had its implications but she feared for her. It would have been easier for her if she did though. Somehow, the universe had led them to each other, and that they stayed on the same side of town was nothing short of a miracle.
Although if she had to, she would have escorted Angela all the way to her home even if they stayed in opposite directions. She loved her that much, and any little thing she could do, she would.
Nanda was many things, and an optimist wasn’t one of them, but sometimes she couldn’t help but wonder. Wonder what a life without catcalling from men would be like. Whether there would ever be a generation of girls that didn’t fear going to the taxi park by themselves because of the reality of being harassed by men from all walks of life. If she would always be there to walk with Angela through the park, and give whatever little comfort that came it.
It probably didn’t help that the employment situation was in shambles, so the chance of Angela upgrading from the taxi life any time soon was a probability that needed to be estimated by experts. But that was a story for another day.
None of it mattered at that moment anyway, so she did the only thing that did. She shut down her computer and went to meet Angela. To walk her through the taxi park. The comedian in her thought about making a career out of that, walking ladies through the taxi park. And when she died, on her grave they would write “Walker of Parks”.
She smiled. She had long ago stopped questioning smiles – if it made you want to smile, you smiled. Lord knows she needed more smiles in her life.