Knight without armour

“Can you walk me home?” a class maid ask of me. It was getting dark and cold on a wintry late afternoon. Pointing at two strangers with the corner of her eyes, she whispered: “These two goons have been following me daily for days now. It is already dark, and I am scared like hell.”

I stole a sight of the goons; one was lean and tall with boils all over his face, and the other was short and stocky with a funny moustache and chinky eyes. I mumbled, “Ok.” Thoughts ran through my mind, “Will they break my legs and drag away my class maid by force and ravish her”? Despite such thoughts, I could not say no to my class maid. Too afraid to accompany her alone, I asked my best mate for company. Then, I had only seen 16 summers. Our intermediate college was at the south-western slope of Swoyambhu. I lived in New Road; my friend lived in Dilli Bazaar. Our class maid lived in what was then Thapathali, further beyond Prasuti Griha, across present NTL building at Babar Mahal. There was a big wall running along the highway at Babar Mahal. A small track along the wall winded up to her home, the cul de sac, accessible from Thapathali.

So, we took our daily route, walking from Swoyambhu to Dallu to Nardevi, New Road Gate, Bhadrakali Temple, Maiti Ghar Mandala, Thapathali and then right to the cul de sac. We walked, flanking her on both sides. From time to time, we looked behind us only to find the vagabonds stop and look away from us. We lost sight of them at Prasuti Griha. We escorted the girl to within a few metres from her home. She darted home without a word. There were no goodbyes and no invitation to tea at home.

I started worrying about what to tell my mother for coming home late. My worry turned into fear when we saw the thugs near Ram Bhandar, a tea shop in an old house. They motioned at us with their hands to go to them. So we ran inside Ram Bhandar. We started talking to other customers, all locals, to give the impression to the thugs that we were local boys. We checked our pockets and dug out money for a glass of tea.

The thugs must have sensed that we would not go out of the shop. When we went out to check on them, they were both gone. My mother was incensed that I was late. I bore her rebuke stoically without answering her question: “Where were you?” Had I told her, I was playing knight in shining armour, defending my friend’s honour, she would have skinned me alive.