Bindu stood in the T.Nagar bus depot sipping on a glass of sugarcane juice. The cool juice marked with the sharp taste of lemon was a welcome relief in the sweltering heat of Chennai. As every other morning, the depot wore a busy look. Buses honking loudly, buzzing in and out, dropping off passengers and picking up new ones; there was a constant swarm of people moving around the depot. Bindu spotted students in crisp, clean uniforms, college girls with their backpack and bandhini duppatta, the IT or corporate slaves with the company ID hung around the neck peering into their mobile phones – the depot offered an interesting mix of crowd. Bindu remembered Kanamma who boarded the bus at Saidapet with her big round basket of fish. The conductor charged her an extra ticket for the basket, but Bindu had never seen the basket occupying a seat!
Narmada was a mathematics teacher at Holy Angels school in St. Thomas Mount. Ever since Bindu and Narmada had discovered their common desire to occupy the first seat close to the bus door, they had become bus seat partners. The cacophony of the blowing horns and buzzing traffic was a regular scene from a Monday morning. The conductor motioned the driver and M54 sputtered into life. Bindu looked around for Narmada who appeared to be surprisingly late.
Bindu grabbed the City Express from the office lobby and plonked on the bouncy brown sofa. As she turned the page to the local city news section, her attention drew to the small snippet. Her eyes turned round with shock as she read her name. Narmada. She had fallen victim to the wrath of a deranged young man whose advances she had spurned a month ago. He threw acid on her face as she returned home from the temple. Right now she was battling for life at the Surya hospital.
Shocked as she was, a hundred thoughts raced in her mind. She felt nervous and concerned for herself, her friends, colleagues and the countless other women she saw everyday. The world was unkind to women like Narmada. Would they stand behind her and help her put the guilty behind bars or play the jury and raise questions on her morals? The answer frightened her.