Her parents had always been over protective and she hated it. She did not know what it was like to travel by public transport. Till she got her driving license, she was dropped off at the school or college either by her parents or the chauffeur. One Saturday , while she was in the 12th Standard, she asked her parents if she could go to School the following Monday by bus with her friend who lived in the house down the road. Saturday was usually a holiday for educational institutions. They were at the dining table, having breakfast.
“Take her in the car”, said her father.
“Papa, I want to go by bus”, she said. “I’ve never traveled by bus. My friends have such fun coming by bus. They tell me such stories”
“What stories?” said Michael unpleasantly.
“Such fun stuff”, she said, ignoring her mother’s signals that she was entering dangerous grounds.
“Fun stuff? What’s that? Why don’t you concentrate on your studies”?
“I’m doing good in my studies. I got the proficiency last year. So far, I’m topping this year too. How is a bus journey going to affect my studies”?
“You are very stubborn, Shikha. You refuse to do the entrance exams to professional colleges. I’ve permitted you to pursue you degree in mathematics. But I’d like you to go to a premier institution. You know BITS Pilani is only for the best?”
“Will you come to Pilani each time to pick me up and drop me back, papa?”
“Shikha”, thundered her mother. “That’s enough”
“Tell me papa, will you come or will you arrange a helicopter to have me picked me up and dropped back?”
Shika’s mother got up, came around the table, gripped her above the elbow and pulled her up.
“That’s enough. Go to your room”
“Don’t treat me like a kid”, screamed Shika, shaking her hand free.
“Quiet, the servants are listening”
“Let them. Who cares? I’m sick and tired of this military rule. How am I different from the other girls in my class?”
By now, her mother was dragging her away from the dining table. Shikha shook herself free again and stormed into her room, locked the door, threw herself on the cot and started sobbing.
Ten minutes later, there was a soft knock on the door. “Shikha, open the door”. It was her mother.
Shikha lay in the bed, without moving. The door handle turned. “Shikha, please open the door”, pleaded her mother, a touch of hysteria in her voice. Let them suffer a while, thought Shikha.
There was silence for a moment. Then another knock. She instantly knew it was her father. There was an overpowering authority even in a small act like that. But his voice was a little less confident when he called her. “I have to go to office, Shikha. I want to tell you something before I go”.
She got up and opened the door to see her father looking a little drawn. She was instantly repentant though she continued to look at him defiantly. He ruffled her hair and said in a laboured bantering tone. “Go by bus with your friend if you want. Maria chedathy can also accompany you”
Shikha was furious and felt humiliated, but held her peace. She did not want to spoil her father’s day. Much as she resented his over protectiveness, she didn’t really want to hurt him, if she could avoid it.
“It’s ok”, she said. “ I don’t want to go by bus”
But she did travel by bus. The following Saturday, she bluffed to her parents that she had a full day practice for the youth festival and was dropped off at school. After an hour’s practice, she went with her friends to their hostel in Vepri, then returned by bus to school and was picked up by her chauffeur. She had half a mind to tell her parents that she had gone ‘gallivanting’ in a bus and was back home, her virginity still in tact.