"They have abducted Rukmini!" shouted my friend Nityanand, running breathlessly towards us. Two horses were galloping away furiously. One rider on a black horse had a screaming girl in front.
We were out on a morning walk in 1941, along the banks of a canal that ran though our town, Tandlianwala, now in Pakistan Punjab. However, today the serenity was shattered by shrieks. We had heard of ruffians on horses kidnapping young girls. But now it was Rukmini, a girl from our neighbourhood, who had been abducted!
Instinctively, we chased the horsemen. We could see her struggling to get off the horse of the abductor. However, he held her tightly. Hard as we ran, we could not catch up. Each time we closed in, the horses gathered speed.
In frustration, my friend Ramsharan used a cane to hit the rear of the horse on which Rukmini was held hostage. The horse cringed and lost balance. During those priceless seconds, the kidnapper loosened his grip and Rukmini fell to the ground.
We surrounded the traumatised girl and assured her that she was safe. Soon, the other girls escorted her home.
Five of us who had chased the kidnappers were not satisfied. "How dare anyone misbehave with our sisters and friends," was our refrain.
We formed a group of 10, collected horses and returned to the scene of the kidnapping. We tracked the hoof prints from the spot where Rukmini had fallen. After two hours of trotting, we arrived at a village. How could we find the offenders? We decided to look for the black horse.
After an hour Nityanand found the horse. The wound on its back had been covered with turmeric, which stops bleeding and heals. We knocked on the door of the house nearby. It was opened by a youth. On seeing us, he got nervous. My friends pounced on him and soon we captured his partner too.
We rode to the police station, where the culprits were locked up. We returned satisfied that the police would teach them a lesson.
The next day, about 1,500 people from the town gathered to honour us. Rukmini's father tearfully thanked us. Our parents were proud too.
The recent Delhi abduction and gangrape brought to mind Rukmini's trauma. Nothing has changed in 71 years. Why?