The empty pillion

  • Wg Cdr JS Bhalla (retd), Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
  • Updated: Mar 05, 2015 13:23 IST

Defence units are usually stationed far from the city. In the 1970s, I was posted to one 25 kilometres from the town. The camp provided us with basic necessities; but to get special items, one had to travel 50 km up and down. Since our wedding anniversary was approaching, my wife and I needed to make the long trip.

It was a bright day with clear sky, as we drove to the town. Negotiating my way through the congested roads, I found a space in a narrow lane to park my scooter. We proceeded to our favorite shop. "Madam, may I look at your shopping list," said the shopkeeper, familiar with us by now, as we were regular customers. We collected the items and had just moved out of the congested area when wife tapped me on the back. "Wait, I forgot the napkins, I'll be back in a minute," she said, apologetically.

She got down quickly, and I waited. After a while, I set back on course and must have gone about 20 km when I asked her: "Let's hit the mess for a drink." There was no response. I thought she hadn't heard me in all the traffic noise, so I asked her again. Still, I received no reply. My hand went behind my back searching for her on the pillion but hit only the empty air. Heavens had fallen now, and a chill ran down my spine.

I turned the scooter 180 degrees and started imagining the worst. I hoped she had not fallen off and met with an accident. Back on the spot, I looked around for her. She was where I had left her.

Imagining all the agony and the desperation she must have gone through while waiting and waiting, I bowed to the Almighty, thanking Him that she was safe, and in one piece. I was tongue-tied. Tears rolled down her eyes, too, and even she was lost for words.

On our way back, though, she gave me a piece of her mind for abandoning her in that strange environment. Since I was at fault, I realised that any amount of explanation at that stage would be futile. I accepted my fault. It was a blunder indeed not to check before getting out of the crowd if she was back. May faux pas became a story to be recounted at parties. It would have a mixed response. Some people would blame me for being irresponsible, while others would have a good laugh about it. A scary tale or a joke, whatever they thought, I vowed never to be so silly again.

(The writer is a former air force officer)

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