Life Experiences: Gut Instinct

By Hema Ravi

The rather good-looking lady had the demeanour of a saleswoman, the ones who kept bothering people in the afternoons when the family was away.  Radha was used to this menace; she would always open the door, explain politely that she did not want anything, then, shut the door gently. Generally speaking, the campus was safe, with no record of any untoward happening.

Which wolf prowls in sheep’s clothing, who knows?

One Monday afternoon, when Radha had just returned from the bank after completing some chores, the bell rang.  The lady at the door with a rather ‘bumpy’ stomach, had a large bag with sanitary napkins.  Radha exclaimed to her that she was past the ‘bleeding’ years, was just about to close the door, when, the woman stepped in, ‘Can you please give me a glass of cold water?’  Feeling sorry for the ‘woman with child,’ Radha stepped in. No sooner than she came out of the kitchen with the glass of water, she saw a knife in the lady’s hand, threatening Radha to part with all the money in the house.  Panic-stricken, Radha mumbled a yes. Under the pretext of going to the bedroom, she went in past the kitchen, gently pushed open the back door, bolted it from outside, raced to the front door, latched it and shouted for help.

Fortunately, her neighbour, Meenu, who was in her garden, came running hearing Radha’s cries for help.  Radha explained the situation, Meenu dialled the police for help.  To her good fortune the police rushed there in no time.  Cautiously, they opened the door, apprehended the offender, found she had hidden the booty in her ‘bulging’ stomach.  (The intruder had not done her homework well; she was unaware that the house had two exit doors!)

Congratulating Radha’s presence of mind, Meenu left after preparing a cup of tea for her.  Still visibly shaken, Radha was reminded of her mother.   Whenever her mother visited, she would advise her to be wary of strangers, even though the neighbourhood was considered safe.

Radha’s memories flew back to the incident shared by Amma.  Her periamma (elder aunt) lived in a place in West CIT Nagar, Madras.  In those days, about five decades or earlier, the houses were scarce, they also had low compound walls.

One afternoon, when periamma was about to rest, a dark adult came and rang the bell. Without opening the door, she asked him what he wanted. He said he was thirsty and wanted some water.  She did not answer him; she just went inside, lay down on the floor with the kitchen door open in order to get some fresh air.  This was the way she would spend her afternoons, reading Tamil weeklies.  Lying down on the floor was comfortable in the hot, summer months.  Steeped in tradition, she was comfortable lying down on a mat with a wooden plank as pillow during the daytime in the colder months.   Only at nights, she would sleep on a mattress.

Suddenly, she saw something looming over her.  The dark-looking man closed his hands over her mouth.  In his hurry, his thumb went into aunt’s mouth.  She bit it as hard as she could.  Letting out a scream, he ran out through the kitchen door, jumped over the low wall and was off.  Petrified beyond words, aunt steadied herself, got up to shut the kitchen door, when she observed a large iron rod on the washing stone outside. It had been left behind by the intruder.

Periamma was one of those women who wore a lot of jewellery and diamonds.  Amma shuddered as she narrated this to me. What, if he had given her a knock on her head with the iron rod?

But, how did that fragile lady get that instinct and strength?  Radha, in her teens, got the answer from the horse’s mouth a few years after the incident happened.

An ardent follower of Gandhiji’s teachings, Periamma explained, “Nails and teeth are weapons for a woman when her honour is at stake.”  That was great teaching that women could hold in the bosom of their hearts!   “Even in crowded buses, you can keep a safety pin to keep away the lecherous men who try to grapple you or the other women beside.”  Some years after this, Radha heard ‘Periamma’s dialogue’ in a Tamil film, which featured Lakshmi as the heroine.

Back out of the reverie, her composure regained, Radha called up Amma to tell her about the near-ghastly incident of the morning.  Amma’s voice boomed- “See, I told you not to take anything for granted!”

Photo by N. Ravi from Redmond, WA

About the Author: Hema Ravi is a freelance trainer for IELTS and Communicative English.  Her poetic publications include haiku, tanka, free verse and metrical verses.  Her write ups have been published in the Hindu, New Indian Express, Femina, Woman’s Era,  and several online and print journals; a few haiku and form poems have been prize winners.  She has contributed to the ‘Destine Literare’ (Canada). Besides,  she is the author of ‘Everyday English,’ ‘Write Right Handwriting Series1,2,3,’ co-author of  Sing Along Indian Rhymes’ and ‘Everyday Hindi.’  Her “Everyday English with Hema,” a series of English lessons are  broadcast by the Kalpakkam Community Radio. She is the Secretary of the Chennai Poets’ Circle.

Photographer Profile: Ravi N is a Retired IT Professional (CMC Limted/Tata Consultancy Services ,Chennai). During his professional career spanning 35 odd years he had handled IT Projects of national Importance.  Post retirement in December 2015, he has been spending time pursuing interests close to his heart-Indian Culture and Spirituality, listening to Indian and Western Classical Music, besides taking up Photography as a hobby.  He revels in nature walks, bird watching and nature photography.

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