That night Koyeli was on her way home. She had gone to visit her friend, directly from work. It was about 8 pm, a late hour for a neighbourhood like Piyali, near Canning station in West Bengal.
As Koyeli approached the intersection of the main road and the lane on which she was walking, something extraordinary happened. A big car flashed past, its left door open and a pair of strong male hands trying to grab a girl into the speeding vehicle.
The girl, however, resisted. She tore herself free and jumped back falling with a thud on the road. Her perpetrators didn’t give up either. They stopped the car and two men swiftly disembarked to catch hold of the teenager.
Throughout, Koyeli was alert and fast approaching the scene of danger.
Trained in the martial art form of Kalaripayattu and an inherent knack to fight injustice, she quickly landed a powerful kick on the man to the girl’s right forcing him to clutch his groins and crash down on his knees in pain whereas she gripped the one to her left with her left arm.
Suddenly there was a punch beside her right ear lobe and Koyeli’s left grip loosened. A sharp sensation shot through her head and her eyes experienced a lightning of blackout. It had come from a third man.
Recovering her stamina immediately, she punched the man to her right, hard on his stomach even while a third blow landed on her left eye from the man to her left. Koyeli didn’t spare him a punch in reflex. The street was deserted.
Muffled cries for help faintly reached Koyeli’s ears. They were accompanied by a stronger voice asking for aid. It was the targeted victim who had finally screamed for help overcoming her immediate shock!
Her screams had alerted a few residents of the surrounding houses. They were now shouting to rouse the locals to reach the scene even as they rushed down the stairs to provide assistance. By then many windows had opened and lights poured out onto the point of danger.
Sensing the probable chaos, the three injured men made for the car assisted by each other while Koyeli ran to comfort the shaken girl. A few locals including representatives of the local club had already gathered and chased the Tata Sumo. Unsuccessful in catching anyone, they returned with the observations of 3 more men inside the car besides the driver.
Next, one Toto owner volunteered to drive the assembled people to the nearest police station of Champahati to register a complaint. Koyeli helped the teenaged girl to call and inform her parents. En route the police station, Koyeli learnt that she was a grade XI student who had been returning home from her tuition that night of 25th November 2019.
It emerged during the interrogation in the presence of the girl’s parents that she had noticed her elder cousin brother in the front seat beside the driver. She further revealed that he had proposed to her only to be rejected. The girl had been warned of dire consequences. Upon learning this, her parents had refused to lodge a complaint. Distraught, Koyeli had expressed her desire to leave immediately.
That November she was dropped home by a police van, holding a piece of ice wrapped in a handkerchief on her left eye. She had lied to her family about being hit by a ball at work.
Koyeli is my colleague, a spirited, younger teacher in the workforce. She was in school on 26th with the black eye. In reply to my question as to why she hadn’t reported to the hospital instead of the campus she had said, “Annual Day is near ma’am. How could I have missed rehearsals? I will go in the evening.”
Every day till 15th December, we could see her diligently training the students for the choreographed pieces of Alibaba and the Forty Thieves! Sometimes she sported a pair of black shades. The doctor had advised against exposing her wounded eye to the sunlight.
I feel proud to be her co-teacher.
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