Vanita took her helmet and keys. She checked her mobile phone. There were 2 messages from Vicky. She opened her messaging app. “Do not go, you idiot. I am serious,” Vicky had messaged.
Vanita kept her phone in her bag, took her face mask and wore it. She took the gloves she used to apply hair color and wore it on her hand. She went out her safe heaven to buy the medicine for her friend and neighbor, Parul.
Parul was 75 years old. She was in good health and humor at all times, but the COVID scare had given her friend some anxiety. Her children stayed in USA. She was very worried about them. Vanita and Parul’s friendship was 5-year old. Vanita worked in a stock-broking company and her work timings were erratic. Parul always made sure Vanita’s fridge was stocked up. Vanita made sure she had lunch with Parul every Saturday. Both hated gossip, both liked MARVEL, both loved AR Rahman, and both loved to take walks.
Vanita reached the parking lot and started her scooter. It had been many days since she used her scooter so she had difficulty starting it. She wore her scarf, her helmet and driving gloves. Vanita said a silent prayer and accelerated her scooter.
As she turned the Daawat sweets corner, she noticed a police jeep that was stopping passersby. Vanita’s heart skipped a beat. She was expecting this. She stopped her scooter and got off. She removed her helmet and started to sift out the medical prescription and the doctor’s note. “Why are you out? Don’t you know there is a lock down?” asked the police officer.
“Sir! Please take a look at this. She needs this medicine. It will get over in a week. She needs this. She can’t…” Vanita said as she handed over the prescription and note with shaking hands to the police officer. Vanita was too scared to look him in the eye. She focused on his name badge; it said Niranjan Agashe. “Who is she to you?” he asked.
“ummmm… friend. She is my friend,” said Vanita.
“It says she is 75 years old,” said Niranjan Agashe.
“Yes! Yes… she is,” said Vanita with a teary voice.
“Look at me. What is your name?” he asked.
Vanita looked at him with brimming eyes. At that moment she was more afraid of him than COVID-19; and he was smiling. He was smiling at her. Vanita’s mouth opened in awe. She was grateful for the scarf and face mask she wore; they hid her awestruck-ness. His full face was not visible. She could only see his eyes; and they were kind.
“You can go. Get the medicines and go right back home. The shop is open now. Go!” he said and gave the papers back to her. As she kept the papers back, he walked away to ask questions to another passerby. Vanita kept looking at him. She thought his eyes looked kind and tired. There were many officers who were working in that corner. They were stopping people who were loitering. They were making sure people buying the essentials were standing apart. Two officers were sitting on a bike and eating Vada pav. Vanita stood there transfixed by this. They were working; not from the safety of their homes. The tears in her eyes overflew. It was not because of fear though. It was because of respect. Niranjan Agashe turned towards her and signaled her to go. Vanita started her scooter and drove towards the medical shop.
She smiled as she drove. These police officers looked like MARVEL’s superheroes. Niranjan Agashe was Iron man. ‘Can’t wait to tell Parul about this,” she thought.