Dinner Time by Priyadarshini Gogoi

Mar 28, 2022

The first knock comes at 10:40 in the night. We don’t have a peephole, so I call through the door. “Yes? Kaun hai?”

A young man’s voice replies, “I want to talk to madam.”

“Do you have a name for who you want?”

A pause and then an oily whisper: “You ordered from Shagun’s Chinese Restaurant today, madam.”

That’s true, we did order from there this afternoon. “Haan, toh what is it, bhaiya? Didn’t we pay for that already?”

“Noooo, I want to say something to you. You were wearing a red skirt today. Please open the door so I can tell you.”

Is he slurring? I wonder with irritation as I dial the restaurant.

“Hi, we ordered food to B12, Vijay Nagar earlier today, and now your delivery guy is at our house again. He’s drunk. Could you please call him back?”

There’s silence on the other end.

“Uhh, ek minute, madam,” says the guy at the restaurant. Another pause, and then some muffled speaking. “Actually the delivery boy is here only, madam.”

“Are you sure? Are you sure?” I ask, suddenly hearing my panic. The guy at the restaurant assures me that the boy who delivered our food is, in fact, standing right in front of him.

Meanwhile, this man outside is banging madly at the door. My roommate has come out now, too.

“What’s up?” she asks, eyebrow cocked, shovelling greasy noodles into her mouth.

“Stalker,” I inform her. “Go away, asshole!” I shout at the door.

“Open the door na, madammmmm,” he whines, erupting stupidly into giggles.

There’s a balcony at the entrance of our house, next to the main door. Looking over, I see a couple walking the half-lit, deserted lane three floors below. They are embracing as they move, their shadows merging into a two-headed, four-legged creature.

“Hey, hey!” I shout. “Wait!”

They look up. The guy shifts restlessly from foot to foot.

“There’ll be a man running out of this building just now—catch him!”

“O-okay,” the guy calls back, uncertainly.

“Okay,” I repeat, praying that he’ll want to impress his girlfriend enough to actually help me out.

I yank the steel plate from my roommate’s hands, shaking the remaining noodles onto the floor.

“I’m counting to three, and then I’ll bash your head in, madarchod!” I scream.

My roommate’s hand clutches my shoulder, as if to hold me back. She’s chewing as fast as she can to get the cautionary words out in time. But I’ve already begun my count.

“One!” My hand goes up to the bolt.

“Two!” I pull it down.

“Three—nikal yahan se!” I yank the door open and swing the plate with all my might.

There’s a clang in the dark, a whiff of rum, and the echo of sandals slapping down the stairs.

“Now! Catch him now!” I shout to the guy below.

Seconds later, our stalker stumbles out onto the street. He is skinny and long-legged, in a loose dark shirt and trousers, longish hair sweeping over his face. From up here, he looks all elbows. The guy with the girl twitches, then changes his mind and our stalker runs past. I feel foolish for expecting anything else.

“Fuck,” I breathe, closing the door. “I wish I had a real weapon.”

My roommate sniffs, resentfully toeing the noodles on the floor. “Well, how many times did I tell you to buy pepper spray, Junali? Don’t you know? We live in bloody Delhi, yaar.”

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