I was in a car, on my way to the railway station, getting a lift to get out of Ahmedabad. My train was two hours away. We planned to have dinner in Swati, let the brat ride a small car or play a video game, maybe a coffee, and then the station.
So we were in no hurry. And my eyes were wide open.
Nirali was explaining to Pavan why he should sit on the backseat, when I saw a man raising a big bamboo to hit a woman sitting on the roadside.
I closed my eyes.
'What the hell is that man doing?' Nirali asked.
'Oh, thank God, he is just threatening to hit her.' I said, when I saw the bamboo still in midair.
'Can we do something?' Nirali asked.
'Stop the car. I will get out.'
A sparse crowd was beginning to gather. The man, who I later learnt was a guard at a building nearby, was hurling obscenities at the woman, waving his stick in the air. The woman was in rags, and matted hair, holding a plastic bottle to her mouth and looking back at the man. Although she seemed to be almost cowering, she did not look scared.
I was behind the man. I gently touched his shoulder, and got him to lower his stick.
'She is completely mad!' he kept repeating. I nodded.
'She throws stones at people. She threw a stone at me. On my back! For no reason! She threw stones at that auto rickshaw! Ask him. She is completely mad!'
I looked at the lady in question. She had a semicircle of stones near her feet.
I assured him that we will get rid of her, got him to leave the scene, and told the crowd to get lost.
Then I sat near the woman on a bench and called Nirali.
'Do you know any institution that would take her in?' I asked her.
'I think I do. Meanwhile, why don't you get her something to eat? She might be hungry.'
I went to a shop next door and bought some dhoklas and a bottle of water. But to give them to her, I would have to risk those stones.
The semicircle of stones had closed to form a circle. That must be a good sign, I thought, and sat next to her to offer her the food.
Huge black eyes looked me over with suspicion. Then she took a bougainvillea flower, put it in a small plastic glass and put it in front of me. I took the glass and said cheers.
And then she attacked the food. Boy, was she hungry. No wonder she was throwing stones. I stood up and saw my friend smiling at us.
'I have called someone who knows someone who will come,' said Nirali.
'Cool. Where is Pavan?' I asked.
'I have locked him in the car. You better go and sit with him. I will wait here.'
'Ai, what is in the glass?' the brat asked me as I opened the car door.
'This is a bougainvillea flower.' I told him.
'Who gave it to you?'
'A moment of clarity gave it to me.'