It was 2:45 PM in a winter day and I had just taken my toddler to bed. I had work to do but I preferred to lie down with Ria so she would sleep fast. She had bathed that day and her hair was a little wet. I wanted to keep her warm so that she wouldn’t catch a cough again. While putting her to sleep, the warm comfort of the duvet in the cold afternoon made me want to sleep too. I did not mind taking advantage of that moment, draped the duvet around Ria and me, and comfortably fell asleep within a few minutes.

After a few minutes, an annoying voice started to disturb my sleep. I opened my eyes and looked at the window. I saw nothing. I assumed the pigeons were playing with sticks outside my window and they were making that noise. I pulled the duvet over my face and closed my eyes. Again, I heard noises, and this time they felt like the pitter-patter of raindrops. I concentrated on the noise and thought it must be raining outside.

I was too sleepy and I didn’t want to miss my sleep at any cost. I fell asleep again. After 5 mins, a sudden jolt woke me up.

I felt like tremors like there was an Earthquake. I got up from my bed rapidly, took the sleeping Ria in my hands, and rushed towards my main door to get out of my apartment. I had developed a strange kind of phobia about earthquakes and it scares me every time I see something shaking.

I ran out of my bedroom. I was so scared that I hadn’t noticed that the front door of my flat was not latched. It was open. Suddenly, my mind started functioning in other directions. I looked into another room, nobody was there. Suddenly a voice alerted my mind and I followed it. The voice was coming from the kitchen. I stood still when I saw a father and son washing dishes in my kitchen. I ran my eyes on the slab where I usually kept my food. Everything was clear; the food I prepared was not there.

They both seemed to have eaten everything and were now cleaning the dishes. My mind was suddenly drawn to another similar incident a few days back when I heard few strange noises. But I hadn’t come out to check, having thought that must be pigeons. In the back of my mind, I was scared at the thought that these both had come that day too and I wasn’t even aware of that. The man turned around and saw me standing there. His face was dark and he was wearing shabby clothes. I screamed out of fear, so loud that Ria awoke with a cry.

I ran towards my main door and continuously screamed for help. I could see my neighbors outside and I kept screaming, expecting that somebody would come to rescue me. I feared danger. Ria was continuously crying and that man held my hand and twisted it shut my mouth. Ria ran into my bedroom and locked the door behind her. She got that opportunity, and I pushed her in that direction so she would be saved. That man dragged me to the door and pushed me hard. I kept screaming aloud.

I saw my new neighbor open his door and go out without even asking anything. I cried out to him for help but he refused. I shouted a friendly neighbor’s name aloud, thrice, and she came out to her balcony. She heard my voice and ran to rescue me. That guy was still holding onto me to stop me from screaming and calling my neighbor. My mind was stuck and I couldn’t see anything other than death at that moment. I saw myself in the most helpless form. That guy was not letting me open the grill gate of my flat.

I was screaming, shouting and praying to God to send his angels to help me. My neighbor came with her 15-year-old son to my rescue and they had called the society’s guards too. The moment that man saw guards coming in our direction, he left me and ran into the kitchen. For a moment, I was scared that he had gone to hurt Ria but he ran into the kitchen.

I opened my grill gate quickly and ran inside to get Ria from the bedroom. I pacified Ria and gave her to my neighbor’s son. I was still shocked, my voice stammered and hands were shaking. I picked up my phone to call the area’s police station but I couldn’t search for the number. With shaky hands and stammering voice, I called my husband, who was in his office and asked him for our Sector’s Police Station number. He got tensed and asked me what had happened. I informed him that I would tell him later and asked the number again, this time in a panicked voice. He gave it and I immediately called the cops. After 3 rings, some girl picked up the phone. I told her the details and requested her to send the cops immediately. She was not at all serious about my condition but instead asked me a weird thing. “Do you have curd in your house?”
My senses went into an overdrive and I shouted at her. “You are not even listening to what I am telling. There is a thief in my house, and he could harm me and my daughter. Please send somebody.”
“No, ma’am. I understood your situation. But the cop I have to send only comes when I assure him that curd is available at the victim’s house. So if you have the curd, I will send him immediately, or you can arrange for it.” She explained slowly, not understanding my panic.

I could not process what to say. I hurriedly saw inside my fridge and told her that I had curd in my house. She informed me that she was sending him right away. Meanwhile, that man kept himself locked in the kitchen. He feared the outcome of the situation. Probably, he was also scared for his son. My neighbor tried to calm me down, but nothing was helping me. My mind also thought about the previous times I had heard strange noises but hadn’t checked. How foolish I had been! How could this guy trespass into my house? That was another fear I had. What would I tell to my husband? That I hadn’t locked my door properly and went to sleep? But I am not at all careless; I always lock my door within a minute when somebody went outside. Then how had they entered? I was juggling through my questions when I saw a tall cop reaching my door. He was about 6 feet tall and was holding his baton.

He entered and looked at me, “Where is the thief?”
I signaled him towards my kitchen and he knocked loudly on the kitchen door. “Come out!” he shouted.
That guy came out with his son but ran away as soon as he got the opportunity. He had left his son there. But to my surprise, he ran and sat on the building’s stairs, watching everything from there. I started thinking he was a psychotic. The way he was acting, everybody thought he was a patient. His son was too scared to tell us anything and I was getting impatient. I needed few answers for my own sanity.

When that cop raised his hands to that child I stopped him. My heart stood against beating that child. For me, he was an innocent child, just like Ria. I looked at him He was wearing torn clothes and his skin was having rashes which he might have gotten from working at some shop. Seeing everything from afar, that man came down and gave a slip of paper to the cop. He had written something on that, which that cop read aloud.

“We were hungry and we don’t have money to spend on food. My son works in a shoemaking company and I at a shop nearby. Our owner doesn’t let my son eat anything in the daytime. My son ran away from his factory today because he was too hungry and we came here. We know how to open this door without making noise. We have come here twice before too. This lady cooks amazing food and once she gave us some left-overs. Since that day my son loves her food. Our intentions were not to harm any of them. We just came to eat.”

I stood still there angry, aghast, and planet-struck!

Suddenly in my unconscious state, I heard someone ringing my doorbell again and again. I woke up with a shock, got up from my bed to open the door. There, I saw my maid.
“Where were you Didi, I rang so many times! Why are you looking so stressed?” She queried
“Nothing just had a very bad day-mare!” I replied, letting her in.

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