He began by asking for directions.
So many of them do that, that I almost didn't bother to turn my head towards the voice. And yet, it is not a nice thing not to give somebody directions, even if they are strangers, male, and even if it getting dark and you're walking alone.
So, I stopped when he said, 'Excuse me, do you know this area?'
'Yes. This is Lajpat Nagar' and I walked on.
He fell into step beside me.
'And where does this road go?'
'Lajpatnagar market in this direction, and if you go in that direction, there's Jangpura.'
Yet, he did not leave my side.
'And so... do you live in this area?'
I sighed. Any moment now, he would want to 'make friendship'.
'So... do you live in Delhi.'
My first instinct was to turn on him, tell him to get lost, not to follow me, yell at him. But one corner of my mind was asking me not to. Yelling would only confirm fear. Besides, perhaps, yelling was not called for. Relax, you can handle this. R.e.l.a.x.
Walking at a regular pace, I quickly swept the lane with a glance - some shops still open; some people still around.
He spoke again. 'So... where are you from?'
'Oh? I live in Australia.'
I suddenly wanted to laugh (but didn't). He was speaking in English, with an accent that bordered on American. The sort of accent I've heard often in Jaisalmer, mostly in the mouths of waiters who work in hotels frequented by American tourists. What did he hope to achieve by telling me where he lived, anyway?
'In Melbourne,' he offered.
I didn't say anything.
'So...where are you from?'
'Where are you going right now?'
No need to be rude. Just say 'no' nicely, if he asks.
And he asked. 'Would you like to be friends?'
Well, at least, it wasn't 'I want to make friendship'.
He kept walking beside me. Still, I told myself, there was nothing to be afraid of.
He said, 'But I want to be friends... I like your hair.'
And I couldn't resist saying, 'You choose your friends on the basis of hair?'
'Er, no. I mean, I like everything about you... your walk. Your looks.'
The accent had dropped off entirely by now. I've would've asked him his exact street address and phone number in Melbourne, but this was not the time. There were no rickshaws or autos in sight and I was beginning to worry.
'Do you work here?' he persisted.
'Where are you going?'
'Can I walk with you?'
Still, he continued to walk with me. And still no rickshaws to be seen.
'Why you don't want to be friends?'
The last few shops were downing shutters. The street was deserted.
'Can I have your phone number?'
Just when I thought there was no alternative to fury and bitter words, an auto appeared. And the man from Melbourne, melted away.