While walking back all alone to the Institute from the MCCIA building on the Senapati Bapat Road I stopped for a moment. I stopped because a few stray dogs started barking and chasing a car on the road. These dogs were a few steps far from me and now that the car had passed I had to cross these dogs to reach the Institute. I have been afraid of dogs ever since I was chased by one while I was in class three. My fear of dogs shot up even the more when Daadi Ma was bit by one few years ago. These two incidents surfaced in my mind as I stood and saw the dogs still staring at the car that had gone far.
I pulled all the courage. Slowly I walked two steps and then stopped again. This time I stopped because I heard somebody say something from behind. I turn back to see an old man in white dhoti, white soiled shirt and a dopalli cap. I was not wrong. He had called me. He said something in Marathi and I could not understand anything. I told him, in Hindi, that I do not follow Marathi. Extending his hand towards me he said, “Please hold my hand and walk me till the end of this road.” I was puzzled. He was not very strong, yes. But was not so weak that he required somebody’s help to walk. Reading the puzzled look on my face he said, “I am afraid of dogs.”
I had a smile on my face. With the smile on my face I extended my hand to hold the hand of the old man. Who else could have understood his fear better than me? But I dint know if he was aware of my fear. I guess he wasnt. As I held his hand and started walking I wondered who was holding whose hand out of fear? As we were near to the dog I saw myself holding his hand tightly, out of fear. Were I to be alone probably I would have walked a bit fast. But holding the hands of the old man who could not walk fast I had to match my speed with that of his. The slow movement made my fear shoot up. The high fear made me hold the hands of the old man with all my energy. Slowly we walked and managed to cross the dogs. Some ten steps after we had crossed the dogs the old man’s hand released itself from my grip. The old man had a broad smile on his face when our hands were untied by each other. It was a smile filled with gratitude. I too had a similar smile as I said bye to the old man who had helped me walk the road while fear had gripped me.