I did not want to respond. After all when someone utters ‘Sharma’, I feel irritated and left with no explanation as to why someone would call me that. It is not that I have an aversion to my surname, however because I am a proud owner of a beautiful first name that is all about light and being different. Harish and some of his friends were luckily the only ones who would call me by my surname. It fails to impress me even when some of his friends would call me by my surname, and to make it appear that they are not disrespecting my name would add the syllable ‘ji’. I did not want to respond not due to the fact that someone uttered my surname, but more due to the mental state I was in. Only then I had somehow convinced myself, in particular my legs to turn around and take its first step away from the alley. I did not want to undo that effort by turning around. However I immediately recollected that I had ventured into the alley, in spite of all the glares and the dirty one at that, only after agreeing with Harish over the phone that I would meet him on that alley in front of the Billu store. I turned around. He stood there, with a smile that always put me at ease, calmed me down and one that assures me that I am safe around him. I was relieved to see him, to see a familiar face, one that did not glare at me, that smiled and one that didn’t scare me. I wanted to run towards him, and be in close proximity to his presence and assurance. I looked around, wanted to quickly scan my immediate surrounding and assure myself that the moment I started to run I wouldn’t be stopped abruptly by any stupid glare or person. The man who hadn’t passed the customary glare that was so common on that alley, looked me in the eye and without any effort stopped my scan. For the first time I paid attention to his dark blue shirt, his apron and the white cap he wore over his head. I got fixated on his face, with lot of questions playing out in my mind. Who is this guy? Why didn’t he glare at me? Is he trying to conceal something here? Why did he abuse the man with the knife? Was it the first time blood was spilled on that alley and not in that ek alag se jagah? While these questions were surfacing one after another, I could see him study my t-shirt with lot of care; slowly I could see his expression change and quickly exchange few words with a person standing before him. The person standing in front of him, seemed to be in his mid twenties, came across as an educated man who possessed a sophisticated persona, gave me and my t-shirt a quick glance and then nodded his head, followed it with some explanation to the man who didn’t glare. Before I realized the man had taken off his white cap and was only a couple of paces away from me and had begun talking to me. ‘....samajhthe hi nahin. Sorry madam, kabhi aisa nahin hua hain. Bandha naya hain. Waise bhi, hum license leke kaam kar rahe hain. Maarne ke liye jo tarika hum istemaal karte hain woh bilkul latest aur approved hain. Bina dard hi kaam chala leta hain. Koi torture nahin hota hain. Aaj aapne jo dekha, usko please report mat keejiye. Maafi maangta hoon.’ Before I could utter a word, the man walked away after these words, at double the pace with which he had approached me. I stood there wondering, why he chose to explain all that to me. Am I not the one who without any explanation was getting glared at on that alley? I then closely examined my t-shirt, observed the logo. Now it made sense! A 4 letter word seemed to have shaken up the man, maybe his conscience is still cold, to provide an explanation for the brutal stroke of the knife on the luckless neck. By this time, Harish was beside me and as always knew it best when I was disturbed. He took my hand and led me towards an ice cream parlour on that alley. Over the next ten minutes I related everything that had gone past me in the past hour or so. Well it was in reality only five minutes, however it felt like an hour to me. Harish tried his best to calm me down, and then said, ‘Why wouldn’t you get a glare, if you are not aware of the key hotspot in the locality. Billu’s store is a landmark that everyone knows and reveres about in these parts. So when you enquired about such a place, you surely would have attracted glares. As always you look great in a white t-shirt and blue denims. You are bound to attract glares, alley or not.’ This last part of Harish’s explanation made me blush and feel embarrassed at the same time. Anyways without uttering a word, I let him continue. ‘This logo on your t-shirt can make anyone sh*t in their pants, when it comes to violence against animals. Or should I say, even when there is a perceived violence against animals.’ I didn’t have much to say. Harish does that to me. I was hoping that he would also give me an explanation as to why that movie scene would play in my mind. He sensed that I was expecting him to say more, and said ‘Oye! It’s Friday! Chalo movie chalte hain! This time let’s go to a movie with a nice romantic scene that you can imagine to be a part of! I will be there to give you company’. Men will always remain men.