Minding her own business, listening to her favourite music, Zoe was whiling away her time in a public bus as she waited for her stop. It was one of her favourite class that day and she was looking forward to the discussions that will take place.
The bus reached do talwaar (two swords) and it was her stop to get off. Her university was still a five minute walk away. She liked this time where she talked to herself and walked at a brisk pace walking in front of an embassy and a school.
As she reached the embassy, one of the guards standing sentry at the gates, called out to her.
“Wait child.” The man had said. It was prudent to keep walking but she had been walking past the embassy for a couple of years and she felt a little safe in turning around to listen to whatever the guard had to say.
“Yes?” Zoe called out as she turned towards the man who had spoken.
“There is a woman following you.” He motioned at the other end of the street with his eyes. “I though I should warn you.” He looked worried for Zoe.
The woman coming towards her was clad in a burqa and she was all but running towards Zoe and was a few feet away.
Smiling slightly at him, Zoe thanked him for his concern and thought nothing of the woman running on the street. She did not believe that it was after her that that woman was coming after. She must have had the same bus stop, she thought as this woman was riding the same bus that Zoe was.
However, as she turned around she felt a hand on her shoulder and she stiffened. She had issues with being touched by just about anyone.
“Yes?” Zoe said through clenched teeth as she turned to face the burqa clad woman.
“You shameless girl, what do you think you are wearing!” The woman started shouting.
Though Zoe did not let it show on her face, she was scared. Nothing like this has ever happened in her life before and she did not know how to react. She was in shock. She did, however, remember that the woman had alluded to Zoe’s attire and she looked down to see what may be amiss.
As she already knew, Zoe was wearing a black jeans and a yellow tee shirt. She had a chaadar covering her over the tee. She could not fathom what the woman was harping about. After all, her dress was none of that ‘s business.
“What are you talking about?” Zoe asked, confusion and fear were inherent in her voice.
“It’s people like you who should be dead for bringing shame to us all.” She started shouting again. “We are Muslims and we must dress like Muslims. You should be ashamed of yourself the way you are parading yourself in a western dress!” But it was not just her voice that the woman raised. She raised her hand and tried to grab hold of Zoe’s neck but Zoe, thanks to her reflexes, was able to dodge the woman’s hands.
Two of the guards at the embassy’s gates came running to help Zoe. They grabbed the woman and tried to pull her back. In the tussle, the burqa clad woman, in trying to reach Zoe, scratched her face with her nails. There appeared deoplets of blood on Zoe’s face but she was still in a state of shock top register any pain.
“You go child. We’ll hand her over to authorities.”
It still took Zoe a moment for the fog to be pierced. She could not deny that she was afraid and she ran. All the way to her university.
She met her program co-ordinator at the university who gave her a band aid from the first aid box. As she put it on, it was the first time she realised that the area surrounding the scratch on her left cheekbone burned something fierce.
Years passed and Zoe did not find out what happened to that woman once she had run from the scene but she wonders.