The first student with blindness to graduate from IIM Calcutta was robbed at Howrah railway station on Monday morning by two men who had offered to escort him to the prepaid taxi stand.
If being robbed on arrival wasnít enough of an ordeal, Suresh Reddy from the Class of 2013 had to ask around for an hour to reach a Government Railway Police booth located 50 metres from the platforms.
The officer manning the booth allegedly refused to accept his complaint, saying any incident occurring beyond the station building was outside the GRPís jurisdiction.
Andhra-born Suresh, a farmerís son who lost vision in both eyes when he was 13, had arrived by the Chennai Mail and was headed for Joka to collect his belongings and bid farewell to the institute.
He tells Metro why he does not intend returning to Calcutta.
It was a little after 5am. I had just got off the train and was waiting for the crowd to disperse when two men came and offered to guide me to the stand for prepaid taxis.
I had managed on my own at Howrah station on several previous visits, so there was no reason for me to ask for or accept any help unless I needed the services of a porter. But the two men were so polite that I couldnít bring myself to refuse them.
When they offered to hold my solitary piece of luggage, I didnít allow them to. They didnít insist either. The duo walked alongside me. I had my walking stick but they guided me through the rush of commuters and we were soon outside the station building.
I could make out that we were near one of the exits of the subway. There was commotion all around with vehicles speeding past where I stood.
One of the men suddenly asked for my mobile phone, saying that he would call a taxi driver who was known to him to take me to Joka. I replied that he could tell me the number. He gave me a number starting with 13. No mobile phone number in India starts with 13, and that rang the alarm for me.
I immediately tried to put the phone back into my trouser pocket but it was too late. One of the men tried to snatch it while the other grabbed my suitcase. I kicked and punched frantically but couldnít hold on to my mobile phone. The man who got it ran away but his accomplice was still trying to take away my bag. He repeatedly hit me on my left arm so that I would let go of the bag.
This went on for more than a minute. The man fled when one of my kicks landed on his knee.
I had been shouting ďBanchao! Banchao! (Help! Help!)Ē all the while but nobody came forward. The place couldnít have been deserted because I could feel the presence of people filing past me.
I stood there for over an hour, not sure where I was. I broke down and pleaded with passers-by to take me to a police booth or at least back to the station. I found a man who had been talking over the phone in English but he told me he was in a hurry. I followed him and got back inside the station building.
The man left me near a police officer. The officer heard me out but didnít respond.
I realised that I could be near a railway enquiry booth and started banging on a door.
A man came out and took me to the GRP booth. I was told that since the incident had taken place outside the station building, I would need to lodge a complaint at the nearby police station. They didnít even heed my request to lend me a phone to contact someone on the IIM campus.
I was trembling in anger but I was also tired of the ordeal. I didnít say anything as I was escorted out to the prepaid taxi booth, where a junior at IIM who had just returned from Varanasi spotted me. I was so glad to bump into Pratik; he was my saviour. We went together.
For me, Calcutta was not just about IIM Joka but also a historic city I had grown up reading about. But I am sure this is my last visit here.
I have travelled across the country and staff at railway stations have voluntarily helped me to the taxi stand. Calcutta is the only city where people demand money to help a visually-impaired person and, worse still, take advantage of. From temple priests to taxi drivers, I have been cheated so many times that I donít feel like trusting anyone.
After getting into IIM Calcutta, I had thought that my visual impairment was no longer a hurdle in life. Todayís incident has shattered my confidence.