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Peril on party street

Paromita Ghoshal, a 27-year-old BPO executive from Behala, was “almost kidnapped” by a taxi driver on Park Street on Wednesday for refusing to pay him Rs 50 more than the fare. The incident happened when Calcutta’s party street was teeming with New Year revellers around 9.30pm. Timely intervention by her brother Satya Rahul and two bikers saved her from… she shudders to think what could have happened. After taxi driver Umesh Prasad Yadav was arrested and charged with kidnapping, policemen asked her what she was doing on Park Street at night.

“We wanted to check the veracity of the complaint and asked her questions that we thought were relevant,” an officer of Park Street police station said on Thursday.

Paromita had gone to Park Street for dinner with brother Rahul, mother Gargi and six-year-old cousin Swarnak — like most Calcuttans do to have a good time with family and friends. She recounts her horror to Metro.

We came out of Bar-B-Q around 9.30pm and tried hailing a cab to take us home but nearly six of them refused. I was determined to catch one and ran towards a taxi parked in front of the Vodafone store opposite Stephen Court.

To make sure that the driver could not refuse and drive away, I opened the rear door and jumped in. I told the driver the destination and beckoned my brother with a wave. Just then the driver dropped the bomb: he wanted Rs 50 more than what the meter would show. I refused.

He turned towards me and said: “Chalo phir aapko ek achchhi jagah le chalte hain. Phir aapko sabak milega (Come, let me take you to a good place. Then you will learn a lesson).” He started the cab and sped towards Park Circus.

Immediately my brother took off and after a short sprint managed to catch hold of the driver by his collar through the window, forcing him to slam the brakes in the middle of the Free School Street-Park Street crossing. We thought he would let me go but instead he caught hold of my brother’s sweater and started driving again, dragging Rahul along.

Rahul fell on the road after the cabbie let go of his sweater a few metres away. Around that time, my mother called and before I could read out to her the taxi’s registration number written on the right rear door, the driver slammed the brakes and the phone slipped out of my hand.

I was terrified but he could not stop me from putting my head out of the window and shouting for help. Two bikers parked near the Park Street post office heard my screams and gave chase.

They caught up in seconds and blocked the cab near Park Street police station. The driver said I was not paying the fare. By then my brother and two policemen came running. A sergeant had also arrived and took the driver to Park Street police station.

Just as I was trying to catch my breath, I received the second shock. The police began questioning me, in front of the cabbie sitting at a corner of the police station. They bombarded me with queries: What were you doing on Park Street at this time of night? Is the youth you claim to be your brother really your brother...?

They looked satisfied with my answers but I was wrong. They began asking me if I actually wanted to go ahead with the complaint against the cabbie because that would entail court visits and a lot of hassle. My mother was almost convinced that I shouldn’t press charges now that I was safe. I had no second thoughts, though. I calmly wrote down an official complaint.

I have been visiting Park Street with my parents and then my friends since childhood. I have returned alone after partying past midnight. The incident has shaken me so much that I won’t be able to board a taxi alone again.