| A relative scans the road from the verandah of abducted college girl Roma Jhawar's Salt Lake house. Picture by Amit Datta
This can't be happening to us, thought Sabari Mitra, as the off-white Maruti Omni overtook their car, swerved and blocked their path, and a young man brandishing a revolver jumped out.
All this, barely 50 metres from her friend Roma Jhawar's house in Salt Lake's CB block. The time: 8.15 am on Friday.
Sitting in the backseat of Roma's Tata Indica, Sabari watched in horror as the man, now joined by three others, yanked open the left front door. Twenty-year-old Roma was sitting by the driver, along with her nephew, four-year-old Vedant.
'It all seemed unbelievable,' Sabari told her father, Shantanu Mitra, later in the day. 'It was just like a scene out of a Bollywood film. I didn't really think it could happen in real life, least of all to us.'
Having opened the door, the man with the revolver grabbed Roma's arm and pulled her out of the car.
Screaming hysterically by now, Roma was pleading to be let off, Sabari said. 'Mujhe bachao (Save me),' Roma kept shouting, as the youths dragged her away.
'Gadi khali kar do aur bachche ko le kar chale jao (Get out of the car and take the kid with you),' the man with the revolver ordered Sabari.
As she clambered out of the car, Sabari saw Roma being pushed into the Omni, that sped off immediately. Running towards Roma's house, clutching Vedant to her, with driver Sukumar Mondal just behind her, Sabari burst into tears.
On reaching the door of the Jhawar home, she incoherently narrated the bizarre turn of events to Roma's brother Rajesh.
'I was in a daze, still not able to believe what had happened,' Sabari later told her father. 'But between the driver and me, we narrated the whole incident to Rajesh, so that at least prompt action could be taken.'
Just before the kidnapping, Sabari had walked from her home in DB block to Roma's in the adjoining block. They were to go together to JD Birla Institute, where they both study. After a short wait ' 'Roma was still not ready' ' the two stepped out.
As was the daily practice, little Vedant came along. He was to be dropped off at a nursery school on their way. Roma sat in the front along with her nephew, while Sabari occupied the back seat.
And then, just as they turned the corner, disaster struck. 'When Sabari came home, she was in total shock,' her father said. 'She kept saying that it couldn't happen to her. Finally, we had to give her sedatives and put her to bed.'