Tum Hum

Oct 25th, 2006 10 PM - Mumbai Airport to Pune

I always jump upon a chance to take a long drive. I usually do the Mumbai – Pune night trips. The express way looks beautiful at night. You cannot imagine the amount of people that travel between these two cities everyday. I always wonder where these people keep going. Going places, I guess!

It was a couple this time around whom I had to drop at Hinjewadi. They looked like a married couple. I screened for the red light (the sindhoor), but it wasn’t there. But you cannot just go by that these days, can you. Ashok Chavan, my pick up chart read.

“Good evening sir”. I tried to be polite. But there was no response. There are only two kinds of people in this world. One who talk to the cabbies; and the other who do not. Mr.Chavan was surely of the second type. The lady kept her distance from him in the back seat. And I drove the Tata Sumo out of the airport.

She broke the silence after a half an hour of the drive.

“What were you thinking? That I would never get to know?” Silence prevailed. He did not respond.

“You know what Ashok, this is one moment that I had dreaded would come. From the moment I got married to you”. She fumed.

O O .. what have we got here? Is it the inf word?

“Come on Shaila, you are trying to make this sound like I murdered someone. It really was nothing.” His voice barely came out of his mouth.

Exactly. Do I read minds or what

“Really? Nothing? Ok .. Lemme c .. You go out on the night of our anniversary, sleep around with some “friend” of yours and come back to me as if nothing has happened. How can you do this?” Tears rolled down her cheeks.

I could see him indicate to her that I am listening to everything and that she shouldn’t be saying all this. I tried not to pretend that I was listening. But I just couldn’t have covered my ears. Who would hold the steering?!

“She is my colleague for God’s sake. I just went for a drink with her in the bar. You were sleeping, so I did not want to disturb you. The conference was taking its toll on me damn it. I needed that drink” He was screaming his heart out, the last two sentences.

Whatever stupid things you say, if you can say it in a louder voice, it sounds a bit convincing actually

“Don’t scream. I am not asking for a justification here.” She said.

“I am not giving you one. It is the actual fact.” He paused and then continued, “Look. If I had wanted, I could have easily left you back home and went for the conference. I could’ve done whatever I wanted and you wouldn’t have known. But I wanted to be with you for the anniversary.”

“Ya. And right after you were ‘with me’, you were ‘with her’ ”. She was getting animated.

Why do people always show the quotes sign while talking

“Check with Shweta, if you want. If she tells you anything different, I will do whatever you want. How do I make you believe now?.” He said

“Jump out of the car” she said.

Wow wow. Watch it lady.
Should I speak now? Ask him not to jump. Would he consider jumping?

“That is not a solution. Tell me how I can make you believe?” He said.

Good sense prevails

“Ok. This weekend, I am going to a club. My friend Sagar has been asking if I wanted to go to a pub. I had said no. But now I will reconsider.” She was looking out of the window as she spoke. “I will just go have a few drinks with him and come back while you watch your soccer game. OK? “.

Gotcha. These sagars and shwetas of the world cannot find single people, can they?

“Well, if that would make you happy. Yes. Why not" He said

That is very convincing

Wait. Who is Sagar by the way?” He turned to her.

Why did I see that coming

“My Colleague. Why? Is that a problem?”. She asked.

“No. Not really. But it’s so not the same. You know who shweta is. I haven’t even heard about this Sagar fellow.” He started the debate.

“That is not the point. Is it going to be a problem or not? That is the question.” She said authoritatively.

Million Dollar question, I would say

“Yes. It would be a problem. It is a different scenario.” He was looking for words.

You want a dictionary mate?

“See. This is what exactly I am saying. All you men are bloody hypocrites” She almost sealed a victory.

“Look Shaila. I know it was a mistake. I should have taken you with me. Can you just leave it at that? You know that I love you. More than anything else in the world” He said

Those are the three most over rated words in the history of mankind

She kept quiet. And he kept looking at her.

“So? What are you saying?”. He asked.

“I have decided to go to the party on Saturday” She said.

Even Stevens I guess. Sad that I would never get to know if it was only drinks that was served in both the parties. The only sound that I heard in the drive afterwards was that of Kishore Kumar.


Jun 17th, 2004 8 PM - Airport to The Leela Palace
“Good evening m'am. Hope you had a comfortable flight.” I said as I turned on the ignition of the Hyundai Verna and waiting patiently for the cab in front of him to make a move.

“It was good”, she said. I could see her forcing the words out of her mouth, for the jaws were still on the lower side; her brain probably trying to comprehend if she really did hear those words from an Indian Cabbie’s mouth. I am used to this sort of expression now.

“I have a bad habit of conversing while driving m'am. So if you do not quite like the idea, feel free to say ‘shut up’ and I will”. I admitted.

A slight smile ran across her face and she said, “That’s fine. I am anyways bored of talking to myself”.

“I do that all the time, m'am. It is quite hard to shut the thoughts out of your mind, right? Especially when you are stressed.” I suggested as I hit the first signal outside the airport.

“This is not your full time job, is it?” She inquired.

“Oh, it is m'am. This is my only job. Behind the wheels, beyond the roads” I smiled looking at her through the rear view mirror.

“One liners and all, eh. Not bad! Actually, I am a bit surprised. I have never heard any cabbie speaking such good English and striking good conversation”. She said.

“Oh, it is quite common in the west m'am. The English of course, but the cab drivers in the west are very famous for their conversations during the drives. Actually it irritates most people. They would be like, ‘Why can’t he shut up and drive’ ”. I replied

“Ya, that is true. So, you have been to the west?” She had a thousand questions in her mind.

“Not yet, m'am. I watch a lot of English movies and sitcoms. They are quite creative. I do not talk always, as a matter of fact. Sometime I just listen. You know? When there are a couple travelling or if a gentleman is stuck to the phone like he should to his wife, or a mom trying to feed her kid, by telling stories. I love to observe people. I love psychology in fact.” The last few words barely came out of my mouth.

“Nice. So how come you …. You know” She was searching for words.

“Became a cabbie? Well. Life takes you to places which you wouldn’t have ever imagined, doesn’t it? After finishing my MA in English, I went around looking for a job for over a year. That’s when I realized, there is no point doing it. There are a million MAs out there. And that in a country which does not consider arts as a valuable master's degree. So I just got working as a cab driver. I love driving as much as I love English. So it wasn’t too hard for me to live this fact.” I said the words as if I had by-hearted each word of it. “Life has designed roles for each one of us. We just have to live it. Like it has designed a role of journalist for you?”.

“Wow, wow. Now how did you know that?” She came to the edge of the seat.

“Your office tag is popping out of your bag, m'am” I smiled again at the mirror.

“Ok, Mr. Holmes. So you must be meeting a lot of people right? Young, old. May be you should write a book or something on that. I would be the editor”. She suggested.

“May be one day, I will, m'am. For now I write them all in my blog. Just that there aren’t many followers to it.” I said as I drove into the Hotel after innumerable stops for the security checks.

“Here is my card. I am sorry, I didn’t get your name?” she said as she prepared to get down from the cab.

“Cabbie, m'am”, I said.