Out there underneath the setting sun, stands a brightly painted yellow and green tri-wheeled vehicle shamelessly exposing the sponge beneath its disheveled and wounded seat. This injury, being too neglected and way down the priority list for a first aid, doesn’t deter the rickshaw from flaunting off the poster of blue-eyed Sonakshi Sinha at its back. Along with this badly battered and yet arrogantly grumpy thing, stands a grumpier man, the driver of this auto-rickshaw who is too crossed and too careless to comment on the crimson sky or be aware of how he has been scratching his groin ceaselessly for the last five minutes. He scoffs at the memory of his miserable day and puts the paan in his mouth hoping that it would distract him from his foul mood. But even the highest of high cannot make him stop thinking about the dreadfulness of the dusty streets or the burning heat of the sun or the suffocation in the traffic jam and the cacophonous horns of the cars or the poisonous smoke or the irritating beggars and the policemen. He thinks of his most frequent customers – the vendors who stink of fish, the maids who don’t know how to sit silently or the ladies who can spend 5000 bucks on wallets without complaining but will start a war for that extra 10 bucks he asked for. He is pissed at the garbage heap nearby, at the receding effect of his paan, at the stinking wall where he would himself be peeing and at the people around; each and every one of them. His back aches from the constant sitting, his eyes hurt because they have dried due to the ceaseless staring at the road and what more! He was nearly hit by a car today! He still gets goose flesh with just a momentary thought of it. He had never imagined that the annoying screech of a halting car could one day become the most blissful symphony he would ever hear. Had it not been there, he hadn’t even been alive to curse the most atrocious words at it later. But one mustn’t blame the sound. It’s the driver! The bitch! The cunt who doesn’t even know how to drive but she will drive anyway. There’s a reason why they say women are the worst drivers! The stupid creatures are too busy applying lipstick or talking to their boyfriends on their phones to handle the steering wheel. Have some mercy at the people around you, Madam! You can win an award if you could just refrain yourself from handling a car. “Kya Madam! Aapko dikhta nahi kya?” He recalls how he had hollered at her. And in return, she had howled back with equal ferocity. Her voice lacked the usual sophistication these high class ladies seem to possess. It was high pitched, capable of rupturing every eardrum in the radius of twelve feet. She screamed and screamed in her stinging voice without a single trace of guilt or shame in it. This aggravated him further. He was the one who could have got killed! He was the one who should be shouting like a mad man! Not this foolish dumb witted lady! Unable to tolerate her anymore, he drove away immediately.
The head ache and the nausea hits him again. Why did he think of that woman! He needs another dose of tobacco. He searches for it in his trousers but finds nothing but some crumpled papers. The throbbing in his head worsens. Could the day get any better?
He starts driving to the nearest stall to procure his most trusted medicine and that’s when he catches her glimpse. Even before he could think of it, he stops and shouts “Kidhar?”. The girl walks up to him and asks back, “Athwa?” He suddenly recalls that he had called it a day but then there is no way he can say no to her.
“How much?” She asks.
“Whatever you think is fair.”
Usually he would have asked for seventy but he doesn’t argue. Fifty is also fair. He pulls the lever and the engine roars back to life. He makes sure that the rearview mirror is adjusted in such a way that it’s easy to steal glances at her. She is really pretty. Not just because she is fair or slim but she has an innocent charm that’s very rare to find. He looks at her again. She is looking away at the buildings passing by, lost in her own thoughts. She is not texting or talking on the phone like these youngsters usually do. She is just there as if she is the part of the background. Her presence strangely calms him. He carefully prolongs his glances. He notices the light kajal in her eyes, her black bra strap that’s slightly peeking through her kurti, her eyebrows beautifully shaped, her hands clasped with one another resting on her knees, the faint wrinkles on her lips, the tiny spots on her cheeks…
“You study here?” He asks.
The streetlight falls on her face and he is once again reminded of why he had halted at the first place. He forgets about his addiction; about how he had been missing his high. He forgets about the witch who had almost killed him. He just wants to look at this beautiful face and nothing else.
“You have a very good character, I can tell that…” he says trying his hard to come up with an appropriate compliment.
When she doesn’t say anything, he continues, “You don’t speak much. Aapka nature bahut accha hai. Ekdum shant… ”
The girl looks at him and smiles awkwardly.
“No, but really, people like you are rare.”
“Bhaiya, yahi pe utaar dijiye…”
“I need to get off here only.”
He stops. The girl hastily gives him the money and walks away.
He stays there for a while staring at her till she disappears in the streets. His hands find a packet of tobacco in his breast pocket. Pleasantly surprised, he hurriedly empties the content in his mouth. The taste disgusts him. “Bitch!” He shouts as he spits on the ground and drives away.