12.05.2008

The Taxi Ride (A Short Story)

The gentle swaying of the train didn’t do much for her mood. The plain greens outside the window reminded her of his shirt. The shirt that was neatly folded in her arms, reminding her of the last two days. Her mind churned over the past seven years, the on and off meetings, the love, the security. He was always there for her, a phone call away.

She switched off her phone, settled down comfortably and plugged in her CD player. She put “Big Yellow Taxi” on repeat, falling into a deep sleep. She saw dreams of him, standing next to his taxi, waiting for her to come out of the platform. The same conversation would follow every time.

“Hello princess, did you have a good journey?”

“Yeah, I did. I missed you more this time, though. They don't make men like you anywhere.”

“I'm there for you, always. Chalo, lets drop you home.”

“No lunch today? Did Kaka’s Dhaba shut down?”

“No, silly. I have work. It’s an important day for me. I must reach the Temple before 2.”

Despite our promise of not asking more than required, I felt curious. When I looked back at him, his eyes were twinkling. He was daring me to ask. He started whistling. That was a signal. I knew it. We both shared this trait, whistling when we wanted to spill a secret. But I still didn’t ask. I couldn’t risk it. Men, they get offended more easily than women.

Ten minutes into the ride, he started whistling again. I finally asked.

“Why are you going to the Temple?”

“That’s my business.”

“To ogle at all the single women, perhaps?”

“If only.”

“Tell me naa!!”

“There is a puja for someone special. It’s her birthday. You can come if you like.”

The words piqued a curiosity that I didn’t know existed. Her birthday, he said. I’d always thought of myself as the only girl in his life. Foolish, I know. How could I expect him to wait for me eight months a year? Still, I thought. We had shared a special bond. We liked the same kind of food; we both preferred football over cricket and both had an undying love for the melodies of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. He was a free soul, driving a taxi to pass the time, living off the riches left to him by his father. He was the adventure in my cautious soul.

Noticing my face, he frowned, guessing my thoughts before I could say them out loud to myself.

“Don't worry, it's not another woman.”

“Then?”

“Hmm, we have a half hour. I’ll tell you all about her. She was my childhood sweetheart. We loved each other like crazy. Inseparable till the day our parents decided to fix our marriage. That ruined us.”

“Ok, hold on here. That’s something new. You both were married, so then, what was the problem? You have a perfect love story, don't you?”

“Ha, if only the world were that simple. Two years into the marriage, we were still childless. My parents were desperate for a grandchild and they made our lives miserable. Some two and a half years after the marriage, they tried to separate us. On one occasion, they even tried to set up another bride for me. That got her parents really mad and they took her away.”

“Hold on. They did what?”

“They were progressive people, they couldn’t bear the thought of their only daughter being hurt like that.”

“They sound like my grandparents. My mom is a single mother. Her parents encouraged her to bring me up the best she could, in spite all odds.”

“Hmm, the last I heard, she had had a child and was raising it alone. You kind of resemble her, you know. You remind me of Vasundhra, you do.”

Vasundhra. The name resounded in my head. That was my mother’s name.

“Vasundhra Singh?”

He looked at me, stunned.

“Are you?”

“In flesh and blood. That’s my full name. Namrata Singh.”

Before he could say anything else, the Temple came into view. We stopped and looked at each other, searching the other’s eyes for that one little piece that was missing in our lives. I sought my father, he sought his love. Slowly, he opened his mouth.

“Do you have a photograph?”

I pulled out mom’s photo from my wallet and thrust it in his hands. His eyes said everything. I had found my father. We turned back and sat into the taxi, not knowing what to do next. I asked him to drop me home, where mom would be waiting for me. And for him. But he couldn’t. He couldn’t bear to lose her all over again. He dropped me and left.

“Mom, why did you tell me my father died before I was born?”

“Because he did.”

“Mom, do you remember Anil Sharma? Your husband, my father, Anil Sharma?”

I told her about him, how we had met eight years ago and since then he had been picking me up from the stations and dropping me wherever I needed to go. How he had become an important part of my life. She looked at me, for what seemed like an eternity. Finally she spoke.

“He was my husband, but not your father. After I left his house, we divorced and I married another man, who died soon after. I didn’t love your father, so he’s never been mentioned about ever since. Anil is not your father.”

Reeling, I stepped out of the house and called him up. Called to say that he could come and reclaim his love. Called, only to find out that he had slipped on the stairs of the temple and was now dead. Called, only to be told that I could come and collect his belongings. Called, only to know that I had a father, once again.

The next day, I decided to leave, leaving my holiday’s midway. Mom understood, she always did. Sitting in the train, I kept his green shirt close to me. It still felt like he was standing there, smiling. I started crying. Crying, over the man, who could have been my father.

9 comments:

aaaaahhhhhh! said...

A very nice story...the entire manner in which the dialogues r written is very good. Just one request...thoda happy ending rakho...thoda sa...[:)]

Mishika said...

oh my God...this was really sweet and equally sad :(

anty_anand said...

Thanks shubhda.. i'll write one with a happy ending as well!!

Thanks mish!

ishita-dasgupta said...

Whoa...I wonder what makes you so sadistic..!! :P
Really sweet story anyhow...post the others soon!!! :))

arnav said...

That was a really sweet story, and sad.. kind of like the west wind, y'know.. Sweet in its sadness..

Gunny said...

nice one..waiting for the others :)

The Other A said...

Interesting, I enjoyed it.
Chick-litish without the soppyness.
I look forward to the others.

Ketan said...

Too good! What I liked is the fact that you've simply laid the plot case before the reader, not trying to spoon-feed them with the emotions they "ought" to feel.

Talking of coincidences, I'd myself written a short story "Residua", which is centered on a coincidence that borders on fortunate and unfortunate. But my writing will come off as very labored and circuitous in comparison with the crispness of your narration, but that's of course if you venture into reading it. TC.

anty_anand said...

Thanks, yet again. :)

I did in fact venture into reading it and I did like it. I left a comment there. Your style is a lot different but fun as well.