Relationships, loneliness and my cab ride home this evening!


This evening I left in a very bad mood from the office. Sometimes your own loved ones can frustrate you so much and everything that you say falls on deaf ears…with these thoughts I climbed down two floors and stepped out of the office building. No chauffeur, another reason to feel frustrated and out I was looking for a cab. I saw one towards my left and walked towards it, all set to hear a ‘no’ which I usually get to hear from all cabbies, what with home and office in such proximity. This was an old uncle who immediately said ‘yes’ with a quick smile and I heaved a sigh of relief.

I said “tardeo jaana hai uncle” and he started driving. These days the traffic also acts so funny and there are jams at any given time. What surprises me is that its so bad even going towards town in the evenings these days. Gone are the days of ‘traffic in the opposite direction’ in Bombay. I was lost in my thoughts. when I suddenly realised that the cabbie uncle was talking to me. We had just about moved twenty yards and he asked me why the traffic was so bad these days and I just ignored him, telling myself in my mind, “yaar uncle, please disturb mat kijiye, vaise hi dimaag kharaab hai”. I didn’t answer but he didn’t relent! He said that the number of cars have increased and people drive so badly, the traffic doesn’t move blah blah blah! My level of frustration just kept increasing. Why can’t I get some peace of mind even in a cab, my good lord. But I really didn’t want to be rude, so I kept smiling, looking out of the window and kept nodding my head. At a signal, he told another cabbie to our right that the tyre had a flat. That moment I felt he was rather sweet, so what if he was talking so much. “Take a chill pill Archu”, I told myself.

We were nearing Haji Ali and there’s usually a lot of traffic there at any given hour. He asked me again why there’s so much traffic here and then I decided to reply and told him that this place was usually crowded. That’s when our conversation started…full fledged! He was driving an old fiat and the RTO officer told him that he had to change the cab within a month. He pointed to the Wagon R next to our cab and said “wo gaadi loonga aur fir gaon jaoonga”. I asked him the burning question in my mind. “kahan ke ho uncle”…so he said, “hum Allahabad ke hain”. I told him I hailed from the same place and at that instance he turned back to look at me. He gave me a proper look, smiled and said, “achha bitiya”. Oh! Bitiya! I love being called bitiya, makes me feel so close to my roots.

He went on to tell me that he’s been driving a cab for the past 40 years and now he’s 70 years old. And his ‘budhiya’ is in Allahabad. He bought a ‘kholi’ in a chawl for 400 rupees in those days in Bombay. He got his ‘auratiya’ to stay with him in his house in Bombay but she did not like the place and told him to send her back. So ever since, he’s been here and she’s been there; with him traveling to Allahabad whenever he can. He mentioned he has two sons, both now married. One son and daughter-in-law stay in Allahabad and one pair here, with him.

He said his sons now insist that he should stop driving a cab and lead a retired and happy life. I said they were right and he has now done his bit, even bought a house in Bombay, something that most people struggle with. All achieved, life is good, happy retirement, uncle! To which he suddenly broke out in avadhi (our UP dialect), “ghar hi ke baare mein sochat hain, kaa kari, hamaar naam pe hai kholi, dono bitva lad padhiyen”. I thot haanji, kaafi gambhir samasya hai, aaj kal to bhai bhai bhi har cheez ke liye lad lete hain. So I told him, “dono ke naam pe likh diijiye ghar”. Well, that didn’t cut ice with him as it didn’t seem to be a possibility. I suddenly jumped and decided to reply back in avadhi, “will banai ke rakh do uncle”. I just couldn’t remember what ‘will’ was called in hindi 🙁

“haan par kaun banayi?”

“kauno bhi vakeel bana deyi uncle, aapka ee kare chaahi”.

“haan bitiya, auratiya kahaat hai, dekh laiyo, jab dono hum mar jaabe na, ee dono lad lad ke mar jaahein, ee kholi ke liye”

“ji, eeke bare ‘vasihat’ banvaye lo uncle, achha rahi, kauno ladega nahin, sab theek ho jaai”. Wow! I got what ‘will’ was called in hindi and I hoped he now understood what I meant. Sometimes my hindi just gives way, despite being a hard core north Indian…what with being a townie, sobo girl.

Suddenly, the focus shifted from him to me. He asked me if I was born here and whether my parents live with me. I responded in the positive telling him that I live with my folks. Then came the interesting question from him. “Kaa karat ho bitiya” and I decided to reply in my language again. “Hum apan khud ke kaam karat hain, apni khudki company khole hain”. He had a warm, genuine and wide smile on his face and said, “Ee to bahut khusi ka baat hai, kaun company chalaat ho”. Man! I didn’t know how to explain an OD and Talent Optimisation consulting firm to him, so struggled and told him, “hum HR mein apan company khole hain uncle”.

“Achha HR mein…bahut khub, worli maan hi hai tohar office”

“haan oonhi hai hamaar office aur ab hum ghare jaa rahe hain”

“to subah kis tarah jaat ho, bus pakdat ho?”

“nahin uncle hum sabere bhi taxi maa jaait hi”

“achha bitiya, khusi hui jaanke”

I asked him his name, and he said, “thakur”. I asked whether that was his name, he said, “nahin, hum thakur hain bitiya, naam hai Shripal Singh. Singh log thakur hot hain na”.

“Hum jaanat hain uncle, hum bhi to hooaan ke hi hain”.

We reached home, and he whispered, “ee to parsi kalani hai”. “Haan uncle, hum yahin rahat hain”, I replied.

I didn’t have small change and also wanted to give him a good tip. I told him how much money I wanted to give him and looked for the extra 10 rupee notes in my lunch bag, as my ma puts a ‘shagun’ ka 10 rupee note in my lunch bag everyday (that’s a ritual in my house. Kids {irrespective of their age} get shagun ke paise when they step out of the house each day). He refused to take it, saying, “tum to bitiya ho hamaar gaon ki, na deho to bhi kauno baat nahin”. But I said “nahin uncle aise nahin chalat”. I could see the genuine happiness and smile on his face and he said, “hum bhi to hiyaan hi rahaat hain, to kisi din fir milenge bitiya, aur tumhein office le jayenge”.

I so wanted to tell him that I needed a chauffeur desperately and wanted to ask him if he would be okay to drive my car. But I let it pass as I wasn’t sure whether papa and bhaiya would appreciate me doing this. And he was 70, his sons wanted him to retire too, “not done Ms. Chaurasia” I told myself.

I got out of the cab, closed the door, looked through the window, smiled and told him, “apan vasihat jaroor banvai liyo uncle”.

As I walked into the lane and then into my apartment building I realised the futility of life, how lonely it can get, the importance of relationships and how people just don’t appreciate what they have. How this man and his wife lived apart for over four decades, were connected with each other and yet so lonely. It was his loneliness that prompted him to initiate a conversation with me. The yearning to speak to someone and feel good, happy and content. How many people have their kith and kin living with them and yet lead such a lonely life, do not value relationships, friendships. There’s nothing more important than your loved ones, their happiness and smiles, companionship and togetherness. People fight and get upset over the most trivial things and break ties; sometimes I wish they would understand…life is short and one would rather live it to the fullest. Be happy and make others happy!

As for me, I felt good about two things. I touched someone’s soul and made a difference to him today, by taking away some bit of his loneliness. And I allowed him to make me shed my anger and frustration, I allowed him to make me talk, feel free and feel happy! Thank god for such people who we come across especially on the mundane and depressing days of our life!

I reached home smiling; all set to change and hit the gym for a real tough workout. After all, life is short and I want to live it queen size, and I will!


Image Source: Flickr

%d bloggers like this: