It was 11 a.m. In a tearing hurry to reach work, I quickly reversed my car out of the gate, quite a tight spot, and hit the ring road at a fairly good speed. Just as I was about to take the compulsory left turn, I saw a woman [in her mid-40s] under an umbrella frantically waving. Of course, she was no long lost friend. Almost screeching to a halt, I scrolled down the car window and looked at her, questioningly. She requested, “Madam, if you are going towards India Gate, could you drop me off to a point close by?” Having inculcated the habit of viewing every stranger with suspicion, the plea put me in a fix. Seconds later, I thought, for God's sake, she’s only a woman desperate for a lift in this hot weather and can’t harm me in broad daylight.
So, I opened the back door, not in all wiseness. As soon as she got in, she asked me which way I was taking. I said ITO. She said bingo. “I also work around that area. Khuda ne bheja aap ko mere liye” [You are God sent]. Well, not really flattering on a weekday. Also, I realised my car stereo was better left turned off as her masculine voice was almost shattering the insides of my small car. The feeling was a little eerie as she continued, “I have seen you many times… you also have a sister who is fair." [What did she mean that I was as black as charcoal?]
Slowly, the conversation picked up momentum. I was curious about this woman. But I did the mistake of asking her where she worked, because from then on, there was no stopping her. In that 20-minute drive, I learnt all about her life – how she started as a singer in five-star hotels, how she graduated to singing ghazals and heavier stuff, how she got separated from her husband, how her daughter moved to Canada to live with her mom, how she landed up with a job in a lawyer’s office and how she lives alone and loves it. Interesting. The word ghazal perked me up. Followed a bit of exchange of old shayaris. Not bad! It was like going back to my summer-house days at the university. We had struck a friendship of sorts.
Destination reached. I swerved to the corner for her to alight. “Oh, by the way, what’s your name?” “Sunaina," she said. I told her, "Beautiful name." “Yours too”, and with that she disappeared into the busy ITO junction.
That was a couple of weeks ago. Yesterday as I was getting out of my gate, I was caught in a minor traffic jam. An idiotic truck driver had parked bang in the middle of this narrow road outside my house. I almost got into road rage (so common these days in Delhi, they killed a guy on Monday because he refused to give way to two motorists. So the motorists followed the guy in the car only to kill him at a point when the traffic was moving at a snail’s pace.) that I, too, wanted to kill the truck-driver at that point of time.
Just then, Sunaina tapped onto my car window. [The truck driver just got saved :)]. “Oh, hello” I said and opened the door. This time, I coaxed her into singing. And boy, there was so much depth in her voice that as she sang Begum Akhtar's"Ishq main gairat-e-jazbaat", for once, I wished the traffic came to a halt. “Isn’t this funny?” I told Vishaka, later in office. “I just offered a woman a lift and we are singing partners already.”