Bewakoof aur chutiya mein dhaage barabar ka farak hota hai. Dhage ke henge bewakoof aur hunge, chutiya. Dhaga khench lo to kaun hai bewakoof kaun hai chutiya, carore rupiye ka prashan hai bhaiya.
I don’t usually do the human interest beat. Reasons range from me not giving a hoot about such incidents to the fact that it’s done far too often by far too many other blah-gers. (Natansh, Venom and even Decay have dabbled in such stuff. These posts are usually ignored by me or I leave pointless, vague and marginally demeaning comments that go largely unappreciated by the authors or make Decay turn green and rip his clothes out!)
But I guess I can make an exception. Just this once.
His name, he said, was Raju. He told me this after I asked him, which was strange as most cab drivers tend to introduce themselves to me. I provide some respite from the boring and arduous task of ferrying people from AIIMS to Rajnigandha (sec-19), Noidaa nd it is rare for them to get more than, say, 2 or 3 passengers at the afore-unmentioned time (which happens to be around midnight, if not later). I’ve met a cab driver who asked to guess his age. I thought he looked 34, but I wanted to go easy on the chap (may end up dropping me off for free!). The conversation went as follows:
Me: “Bhaiya, pachees” (25)
Rakesh: “Nahi” (Nope)
Me: “Chabbees, Athayees? Tees se toh kum honge!” (26, 28? Less than 30, for sure!)
Rakesh: “Saale, mein bayees ka hoon” (I’m 22)
Rakesh has a 5-month-old kid. He named him Abhishek, after this guy. And ended up dropping me off very close to my place for free.
There was the inimitable Jayant. Swearing at everyone on the street and trying to pick up chicks. (“Jaanu, horn aise daba rahi ho ki jee karte hai main teri horno ko daba doon!” Translate that yourself.)
And the chaps who question why am I out there in the first place. (“Ladki se milke aa rahe ho? Sahi hai, yaar! Sahi hai!“)
But Raju was different, because I didn’t see him as a representation of how, despite the injustices of the bourgeios, the oppressed worker can manage to smile and bring some humour into the life of others, even if it just for a 16-km ride.
Raju was driving a black Chevrolet Tavera. He stopped suddenly at AIIMS, but not so suddenly so as to disrupt anything on his dashboard. It was the perfect sudden halt. He turned his face slowly and looked at us fools, standing there at midnight. I looked the silliest. Dark blue kurta that extended up to my knees, jeans and a bag. Everyone backed up. I went forward and asked him, “Noida?” He nodded his head. “Kahaan?”, I said. “Rajnigandha” he replied. He spat the word out as if the place was his dominion. I got in. He drove like a character out of the Matrix. Average speed: 70 (before the DND Flyway). And this may be the Tavera rather than the driver, but I have rarely had such a comfortable ride. He made his customary near-perfect screeching halts at South Ex, Lajpat Nagar, Maharani Bagh and Ashram. He didn’t stick his head out of the car and yell his destination. He just looked. If no-one approached the car in 3 seconds, he was off.
I noticed that even though I was his only passenger, he did not utter a word. Or even look away from the road. It wasn’t even as if he was looking at the road. He just stared ahead, not even in the manner of contemplating the vagaries of existence. His face was austere. It wasn’t austere from rage or anything. It was pure, emotionless austerity. When we exited the toll booth, I asked his name. He didn’t even look at me. He just asked why I wanted to know. (Actually what he said was, “Kyon?” – “Why?”).
“Aap itne chup they. Mujhe laga ki agar is wakt main yahan mar bhi jaon toh aapko koi farak nahi padega. Iske liye angrezi mein ek shabd hota hai, Stoic” (You were so quiet that I thought that even if I died at this very moment, it wouldn’t affect you at all. There’s a word in English for this, Stoic).
He smiled. Actually his lips on the right of face moved just a bit. We had reached Rajnigandha Chowk. As I got down from the batmobile, he turned to me and finally spoke,
“Kum bolna ek kala hota hai. Jyaada bologe toh public tereko chutiya samjhegi“. (Keeping queit – speaking very little – is an art. Talk too much and people will take you for a fucker/pussy.)
Thus said, he drove off.
This. This is what I wanted to be, back when I was 13-14 years old. Why did I change? I guess, no-one can be truly apathetic, truly “heartless” (as she put it), truly stoic. Except Raju, perhaps.