A short story
He rushed out of the marriage hall and looked around for a taxi. He looked at his watch and then looked around. If he had to get to the airport, he had to start now. He looked back at the marriage hall. People were still coming in. Its already 7:30 PM.
“Bloody! Indian Stretchable time!” He smiled at himself.
He hailed a cab. It was a good thing that he had already arranged to have his bags at the airport.
“International Airport chalo (take me to airport)” He told the cab.
The driver looked at him, as if he heard something silly. The car ride from South Mumbai to Santacruz airport would take more than an hour and depending on the traffic, maybe more. The taxi driver saw that the passenger was serious and started the car. What he had to lose?
Actually, it would have been faster if he took the local, but he didn’t care. It was his last day in Mumbai and he still had 3-4 hours before check-in. He wanted to make his last journey in Mumbai as comfortable as possible and that’s the reason he had looked for the cool cab too.
The roads were crowded. He was going to miss the Mumbai evening, so lively, so many people, so much to do. He removed his coat. Who wears coat in Mumbai where the mercury never goes below 25. But she? She wanted everybody to dress nicely.
“It’s my wedding and I want everyone and especially you to wear a coat.” She had warned him.
He smiled and remembered her in the bridal dress. How beautiful she looked? The way he had imagined her all these years.
He put the coat next to his laptop and rested his head back on the seat.
“Sahab, radio chalau? (Shall I put the radio on?)” The cabbie asked
“Radio?” The driver repeated his question
“Ha! Ha!” He went back to his relaxed mood looking out the window. 27 years in the city, his birth, his school, his college, his first job, his friends everything had been in this city. Today he was going to leave this city, just for her. Its amazing what love can make you do? He closed his eyes, remembering her in the bridal dress again. God! She looked beautiful.
The radio was playing some Hindi FM station and some Hindi movies song.
“Na na karte pyar tumhise kar baithe”
He smiled at the song.
“Why do you love me?” She had asked
“Why do you love me? Don’t you understand the question?”
“I don’t know”
“What? Are you sure you love me?”
“Come on! Ok! Because you are beautiful, smart, good, and the best girl I could love and ofcourse any body could love
“That’s better” She had smiled agreeing as she kept her head on his shoulders.
The temperature outside was more than 26 degrees, the traffic and the car fumes making it worse. They had made good progress in half hour. Surprisingly the traffic moved at a so-called normal pace. The last few days have been so busy, Saying yes to the job was just a start, arranging for the visa, the tickets, quitting the earlier job, putting the house and other financial matters in order and ofcourse the marriage. Everything in this city was going to get over today.
The car reached the Bandra flyover, overlooking the ocean. He could see the sea, it was dark but the city lights made the water sparkle.
“Khoya Khoya chand khula aasmaan”
“The Mumbai sea has so dirty water. I don’t now why you like it? She had asked while sitting on the promenade at Bandstand.
“Because I like it”
“I just like the wind here. It feels good against my hairs”
“That is also a reason”
“I like the sea because I like it and the wind makes your hairs flutter, and you like that and I like to see that you like the wind against your hair and you look a little more beautiful”
She smiled “That’s the corniest line I have heard in my whole life.”
“Me too! But I love you”
“I love you too” She laughed and kissed him right in the open. It was a little embarrassing for him to be kissed in public. He looked around. But it was already late in the evening with hardly anybody around.
He looked out of the window. With luck he would be at the airport in another 20 minutes.
“Mujhko is raat ki tanhaii main awaaz na do” Another Mukesh classic
“Are you thinking about me” She had called him
“What? Who? What time is it?”
“Raat ke 3 bajkar 12 minute ho gaye hai! Tell me na? Are you thinking about me?”
“God! Have you gone insane? You called me at this time to ask me that?”
“No! I had called you to ask do you love me?”
“So you don’t love me?”
“I do! I do! For god’s sake I do”
“Why are you so afraid?”
“I don’t want to get killed tomorrow?”
She laughed “I love you too”
That night they talked till morning. The next day at the office, he couldn’t keep his eyes open but that’s a different story altogether.
They had reached quite close to the airport. He looked outside. Big billboards shown advertising the latest car, the latest fashion, the latest loan. He looked at the coat next to him. The best she could get for him.
“What will happen if I leave you?” She had asked
“Don’t do that please. I have to get a coat and I don’t like that”
“But you never wear coat. Atleast I haven’t seen you wearing coat.”
“Who wants to wear a coat here?”
“So why do you want a coat. I don’t get it. I am leaving you and you will be going on a shopping spree”
“You seen Parakshit Sahani in Pavitra Paapi?”
“See that what your problem is. No general knowledge! See in that movie when the heroine is getting married, the hero takes this coat and without wearing it holding over his sholder, he sings “Teri duniya se hoke majboor chala, main bahut door, bahut door, bahut door chala”. I have to do that na?”
“Stupid! You and your movies”
“Life’s truth dear. Life’s truth” he had laughed so much.
A tear trickled on his face. He did not realize that she was asking him seriously. Her parent fixed her marriage to someone else without telling her. She was never asked. The marriage was fixed within a month. Lots of things had to be done and who better to help her than her best friend. They had cried together sitting on the wall facing the sea. It took him a time to accept but he did. He quit his job, accepted a job in Spain. Anywhere in the world that didn’t reminded him of her.
She insisted he attend her wedding. How can she be so cruel?
“I want you to see me in the bridal dress” Stupid reason. How can he bear to see her in the bridal dress which she wore for somebody else?
She looked beautiful. He had always dreamt of her in the bridal dress, standing next to him. “I guess that why they are called dreams, they are just dreams.” He thought
The cab stopped in front of the gate. He paid the driver. He started walking toward the departure terminal
“Sahab coat” The driver called from the cab
He turned back. Took the coat from the cab and smiled. The song on the radio was all he had wanted to remember her again.
“Radio par gaane aache lage hai (the radio is playing good songs today)” He told the driver. The driver nodded. He took the coat, smiled and without wearing it, he hung it on his shoulder, holding the collar with his two fingers. The driver saw him entering the departure terminal while his radio played the familiar song
“Teri Duniya se Hoke majboor chala. Main bahut door, bahut door, bahut doooorrr chala”