I went to IGI Airport on saturday night to drop my Bhuaji and cousin. They had an early morning flight and had to check-in by 3:00 AM. After the really big bear-hugs they went inside gate # 3 and I waited outside till they got their security check. Around 15 mins later I got the thumbs-up sign – every thing was OK. I waved back for the last time and came to the parking area. As I plonked in the front passenger seat, the driver smiled at me. “Challiye ?”, he asked. I snapped with my right hand and pointed forward. He was waiting for the obvious. We moved forward.
The new fly-overs had us confused while arriving, but now he knew the way. He was describing all the major turns and landmarks. Its something with the drivers of the species. They seem to remember ‘all’ the turns, landmarks, vehicles which had overtaken them, when and where!! Once out of Delhi, we planned to have some tea. “Annapurna Dhaba will be the best.”, it was declared. I agreed. At least 2 waiters seemed to know our driver. We had tea and chips in between our ‘stretching-sessions’. Our first cup after virtually being in the Astra since 4:30 PM last evening. I snooped around as usual and discovered a ’24-hour’ music shop. I had wanted to listen to ‘Sahiba’ from Shankar Mahadevan’s latest album ‘9’ since our journey began. I asked for it. “Wo to nahi hai ji.”, was the response. Several “Badhiya” alternatives were suggested. I spotted ‘Bally Sagoo’ somewhere. It was ‘Haanji’. I asked the guy to play it for me. That was just a formality. I had to buy anything with ‘Bally Sagoo’ on it. It was cheap for 50/- and real value for money when I listened to it play later.
After showing our ‘multiple-entry’ ticket at the Karnal toll-barrier, we moved faster. ‘Haanji’ was playing for the second time. The ‘Center-Shocks’ bought at the dhaba had stopped serving their intended purpose of keeping me awake with their ‘shocks’. All the topics of discussion had been used, or so it seemed. I was almost dozing. It was then that the inevitable happenned. The driver started talking.
At first I thought he was doing this to keep himself occupied and thus awake. Some time later I realized that he was ‘actually’ being nostalgic. He talked about his “wonderful” days of playing kabaddi. What the sport had brought to him. His “mistake” of not going to England while there was time. His wife, his son. He told of his cunning relatives who had usurped his land when he was a minor orphan. He was compelled to get a job to feed his family. “But I have not let them sleep in peace. I’m fighting a case.” But he seemed to be genuinely concerned when he told that his offending relative’s elder son was a paraplegic and the younger one an addict. “I have nothing against the children. They have done nothing to harm me. Maybe this is Waaheguru’s way of justice.” Then I found what had triggered this out-burst. He very solemnly said “Tuhaade bhua ji tuhaanu kinna pyaar karde ne. Meri bhua ne mainu sadkaan te rol ta.” He was comparing my bhuaji who loves us so much, and his bhua who had brought him to the roadside.
The rest of the journey was largely silent.