Conversation One: 5:45 pm, Indiranagar, Bangalore.
Uber cab, 2 thirty-year olds, one in the front seat and one besides me:
“Bhai, Should stop the beer now. It is high time. Kal raat zyada ho gaya. Aur upar se khana! Shruti ko bola tha zyada chicken mat order karo, par sunti kahan hain woh?. Aur chicken ko kaise waste kar sakta hoon main? Tujhe toh pata hain hostel ki stories!”
The other guy was just humming in agreement. He had eyes on the GPS. “Let’s join gym . What do you think? And this is the right time:summers. All the sweat…it works like magic on the belly fat. Shruti makes sure my belly becomes a part of the conversation most of the time. We decided to do Yoga aur saala next day hi on-call aa gaya. Sab taraf se phat rahi hain!” He sighed. His friend from the front seat gave out a hoarse laugh.
After a while he stopped. Few minutes passed in silence. The radio re-surfaced with a song. But only for a while, as the guy started talking again.
“Bangalore main summers main AC chahiye hi chahiye. Woh apna Sunny…. Whitefieldwala? Usne cooler liya tha pehle. Kuch fayda nahin hua. Do hafte baad AC lena pada. Tum bhi AC dalwado, bhai.”
“Haan yaar, sahi bol rahan hain……Bhaiya, Yahan se left le lo…” The other guy instructed the driver. As the indica jerked on the uneven road, I cursed my luck as the delay was profound now.
“Ye traffic ka bada jhanjaat hain yahan pe. Ye uber-woober theek hain. But having your own vehicle is a delight. Maine courier karwayeen meri bike Delhi se. Tu kab le raha hain?”
“Dekhta hoon, 4- wheeler soch rahan tha. But yahan ka traffic dekhke no point. Waise kaunsi acchi hain?”
Then the next 5 minutes were spent in discussing various car models and their prices.
“Bhaiya, idhar hi utar do !” he said. The car stopped and both of them got down. “Aage se U-turn le lena, main road pohoch jaoge!” And the pair disappeared
The driver shrugged. “Bangalore main dus saal se kaam kar rahan hoon. Har rasta jaanta hoon…!” Being an outsider myself, I produced a weak smile in agreement. We took a u-turn and reached on the main road.
9:30 am, HSR Layout, Bangalore.
She was in her late teens. Straightened hair, a leather jacket over a peach-colored top and dark blue denim and a laptop bag which was clearly heavy for her. She was already on a call when she got in the cab. “Hello…good morning mummy ji…” “Haan…breakfast kar liya. ….Haan…Maine usko bola ki dishes wash karke rakho. …Haan…Nahi main nahi kar sakti na. Late pohochi office se mummy.” Pause in which the mother was letting out a great deal of advice. ” Haan…Usko bola maine…aise roz roz nahi chalega…Hmmmmm…Yes. I know how to handle this. ”
“Haan. This would be the last time I am telling her mom….Ya ….You know how it is with me……” A quite significant pause for this time.
“Yes…we had dinner late night. Yes. we were back by 11……It is not late in Bangalore…..Yes mom. He dropped me. Yes….Why are you treating me like a child?”
“He is my brother, mom. …..Yes, of course we are taking care of ourselves….You don’t have to tell me every little thing…..Yes….YES! So what? You have to give us the freedom mom! He knows! ……Young?…I am not going to argue on this..Papa gaye office? Accha…Okay…Hello…Hello….Awaaz nahin aa rahin hain theek se….I will talk to you later….Accha..Bye!”
Sarjapur road, 8:30 PM.
He was in his fifties and was wearing a blazer and a white shirt, a briefcase in one hand and the phone in other. When he got inside the cab, he was pretty pissed off. Wiping the water off his spectacles, he let out all his frustration on both of us.
“Bhaiya…mujhe thodi patah hain yeh area. Aap keh rahen ho idhar aao..udhar aao. Upar se yeh baarish!” And the driver of course had no clue what was going on . He managed to utter few words in Hindi. ” One way hain ..Traffic jam..” Usually, traffic jam justifies everything. He found me staring at him. “Yeh Modi ko zara si bhi akal nahi hain. Pehle raaste theek karo apne desh ke. Internet kahan pakadta hain yahan pe! Kabse cab book karne ki koshish kar rahan hoon! Smajh main nahi aata yeh app-wap, auto ya bus lene ka yahan pe sawaal hi nahin uthta. Koi bola uber cab book karo, abhi hum logo ko thodi patah hain yeh uber-woober? Aise kaise suddenly poora paytm aur cashless kar diya? Hum logon ke baare mein sochna chaahiye! Foreign ko copy karne jaate hain. Jaake raaste dekho aao unke.!”
The rain poured over the car equally in rage. “Aaj raat ko train hain meri . Pune jaa rahan hoon. Chaar din ke liye aaya tha Bangalore. Kya traffic hain! Bas time pe pohoch jaon station yahi ummed” He prayed and the car jerked along the water-filled potholes. A minute later we stopped as the red light flashed in front. “Ho gaya satyanaash!” He clicked his tongue and his head disappeared in his palms and he let out an audible sigh. I smiled and muttered to myself “Welcome to Bangalore!”
HSR Layout, 7:30 PM:
She was in her late 30’s, white headphones plugged in her ears and head was nodding on the beats. As the driver stopped the car after a while, she was astonished. Unplugging one of the ear, she asked “Kya hua bhaiya?” “Madam, Location aa gaya!” He muttered in his best version of Hindi. She stared out of the window.
“Maruti temple ke paas bhaiya!” The driver checked the map on his mobile screen. “Yahi location dala tha aapne madam!” She produced a look as if the driver had spoken a foreign language.
“Bhaiya…yahan kahan utroo main? Maruti mandir ke pass bhaiya!” He looked equally puzzled. He looked around hoping to see silhouette of Maruti but of course God is not omnipresent (or is he?). “Thoda aur aage nahi jaa sakte kya?” “Nahi madam. Location yahi hain!” “Yeh nahi hain bhaiya…Maruti mandir ke pass chod do!” She repeated again.
He scrolled up and down on his map, seemed to locate a nearest Maruti temple and started the car.