Wednesday, April 27, 2011

A celebration

He'd been restless ever since the call came that morning. Thrilled, of course, but frustrated that he could do little to celebrate the news. Childishly impatient that he had to work as usual and that the world around him didn't know the fountain of joy bubbling over inside him. He tried calling his only friend in the city, but the friend, also driving a noisy auto-rickshaw through the noisy streets of Mumbai never answered.

He had become a father. A little girl had arrived in his home, hundreds of kilometres away. And it would be 78 days before he could even see her, kiss her, hold her. And here he was - the same roads, the same traffic, the same humidity, and no one he could celebrate with. All he could do was hum loudly and - though he didn't know it - tunelessly, and drive a bit faster than usual.

A man flagged down his auto and he slowed to a halt, allowing the man to beckon to a young woman standing on the pavement. She climbed in, tenderly holding a bundle. As she settled down on the seat, the auto-rickshaw driver heard a thin wail. He saw in his mirror the tiny feet poking out under the cloth. He eased back into mainstream traffic, keeping an occasional eye on the bundle, and beamed each time he glimpsed a little fist thrown up in the air. He took the turns gently and slowed down on each pothole, humming even as impatient traffic honked at him.

They reached the destination. As the passengers got off and peered at the fare chart on his windscreen, the auto-rickshaw driver smiled and said, "Rehne do, aaj mera dil khush hai." He zoomed off, humming, leaving the couple clutching a bundle and two tenners.