I was on my way from Mumbai to Kandala. (I think that is how it is spelt. Like the song in the Amir Khan movie. My friend’s mum explained to me that, it is where people go on vacation. Or that is what I think she was saying.)
A van, driven by a young driver. No identity, no special traits.
I, at the backseat absorbing the new images rushing pass me. Hindi music on speakers and vegetarian food offered.
He was just a driver, like any other driver.
Later while waiting in the van, I start chatting with him.
He tells me he is from Pondichery, studying commerce in university, visiting his sister in Mumbai.
We make conversation in his English which I understood for most parts and my Hindi which he did not understand for most parts.
It felt good to know, that “the driver” was no more “the driver” but a human being with a story. Most likely my age and trying to build a life.
He puts his CD of music and I tell him I like some of the songs. He takes the time to pick them, switch between songs, replay those I liked.
Hous later, rushing back to Mumbai. Late to catch my flight to Delhi.
Tires were burning and smell hard and harsh on my nostrils, while I seated at the front seat.
Music on. Low as possible. Friend’s mum having a headache. Eventually to be switched off.
No more songs I liked. Disappointment on my face he noticed. The same reflected on his face.
Tires screeching, and the vehicle swaying out of control, off the highway.
Tires had been burning.
Lucky were we who escaped alive.
One hour to spare, lost somewhere, no where near the airport.
He, trying to fix the vehicle. We trying to get help, holding torches, panicking missed death, giving up on planes.
But manage to get back on time, fuel on red and zero!
I rush up to the room, change, dump my clothes, shoes, and what else into my suitcase.
He was outside. I, personification of a mad woman, rushing out. My friend’s mum handing me food, a bag of my favourite fruit fed to me in abundance.
A fruit hated by most Indians but adored by one Sri Lakan.
Luggage stuffed into waiting cab, an impatient driver glaring.
I open the door to get in, and he comes behind me, gives me the CD.
I am speechless. I have nothing for him. Not even money in my purse.
I tell him, I am sorry, I have nothing to offer him.
A genuine smile.
Two people who survived death.
Two people without names.
Faces to be remembered.
Not lost in memory.
CD remains and so does his memory.