The rain was relentless, the setting ominous. The mobile network was off and on… Neeta tried to keep her calm. First step is to get a transport. Second step is to inform home. The wind picked up and the elements started seeping through. As the evening drew closer, the mind started working overtime. What if the bus doesn’t come? What if this, What if that.. Many more what if questions.
A car pulled up. The upper beam blinded her momentarily. A voice from inside shouted out “Get in…” Neeta looked up and on a reflex got in.
“Hi Neeta… How’s you?” He asked.
That moment when a thousand thoughts rush to your tongue, and each wants to go ahead of the other, a lump builds up deep within but you freeze momentarily. Neeta said nothing, just looked out.
A moment of silence.
“SV Road right?? ” He asked as the silence in the cabin built up.
Just half a nod and she looked out…
The roads had started flooding, the power had gone out, the car was slowly chugging along at about 30kmph
After a while he turned the radio on.
The RJ was speaking non-stop. “Mumbai be safe, mobile networks are down… Water levels have risen up in low lying areas, be safe. I will come back the moment I have fresh updates.Wherever you are, keep calm and turn on the volume, I have the best song for this weather.”
Tan Ta Tan Ta Tan Ta Tan Ta Tan Ta Tan Ta…Tadadadada.. the chords on the guitar strung, the violins followed them, then again the guitar, a silken voice filled up the emptiness in the car, Ajeeb daastaan hai yeh… kaha shuru kaha khatam, ye manzile hai kaunsi na wo samajh sake na hum… Tadadadada…
As the song played, Neeta instinctively lowered the glass, took a deep breath and smiled, “Rahul remember this song. When was it? 15 years back I guess…Another rainy day wasn’t it??? This song was playing at a tea stall near by and I was stranded at the bus stop. You came in from nowhere on your, which bike was that?” “Yamaha RX 100 the best bike in the world”, quipped Rahul. “Yes… Imagine my plight, the wind was picking up and the rain had started coming down by the buckets and here I was at the back of a bike, a stranger who I hardly knew except a familiar face from College. I was so scared. That ride back home started something so beautiful. A feeling of belonging, a feeling of friendship, a feeling of trust, a feeling called love. We both, weren’t we an item?” “Yep”, Rahul responded.
A moment of silence….
“So how have you been? Marriage, kids, career?” Neeta asked, the tone shifting to formal.
“Yes, Neeta I have a beautiful family, her name is Natasha, it was an arranged marriage. We have two beautiful kids. The elder one is 7 and the younger one 3.Varsha and Anuj. God has been kind.
What about you?”
“Married, 10 years, 1 kid, Ridhima. His name is Hari. He works with the armed forces.” Responded Neeta.
Rahul instinctively turned the volume higher so that the silence could be drowned out.
“Say something Rahul…
” I love you Neeta…”
The silence in the cabin imploded, Neeta burst out crying..
After another moment of silence…
“Shanti Nivas right?” Rahul asked. “No that’s my dad’s place, My house is two blocks after that, Vijay Niwas”
“So that’s that…It felt good Neeta, I am sorry.” Rahul said.
” It was heart wrenching meeting you Rahul, hope we don’t meet again.”Neeta replied. ”
Rahul dropped Neeta and drove ahead to turn the corner. As he turned, he saw Neeta walking towards Shanti Niwas her father’s house. Rahul drove back to Neeta and stopped.
“Neeta…Neeta…Neeta..” She walked ahead. Rahul kept following, until she stopped.
“Rahul, I never married. I just couldn’t. I just couldn’t. Good bye Rahul.”
As the car turned corner, it was Mahender Kapoor crooning on the radio, “Chalo ik baar phir se ajnabi ban jaye hum dono…” The line went..”Wo afsana jise anjaam tak laana na ho mumkin use ik khoobsurat mod de kar chhod dena accha..”
The night still looked ominous, the rain was trying hard,but it just couldn’t drown some emotions.