The passenger in his mid-forties has been a regular with Chandra, the taxi wallah, for the last few weeks. He slumped to the back seat every morning, dragging his tired torso as if it was a triumphant discovery by Indiana Jones from the ruins; as an accessory to the life and times of the Pharaoh. What amazed Chandra was the swiftness with which he managed to disperse on reaching his destination in the early office crowd. The crowd was still immersed in their ritual of dragging the last puff from the cigarette to inflate the bottom line of Cigarette Company and sipping the liquor sold as black tea which could at best be considered an incestuous cousin of the one adorning the tea table at Buckingham for the Queen.
The man was considerate enough to count and pay the fare to the exactness of the decimal, but when it came to answering to the fervent attempts made by Chandra to break into a conversation, the Hmm and Uffs, served the best speed breaker to Chandra’s piqued monologue from the driver’s seat.
The same gentleman on boarding his taxi inquired Chandra this morning, on the impending hike of the taxi fare, which served the instance and occasion for the much awaited back-hand return.
“Hmm and Uff”! Deuce.
Advantage! Chandra. But the insistence of inquisitiveness lurking as the sleuth in Chandra made him so restless that he decided to serve an Ace! So, Saab what do you do for a living?
Prompt came the reply from the back seat. Sex, lies and Videotape.
Chandra’s affair with the passenger remained as cursory as his melting in the crowd, collecting the fare and the disappearing act.
Reading the newspaper is one luxury that Chandra indulged with every day. The FM radio played vigorously garish music in combating for his attention to escape the risk of suffocation from the smoke rings rising from the incense sticks, lit early in the morning. Lighting the incense stick was more of trade practice and less of faith, for it was yet to yield the charisma of a saviour from the ever-prying eyes of the traffic policemen at their heels to slap a penalty ‘challan’ on the taxiwallahs at the drop of a hat.
It was just another day when Chandra had just settled with the newspaper just as a seasoned angler does. Immersed in his thoughts but alert enough to notice the slightest movement in the bait for the fish, as the angler nets his prize catch, Chandra noted the gentle swagger in the rear-view mirror.
A prize catch indeed!
The prize catch slumped in the back seat and asked to be driven to the destination of Chandra’s regular passenger. Without offering any resistance what so ever, Chandra ignited the cab and fired his imagination to ferry the opulently attired and naturally endowed lady to their destination. The rear view mirror was fixated on to the anticipation of a mellow voice. The voice did not mellow, for the perfectly manicured fingers were on a rampage of what once existed as the vanity of the lady. The bag met its fate on getting carefully dumped out of the running taxi to the delight of the rag-picker.
The taxi swerved on the left ignoring the ‘no infiltration’ sign much to the delight of the traffic policeman, while Chandra screeched to a halt for the Hmm and Uff served the best speed breaker to the fiery imaginations of an un-stinted sleuth in him. The lady was considerate enough to count and pay the fare, but not to the exactness of the decimal. Sensing the insistence of inquisitiveness in Chandra, the voice did sound, which was far from being mellow but assertive enough to articulate the woman in her. “You were busy noting the swagger this morning, and did not read the newspaper”. Saying this, the lady dispersed swiftly as usual of Chandra’s regular passenger into the office crowd.
The metro edition of the newspaper carried a detailed article on the unearthing of a human trafficking racket by a lady police officer who has carried the entire operation, disguised as a man. Aghast and equally bemused at being on the receiving end of the lady officer’s disguise, Chandra deciphered the regularity of the Hmm and the Uff and the fare not being exact to the decimal but a handsome tip of hundred rupees for being an accomplice to the front line news. The smile left his cheeks as he noticed another gentle swagger in the rear-view mirror. The lady did not slump to the back seat for she had a toddler towing at her and Chandra heaved a sigh of relief. Hips don’t lie!
Igniting the cab engine he swerved left and thanked the incense stick for having ultimately yielded to playing the charisma of a saviour as the traffic policeman was busy explaining a man not to stick bills and posters on the wall of the central police headquarters.
The posters were that of the movie ‘Talash’.