The light shone red. The autorickshaw jerked to a grinding halt. A second early,
and I would have been alongside the white car that was hastily vanishing
from my present line of sight.
He pulled up casually in his three-wheeled truck, in no real hurry I now imagine.
As I stared long and hard at the blaring circular hurdle in my tumultuous race
to the railway station, he made me look the other way, at him.
Bursting gently into a heartfelt rendition of 'Tujhe Na Dekhoon To Chain
Mujhe Aata Nahi Hai', a popular 90s Hindi film song, he unhinged my frown
and set my resources pacing like a father-to-be outside a delivery room.
On impulse, I asked him, after waiting a few seconds for a break in the chorus,
'Kaunsi pickchar?' Which film? Then, before he could make an effort to answer,
I ventured, ‘Rahul Roy par filmaya gaya tha? Junoon? Junoon.’
Did the song feature Rahul Roy? From the movie Junoon?
Must have been Junoon.
He nodded in agreement, ‘15 saal puraana gaana hai. Gaate phirte the jab
pehli baar pyar hua.’ The song is 15 years old. I used to keep singing it
when I fell in love the first time. I let out an inward grin.
Without standing on ceremony, he humbly asked me for a cigarette, followed by a light,
both of which I gladly parted with. Passing the lighter back, he strode once more
down his lane of lyrical nostalgia, punctuated in greater variation this time around.
I threw in the odd line, without interruption, with equal soul. When he stopped,
I asked him where he was headed. He said something the whirr of passing traffic
drowned out entirely.
The light flashed green. As he turned his noisy engine on,
I waved him goodbye shouting, ‘Gaate chalo. Khush raho.’ Keep singing. Stay happy.
He laughed and waving back in return, trained his eyes on the road.
As my auto lumbered ahead, I mulled, ‘It wasn’t Junoon.
Phir Teri Kahani Yaad Aayi. That’s the film.’ I was wrong.
As we pulled into the next signal, I looked out and saw that the truck
had come to a halt three vehicles behind us. A part of me wanted to step out at once
and present the assumed correction. But, I decided against ruining the symphony
that had stemmed from our ignorance, and stuck to my seat.
The red light had changed much. Sure, I was a cigarette shy. But, that wasn’t it.
My singing friend-for-a-minute had, with his song and light-hearted manner eased me
of the anxiety that had consumed me moments before, the monstrous apprehension
that envelops anyone accustomed to the unpredictability of city traffic especially
when a train or a flight needs catching inside peak hours. In that solitary moment,
he spirited away a part of me I needed losing and left me with a memory that will linger.
There was much humming inside the auto in the half hour that followed,
and much more in the days to come. Some of it has lasted to this moment.
And, in case you’re still wondering, the movie was Rang.
I intend to save the song for the next time I find love.