Time-bound

When Kolkata was calmed by the horrendous thunderstorm
to escape the excruciating heat of the sun
The wiper was functioning sporadically, showcasing its machinery talent efficiently to clear the drops of rain that had come to everyone’s shock. It had been a very hot week. Weather in Kolkata is renowned for its acute humidity (even during the night). The cool winds had started blowing from 7:30 pm, and the first drop of rain tapped at 7:31. With such precision the time is remembered because its exactly at that time when Shrishti had opened the app to book the cab and the raindrop had clicked “confirmed” and it arrived at the metro station within two minutes.

To escape the humongous crowd as well as ‘kichkich’ of the bus and the auto, Shrishti preferred to book the cab. How much she thanked God for the technological revolution that moment! “I hope I reach home a bit early today; this weather along with my adrak wali chai is perfect to finish off that book which I’ve put on hold for the past two months!” Shrishti timed her activity. 

Since it was a shared cab, after giving the OTP number to the driver, she enquired about the another rider’s drop location. “It is on VIP road,” the rider stated meekly. Shrishti calculated mentally, “Yeah okay, I’ll tell the driver to take a U-turn from the service road. I guess I’ll reach home by 8:25 max,” she finalized.

A news update on Shrishti’s phone beeped, “A nor’wester hit the city with gale force of 98km/hour.”

Whoa! Quite a serious one it seems. Shrishti started to notice the weather enthusiastically now. The sound of the wind blowing was evidently sharp and screechy. The wind seemed to dance to its own rhythm; twirling and twisting the dust with it. Strangely, it amazed the twenty-two years old woman. She unlocked the phone with her fingerprint and started to take pictures.

A night stretched by dripping chaos

Oh! What a lovely sight! The dance of the wind! She was mesmerized by these sort of unconventional sights.
She asked the driver, “Bhaiya, baarish hori hai itni, aap zara AC bandh kardo na, todha natural hawa ane do?”
Stopped by the traffic since the past 10 minutes, the irritated driver looked back at her and was about to say something but the rider interrupted, “Itna baarish hora hai- seats bheeg jayega,” he looked at his phone where the ride details was light up and added, “miss Duggal ji.”

She rolled her eyes at his statement. 

“DUGAR,” she stretched and corrected him. She hates whenever someone mispronounces her name, especially her surname. How hard is to spell D-U-G-A-R?  Dugar, not Duggar, definitely not Duggal but simply Dugar, the rhyme of sugar.

The irritated driver politely added, “Memshaab, sab kehte hai AC chalaein par aap hi pehle hain jo AC bandh karne ki darkhaast rakkhein hai.”

Amazed by his politeness and awed by his Urdu choice of words, she replied, “Bhaiya, aisa natural hawa kaha naseeb hota hai aajkal. Office mei bhi AC, aur jab ghar jao toh bhi phir AC ki addat lag gayi hai. Yeh buri addat ko sudharne ke liye hi mai aapse darkhaast karti hu agar,” she scrolled her share rider’s details and continued, “Khemkhaji ko aapati na ho toh please AC todha der ke liye bandh kardein.” The rider smiled in approval and so did the driver. 

View from the cold window 
She rolled down the cold window and imagined, “Is this what they call it “Beauty in chaos?” The wind is so beautiful, even the smell seemed so lively. Though the dust was a hindrance, the cool weather felt so positive. 

Lost in her train of wild thoughts, an alarming tone of her phone brought back Shristi to reality. 8:03pm and the rain is increasing heavily and Oh no! 15% battery alert! but my destination is 85% away, she screamed. 

Just then her mother called, warning her about the rain and enquiring her whereabouts. “I’ll reach by 9, maa. Too much traffic here,” and she disconnected. She did not want her mother to worry about the low battery so she omitted that information. 

Her mother called again. “Arrey, you only say yours’ without listening to me. Listen, I know its raining profusely so stay at your Masi’s place now. Papa will come and pick you up from there.” “No Maa, chill. I’ll come by 9. It will be a completely opposite route for him if he comes here. He’ll get stuck too. I’ll come. DW.” DW, short of don’t worry. Since she used this word so often, she had to use the abbreviated version in the hope her mother actually adhere to it. 

She suggested the driver take the service road. The rider interrupted, “Its so jam. I say you better take a U-turn. The road seemed empty now. It will be easier for both of us.” 
“Service road is less jammed during such occasion since not many people are familiar with the route. I know the way. It will be better for both of us.” 

The driver did as she said. 

45 minutes and 4 phone calls, with 6% battery later, they eventually had to take a U-turn. Because a tree had fallen on the service road. 

Shristi was furious! ARGH! Why does such thing have to happen to me! Any other time, the road would have been empty, Crowded with pedestrians but no! This guy must be thinking I, who very arrogantly stated, to take the road less travelled by is a “know-all.” That women are really never good at suggesting which road to take. I was happily enjoying the weather but no! If he says one thing, I will give me a piece of my mind now, she resoluted.  

“Could’ve saved US 1 hour had you taken the U-turn earlier,” the arrogant thirty-something years old man taunted, emphasizing on “us.”

As if the road belongs to me, she said. But she hoped, argh, such a sheer wastage of time and weather. Hope we’d known about the road condition before. If we would’ve taken the u-turn early maybe we’d be on our respective destination earlier. 

The car stopped at another signal again, this time in front of a cafe. Someone from the cafe came out and over the phone, he spoke to someone, “Good that you took the service route from the metro. Cars are moving fine now but half an hour ago two cabs were involved in an accident. Passengers on both ends were rushed to the hospital. It is waterlogged here so don’t come by scooty. Take a rickshaw if anything that urgent.” 

Sensing the silence, the driver turned on the radio. Liking the tune, he increased the volume.  Shristi’s mood cheered up, it was her favourite song – Laree Choote 

“Kya hua jo larrri chuti 
Jeevan ki gadi looti
Khwaab hai to mujhko naa jaga
Zindagi ek pal mein salli
Yun palat gai humari
Jhooth hai to mujhko na bataa

Wo Kehte hai na 
Jo hota hai acche ke liye hota hai 
Sahi kehte hai” 

The driver looked at her from the rear mirror, she looked at the driver, then he looked his adjacent rider and the rider turned back to her and met her gaze. Unknowingly they all smiled and continued the ride. 

Khemkha was dropped at 9:45 pm. Taking a U-turn, the driver was heading to Shrishti’s location but she got down a mile away from her home since trees were uprooted on the way. She paid the driver and called her father to pick her up who was on his way as well. 

It was 10:25 by her dying phone when she entered her house. Finally! 

After savouring the hot dinner, she went to the balcony and thought of executing her time-bound plan- adrak chai on one hand and that book on the other, but the winds had something else planned: that night she slept in the balcony, amidst the most natural hawa, and had the best sleep to date. 

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