Anjana wiped out the beads of perspiration that trickled down her face with her chiffon dupatta while anxiously looking at her phone on that hot summer afternoon in Delhi. Time was ticking fast while the wait-time for the taxi on her mobile application was reducing with every passing minute. She felt relieved on seeing the taxi stop close to her.
“Madam, hop on!”, exclaimed the taxi driver.
Anjana, with an already tired face, holding on to her brown hand-bag and carefully guiding her pregnant belly, got into the taxi. The first thing she noticed was an idol of Sai Baba on the dashboard.
“Madam, what takes you to Bangla Sahib Gurudwara on such a nasty afternoon and that too in this condition?”, questioned the driver. “By the way I am Rani.”
Rani, the taxi driver, had a peculiar scar on her face.
“Rani or whatever your name is, mind your own business”, replied Anjana harshly.
After a few moments of silence and with Anjana regretting the brutality in her tone, started a conversation. “I am not going to the Gurudwara. I am just going to meet a friend there.”
Rani, being the chatterbox, suggested, “If you haven’t been to the Gurudwara before, you must go inside. I have heard there is an unusual calm which soothes the soul.”
This was sufficient to spark the conversation which was going to end in a memorable ride for Anjana and maybe answer some of her questions she had from life and from the Almighty.
“I am familiar with every nook and corner of the Gurudwara. I used to frequent this place as a kid. My father had a shop in Chandni Chowk. Every Friday after the school we would ride the Metro, eat langar and then head home after having kulfi from Dhuli Chand. I used to be the most God-fearing in the family but not anymore.”
Rani tried to divert the conversation sensing some stress in Anjana’s tone ,“Madam, you did a good thing by calling the taxi instead of taking the Metro or the auto.”
Anjana, blankly staring outside, continued with her train of thought, “I did everything that I could, fasting for three days in a week, feeding milk to a cow, donating food at temples. But he didn’t pay heed to any of my prayers. I have pledged not to go see him or serve him till he answers my question.”
“Madam Shraddha Aur Saburi”, affirmed Rani. “If you feel comfortable, you can pour out your heart to me. Two is a company. Maybe together we can find an answer to your question. Anyway your destination is still an hour away considering the traffic owing to construction work.”, she tittered.
“Vikram was my senior in college. We were on the opposite sides of the pendulum. While I was a bookworm, no-class-bunking type, he was famous among professors to use his tactics to persuade his batch mates to bunk classes. He was famous among girls for his good looks and cheesy smile to die for. Our paths crossed for the first time when I was in my second year and took part in a singing competition in an inter-college festival on my friends’ insistence. Vikram was in the organizing committee.”
“Was he the typical guitar-playing hero type person as they show in movies?”, sighed Rani.
Anjana, with a coy smile, nodded in affirmation. “He was indeed the hero of the college not just because of his looks but also due to his leadership qualities and the way his fingers tamed the strings of the guitar. By the time the festival was over, we started knowing each other. The ice-breaker was when we tasted victory in a duet-singing competition. That time not only us but the whole college knew that there was something brewing between us. I used to receive cold stares from girls because who would have thought that the most handsome boy of the college would fall for an ordinary looking girl.”
“Madam, true love does not quest for physical beauty but for beauty of the soul which your innocent eyes totally reflect.”
“Being senior to me, he passed out of college and moved to a different town in pursuit of his dreams. We maintained a long-distance relationship for almost three years. My parents had desperately started looking for a suitor for me and that’s when I had to spill the beans.”
“What was their reaction? Did they accept it happily?”
“They were shattered. I had committed a sin in their eyes. Besides the financial divide, the different castes was a big factor. After days and weeks of convincing, the two sides decided to meet. Vikram persuaded my parents with his charismatic personality that he would always keep their only child happy for the rest of her life. We entered into matrimonial bliss and decided to settle in Delhi considering my parents already live here and his parents reside in Meerut. In fact today also he has gone to bring them here as my due date is approaching.”
Rani thought to herself, “With everything so beautiful in life and a new chapter about to start, what answer could she be seeking from you my Lord when I really know you don’t have answers to all our questions.”
“We celebrated our third wedding anniversary last year and decided to add a new member to our family. Our journey was going as smooth as it could be but then someone cast an evil eye. I developed complications in my pregnancy and decided to quit my job for the safety of our baby. Not long enough after that, Vikram’s company laid him off due to lack of projects and change in international policies.”
“So you don’t have any source of income in this crucial time?”
“It’s been three months since we had a steady income. Besides some savings and help from his father, Vikram also keeps trying his luck in the stock market but uncertainty always looms over. But it’s not about the financial instability, it’s about the distance it has created in our relationship at a time when I need him the most. I understand marriage is not always a bed of roses but also accompanied with thorns. I accepted him with all his shortcomings, his chain smoking, his temperament. On our wedding day he promised he would quit smoking for my happiness and he did. But now he is back at it. He hoards a considerable amount from my monthly budget to buy his cigarettes.”
“Didn’t you try blackmailing him to quit smoking for the baby’s sake?”
“I tried everything but he always suppresses me with his ugly words. A feeling of insecurity has engulfed him. He is suspicious about everything I do even if it involves texting my friends and family. He doesn’t like me going out alone even to fetch groceries.”
“Does he know that you have come out today?”
“Yes, last evening my best friend, also a common college friend, who has come from London called me and planned to meet. He could not refuse her and allowed me to go out only if I come back by three. I feel like Cinderella breathing under a timer. This morning he crossed all the limits when he smashed the breakfast plate since he didn’t find the omelette of his taste. I cannot live my life like this anymore.
Why me? Why is God doing this to me? Do I really deserve all this?
The saddest part is I cannot share any of this with my parents. I am sure they will put all the blame on me since I am the one who chose Vikram as life partner.”
“Madam, parents can be upset with their kids but only momentarily not forever. I am sure they will understand you. You should talk to them.”
“How can you be so sure Rani? Do you have kids?”
At this point Rani applied sudden breaks to prevent hitting the car in front which had slowed down due to traffic.
“Sorry Madam for the jerk. These minor jerks seem nothing when life gives you the unimaginable jerk. I have given up on the answer that you seek from him. Five years ago when I lost my family, I too questioned. Why me when I never did wrong to anybody?”
“Sorry to hear about your loss. But what really happened?”
“We were a happy family of five. Yusuf and I were childhood sweethearts. We lived in the same slum area. He had a troubled upbringing with an alcoholic father and substance abuse. I put a condition before him to get rid of his addiction if he wished my companionship. He struggled for four years. He always had my back. True love helps you rise above your weaknesses.”
“So you also have your sweet little love story Bollywood style”, laughed Anjana.
“Yes Madam! We had a decent wedding. We were blessed with three lovely kids. We were content in our small world. I took up a stitching job while Yusuf started driving a taxi. He had a dream of starting his own taxi company one day. But that dream was cut short way too early. Our eldest one had successfully finished his high school, the first one in our family to achieve such a feat. That night we were all coming back after watching a movie and having dinner outside. The light just turned red in time and Yusuf put the car to a screeching halt as he didn’t want to jump the traffic signal being a man of principles. The next moment our car was hit by the car from behind and all I remember was the wailing of my kids which till date echoes in my ears. My beloved Yusuf left me alone on that ill-fated day. My two kids later succumbed to their injuries in the hospital.”
“I am so sorry to hear that. So, this scar on your face is from that unfortunate incident. I thought it was a sign of domestic abuse. Was it a case of drunk driving?”
“No Madam, a young man gave texting his girlfriend a priority over paying attention to red light while driving. Madam, God didn’t save me but saved a mother and a daughter-in-law that day. That accident left my younger one handicapped for the rest of her life. It took me a long time to come out from the trauma. My aged mother-in-law is totally dependent on me. I wanted to keep Yusuf’s dream alive. He was very passionate about driving his taxi. After fighting a long battle in court for compensation, I could afford another taxi. I drive taxi during the daytime and go for my stitching job in the evening to make the ends meet and afford the medical expenses.”
Anjana could feel the goosebumps.
“Rani, I feel so small in my own eyes. People like you are always an inspiration. If it doesn’t offend you, can I ask you one question? How come you follow Sai Baba?”
“Madam, when I was standing at crossroads of disbelief just like you, a friend told me about Sai Baba’s preaching of Shraddha and Saburi. It provided some peace to my restless soul. Madam with my story, I only intend to express that life doesn’t always have our answers. Sometimes we need to find the purpose of our life on our own. You and your husband are going through a testing phase right now. I am sure with understanding things will get better.”
“Thanks for the memorable ride which changed my outlook towards life forever”, said Anjana while the taxi stopped in front of the Gurudwara.
Anjana got off the car to be greeted by her friend.
“Shelly, can we go to the Gurudwara first?”, asked a calm and composed Anjana thanking Rani from the bottom of her heart to bring her to the right destination.
Sometimes the journey is as significant as the destination.
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