The Unplanned Ride

Year 2005

Tired and exhausted with immense frolicking and enjoying the wedding ceremony of my best friend, I was returning home and desperately trying to look for a cab. But the hot summer was draining me out of my senses. Too add to this menace, my outdated mobile  ran out of charge. With a grinned face and loaded bags I was helplessly standing in the mid of the road in that sweltering summer heat. During those days, the facility to book a cab online did not invade the city of joy, Kolkata. So the inhabitants of that place had to settle with other modes of transport and the luxurious vehicle was the black and yellow taxi. Anyone who boarded those were considered quite a spendthrift but for some it was a respite. A saviour from getting stamped, pushed in overcrowded buses, trains, etc.   The lack of charge was taking a toll on me as I couldn’t even call my parents or close ones to come for help. “Arey…how can I forget putting the phone on charger? Now pay the price”, I muttered to myself. With baggage I took few steps and took rest under a natural shade, but the heat wave was unbearable. The vacant road of Kolkata clearly depicted the summer afternoon when most non working people rest peacefully in their abode. But in that almost isolated street I was continually waving at those few taxis to take me to my place. The fear of getting trapped inside underground train barred me from boarding it while taking a bus to reach my destination was a no..no… The crowded, smelly, stinky, passengers created a nauseating feel within me. So finally I decided to board the black yellow vehicle as my rescuer.

“Taxi…Taxi!” I screamed and kept fluttering my wrist to stop it. The urgency with which I tried to pause its speed didn’t go unnoticed by the few onlookers. It was never easy to convince a few adamant drivers to take you to your destination. With a few requests and a bit of over payment ultimately, he agreed and so without wasting a minute I boarded my favourite vehicle. Though the ride wasn’t a pleasurable one with such a heated ambience yet it felt no less than heaven. Relaxed as I sit, I was enjoying the afternoon ride. Somewhere I saw the kids return from school, somewhere the roadside vendors were busy selling their items, somewhere the tired pedestrians took shelter under some tree and sipped on chilled lemonade,  somewhere the love dovey couples walked hand in hand. I was indeed enjoying it but suddenly felt an ache within me….Oh! I forgot to call him. How I missed him, I longed to speak with him but the situation wasn’t permitting. .. His thoughts kept pouring in my mind as the taxi left the lanes and took to the bypass. With the slightly cooler breeze blowing outside, sitting in the speedy taxi I felt a little drowsy….

“How much I missed you,” he continued as he embraced me, “but you didn’t tell me that you were coming. I could have picked you up.” He complained. “Oh! Even I didn’t knew that I was coming here. It’s a surprise for both of us and surprises aren’t disclosed,” I answered giggling. “Finally I have made it. You know how much I fantasized about walking hand in hand with you in this park and now I am successful.” With joyous tone I said.

Yes! I was with my beloved strolling in the Hyde Park. The place which is my favourite, the place where currently my beloved was posted for an onsite project, the place which I longed to visit since childhood. London, my dream city. “But how did you reach here?” he enquired. Pointing towards that black yellow queen I said, excitedly, “see those white feathers, they helped it to sail and when those feathers were tired those mighty wheels just like the chariot ones rode the strenuous terrain and brought me to this heaven.”

The surrounding was just like a perfect picture of English summer. The beginning of March paved way for the onset of the hot season but their heat felt like winter of ours. The lengthy  winter was evident in the cool breeze blowing around, the soft grass smelled fresh and the few drops of dew on them made my feet wet. As the golden star kissed my skin I felt energized, as if my otherwise the tired soul was charged with Vitamin D.  As we together walked down the green park, I felt a feeling of eternal peace. It had been 2 years since we last met and so this sudden unplanned trip was like a refreshment for both of us.

“let’s take a ride of the place,” he suggested and undeniably I hopped in my special transporter. The cab started with a jerk and soon we were sailing amidst the cotton balls. “Hey, look we are floating on clouds. Now I can certainly say I am on cloud nine,” I said laughing. The hustle bustle of the majestic city was left behind and we were left admiring the beauty. Gradually our speeding car hovered over the tallest structure, The London Eye…The Big Ben…The Tower Bridge… As we continued with our voyage of exploring the city we were also curling up into each other but the Conservative mentality played the villain. Though numerous affectionate desires nurtured within me yet the presence of the third person hindered me. “That’s the famous Thames river and those boat rides during evening time is just splendid.” He whispered in my ears. Indeed the bird’s eye  view is one of its kind.. The pristine waters appeared like glass and the shops and cafeterias aligned along the bridge appeared like dots.

The car was fleeting and in between my ever anxious mind tried to peep outside the glass window. At the distant I saw the most beautiful creation of nature, the birth of colours with the merging of sunlight and water droplets….The production of nature’s child…”The Vibrant Vibgyor”, I continued, “ How lucky of me to experience these creations with you by my side that too undecided. Look at those pastures, wow..it seems the Almighty painted it with His master stroke. Such a beauty.”

Suddenly we felt a descend and then with a thud we landed. The cabbie said, “ go…explore”. It felt like there was some hypnotising effect in his voice and like sleep walking we stepped down the cab. Soft petals touched my feet and as I looked down I saw vast stretches of lavender fields…” Wow..we landed amidst these fragrant  lavender lands..Such a mesmerising beauty. Mother nature has gifted this land with such vibrant colours… admirable isn’t it?” the excitement in my voice was not only felt but seen. I was hoping, jumping, kissing those lavenders, smelling them, even plucked a few. The beautiful flowers and us..what a time it is! The lack of proper technology was felt by us as we failed to have snaps of us in that captivating land.

“Come on, hurry up…there are some places to explore”, the cab driver informed us and we hurried to jump in. The white feathers of the cab swayed with the gentle breeze and the ride smoothened. Our next halts were the age old castles built by the English during their France invasion. The Edinburgh castle was one such example. The majestic rooms, the splendour carvings on the walls, the priceless antiques that adorned the rooms, all narrated the history of struggle of Frenchmen. The taxi landed us at the main gate and as we stepped in we felt as if we were the only visitors to that giant castle. The structure seemed to whisper in our ears the pain of the Scottish people, the torture they suffered during the British rule.

The enjoyable tour of such castles were further enhanced as our Yellow black queen took us on a floating spree on the famous Loch Ness. The cabbie though a simple taxi driver suddenly played the role of a tourist guide and narrated the story of the hidden Dragon deep in that Ness. Mesmerized we heard him speak. The trip finally brought us back into that city of Royals, as we landed just at the gates of the Buckingham Palace. A look at the Royal residence and I felt as if I am the Queen, waiting to be escorted into the Palace along with my King.

“What a travel! The land of castles and beautiful lakes, the Scottish songs, the English summer, the picturesque lavender fields, the sunbath, all seemed  like a beautiful picture. I don’t want to leave this magnificent land but just stay here, close to you.”, I requested my beloved. “But who said you are leaving. Our story does not have any departures.” With these comforting words he hugged me as I held him tightly. Internally I was fighting a storm, the tug of war between my desire to stay back and my responsibilities back at my home. The worrying face of my parents suddenly flashed in front of my closed vision, for I knew my unplanned journey to this mystical land though spellbinding, but will definitely scare my parents…

“Didi… Didi…get up.. we have reached Kaka Mandir…. Didi…” The sudden yells woke me up. The tired soul that I was after a week long wedding ceremony was visible in my sound sleep. The harsh voice of the cab driver awakened me. The bidding sunrays on my eyes felt annoying and the sweaty face and perspiration tickling down the skin confronted me with the reality. The fact that I am still in the land of unbearable summer was quite disturbing. Rubbing my sleepy eyes I woke and for few seconds stared at the person sitting on the driver’s seat.

“Didi…Didi… you must not sleep like this..all drivers are not trustworthy. Anyway, we have arrived your destination. Kindly deboard and pay my fare. I am getting late.” His sharp words embarrassed me and without a word I quickly took my luggage and handing him 200 bucks I turned for home. “Didi.. take the change..” he shouted back. Nodding, and ashamed with myself I said, “keep it,” and hurried for home. My home was a few steps behind the auditorium Kala Mandir, so without delaying I started homeward.

That night I was not able to sleep at all for the thought of such a foolish act was haunting me. Neither could I disclosed the incident to my parents nor to my beloved lover for I knew they won’t understand my situation but rather scold me and scream at me. But honestly, when the thought of strolling on the parks, field, beaches, castles visioned in front of my eyes, I was again floored with the beauty. Though I boarded a cab to drop me to my destination but least did I knew that it would transport me to a place which I should visit. The blessed ride indeed took me to a voyage which my tired soul needed the most.

It’s now 10 blissful married years to us but still now I haven’t spoken about that majestic ride to my husband. Though the ill effects of such sleep haunts and scares me but the captivating journey the taxi took me to, fills my heart with joy. Elated I learnt one lesson that the journey took me to a destination which was a much needed trip to refresh me, to energize my tiring soul, an unplanned destination it took me to.

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Sonali Bhattacharya

Sonali Bhattacharya is a homemaker and also the proud mother of a 3-year-old naughty master. As an avid reader she had the knack to write too but after her son's birth, she wrapped her passion and hobby to read, write and immersed herself only into domestic chores. Recently she bumped into her long lost passion and since then stirred her right brain to inculcate more beautiful thoughts and weave fiction stories.

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