My 16 km drive to office in the morning is generally the better part of my day. I leave early between 7.30-7.45 and generally manage to beat the traffic and instead of hitting Madhapur, the IT district of Hyderabad, I prefer the Jubilee Hills-Filmnagar route. It’s a longer route, but there are no traffic lights after the Jubilee Hills Checkpost till I reach office. I love the view when I drive Jenny down from Jubilee Hills to hit the highway below where she then touches 100 kmph. Nowadays am listening to Maroon 5.
Of course sometimes I do get stuck in Jubilee Hills behind one of those school buses, which hog the road. Some of the better international schools are in the area. But also along the road, there are a bunch of less fortunate kids in white shirts and blue shorts who study in a govt. school trudging all the way from Jubilee Hills down to their school below. Some of them ask for a lift and I oblige.
Couple of days ago, as I stopped for a couple of them, the smaller of the two kept pulling the door and in the process I couldn’t open the door from within. I frantically kept trying to signal him to leave the door so that I could open the door but he wouldn’t budge. Cars lined up behind me and I could begin to hear their impatient honks over my Blaupunkt speakers. I gestured angrily, his face fell and he started walking away, puzzled and confused. I finally opened the door called him back and they both clambered in, one each in front and back. I heaved a sigh of relief and pressed on the accelerator.
The ride was silent. I asked them something but they didn’t seem to hear. They got off on the turn into the national highway.
“Thank you Uncle!”
Shit, I turn 28 in another nine days.
On my way back that day at the J Hills traffic lights, saw another kid around the same age trying to sell ear cleaning buds to the car in front of me. His sales pitch was unsuccessful and I instinctively rolled up my power windows as he started to make his way towards me. But he suddenly stopped in his tracks, his face lit up and he picked up what looked like a fallen coin from the road. Almost immediately a slightly taller half naked thin kid with a pretty obvious skin disease came to him and claimed the coin gesturing something to what seemed to me like a hole in the pocket of his oversized, dirty shorts. The smaller kid seemed to be convinced of the other kid’s explanation and handed over the coin. Out of nowhere from the darkness of the divider on the road, a ragged middle aged man with unkept hair and beard who had apparently been watching the whole thing joined them both and demanded what was going on. The second kid’s explanation obviously didn’t cut any ice with him and he forced the coin out of his hand and pushed him away with some choice words in his vocabulary. The kid went away crying, but not without shouting something at the man in return. The man gestured the first kid to continue selling and disappeared back into his resting place on the divider.
The lights went green as he started coming towards me. I sped past him and avoided looking at his face.
And oh, Happy Diwali.