The Ride.

“MESSAGE FROM RAUNAK.”

The display read, as soon as Soumit turned on his phone. “Are you sure about this?”, the message read. Soumit would’ve replied, but the phone turned off as batteries ran out. Disappointed, he took out power bank from his bag & put his phone on charging. The next moment he saw outside. The traffic jam was as it is. The look on the cab driver’s face indicated that the jam won’t clear any soon. Tired, Soumit rested his head against the seat & dozed off.

He saw Manjari in his sleep. Her face wet in tears, and eyes speaking everything that her lips sealed. Just like the last time he saw her. She looked beautiful. “Please”, he heard her say. Soumit woke up with a jerk. He dropped the idea of napping. The traffic hadn’t moved an inch. the cab driver noticed his uneasiness. “It’s gonna take time, Saahib. The traffic here is always this bad, sometimes even worse, but there is no other route to the place you wish to go. Have patience, Saahib.”

“Hmmm. Okay.”, Soumit said. He didn’t feel like saying much. The noise in his head was way more loud than the noise outside, and that was what tiring him more. The cab driver tried to strike conversation with Shoumit.

“Can I ask you something, Saahib?” asked the driver. The question distracted Shoumit from his thoughts. At that moment, he would’ve used everything to stay distracted. He didn’t mind the talk.

“Yeah. Go on.”, said Soumit.

“This place I am taking you to, is this your home?”

“No. Why?”

“Just curious, Saahib. I saw your desperation to reach this place, outside the airport. Its far & always full of traffic. Other cab drivers don’t usually prefer coming on this route. People either meet up at some place else which is easier to reach. they go this far only if they live there or have some important work. You said you don’t have your home there, so it must be something really important you are going this far for!”

“It is important. It’s not home or family. I don’t live in this city. but I am here to see someone. I used to come here regularly. This problem of traffic jam isn’t new to me. But I still wish if I could reach there earlier. Just for today.”, said Soumit.

“If you don’t mind, Saahib, the person you are here to see, is this a girl?”, asked the driver, noticing Soumit’s expression in the back mirror, doubting if he has struck a wrong chord.

Soumit, on the other hand, didn’t mind. He perceived the driver to be talkative, but since he was polite, he didn’t mind opening up to him. “Its okay. I don’t mind. You are right. It’s a girl. The girl I love. Its been a long time since I last saw her, so that is why I am being a bit uneasy.”

The cab driver smiled. “Let’s hope the traffic clears out soon then. She must be waiting for you too.”

“No. She doesn’t know that I am here. Its been quite a while since we talked. But I hope she gets happy when she sees me.”

The cab driver was startled at first. He looked at Soumit & sighed.He didn’t mean to probe Soumit’s personal space or make him uncomfortable. Soumit noticed his smile fading away.

“It was my fault. She asked me to stay. She was willing to be with me, even when the difficulties of my life would’ve complicated her life too. But I was unsure and scared. All she ever asked for was our togetherness, and I failed her. I have broken her trust, I’ve realised. But I hope it’s not too late to make things right.”

“You have come this far, Saahib. It won’t go in vain.”

There was no holding back for Soumit. He wanted to tell someone how he was feeling about everything right now, but without being judged. The cab driver’s words made him express more freely.

“We met during my difficult times. She held my hand even when I was lost, and she was willing to be lost with me. Maybe she saw the strength in me to find my way. All she wanted me was to keep holding her hand. But I chose isolation over her. She would’ve waited for me, had i asked her to. But I was scared. And we drifted apart. It took me a lot of time to realise her worth. I hope I get her back.”

“Fearing is justified, Saahib. Life is funny & unpredictable. It changes us with it. But Saahib, very few people stay with us, no matter how bad life gets, and they do so only because they want to. Your decision doesn’t makes you a bad person, Saahib. You were right. But sometimes, you should let those stay who want to, & let those go who wish to. That is how love is.”

Soumit sighed. The traffic cleared, so the cab driver started the engine. “We’ll reach there soon.”, he said. Wind started playing with Soumit’s hair and made him miss Manjari more. His phone was back to life. He turned it on. There were a few messages from Raunak. He replied to his first message only. He scrolled his contact list & stopped at Manjari’s name.

The cab stopped. “You have reached, Saahib.”, said the cab driver. “Let me help you with unloading your luggage.”

“Its fine. I’ll manage. Here, take your fare. Keep the change. And thankyou for everything.”, said Soumit. It wasn’t just the ride he thanked him for.

The cab driver smiled. “She is your soulmate, Saahib. Don’t let her go this time. Become her soulmate.” Soumit smiled and the cab driver speeded off.

Soumit turned & entered inside the gates. He rang the doorbell.

The nameplate behind read, ‘Manjari Sharma’.

 

 

 

 

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