Sea waves had never looked so soothing and relaxing to Srinivas. The sun had risen well above the horizon and the sound of the waves hitting the stone structures was loud enough to get Srinivas out of his nap.
It had been almost 3 hours and Srinivas was sitting at Nariman Point all alone, waiting for time to pass. 10:30 am was the time when the next train to Hyderabad would leave the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus. He had taken the bus to Mumbai last night from Ahmedabad, where his present office was. The bus dropped him in Mumbai early morning, but to kill time, Srinivas decided to sit at his favorite spot in the city: Nariman Point!
It had been a year ago when Srinivas last went home. So here he was, just a couple of hours away from his train to Hyderabad, the train home!
This place had some magic. Srinivas felt at peace looking at the unending ocean, with the fresh sun rays falling into his eyes. The breeze which hit him on his face had stories from across many coasts. The whole experience was purely heavenly and in Srinivas’s own words ‘very pure’.
There was a middle-aged couple which jogged past him with their big dog, which brought Srinivas back from heaven to Mumbai. As he saw the distant skyline of Mumbai, random questions arose in his mind…How many people lived in those skyscrapers… How would they all get up in the morning together? ...Was the air in Mumbai enough for those many people to breathe?...Is the sea…
And one big wave hitting the stone structures woke Srinivas again. The couple was still there, exercising with the dog. Srinivas checked the time on his wrist watch: 9:30… Another hour! Srinivas stretched his arms and yawned making a loud ugly sound. The dog looked carefully at Srinivas stretching, yawning and lazily getting up.
With his back pack and a small bag, Srinivas walked to one of the taxis. The driver was dusting his taxi. Srinivas waited for him to finish. Though the driver was half bald, he looked to be in his thirties. He had spectacles and looked quite strict and serious.
Srinivas asked, “CST station?” The driver asked in turn, “VT station?”
“Yes” Srinivas knew about how many autorickshaw and taxi drivers across the country were not using their meters. He was ready for a fight. He had had similar fights in Ahmedabad and Hyderabad. Bloody corrupt drivers!
“Get in sir!” said the driver, opening the door, pulling the meter down.
Srinivas had nothing to fight about. Nothing to be angry about. He got in quietly.
The taxi driver somehow figured out that Srinivas was not from the city. He automatically took the role of a guide, showing and explaining about the buildings and monuments which came their way. Though Srinivas was enjoying this, but strange thoughts crossed Srinivas’s mind? What if he makes me go round and round the city and stops after the meter asks me to pay a bomb? What if he takes me to some lonely road and robs me?
As these questions kept crossing Srivas’s mind, the driver continued talking in his Marathi-accented Hindi. As his descriptions continued about the city, the taxi reached this majestic Victorian building- Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus.
The building was huge and it looked as royal as it looked in all the films Srinivas had seen it in. The taxi stopped next to the red light. Srinivas got down looking at the building.
“35 sir!” said the driver.
Srinivas took out a 500 rupee note from his wallet and handed it to the driver.
The driver made a face saying that he didn’t have change. He told Srinivas to get change from the shops across the road. He asked Srinivas to hurry up as the point where the taxi stood right now was under the ’No Parking’ zone.
Canon pav bhaji was quite a well known pav bhaji joint. Srinivas had heard about it. He had crossed the subway with his two heavy bags just to get the change. He was sure that this shop would help him. But the lady at the counter refused the moment Srinivas asked for change.
Srinivas was scared that the taxi driver might leave. He had to pay him. Srinivas like a gentleman, crossed many shops asking for change, but everyone refused. With his two heavy bags, he kept jumping from shop to shop, just because he was scared that the taxi driver might leave without the money. It was his money!
Srinivas’s search ended at the end of the lane. It was a small shop selling idli-sambar. He took the change and with his heavy bags he ran to the subway. He kept hoping for the driver to be still there at that point. As Srinivas went up the stairs, he saw the driver waiting right outside the subway. Relief!
Srinivas wanted to apologise and explain how he got late, but before he could say anything the driver came to him and almost hugged him. Srinivas didn’t know how to react.
He gave the driver the money and couldn’t understand what was happening. The driver took the money and looked at Srinivas with a blank look on his face. The driver had tears in his eyes. In a choked voice he told Srinivas that he worked in a factory before this, where he would file data entries. He never got his salary and was fired. Srinivas was trying to figure out why the driver was telling him about this.
“Sir, it’s not about 35 rupees. It’s about humanity. These days this city lacks it! Thank you sir.” said the driver with a smile on his lips, and tears in his eyes.
Srinivas felt a wave of happiness flow inside himself. He had not expected the driver to be so happy.
The driver quickly got inside his taxi. While driving away, in perfect English he shouted to Srinivas,
“Have a GOOD DAY, sir!”