I am a habitual late sitter in office. Even at the beginning of my career almost 3 decades back, I used to sit back late after working hours, because I enjoy my work.
Unfortunately, this trait was infectious, much to the chagrin of the wives of my married colleagues then, who used to reprimand me during social gatherings. I have however refrained from wearing it on my sleeve as I quietly go about my work
Recently life and work brought me to a new job in this City of Joy, and within a few days I was back to my routine of sitting back at my desk working beyond the official working hours of 6.30pm
A colleague of mine, Amit, lived next door and much to my comfort we used to commute to office in his car daily. This time I met a match with Amit, who too loved sitting back late at office for work.
It was Durga Puja time. General festivities all around but I will never be able to forget an evening in this new city.
That day early morning the car broke down and we had to hail one of the taxi services and ended up reaching office late.
First thing in the morning I spilled the coffee on my table… shape of things to come. I called up my bank for an update to a change in my account and it was still going to take some time….damn…
As if this was not enough, Boss asked for an update on an assignment which I had totally forgotten, I had to make up an unconvincing story and walked out of his cabin swearing under my breath. Having forgotten to bring my lunch box added to the misery for the day. I thought the best thing would be to end the day with some positive news and hence called one of our loyal customers who would always confirm an order and the time was also ripe for him to place an order. But as they say when it rains it pours, my client at the other end informed me that times were not good, inventories were high and we would have to wait for some more time before we could expect an order from him… Nothing seemed right that day and by early evening say by 4.00 pm, I was just praying and hoping that the day would end soon..
I wanted to dash to my apartment, take a hot shower a quick dinner and crash…that is what I wanted. As if God answered my prayer Amit called up on the intercom and asked if we could leave early. At least it was ending the way I wanted and before he could change his mind, I wound up my work and was waiting for him at the lounge. He too must have been in some sort of hurry for he was at me almost instantaneously. I looked at my watch it was 6.00 pm almost an hour and half ahead of our normal time
We decided to take a pool cab to save on the fare. The driver reported at the gate of the office and we were ready to go: 6.15. The ride would take us 40-45 minutes that makes it 7.00 pm… not bad… almost an hour and half ahead of our routine schedule
Both of us got in and the first 20 minutes went by without any other passenger getting in and neither of us spoke to each other both lost in our world of problems, I suspect he too didn’t have a particularly pleasant day in the office too.
I glanced at my watch…. 6.25 pm and another 15-20 minutes we would be home and I could feel myself breathing deep, cool, more relaxed than ever during the day
We were hardly 10 minutes from home and the silence of the taxi was broken when the taxi driver’s phone rang. There was an animated conversation in the local language. I could make out that it was a passenger at the other end. Apparently the driver’s smart phone had a glitch due to which he did not get notification for a new passenger having booked a ride and that passenger called him. Having rebooted the phone he could see the ride and passenger assigned. I could read the passenger’s name as Surojit.
The driver explained that he could not cancel the ride and will have to turn back to pick the passenger but assured it would not take long. I did not sweat much because I had all the time in the evening… it was still only 6.40..
Having turned back I just broke the silence with some light hearted conversation with Amit and we got into office gossip. It was quite strange we shared some similar opinion about the stock markets, the people and many other things, little did I realize that it was more than 30 mins since we turned back and we had not picked the passenger yet. Its 7.10 pm we are still on the main road travelling back!!!!
I asked the cabbie and he said still a little way away.
For those who are familiar with Kolkata, the lanes and by lanes present quite a challenge even to an experienced driver, sometimes I wonder how miraculously cars cross each other without brushing each other and at times leaving gap for pedestrian to walk between them as if he were strolling in a garden
We were stuck in one such by lane. It is almost 7.30 pm .. In between the passenger must have called at least 3 times to enquire where the car was. I cursed him…. The least he could have done was to cancel the ride and book another one if he was getting so late (so were we now)… It was almost our regular time office leaving time……..
After negotiating the snake shaped by-lanes and maneuvering many other vehicles I thought we reached a dead end. It is almost 8.00 pm now. I heard the guy call at the other end,… damn….. this guy he screwed my evening…
He still didn’t seem to give up. He insisted that the car enter what would have been one of the narrowest roads I have seen in my life. I asked the driver to ask him to come at this end of the road, the driver was clearly uncomfortable doing that and said so many people in this city want to be picked up from their door step as if it is their right since they booked the ride.
Surely the guy could have walked to the end of this road and made it easy for all of us. I decided I have to give this guy a piece of my mind
I could see the guy waving his hand to the driver… nothing wrong with the guy… seemed to be in his early to mid 40s and when we reached he asked the driver to turn back before he could get in
This guy is nuts I thought…. The driver must surely be having some strong reason to take all this shit… may be a family to feed, loan to pay for the car… whatever. This arrogant guy waited for the car to take a U turn and come back for him. The guy looked so full of attitude. As the car approached him he did not show any sense of urgency.
By this time I should have been relaxing at home after my dinner and here I am its 8.20 pm stuck in some obscure by lane of Kolkata waiting for this nut to board the cab. It will take atleast another 15 minutes to hit the main road now and with the festival traffic at its peak…. I was livid
The end seemed worse than the full day now. My frustration was at its peak with a little nudge I would have been yelling at someone
This guy waited for almost an hour for this cab to pick him up and he has does not even have the courtesy to make life easier for all by waking a few steps to the better part of the by lane. No remorse, not even an apology to all of us
The car stopped and this guy does not seem to be in a hurry to get in
He was standing almost at the door step. The driver had already mentioned about so many passengers who would want to be picked up right in front of their door step as if it was their right and privilege.
The guy standing right at his door step opened the front door and out of nowhere from the door behind I saw a figure crouching out of the house a frail old woman barely able to hold herself. This guy held her and put her to sit in the front seat and opened the rear door to squeeze himself in
I was struck by lightining… so the guy had a reason……
The car started its onward journey, by this time I was more late than a normal late sitting day at the office. Almost 10 mins passed in complete silence bar the occasional croak by the old lady who I would have placed in the mid 70s… almost my mothers age.
Then quietly as we were negotiating to enter the main road the guy asked the driver to confirm if we were to be dropped first, the driver replied in the affirmative.. he looked at me and smiled. I still felt the guy could surely have cancelled the trip and booked another cab or cancelled his trip altogether. Its 8.45
A call on his phone disturbed my thoughts, I could hear someone shouting at the other end and could figure out he telling them that he is on the way, and had to cancel three rides before he could find a car pool ready to reach him in the deepest of the by lanes during the heavy festival traffic time. As he kept the phone almost reading my mind he said, that it was his mother, and she had to reach the hospital urgently for a dialysis which was highly overdue and it was the dialysis center calling him because the staff had to leave given that it was festival time.
The entire ride started playing back on mind, I slumped in my seat, my thoughts, what I harbored against this man who must have been so tense not getting a cab to take his mother for an overdue medical emergency procedure, the calls he must have been getting from the clinic, they pressure he would have endured of almost missing the appointment and here I was agitated for having lost a chance for a peaceful evening to make up for a bad day which did not seem so bad after all
Our car reached the gates of our residential complex, it was 9.15 pm Amit and I got down and walked back, me in total silence, ashamed at the thoughts my mind had, what if he had had to cancel this ride too, what if I too had urged the driver to go on drop me first and then pick him up… here was a mother fighting for life, a son hoping against hope and I …..
That day, that ride, in the city of joy, an evening in Kolkata changed the way I look at things , changed the way I should look at things……
4 thoughts on “An Evening in Kolkata”
Evening in Kolkata…
Fantastically written, mid-way through the read had a premonition that it would reflect a change of perspective
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Impressive! Look forward to read and listen(music of course) from you.
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As they say, Everything in Life is a matter of perspectives! Very Well written.
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Very well written n a thoughtful message to us all ….
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