Route № 15D
It was hardly the crack of dawn; I was awake, or, better say, I hadn’t slept at all rushing and packing. One early morning, the only focus was about chasing the time, and reach the railway station at least on time before the Train left; that was the lone goal for the day. Well, it looks confirmed I was missing my Train and getting back home in no time.
While standing on the road, I was looking for some mode of public transport. I see “Plumes of dust thickly lying like depressing, dirty gray before the crack of dawn; When the gust of winds blew swirls, the grisly dancing particles illuminated in the flash of lights.” That is when I found an auto-rickshaw approaching tearing the dust particles apart. I desperately needed that auto be empty; I was already late to reach the station; all I could hope was to get that auto and rush to the station. Back of my mind, I also wished for the Train to arrive late. Well, it was a stretch of hope, but wouldn’t hurt either. I pulled up my hand and swung it as an indication for the driver to stop. The driver stopped the auto just in a place where he could see my face and talk to me.
Driver: Amma (the south Indian form of addressing ma’am), where do you want to go.
Me: Railways Station
Driver: OK, get in.
A sense of relief and rush of tension both ran at the same time. I sat in the center of the seat to avoid getting cold by the restless blowing wind, from where I could see the driver’s face. He was tall, a little older than middle age, and he seemed like a family man with salt pepper hairs. While I was settling myself, I could see he was also observing me once in a while. It made me feel odd, but I had no choice than staying with this auto as I had to reach the station soon.
Buzz… buzz… grrrr… grrrr… OK, someone was calling, and from a pile of wanted and unwanted items in my go-bag, I was trying to fish out my phone. I don’t understand what was so much amusing to this guy. He was still observing me. Shit, where is my phone? It is somewhere in there, but I can’t find the thin slate illuminating flashes. Ah. Finally. I got it, and now it stopped ringing. I check the miscall and call back.
Ring… Ring… Ring… Hello from the other side.
Me: Ha… I got into the auto and have crossed the main street will hit the station road in a while, no traffic, and looks like I will reach on time…”
From the corner of my eye, I could see. He was observing me. Should I be worried about that? Back of mind thoughts floating. Should I risk riding in this auto, or better get down and change the auto? All this was so confusing.
While still, I was on call.
Me: OK! I will not run on the platform, and I will call you as soon as I get in Train, and yes, I will eat. OK, Amma, I will call you after I get into Train.”
Now I see this man not looking at me through the mirror; instead, I see him relaxed and give a faint smile. Come on; this is getting creepy now. I am trying to resist asking him what he was up to. Of course, this is worrying me. I am trying to neglect and search for my headphones to better listen to music and divert myself. Again, he was staring at me through the mirror. This time I raised my eyebrows in reflex, asking about what?
Driver: which route you want me to take, Amma?
Me: I said, ‘take route 15D, that will not have any traffic nor any signals.
He nodded his head while continuing driving.
The route 15D was way long to come. Finally, I found my headphones and plugged in my ears, listening to one of my favorite Ilayaraja scores. Wow, that is some combination: bone-chilling cold, restless breeze, and Mr. Ilayaraja’s music. I wish I had a filter coffee to grab to go, and that would have been a perfect morning, but just not this staring person at me.
The driver was again looking at me. He did not stare. This time I stopped the music and removed my earplugs, and finally asked him.
Why are you looking at me?
Do I look anything different?
I am not a ghost; I am very much a human being
Driver: No, Amma, I am not looking at you with any intention,
I am waiting for you to tell me if you want me to take diversions or do you want to pick up someone on the way?
Me: What? What the hell are you talking about?
If I had to pick up anyone, I would have told you before getting in, and there is no need for any shortcuts or diversions on the way.
Please, follow route 15D, and if you don’t know the way, please stop here; I will get down and find another auto for myself.
Driver: No, Amma, please don’t misunderstand me.
I am going to go only on route 15D.
You don’t have to take another auto.
Trust me. You are safe.
Now, officially, this is getting scary. I put my phone and headphones inside. I needed to be alert. My brains were getting hyperactive, and all I could think about is how to defend myself if anything happens. What do I have in my bag? Nothing sharper than a comb. I believe women should have the right to carry a knife or something of the kind. Well, it’s not the time to think about women’s rights. What is the best I can use? What do I have..? Yeah, I Have a dupatta, a Very strong cotton dupatta. Let me keep my attention on which road he is taking me. If I find anything fishy, I will put my dupatta around his neck and choke him. I am sure self-defense can make a strong case, and I won’t have enough to face. Let’s think about the aftermath later.
He is observing me now. I am hardly halfway through. The silver lining, he is driving fast, and now I am sure I will reach the station on time. I can at least catch the Train. But why is he observing me? Is he a creep? Or am I paranoid? Wow, this is too much psychological trauma. He is watching me and smiling at me. We turned on route 15D.
He is trying to talk to me. The streets are empty still, it’s not clear morning yet, and no public transport has started. God, what is this? Is he human? Or a ghost? Maybe some Ghosts want to scare me. Seriously, this is what I am thinking now? What has happened to me? I guess it’s one of those hyperactive days. Maybe because I didn’t sleep, I am getting hyperactive and paranoid with extreme alertness.
Driver: Amma, you are one of the girls I saw recently; seems to be a true living
Me: What? What do you mean by that?
Man, this isn’t good. Seriously bad. Is he a ghost? Or does he think I am a ghost?
Driver: yes, Amma, you are one of the very few girls that get into the auto, and is true,
Me: I am a little confused here.
What do you mean by an actual person?
Do you get to see ghosts normally?
Driver: No, Amma… Not ghosts, though. I am talking about living human beings… Those are living with masks on & fake relationships with wide open eyes!
That keeps getting interesting…!!!!