Wednesday, July 2, 2008

A Strange Rendezvous

On the lonely night of 3rd March 2007, it was about time for me to go to the Old Delhi railway station to receive my mother and bring her home. As anticipated, the train was late and she was to arrive sometime around midnight. Delhi becomes quite desolate at night. To travel thirty kilometers at that hour is not easy. I was hoping to take an auto-rickshaw to reach the station on time but luck was not on my side. Standing on the main road I could only see cars passing by at great speed. I felt hopeless and desperate. Time was running out. I had to act fast.

After sometime (which seemed eternity to me) I saw an auto coming. When it came closer I realized that it was already occupied by two men. Nevertheless I waved frantically at the driver indicating him to stop. He agreed to give me a lift after dropping them at the Safdarjung Enclave. I found for myself a seat next to the driver. Sharing an auto with strangers is not a great idea but I had no other option.

I could hear one of them talking over the phone in a deep yet husky voice. The other man was silent. The smell of alcohol was so strong that I felt nauseous. Amidst all this the auto was speeding past the neon lights on the Aruna Asaf Ali Marg. I could see the Qutub Minar far away against the backdrop of the moonlight sky. Our minds are not confined by the restrictions imposed by space and time. It wanders about freely wherever it desires. I was to meet my mother after many months and I could almost feel her drawing me towards her bosom.

I was shocked back to reality when I heard the same voice ordering the driver to take a turn towards JNU. It was not on our way so I was surprised and annoyed. To express my dissent I turned back and saw him for the first time. He was a well-built man of middle age with deep red eyes, thick beard and an emotionless face. Just near the JNU entrance he again ordered the driver to stop at the gate of a housing complex. The other person hurriedly stepped out and disappeared. I was becoming increasingly impatient. Gathering some courage I asked him how long would he take. I also explained to him why I was in a hurry.

Immediately his face tightened. Controlling his emotions he said: “Do you know who I am?” I was listening. He continued, “I am a criminal. I deal in arms and weapons.” I knew I was in trouble. I was shocked to hear him admitting that blatantly. He also said: “I have just had a fight with a friend. Had he been a stranger I would have killed him.” Now I could see fresh stains of blood on his right shoulder. I knew I had to remain silent.

Under the influence of alcohol, he went on: “My mother was the most important person in my life. I miss her so much.” Tears started rolling down his cheeks. He then moved out of the auto and indicated the driver to take me to my destination. He threatened me not to disclose his identity to the police.

I was so shocked, thrilled and touched that I barely managed to shake his hands and thank him. I couldn’t have met my mother on time but for his help. I kept thinking about the entire episode throughout that night. Remembering it gives me a shudder even today. The only assurance is this realization that even seasoned criminals like him have subdued compassion and sympathy.

Aug, 2007.