Ola and Rosogolla

It was around 4 o’ clock in the afternoon perhaps. I looked out of the library window and spotted a thick layer of darkness hindering my vision. The inactive fountain on the courtyard, the pink IIT building with a little swatch of sky on its back which was supposed to have a dull orange look at this time of the day, all had been soaked into an untimely shade of black. It was going to rain.

I am not a rain lover, especially when there was only an hour and half till we left office. And rain in Calcutta means water-logging, traffic jam and hiked Ola/Uber pricing. When I finally called it a day and started climbing down all I could hear was the deafening sound of rain lashing against window pane. I had booked an Ola share after half an hour of desperate struggle. My eyes were fixated on phone. I was keeping a close watch on the movement of cab which was still fifteen minutes away.

I hate Ola share. The free tour of half of the city with pain in the ass strangers is the kind of experience I like to avoid at all cost. So it was only natural when the guy in the front seat started chatting with me about bad weather and confusing geography of Saltlake I got more annoyed and wrapped it up with curt response.

Next two people on the pickup list were showing as Ashwini + 1 on the app, which reminded me of Ashwini brothers. And the two young guys who clambered into backseat from AMRI gate appeared to be siblings only. I suppressed a snigger in the dark. What a bloody geek I am.

Traffic through Bypass and then Laketown was like heinous bitch. And the incessant rain made it worse. Not to mention our front seat chatty guy’s constant phone calls. The entire time he kept advising some woman who was apparently on the verge of a bitter divorce. The rest four of us including driver felt relieved in silent unison when his journey ended for good.

For the rest of the journey the senior Ashwini brother sat in the front chatting up with the driver in unintelligible Bhojpuri. We had crossed Sinthi'r More when he asked the driver for a quick halt so he could purchase some snack from the roadside sweet-shop. Biharis I have seen are very cooperative when it comes to their own people. They are not quarrelsome asshats like the Bengalis. The driver acquiesced and Ashwini senior slid out in the rain in search of food. I asked myself if I should be annoyed about this but I was too exhausted to even bother. The guy came back with a packet dangling from his hand.

“Madam, you too please have one.” (in Hindi)
I started. What? I had almost dozed off. I didn’t realise they had started eating in the car. I looked up. He was holding a small paper plate in his hand. I peered down. Rosogolla. “Please have one madam.” Like a robot I picked one from the plate. Despite my apparent malevolent appearance I really don’t know how to be rude to people who are nice to me. 

You don’t eat rosogolla offered to you by stranger in a shared car and then keep quiet for the rest of the ride. I muttered with a smile, “Thank you.”
“Welcome madam. You work at TCS?” I have no idea why people always assume since I go to Saltlake I must be working at some corporate office in Sector V.
I shook my head.  “No I work at Department of Planning.”
“Oh. Planning for what?” Fuck.
“Um.. Er.. West Bengal.”
“Ohh government of West Bengal.”
“Yes.” (Trying to hide nervousness with awkward smile. It’s a serious hazard these days telling people you are a beaurocrat working for state government.)
“Haha see what you planned. It’s water everywhere.”
“Hahahaha.” (Hiding real pain under fake laugh) “Well this is a new experience for me. A good one. Being offered food in a shared cab.” (Diversion! Diversion!)
“That too by a stranger, haha. Well this is my brother. He went to Delhi to study for IAS and caught jaundice.” Ashwini junior gave a shy smile in my direction. (Ashwini brothers indeed)
“Oh so that’s why you went to hospital.” (I am running out of small talk real fast. Why am I like this?) Few moments passed in awkward silence. My sleep was totally gone. I was now alert and ill at ease.
“Madam, we have reached your destination.” (Ah divine intervention by Mr. Driver)
"Oh good." (I was fumbling with my purse in hurry) “Well then, goodbye. It was nice meeting you guys.”
“Likewise madam. It’s nice to cherish these little moments until go our own ways.” (Wow. Rosogolla and philosophy. Not bad.)

It was still raining in the same tempo. I opened my umbrella and plunged into sopping darkness. The bitter misanthrope could take a hike for tonight. It's time for the tale of random Ashwini brothers.