Thursday, March 11, 2010

Prito's musings....

"Haanji Sirji”… Prito screeched amidst the grating noise of the gearbox.

"Damn!cheapskate Nitesh!” he thought of his pan chewing, Laajo-wooing, potbellied owner of the rattletrap that used to pass for a truck about twenty years ago….the rattletrap which Prito now drove ….

“That drunkard Nitesh" spends thousands on lottery tickets but hands me a hundred and twenty rupees for the truck’s maintenance “rakh le yaar” he would go as if Prito could buy the Tata factory with the spare change…

But he had to be polite. Ever since he quit his secure job as a clerk in the garment factory citing ideological differences with his work supervisor, becoming a driver for Jai Mata Di transport brought him more prestige in his native Lakhana than a clerk’s job which paid him twice as much (at least officially). Prito mused for a bit while he screeched up another gear up the Khanki ghat and concluded that the people of Lakhana had an unnatural respect for size.

The villagers were fascinated by Sango who was rumored to be the tallest boy in the entire district. Speaking of size he thought his neighbour Gomti had the largest… ”CLANG!!!” his musings about Gomti were interrupted as he heard the unmistakable noise of a policeman’s lathi clanging on his trucks’ bonnet.

He slammed his brakes…slammed in manner of speaking since the truck didn’t do anything even remotely as urgent instead dissipating speed like a vessel of boiling milk simmering down.

He managed to calm down the juddering and decidedly nervous steering wheel and clambered down. His heart started hammering strangely and he mused again and realized this probably had to do with the bloody arrack in the back of the truck.

His stomach decided to shrink away from his hammering heart and sink down to his knees, which were setting calm beat of their own. He remembered the SP had decided to clamp down on arrack ever since Kaderbhai had decided to stand for elections.

The policeman rushed over with his lathi raised and face set in the kind of mean scowl that policemen are trained to use in the middle of a potentially fatal raid. He stopped and looked over at Prito and glanced with a curious respect at Prito’s left hand. Prito himself sportingly decided to share in the cop’s curiosity and did some glancing himself.

He realized the cellphone was still in his hand, and now that he thought of it, he remembered the burning sensation in his left ear from the tongue lashing Nitesh had given him. “Malik hain ya driver?” the cop murmured in an almost seductive baritone. “he-enn?” Prito murmured nervously, not quite matching the cop’s chocolate-rich tone.

“Aap Malik hain ya driver?” the cop repeated. The ‘aap” triggered off a whole chain of chemical reactions in his body, which calmed the knees and sent his tummy back to its original position. His body seemed to enlarge and steel crept into his tone “Tere se mathlab?”

He almost convulsed as he heard what he had just said. But the cop reacted, in almost a mirror image of his earlier physical change and he seemed to shrink as he said “Aa—aapki gaadi…” Prito decided to seize the moment much as his mother always said he was born to do and replied “haan hain tho? Akkal nahin hain tereko…ghaat pe gaadi roktha hain? Patha nahin hum kiske kaam se jaa rahe hain?”

Prito himself had no idea who he was referring to but decided that calling on a invisible higher power was called for. “phone lagaaoon kya?” he waved the cellphone menacingly.

The cop paled, as much as the madhya pradeshi sun allowed him to, “sirji …one look at you knew you were not a driver..! I was just trying to alert you about the dacoits in Khanki..!”

He clambered regally back into the truck and rested his head on the still-trembling wheel. After a minute, he got up, sent up a silent prayer for Nitesh and his next seven generations. If it weren’t for Nitesh’s suspicious nature, he would have never had the cellphone…he jumped as the phone rang “kaahaan pahuncha hain? Maa ke shaadi pe jaa raha kya?” as the familiar honey dewed tones of Nitesh screeched.

"Vai guru ki kripa hai" Prito muttered....

Life was again back to normal.


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