The cab driver Raghavendrachary knew my name because the taxi service has this thing of sending the driver and me, for booking a cab, each other’s names and numbers. He asked if everyone who was named Deepa was short tempered. I laughed and told him a name had nothing to do with anger. Unless the name reminded you of pasts and of someone who inspired you to be angry with, I told myself.
I told him I had to get to my destination as fast as possible. In typical cab driver in a city fashion, he veered inch close to bikes, cursed and kept up his story. He was under tremendous stress he said, the moment I settled down at the back of his taxi. I had to ask why. I did. He said an acquaintance had asked him to loan Rs 50,000, money that he had saved for his wedding. He had given his word, he said. But wasn’t sure if the other person was trustworthy. He asked me what he should do.
I have worked long hours, night shifts and done overtime to save up some money. I want to marry my girlfriend Deepa. She is a nurse in a city hospital. Our families aren’t too happy. My family is coming around, but they refuse to help us in any way. They tell me I have to find my way, rent myself a house and manage my household if I marry this girl. You need money for all that madam. That is why I have some money saved. But this person learnt that I had the money and wants it to buy a car to drive as a taxi. He says he will register the taxi in my name or return the money when I get married. Can I trust him madam? I know where his brother lives.
I ask him what Deepa’s advice is. He says she has left the decision to him; that she will not understand these things. She is a very good girl madam, very understanding and she loves me, Raghavendra tells me. But we fight every day. If I don’t fight with her, I cannot eat or sleep. Why do we fight all the time madam? I beat her a few times when I got very angry, she cried. Later I felt bad and said sorry.
I get angry. Abuse in love doesn’t make it love. I tell him so, saying if he loved her he wouldn’t think of beating her. He nods, not quite understanding why it is wrong. He is a man.
He likes talking about Deepa. He tells me how they met. I am reminded of a cute village story the sorts they like to show in the movies. He worked as a driver at a nursing school where she was studying. All the girls called him anna, but not her. One day just before walking past a corner, she stopped and looked back at him. He liked her then. And asked her if she would love him. She got scared and said she wanted to finish studying first and wanted to work. When he said he was fine with that, she said all right. They have been together eight years now. Once they marry, he wants to rent a house in a Brahmin neighbourhood, he tells me, because unlike in slums, Deepa will be safe there. He would worry for her when work would keep him away at all odd hours.
Raghavendra is from Chikkaballapur and was raised by his maternal grandfather and some uncles. He did tell me how that came to be, I forget now though. He herded sheep and grew up the village boy that movies so romantically portray. In college his pocket money was Rs 10 every day with which he tells me he ate 20 idlis and then went about his chores. The lights of the city called and he came to get some job, any job. Like many before him, many jobs later, he is now a cab driver. He gets a uniform and a salary.
I wait for more, ever the voyeur for stories and incidents that I hungrily will store away to use somehow, somewhere when I write. But we have nearly arrived and I have to point out to him which gate to go through. While waiting for a lady to move her car, he tells me that love is not for people like him. I ask him what he means. He says poor people like him cannot afford to be in love, that’s a luxury for people like you.
I tell him not to give his acquaintance the fifty thousand rupees and to use it instead to get married to his sweetheart.