Shukriya Riaz Bhai !
I was late for my office for the third time that week. If the traffic isn’t significant, it’s a 15 to 20 minute cab ride from my place. Unfortunately, that wasn’t one of the ‘no traffic days’. Nevertheless, I pooled a cab. I knew I’d be even more late for the office with the traffic. But that was the only option I had.
I was picked up from my building.
Here is how my mindset was at the moment — I was pretty much pissed at myself for the delay I had caused. I was pissed at the traffic this city offers even at odd hours. I was pissed at my boss who couldn’t take my coming late even when I did overtime! With this mindset, I couldn’t notice much about the cab. I did look around but I observed nothing. I was blinded by my mood.
Unfortunately for me, I wasn’t deafened! The music caught my attention. The channel was playing Bollywood party tracks at 11 am. This was the point when I noticed my company sitting at the back — young kids, 18–20 years old maybe. They seemed to be enjoying it a lot. This was also the point when I noticed the cabbie — an old guy, 50–60 years old maybe. I was amazed at how he could play such music, at such hour. He seemed to be enjoying the song too — Talking to the kids & enjoying it.
I was pissed and had found the perfect discharge — I decided to rate the ride bad. Word-count restrictions would have limited my expression , so I figured I’d blame it on the ‘Music being Played’. It was sorted. I knew this was mostly because I was late, but to hell with it. If it’s not fair to me, I’d make it unfair to others — maybe that’s what fair is.
Unable to express my disapproval of that music, I decided to shut my eyes. It was difficult to take my ears entirely away from the music in the beginning, but a very mild Ujjayi did the trick. I think I slept off in not more than 5 minutes.
When I woke up, the only company I had was the cabbie. The old guy seemed a lot pleasant to the eyes than before I had slept. I noticed the music had changed. It wasn’t an odd party track. He was playing a song through his phone, I think.
As I reflected upon the changes, he looked at me and said — “Arey.. You got up, sir! I thought I’d wake you only when we’ve reached.”
I gave him a light respectful smile — “It’s alright.”
“You’re fine with the music na sir?”
“Yes Yes..One of my favourites in fact. And much better than what I had slept to. Do you enjoy that kind of music?”
With this, I knew I had inadvertently opened the gates to him changing my opinion of the ride. But I was sure I won’t change the decision I had taken under the then ‘pissed off’ circumstances.
“Not really sir. But those kids did.”
“You asked them?”
“Yes sir..I always do. Especially when there are more than one pickups because the time is too short to leave a good impression & there is always some waiting period involved. First pickup almost always gets upset about any delay in the pickups after them. So I play the music they really like !! Best way to find that out?…I ask.”
There were still 8 minutes, according to my GPS, for the trip to end. I decided to diversify the conversation a bit.
“And how did you know I like this music, Riaz bhai?”, I checked his name in his driving pass, hanging by the rear view mirror.
“Your ringtone sir. While you slept off, your phone rang. I just played it on youtube.” marked the cabbie, with his face towards me; tilted a little to the side.
“Oh..Haan!” said I, placing my ringtone in my head. “Actually I don’t generally let the entire music play when the phone rings. So I kind of forgot what my own ringtone was.” I heard myself explain.
Riaz bhai was busy finding space through traffic to drop me at time.
“Sir.. Can I ask you a question? If you don’t mind.”, after conversational pause of half a minute Riaz Bhai said.
“Do ask Riaz bhai.”
“You were so upset when you were picked. Did the music really take you that far?”
“It wasn’t just the music, I am very late for work. And have been marked by my boss twice — this week itself. Music was a reason but not the only one.”
“How’d you know I was upset?” I asked wondering what gave me away.
“It was clear from your tone. I even noticed the breathing you did with your eyes shut. You had decided that you’d rate me bad.. didn’t you?”
How could someone be so upfront?!, I wondered in my head. Anyhow, I let this one pass with a “No..not at all”.
Both my eyes and my tone had given my earlier intentions away — I am sure. At this point I felt pretty bad because of the judgement I had made of ‘The Cabbie’, just because I was pissed. He was a nice person. And a considerate cabbie which can be very rare. We were close to ending the trip at this point of my self talk.
“Sir…I don’t know whether I should be saying this or not.. But the world will be a lot better place if we don’t form opinions based on one meeting or one incident..least of all on what music they are listening to in company of others.”
“Hmm….How then?” it may sound like I was seeking an advice on how to judge people, but it was more like a tired coal miner ceaselessly digging with the hope that he’d hit gold.
“Umm…If you’re too obsessed about the music they listen to, you should check out the collection they keep, maybe. Because those are the ones they listen to when they’re alone…Should I end?”
“Hmm?” It took a little time for me to realise that he had asked a question, as I was wondering of many non-literal implications of what he had just told me.
“The ride..Should I end it?...You can cross the road from here, otherwise I’ll have to make a U-turn twice.”
“Yes yes.. I’ll walk from here. Thank you”
As I alighted, I intentionally pulled down the window - just a little - so much so that the air held between Riaz bhai and me remained uninterrupted by it. As the cab drove off, this air momentarily bore the voice of Jagjeet Singh, slowly receding and taking Riaz bhai away with it.
I haven’t ridden a second time with Riaz bhai. But I think I know the music he listens to when he’s alone. And according to Riaz bhai himself, that should be enough.
About rating him — I gave him a 5 on 5. While my decision to rate him bad had changed, my reason remained all the same — The Music being played.