After eight autorickshaws rejected me, I walk up to the 9th.
A young woman beats me to it.
She is in her late 20s. She has a statuesque figure. She wears heels and formal trousers with a tucked in fitted shirt. She has a smart laptop bag slung over her shoulder. She has glowing dark chocolate complexion, dazzling eyes and wears a diamond on her chiselled nose. A slim cross dangles on her slender neck.
I shrug and turn to look for the 10th auto.
“Wait” she calls out. I turn. Her gaze travels to my walking stick, big fat computer bag and ‘late for meeting’ face. “I am going to Mindspace. Can I drop you somewhere?” Her voice is kind but modulated. Her accent is British.
As I sit in one corner of the auto clutching my bag and stick, I get to know she is voice trainer in a BPO. She asks me about my walking stick. I give her a 2-minute version of my 20-year-old accident. Gently, she coaxes out the 20-minute version. Her questions are intimate but never intrusive. Her eyes never leave my face. At the end of the story she smiles. Genuine, gummy smile. A tad sad. Almost mysterious.
Now she looks out for the first time. The auto passes a roadside Catholic cross. Her hands so far had been under her laptop bag. She brings up her right hand to make the sign of the cross.
My jaw drops. My breath stops. She has only two fingers on the right hand.
After her prayer, she opens her eyes and turns to me. She pulls out and holds up her left hand. It has only one finger.
I feel a shiver.
“How?,” I stammer.
“2006 Mumbai train blast,” she mutters. “I was in college. Couldn’t complete. Ribs had gone into my lungs. Thank god for my good English, I made a career. Benefits of being a Catholic, men!” she says with a wink and in her regular Goan accent.
I want to know her 20-minute version. Her 2-hour version. But it’s time for me to get off.
I extend my hand for a shake. She grins wider and we do a one finger handshake like kids do. I want to tell her she is one of the most beautiful people I’ve ever met. I don’t. I just say all the best and thanks. She nods gracefully and says a line, “We must help each other”.
The auto leaves. The line stays.
And will stay for a very long time.
Story By – Charudutt Acharya
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