In this new series, we stop being management students and become innocent consumers again. We look at the products and services that touch our lives, mould our human connections and stand witness to our many triumphs and trials. If you are a future marketer, this series will help you visualise the final destination of every brand - not his pocket, not his mind, but the consumer’s heart.
There is this ugly stretch of road where the Santacruz highway branches off into the direction of Milan subway. It lasts right uptil the Milan subway, which in itself would win no beauty contest if subways ever chose to have one. This stretch would get even more treacherous during monsoon - leading to maddening traffic jams. And I’m a punctual guy, and the last thing I want in the mornings is to reach work late. Sometimes I feel I do all my real work in the first hour of the day. And my body becomes restless, I become fidgety and I start sighing audibly so she would stop looking out her window and focus on me.
And she would.
As if she were distracting a child through the feeding of vegetable soup with a Ram Lakhan song, she would turn my attention to the series of similarly sized shop fronts that would go by. She would put her hand on my shoulder and tell me in that soft voice of hers.
“It’s like so many plays happening at once na?”
A barber shaving a man while laughing at a joke cracked by the man behind. Or a little kid running up to the grocery shop and slipping and emptying a bag of grains into the drain. Or the mechanic in his dirty navy blue fatigues sitting on a bike he would never be able to afford and trying to take a selfie. Or two ladies in their faded nightgowns sitting on a bench and smoking bidis. And I would look at these and I would forget my impatience for those few moments.
Every little frame, a story of its own. Almost like a Wes Anderson scene. There a camera holds as a train of stories passes by. Here the stories hold while my Uber passes by.
Most days would begin with laughter, but some might end with silence. On the rare occasion that she felt like the guilty party, she would call the Uber and get us inside as soon as possible. She would ask the driver to pull the seat in front of me as far ahead as possible and get him to switch on the radio at the earliest. She would tell him to switch to 106.4 and hope that it throws up an AR Rahman song.
It’s not like we would leave music to chance. The only piece of bling she ever owned was this clutch-like bluetooth speaker - all sparkly and brown. And she would conjure it every time we ended up with a Wagon R or a Ritz. Those guys should really have radios, man. Speaking of Wagon R, somehow we would always end up in an Xcent when she would call one and you-know-which-one when I would have called one.
But it’s okay. I was 4.71 and she was a paltry 4.65.
There were so many other things. I always knew when to call an Uber so we would leave and reach on time. It was a source of great pride for me, Sometimes she hated that I wanted to go in an Uber because that would mean she has to get ready in a hurry. Getting her to do anything hurriedly, small and big, was forcing her to be someone else.
And she used to grin like an idiot when once in a while we would get an Uber that was late.
On Sunday mornings she would go to Japanese class in Kalaghoda, leaving me in bed with a great film and a joint. I would get ready a couple of hours later and head to Kalaghoda in an Uber from Chembur on a glorious Sunday morning. I would take the Wadala Expressway and gape down through the window of my Uber, at the giant open factory of dirty workmen making this city run on their backs. Everything trying so hard to be colourful but still looking dusty and sepia. And then there would be the Uber home, taking me away from her.
“I am never meeting her again. This is it.”
That’s how the cab ride would begin.
“I can’t believe this was the last time I saw her. It just can’t be.”
That’s the sign of the first traffic jam.
“She is just stupid. For both our sakes, I need to be strong and get her back.”
That’s when I would make the call.
And we made out and hurled abuses and stared at our phone screens and sang songs aloud and sobbed clumsily into each other’s shirts and passed out and stayed silent till our ears hurt and stole guilty glances and enacted film scenes and made baby plans and cooked up holiday itineraries and slowly slid our hands into each other’s and learnt Japanese and Italian and German and ordered food and had dinner and mumbled sorries and made not-really-thought-through declarations and revealed pasts and built futures.
All in a goddamn Uber.
When she comes around to checking Facebook and she comes to this part of the story and sees that I am writing that the last time I really met her was also when an Uber took her away from a curtailed weekend in paradise, she would call me and tell me in what would surely have been Kanchenjunga’s voice if she was a woman,
“Babe, it was an Ola, not an Uber!”
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