It was one of those nights when it was teeming on a summer evening unexpectedly due to cyclone effect. Late sitting in office is not a regular phenomena but that day was hectic with back to back meetings and project discussions with onsite clients. Before I realized it was already 10 pm. I winded up my work in next 15 min and reached the gate of the building to realize that the heavy downpour has lead no transportation. I missed the last office cab by a whisker. I was weary and dejected. With no other alternative I moved on to the main road to find any public transportation to reach home. It was hauntingly dark with minimal human activity in that area.
I stood on the road glancing at my phone. Incessantly, I tried booking cab to reach home but all my efforts went in vain. Uber, Ola, Radio cabs.. all of them have put their hands up. I moved towards the bus stop located next to office building drenching in rain. In hope to get a bus I stood lonely for almost half an hour. Slowly, chills started flowing down my spine. All sorts of ghost stories, robberies, kidnaps were moving on my mind. Although I am not a pious person, Jai Hanuman was what I uttered staunchly.
Suddenly, a black car rushed and halted on the road. My heartbeat grew faster with fear and suspicion. I looked at the number plate to memorize anticipating an untoward incident to take place. Glass of the car window came down. I could see a young man gazing at me. I grew suspicious and held my bag tight to flee away from there. Before I did anything he smiled at me and uttered "The weather is turning bad and I do not see any transportation coming this way tonight. If you don't mind, I can drop you wherever you wish to get down. Do not panic. I work at Microsoft and you can trust me".
Frantically, I moved near to take a closer look at him. Yes, he worked in my office. I have seen him couple of times in office food court. I stood there still contemplating on whether to accept his offer or not. I looked around and realized that god didn't leave me any option than taking his offer. Although he was a stranger he was a familiar face to me. I moved to the other side, opened the door and settled in the seat beside him. We moved a furlong distance. To break the weird silence, I uttered "Thank you so much".
"Oh !most welcome Mam" he grinned.
"May I know where do you want me to drop?" he inquired.
"Please drop me near main bus stop. I think I can manage to get a cab from there" I replied.
"Do not worry. I can drop at your home. It is growing really bad and quite unsafe to take a public transport at this hour. Trust me"
Well! I thought there is truth in what he said but how far can I trust this person. I looked at the Lord Ganesh idol hanging in front and said "Then please drop me at Kavuri hills"
"Sure. By the way I am Ayush" he introduced in warming smile.
"I am Sitara" I meekly mentioned.
After a while I became comfortable and started looking surroundings in the car. I noticed a book on the backseat that caught my eye.
"Do you read Charles Dickens?" I enquired curiously.
"I am a huge fan of his works. I have almost read all of his books twice"
"Really! That's great. Where did you get this copy from? I have looking for it for a while now"
"Uhh.. that's the inheritance my Dad acquired for me. He is a scholar and great reader. We have a mini library at our home with books from varied genres."
"Ah I see. That's exhilarating" I said raising my eyebrows in amusement.
Rest of our conversation for about half an hour revolved around classics to contemporary literary works. It was never ending but my destination came to a halt. We reached Kavuri hills soon. I gave him directions to reach my apartment in the cozy lanes. The car stopped in front of the building.
I finally said " Thank you Ayush. It was nice meeting you"
"Mention not. Same here" he said.
I got down and walked towards the gate. I heard a voice hollering "Sitara" and I looked back instantly.
" I thought you will be glad if I lend this book" Ayush said handing the book.
"Of course Ayush!! I am" excitedly I wawled
"But how do I return it back to you" I posed at him in doubt.
"I have written my number on the last page" he answered and moved towards the car.
Standing in the elevator I realized something was happening inside me. My heart beat grew faster. There was connection that I can't name it. Technically, he was stranger but why do I feel a part of me is left inside the car? Was it an epiphany? Do I know him earlier? I moved inside the house, threw my bag on the sofa, and turned the pages of the book. I stopped at the last page and dialed the number.
Phone rang thrice before it was answered
"Hello" came the voice
"How about a cup of coffee in case you have not gone too far" I muttered.