He must be in his late fifties or sixties, had a moustache and a heavy voice. So typical of the Rajasthani you would expect to meet. He had a long look at me. Felt he was too old to call him Bhaiya, so I decided to address him as Kaka.
"Kahan jaana hai Kukas mei?".
I need to go to my Hotel on the Delhi-Jaipur highway, I said, deciding not to divulge much information.
I asked how much would he charge?
After pausing for a while, he said, "180 Rupye lagenge."
Just in the morning that day, I had checked with the hotel on how much a to-fro from the hotel to the city would cost and they had said Rs 1200. So the 180 seemed like a great deal for the close to 15 kms journey, considering what I am used to paying in a city like Bangalore.
Perhaps Kaka was expecting me to bargain, but there was something within me that did not. It was a moment of trust that I built within that moment, when our eyes met.
And then began a small journey, that I would not forget in a long time.
I sat like a king, in the open from 3 sides autorickshaw. This was the big ones, that ferried almost 10 passengers when plying within the city, and it ran on diesel. So here was I alone with the bag of Sarees, riding like a king. I did have my GPRS enabled mobile phones and was accessing Internet, trying to be in my own world.
Kaka began to sing some Rajasthani Folk songs while driving. And suddenly at that very moment, I stopped all my not-so-important activities and let myself get immersed in that experience that was unfolding before me. He must have been a good singer in his village, I thought.
He drove at a not so high speed. We let the cars, bikes, trucks, and all other vehicles cross us. None of us were in a hurry. He drove at a brisk pace of 35 kmph perhaps. I just gave into the situation and let myself get drowned in that experience that was nothing short of spiritual.
Just before we left the Main City limits, and were about to hit the Highway, he stopped the auto at a junction.
"Angoor khaoge saheb? "; he asked, interrupting me from my thoughts. I declined, saying no.
He bargained with the fruit seller and asked for 2 kilograms of Grapes for 70 Rs.
2 Kilograms!!! I do not recall ever buying more than half a kg of Grapes at a time.
Keeping the grapes in his bag, that rested over his shoulder, he smiled at me and said.
"Saheb, ghar khaali haath nahi jaata hoon.. toh bacche ke liye kuch le liye. Aaj angoor hi sahi."
2 kgs! the words ringed in my mind still as I smiled cheek to cheek in this encounter.
And then we took a detour from the main highway. Now this is where I felt scared for a while. Alone me. Alone he, the dark night and just some vehicles passing by. I was scared, but at the same time smiling. Inspite of the fear of being in a new city, traveling at night on the highway alone with this person, I tried not to panic too much. There was something about him that was so genuine.
Perhaps it was that trust that was initially built between us, that I I did not mind the detour.
"Kaka, kya yeh road (detour) waapis highway par milega", I asked him, trying to assure myself that all is well.
"Haan wahin milega he said. Ek aadmi ko kuch dena hai saheb. Bas 2 minute lagenge"
I said yes. Though somewhere deep within me, there was that iota of fear that said, what if all is not right. What if he comes back with another person and tries to do the unthinkable? He went out, carrying his grapes filled bag possessively and a parting smile.
Kaka returned. Alone. And in less than 2 minutes, smiled again and we then continued our journey, with his folk songs to give us company on the highway.
"Kahaan se aaye ho Bhaiya?"
Bangalore, I said. I usually do not divulge the right place where I hail from, but it was that initial trust that was at play.
"Bangalore! Arre wahaan se toh Rahul Dravid hai! Kitna mahaan khiladi hai! " And at that moment, our barriers broke. We were two passionate souls, living in two distant worlds, but living the same moment and experiencing it spiritually.
We break into a heated discussion.
Sachin should retire. Rahul Dravid is greater than Steve Waugh and is a class apart. Sachin is also good, but Rahul Dravid is very great.
Cricket definitely binds the country like nothing else.
We reach my destination.
I hand him two hundred Rupees note. He reaches for his bag again to return me the change.
Folding my hands in the most genuine of thank yous, I smiled to him, with throat choking with the experience I had just had, I say to him;
"Kaka, aap poora rakh lo. Bache paise ke bacchon ko mithai khila dena. "
I think I spotted the tears of joy in his eyes, as he thanked me.
He must have spotted them in mine too.