I decided not to wait for Prachi. I was feeling restless in the hotel room. I needed to get out and do something. I had an address, nothing was stopping me from going and taking a look. Who knew what I’d find. Besides, I really didn’t expect Om to turn up with anything substantial.
It had started to drizzle as I walked out. I pulled my jacket tighter as I walked out in the rain. On most days, the rain would have depressed me and would have ensured that I stayed in my room, but not today. As I walked out, I noticed how the rain was washing the city clean, giving it a new cleansed look. All the dust and dirt which had settled on trees and plants got washed away, leaving the bright soothing green leaves behind.
I noticed people scurrying around, trying to escape from the rain. For a change, the rain did not bother me. I tilted my head and felt the droplets hit my face, the rhythmic pitter-patter of the rain calming my frayed nerves. I didn’t ask for directions. I had spent enough time on the flight and the bus here, trying to memorize the streets from the map that would lead me to my parents house.
Pretty soon, I was out of the commercialized area. Maybe I should have rented a car, or carried an umbrella. It had been one hour and I was still walking, still getting drenched. The excitement of the rain had died and now I shivered uncontrollably as I realized I was lost. There was no cell phone reception and not a soul in sight.
As I wandered around, trying to find shelter, I wondered where my good aura had disappeared. I was going to fall terribly sick if I kept getting wet. I trudged along, praying that I would meet someone, anyone.
Suddenly, out of nowhere, I saw a
jeep SUV approaching. Relieved I put out both my hands, trying to get the driver’s attention. The driver didn’t even slow down.
“Hey! Hey!” I called out. I half ran behind the
jeep SUV. I let out a huge sigh of relief as the jeep SUV stopped. A hooded figure peeped outside the window.
“Well, hurry up get inside.” A male voice called out.
I gulped. I didn’t want to get into a vehicle with a stranger, that too with a hood! I hesitated.
“Are you coming? Or shall I just go?” The voice asked me impatiently. I thought of the past one hour that I had walked in the rain and literally, raced to the
jeep SUV and got in without so much of a glance at the driver. I couldn’t have cared less if he carried a knife, I was exhausted and drenched. I just needed to get out of the rain.
As I shrugged my jacket off, I noticed a big black dog in the back seat. I felt my throat go dry, Since childhood, I had had this inordinate fear of dogs and being in such close proximity with such a huge dog, wasn’t an ideal scenario for me.
“Thank you for stopping.” I said politely. I tried to see his face, but the hood covered most of his face.
“What were you doing so far off the road anyway?” he asked. He noticed the clattering of my teeth and shook his head. He rolled up the window and put on the a/c.
“Better?” he asked as he pulled off his hood.
I nodded, rubbing my arm gently, trying to get some warmth back into my body. I looked at him sneakily, trying not to make it obvious that I was looking at him.
He was older, maybe fifty or sixty. It was hard to tell. The large amount of grey in his hair gave him a distinguished look. His hands were rough and calloused, classic signs of a farm life.
“So, what were you doing back there?” he glanced at me suspiciously.
“I was looking for an address, and I got lost.” I pulled out a tissue from the Kleenex kept on the dash board and wiped my face.
“Silly girl,” He chided me, “Never step out into the mountains by yourself. You are new here, did you know you were headed towards the forest area?” He asked.
Shocked, I shook my head. Thank God, I had met this man when I had.
Suddenly the dog growled.. I almost jumped out of my skin. I retreated, away from the dog.
“C-c-can you k-keep that thing aw-way from me?” I stammered.
He laughed. “Who? Lyka? She’s a gentle one. Here, give me your hand.” He grabbed one of hand and placed it on the dog’s snout. I held my breath trying not to scream. Lyka, stood still, even whimpered a little. Emboldened by her response, I stroked her a little and was taken aback when her tail started wagging. This wasn’t so bad.
“See, she likes you..” He smiled kindly at me.
“Yeah, I think she does.” I smiled back and continued petting Lyka.
“Okay, we’re in the city. Where do you want to be dropped?” He asked suddenly.
Surprised, I looked around. I was already there, near my hotel.
“Right here, please.”
As I got off the
jeep SUV, I realized I didn’t even know his name.
“Thank you for the lift.” I said through the window that he had rolled down.
“My pleasure, be careful next time.” He said as he started his
jeep SUV again.
“I’m Ira by the way,” I introduced myself a little too late.
“Nice to meet you Ira, I’m Vishal Sood. I have this little cottage for tourists that I run. Come by sometime. Lyka will like that.”
As he drove away, I couldn’t help but get the feeling that I would be meeting him again. And soon.