When he got the job he was elated. He sent a telegram to his village, ‘Got job. Young couple with child. Will send money next month’.
Joseph woke up early to get dressed the next day. Crisp white shirt and white pants. He hated it. On his first day as a driver, he certainly looked like one. He thought of how as a teenager, he dreamt of being a pilot. His reflection reminded him of how far away he stood from it.
His first day went smoothly. He made his way to the house to hand over the keys that evening and was greeted by Tutu. A young, short, wiry kid with twinkling eyes. He wondered how she managed to reach the doorknob. He handed her the keys and asked her to give them to her father.
Over the years, Joseph took a great liking to the girl. They would hardly ever talk, but he felt like he knew her. He was a part of her day in ways she would never know.
He had driven her to hospitals, school, parks, restaurants, movies, malls and tuitions. Speeding down the lane on Wednesday evenings when she was late for dance class. Humouring her when she’d point at a car and say ‘Race that one!’ Recognising all of her friends’ houses by their names. Driving back home from parent-teacher meetings, as she cried, argued and justified her math marks to her mother in the back seat. Driving her to her dance performances, dressed in silk bharatnatyam costumes, eyes drawn, bangles clinking and the smell of fresh jasmine in her hair.
With every passing year, she needed him less. She started taking the van to school. She stopped going for dance class and would take rickshaws to tuition. On her eighteenth birthday, she enrolled herself in driving school. Every once in a while he’d drive her to run short errands. The stationery shop, parlour, tailor. He would drop her off in the basement. “Thanks Jo Cheta” she’d say, absentmindedly shutting the door behind her. He’d respond with his customary “welcome, Krshna”. Neither noticed when he had stopped calling her Tutu.
“It might get a little late tonight, Joseph. We are going out for dinner”, Sir told him that afternoon. When the three of them got into the car, Madam said, beaming. “You know Joseph, Tutu has been accepted to attend a university in Singapore.”
“Congratulations!” He said as he started the car. “When do you leave?”
Shopping, packing, relative visits, temples, visas and paperwork. One month flew. That evening he drove her to the airport. She stayed glued to her phone, drowned in messages and phonecalls. When they reached, Sir went to find a trolley while Joseph unloaded the luggage. “Thank you Jo Cheta, Ill see you in December”, she said.
“All the best, Krshna”, he nodded. “Maybe if things had been different, I’d have driven you to Singapore instead of the airport”. They both smiled. He watched her disappear into the crowded airport.
That night he went for a long walk in the park, wondering where the years had disappeared. He lay awake on the grass for hours gazing at the stars and airplanes twinkling in the sky.