A Beautiful Grift

“All that glisters is not gold,

Often have you heard that told?

Many a man his life hath sold,

But my outside to behold,

Gilded tombs do worms enfold,

Had you been as wise as bold,

Young in limbs, in judgment old,

Your answer had not been inscrolled,

Fare you well, your suit is cold.”

– William Shakespeare, the Merchant of Venice

The weather was pleasant enough to make it a perfect Saturday evening. It was not raining, however, the wet soil smell could be felt flowing with the mild winds. As it was a weekend the business district seemed quite. Everyone was busy enjoying their weekend. However, I wasn’t lucky enough to enjoy mine. The project I was working on encountered some technical glitch so I had to be in office figuring out the errors. It was 7 in the evening when I left my office building and went to the bus stop. As it was a weekend there were less busses plying. While waiting at the bus stop I saw the weather turning violent. I noticed that the sky was gradually being covered by the gloomy clouds. And, to my fate the water began to sprinkle, wet and cold, on my skin. I ran to the bus stop for shelter. As I was wiping off the rain water from my face and hair with my handkerchief, I felt that I wasn’t alone over there.

I was standing near the left entry of the bus stop, so, I looked to my right to find the truth. Yes, I was correct. I was not alone with a bad fate. There was someone else in the same situation as me. I tried to look through the dim lights of the billboards placed inside the bus stop for advertisement. I saw a lady, probably my age, wearing a yellow Salwar was trying to close her glitched umbrella. I thought it was better to ignore her and continued to dry myself. After a while, I noticed that she had finally managed to close her umbrella and was trying to dry herself. The pitiless rain continued to flood the road. Apart from the pitter-patter sound of the rain, there was complete silence. As I was getting bored with the silence I heard a phone ringing, breaking the silence of the environment. It was her phone ringing. She answered the call. Not that I was eves dropping, but I could clearly overhear her conversation. However, I couldn’t figure out even a word as she was speaking in a language foreign to me. Looking at her expressions, I could figure out that she was trying to convince somebody over the phone that she was safe and was waiting for any kind of public transport. After a while she hung up the call and once again the silence took hold of the environment. I realized that it was better to talk to a stranger rather than die of this silence.

I asked her, “Where are you heading to?” She replied, “E city”.

And that was it. She didn’t continue the conversation. So, I was again forced to enjoy the silence of the evening. The lingering smell of the rain and uprooted grass made the environment duller. I think, she was also getting bored with it. She came and stood by my side silently staring the rain hitting the road. Finally she broke the silence and asked me about my destination. I replied to her, and in response she said that I could easily get an auto or cab to that location. I said that I was ready to go even if I got a ‘Tonga’ (which is almost extinct nowadays). At my response she broke out laughing and praised my sense of humor. I thanked her for the compliment and we continued to chit-chat for some more time. By now I was hungry and was craving for food. I reached my bag for a pack of biscuit which I always kept as a backup for situations like this one.

In a mocking sense she asked me, “Do you work part-time for a bakery or what?” I replied, “I store these things for emergency situations. Do you want to have some?”

She nodded her head in yes to which I offered her some biscuits. Both of us continued to enjoy the biscuits and the rain. I said to her that only a cup of tea is lacking to complete our beautiful supper and she said yes, giggling at my words. By now both of us were enjoying our ill-fate of working on weekends. Rain, snacks and a beautiful woman was enough to make my evening perfect. The environment was pleasing our minds but not our body, as we were working for the past six days and our body needed some rest now. I was longing to go back to my apartment, take a shower and have a sound sleep. I shared my thought with her and she said that she wanted the same, as she was also in the same situation as me.

Our conversation continued and she told me about her office and organization. I too shared my office details with her. As we continued to talk, I spotted a vehicle coming towards us. I couldn’t figure out its type. But, when it came to my visibility range, I figured it out to be an Auto. I almost screamed in excitement and she made fun of my excitement. She said that we could hire the same auto as my apartment was on her way home. She said that she will drop me and will continue to her destination. I agreed with her as it was the best possible solution available in that situation. We halted the auto. The driver pulled it to a side. We went near him and she asked him whether we can hire the auto and the places we had to go to. He agreed but demanded for extra100 bucks as it was raining and would be difficult for him to drive. Both of us were in a hurry to get back to our respective homes so we agreed to his demand and boarded the auto.

Usually, the right side of the seat of the vehicle is covered with some kind of polyvinyl material, so that no one can access that side to get on or down from the auto. It’s against the city traffic rule to board any public transport from right side. Our auto was also covered on the right side and as she got into the auto first had to sit on the right side. I got into the auto and sat by her side. As the left side of the auto wasn’t covered, I along with my bag, which carries my laptop and wallet was getting drenched. She noticed it and asked me for my bag so that she could place it safely on her side. I handed over my bag to her and tried to guard myself from the rain water that was seeping in. Our journey began with the auto making its way through the flooded road. Usually it takes 30 minutes to reach my place but, that day it was going to take almost an hour because of the roads. We started chit-chatting again, as neither of us had anything else to do. Amongst us, she was the one who was talked the most, as I wasn’t left with any energy to even talk. I was completely exhausted by that time and was waiting for my stop to arrive. But, I simply couldn’t ignore such a beautiful lady’s words. She said that she usually travelled by that route every day at the same time. I told her that even I travelled on the same route and at the same time.

She said, “Oh, that’s very nice!”

We had been travelling for approximately 40 minutes and I was about to reach my place. I asked the driver to halt the auto at the next traffic signal. After a while, I got down from the auto. The rain had stopped by then but the roads were almost flooded.

She handed over my bag and said, “See you on Monday.” I was about to open the zip of my bag to take out my wallet to pay the fare, but she stopped me and said that she will pay it. I protested and asked her why she should pay my fare. She replied,
“Leave it yaar. And the auto didn’t drop you to your doorstep. So, let me pay it now and on Monday you can pay it for me.”

I finally agreed with her and allowed her to pay the fare. Above all, I was very happy that she was interested to meet me again, on Monday. She bade me goodbye and asked the driver to carry on with the journey. Within a moment, the auto disappeared into the darkness of the night. I turned back to take the street to my home. I was still thinking about her. I was planning to continue this journey. I was completely lost in her thought. I thought of celebrating the moment with a smoke and went to a shop around the corner of my street. I asked him for a Navy-Cut, the brand of cigarette I prefer, and took the bag off from my shoulder to remove my wallet from it. I felt something strange. My bag contained a Two and a half kilograms laptop along with some documents and my wallet. But, I found it to be unusually light. I thought that it was the happiness and joy that was making me feel the world a little lighter. I opened my bag and almost fainted. My laptop was missing along with my wallet. I searched for it in each and every compartment of my bag. But, how could a 14 inch laptop disappear like this? And my wallet was also not there. I was searching my bag thoroughly. The shopkeeper was watching my actions and reactions the whole time. He asked me what I was looking for. I told him that my laptop and wallet were missing. Someone robbed me. But, when did this happen? He asked me whether it was possible that someone might have picked it up while I was in the bus.

I said, “No, I came by an auto.”

He asked me that whether I was accompanied by a lady who insisted on paying the auto fare while getting off the auto. I was surprised that how did he knew about it. I informed him that that was exactly what happened with me and narrated the incident to him. He said that I was robbed by a gang. He also told me that they have used similar tricks to rob many others, and many people of our locality had also fallen prey to it. I was completely shocked and disheartened. I just couldn’t get myself to be believe how such a pretty lady could be a con? And, how could I be so stupid to get mesmerized by her beauty and lose everything? I should have remembered that sometimes “Beauty is only skin deep.”

© Pinaki Dasgupta

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