Every morning a frigid man with little powder white hair is waiting for me keeping a sharp eye on his old but strong and sturdy Nokia feature phone. A punctual man in Khadi coloured uniform, who probably has one eye on the road from where I come walking and the other on his phone to keep track of time. He is the driver of my office bus and I call him ‘Khan Uncle’. Every day he will wait for me exactly till 7:51 am not a second less nor a second more. The moment its 7:52 am he thrusts the gear and presses the accelerator, and it’s me running and scampering to make it to the bus.
A generally quiet person who would say nothing during the journey except for the occasional taunt ‘Sabke liye wait karega toh bus kal pahuchega’ (If we keep waiting for everyone then the bus will reach office tomorrow) on 6th July 2016 however, he made a gentle request to us all, “Kal sab please 5 min jaldi aana” (Please come 5 mins early tomorrow). Perplexed by his statement we asked him the reason for the same. He answered in a humble yet hesitant tone, “Kal Eid hai, mujhe 8:30 baje Namaz ke liye jaana hai.” (It’s Eid tomorrow and I want to attend the Namaz at 8:30 am).
The culture that we have in our organization and the family that we are, without wasting a single moment, everyone in the bus agreed to honour his request and decided to come a little early. I don’t know how but surprisingly even I managed to make it to bus stop early. Delighted by my little feat I boarded the bus and whole heartedly wished Khan Uncle, ‘Eid Mubarak’. Until this point it was just an ordinary day for me wherein the only thing different was that I had just managed to reach my bus stop a little early. But when I boarded the bus I felt a different aura and knew in an instant that it was a special day. I observed that Khan uncle was wearing a blue pathani outfit unlike his usual khadi coloured uniform and had a special exuberance in his movement. I slowly went back to my usual window seat at the very end of the bus. I just felt a different energy and for the first time I observed the rear view mirror inside the bus and realised that I could clearly see Khan Uncle in it. I realised that from my seat the only thing I could see in the rear view mirror was Khan Uncle. I could clearly see his expressions, his movement and his anxiety, anxiety to reach in time for his Namaz.
In no time I got engrossed in this little adventure. I called it an adventure because despite of the fact that everyone had agreed to reach their respective bus stops little early, it was still quite an ambitious plan to achieve. He had mentioned that we needed to reach office by at least 8:20 am that is 10 mins before our usual time in order for him to make it for Namaz in time. A lot many things had to fall in place perfectly for this little plan to succeed. First and foremost, everyone had to reach their respective bus stops on time. Period! Secondly, the traffic needed to co-operate and provide a smooth and quick passage for our bus. Finally, no unforeseen incident should hinder our path. For example, due to heavy rains, a collapsed tree right in the middle of our road would have been a disaster. This seemed to be a far realistic scenario than you might think owing to the extremely high amount of rainfall we have been receiving for the past couple of days and anyone who has lived in Mumbai for long time would know this is quite a usual case in monsoon. So as you see we were on a quite a different and adventurous journey.
The best thing about Khan uncle’s driving is his slow and steady approach. However, today he knew that he needed something special. Not to say that he was driving rash but there was certainly more zest and speed today. I could feel the extra pace and bumps on the speed breaker. The generally passive uncle Khan who was happy to let any other bus or truck driver to overtake him, was completely active and determined today filled with ‘ME First’ attitude. A couple of our bus members who were to board after my stop were also before time and we were cruising along nicely. Until suddenly both me and Khan uncle realised something, I guess almost simultaneously. We both realised that Sayali, the girl who was supposed to board the bus at the next stop was on leave yesterday and she was not aware of our little plan. We reached the bus stop and as feared she was not there. Suddenly the roaring engine went silent and Khan uncle with obvious disappointment in his tone said that she would not have known and hesitantly asked us to call her and check if she is coming. Even before he made the request I had already dialled her number but unfortunately she was out of coverage area. I broke this dreaded news to Khan uncle and waited eagerly for his response on this.
It was tricky situation and a difficult decision to make, should we wait or should we go? What would you do? Would you wait for a girl who was on leave yesterday and there was high chance that she won’t be coming today? Would you jeopardize your plan waiting for someone who might not turn up? The mood that Khan uncle was in and his level of excitement made me think that he would jump on the throttle and we would be on our way. Frankly speaking I wanted him to do that since it was a risk worth taking. It was just the matter of one day and she could have easily come to office using some other means of transport. Even if she would have turned up he could have apologized to her the next day and be done with it. But this is where the strength of character of Khan uncle comes into play. He did the unthinkable, he said, “We will wait till our regular time.” Righteousness triumphed over personal desire. The respect I had for Khan uncle doubled within a moment he took the decision. He decided to do what was right sacrificing his desire. Waiting for her meant that all the lead that we had achieved will be lost and we won’t be able to make it in time.
But how could Allah let his child be disappointed and that too on Eid? Just when all hopes were lost a shadow walked out of the trees besides the road. There she was! Sayali was walking slowing towards our bus. I don’t know if you believe in miracles or not. I don’t know if you would call this a miracle or not but for me and Khan uncle it was nothing short of a miracle. It was almost as if Allah was testing Khan uncle. The moment he made the right choice, Allah smiled from above and opened the path for him. Delighted to see her boarding the bus Khan uncle jumped on the throttle with full excitement. Believe it or not after that one moment of truth, all the remaining bus members were waiting at their respective bus stops well before time and we did not catch a single red light till the end of our journey. For the very first time we reached our office 15 mins before our usual time. While getting down from the bus I looked at Khan uncle he smiled at me happy. We both knew he had successfully pulled of his little plan and that satisfaction was evident on this face. I smiled back at him and once again wished him, “Eid Mubarak”.