Tukaram was a study in contrast. He was sickly thin but had a booming voice. His legs were abnormally long but his body from the waist up was abnormally short. He was a driver but was a picture of sartorial elegance. He was thirty five years old, but had the face of a teenager. His words were coated with respect and sincerity but his gestures affronted people. He looked like a Bengali, but was actually a Marathi.
So Raunak Singh can’t really be blamed if he got conflicting vibes from Tukaram, the moment he met him.
Raunak Singh had a sense of deja vu. The setting was the same. The room was the same. The interviewer was the same. The purpose was the same. The apprehensions were the same. The responses were also almost the same. Only the person responding was different. Raunak tried his best not to let Sajjan’s experience bias his opinion of Tukaram.
“Do you know that Sandeep, my brother-in-law, recommended you?” Raunak asked Tukaram.
“Yes saab, I know.” Tukaram relied. “Sandeep saab is a very generous man. When he was in Nagpur, I used to drive the car of his landlord. Seth was always full of praise for Sandeep saab. So I also used to speak to Sandeep saab a lot.”
“He trusts you a lot. Says he has seen your driving and hasn’t seen anyone driving a car smoother.”
“I told you Sandeep saab is a very generous man.”
“Do you have criminal records anywhere?” Raunak couldn’t stop himself from asking. After what happened with Sajjan, he thought it best to clarify everything. Not that Tukaram would admit even if he had any criminal records anywhere. But his body language would give Raunak some idea.
“What saab!” Tukaram remonstrated, his voice filled with anguish, gesturing vigorously with his hands, as if he was about to deliver a spin ball. “Why are you asking me this? I am not any thief or murderer. Why would I have a criminal record saab! Go to my village in Sangli and ask any one about me. They will tell you how trustworthy I am. My seth in Nagpur sold his car otherwise I would never have come here for a job. I even have a recommendation letter from him. Here. Read this. If you don’t want to, don’t hire me. But don’t doubt my character.”
Raunak took the letter and opening it said in a conciliatory tone, “You should not be upset if you have not done anything wrong.” The letter said all the good things about Tukaram. “Does he have a family, this seth of yours?”
“No saab, he never married. He lives alone. You can speak to him also if you want.”
“No need.” Raunak said, waving his hand.
With two recommendations under his belt, Tukaram seemed like a man who could be trusted. Moreover, his brother-in-law himself had vouched for Tukaram. And not ready to earn the combined displeasure of his wife and brother-in-law.”Ok Tukaram.” Raunak said, finally, “You can start tomorrow.”
Thus the Singh household was back on track again. And the colony grapevine got a new topic to revel in. Word had spread that the new Mercedes driver was so good that Raunak and Lajjo went out together every evening. Tukaram drove the car like he was slicing butter with a knife. Soon he became the most respected driver in the colony and all the other drivers started taking tips from him. His gentle mannerisms ensured that there was no ill will in the driver community of the colony.
After experiencing the rash driving of Sajjan, Raunak was so impressed with Tukaram’s driving that he invited Sandeep to his house for dinner just to thank him for recommending the driver. And Lajjo was overjoyed that her brother had got the right driver for them.
If only she knew….
There’s no fun in telling a story where everything is in proper order and nobody has any problem with anybody. In the old Bollywood movies they used to flip through the pages of a calendar to indicate that lot of days passed by without any activity. Much as we want to do the same thing here, we can’t. And so we have to simply say that time flew very fast for the next few weeks.
In fact, it was almost after two months since Tukaram had started working, that Raunak Singh noticed something. One evening, sitting on the back seat along with Lajjo he noticed that Tukaram was staring at Lajjo through the rear view mirror. Raunak had caught Tukaram in the act and so he immediately diverted away his gaze. Raunak didn’t think too much about it and kept quiet.
But no. Raunak realized over the next few days that it was not a one off thing. Tukaram would peak a glance at Lajjo every now and then. The more carefully he noticed, the more he was convinced that Tukaram was eyeing his wife.
“I don’t like the way Tukaram looks at you.” Raunak told Lajjo one night.
“So you also noticed it.”
“Of course I would! Initially I thought it’s nothing but now I am not feeling very good about it.”
“About he oging at you like that.”
“I do feel uncomfortable sometimes,” Lajjo conceded. “But let’s not read too much into it.”
Alas, Lajjo was wrong! They should have paid heed to the signs. They really should have.
Why? Find out next week!