The Highway Incident

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The incident happened when I chose to spend my days on a highway with my trusted motorcycle (I call her Benzi), than to turn the accumulated office paid leaves into stupid cash.

During the holidays, I was spending the good part of the week wandering on the roads in the deserted and hot plains of Rajasthan.

Rajasthan… the mystic land where everything is in scarcity but the calmness and vast flat terrain. This part of India is special as it is only here that you will be praying to see habitation among vast and lonely miles and can ‘hear’ the wind whispering a tale in your ears.

The old Arawalies are your companions here, boasting the ruins of old palaces and adding the charm of the unknown. In this part of India, you would not want to be on the roads post twilight, as the place shouts out loud that the night belongs to the unknown.

And there I was.  Wandering in the strange mystical plateau.

Being the seasoned urban character, I was skeptical about everything and everyone. And I mean everyone – be it man, woman, child, cattle, camel, mountain, flora, cactus, wind and even myself. I found that I was keeping company with this eerie feeling that something bad was on the horizon. And I never realized that the bad has already chosen the time and place for me…

Enough of the background, Mate!  It is time that I should type down the happenings of the day when the incident happened. Brace yourself!

It was a hot Winter day. You read it right! A hot winter day.
The sun was beating down and I was not able to believe that how this part of India could be so hot & dry in November. I wanted to reach my destination as soon as possible but the milestones were dampening my spirit as I was almost 300 kms away from my destination of the day.

I was riding Benzi for almost 3 hours, now. The heat has started to get the better part of me and I knew that it was time when I should take a break and get myself hydrated.

So, I stopped at the first ‘Dhaba’ (road side restaurant), I saw. My first impression of the place was that I shouldn’t be here but my body clearly told me that it was not in the mood to flex any more muscle.

The setting of the dhaba was straight out of a horror movie. The fact that there was nothing else on the road, the dhaba was a mere shed with few dark rooms, the creaking sound the fan was making… I started to pray to the good deity of mine to keep me out of trouble. As soon as I stepped inside that place, the whole idea of taking the holidays and going on a solo bike trip started to look like a bad choice.

There were no customers in that place. It was then that I remembered the old Indian highway saying- “The popularity of a road side dhaba is gazed from the number of vehicles parked outside  it”. I turned to see how many vehicles were parked outside the place I was stepping in… There were none

With no other choice, I sat down and asked the owner the dishes he had in his utensils.

He looked away and shouted.. Bhima! dekh babuji kya puch rahe hai (Bhima! look what he is asking for)

Bhima was a kid, maybe 10 years old, who was wearing a vest and pants and sprung to my table from nowhere.

Kya chahiye (What do you want)

Khane mein kya kya hai? Aur hath done hai. (What dishes you got here? Also, I need to wash my hands)

He pointed me towards a direction where there was a tap, beneath a mirror on a wall. I went in the direction and then realized that I need soap as my hands were dirty.

I went back and as I was searching the soap in the bag, I realized that the owner and his helper Bhima were looking keenly at my bag. To make sure that I catch them off foot, I approached them and asked what can they serve me. The owner realized that I am aware of the happenings. He told me the menu but was stammering as he was speaking. I ordered and quickly went to wash my hands as never wanted to leave my bag and bike out of sight.

As soon as the water touched my burning hands, everything melted. Suddenly, I was as happy as a pig in the ditch and was splashing water all over my face and head vigorously.

Dear water! It takes a dessert & a hot sun to make a man realize the true happiness of a water splash. We, the urban animals never appreciates the act of splashing water in the comfort of our houses.

SHIT! I was not supposed to leave my bag alone. Quickly, I washed my hands and went back.

The food was already served on the table and Bhima was standing next to my bag, smiling. He was smiling at me…

I went back to the table and asked him to bring some water to drink. When he was gone, I frisked my bag to see if everything was there. I already knew that even if few things were missing, I was not in the position to put up a fight or accuse them as I was there in their territory. On the quick look, nothing seemed to be missing from the bag.

But I was sure that my bag was touched in my absence. I was freaking out and ate the food as soon as possible. I already made up my mind to frisk the back again as soon as I am out of this place and will reach out to the nearest police station, if required.

The food was good! What I ordered was a local delicacy – Bhujiya ki sabji, which I ate in a jiffy because firstly, I was real hungry and secondly, I wanted to get out of the place as soon as possible.

In next ten minutes, I ate everything which was there on the plate, paid the owner for his food and was ready to move.

Benzi started in a flash and I pedaled down the gear! Before I could release the clutch and rev my bike, I heard that someone is shouting.. and the shout was heading in my direction.

It was Bhima who was running towards me panting, calling out my name and had something clenched in his right hand. I wanted to rev away but by then he was standing in front of me, blocking the way.

Kya Hua? Kyun chilla raha tha (What happened, why were you shouting)

Babuji, aap yeh Dhabe per hi bhool gaye they (You forgot this inside the Dhaba)

His hand released its grip and there was a tiny bar of soap which I used sometime back to wash my hands.

Bhima was smiling… He was smiling at me…

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