Her father loaned her the car and the driver. Please, Papa, he's leaving for Delhi tomorrow. That part at least, was entirely fictional. He wants to take me to dinner.
There was no question of him picking her up on a bike. So he loaned them the car and driver.
The driver, at least, was privy to the fictions in the story, and even more privy to the facts.
The facts, in order of importance to him, were:
- She gave him money for bidis and he will likely have a spare cigarette. He smokes good ones.
- She never kept him waiting in the car for hours in the hot sun or in the dead of night like the other missy sahib.
- The sahib-baba she was going to meet was her first love.
- She'd promised him he wouldn't get into trouble with her Dad.
Off they drove, in the direction of the coffee shop where she'd told her Dad they'd be grabbing a bite. A sharp left turn just shy of the hotel, and they're outside the park instead. No street-lights here, just a leafy darkness and a watchman's bonfire.
A boy sits on the edge of the park wall, his backpack still on, his cigarette lighting a small golden halo around his lips every time he took a drag.
Helloji!, the driver says, as he opens the door to the boy.
The boy puts out the cigarette. Helllllo, saah'b, kaise ho? he says to the driver, and silently hands him the rest of the pack and two notes for chai and snacks at the stall three streets away. For that one as well, he says, nodding towards the park watchman.
That one is more than delighted to leave the park gates and the mosquitoes and walk with the driver to the chai stall.
The door is held open and the sahib gets in. Keys passed from driver to sahib. 'Just in case there are lafangas, sahib'. 'Of course, saah'b, here.'
Door shut, windows rolled up, lights off.
They smile and look at his watch.
30 minutes until her dad will ring the driver's mobile. He must not be forced to lie. In 30 minutes, he will say: 'Yes, yes, she went into the hotel with him they are eating in the cafe. Should I call you when they are finished, Saah'b?'
The watch is then taken off and chucked onto the floor with a giggle.
Both so thin, they can lie on the backseat and there is room to move.
Chaste as a pair of twins, lusty as spring, they know exactly what is and is not going to happen. This is not the time for surprises. He will kiss her neck. Spend long moments at the tendon that shows when she looks away. His hands will be in her hair, over her face, they'll grip her shoulders. They will kiss and kiss and kiss and kiss. Their bodies touching touching touching. Perhaps one of the straps of her vest will slip down her shoulder. Perhaps he will pull the other one away. Kissing so hard, so deep, so long, smiling all the while. Making delight. The windows steam up. There is never any conversation. Two minutes into saying hello they're kissing furiously. And they don't stop until they hear the drivers footsteps and then it feels like a physical tearing to stop. Her lipgloss has come right off, her cheeks are flushed, and his fringe is wet with perspiration. Their eyes are shining and whatever is coursing through them is coursing fast, fast, fast.
Once, they have a whole hour and they go up to his terrace and in the mock moonlight of a white streetlamp he gives her one, short searching look, and she nods. They're standing against a wall, and he's so close to her, she can fill his hip bones jamming painfully against hers. And before she's done smiling at him, the top comes away. There is so much heartbeat on that terrace, the building should topple over. Two school kids in their Levis, her bare back silvered by the streetlight, her ribs making stark shadows across her stomach when she leans up to hold his face. So cliche it could be on a hallmark ad. They stand like that, pressed against the wall, with startled, secret smiles. Together, they've set off a nuclear bomb on the terrace! And no one knows! They're in love, babe, and no one knows. He is looking at her breathing sharp, shocked breaths, in just jeans and chappals and a nose ring, and no one knows!!!
The whole world should be a chaos of noise and light, but it's silent and dark. The noise and light just in their eyes, their exploding lungs, his heartbeat so fast she can see it through his tee-shirt. Later, much later, she will think it must have been like a tsunami inside them both, blood cresting into their hearts, ripping the walls to shreds, heavy and furious and fast with love.
They should have been screaming in pain, or passed out, or had strokes, died.
But they just stood there, smiling, trying to stop love or whatever it was from physically exploding them to pieces. Just jeans and chappals and a nose ring!
There is nothing to say expect 'Babe, I love you.' And 'God, babe, I love you too.'
And what do they do, the chaste, lusty fools? They kiss and he pulls her tight tight tight against his chest and whispers it again. I love you, I love you.
20 minutes later they dare to pull away and he dares to touch her and she wants to cry or scream or faint. So she just kisses him some more. And then it's time to go downstairs again, time to see if the world has overturned because of what they just did.
It hasn't. She is still mildly surprised.
But this is as far as it will ever go. This is a time in their lives when fuck is still a filthy word to be avoided on pain of being grounded and therefore unable to kiss. Fuck is not yet even an act. 'Making love?' they sometimes wonder, without any clear understanding of what they mean. 'Aren't we doing that already?' 'You bet, babe,' he always replies, fingering her upper lip, pulling her head back with his other hand, kissing under her chin.
This simple act is enough to fulfill every madly urgent screaming desire she feels at 16. Because their kisses and fingertips contain every vestige of the love they will exchange.
But right now it's still months away from that time on the balcony. And now, the footsteps outside have crossed the park watchman and they roll down the windows to get rid of the steaminess and clasp hands on the backseat, pulses leaping out into the other's palm.
'Where are you going to eat tonight, Sahib? Baby?'
'Normal jaggah, ji,' replies sahib-baba.
Just as the car pulls into the hotel, both of them still are breathless and holding hands tightly on the backseat, and her Father rings. The driver smiles, one of the sahib's cigarettes hanging from his lips.
He takes a drag, winks into the rear view mirror, and just as they're crossing the hotel porch and swinging into the double doors, he answers: 'Yes, sahib, they're in the hotel. Should I ring you when they're done?'