| | I had placed an order for a taxi from Vienna airport to the city, availing of a service the hotel was providing on fixed rates. Soon after leaving the restricted area of the airport behind, a human wall of all ages and genders stood awaiting face to face in the reception terminal to welcome relatives and friends. On the other side a line of formally dressed business personnel from travel agents and hotels stood in a row holding out the names of the arrives. (Now they display names on iPads!)
I recognized one short statured well dressed dark brown complexioned young man displaying my name printed in black block letters:KAPIL KAUL.
Treading into his direction I said hello Namste! Shaking hands, reciprocal answer followed gently.
India ke ho?, I asked.
No Sir I'm from Pakistan. Mera naam Sajid hai. He snatched the grip of one of our roll coffers as we proceeded the long corridors of Viennese airport to the taxi parking.
He hailed from a village in Punjab whose soil still smelt the love story of Heer-Ranjah, he proudly told me.
My namesake whom I didn't know, had come to his mind on receiving me. He switched on to relate about Kapil Sharma. I had no idea who he was. Sajid was watching his programs the other day. It seemed he was a fan. He couldn't believe I didn't know him!
It was a late fine afternoon as Sajid drove on the motor highway past the huge plant of Austrian mineral oil refinery - ÖMV.
Are you often on this route?, I asked.
Mostly, he said. I meet many Indians. Only a few days back a couple from Goa. People from India are nice, Sajid exclaimed.
Don't you see people from Pakistan? I asked
No I never had any Pakistani customer!
Sajid wanted to know something about me.
I'm from Kashmir. I have been living here for some years!
It was just before the middle of August. Sajid told me he was not fully satisfied with the job of taxi driver. He wanted to achieve more in his life. He was not satisfied with what was happening in Pakistan either. But for now, he told me, something was soon going to happen there. A big march was going to take place and then things may turn better. Just wait... "Dekho kya hoga!"
Next month or so he planned to return to his village for marriage.
Sajid made me an offer. Whenever I need a taxi in Vienna I should call him. It will be even cheaper than the price from today. He wrote his name and the mobile number on a chit that he carefully tore out from a corner of the paper on which my name was printed. I dumped it in one of the several pouches of my mobile rucksack.
It was evening time, the sun light still accompanied us as the taxi reached the hotel.* "Khuda hafiz" came straight away and abruptly from my lips as we shook hands and departed with a smile.
Last week in September I needed a taxi in the early morning hours to the Vienna airport. I recalled Sajid and started searching almost frantically in the rucksack pouches for the chit with his mobile number. I didn't find it. I looked into my calendar booklet where I frequently note down important titbits, numbers etc. As I turned the pages I found it. The chit had crept inside the booklet.
I rang Sajid.
The mail box replied. I left a voice message.
After a few hours,I hadn't received return call yet I resolved to use SMS.
"I call u in 15 mint" was exactly Sajid's reply SMS a few moments later.
Afterwards he called me. He was sorry for being unable to answer my call. Taking a computer course exam had kept him from doing so.
We fixed a time for early morning departure.
Late in the evening he called me again.
"Kya aap savere adha ganta pehle tayar ho skate ho, Mera na dusra customer company ka hai*. Isliye jaldi karna padega. Main aap ko savere 4 baje ring donga."(:)
Ok Sajid sahb, alright!
Early in the morning his call was in time. It was still dark. We drove through a city devoid of people, empty and serene. All along the highway to the airport as if only for us. The refinery lights were shimmering like an illumination for a festival far away. Sajid was busy learning for computer course. He was looking forward to work as a receptionist in a hotel. That would raise his status more than a taxi driver. He would get married. Bring his newly wed bride, who he told me had finished a computer science degree in Pakistan.
Here she will have to learn German first and then life will be good to them in Vienna than in Pakistan, Sajid believed!
("will it be possible for you to get ready early in the morning half an hour earlier? I have another customer from the company, I will have to hurry up. I will call you at 4 o'clock")
* Sajid is employed as a driver with a taxi company.
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