Priya had come home to her apartment that afternoon at about five-thirty feeling very happy. While pouring herself a mango juice, she suddenly remembered an invitation to a party that evening.
She was about twenty two. Her long raven hair fell down to shoulder height and the mirror reflected her large dark green eyes. As far as looks were concerend she was more Kajol than Aishwarya.
Deep in thought, she walked over to her bedroom mirror.
"Look at my hair, my cheeks and my eyes. My figure's good … but still I haven't met the one man that I can relate to."
She sat down on the small cushioned seat and spoke again to the mirror.
"No, that's not true. I've had plenty of propositions. All that "what gorgeous eyes you've got" sort of' thing. Tra la la. Guys with only one thing on their mind. Never a real man. Never that real man."
"Oh damn. This is all just self-pity. What the hell, I'll go to this party tonight on my own. I've done it before. Why not do so again?"
She on her bed side table and with a show of determination picked up the phone and spoke for a while.
"Are you telling me that there are no taxis available at that time tonight? Such a damn busy evening? What about a half hour earlier or later?"
"Okay, so you can't help me. Do you perhaps know of someone else whom I could phone?"
"Kismet Taxis? Kismet? Ha! Why not? Maybe that's just what I need. Can you give me their number? Thank you so much."
She dialled the Kismet number and was surprised by the cultured voice on the other end of the line. For a moment she thought that she must have made a mistake. Dialled a wrong digit somewhere?
"Oh, I'm sorry. Have I dialled the wrong number? What name did you say that was?
"Oh, so it is Kismet? OK Kismet, can you pick me up at seven-fifteen tonight?"
She gave her address and then gently put the phone down. For a while she wondered about the voice that she had just heard. Then she shook her head and went on with her preparations.
Later that evening, Kismet arrived exactly on time and stopped his taxi in front of her place where she was already waiting. He opened the car door, nimbly climbed out and walked up to her and introduced himself.
"Miss Patel. I'm Kismet. At your service, madam."
She stared at him, then at the vehicle and then back again at him. He was really quite handsome. Ok, very handsome and also well built. There he stood. Very smart in a well fitting suit. She had never seen a taxi driver dressed as smart as this before and with such a well groomed voice as well. Then she looked once more at the taxi. It was orange but more than that. It glowed liked the setting sun.
Eventually she pulled herself together and spoke.
"Ah you're on time. Thank you for that, driver."
He held out one hand towards her while he gestured towards the rear door of the taxi with his other hand.
"Thank you Madam. Your car awaits."
As he spoke, he opened the rear door with a little flourish. After making sure that she was comfortable, he walked around and resumed his driver's seat. Then he turned to look at her.
"Where to, Madam?"
To her annoyance, she found herself answering somewhat hesitatingly. She did not know why but she suddenly become a little unsure of herself. She had always felt quite at ease in public before but now here she was, suddenly feeling very uncertain of herself.
Thankfully, however, he had immediately understood her mumbled directions.
As they traveled along the North Coast road, on the way to La Lucia, an upmarket suburb in Durban North, she felt herself slowly beginning to relax. As she sat back in the comfortable seat, a kind of dreaminess overcame her. She remembered a poem that she had once learned by heart. Absentmindedly, she began to recite the words aloud.
"Therefore thou wakest me wisely.
Yet my dream thou breakest not,
But continued it."
Wait! What was that? Had he spoken? Yes, that had been him speaking. Her eyes opened wide as if she was trying to recall the words that he had just been said.
"John Donne, madam."
"What do you know about him, driver?"
"A great poet Madam. Let me finish the verse for you. It's too beautiful to leave it hanging like that in mid-air."
As he spoke, she could not help noticing that he spoke with real feeling and commendable intonation.
"For art so truth, that thoughts of thee suffice,
To make dream truths and fables histories.
Enter these arms, for since thou thought it best,
Not to dream all my dreams,
Let's act the rest."
Priya flopped back in her seat in wonder. She looked stunned. Usually of a rather shy nature, she felt that at that moment, she was being drawn into a whirlpool.
"Driver, what are you trying to say?"
Kismet gave a little laugh.
"Madam, the poem suggests that we act out a dream."
She remained quiet for a long time. Was that Kismet sitting in front a taxi driver or what? Whatever, she had never felt such a strange undercurrent of excitement before. She did her best to remain calm and polite.
"You must understand, driver, that I was merely rehearsing this poem. I'm a member of a poetry circle and this is the poem that I've selected to recite."
He remained silent for a while before he spoke.
"Madam. My name is Kismet. May I congratulate you. You've indeed chosen a most remarkable poem."
"Who are the hell are you, Kismet? You know poetry. Your manners are good. I can't make you out."
"I have an idea, madam. Just an idea. You can say no, of course. It's all up to you. Let me put it like this. You're alone this evening. You've obviously been invited to a party. You're all dressed up. Why don't I be your escort at the party?"
"What? Excuse me. You want to go with me into that big house with all those high society crème de la crème?"
"I'll be able to handle them quite well, Madam. I'm not afraid of high society at all. Been there done that, you know."
"Wait. I can't believe that I'm listening to you. How do I know that you won't let me down? Have you ever been in the company of the so-called upper crust?"
"Don't worry about a thing, Madam. I'll be on my best behaviour, I assure you."
"I don't understand all this. It's all so strange. Are you some kind of male escort?"
"No, madam, I'm not. Anyway there'll be no charge."
She became silent for a while as if she was weighing the options, Then she shrugged her shoulders in a philosophical kind of way.
"Mmm…. Well, why not? You know that I'm so tired of coming here alone. OK Kismet, you're on."
Just promise me that if things get out of hand and you become embarrassed, you'll leave with me immediately when I ask you. And that you'll then take me home without any argument. Is that understood?"
"It's fully understood, Madam."
"Well, okay then. Let's do it. Will you please just take off your cap before we go in. Try and look like a gentleman. Anyway just do your best please, won't you? And my name is Priya, by the way."