This is an excerpt from my novel "Riding with Kismet".
Priya did not have anyone to go with her to the party. Somehow, she had not feel like asking anyone at the office to come along with her. She had earlier in the day resigned herself to the circumstances. It was all to do with her destiny, she thought.. Tonight she was meant to go on her own and somehow she didn’t care.
She phoned a several taxi companies, and at last, found one that had a cab available. When she heard that the taxi was called Kismet she paused for a while as a thought crossed her mind and then said “Ok, pick me up at seven.”
Later, Priya look out of her front door, just in time to see the taxi in stop front of her place. She looked at her watch.
“Wow, he’s on time to the minute. That’s a good beginning to the evening “.
He 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, more than that. Very handsome, well built and in a smart dark grey suit. She had never seen a taxi driver look so poised and with such a well groomed voice.
She looked once more at the taxi. It was orange. No, more than that. It was a radiant orange.
“This is all so weird” she said to herself.
Eventually, she pulled herself together and spoke.
"Ah, you're on time. Thank you for that, driver."
He held out one hand towards her and the other towards the rear door of the taxi.
"No, it’s I that should thank you. We are happy to serve you. Madam, your car awaits."
He opened the rear door, with a little flourish. After making sure that she was comfortable, he walked around, climbed into the driver's seat and then turned to look at her.
"Where to, Madam?"
To her annoyance, she found herself answering somewhat hesitatingly. She did not know why but she had suddenly become a little unsure of herself. She usually felt fully at ease in public but now, for a reason that she didn’t understand, she seemed to be a little nervous.
Thankfully, however, he had somehow immediately understood her mumbled directions.
As they travelled along the North Coast road, on the way to La Lucia, an upmarket suburb in Durban North, she slowly began to relax. As she sat back in the comfortable seat, a kind of dreaminess overcame her and 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 hanging in mid-air like that."
As he spoke, she could not help noticing that he spoke with real feeling and perfect modulation.
"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. She felt that 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 so-called Kismet, sitting in front, a taxi driver or what? Whatever was going on, she had never felt such a strange undercurrent of excitement before and she had to do 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 just happened to be the poem that I selected to recite."
He remained silent for a while before he spoke.
"Madam. May I introduce myself, My name is Kismet. May I congratulate you on choosing a most remarkable poem."
"Who 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 you let me be your escort tonight?"
"What? What are you saying? Are you out of your mind? Excuse me. Are you saying that you, a taxi driver, want to go with me into that big house, with all that 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. Let me assure you that I'll be on my best behaviour."
"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 appeared to weigh the options, Then finally she shrugged her shoulders in a philosophical kind of way.
"Mmm...well, why not? I'm so tired of going to these functions alone. Ok, Kismet, you're on.
Just promise me that if things get out of hand and you become embarrassed, you'll leave immediately without making a fuss, when I ask you. And that you'll then take me home without any argument. Is that understood?"
"Fully understood, Madam."
"Well, okay then. Let's do it. Now please 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."
This episode is continued in “The Tango” which will appear tomorrow.