Chapter Fifteen - Rohan

He could not hide his disappointment when she walked away instead of waiting for him. He thought they were finally on good terms. It definitely seemed so. After a long time, the girl-next-door had finally acknowledged his presence positively. She was a mystery for him. He had recently started living in the room at the chawl and was a shadow himself. But, when he had seen her for the first time, he had wished to know more about her. She was practically invisible most of the times and whenever he did see her, she always had her eyes pinned to the ground as if looking anywhere but at the ground would result in an accident. The accident not being tripping over a stone, but an accident much more serious than that! It seemed as if she was incapable of eye contact. Rohan did not even know her name until recently. Rohan had liked it when she waited for him after climbing out of the cab and they had started walking together towards the stairs. He had merely stopped to say hello to a friend of his when she had walked away. 

Back in his room, Rohan changed into a fresh set of uniform and was about to leave again but decided against it. He sat down on the bed and thought back to the day when they had seen eye-to-eye for the first time. 

He could not take his eyes off her when he had seen her a few days ago, fresh out from bath. Like always, she avoided eye contact with everyone. He noticed her looking at him, as he stood bare-chested with brush in his mouth. He had turned towards her and smiled, she averted his gaze as usual. Later, as she had walked out of her room she had looked straight at him; a look of disgust in her eyes. She found him disgusting. He could not figure out why. He was deeply hurt. He wanted to start a conversation but she had shut him down with that look.
He was good with reading faces hence when she had finally looked at him, Rohan had read her face. There was fear in her eyes. Seeing that fear being replaced by disgust and that disgust being directed towards him was too much for his ego to bear.
Rohan was not the kind of man to be affected by what others thought of him. He had not spent too many days in this city but whatever experience he had of the city, he preferred to be left alone. That was one of the reasons he understood why the girl was not friendly with anyone. Not being friendly and being unfriendly and rude were two different things and even though he pretended not to care, he did. He cared very much about what the girl thought of him and his ego was shattered once again when they had met the next time. He was on duty, driving his cab. Too tired because of constant driving in traffic and the pollution, he had stopped to refresh himself with a cup of tea. That’s when he had seen her; standing under a tree, few steps away from the tea-stall. She looked away, ignoring his presence but he could not take his eyes off her. He could notice her body getting tensed. She knew he was watching her. All of a sudden, he felt sorry for her. That moment she seemed very vulnerable. He wanted to protect her from whatever it was that she feared. He wanted to walk up to her and tell her that she need not feel scared, not of him, not of anyone else. She finished her tea and walked towards the tea-stall to hand over the glass to the kid, he moved towards her to start a conversation and she fled. He felt humiliated. He looked around to see if anyone had noticed. Unfortunately a few people had. A woman was looking at him with suspicion and two men were laughing at him. He finished his tea and rushed back to his cab.
He got into the cab and drove away. He spotted her, walking away hurriedly. He drove slowly, as he continued staring at her; his mind filled with questions. He wanted to stop the cab, get down and walk towards her, shake her shoulders and force an answer from her –
What the hell he had done to deserve that kind of treatment from her?
He finally decided against it. What if the girl made a scene? His injured ego could not take any more humiliation. He stepped on the gas and drove away.
As fate would have it; he saw her again at a red signal. She was still walking. He checked his wrist watch and decided to give her the lift. It was too late and he knew by this time that she did not intend to catch a bus, she was looking for a rickshaw and from what he knew about the rickshaw-men in this area, no one would stop for her or drive her to the chawl.
He finally drove close to her hoping that she would take the hint and get in the cab but the adamant woman had continued walking. He was angry. He honked, she continued walking, he honked again, and still the girl did not look at him. He knew she was ignoring him on purpose. He called out, asking her to get in and she straight-out refused. Preferring to walk rather than get in his cab. He drove away.
Despite being ignored and humiliated by the girl, Rohan could not leave her alone and just drive away. He knew she would continue walking on the same route; at least till the bus-stop. He parked his cab at a distance. He decided to wait and watch. If she got into the bus, well and fine or else he would offer to give her the lift once again, being slightly rude than necessary to make her get in.
He saw her, walking towards the bus stop just as he had expected. She looked tired. His anger evaporated the moment he saw her. He did not know why he cared about that girl, the one who had not spared a chance to humiliate him. He did not want to admit but he knew the answer in his heart.
She looked towards him and their eyes met. He opened the door for her without saying a word and she got in the cab without uttering a word.
After covering some distance when Rohan looked at her through the rear-view mirror he realized that she was fast asleep. It was raining heavily when they reached the chawl. He did not wake her up; instead he rushed towards his room to get an umbrella. When he was back, he saw that she was awake. He handed her the umbrella, which she took without looking at him and started walking. The arrogance from earlier was missing in her demeanour now. They walked together towards their room.
He was surprised when the girl knocked at the door of his room to pay the fare to bring her home. He had not intended to take money from her but he did not refuse when she handed him the money. If she wanted it that way, so be it.
Rohan was too tired to go out on duty again but he knew he had to. Coming from a small town, he had taken his time to adjust to the city and its speed. He had spent days sleeping at railway stations, on the street, in parks, on benches, constantly being shooed away by police in patrol cars. He had spent days with an empty stomach, almost reaching the stage of begging or borrowing when his luck had finally changed. It had not changed drastically but enough for him to survive in this city. He had saved a man from a pick-pocketer, returning his wallet full of cash to the man. The man who offered him a job, later on. The man, himself, was a con-man and needed a partner. Rohan refused. He had then found him another job, a decent one. It was because of him that Rohan drove a cab and earned his bread; it was this man’s room in which Rohan stayed. It was a temporary arrangement, he always convinced himself. There were a few adjustments Rohan had to make, adjustments he was not happy with but could not voice his objection, lest he be thrown out of the room without a notice. He was an illegal, anyways. 

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