Sanskar Maheshwari cursed aloud. The engine had died on him and despite several attempts his
gleaming black Ferrari would not start. Had it been any other day, he would have called
ROADRESCUE, the city’s road assistance service and waited until one of their servicemen
arrived. Unfortunately he had a very important meeting that morning, one he could not afford to
miss nor was it possible to postpone it. His firm, Maheshwari Industrieswas negotiating a multi-million
dollar deal with an American company and the directors were going to be in Sydney for that
morning to finalise the details. Time was crucial, as they were leaving for the airport straight
after the meeting for their onward flight. Sanskar had no alternative. He simply had to reach on
time. Having safely maneuvered the car out of the lane and after parking it by the kerbside he
looked around and sighted his first option. There were quite a few people already standing at the
bus stop. Not having caught a bus for years, he had absolutely no idea about the routes, numbers
or timetable. He decided it would be simpler and quicker to catch a taxi.
A good five minutes later, he was still standing by the road, trying to hail down a cab. If only he
had his mobile with him, he thought. This had to be the worst day of his life. It started when he
burnt his breakfast, then he could not find his mobile, his car broke down on him and now he
could not even get transport.
Deciding it would be better to go and make inquiries about the bus service, he made an attempt
to walk over to the waiting commuters at the bus stop. Just then he noticed a car slow down and
stop by the kerbside. A tiny white mini Morris had come to a halt just in front of him. He saw
long slim fingers move from the steering wheel to the passenger door. Then he spotted a brown
ponytail fall over the shoulder. That telltale sign gave away the identity of the driver.
Swara had seen him standing by the roadside as soon as she turned into the main street. Driving
downhill, Sanskar’s six feet plus frame would have been hard to miss for anyone. Her immediate
reaction had been to drive past. Firstly she did not think that he would have recognised her car,
and secondly it did look like he was waiting for someone. But then she spotted his Ferrari and
saw him look at the watch several times in a space of a few seconds. It was obvious that there
was a problem with the car. She had promised herself never to let another man invade her
territory. Her car, her home and even her heart, fell within that domain. Her life was
uncomplicated and safe. It was the way she wanted it to be. The way, she had worked towards
making it.
Despite her overly cautious nature, she found herself slowing down and before she realised what
she had done, her car had stopped and she had opened the front passenger door.
“Would you like a li.lift” – she asked trying not to stutter. The stutter was an unavoidable habit
now. Oddly, when she was at work and more especially when she was discussing her work, she
spoke clearly and without hesitations. But the moment she was out of those perimeters, it
returned like a faithful companion. She had earned a reputation for being ‘the tongue tied, shy
little thing’. Everyone thought that it was her stutter that made her shy. It had definitely
contributed to it but her shyness was her safety net from the world, and she clung to it with fierce
Sanskar looked at the car. How would he fit into ‘that thing’? He had often enough said, ‘if you
want to drive a mini, you might as well ride a bike’. He glanced at his watch again, ten minutes
was all he had. There was no time to ponder or waste.
“Yes thanks. That is if I can get in.” he gave a worried reply.
A faint smile appeared. So briefly that even he did not see it. Then she pushed the seat as far
back as it would go.
After several twists and turns, Sanskar did manage to get in however his head touched the roof, his
legs lay crossed, his left arm hung dangerously out of the window while the right one was thrown
awkwardly towards the back seat. All set, they were about to drive off when they heard the
sound of laughter from the bus stop. Everyone had stopped to enjoy the scene and found his
efforts most amusing. Much to Sanskar’s annoyance he heard Swara giggle too. He himself could
not find anything funny about his situation. But he did like the sound of her giggle. At least that
was one thing she had going for her.
‘What else can go wrong?’ he thought as she eased the car forward. Looking at his watch again
he noticed that he had just eight minutes left. He knew that they were only five minutes away
from work but it was peak hour and it was the traffic that worried him.
“What t..ti–me do you ha..ve to be there?” Swara asked
“I have a meeting in eight minutes. Do you have a mobile phone that I can use? If I can speak to
my secretary, she can at least let them know that I am on my way.”
“No, I don’t carry a mobile but don’t worry I will g…g..et you there in five.” Swara had not taken
her eyes of the road and now moved towards the outer lane. A minute later she had turned into a
by-lane. Within seconds she was swiftly maneuvering the car through the narrow lanes and one
As much as he tried, Sanskar just could not get comfortable. He neck felt strained and he was sure
his clothes were a mess too. He was glad he kept a spare set of clothes at work. If he looked
untidy when he got out at least he could change his suit. Of course that meant wasting another
minute and time was his greatest enemy today.
Swara had not spoken a word since she turned into the side lane. Sanskar now turned his attention
to the woman sitting next to him. In five seconds he took in as much as he could. She was
dressed in a grey skirt, white blouse and a matching grey jacket. As usual, she had absolutely no
make-up and her brown hair was pulled harshly back into a ponytail. Her eyes were shielded by
her trademark dark glasses. She had dark leggings that went down and disappeared into flat grey
shoes, the kind his mother often wore and called her ‘common-sense footwear’. Despite her slim
hands and legs, she had a rounded torso. He recalled someone once refer to her as ‘the little
rotund mouse’. He had quickly put a stop to those comments however he had to admit that so far
he hadn’t seen anything people would call attractive. And the poor girl had the stutter to deal
with as well. On top of it all her hideous black glasses made her look stern, almost cold. The only
thing she had going for her apart from her brilliant work, was that giggle. A giggle that made her
almost human.
Suddenly for some reason, the thought of this very plain girl saddened him. His association with
the rich and beautiful had taught him one thing – many doors open for those with wealth, power
or beauty. Those who lack these, have to totally rely on hard work. And Swara poor girl had so
many more handicaps to deal with than the average person. The reflection on her unfortunate life
stirred something in him. He told himself that after his brother’s death he had become a
champion of the disadvantaged. He convinced himself that it was the reason for his interest in
someone like Swara.
The car had come to a halt in front of entrance to Mallaby Towers. Heads had begun to turn as
people recognised the occupant in the front seat.
“Blast, what a way to arrive. I am never going to live this down.” No sooner had he said the
words that Sanskar realised the mistake he had made. He was referring to his crumpled outfit and
the uncomfortable position in the Mini, but one look at her tightened lips, made it clear that she
had misunderstood his meaning. He was not ashamed at being seen with her. Swara had done him
a favor and he knew his comment was unwarranted.
He squeezed himself out of the car, straightened up and had a quick stretch. He then bent down
to apologise and thank her, but before he could say a word, she had simply sped off. He stood
there a second, too stunned to move. ‘Blast, she definitely was a strange one. And here I was
feeling sorry for her’ he thought. He was about to turn towards the building when he noticed that
she had braked. Then she put the car in reverse. Another second and she was back at the spot she
was earlier. The window got wound down and a folder was pushed out. As he took it from her
hand for the first time, he noticed the ring. The diamond solitaire held back by the wedding band.
And then she was gone again.
‘Well, well, well, so she was married’. For a split second the knowledge had a sobering effect
and then he told himself that he was glad for her. He had always thought of her as a recluse but
marriage meant she had a family who loved her. Then pulling himself out of his reverie he
rushed into the building.
“Gentlemen, my apologies…” with that Sanskar Maheshwari entered the boardroom and back to the world he was familiar with.

Credit to: JANPA