I get into the auto-rickshaw and inform the driver of my destination. As we dash past the parked cars and other rickshaws, I hear a noise. It is a strange sound; like someone about to vomit, but has reigned in the impulse. Like a violent hiccup, hacked off before it reaches its anti-climatic end.
It frightens me because it’s coming from the driver.
“Are you okay?” I lean forward, concerned. He only shakes his head and begins counting to five on his fingers. I am not certain but he appears to be humming something.
That strange noise makes a reappearance, accompanied by a few jerky movements of the head, the kind you make to get rid of an annoying pest. Or perhaps the way you would fight off possession by a demon spirit.
“Make sure you fast for nine days in the name of the Goddess.” He says to the windshield and yet the words could only be directed at me. His voice is perfectly ordinary but the words send a chill through me.
“Okay.” I say.
I question his mental stability and debate whether to jump off the moving auto. Or perhaps simply disembark. My mind is filled with visions of him losing control of the vehicle at a critical moment resulting in us getting crushed under a bus. I need not have worried; he appears to be in complete control of his senses. But the noise continues, as does the humming.
I hum a little prayer myself, silently and fervently. I realize that I’m not praying for him to be rid of whatever is plaguing him. I pray that he overcomes that which ails him for the short span it takes for him to drop me off at my doorstep. What happens after that, I realize, I do not care.
Soon and yet not soon enough, we reach my destination and I hand him the appropriate fare. I get off and turn to look at the seat I just vacated, to assure myself that I have not left any of my belongings at his mercy. He says,
“Don’t forget what I said.” He is still does not look at me but talks to the windshield instead. “Okay? Do it. Or else, you’ll see.”
Or else. You’ll see.