Guldasta Part 1:
On a crisp afternoon in Navsari, Rajesh had a ticklish problem. An urgent business call from Mumbai required him to hit the highway and make a road trip from Navsari to Mumbai. He hated the idea of his brand new Skoda being handled by anyone else, but a nagging backache won over his customary aversion. He decided to hire a driver.
All of his preferred drivers were unavailable. Lately, all the drivers in and around Navsari had been content sitting on a gold mine of NRIs visiting once a year. The rest of the year they frittered away their time twiddling their thumbs, chewing tobacco and chitchatting.
Frustrated and subdued, Rajesh decided to call Jignesh at his native village Vartej.
Vartej, a modern village on the banks of the river Ambica, boasts of a legion of entrepreneurs who had made it good. Scores of young, intelligent boys had worked their way up and acquired enviable qualifications from reputed Institutions like M. S. University and the likes, and then they were off, inevitably, to the “States”. Rajesh Mehta was one such budding entrepreneur. Of course, the older generation who opted to remain rooted in the village had no complaints. The fertile land yielded a bountiful produce of mangoes and chikoos.
Burning with a patriotic surge, Rajesh decided not to stay back in the US and return toed India to build his career.
Jignesh, on getting a frantic call from his best buddy Rajesh, bellowed on his mobile phone, using all the locally preferred vocabulary at his command.
“Where the hell have you been, soh?
“Listen Jigaa, you can go ballistic on me later, but right now I need some help.”
“Why would you think this blessed Jigaa is free to help you out whenever you feel the urge, you b*d? You didn’t even care to attend my sister’s wedding last month.”
“Just listen to me Jigaa, I have a serious problem…”
“It is always a serious matter with you. Have you finished off someone? Or has Bhabhi asked for a divorce, or ….?”
“Shut up you m*r, and listen. I have to reach Mumbai by tonight and no driver is free. There is this important meeting with an American client in the early hours tomorrow and I cannot afford to miss it.”
“Why, in the first place, don’t you get behind the steering wheel of your beloved Skoda, you buddhu?
“Look, there is no time to explain but my goddamned back is playing up and I don’t trust drivers,” pleaded Rajesh
“So, you think this good for nothing Jigaa will drive you all the way to Mumbai?”
“Jigaa please, this is important, I cannot trust any other guy to drive my new Skoda.”
“Aahaa, there you go! So you want me to be your driver? So that you can suitably impress your new client?”
“Come on, you vagabond, I will buy you a bottle of the best foreign brand on our way back.”
Jigaa mellowed. “Well, that is interesting. Anything more?”
“Whatever you say.”
“Haaro, bhervaaylo…” Jignesh muttered. (“I’ve got the rascal cornered.”)
“Done” Jignesh relented. “Drive up to Vartej and I will take over from here.
“Saalaa hr, bevdaa, ok. I will be there by 6 pm. The matter settled, Rajesh felt it was safe to vent.
“I’ll deal with you when you get here, smartass.” Jignesh threatened as he hung up.
All conversations in this green, fertile region tended to be bawdy, especially among boys, men and sometimes even in a mixed company of men and women. ‘City-bred’ men who steered away from it were objects of subtle humiliations.
Having got his deal, Rajesh frantically packed his bag, clothes, the suit, the ties, his laptop, everything. “Must not forget those CDs to play in the car,” Rajesh reminded himself, “and don’t forget the CD with all the Bollywood ‘item’ songs for that rowdy Jigaa…”
Rajesh threw his bags into the trunk of Skoda and set on course to Vartej, about 10 kilometres from Navsari. But for the onset of a backache he would have driven to Mumbai himself. Anyway, now that he would be in Mumbai, he could check with his schoolmate Dr. Dhiraj at Nanavati Hospital to see if he could do something about this blessed nagging backache. He had not been behind the wheel for almost a week.
“My back is not so bad after all,” Rajesh comforted himself as he took the car out. Perhaps he could drive all the way to Mumbai himself, if Jigaa threw any new tantrums.
Hitting the state highway, immersed in thoughts, he almost dashed into a herd of buffaloes coming his way. As he just managed to screech to a halt, the large head of a buffalo appeared pressed against the window. “Saala, sab bhoomi Gopal ki,” he muttered but there was no one in the car to appreciate or rebuke him for his sarcastic comment. His wife would have been quick to pounce on Rajesh and admonish him for being so uncivilized.
Damn. Did the buffalo make a scratch on the body of the car?
Luckily no further incident occurred along the way to Vartej. As he swung into the village, he saw an ambulance parked outside Jigaa’s house. The old-fashioned houses in the villages were lined up so close to one another that it was hard to guess where the patient might be.
He parked his Skoda some distance away from the ambulance and apprehensively walked towards Jignesh’ house.
He didn’t have to guess any longer. Jignesh himself emerged from the house, carefully ducking his head under the low upper frame of the door.
“Oh Rajia, my old man suddenly got a stroke and he has to be shifted to Parsi Hospital in Navsari right away. Nothing much to worry, this is the third time it has happened. The ambulance is already here and we will take care.” Jignesh rattled off without a pause.
“Oh my God, I am so sorry…”
“No, no, don’t worry, we have lots of help around. He will be fine and you should not miss your business appointment in Mumbai. I have spoken to Nirav-taad. He is here on his annual pilgrimage to India and has to catch a flight to New York tonight. So you can go with him. I am sorry but I could not find a good driver for you, but at least you’ll have good company,” declared Jignesh, the savior.
Rajesh looked around, saw Jignesh’s family members and other onlookers standing around nonchalantly, as if the ambulance was a part of some daily routine. Any kind of such incident usually caused a ripple of excitement and provided a chance to the people to gather and gossip.
He mumbled something appropriate to them and apologized for having to rush to Mumbai.
“Hey, Guria, go with Rajesh kaka and lead him to Nirav-taad’s house, quick…” Jignesh with a characteristic disdain, motioned to a boy who was almost stationed there by design.
No further need for formalities. Rajesh walked over to Nirav’s house to see him all packed up for the 15-hour flight to New York. Jignesh had arranged everything for him in the hour of his own crisis!
Nirav, a 35-something lanky guy, known by his nickname Nirav-taad (Nirav-tall-as-a-palm), in Vartej, walked around the house with a slouch. His overuse of ‘all right’ rather than ‘ok’ betrayed his British background. In fact, as Rajesh discovered later, his diction seemed to be in transition from the British English to American English and that sounded awkwardly hilarious. Rajesh was surprised that he didn’t know of Nirav despite being from the same village. He easily guessed why Nirav’s pet name had the suffix ‘taad’ – it was to distinguish him from several other Niravs in the village.
“They may have coined a suffix for me too, these country guys,” he chuckled to himself.
“Betaa, chaal, next time you must bring Nisha with you. She must be feeling lonely out there,” Nirav’s parents displayed the normal traits of overtly concerned old parents who returned to their roots after making oodles of money abroad.
“Haa, haa” Nirav merely nodded his head. The idea of both he and his wife of them visiting India was absurd.
Rajesh politely declined the customary offer of tea and looked at Nirav to signal him to hurry up. The ride to Mumbai airport, that, in an ordinary situation Rajesh would have enjoyed, could turn out to be quite different with this unknown character called Nirav.
“I will just keep playing the CDs so he wouldn’t have much time to talk. I know these guys. They just think all young people who live in small towns/ villages in India are nuts and vainly try to impress them with how different it is “over there” in the US, Rajesh thought to himself, planning out the whole trip.
Little did he know what lay before them.
Guldasta – Part 2
Posted on June 18, 2017
By the time Rajesh’ beloved Skoda hit the outskirts of Vartej, as much as thirty valuable minutes were lost since he entered the village. The turn of events hadn’t exactly been exhilarating, and now he had this gawky character Nirav for company!
“Shi…” he almost muttered aloud.
“Any problem, bhai?” volunteered the gawky one.
“Well, no, it is a lousy time of the day to drive out on a village road. You can push your seat back and relax, brother,” suggested Rajesh, the epitome of etiquette.
Rajesh soon realized Nirav was not to be taken lightly. He would make him talk.
The road to the interstate highway passed through a lush green patch of land No one said anything.
Right at the end of the village road there was an oversized speed-breaker that escaped Rajesh’ attention and he was just able to bring the car almost to a complete halt. The low speed at which the car negotiated the bump still had enough juice in it to cause Nirav’s head to hit the ceiling.
“Oh shucks, I am sorry. Hope it didn’t hurt,” Rajesh showed his concern, except that his own back hurt.
“It’s all right er… ok bhai. Be careful on these lousy highways of our country,” Nirav responded, gently rubbing his scalp.
“Not to worry, we are about to hit the national highway and it is superb, like an air strip, better than some of your turnpikes,” Rajesh found himself defending the ungainly speed-breaker. Had there been any other local co-passenger he would have elaborated at some length on the carelessness of Indians.
Funny, Rajesh thought, “how I have two contradictory responses to the same phenomenon”. Defend India before the NRIs and abuse India when with locals.
Finally the Skoda swung right to merge with the fast moving traffic on the much-acclaimed national highway. Onward to the city of dreams.
Rajesh was right. Dusk presented its peculiar problems on the highway. The hardheaded motorists would, for some strange reasons, delay turning on their headlights and derived sadistic pleasure in saving the life of their battery. It was too hard to see clearly at that time of the day.
The smooth ride, the perfect road – that was good. His back didn’t hurt anymore. Only three more hours to the outskirts of Mumbai.
Rajesh pressed the play button on his music system and the soothing sound of the sitar wafted through.
“Oh wow, isn’t that Ustad Vilayat Khan?” Rajesh almost recoiled in shock at Nirav’s question.
The whole idea of keeping him quiet apparently was not going to work, but the flip side was that gawky and boring looking Nirav turned out to be an aficionado of classical music.
“No Nirav, it is Shahid Parvez. Have you heard of him?”
“Yes, now that he has started playing his stock phrases he surely is Shahid”
Rajesh’ heart started dancing.
“Do you know that among the younger lot there is one Ustad Irshad Khan, a nephew of Vilayat Khan based in Canada who plays the sitar marvellously?” Rajesh purposely switched to the pronunciation of nephew as “nayfew” to see how Nirav responded.
“Yes, of course, the “nayview” of Vilayat Khan,” Nirav betrayed his Britishness. “In fact, I have some CDs of Irshad Khan at home,” he added.
It would now be fun traveling with this comrade-in-music.
“Do you mind if I shift to the back seat and Skype with my Nisha – that’s my wife – for some time? I can’t seem to find my earphones but hope that’s ok.”
“Please, please, feel free. Suit yourself. The Internet speed on the highway will be all right, maybe not as good as what you have ‘there’,” Rajesh couldn’t help a bit of sarcasm.
“Thanks bhai, if you could just pull up by the side so I can jump in at the back.”
“Ok, here you go.” Rajesh obliged.
It had now become dark enough to force all the vehicles to turn on the headlights, so it was much easier to drive.
“Damn these over-sized trucks merrily driving along in the fast lane,” Rajesh checked himself, lest he should let out some choicest phrases to go with it.
The amusingly puckered up smiling face of Nirav appeared in the rear mirror. The headlight beams of vehicles rushing in from the opposite direction made his face look even sharper.
“Hi honey. Nirav spoke to the screen as the Skype call went through. “Thank the Indian techies, Nirav!” Rajesh wanted to say
“Hey, kem chhe tu? (How are you”) Nisha’s voice came through, nice and clear.
Rajesh was nearly jolted out of his seat on hearing her voice. Wasn’t that familiar?
“I am good. Just got a ride to the Mumbai airport with this nice guy,” Rajesh saw Nirav wink at him in the rear mirror.
But Rajesh was in a different world.
“Could this be Manisha? No, no, it has been long. How can it be?” “No,” he told himself, “this is Nisha; not Manisha”.
As the conversation flowed on, the anxious driver of the car had an uncontrollable urge to see the face of the woman with that sweet familiar voice. “It is a voice strikingly similar to Manisha’s, but is that her?” Rajesh’s heart was pounding by now.
“Did you get the CD I asked you to bring?” the voice teased Nirav.
“Well, I tried, but…”
“Moorkhaajee, you can’t get a simple CD from India.”
Oh my God, that is Manisha for sure. Moorkhaajee. Yes, that was the word she used to tease him with too.
The rest of the conversation faded as Rajesh’s mind slipped back to his University days at Houston.
He had just arrived from India, having freshly graduated from the prestigious M.S. University. Everything was new and alien to him, the culture, the accent, the junk food, the Friday night parties, and he felt lost in that new world.
And then he found Manisha at the University cafeteria.
One morning, feeling tired and hungry, seated in that cafeteria he had been debating if he should try his hand at the vending machine to get a cinnamon roll. What if someone found out how clumsy he was?
Suddenly he saw this deshi girl at the vending machine.
No more debates. He rushed beside her and tried his best to appear confident but the smart girl quickly sized him up and got him the cinnamon roll without much ado.
She had this uncanny ability of making friends and Rajesh was only too glad to have her company.
Manisha had arrived at the University two years ago for her bachelor’s degree. Her rich parents had ensured that she had an easy time sailing through the two years without having to worry about financial assistance. This had been her final year. Confident to the extent of being cocky, she had a winning smile that, as they say could have ‘launched thousand ships”.
The ship called Rajesh got anchored to Manisha and soon it was Manisha, Manisha and Manisha all the way.
Rajesh’s love for classical music initially amused Manisha. She couldn’t understand a thing. How could one enjoy the endless repetitions of the notes for hours together? However, she was a fan of Rabindra Sangeet and it didn’t take too long for her to get into the nuances of pure classical music with helpful hints from Rajesh.
“Nisha says hi to you…” Nirav’s voice suddenly woke Rajesh from his dream. The cooing and murmuring on Skype had come to a halt.
“ Thanks, Nirav. Hope she is well.”
“She is, thank you for asking.”
“What kind of CD she was asking for?”
But before Nirav could reply the Skoda came precariously close to a slow moving empty truck in the fast lane and Rajesh had to brake with all his might.
“These rascals! When will they learn?” Rajesh slowed down and waited to for the truck in front to get into the middle lane to let him go.
“This is why Nisha hates coming to India” The name ‘Nisha’ sounded so alien now to Rajesh.
Rajesh managed to get past the blessed truck and he was driving past it, when Nirav, opened the window and barked at the driver of the truck: “Hey you! Learn to drive properly. Tere baap kaa raastaa hai kyaa? Har…..khor!”
Rajesh could not believe Nirav had said that.
The occupants of the truck including the driver heard it too loud and clear. The truck swerved menacingly and began following the Skoda closely, threatening to pass it.
Rajesh, a veteran of the highway, realized that once the truck drivers got provoked, they could go to any extent to hit back. The truck had no cargo. allowing it the luxury of speeding almost as much as a car.
“You shouldn’t have abused the truck driver, Nirav,” he admonished his co-passenger.
“Now let us try to go as fast as we can. If the truck manages to get ahead of us and blocks our way at some point, we’ve had it. No one will come to our rescue.”
There began a heart-stopping race. The Skoda at full speed and the empty truck hell-bent on pursuing them. Rajesh pressed the accelerator to the floor and hoped there would be no traffic jam ahead.
No such luck. There was a traffic post at the border of Gujarat state. There were barriers on the road that forced all the vehicles to slow down and zigzag through them to the other side.
Rajesh’s heart missed a beat. By experience he knew that stopping at the traffic post and looking for help would not work, as the traffic policemen were always loath to sort out disputes un-related to traffic. Besides this, the stock response of the police would be the ‘jurisdiction’ issue. They would not help. Period.
Luckily for him, the menacing truck that was following him got stuck between two other vehicles and he managed to get to the other side of the post and roared on. The danger was not over yet. These Indian roads and the maddening traffic – anything could happen to bring all the vehicles to standstill on the highway and the truck could corner him once again.
They sped on, safely clearing the toll station at Charoti. There was no time to stop for dinner or snack. The truck could suddenly appear from nowhere, like the dinosaur in the movie Jurassic Park, he thought. Why take a chance. Instead drive at breakneck speed for as long as possible and get into the city when you can mingle with hundreds of cars. The truck wouldn’t be able to find them.
The road from Charoti was almost deserted but the truck could easily mark the Skoda out with its luminous fancy lights on the rear bumper. The real problem was that no soul would come to their rescue if cornered by rogue drivers.
Nirav was squirming in his seat, not knowing what to do, feeling sorry about having taken on the rogue truck driver.
The music did not offer any solace to the occupants of Skoda. But it went on, raga after raga.
By the time they were approaching the last toll station, about 70 kilometres from Mumbai it was 8:30 pm.
“What time is your flight, Nirav?”
“I need to check in latest by 10:30 pm”
Rajesh saw a big traffic jam just as they neared the last toll station. The toll station collectors most likely had problems run out of small change. Rajesh cursed his luck. Worse, as he slowed down he saw the truck not far behind, with its funny design of lights in the front. That was the truck! It kept honking loudly and continuously, weaving around the vehicles behind them to close in.
The vehicles in front of them were all gingerly moving on and Rajesh had no way of shaking off the truck.
His consternation grew when he saw this truck in the lane parallel to his lane, both waiting to clear the toll station.
Now what? As soon as both cleared the toll station they would be sure to catch up and bash them up.
From his window he could see the face of the cleaner of the truck eyeing them.
Mumbai, barely 70 kilometres from the toll station, seemed far away. No one would stop by to help them. Who would want trouble at this time?
Could he race for his life and wriggle out of this situation?
Guldasta Part 3
The two occupants of Skoda shivered in their seats, hoping for the best. Could Rajesh, be the winner of this Indianapolis race? That was the only way they could shake off the pursuing truck. They looked at each other as the car inched forward, the truck moving likewise in the parallel lane. Rajesh had no intention of shouting back at the cars behind him who were honking relentlessly urging them to hurry up.
Finally, they reached the toll station window where a lazy head inside was going through the motions of collecting payments.
“Single or return?” Rajesh heard the most irritating question ever at the toll stations. He could never understand the logic behind it. By default, it is always single.
Keeping his temper under control, he reached for the cash and handed it to the toll clerk. Through a corner of his eye he could see that the truck was going through the same process. Terrifying.
Suddenly, he saw the door of the toll station open inside and a stately senior traffic policeman entered the room. He muttered something to the clerk who in turn asked Rajesh: “Sir, our Saab would like to request you to give him a ride up to the next toll station at Dahisar. There is some emergency.”
Rajesh saw the burly Saab, silently imploring him with uncharacteristic expectant eyes. The carefully trimmed moustache gave him a stern appearance that would have otherwise scared the hell out of any motorist on the highway. In a normal situation Rajesh would have offered an excuse to deter a strange character from riding with him in his car, but this was an unusual time. A burly traffic policeman in uniform, riding in his car, would ward off any threats from the menacing truck driver. Wow! What an opportunity!
Rajesh mustered up all his humility. “Sure sir, it would be a privilege. Come right in.”
“Thank you, Sir,” the policeman replied, as he eased himself in the passenger seat next to Rajesh, temporarily filling the interior with the body odour of the new rider.
The poor truck driver watched the changed scenario and sighed. “Time to cool off, buddy; bye,” Rajesh felt like shooting a triumphant glance at the truck that was waiting to pounce on the Skoda.
“Thanks for helping me out.” The policeman smiled, as Rajesh noticed his name ‘Gulabrao Sawant’ on the polished badge.
Before Rajesh could reply, he continued: “Actually, I have been away on duty for the last three days and I suddenly remembered it is our wedding anniversary tomorrow.” Rajesh noticed, with some amusement, a hint of shyness on the cop’s weathered face.
“Oh, how thoughtful of you. Wish you a happy wedding anniversary in advance, Saab.”
“Arre, kaay, at my age…”
“So, your wife… what is her name? Aren’t you getting a gift for her?”
Stop now, don’t embarrass him, Rajesh said to himself. But the policeman, by now, appeared to be in an expansive mood.
“You know Shanta is a graduate and I am just a matriculate,” volunteered Gulabrao as he signaled authoritatively at an erring car. “Hey, move aside!”
“The gift… aren’t you getting one?” teased an emboldened Rajesh.
“Kaay karaaychaa? Never thought of it. But let me see if I find something on the way.”
The liberated Skoda thundered past the distant suburbs of Mumbai. Some of the flyovers were still under construction causing the traffic to go around the work site.
“Maala he AC chyaa draft jamat naahi. (I’m not very comfortable with the air-conditioning.) If you don’t mind, can your friend sit in front with you so I can shift to the rear seat?”
Rajesh stopped the car near a paan shop where he bought a paan for Gulabrao and himself. Not for the deshi-turned-American, health conscious Nirav, who now seemed a bit relaxed.
The exchange of seats was efficient.
Slowly, Rajesh’s mind was flooded with memories of Manisha.
Their courtship was the envy of many. Manisha ensured that Rajesh settled comfortably into the American way of life. She always teased Rajesh about his studious nature, his stingy ways, his clumsy attempts to match her effervescent life style – but she could not stop loving him for what he was – a “Moorkhaaji” to the core. She painstakingly cultivated a taste for Indian classical music and even started collecting her own albums.
Radio Pacifica, a radio programme aired by an enthusiastic young Bengali guy was their common listening adventure on Saturday nights. His traditional upbringing stopped him from wanting or asking for more liberties with her, even though Manisha would not have objected.
The halcyon days – those blissful moments – he had hoped they would never end.
Soon enough Rajesh graduated and began thinking about returning to India. Manisha knew of his plans but hoped that her love would persuade him to rethink.
“So you are not in any mood to settle down and build your career here?” Manisha’s exasperation was obvious.
“I wish I could, Manisha.”
“Why? What bothers you? What about me?”
“You too could come along, It’s our country, our people. Let us be a part of the country that is soon to go places.”
“I can’t, Rajesh. Let us be together and set up our home right here.”
And the tussle went on and on, finally reaching a breaking point that neither really wanted.
He did not even stay back to gain some work experience and flew right back home, leaving Manisha and their dreams in tatters.
Years went by and none of them felt the need to rekindle their love. He got married – following an ‘arranged’ meeting and courtship – to Chaitalee.
Now, out of nowhere, this Nirav comes along and reminds him of his first love that was still tucked away in a corner of his heart.
“So Nirav, Nisha never visited India after her graduation?” It was more of a statement than a question.
“Nope. She doesn’t like to.”
“But she still wants you to visit your parents and bring stuff from here for her.”
“Well, that is Nisha for you.” The ‘you’ rattled him.
Gulabrao was not interested in their discussion. He was probably thinking about his wedding anniversary plans. The Skoda eased into a lower gear as it approached the Dahisar toll station.
Rajesh spotted a flower shop – maybe a bouquet for Gulabrao’s wife!
He parked the car next to the florist’s, close to the toll station.
“Mi ikdech utrun jaoo, thank you saab” Gulabrao saw this as a signal for him to get down.
Rajesh smiled, got out and patted Gulabrao on the back, handing over a magnificent bouquet. “Here, this is for your wife, Gulabrao ji for your wedding anniversary.”
“O ho ho ho, that is so kind of you to give me a ride and this lovely guldasta” Gulabrao blushed and made his way towards the toll station, ordering the clerk not to accept the toll charge from Rajesh.
“Nirav, now let us rush. It is already 10 o’clock.”
It would be the final leg of their ride together. Rajesh fished out the closest CD his hand could find and carefully inserted it in the music system.
The sweet metallic sound of a sarod wafted through the stillness of the night.
“My…. how did you find this, Rajesh?” Nirav’s eyes were wide with fascination.
“ Oh well, I did not buy it, I’ve had it for some time now. This is a special collection of short raagas that Amjad Ali Khan has rendered so majestically.”
“Guldasta….” Nirav could not contain his excitement. “I have heard this, an album called Guldasta, an old cassette many years ago. But now the worn out cassette won’t play.”
“Yeah, it’s Guldasta. I had recorded it from a carefully preserved cassette. I got an audio CD made from it. It’s a treasure.”
“My goodness. This is the one that Nisha is crazy about. What a shame I didn’t think of recording it like you did. What a shame!”
“Is this the one Manisha… err, Nisha was asking you to bring?”
“That’s the one,” Nirav replied instantly.
The car took the final turn towards the international airport. Rajesh’s mind was in turmoil.
Gulabrao – Guldasta – Nirav. Manisha! Would she remember?
The car halted at Departures. Nirav got out and busied himself with getting his bags out of the trunk. As he walked off to get a trolley Rajesh, ejected the Guldasta CD from the system and held it out.
“Here, Nirav. Take this Guldasta for Nisha – a gift from me.”
“But this is the only copy you have Rajesh! Are you sure?”
“Yeah. Hey, isn’t Nisha also one of a kind?” Rajesh saw an astonished smile on Nirav’s face, just like Gulabrao’s.
“Next time, do get Nisha here; tell her things are not that bad in India!
“I sure will. Thanks so much!”
They shook hands, and he watched Nirav walk away towards the gate, precious CD in hand. The sarod strings continued to hum softly in his head as he got back into the car and drove towards the bright lights of the city.