I hailed an airport taxi to get home after a long flight from India. It was after midnight and I'm usually up for conversations because the only time I refuse to talk is early mornings. I got in a van which was big enough to hold Genghis Khan's offsprings. I sat on the first row clutching my only backpack because otherwise it could get lost in the infinite space of the humongous vehicle. The driver took a quick look at me on the rear view mirror and my eyes met his and we smiled. "So you're a Malayalee right?", I asked. He replied in the affirmative and we exchanged pleasantries. I felt like Sherlock Holmes because I had made a deduction in the dark without seeing his face properly i.e. confirmed the place he was from. But it was short lived because any kindergarten kid would have done that as his name glowed on the huge LCD screen mounted on the dashboard. He had a typical Mallu family name.
He asked me where I was coming from and how the weather was back in India. I asked him how long he's been working in the UAE and I got bonus answers such as his duty hours, how the taxi driving job can be tedious, give you serious back pain and put you to sleep during long drives, how much he misses his family and kids, the sacrifice one makes by living abroad, the little salary he gets which he remits to India so their family can survive and other things that made me sad. I have great respect for family men. I can't take care of myself and here are people who struggle to make ends meet. Keeping little for themselves from the peanuts they earn and sending everything back so that their children get good education and general family maintenance is taken care of. He probably sees them for 30 days in a year when he gets leave. How difficult is that? I counted my blessings.
"So does your family stay here?", he asked. I happily answered that (I live with my parents) and was anticipating the dreaded question which followed. "What about your wife and kids?". I chuckled and told him I'm single. He turned to look back at me to see if I was joking. "How old are you?", he questioned. I always notice the genuine concern people have when I tell them I'm not married. I ask you folks, is 31 really too old? When I told him, he said it's the right age to get married. He then proceeded to ask me, "Why aren't you married yet?". I usually tell people that I am not interested in marriage and the whole shebang, but then that means I have to get into the nitty gritty of it and do some serious explaining. I could give you a thousand genuine reasons why I haven't really thought about getting married. And people who know me well enough might even guess why I don't want to. But for some reason I told him, "I don't know, maybe in the year 2018, I'll get hitched!". He seemed relieved. "So I hope your parents are looking for a suitable girl. Everyone needs a life partner, it is difficult otherwise", he mentioned. "Didn't you just say life is difficult, I mean having to look after family and all, isn't this a burden for you?", I asked slyly. "Oh! It's a whole different feeling, you have to be a married man, a father to understand that", he replied. I just sat quiet wondering how putting oneself in misery and staying away from loved ones doing a job they detest can be a different feeling. Somewhere deep inside I had the answer but I decided to be immature and just listen. "Sometimes it's worth doing this, all the discomfort I go through vanishes when I hear the voice of my little ones back home, when my wife just waits for my phone call. Even though we go on with our daily lives, miles away from each other, we are constantly in each others' thoughts and that's enough motivation to keep going with what I'm doing. The feeling of being loved is heaven", he said. I am sure he shed a tear, but I couldn't really see. I felt like an idiot for acting smug.
He told me that he won't be doing this job forever and in the next few years, after saving up something, he would go back to his family. "You can always make a living in India. That's the speciality of our motherland. I'll have someone to come home to everyday and that's all that matters. I look forward to grow old with my wife, give my kids all they ask for and make them go to good universities. Me being alone here is all temporary", he said gleefully and this time I saw a sparkle in his eye. His face was now visible on the rear view mirror as we passed a well lit street. The celebrations for National Day had already begun. But my insecurities kicked in. Will I be able to celebrate singlehood throughout my life? I'll just have to wait and see.
We arrived at our destination, the female voice from the LCD reassured us. I dug into my wallet. "Don't delay, the older you get it becomes difficult", he said as I handed him the money. "Well, keep me in your prayers and hope for the best", I said. "Oh I'll do dua to Allah of course, after all he decides what is to happen", he laughed. We smiled again. I said good bye and closed the door shut. The taxi and the nice stranger left. I went home wondering about the uncertainties of life. I stood under the shower, warm water running down my body washing away clouded thoughts. What was it that actually bothered me? It wasn't the getting married part. It was the being loved bit and coming home to someone part that made me worry. Many a times in life, I've been left with choices I can't make. Marriage is one of them. Gah! Why does it have to be so complicated?