Every morning I’d call the local taxi stand for my ride to Gurgaon. And every morning they’d send a different driver to pick me up. One of them was Ajay. Another one was Ajit.
Ajit was wild, square-jawed, terrifying behind the wheel, with a perpetual scowl on his twenty-year-old face. He spent his first day as my driver shouting gleefully at me the entire ride home: “Me you Hindi! You me English! Straight! Seedha! Left! Baayein! Right! Daayein! You request me every day, I you Hindi you me English! You my only friend!”
When we would reach a breakthrough in vocabulary—“Cow! Guy!”—he would get excited and begin dancing in his seat, taking both hands off the wheel to point upwards in punctuation of his hip thrusts, closing his eyes in ecstasy and throwing his head back and somehow managing to open his eyes and grab the wheel and slam on the brakes at exactly the right instant to avoid a herd of guyain trotting casually down the road.
One day, half-drunk on some after-work beers, I got the bright idea to teach him curse words. “Choothia! Bastard!” I told him. “Lund! Dick! Gaand meh le lo! Kiss my ass!”
Ajit laughed and howled and danced and screamed and repeated my words in deeply-accented shrieks, each new abuse eliciting an equally elaborate reaction from him. And then, suddenly, he grew quiet and contemplative. He turned to me, looking me in the eyes as I sat in the back seat with the car still barreling down MG Road. “You, you wife. Lie bed?”
I knew what he was getting at. I also knew that he took Jenny on errands from time to time, and I was uncomfortable with the idea of him glowering at her in the rear-view mirror with this prurient fact confirmed in his mind. I played dumb, hoping he’d get the hint. “Kya? Huh? I don’t understand. Tati! Shit!”
Ajit refused to be drawn back into the vocabulary lesson. He screwed up his face in concentration, searching his mind for a phrase he desperately wanted to find. “You, wife! Bed! Lie bed? You—” And then he made a gesture I didn’t recognize but understood immediately, pounding his hands together with an unmistakable crudeness of rhythm. “You, wife?”
What else could I say? “I suppose so, yes.”
Ajit howled and danced his victory dance, honking and weaving and pointing his fingers towards the heavens in celebration of my good fortune.