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At the Stop Signal

The bike came up close to the left front window and the rider extended his hand. One of his fingers was pointing ahead slightly. The taxi driver barely looked, extended his left hand and threw a tiny matchbox to the biker. A sign language I didnt understand, yet old enough for them both to know it.

The next few moments were an agonising wait while I eyed the biker, the driver and the red light. The driver viewed the biker and the biker concentrated on taking out a cigarette from the case in his backpack, removing his helmet and lighting up.
The light turned green, the driver waved his palm and said 'keep it! ive got more' before zooming off. While the biker pulled on his helmet in a hurry, cigarette forgotten.
Across the signal something came zooming in to the driver - it was the matchbox. A smoker does not go away with another smokers light.

Our turn came up. Before the right turn, we caught the red light again. The biker found us in a few seconds, weaving through to come next to the driver this time.
His cigarette was ready; the matchbox was prepared.
He extended his hand; the driver extended the matchbox.
It was an uncommunicated understood need. A supply-demand equation un-challenged. In fact, supported and understood. Something beyond any other demand-supply. In that moment they were understanding friends, living the same moment. A second later the matchbox got handed back. A deep inhale, a smile, a thanks imparted by a mute nod. An nunderstanding look from the driver in return.

And then he meandered off, riding away slowly between revved up vehicles, towards the road leading straight.

The light turned green, the matchbox had regained its place on the dashboard. The bonding of two smokers, unknown, unspeaking, was over.

Just another day on the roads in Mumbai.

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( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
22nd Feb, 2010 09:31 (UTC)
Why just Bombay..
..the smoker's code is pretty universal :D
Most of the time we focus on the film cliche of a sultry dame picking up a cigarette and having a lighter extended automatically by the nearest male,
but I'm sure the gestures and results would work fine anywhere in the world!
( 1 comment — Leave a comment )

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