The Clandestine Listener

I am on the back seat of a taxi. It is dark and the roads are covered with a thick, inexorable layer of ice.

The taxi driver is rushing through the frozen lanes holding the steering wheel with one hand and a mobile phone with the other. In any other circumstance I would have reacted with a mixture of rage and terror.

But not that evening.

The taxi driver is young, has a funky hairdo and a small plasma screen in the car where he is playing a Bollywood video full of women wearing gold and magenta skimpy clothes. He drives confidently despite the ice. And talks on the phone. It is as if I weren’t there and I feel happy to have turned into a clandestine listener of a rare occurrence of intimacy and lightness.

On the other side of the phone I can hear the chirpy voice of a girl, a young and cheerful voice. He is courteous and flirty, his voice a mix of seduction and familiarity. I can’t help but smile and enjoy this moment of invisibility.

We approach a check point, he tells the girl to hold on for a minute. He puts the phone on his lap and goes through the whole list of necessary formal pleasantries with the guards. He takes back the phone and instead of saying hello he sings along the Bollywood song. She replies with an excited giggle.

Past the check point there are tall blast walls and sandbags.

Here comes yet another wonderful glimpse into the strident contrasts of this city.

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