You're driving down Sheikh Zayed Road, frustrated that a drive that should take no more than 30 minutes has taken twice as long - and you've covered only half the distance.
You tell yourself to take it easy. It's just another day, and at least the weather is getting better. The traffic comes to a standstill and you roll down the window to check whether it's cool enough outside to keep it rolled down for the rest of the drive. A few strains of a familiar song come wafting in from the car next door - a Mustang - and you are instantly transported back in time.
Woh beete din yaad hain
Woh pal chhin yaad hain
Bitaey tere sang jo
Laga ke tujhe ang jo
(I still remember those days gone by
Those times I spent with you
Holding you close to me)
You get goosebumps.
You frantically flick through all the preprogrammed Hindi music radio stations. 101.6? 102.4? 89.1? No luck! In your frenzy, you have forgotten to roll the window back up. The traffic is still snail-paced. You feel yourself prickling up at not being able to find the station the song is playing on. As if telepathically, the Mustang driver senses your dilemma. He cranks up the volume with an obliging nod of his head. You tilt your head back with the tiniest of smiles.
Woh muskana tera
Woh sharmana tera
December ka sama
Who bheegi bheegi sardiyan
(That smile of yours, your shyness
That damp, December winter)
You remember the winter when you were 16, when this oldie was revived and became an anthem. You remember Karachi, you remember Sea View, friends, late nights. The guitar. Was it Humayun who sang?
Aag laga ke tum
Na jaane kahan kho gaey
Bas yadein, baaqi …
(You set my heart on fire
And then you disappeared
Only your memories remain)
The traffic starts to move and you panic for a moment. You want to hear the whole song. After so many years, it still stirs something in your heart. The lane next to you starts moving faster than yours and your heart crumples as the Mustang outpaces you. You can still make out some parts of the song over the dreary din of traffic.
Who baatein sab yaad hain
Who raatein sab yaad hain
Bitaeen tere sang jo
Lagake tujhe ang jo
(I remember all those words
I remember all those nights
That I spent holding you close to me)
"Please let the traffic stop," you silently pray. But it never does when you want it to, does it? The Mustang zooms ahead. You can no longer hear anything besides the beeping of car horns. You slump back in the seat dejectedly and settle for whatever is playing on the radio currently.
And then all of a sudden, right next you, on the other side:
Mujhse lipatna tera
Palken jhukana tera
Abhi hain dil mai mere
Hoton ki who narmiyan
(The way you held me close with your eyes half-closed
My heart still remembers the softness of your lips)
You look sideways without turning your head. The Mustang has cut across and moved into the slow lane. Why? To let you enjoy the last few strains of a song you love? You smile inwardly.
Who mausam kya hua
Na jaana kahan kho gaya
Bas yadein baaqi …
(What happened to those times?
When did we lose everything?
Only memories remain)
You wallow in nostalgia for a time when friends meant never having to ask, never having to explain. When life was no more complicated than the choice between a drive outside or somebody's house. When you were 16 and all you needed was someone with a car, someone with a guitar and someone who could sing.
You stroll down memory lane long after the song has finished, and you faintly register the Mustang, revving in recognition of a kindred spirit, slide back into his fast lane.
Suddenly you don't mind the long drive back home.
The writer is an honest-to-goodness desi girl living in Dubai