Parag slides away as Piyali’s thigh touches his.
“I am sorry,” she pleads, peering into his eyes.
He averts his face.
“How can I make it up to you?”
They ride quietly, indifferent to the sweet nothings the wind murmurs in their ears as the rickshaw picks up speed and zooms past the cobbler perched on his mat mending shoes, the tailor bent over his sewing machine, the sweet-maker turning the sizzling jalebis in oil, other tiny shops lining the street.
The rickshaw stalls in a traffic jam as they hit the main road. The air smells of burnt fuel and hot tire. The sun is dipping behind old buildings and trees, hurling paprika in the grey sky.
“I didn’t mean to poke fun at your color-blindness,” Piyali says, taking his hand in hers.
He pulls his hand away. They inch forward as cars honk. The bus in front spews fumes making Parag cough. He has asthma.
“Rickshaw waale, is it possible to overtake the bus?” Piyali asks the old man.
The old man pulls into the soft shoulder and tries to nudge in front of the bus, but his rickshaw topples over.
published 25 April 2012