But the fact is that having a driver - for someone who is so spaced out on most occasions - is totally worth it. Let me correct myself - having a 'good' driver is worth it. Kamal is careful, even-tempered, and has been with the family for a few years now.
He isn't as familiar with us as good ol' Vinod used to be - Vinod practically lived in our drawing room, and used to enter the kitchen to make food when the cook didn't show up, and run all our errands even without our asking - but Kamal does everything that he's asked to, in his professional, if rather robotic manner, and that suits us just fine. What I like best is that he doesn't generally take holidays without notice - and that by itself is something very nice.
The only time Kamal stops behaving like a robot is when Pickle and Papad are around - they are fond of him and try to jump into his arms whenever they see him. It is only when they come into view as he stands at the door waiting for the car keys that I hear a variation from his usual monotone as he goes in a deep, sonorous voice -
'Hello Pickkkalllll' or
But the fact is - what I like best about Kamal is that his years of being expressionless have trained him well and he doesn't allow himself to laugh at me when he witnesses me doing anything stupid.
For example, on Saturday I was preparing for a surprise party for my aunt - it was also the day I was telling a story to the kids at the nearby school - and a cake had to be ordered, a gift had to be bought and all the kids had to be readied and packed up, and we were also expecting a visitor - in short, I was not my usual cool, unruffled self. I was ruffled, let us say. After my school session and the cake ordering and gift purchase, when we reached home, I jumped out of the car and gave him a series of breathless instructions about picking up the cake, and buying samosas and gulab jamuns ( half a kilo? or one kilo? what do you think Kamal? okay one kilo - no wait, half a kilo. small round ones, the brown ones, not the black ones, not the long ones) - after blabbering for a bit and ensuring that I hadn't confused him beyond redemption, I picked up my bags and headed off purposefully towards the house.
'Madam....madam....' I heard him calling me - he was saying something and gesticulating vaguely but I couldn't understand what he was saying, from this distance. I was getting very late but I tried to suppress my irritation. After all, he was a very helpful fellow and if I had to clarify once again about the damn small round brown gulab jamuns, by George, I would do it. I steered myself around and went back to see what it was that he wanted.
'Madam. Ghar to wahan hai - aap galat building me jaa rahe the.'
I looked around wildly and noticed he was right - I had indeed been marching purposefully into the wrong building. I flushed a delicate shade of red, but simply nodded tersely and marched off, this time in the actual direction of my own home.
But not before murmuring, with genuine feeling, in the general direction of the expressionless man now gearing to drive off -
'Thank you, Kamal. '