Droplets of rain fell onto his face washing away the sweat generated by the body. His eyes were steady, looking far at its target, calm and confident. He moved into the crowd smashing big and small shoulders that were a hindrance to his goal. He was disturbing the non-violent queue that moves non-stop at a constant rate but they had no time to react to the intruder. He looked into a small window and gave the woman sitting on the other side a 50-rupee note. They exchanged glances and the woman returned a white paper and little money. A gentle smile appeared on his half shaven face, signifying his achievement. He was wearing a brown T-shirt, Kolhapuri chappal, was 5 feet 9 in height, with a silver shaded big watch and holding a while roller sheet that resembled to a missile. He placed his hands into the left pocket of his pants and took a black coloured device that was shining in the light emitting from the either sides of the bridge, covered at the top. He clicked on the white button of the device and it displayed few codes on a rectangular display after which he started running. He ran until he got into a train filled with passengers on all the sides. Soon the train moved with a roaring sound that shifted the passengers an inch from their initial position.
Gopu looked at the man with his round, brownish eyes, indicating the position on a seat that was vacant due to a passenger who got up for the next station. The man moved the body rapidly and in few seconds, he was on the vacant seat. The train started moving faster and reached Dadar. Gopu turned towards him and said “Abs I think we are moving on a wrong track. This train does not seem going to Mumbai CST”. I got up from my seat and found that we were travelling on the western line rather than on the harbour line. “This train will stop at Church gate, be calm as Nariman point is near to it”, it took me few seconds to think and convince him. I was also worried for few minutes after hearing that we are routing on a wrong track.
A day before today, we got into a local train that took us to an unknown place and was heading towards Panvel. Realising the fault we got down at the next station where we had to pick another train to Mumbai CST. Gopu asked me to confirm the train and be on time so we do not face such problems the next time. The train reached Church gate and we moved to a nearby stall and asked for “nimbooz”. We were tired after the slow motion walking for impressing girls, train journey and we thought to have the modern-era nimboo pani.
It was the Ayodhya decision day and we decided to leave early around 2.30 Pm. There were rumours in the town regarding the chances of protests and problems considering the output of the decision. A reporter from Indian Express stopped us at the railway station and asked our opinion about the D-day and whether problems are expected today. I said that we are not sure about the problems D-day would cause but are sure about the consequences we would have to face considering we are as always late for the meeting. He smiled and we headed towards a nearby Cab that could lead us to Nariman Point.
Nariman point was calm and busy as always, with Gopu’s “chaddi girls” walking on the roadsides listening to music and without exposing the feeling that something unexpected could happen. Elrico Fernandes was living in Mumbai since his childhood and said us not to worry as the situation is under control and Police department has taken every precaution to avoid problems. We met Elrico at Nariman point on the first day. He is a good chap with a long, slim body, little curly hairs, rosy lips, teeth within who become our “Mumbai-ka-dost” few days ago.
It was 2.45 Pm and we hurried for the railway station. We were happy to find the train to Andheri which was about to leave the station. We ran towards the train and it started moving. I asked Gopu to be fast and was running behind him to confirm that he gets into the train safely. I saw him getting into the train but I was too far to reach his compartment and the train started moving faster. Wind started blowing inside my ears and it become darker in front of my eyes. I jumped from the platform onto the left and somehow managed to catch the steel bars and get inside the compartment. It was like Tom-Cruise jumping in the Action Movies. I bet Ram Gopal verma might have signed me for his next movie watching this action sequence. My heartbeat went faster and I was in a COMA state where I was not able to react to the environment.
(Image credits: classifieds Rekha Inc.)
It took me few minutes to relax myself and then I moved inside. I heard some voice “oh shit! What’s this” and I moved my eyes towards the voice and saw a compartment full of women. They were all red, green, yellow, blue saree, jeans and salwar wearing women who were staring at me as if they have seen an alien. I was astonished to see all women and at the same time afraid, when I witnessed it was women compartment. I thought, “amma... today I am gone”, the breaking news for tomorrow’s Mumbai Mirror newspaper would be that a boy was killed in a train by women in Mumbai”. Soon women were there on my left, on my right and everywhere I could see except outside the door.
(Image credits: Chapatiexpress)
I felt they are going to push me out of the train and I said to myself “please don’t do it, it could be your son, your husband and your never seen boyfriend in this situation”. I was thinking like Steven Spielberg though the women were busy staring at me with no intentions to throw me out. I think they were happy to see an opposite gender, handsome, cool and brave enough to enter their kingdom (I think... they might not :) ). I was studying in a mixed school from my childhood and never felt a feeling of insecurity and fear. This was a horrible situation and I either could be be put to jail or fined high. I hope the women understand that I was in their compartment unknowingly and that was the reason they did not make any noise.
I was there for 10 minutes and I jumped to the next station as soon as the train stopped. I got into the compartment where Gopu was seated and felt like I found Nirvana. I narrated the complete story to Gopu who was worried for my absence. He started laughing after completely listening to the things that happened with me. I still laugh when I think about the situation and my anxiety in the Mumbai local train.
I use to respect women but the respect increased further after the good approach they showed towards me. It all happened in duration of 10 minutes but I felt as if I was there the whole day. Mumbai gave me good memories but the one I could never forget in my lifetime is the local train journey.
We are at the Le-Grande hotel in Andheri Mumbai and are tired to travel today. Gopu inspected the toilet and bathroom and indicated his approval on using it. He is very peculiar for hygiene and does everything in a systematic way. He jumped on to the bed like undertaker in WWE and registered the cushion perfect for the sleep. He scrolled onto the floor with the unique skills he learnt from the game “soldier of fortune”, opened the cupboard and placed the blazers we had to wear the next day for the meeting. I saw the remote control dancing on his hands and the television changing channels according to his gesture. He left the television “ON” and went for the bath, which he enjoyed for 1 and a half hours. I was busy unpacking the entire luggage and watching the news for the decision day on Ayodhya verdict. A decision will come after two days that was what I heard from the lady-speaking non-stop like a tamatar wali bai in the market.
Gopu was fresh by now and it was my turn so we could go outside and have our dinner. I wore the as usual blue shirt and blue jeans while Gopu wearing a white-Tshirt and blue track pants and we started our search for a good hotel. I saw a hotel named Sai Bhojnalay and pointed my finger indicating Gopu my desire to have the dinner. Gopu rejected my offer as he was a perfect carnivorous and he said he requires at least fish or Chicken in his meal. I broke my never worn Brahmin-strand (poo nool) and enetered a Punjabi hotel. We were thinking what to order for the dinner and then Sushma Mallya’s(writer of Authentic Food delights blog) paneer recipes hit my mind and I ordered a panner tikka masala with tandoor roti whereas Gopu ordered butter naan and some chicken dash dash. We finished the dinner with lassi.
The next day started with the alarm tone from the mobile phone and we went outside to have a coffee and withdraw some cash from the ATM. I asked the “chai-wala” to prepare a half-cup coffee and a full cup of coffee. We were standing in front of the tea-stall in JP Nagar Andheri, opposite to the ATM counter when Gopu turned my head forcibly, pointing towards the footpath next to Amul ice-Cream shop. I could see women walking on the footpath wearing small Bermudas that appeared like the ones their parents purchased when they were in fifth standard. Gopu kept watching them for few minutes until he could get rid of his astonishment. It was hard to explain him that some People in Mumbai wear the dress they feel comfortable and that make others uncomfortable.
Gopu has a desire to travel by Mumbai’s Local train and thus we decided to make our travel until in Mumbai through trains. I downloaded the “Aamchi Mumbai” application and installed it on my Nokia n97 mini. It tells me the timing of each train and its route. We could see a long lasting queue in front of the railway station waiting for the Auto rickshaw. People were here, there and everywhere. It would resemble as ants moving when seen from top. Everyone was busy, rushing without a smile on his or her face but anxiety; I do not know about what.
The ticket counter was on the right side of the entrance that had the route passing below the bridge. I went to the ticket counter and got a ticket back and forth, for two people for Andheri and CST. The woman at the ticket counter appeared like Priyanka Chopra, adding 50 kgs to her weight wearing a red striped sari, big bindi, round earings, thin gold chain and glass bangles. She took 34 rupees from me in exchange of the tickets and a cute smile. We took the staircase leading towards the bridge to the platform where the train is expected to arrive. Men were wearing shirts tucked in with trousers and shoes, T-shirts with jeans and sports shoes whearas wemen were seen in T- shirts and jeans with sandals small and long healed.
The train arrived at the station and the crowd took us into the compartments. It was more or less like a “kumbh ka mela” with people filling every space available. Gopu and I were sweating like pigs, exchanging glances for joy and sorrow, cleaning each droplet wasted from the body. A fellow passenger who says he works for CID (Criminal Investigation Department) gave me training on whom to trust and whom not to trust in Mumbai. He thought I am here for the first time watching Gopu and I converse in Malayalam. We took some pictures in the train and people kept watching us like foreigners capturing the unknown wealth of the world.
(Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus)
We reached CST (Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus) and then took a taxi to Nariman point where we had the meeting. On the way, we could see Traffic police officers with new Enticer bikes and people walking on the roads listening to iPod and mobile music. Nariman point is a clean area with buildings from the British era. Things have changed a lot from the last time I visited here.
We attended the meeting and were back by 4 PM. The first day went fine. However, this was not the case for the next day.
Wherever you go, you bring happiness and joy... that is what we believe and we started our journey with these thoughts in mind. I was standing below a fan in the railway station, rubbing and removing the water droplets from my body that started emitting in the hot weather on Sunday. There were men in white dhoti and casual dress and women in saree and salwar; some waiting for the trains, looking consistently to their watch and others discussing with their friends and partners. I waited watching them for long until I received a “mahaganapathim manasa smarami...” ringtone on my mobile. It was Gopu and he registered his presence in the station disconnecting the call and shouting “hey abs... I am here”.
(Home theatre in train)
Gopu was carrying a long bag he says he received from his uncle during his visit to Qatar. It was a black coloured bag capable to encapsulate 10 large anacondas. He headed towards me with the as usual Richie-rich smile, wearing a kurta and blue jeans. He opened his mouth informing me the late timings of the Netravati express which he says would be 50 minutes. Then he switched on the Gopu channel that keeps chatting non-stop for hours. I like the people who speak a lot and Gopu is among them.
I tightened my muscles, twisted the body, the neck to get a breaking sound that would emulate the Hollywood action heroes. Like the sweat flowing from the neck of Amitabh bacchhan in film coolie and him lifting the weight with one push and pull, I tried to lift the bag and suitcase. It did not take 5 seconds to hear a sound “enta amme” (Mother) and I dropped the luggage to the ground. I turned around to see whether any women were watching the macho man’s influence over the gravitational force. I gave a slight smile looking at Gopu and politely asked him to call a coolie.
We waited at the station for 30 minutes with no entertainment. Gopu was busy cleaning his sweat emitting body and cursing the Indian Railways. He would turn his head towards me and after each interval of 25 seconds, he would say, “We should have gone by a flight”. I comforted him, convincing that the train journey will be entertaining and adventurous.
Soon Netrawati express arrived at platform number 1 and we rushed inside to occupy the seats and absorb as much as cool air we could to relieve from the hot weather. I could see an old man and a young boy sitting on the lower compartments of the bogie where we had our reservations. The old man gave a smile and it took less than 5 minutes for him to expose his “family potli”(family history).
I would like to call him a “grandpa”. So Grandpa was a energetic gujju(from gujrat) with Celeron processors but having intensive non-stop chat functionalities and the capability to perform multitasking without letting his system hang. He was the head master of Gopu when it comes to talking. Sorry, I should say he was the Guiness record breaker of all Gopu’s in the world.
Grandpa told me everything about his 10 crore flat in Mumbai, details of him photographed with Amitabh, Malayalam actor Ashokan, his son-in-law living adjacent to Akshay kumar’s flat, his car journey with Malayalam actor Mohanlal. I could only nod the head and murmer “phek bhai phek, aaj tera din hain”(ok you can bluff, it is your day today). Gopu was waiting for the right chance to hit and then he started his Ram katha telling Grandpa about his visit to Dubai, hotels there, his new car, his son and everything he could to exceed the old man. I had noting, so big to discuss with them. My neighbours are two small children and I never had even a train journey with actors.
The passenger next to grandpa who accompanied us in the travel was a boy from Kerala who was travelling to Mumbai for his training from Cipla. He was busy with completing his assignments and used the side table-like attachment as a writing table. After we familiarized, I asked grandpa and the boy whether they would mind us playing some movies. Grandpa was happy to hear that we had laptop and he would be able to hear the feeble sound emitted from the laptop. I asked the boy to move his book and placed the laptop facing the entrance. Surpassing the expectations of all the passengers, I pulled two big speakers from the suitcase and plugged them to the switchboard. The boy placed his books in the bag and agreed to watch the movie with us.
(Safe reach in Mumbai - Hotel Le Grande)
I pulled the curtains at both the ends and switched off the lights making an environment similar to the theatre. Then started the movie with hi-fi sound effects and soon people were seen wandering in our bogie to watch the movie. None of them expected that we will be bringing speakers. :)
The time started moving faster with one movie after the other without letting us know that it was time to have dinner and sleep. The next morning started with another set of movies and we reached Mumbai. Grandpa thanked us for the lovely time he spent with us. He said he never felt so energetic and pleasing travelling in a train. He would normally drop at each station and then start looking outside to spend his time. However, this time he was inside the train without even knowledge of the time that could move faster than the way he speaks.
Thomas called us informing that his car is waiting outside the railway station that would drop us to the hotel in Andheri.
Mumbai trip was really interesting and the stories will follow.
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All the matter and ideas are copyright (c) of Abhilash