Sakhi's Laghukatha

Posts Tagged ‘Mumbai

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Aks got up cursing again. He hated to go to office in those crowded Mumbai trains. Even the thought of the crowd pushing, crushing him; where he can smell the sweat of people around him and people breathing air almost in his mouth made him almost puke. The first class pass was not really helping in peak hours either. He shifted to Mumbai some six months back and was still not used to the crowd, the heat, the cacophony and the mad rush that everyone seemed to be in. Even the soothing waves of beaches failed to entice him. He saw filth everywhere. Aks questioned himself again and again why he ever decided to come to this dreaded city. Yet here he was, getting ready to go to work and cursing some more as today he was running late.

As Aks reached the platform running, panting and sweating, he saw his regular fast train pull out of the station and he cursed some more. Sometime later he boarded another train. As this was a slow train, at least the first class compartment was not as crowded. He squeezed himself between two gentlemen who reluctantly gave some space so that he can just about rest his rears at edge of the seat. Ah Mumbaikars!! He rolled his eyes and was about to say something caustic when his eyes fell on a lady in the adjacent ladies compartment.

He kept staring at her. She looked extremely beautiful with big black bindi on her forehead, elegantly tied bun at the nape of her neck, crisp saree… grace personified! He could not believe someone can look this beautiful and fresh even in this Mumbai heat and humidity, especially in a local train. She was so different from others around her who wore more comfortable salwar kameez or jean and tee shirts. Aks kept looking at her and forgot all about his Mumbai woes. He came out of his trance when she got up to get down at her station. He then realized that he had missed his station but for a change he did not curse. A slight smile played on his lips. He had no idea why, but something fluttered in his heart. He kept smiling till he reached his office.

The next day Aks deliberately took the same train and managed to get in the same compartment in the hope of finding Grace (that’s what he decided to call her till he gets to know her real name!). His eyes searched for Grace and a small sigh escaped from his lips on spotting her at the window. She must be a regular here to get a window seat, he thought. The journey to office was breezy that day. Air did not seem hot at all and humidity did not bother him. Fellow passengers seemed more tolerable too. He sighed again. He got down at Grace’s station even if it meant that he had to go back two stations in order to go to his office.

About a week later, by chance, their eyes met and Grace smiled at him when she found him looking at her (probably she was not aware that Aks was staring at her for a week now). Aks’ heart leaped to his mouth, he grinned back a silly grin even though he knew that hers was a courtesy smile, a smile one gives to a fellow passenger. Her smile stayed with him even during his sleep. Next day there was a bounce in his feet and heart felt as light as a feather, he was in fact humming a song while getting ready for office. Now that was a first since he shifted to Mumbai!

He boarded the train and saw her at her usual seat. Aks waited for her glance, to see that gorgeous smile but she seemed oblivious to his presence. Another day went by. As days became weeks, a routine was established for Aks – board this slow train, wait for Grace to smile at him (which she did more often than not), get down at Grace’s station, go to office, go home, sleep, repeat. Grace too appeared to wait for him to board the train. He could feel that when she looked at him her face softened. Some mysterious expression played on her attractive face, her eyes seemed to say something which he could not decipher. However, he was happy to see her smile. She seemed like an anchor to him. They never spoke, never exchanged even a hello yet she, her smile, seemed to fill his days with eternal happiness. He could not understand it but then he did not want to decode this anyway. Weekends seemed longer and he could not wait for Mondays. He was happy and suddenly Mumbai felt livable.

Today was different though, someone else was sitting at Grace’s window. Since Aks has started boarding this train a couple of months back, this was the first time that Grace was absent. He missed her smile, her presence, her everything. He did not know what to do. He knew deep in his heart that it was just one day and she might just have taken a day off for some domestic reason; that he should not panic but still panic he did. He could not wait till it was next day so that he can run to board the same train, to see Grace sitting at her usual window seat smiling at him. He longed to see that softness of her eyes. He needed to know that she was okay. He kept telling himself that this anxiety was unwarranted but some unknown dread filled his heart when he did not find Grace even on the next day.

Aks never saw her again. He tried to find out about her from her fellow passengers but no one seemed to know anything about her. He never got to know what happened to his Grace, why she disappeared without a trace. His days were filled with despondency and Mumbai’s overcast skies matched his mood. The heavy downpour that followed could not wash away the agony in Aks’ heart. Once again, Mumbai was not a happy place.

Had Aks payed attention to News in morning papers, he would have known that Grace killed herself two days back due to severe depression. Her suicide note did mention something about local train and finding her late husband there.

————————————————————

P.S.  For non-Indian Readers – Aks means reflection

Khyaati woke up feeling strange. She was feeling dizzy and nauseated. She had had a late night yesterday with friends. After all it was Navratri and she loved Garba. And this time her parents were also not there to chaperon her!

 

She had gone to Garba organized at a club with some other colleagues and planned to enjoy thoroughly. After a few rounds Saket offered Khyaati a drink which initially she declined but she saw that she was the only one not drinking and she didn’t want to offend her new colleagues. She took a bottle of beer. She hated the taste and smell of it and couldn’t understand how people tolerated and even enjoyed such a horrible stuff!

 

But as the night passed and with more rounds of Garba she was offered some more alcohol and she went on obliging her so-called friends. She kind of liked that ‘cute guy’ who had joined them. Exhilarating music, colourful environment, seducing earthy smell and the effect of beer… Khyaati was having the best Navaratri of her life.

 

That is all she remembered!

 

She looked around and felt strange. Where was Ketki? With hurting head she got up and went to the living room. She saw the ‘cute guy’ sitting and watching TV. Was she hallucinating? She rubbed her eyes and looked again. He was still there.

 

“What is he doing here and where was Ketki?” She thought bewilderedly.

 

She stood there dumb founded and all sorts of thoughts passed through her mind in a fraction of second. Suddenly he turned towards her and gave a smile.

 

She would have died then and there looking at that handsome face and oh-so-sexy smile!

 

But suddenly she realized that he was in her house and her room-mate was nowhere in sight.

 

“What are you doing here? Where is Ketki?” She tried to sound stern.

 

“Ketki left yesterday with Saket and you were not in a position to come home alone, so I obliged!

 

Has anybody told you that you look like a princess when you sleep?

 

And you smell fabulous!” He said with a lopsided smile.

 

Was he teasing her, making fun of her? She was now really scared. She didn’t remember anything about last night. She was alone the whole night with him and ….

 

She didn’t want to think more.

 

She looked at him again. He looked decent. Nothing seemed amiss. She smiled tentatively.

 

He asked her to freshen up. She obeyed as if she was in a trance.

 

When she came out of the shower, he was ready with a big mug of coffee for her.

 

He was so ‘at-home’ as if she was at his place. He chattered non-stop and she instantly felt at ease. She forgot that they were meeting for the first time or she had to leave for the office or anything else existed!

 

She wished the time would stop here!

 

This is how a love-at-first-sight feels? She didn’t want to know, at least not now!


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Sakhi's Laghukatha by Sakhi (aka Dr. Dhara Shah) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at sakhi.laghukatha@gmail.com.

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