Friday, October 3, 2014

Mumbai Mail

Chhatrapati Sivaji Terminus is the busiest station of India. At any given instant of time, any part of the day, the station is flocked with people and thus, never short on activity. People from all walks of life – from the mighty company executive to homeless peddlers for whom the domes served as a roof atop their heads, always amalgamated with the station. For some, this might mark the beginning of a journey, maybe an anxious or an enthusiastic omen, for some others, it is signals a terminus, the end of a pleasant or an unpleasant voyage. It was in the middle of this hubbub of activity that I found myself a few minutes after the sun set on the famed Mumbai skyline.

I had a train to catch. The outbound Mumbai Mail to Chennai which would be departing in an hour and a half. And I had two three tier Air Conditioned coach tickets with me. I picked up a coffee from a stall. I moved towards the center of the station where there were a group of chairs for waiting, perched atop one of them and started the agonizing wait. The station in all its grandeur, never failed to capture my imagination. I watched as railway network put people on the move. There were laughter of joy, sighs of relief, and tears of painful farewell. The station, as would be the case with most stations on the railway network, was a cornucopia of emotions. My mind was not focused. I realized that I should be feeling tense, but I was surprisingly calm. I had seen in movies that during such moments, your mind wades through a m̩lange of moments that happened all through your life Рthe good ones, the bad ones and the ugly ones. But there was nothing of that sort puttering through my mind, it was empty. The group of girls sitting near her were chattering non-stop about the latest Salman Khan movie. She longed for serenity, some peace. Mumbai was a tough place to find peace, and the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus was the last place one could hope to find serenity. Finally the chatter reached such a point that she could no longer take it. She picked up her bag and moved, in measured paces, towards the main entrance of the station. There was always a swarm of people pushing into the station every minute, and it was where she hoped to catch a glimpse of Sooraj.

As she waited, she was fidgeting with her mobile. For the past two hours she had been calling him, but there had been no response. She had messaged him multiple times, to call her back but there was neither the call back she had been waiting for nor a message indicating that he wasn’t in a position to. She finished three coffees one after another, and kept waiting. She waited for him in the busy railway station for more than an hour. Inside she was debating if she should simple walk away and board the train. She had the ticket, after all. And he didn’t know the details of which compartment they were reserved in. She had to take care of everything, from start to end because he was not in a position to. As if on cue, the announcement came, “Passengers, your kind attention! Train No. so-and-so Mumbai Chennai Mail from Mumbai CST to Chennai Central will depart from Platform No. 6 at two-three-one-five hours.” This was followed by announcements in Hindi and Marathi. She looked at her watch, and then her mobile. No messages. The train, if on schedule, was due to depart in twenty minutes.

She had to make a decision. She could not go back. She carefully stared at the net batch of incoming crowd pushing and shoving to get inside the station. No, Sooraj wasn’t there. She turned around and started walking in the direction of Platform No. 6. The decision had been made. There was going to be no more waiting for him.

She boarded the Mumbai Mail, located her berth, placed her bags and settled in. After the tumultuous past couple of hours, the silence around her seemed eery. She moved to the door. Maybe she was hoping if he did manage to come at this last minute, that he could still find her. The engine blew its horn, signaling the intent to commence the journey. The guard flashed the green light. And slowly but steadily, the lights of Chhatrapati Sivaji Terminus was moving against the direction she was going. She was still at the door and her coach had almost reached the end of the station when her mobile phone signaled a message received, “My wife came back today. She is still not willing to divorce me, we fought over it again today. I couldn’t get out of the house. Let’s make a plan for another day when she will be away at her parents’ place. Come to Marine Drive tomorrow evening, we’ll decide.

Without a second thought, she instantly replied, “I waited for you, you didn’t turn up. You cheated me, you are cheating your wife as well. Don’t wait for me, I am going where the Mumbai Mail takes me. Goodbye.” She sent the message and switched her mobile off. Tomorrow was going to be a fresh day, a fresh start. 

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