Churchgate Station was jampacked in the evening. Eyes darted towards the yellow and brown painted train stationed on platform No.1 unmoved. A berserk crowd zigzagged, running amok to catch the local, swerving left and right in this sweltering heat percolating. Maddening honking of cars, cabs and buses outside the station deafened ears.
Arushi sat on the white bench wearing tortoise glasses and bag slung on her shoulder. Eyes darted left and right. A couple of roadside Romeo slowed and galloped in front of the bench to catch her attention. She was uninterested with the unwanted attention and eyes fixed on her mobile phone, checking Tinder and Twitter. Plodding hesitatingly on her steps, she entered the train and slouched on the berth, gazing past the station and the tiny, rut steel window giving a view of the busy road.
The break up did her good last night. She faked tears and watched him walk away on the deserted Andheri street. She could breathe free and closure happened after a year-long relationship ended, convinced that she is not into something new. The reverie was broken by a tall guy who almost jerked her off the comfort to plank himself next to her. “Can I sit here,” he asked. She smiled and wondered. “You already sat, dude.”
He was restless and fiddling with her fingers as if counting the number of times he got laid. Arushi was unaffected by his presence. “Hey, I’m Kundan,” he stammered. “So, you expect me to do your Janam Kundali and telling you the name of your future wife,” she let off. Silence engulfed. Kundan didn’t know where to look. She concatenated into riotous laughter. “Sorry, I didn’t mean that. Ok! Kundan what do you do?”
“Right now, I am sitting next and trying hard to woo you. Hey, game for coffee. I know it’s crazy right. This train goes to Andheri, straight away,” he jested. She was flustered for a while. “Oh! Gosh! Not again Andheri after this break. My life is silly…. he wanna ask me out.”
“Okay! But five minutes.” She cursed herself for saying yes on this strange date. Who does that! Something is terribly wrong with me, she thought. The train slowly ambled past Churchgate and hit speed past Marine Lines and Charni Road. The train moved at jet and words lost like thin, smoked air filling the city’s lungs.
She walked. He followed. Settling on the sofa at Barrista, cold coffee was served on a plastic tray. “You still haven’t answered my question,” she guffawed. “Why are guys so like that?”
“You mean like what?” he casually countered. “Ok! I am a freelance kinda jobless writer sitting at home, admiring the skies and speak to a girl only if she blows my mind.” Arushi tossed her head, “Arre Bhagwan! I am not Menka and by your looks, not a torn jeans and faded t-shirt Vishwamitra. I am a fashion designer. Okay! No offense Kundan. You are such a fashion disaster. Fashion designer by the way.” He was confused for awhile. “You mean, You and not me”
“Well! I am One. We are not speaking about Rohit Bal and Anamika Khanna.” Both went silent and uncomfortable. She asks for a pen and jotted a 10-digit phone number on the paper napkin. She jerked off the sofa and picked her bag, “Since you asked me out, foot the bill, will you! It’s just coffee. Call me, I gotta rush.” He was taken aback and looked flustered, “When are we gonna meet next?”
“Call me. I ain’t saying tomorrow. Agar kismet mein hain hum toh definitely milenge,” she flitted past the crowd to disappear. Kundan eyes searched for her but lost the sight of this mystery woman he just took out, traveled together inside a sweaty local train and a posh cafe. The calls were blithely ignored. Dozen miss calls. He behaved like a jerk. Arushi’s phone was out of coverage. Kundun tossed right, left on the bed, spent blank nights with eyes tossing towards the ceiling fan. “Is it love,” he cursed himself. The saccharine old 70, 80 and 90s songs played on radio Mirchi in his car to beat the crazy Mumbai traffic did him no good. Was it the end of it? he asked. Perhaps, it was time to move on and he did. Routine crept in.
Rain lashed to the sway of barricade arrows in the city and the pavement, roads were washed out, with residents tootled awkwardly in a thatch of mud. Chaos reigned at the railway station flocking inside the train ambling slowly. Kundan stepped carelessly, brushed past passengers when he collided into someone. It was her. They couldn’t believe what they just saw and gaped with eyes wide open. “You want to sit,” she sheepily says. “I tried calling you zillion times but you wouldn’t pick up the phone,” he whined. The train has stopped at a standstill for an hour.
“I mean, I know, right. The ex before I met you called and wanted to get back. I was so stupid but then called it off. Waise, I left Mumbai….oh! No! It’s not feeling right. I am lying now. Ok!” She cleared her throat, “I was confused and dunno what to do, there was you and him. Finally, wanted to space out in my personal zone. You didn’t look for me, by the way and now see.”
“I am sorry Arushi…should have checked the cafe we went in.”
“You see, I was there yesterday hoping to see you. You know what, a horrible lover you’ll make. Waise dhoondne mein bhi Bhagwan milta hai,” she chirped in.
The train chugged slowly. In the heat of the moment, Arushi looked instantly into his eyes and faces cakes at the cusp of each other. Kundan moved his lip. She gently laid her head pressed to the metal grilled window. He moved slowly and forgetting every hesitation, lips curled into each other, caressing her jet black hair, kissing instantly. She murmured softly into his ear, “Let’s give love a chance.” He smiled, “Love is what we need, gently, slow and like this fast local.” The train swerved in speed on the railway track. Speck of rain flicked on their hair and face. Love has never felt so effortless and icy.