It was 4 o’cl when I reached Pune Station. I scampered and wriggled my way amidst the motley crowd, stomping my feet upstairs at the booking hall. I waited for another 30 minutes before I walked to the ticket window and asked the gentleman, one ticket second class Mumbai, excited to board one of the trains I normally travel by, Deccan Queen-the favorite or Pragati Express.
I removed my wallet from the jeans pocket and flipped the money out before placing it back inside, making an exit away from the ticket counter, almost leaving the guy speechless. I didn’t know what got over me and cursed myself on my way out of the station. I felt like turning back and going to the railway station but finally paid the bus ticket to Mumbai. I was kicking myself for behaving so weird, which I normally never do.
It was Tuesday evening, July 2006, the same day blast occurred in seven trains in Mumbai. The bus entered the outskirt of Mumbai and I was enjoying the scenery, past TISS and RK studio at Chembur when a guy, accompanying his mother received a call on his cell. It was his father. “What! Train blast in Mumbai.” Everyone in the bus heard him and sent a tizzy of sort when his mom said, “Mumbai mein kya ho raha hai (What’s happening in Mumbai?” I asked the guy and he told bomb has been planted in seven trains in the city.
I got scared, wondering what will happen now since I gotta check in the hotel and knowing the history in the city after every terror strike, staying in a hotel would be quite a task. I shared my concern with the guy who was sitting on the opposite seat with his mom. We exchanged numbers and he asked to give a call in case of any problem, prodded by his mother. The bus driver was unwilling to drop passengers to Dadar, fearing of riots and tense situation looming in the city. Despite protests, the bus stopped all passengers at Sion. Immediately, I called home and friends, to inform that I am alright and there is nothing to worry. But, woe betide me as all phone networks were jammed. I lit a cigarette and stood, waiting for the BEST Bus, to come that will ferry me to Dadar.
At the right moment, a car stopped near the bus stop and we were asked to get inside since they will ferry us to our destination. The coupled removed their car from the garage and was trying to help stranded passengers. That’s what I like about the city and yes, it’s ‘The Spirit of Mumbai.’ Read the related post here.
I was dropped at Mumbai and saw a bus to Mumbai Central in front of us in the traffic at Dadar. The helpful couple asked me, if I’ll be alright and hopped out, not without thanking them, storming inside the moving vehicle. Tried calling Adi but his phone was jammed. Only then, I remember my Parsi relative-I am not a Parsi-Parveen aunty and when I entered the colony, someone stopped me, asking where I was going. I told him, meeting Parveen aunty. I walked up the wooden stairs and Parveen aunty opened the door. I said, “Vishal.”
Aunty just came back to Mumbai in the morning after London holidays in the morning and told me that I was lucky. I stayed over and she ordered chicken fried rice and we had dinner together. Early morning, aunty woke me up, saying sorry but she received a bad news. Her nephew is missing and was hurrying to the hospital to find out. Her nephew was working in London and came back to Mumbai a short while ago. His wife has just delivered a baby. It tears the heart apart and didn’t know what to say. Had quick shower and breakfast before wishing courage to aunty.
I bought a copy of Mid-Day before taking a cab to Churchgate, walked at Marine Drive and sipping beer at Not Just Jazz by the Bay. I was depressed during the day, reading the newspaper on how many lives were lost and gleaning through the pictures. During the evening, I boarded the empty local on the way back to Mumbai Central where I checked at a hotel. Adi called and came to me, telling how horde of relatives came to stay at his house on the day of the blast. He took me home, the next day. We traveled on his bike in the city, wondering how the blast rocked Mumbai but the city stood firm on its feet in no time. This is Mumbai and nothing on earth can deter the city, its spirit. It was back to normal life, cars honking and swerving their way, the crowd always in a rush, lifeline in the city ‘locals’ and couples sitting at Marine Drive.
Post script: Like a friend shared with me yesterday as we harked back to the fateful day on July 11, it was all destiny and luck. The initial plan was to travel by train to Dadar and from there take a local to Chruchgate, like I normally do. Unbelievable! The post doesn’t seek to cast a comment on the court judgement on Tuesday, nine years later but go back to the day where I experienced kindness and came face to face with fate.