This post K for Khar Road is written for the #AtoZChallenge: Blogging from A to Z April Challenge: 2016
K for Khar Road
My head is swollen after hitting a hard object. I wake up abruptly. I am shaken and see the railway track. It takes me a while to realize that I am inside a jam-packed train where there is hardly any space to breathe. I hear a female voice speaking in Marathi, Hindi and English, ‘Next station Khar Road, Agla station Khar Road, Pudhil station Khar Road…’
My life took a u-tune in the past 24 hours, the time I was chased by villagers with sticks and to save my ass, I sprung inside a fast moving train. I am scared. I am in a new place. The people are ruthless here. They push each other mercilessly and cars don’t stop to let people walk. I walk sloppily and stop in front of a tea stall. I am hungry, thirsty and tired. I watch the bald guy with a protruded belly, twirling his moustache pouring milk in the huge recipient of boiling water. He is irritated as he casts a cursory glance at me. “Why are you standing or staring like that?”, he scares me with his coarse voice.
Suddenly, a lady dressed in expensive sari jumps of nowhere and asks why I am drowsy. I am frightened. After all, what do you expect a 17-year-old to do in such a big city? I am simply lost. She somehow gets a clue and asks, “Ghar se bhaag ke aaya na (You’ve run away from home). UP?” I nod. She asks the tea seller to give me tea, pakoda, and biscuits which I devour like a homeless person.
In the flick of seconds, she enters a white car and disappears along with her driver dressed in black suit and wearing a white cap. I roam the streets for days and chased by cops. On days, I sleep on an empty stomach at railway stations and on the streets in the loyal company of stray dogs. I smile and become spirited when I see the posters of my favorite stars, from Amitabh Bachchan to Shah Rukh Khan, Madhuri Dixit and Aishwarya on bill boards. A beam of light struck me: I want to become like them one day. For sure, there is a purpose reaching this unknown destination, some call it Bombai but it has just changed its name to Mumbai. It’s not called Sapnon ki Nagariya (dream land) for nothing.
I keep wandering aimlessly on the street and avoid being mowed down by a car when a Sahab steps out of his car to slap me. Ouch! It hurts. I cannot defend myself. I am too weak. I lie down on the sea-facing pavement and start crying. I sense a shadow, standing in front of me and opening the palm of her hand with ladu and grain of peanuts. I slowly move my head upwards. It’s the same rich lady.
She looks at me and speaks in a grave voice, “After all, what’s the point of roaming the streets and getting slaps? This is Mumbai. Sirf naam ka shehar hai (A city famous for its name sake only). Here, you get kicked on your bum and oscillates like a statue. Come and stay with me. We have a big house. I will give you food. You wash my car every day and help the cook.”
I usher at the back of the car seat when she scolds me, “Make sure you don’t soil the car. It’s very expensive worth Rs 1 crores. Arrey! Let it be! It will not make sense to you…” The car screeches its way in the heavy traffic, honking seems to be normal and stumbles on pot holes. Welcome to Mumbai, I tell myself. At least, I have a roof to hide.