The train slowly ambled at the crowded Chitrapathi Shivaji Terminus in Mumbai. The crowd swerved its way out of the train, brushed violent with little Chunnu’s tiny body who clutched to the pallu of his Nani (grandmother).
The petite 70-year old women of peach color, draped in Benarasi saree fulfilled her promise of taking Chunnu to the dream city, Mumbai where he watched in awe at the statues, big buildings, cars and buses honking their way like in the Hindi films.
The station is packed with passengers running to catch the train and small shops selling juice, vada pav and newspapers. The grandmother tightly held Chunnu’s hand as they slowly plodded their way outside CST and boarded the BEST bus, asked a ticket to Dadar station.
Chunnu’s eyes beamed at the big city and his chapped lips took a bite of Vadapav at the street stall within miles of Siddhi Vinayak Mandir. Nani told Chunnu, “The mandir is very crowded today. Let’s stop in front with folder hands to Bappa and close our eyes to pay him respect. Ask him to bless you , “Chunnu followed his Nani.
Both Chunnu and Nani walked on the pavement where the old and traditional shops, restaurants, street food stalls are lined on both sides of the road. Chunnu was delighted as his tiny feet walked past restaurants and the flavor of food is wafted through his nostril. They walked past Kabutar Khana where Nani showed him the black pigeons feasting on grains. “You see, beta, how crowded this place, is unlike our small town. Look at the big shops where only the Seth can shop and people like us can buy our groceries in those small shops or hawkers selling sarees and kurtas.”
The innocent Chunni nodded and his gaze followed the stray dogs and the hawker measuring the saree length with a yellow tape to show a customer haggling for a better price.” Little Chunni showed his fascination at the portly man cutting the onion into smithereens. He walked ahead of his Nani several times who called him back. How did he wish to stay in this big city forever?
The only thing that scared Chunnu and Nani to death is the vehicles that honked and swerved past them in a rash and brash manner. “Don’t worry, Chunnu. It’s not our gaon. People in the city don’t have time for each other. One day when you grow up, you will understand. Don’t be scared. If you hold my hand and walk carefully like we are doing now, the cars and bikes will not hit you. See how the people are walking and running fast. When you grow up into an adult, you will also become like them and you will take care of me. Study well. You can also thrive and run in Mumbai.”
Chunnu was already dreaming of making big in the dream city in his world. Nani broke his reverie and forcefully dragged him to a spot to show him something that the old woman believed will shape his grandson in the coming years. “Stand with respect. He is the man who fought for our rights when the big people snatched our rights and crushed us to death. He defended our community. You should read about him and write his name in your notebook. Now, find his name and write in your notebook. It’s written on the plaque. Now, let’s keep walking,” Nani firmly tells Chunnu.
The old lady walked a long distance, bearing the excruciating pain in her tired legs and her battered face sweated profusely. She turned around and went into a panic mode. Her heart was beating frantically. Chunnu was not seen anywhere. She looked around and walked slowly, asked the newspaper and panwalla, “Have you seen my Chunnu?”
Tears rolled down her cheeks. “Has she lost Chunnu in the big city?” The old lady started crying. The Panwala left his shop and asked, “Maa-ji, what happened? Please sit down on the stool.”
The grandmother gave the kind man the description of Chunnu and they finally found a small boy who stared at the statue and stood in a soldier poised, unfazed by the traffic and its crazy inhabitants in Mumbai or his Nani who was nowhere in sight.
A few men ran towards the grandmother, “Chalo jaldi se (Let’s go fast). We have found your Chunnu.” The grandmother wiped the perspiration from her forehead and walked slowly to see Chunnu staring at the statue. She scolded him, “You nearly gave me a heart attack. I thought we lost you or some ruthless man has kidnapped you. Why are you staring at the statue? It didn’t cross your mind that I am not with you. I told you to keep walking with me. Chunnu received a tight slap from his Nani.
He innocently said, “How can I, Nani? I wrote his name in my notebook. He is Dr. Ambedkar and he told me to stop and stand straight. The small crowd that gathered was amused, “He told you to stop? How can he? It’s a statue, you sarphira child.”
Chunnu pointed at the statue and fingers showing something. “See! He said, stop and stand straight, ” Chunnu said, “I stopped and stared like a statue.”
This post is written as part of the Ultimate Blog Challenge and linked to Blog Chatter on Day 6. I am attempting a short story on the adventure of a small boy, Chunnu who along with his Nani (Grandmother) to visit Mumbai. The story was narrated to me by Mom about the statue scene bit but of course, I have set it in contemporary fashion with present day Mumbai. Hope you guys will like it.