The night owl flew past the Queen’s necklace and gaped in wonder at the Arabian sea as the tranquil water at Marine Drive buried the secrets, serenaded by train whistles and sky rises in the city. The night was our lover, embracing passion and intensity in our eyes, that rose like the vast sea.
Our lives resembled the chirping of birds and owls, silent, singing happily and boisterous at the same time at the International Students House nestled at Churchgate where we admired the sea and breeze that flew. The girls at Telang were quite a distraction as the window would stay wide open, giving a view of the mermaids singing and laughing as if a riot took place.
Days and nights ushered into the exam period. A race against time after frolicking for a year in Maximum city where we indulged into the extremities of life. In Mumbai, nothing is kept at a bare essential for it’s not called Maximum City for no reason. The warden’s floor is a silent spectator to our books and the open balcony inviting fresh sea breeze wafting to make studying in the wee hours of the night a date we couldn’t afford to miss. After all, studying on the vast and sprawling balcony makes it a memory that will be cherished over the years, bonding with hostel mates by sharing the modest table where our notebooks, pens and textbooks were scattered.
The rattling of trains looming at a not-so-far-away distance from our Churchgate abode and Marine Drive remained our eternally endearing neighbor. Of course, the preening eyes of girls cushioned in their rooms wondering what those guys were doing at this odd hour. The mermaids took it upon themselves to distract us and pulling our necks away from the books like the new age Menkas. Of course, a study break meant walking on the balcony to share a smoke as the girls would whistle at the other end and stuttering in towels to grab our attention. We could hear whisper and laughs, “Are they watching?” The Telangites and Ish-ites were neighbors, separated by the white coated wall. Our discreet eyes caught them inside their room where they fiddled with light. A tale of darkness and light switched on and off at their own fancy. We were quite uninterested and ignored them. They only became louder trying every trick in the book to grab our attention, calling us and giggling. The lights went off. It brought a smile to our faces.
Our hungry stomachs were never at rest. After all, when luxury was a walking distance and minutes away from our comfort, how can we resist South Mumbai? It was time to wake up the security Mama caught in deep slumber to open the door, slipping ten rupee notes to grease his palm or the warden sons would make us sneak out. Once, we hustled past the door, there was no qualm jumping the gate and walking our way to Churchgate station.
The coaches were sleeping silently as we waded past the station. There was no roar of engine and whittling which we were so familiar with during the bustling day. After all, it was past the 1.40 a.m ki last local. We walked inside the station and hazily got out at the other end where hawkers were selling tea, Vada Pav and of course, our sweet luxury Bun Maska with jam. A banquet of savouries spread on the table at Churchgate Station entrance on the main road where we faced our much frequented Eros Theatre and an oblique view of the iconic Rajabhai Tower, standing on the vast road.
The fellow expertly sliced the bun and spread butter and jam. The bun maska is prepared in the flick of seconds and our voracious mouths ready to devour them. The tongue gently swirled the jam that frothed the lip to find its way inside the mouth. The hands almost burnt holding the smoking hot cutting chai in the glass to quench the thirst and the steam blowing on the face. The tongue is rolled and twisted to taste the drop of hot tea as the glass is cupped to the lip and inch of the mouth. What an aha feeling! A cup of freshly brewed cutting chai and bun maska made the mind went wild with imagination on what makes happiness so priceless. It can never be traded.
It was the days of bliss. The perfect cocktail of happiness…Mumbai, Bun Maska and cutting chai in the silent morning at Churchgate station. A tale of joy and memories that lingered but only to be relished in our imagination during those nights.