Mumbai, June/July 2006:
The eyes woke up to the splutter of rain and soggy morning welcoming me in the nerve center of Mumbai Central. A quick shower, dressed in a jiffy and skittering out of the modest hotel for which I forked 250 bucks a day in those days, barely enough time to gulp a cutting chai at the doodhwala shop jutting out at the pavement’s edge.
The rain continued unabated. Mud patch formed on the road and pool of water flowing to form a semi-circle. Pressed by time, I got Xerox of certificate done fast and hurtled my way towards the railway station for the post-grad admission at Mumbai University. Our Bachelor results were delayed forever and gotta make the plunge. In those days, nothing would stop me. Another story of foraying past the dingy lanes and posse of city strugglers to eke a life, losing the way from right to left, asking for directions and finally walking down towards the railway station.
One step into the mud and a splutter for you know the shoe is drenched making the awkward step to save the crisply ironed and washed jeans bearing the print of muddy water. I walked in slow motion, avoiding the mud splayed on every spotted surface and no power on earth would save my clothes. I attempted a leg jump from the bridge to hop on the floor at Mumbai Central station, almost slipped and saved by the jerky body movement, scrumming my way at the ticket window.
Mud and rainwater flooding the floor always brought discomfort and what with the fear of tripping and clothes getting soiled. I hate that but slowly the denim’s leg was sucked by the mud. I have a peculiar way of walking, doddering one step at a time to finally reach the platform. Trust me, it was quite a task for me and yeah cutting corners to reach the kiosk buying the morning newspapers. I could breathe and settled at the window seat, flipping the newspaper and watching the view outside. The train slowly chugged and rattled its way outside Central which got me an inkling into this superlong journey to Santacruz. You know the story right? Boogie running slowly during the rains, playing hide and seek much to the chagrin of commuters.
That’s another story on struggling to get off the train at Santacruz, braving an arrow of rain on the bridge transforming itself into water lilies and scampering down on the rickshaw hunt, some acting pricey and the moment I got into one, already soaked from top to toe, clothes sticking like glue. Worst is done. I meekly tell him, Kalina Campus, University of Mumbai braving the rain and harrumphing like an action hero kicking dozen villains’ asses.
The time you try to locate the department, getting into the wrong area and way out, the feeling of being drained and mustering the courage in a feeble voice, asking the administration guy the necessary procedures and removing the file containing all certificates from the bag. The rain knocked me down. I took a breath and few toilet trips. All done. A cup of tea at the canteen.
The rain subsided and smoldered. I plodded my steps into the sprawling Kalina campus walking past the huge gate, hailing a rickshaw back to Santacruz station. A smooth to Mumbai Central this journey. The legs were paining walking at Mumbai Central, past the line of shopping and stopped at the Xerox shop buying notebook and Pen. A never-ending journey, scything my way, skedaddling, sodden in the water pool. Finally, a day’s job done storming in the water. My sweet tooth was craving. I stopped at the sweet mart and indulged in delectable savouries, from hot samosas and sweetery to enjoy the baarish. Back to the hotel room and crashed to wake up in the evening. A second shower called and got down to eat. Treat of the day: Hitting the dance bar, Kingfisher beer flowing and dinner.
Mumbai Monsoon is truly unique and the first bash feels like blip on the memory, a real-time sensory experience that it happened just now. So much for the carefree days where every moment of life counted like water.