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Mumbai tales: of hot spot and high on alien territory

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Nursing a breakup. Wandering aimlessly on the elongated parapet in the morning and night to conquer sleeplessness and unchecked love emotions. I watched the Queen’s necklace sitting on the edge of the Arabian Sea and dreamed to chase the stars adorned in the unblemished sky like velvet. The crowded road of Colaba yearned for my company and the invisible force turned me into a tornado visiting bars and places. The crowded night in South Mumbai wore various shades and depth. There was a company. An old chum nurturing a love and hate relationship with a soon to be ex-boyfriend checking on her. I was clueless about human relationships and on the verge of losing a love that didn’t belong.

The name is Sports Express Bar, sandwiched between the popularly frequented Leopold crazed by tourists and Cafe Mondegar as beer flew in jumbo glasses. We spoke about everything under the sun, right from exes to fucked up relationships and the city. Who says the slice of life is given shape in reality but expressed on screen. I was hurt in the name of love, constantly fiddling with my cell phone, checking on her messages sent a fortnight back. I wished for routine love, pretty much like mushy songs giving false promises of reunited in the climax. Life is the only real.

My companion was a college friend-cum, journalist-cum social activist, fast forward in the present. She got loads to tell. I tried to be interested in her sob and exciting stories. There was a hole in my heart. We were half tipsy. I was boring. She got a knack and called a common friend, a medical student to give her company. We were boozing to heavenly sake. Regal cinema was a step away. The dude joined us. The three of us watched Bachna Aye Haseena with the Kapoor hunk, Ranbir, playing what he is in real life. Lucky Casanova bastard romancing three women.

Ah! The love sentiments. I am whining at the interval on the fallacy of love like a bruised and defeatist poet. Both of them laughed at me turning into a Devdas, jilted lover in real life. I was blabbering…must be a major embarrassment to them. Movie got over and samoosa stuffed the belly. The alcohol scene was still on. I wanna sleep. Fed up of the hostel and doc in waiting dude ushered me in a cab to Churchgate. I was sloshed and stormed inside the local train before 1.40 am. I was given the direction by this blink-and-eye chum to enter his medical school in the wee hours.

No guard was interested to stop this stranger. I pretended to be a medical student and gyrated aimlessly, flushed with alcohol, in an unattended hostel room, nostril bearing the scent of medicine. A feeling of euphoria to gatecrash in a medical school, battling sleep. I dozed off till the morning. Pride wore thick on the face for entering lines that shouldn’t be crossed and unsure that I slept in dude’s room. Alcohol and Mumbai can do wonders in entering an alien premise and nobody shall stop you. Simply not least interested.




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Day 3

What’s in a day?!  Happy birthday to Mom. Wreathe of sun blistering in the smoky and billowing cloud to ring cheers after three days of dullness and mood afflicted by anhedonia. Blame it on the cyclone wrecking havoc for three days and splinter of rain squawking on the window. The worse is to sit by the window like a prisoner locked behind bars and hesitant to venture far with the fear to be assailed by gun water shots.

The cyclone ban lifted. I sidled on the deserted road splayed by tree branches crushed in mound and treading to besieged by electric wires splattered all over the surface.  A sense of snatched freedom and liberation to see the deserted road and streets. I miss the Indian monsoon. Every grain of rain harkens me to the years of bliss in Mumbai and Pune, the joy of wading in the rain and drenched completely, sticky jean and tee fitting me like glue. I cannot sit at home glowering with pain and constantly whine about the weather. The laptop for company and work occupy the mind’s space.

I started to read the Sequel to Shantaram, The Mountain Shadow in the start of January which took me two weeks plus to wrap the book which is a big let down and tedious writing with the expansive length not helping it at all. It’s nothing like the epic and heart-pounding Shantaram and in this one, David Gregory Roberts attempted to inject the same old scenario of underworld marrying spirituality. The book is good only in its description of places like Colaba, Worli and Haji Ali in Mumbai.

Speaking about Mumbai. The place that I love to death and someone wrote in the comment in the earlier post on how I am staying far away despite my writing is influenced by both Mumbai and Pune. Time is skittering away from me. Truth is that I am weighing on India’s option but one dampener is the exorbitant rent in the city. How I wish to be back! There are so many things constantly raging in my head and one would be to be back in the city for three months on an observant mode of where I stand, networking-wise, connecting and reconnecting with people and sorting out opportunities to see how things pan out.  The best friend is back in the city from Australia to be with his wife and feeling a sliver of jealousy on how he is in the city while I am not.

Carpe diem! It just surfaced inside my mind and amazed how our brain pushes things with force for a good reason to challenge the self. How I have changed over time! There was a point where I would follow my heart unwary of consequences. Circumstances make you a bit too wise after events to live in sense of comfort which is a big human flaw.  The moment fear cripples us, we stop evolving or experiment with life. The usual old self-lingering on the borderline is what makes us real and one needs to put a break on being dead chuffed with our plate and better go hungry than stare at the morsels.

I cannot do without my agenda diary and tried to shop at some places but options didn’t sate the appetite. The finicky and obsessive person in me needs a big diary beyond the normal size to fill in the huge space. I visited a bookshop yesterday and gleamed at an executive diary. I flipped it open to see the daily agenda pages printed in a single column. Bad luck!  There are so many things that will happen on the work front, one after the other and the diary is my only solace to sit, plan and to sieve through. Those agenda applications on i-phone or smart phone don’t really work for me.

A cup of strong chai can do wonder for me and the best gift for someone to give is a bundle of teabags. A friend from UK sent a box of Typhoo tea bag for me which is filling my body like serum since the start of the week. I also got two packs of Masala Chai which someone brought from India. Bout of tiredness got the better of me yesterday and gulped a cup of tea before crashing on bed. Dinner went for a toss. Mom kept knocking on the door to jostle me out of my dreams for food. It never happened. I slept like a baby after aeon to squint the eyes open and harrumph with physical and spiritual triumph. Yoga and late lunch followed. Thanks to the universe for wine and whisky stored at home.  Swill of alcohol  will be hot company at night and cuddle myself with a book, lazy around in peace. I did a guest post last week on Balaka’s blog. You can check it here.

Have a lovely weekend



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Fiction: A riotous night and the dead Goddess

Skitter of light and blitz. Of color canvas. A bevy of partygoers swirling and scrumming in line like diligent kids at the Opera House. Drizzle of light caressing the foam in the sky and white line hiding the line of copulating stars in the vast sky.  Night fall exudes a mysterious look. Silent owls tottering for the kill.

Men and women. Young boys and girls swooning as if hunting for a prey. Decked in short skirts, spunky jeans, hippie hair and twisted locks holding each other tightly as if it’s doomsday.  Fleeting voices,  warble, and footsteps scampering in the moat and hopping in the narrow alley to heckle the plump and bald security guarding the fortress, intricate wooden door. Some could have caressed his twirling mustache to sneak inside.

The linoleum floor shone brightly in a speckled bright wood colors and tiny dots of spangle blended with muddy footprints. The singer wore a backless black sleeve that grabbed eyeballs of male ogling at her and women spouting fireball of jealousy. The voice screeched at decibel level to charm pigeons off the branches. Alcohol and beer guzzle at every table and Lonavla chikki popped inside mouths. The Mumbai skyline paled in comparison to the jarring voice and hushed tones among revelers, stealing silly pecks, long smooch and sensual caress.

The Queen’s necklace spread and skated its might to witness party life in the city, petty thieves planning the next move, silent lovers sky gazing to untie the lace and innocent hands flitting past loose skirts and blouse witnessed by the naked sea, iconic black-and-yellow cabs swirled in the traffic and underworld planning the killing. Cops were bored and pretended to look the other side by chasing flies in the hot South Mumbai summer.

Drunken souls traipsed their might inside the pub to and fro, waiters wore a bedazzled look at the sight of skimpy but adorable women flirting nonchalantly with them for their favorite drink. The night was a drudgery for some single men like me bored and gulping alcohol to curse their luck for not landing hot women and cuddle raging like a storm in the head. Something was brewing and boiling, not just the sizzler served piping hot on plate.

Cards shuffled and flickered on the table to change hands within span of seconds. Women paraded on stage in transparent lingerie and gyrating their seductive curvy moves to the latest pop songs as urn of money slung on stage.  Discreet heads lolled at the tables, dance floor and guests wriggling their way among the crowd. Pack of notes sifled on row of tables flicked expertly and swiftly greasing palms of greedy waiters, bouncers and single men and women game for a night of swing in rooms upstairs. No soul could decode business traveling like light in the  Opera House. No business is unfettered by the shady world, black turned into white, pink became crimson and the world wouldn’t get a stench of flesh trade flourishing freely like the alcohol on the rocks.

The noise reached decibel level stomping wildly on the ground, barman expertly flicking the vodka shots and Scotch to make everyone high while cocaine, hashish, coke, and LSD smacked its way inside where control was on the loose.  Strangers turned into momentary lovers, waltzing discreetly in open corners for rumpy-pumpy acts, changing partners and drenching in a trance. The mood was exuberantly set. The perfect ambiance glittered. Wicked smile on chaffed lips. Routine business. Let the kids swap to the tunes and not deny pleasure. Worship the phallus. The trade thrives for money never lies. Deceit is just another name.

Deal done inside and outside. Holy baba feared and loathed by many but still worshipped by millions where ingenuity sealed the lid to sprinkle blessing on followers, Jai Mata Di, he thundered. Caressing his grey beard and flipping a coin on million followers in his darbar, he made a sign with his eyes, pressed the left one. War will be declared in the city. Politics got the signal. Riot will be their treat. Statue of the revered leader’s wife was blackened in the crowded center as thick stench and odor wafted in the atmosphere. Buses and cars smeared into holy fire as offering to appease the Gods. Humans and vehicles splattered into fire resembling ghee to perform ablutions.   The holy sacrifice for the mother, the unsung Goddess of her devotees worshiping humans. Blind love and the lust for bloodshed wreathed on the tarred roads.

A night of reckoning. The luminous night, sparkling moon and raucous noise made by music, lovers, and rave wore thin at the next fall of darkness. Deal went horribly wrong. Hands of devils wore its shadow like a veil. The huge bag and money parcels pocked with crores landed in the wrong hand who fled the country, bribing airport officials and hid inside an invisible cave with filthy riches. War was declared. After all, the kingdom has to be saved. Factionalism, underworld, rich babas, bureaucrats and politicians slug it out on roads and streets. Riot spread like wildfire in the city. Intelligentsia blamed it on the blackened face of the dead Goddess to her millions of children. She was a sensitive soul and sentiments hurt, they languished.

The night club-cum-shady hub was razed by the BMC and the place scanned to uncover the crime. Revellers were harassed, slapped and assaulted but the treasure has long disappeared. Powertoni decided to wreak havoc.  Sins to be atoned. Sour revenge. No party anymore, drugs were taken on the roads and rave banned. A sly game splayed. The pub and ecstasy have gone sanskari (religious) with men and women, party animals and sexualized souls wearing orange robe, chanting hymns and selling agarbatis, sacred noodles blessed by the Lord himself, shuddh Makhni condom, shuddh Makhni noodles,  shuddh Makhni honey,  shuddh Makhni garments and shuddh Makhni concocted with ghee, going back to the days of purity. Doomsday was yet to strike. A matter of crores lost and buried.








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Day Two

I love the rains. Plopping sound of water tapering like music to the ear. Divine. Soothing. The rattling of water drops on the window sill ignites the creative mind to write and help to calm a rusted brain. Don’t get me wrong. It’s been raining like hell and it feels so fucking gloomy confined to the room and lying on the bed reading or the worst, feeling lame. Continuous showering can sap one’s energy emotionally and psychologically. It sucks.

Ok! Little bit of cheating here. I went out in the morning for the team’s lunch and some fun bantering where a new member joined. Man! The hotel who calls itself a four-star business hotel sucks and making dining a forgettable experience seems to be their new mantra. Just imagine, two of us ordered cappuccino and the waiter came back after making us wait endlessly and wrecked havoc on earth. It could have triggered the third world war. Milk! There is no milk and our stock is over.  Forget the coffee. The best was yet to come. Food ordered. A second apology. The ketchup stock was over. To say, we were stunned and our lid blown is quite an overbearing statement.

I choose to give a skip going to the coffee shop and headed back home. Tiredness got the better of me. It was the unusual weakening of the knee and legs that I face from time-to-time, an energy or vibe thing. I came back and lazed on the bed, reading The Mountain Shadow. The book which is good in parts sent me back to the hazily glorious Mumbai days, Colaba, Leopold and the silent roads in the wee hours, wading like a vagabond. I sorely miss the city and it feels like yesterday only. Mumbai! It wrestles one’s life and can take away so much from the soul, the carefree days and an amorous relationship that went into tatter. The best thing about the book is that Shantaram got an incredibly rich vocabulary and feels going back to school days with pen and paper, jotting the new words to swiftly find its way into my writing.

Mind is fickle. I am facing bout of depression from time-to-time and silly thoughts that overpowers the mind. I hate the unwanted thoughts that jostles me and spinning sensation of a football in the hand of devils having a gala time. But, ain’t letting them win over me. The tiredness that shakes you off the ground and not being in control can claim one’s sanity.  I discovered and downloaded by chance an application on my brand new iPhone, Calm which has soulful instrumental music that helps beat anxiety. Listening to the beat of When the Sun Sets by Michael Denny right now and it soothes the mind which keeps roiling like the dangerous storm. I hit on gold and blessed to grab this app that gently strokes the mind. You should check Calm app and listen to the free music while relaxing and doing meditation for it rejuvenate the battered mind and physic.

Things are in a slow mode at the start of the year and I am not pushing myself to do things like crazy. I can be quite obsessive that way and the OCD level keeps shifting gear. A reminder to take things slow, reading, working and not decking the head in hundred different things.  I am yet to make fresh entries in my diary for the year. The need for expression and release of pent-up energy or emotions for it’s been two days that I am plagued by negative thoughts which doesn’t spare me even during the yoga practice which by the way is going smoothly.

I want to be more regular on the blog and overcoming the mind’s hurdles or blockage in penning my forever delayed novel. I must have told you in last year’s countless entries. It’s about Mumbai and love. There are so many things plaguing my mind, a desire to push myself in doing so many things and the drive to shift back to India is somehow lost. Need to work harder on this front.

Chalo! I shall see you in another post.




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Book Review: Love across a broken map is searing portrait of emotions

Book Review: Love across a broken map

Genre: Short stories from The Whole Kahani/anthology across Asia

Copyright Dahlia publishing

Rating: Four stars

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In the foreword, Susmita Bhattacharya describes Love across a broken map as a collection of short stories spanning across the South Asian diaspora.  It’s not just an anthology but a stream of human emotions expressed through the stroke of pens touching lives and imaginations. The various descriptions are vivid, be it portraying migrants nestled in a new home in London and craving for this staple diet called love or coming face-to-face with destiny.  In short, the anthology of short stories finds its earnest place in the reader’s heart on account of the honest and sensitive expressions.


From London to Goa, Manchester to Mumbai, tales that span start-ups, girl crushes, virtual gigolos, obsessive fans and astrological mishaps. This eclectic mix of short stories from The Whole Kahani explores love and loss across the dividing lines of culture, race, and ethnicity. Love is celebrated, broken and forgotten; is embraced and remembered in this collection of stories of heartbreak and resilience.

More can be read here.


The collection unfurl with ‘Watermelon Seeds’ where writer CG Menon injects prose pocked with gentleness and playfulness at the same time in the engrossing tale through the believable characters.  Alex Caan’s ‘Rocky Romeo’ stirs the taste bud in this heart-pounding offering where the words flow in the vein in narrating the otherworldly life fleshed in the most humane possible manner. Love can strike in the hardest way in the virtual world in this terrible fable beautiful marrying the road for thrill and unexpected love.

The Nine Headed Ravan served by Radhika Kapur is a real cocktail about an unusual love story between two incomplete humans and afflicted by the chasm of emotions or destiny, for that matter. The author throws an emphatic look at the gap in our relationships or fate’s way of snatching our identity that deprives individuals of becoming a whole entity.  It’s one of my favorite stories for the author doesn’t take the run-of-the-mill route but touches the story with a dash of realism, human emotions running high and the engrossing end in the quest for love built with a strong message about the heart’s peculiar way of joining the dots.

‘Three Singers’ is about well, three singers where Kavita Jindal weaves a compelling tale through her riveting language and effortless narration. You just cannot afford to put down this tale. Jindal has a rich language and the detailing in her repertoire, thus making it unique about the twin sisters and the subdued jealousy vying for love. The end comes as surprise but sensational in this down-to-earth story and refreshing story that captures the mind.

The anthology boasts of several heartwarming stories, right from Mona Dash’s ‘To London’ that gently reminds us that love needing no reason or logic. This impossible love story can get intense, repulsive and soothing at the same time which leaves a searing impact on the soul. Iman Qureshi’s ‘Naz’ brings an edge and rare intensity in depicting the gamut of feelings that we hide on the fear of being judged.  The story expresses the shady and dark sides of life’s various facets while at the same time, lending a ubiquitous charm and sensitivity to same-sex attraction. There is Rohan Kar’s ‘We are all made of stars’ who touches the issue of stars and planets in relationships and its violent bearing or the place of an independent woman in our society as well as the fact of coming to terms with the unpleasantness.  Reshma Ruia’s ‘Soul Sisters’ deserves to be read to understand the various nuances of human emotions and the therapeutic approach that effectively deals with darkness and disappointment.

Shibani Lal’s ‘Entwined Destinies’ is about the father-daughter bond where the theme of sacrifice captures the heart. Our relationships are precious so are our dreams, aspirations, and destiny that spans across generations. The book ends with ‘By Hand’ penned by Farrah Yusuf where loneliness is showcased as painful and the end of everything is the only reality.  It’s a heart-wrenching tale that makes one wonder about the fallacy of human existence.

Final Words:

Love across Broken Maps is a collection of short stories and it gets tricky to pick faults in the individually penned stories spanning across continents. The authors have offered a bouquet of emotions and relationships set most in England where hearts are strummed together and bearing souls open.  A commendable effort on the part of the various authors in narrative sensitive tales about lives, and unpeeling the layers of expression, love which is unrequited at times,  pain, angst and dreams to conquer ourselves and the world we live in.

You can click on the Amazon link to buy the book and click here for more information.



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Stop this refrain, The spirit or resilience of Mumbai!


The character and space of Mumbai change every nano-second.  As a city, Mumbai is constantly on its toes and access to basic and solid ground infrastructure should be the topmost priority when we look at the growing number of commuters in lakhs that occupy every limit and space or the lifeline, local trains.

The stampede and near collapse of the 11 meter wide Elphinstone bridge on Friday leave us with a sense of déjà-vu in Maximum City and something many of us who ever stayed in the city was sensing to come. Unfortunately, tragedy struck where 22 innocent lives were robbed.

Studies showcase that on an average more than one lakh use the 117-year old bridge and the average commuters visiting the Elphinstone area amounts to 10 lakhs a day. The numbers tell an entire story on the toll that the bridge takes and it’s not an issue restricted to just one but several stations in the city. It’s apathy at its best where several railways suffer from such a burden.


Image credit: Google/


The fact remains that thousands and lakhs flock to the city every day in search of a better life and opportunity. High time for the BMC and the Government to answer the pressing questions on the why’s of a city that once aspired to become the Shanghai of India is suffering from a dearth of safe infrastructure. The answer doesn’t lie in the 3,600 crores Shivaji Maharaj statue. Mumbai as a city in spirit and soul need basic infrastructure and amenities so that the people and visitors can securely move around from one part to another.

In the light of incidents taking place such as the crumbling of railway infrastructure or the city coming down to its knees every monsoon, arguments such as The Spirit or resilience of Mumbai is almost an insult to commoners. It’s high time that the BMC show accountability in giving its citizens a dignified life. One cannot afford to lose life in exchange for a compensation of 5 lakhs. It’s a slap on the face of innocent people. It makes one wonder, what is the fault of the people?

The time I stayed in the city, there were instances where I walked past the Elphinstone bridge and every time there was a fear that mayhem will strike due to the lack of space and inability to sustain the growing population pressure. Let me give one small example, every time a local reaches platform No 1, commuters jostle for space on the bridge and recklessly run down the stairs where there is a huge risk of stampede. It’s the sorry state of not just one but several railway stations in the city.

There are questions on the enlarging of Elphinstone bridge in the present case scenario and why the project to the tune of Rs 11-12 crores that were sanctioned in the budget couldn’t be implemented. It’s a clear case of apathy, red-tapism, and corruption among the decision-makers. The BMC is considered to be the richest municipal body in Asia and still, nothing has been done to give dignity and ensure safety. Chasing immigrants with the slogan, ‘Bhaiya Bhagao’ is not the answer and it only shows how they mask their short-sightedness by blaming poor migrants or looking for scapegoat.

The reality is that the Shiv Sena, Congress, and the BJP are equally responsible for the neglect and constant crumbling of infrastructure that not only claimed lives but sinking the city further down the drain. Each one of these political parties have ruled Mumbai at some point or the other where every single day people live constantly on the edge.

Bureaucracy has gone from bad to worse in the city and infrastructure is getting worse by the day coupled with a lack of minimum standard in mounting projects. The least that policymakers can and must do: Raise standards and norms first before speaking about bullet train or 3,600 crores statue.

Basic and rooted infrastructure, security and adhering to norms is what a premiere city like Mumbai needs and the financial capital of India cannot afford to lose this game due to apathy and corruption. Stop the refrain of resilience or spirit every time mayhem struck!




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Left, Right…Romance Chowk: Drip of stormy love

Left, Right…Romance Chowk

Chapter 5:

The car wiper was stuck. Mann lunged towards the front seat and grabbed the dusty garment to wipe the window sheet. The cab slowly ambled its way towards Churchgate but hit a dead-end to wage a battle against the water raging its might. Water seeped inside the car that soon replicated into miniature version of a swimming pool.

The two car occupants, Mann and the car driver impassively watched people stranded, kids doing a somersault and flowing on a container substituting for a boat that turned the road into a vast sea expanse.  The driver was having a tough time, igniting the battered engine to life that screeched and timidly lurched ahead. Wrong signal. The water escalated like a rush of electrical wave and ran wild on the otherwise busy road at Eros Theater.

The black umbrellas mushroomed on the road past 2 a.m and flapped open, thrust forward and backward where people had a tough time holding on to. The car again battled the rush of water spurting under its wheel. The phone battery was almost done and Mann managed to make a call to Sejal’s Mom.  “Aunty! I cannot speak much since my phone is dying. I have reached Churchgate but we are stuck. It seems like it will take me another hour to reach your house,” his voice wobbled with emotions.

The TV reporters clumsily walked inside the flood to report and stood on their naked feet with their pants rolled till the knee, battling the heavy rain and cloud outburst to report live on the state of the city. There was panic everywhere. It was may hem everywhere. The car engine conked. There was no way it would leap to life.

The police were trying their best to help stranded citizens who were lost and moving in various directions with difficulty to find shelter under the roof of nearby restaurants, hotels and the station. Together, Mann and the car driver held to each other’s arms to wriggle their way in the water and crossed the road for shelter.

As Mann trudged inside the water that ran deep till the knee, the cab driver called, “Sambhal ke Jaana.” They exchanged sympathetic glances and smiles, a rare luxury in Maximum City. A tale of two humans and strugglers in the city who understood each others’ emotions without uttering a single word despite coming from two extremely different background.

Mann tried to find his balance by walking slowly in the water, battling the fear of being carried away by the waves when a cop held his hand and escorted him towards Churchgate. Sejal’s Mom was waiting in front of the gate housing the line up of plush apartments and she hugged him. “Are you okay, Beta? Let’s get inside the car,” she was on the verge of tears.

The car slowly trudged inside the water that made a splash like a stormy river. “Where are we going to find her?” her voice choked with emotion. “Pray that nothing will happen to her,” tears welled on her face.

The vehicle slowly ambled. It was dark everywhere. Mann called the emergency number but no one was picking up. He tweeted and sent a message on Facebook with the picture of Sejal. It was 3 a.m in the morning. The status and tweets were shared zillion times.

“Where to find her?” she stammered. Mann scratched his hair and tilted his head towards the rooftop of the car. He urged the car driver, “Bhaiya, let’s move towards Churchgate station.” The driver nodded. The tide was growing at every second. It was a five minutes distance but the car was stuck for almost one hour and the wheels turning into a ship flowing in the water.

The deserted road resembled the cramped space in the city pocked with vehicles, from cars to black-and-yellow taxis and a Best Bus all flowing together in a chaotic manner like the serpentine queue. Car drivers honked blaringly in sheer desperation. The vehicles were zigzagging inside the water from left to right and entangled in a circle. They were stuck inside the car, sandwiched between vehicles across all sides that felt as if a wall has been built.  It was impossible for the driver to thrust forward or pull back.

The car stood parallel to the platform facing gate and next to the yellow and brown local taxied on the railway track drenched into a vast pool of water. There was chaos inside the station packed with the seamless crowd mushrooming like eggs in a nest sprawled with tensed faces running amok and screaming for help. Battered faces, whispers and angry voices howled with palatable tension, wondering on how to get out of this mess.

Mann furtively looked around and his eyes cocked towards the road and railway station, silently longing for the sight of Sejal.  He fixed his gaze towards the train that was filled with commuters who couldn’t get out on the platform that was filled to the brink with water. A face struck him. He looked again and was bewildered. Sejal was sitting on the seat and her head buried inside a book. She was sitting in a casual manner and unperturbed about the city drowning and rain water spurting like electric waves.

He gently touched the shoulder of Sejal’s Mom, “Aunty, look there,” he pointed out to the train. She was flabbergasted and speechless. “Look at her. I can’t believe it.  We are so worried and she is casually reading a book inside,” she heaved.

“I wonder how we are going to walk past the water to save her.  Sejal! Sejal!,” her Mom lunged out. The voice went unheard and lost to the noise.  Mann yanked the door open, dithered at the water flowing till his inch and saw a long cardboard flowing in the water. He didn’t think twice and thrust his body that landed straight on the moving object. Mann held tightly to the cardboard and pushed it as if it’s the gear of a car, pressed hard planking his body on it to wriggle his way till the stairs of Churchgate station.

Mann stormed inside the station, battling the crowd of people and pushing his way between them to leap inside the train. She was oblivious to the voices and his presence. He pressed her arms and she almost yelped. “You! Almost scared me like that,” Sejal protested. Mann berated her, “You got the nerves to  complain when the entire of Mumbai is sinking under the water and the whole world is stranded.  Your Mom is in tears, sitting inside the car and I travelled on a dirty cupboard like a fish in water.”

“Oh! Yeah! That’s why you are completely wet. Dude! You are not wet. You look like a water man,” she appeared nonchalant. “Let’s go,” Mann dragged her out of the train. The tide was growing and spiralling like a tornado. Sejal and Mann clutched to each other, trying to get out through the main platform but the waves shook them as they took steps back and waded through the small door at platform No. 1.

The water was roiling like a steam bath on the road. Both of them were tensed and figuring out how to find their way inside the car that was stationed within a touching distance. They stood on the stairs and in the flick of seconds a flash of current waves knocked them off their perch that dragged Sejal inside the storm. She howled and shouted, ‘Help’. Mann flung his body inside the water and held to her fingers. The violent waves pushed him away from her and she was thrust to a faraway distance. His body spun in the water from right to left. He hollered, ‘Help! Help! Help!’

Battling the angry water that run above the knee, he struggled to stand on his feet in a stiff position to fight the angry waves. He lost control of his body that jerked backwards towards a hard object. A dash of hope surfaced. It was a motorcycle that lay abandoned against the wall. Mann removed the stand with force and held on the bike that stumbled inside the water and hit the pavement filled with water. He sat on the bike and pushed it with all his might.

Sejal was struggling inside the water and nearly tripped before getting up again. She was choking. Mann caught sight of her and was unsure what to do to save her since he didn’t want to lose the bike that would shield both of them.  He twisted his back in a reclining position and tightly held to the handle as he fell along with the bike inside the water and struggled to hold the fingers of Sejal.  The huge machine pressed his body. He was reeling in pain and stretched his hand to clutch her palm.

Sejal hands loosened away from him and he struggled to unfetter himself under the bike’s clutches. Mann limped his way towards Sejal and almost swam in the water covering the road. She was moving further away from him and was carried by the tide.  He pressed his hand to the ground to find his balance, wading through leaves and mud, battling his way and being hit by objects on the body.

It was a battle against the storm. Sejal’s body twisted and recoiled like a snake. Mann saw a wheel flowing and flung it towards Sejal who held to it by using the feeble force inside her. He finally held one side of a wheel flowing in the water and pressed her hands tightly. Mann shouted, “Don’t worry about me. Fucking put your head inside the wheel.”

He pushed the wheel and pressed Sejal’s back towards the wall, covered her with his body. She was choking. Both were tightly holding to each other. He kissed and hard pressed her back. The water has reached their necks and they exuded relief to see the rescue team of police and citizens taking a dive into the water. They were ushered towards a safe spot on the pavement coated with red bricks.

Their lips sat passionately tight on each other and curled together in the monsoon drip. They stopped in their track and smooched again. Sejal and Mann embraced each other and oblivious to Sejal’s Mom standing silently behind them. They smiled sheepishly. Sejal held on to her mother like a child guilty of a crime. Mother and daughter wiped each other’s tears with their hands.