A fascination for everything red symbolizing love and passion, picking the shirt spreadeagled among variegated hues outside Santacruz Railway station, splattered with the crowd in the drove of city life and making a beeline for the best deal. The expression of pride and the wonder of shopping therapy sending the mind into a tizzying spirit.
In those days, I was shuttling between Mumbai and Pune every week, staying either in a cheap lodge at Colaba or at a friend’s place in Mumbai Central, with one foot firmly entrenched in Maximum City. The Pune University final year results were delayed forever and gotta be in Mumbai at Kalina Campus to secure my seat.
To cut the story short, one gentle Saturday morning the sun glittered in Pune and wearing the prized red shirt, I booked second class ticket in the favorite train Deccan Queen to reach Mumbai. Monsoon is pretty much like a girlfriend with mood swings and the drizzle splayed over the blue sky wearing greyish shade. The mighty train dawdled on the track and ambled slowly with the rush of water running like steam. It grew furious and thundered at every passing second to vent itself and there was no way, the sky would miraculously keep calm. The train finally reached Dadar and it was quite a task to get out of the train with the violent water tapered on the station’s roof at ruffling burst.
A final call had to be made, hopping from Central Railway to Western Railway, catching the train heading to Santacruz with a backpack filled with clothes and documents. I still remained unscathed and dry. Mission was not yet accomplished. Finally, stormed out of the muddy station with feet splayed in a water patch and thrust in the BEST bus since there was no way to avert the water. Do or Die, I choose the storm like a valiant warrior. The Best Bus stumbled inside the University Campus at Kalina Campus with the rain showing no sign of slowing and made a water splash imagining it to be the sea. A feeling of being fettered by a devilish force and walking frantically towards the Department of Economic and driving inside the overenthusiastic water, fettered by the devilish force to land at the Department of Economics which was quite an achievement since the short distance to reach there felt like a lifetime. I walked past the long corridor and incapacitated by jeans stuck like glue, freaked out with droplet of blood making a plodding sound on the surface.
Few seconds were barely enough to recover my wit and realize that I’ve been fleeced with the red shirt what with the dyeing being washed by the rain. The lecturers acquainted with me were as shocked as I was with my blood-colored and stained appearance smeared all over my skin wondering whether someone roughened me. I was flitting past Swati Ma’am office and she gave me a threatening look. She is known to berate students who flocks to her cubicle at the corridor and once chided me with, ‘Don’t come inside.’ There was a sympathetic look on her face what with everyone thinking I’ve suffered bruises in the city. I sheepishly grinned and awkwardly spoke in a soft but gentle tone, “No! Sir! It’s this red shirt.”
It was past 2 p.m and already dying of hunger. The administration team was very helpful and friendly ensuring that I got a room at the ICSSR Guest House. By that time, the rain has stopped and respite for me after settling payment, hurtled past the door to remove the towel from my bag to wipe my hair resembling like the sheath of a knife and changing into warm clothes. The feeling of relief and getting a decent room after the turmoil of roiling in the rain is pure bliss.
The Kalina’s Gate campus belches out of the busy road and the unique Mumbai honking, the jamboree of vehicles, the wafting of unique city food flavor in array, from Chinese to Indian concocting a unique delicacy ensconced with pages flipping, the countless xerox shop lined up on the elongated road. The Chinese dish whipped in a huge pot we call dekchi in India and on the road pierces the nostril that makes for an exhilarating experience. I stuffed the food after minutes of hesitation. The evening was spent traveling in the local from Santacruz to Churchgate, wading past the road book stalls, grabbed Chetan Bhagat’s One Night at the Call Centre for 40 bucks, and sieved through two shirts which I got for 20 bucks in the dark. The hawker was in a tearing hurry to sell the shirts. Believe it or not, got an Allen Solly a perfect winter wear for 20 bucks and still wear it today.
I sat at Marine Drive and lit a cigarette enamored by the sea water that sets a unique mood after the stormy rain has passed and gazed at the wet payment or road scattered with branches and leaves. Back to the room post 8 p.m and dozed on the bed only to wake up past 2 a.m. The rain was a lullaby putting me to sleep making and skipping dinner. It occurred that there was no cigarette left for which I craved. I took a shower in the cold weather and experiencing fleeting body pain so much for getting drenched. There was no way that I would sleep after crashing until the wee hours and finished entirely One Night at the Call Centre. What a thrilling Mumbai Monsoon night.