Virar to Churchgate - I

The platform was bustling with the usual action. The same old fear came back to haunt me and settled, as usual, in my stomach.

Will I, won't I?

Hope I am lucky today?

The handsome train, adorned with a fresh coat of paint, arrived with dignity...slow, rhythmic, inviting...come one, come all..hop in if you can..early bird prizes!!

As the metallic creature whizzed past, the green splendour of the first class compartment enticed me as it always did.. But this was no time for yearning. I was ready for the same old battle of brain and brawn.

Hard as I tried, I was caught in a whirlwind of sweating bodies, churning furiously all over me, like the big, fat stones in a rustic factory grinder. Alas! My luck had failed me again. For the third time in succession in the week, I was reduced to a stand-up comedian in the train. Earlier, age was with me. I could digest these failures with the smile of a wounded soldier. But at 38, I was not getting any younger. And now the bones cracked in protest, each time I missed a seat.

I was left tottering on the footboard, trying to put my best foot forward but to no avail. I quickly resigned to my fate for the day. Not that I had any option. Now, it would be a long wait till Dahisar. By that time, I would have two alluring options, squeeze my way in towards the privileged area near the seats or reach the door for a lungful of air.

As I tried to close my eyes for a typical commuter-brand nap, I caught a glimpse of a familiar figure right beside me. The sharp, slim nose was still the best hint. I flashed a half-smile, seeking a return favour. Slowly, almost reluctantly, he smiled back.

Yes, that was him! But for god sake, what was he doing here in this goddamed train reserved for lesser mortals. I had known him as an authentic South Mumbai product, oblivious of the suburban travel woes - an epidemic that grew by leaps and bounds, as loads of unfortunate aspirants desperately sought and bought shelter in the insignificant townships beyond the municipal limits of Mumbai. More the number, more the nightmare.

And this fellow drove an Esteem when I craved for a decent bicycle. To this day, a Maruti 800 is an integral part of my cherished dreams. I thought he should have progressed to BMW by now.

My face showed my emotion, or perhaps he guessed it. For a second, he turned his face away, as if to deny my existence but our gestures had long crossed the boundaries where one could put on a fake act.

And he was a hopeless actor. I knew it better than anyone else. How he wished he could ever participate in one of our two-penny college plays. But poor fellow, he was always rejected.

Here he was before me... after ages... dejected for a change!

To be continued.....