A Monsoon to Remember-Part I
by Kakuli Nag
I had been to Mumbai almost a decade back. I remember vaguely I descended the train I had boarded from Kolkata much before the train reached Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST) Railway Station. It was probably Dadar where we got down, switched to another local train that took us to Andheri, got into a hotel there, prepared ourselves for job interviews, visited consultants the following day, attended a walk-in interview in a BPO firm somewhere in Powai, loafed in Santacruz and streets of Mumbai, strolled in Juhu Beach and it felt like we almost belonged there.
It was me and my colleague Manjushree who wanted to try Mumbai Job market for some god forsaken reason then. The only memory I have of that trip was that we returned home jobless and decided to focus on our existing profiles with deeper interest if we have to try our prospects anywhere else in near future. That was the only single most important memory associated with that trip – a sinking feeling of being incompetent.
A couple of years back, I read Gregory’s Shantaram that stirred my interest for Mumbai again. In 2009, I watched Wake up Sid and all over again I fell in love with the city. I decided to have a short backpack trip on my own and spend some time clicking snaps of Marine Drive and just sitting there without any other agenda for my stay in the city.
I quickly checked my options – Hotel, relatives or friends. The first option was ruled out as I would offend both my relatives and friends as I did last time. Staying with relatives was an equally bad idea as they will not be able to absorb the fact that I am travelling to Mumbai by train, taking leave from my corporate world, just to click some snaps of Marine Drive. I run a huge risk of being asked a dozen times by my aunt and cousins scattered in Mumbai - their persistent age old question regarding why I have no intention of getting married. I really did not have a ready answer that will pacify them as all my earlier responses were exhausted without the desired result. So I finally settled for Snigdha’s place – someone I knew for almost a decade or someone I believed I knew.Till this minute, the sections above can neither be categorized as Memoir or Travelogue. This is supposed to be a short story and so I will give some background to the plot and let me choose a nice name for myself – Monisha!************
Monisha and Snigdha met in Bangalore – Monisha’s current work place. Over the years, Snigdha’s jobs took her to cities in North, South and finally west of India – Mumbai!! She loved her job now that entailed extensive travel abroad to meet client or conduct business presentations. She was great with her work, intelligent with her finances and savings, pretty to look and pathetic with relationships. The two were similar in good number of ways – hailed from Kolkata, fluent in Bengali, decent appetite for men, darting eye, roving mind, swinging heart not exactly in the same order though, flighty by nature with fair amount of conscious that kept them both human, did not make them brutal or divine.
With that knowledge, Monisha headed towards Mumbai, intending to ask Snigdha a series of questions - if there were any chance of wedding bells ringing for her soon enough, was she in touch with any of the guys Monisha had introduced her to hoping marital bliss for them, anyone she is serious about currently, learn more about the guys she met in her Denmark, Netherlands trips, and other similar light
hearted curiosities. Monisha smiled to herself imagining how interesting Snigdha’s responses would be.**************
One day before the trip, Snigdha calls, “Moni, you do not have to go all the way to CST station. Just get down in Kalyan, which comes forty five minutes after Karjat and I will pick you up from there!”
I had to act smart and say – “I can come to your place by myself. Just tell me where exactly in Thane”. She insisted that she would be at the station and she was there - exactly on time. She wore a pink Kurti with light embroidery on it. She had her hair clipped, with a few strands left free on purpose that kind of made her look careless and yet I know how carefully those were done.
As we approached the parking area, Snigdha said “Rajdeep offered to pick you up in his car. I know you wanted to watch the monsoons. Just that Mumbai monsoon with luggage is not a very appealing idea” Snigdha and her practicality! Is that why she cannot hold on to her boyfriends – I wondered. Where is this Rajdeep fellow anyways – I looked around and all I could see was the crowded, busy Kalyan station.
“Hi Monisha” Rajdeep spoke from the driver’s seat as I opened the back door of the car and entered with my backpack and large shopper’s bag. The first thing I noticed were his eyes that sparked behind his glasses through the rear view mirror, then his smooth dark complexion and a few minutes later his infectious smile. Quite a package, physique wise!
So, I understood he was the jobless colleague, Snigdha had mentioned over phone who had offered to show her friend around the length and breadth of the city the next day.
On our way to her house from Kalyan station, I noticed her coaxing him to come to her flat for coffee. She stepped out of the car to pick some tomatoes for preparing dinner and the minute she finds me alone when she was unlocking her house and he was busy parking his car, she demanded to know what we chatted about when she was not in the car. While she was preparing coffee, Rajdeep just opened his mouth to ask me something when she screamed from the kitchen “Hey Moni, would you not want to see my kitchen?” Snigdha and her prominent possessive streak! I stifled a yawn and went to the kitchen.
Next day, Rajdeep was ready to pick us up sharp at ten thirty in the morning – drove all the way from Thane to Gateway of India. My observations continued - the whispers, the nudges, the giggles etc. I was actually glad, Snigdha finally found someone.
After lunch at Leopold Café, we headed towards Haj Ali. Just before entering Haj Ali Dargah, he refrained and decided to stay back outside the Dargah.
Snigdha asked, “Is it for the beer you had at Leopold?” – Raj nodded.
“Come on, no one will know” She held his hand intending to drag him in. He pulled his hand back “I know that I had a drink and that is reason good enough for me to stay out of this holy place, regardless of whether anyone can find out or not.” He said firmly. “You guys carry on. I will wait here”.
It began to drizzle after some time. I enjoyed the monsoons; the view from Haj Ali of the infinite stretch of water around was amazing – the horizon worth watching. The sufiana and Qawwali tunes adds to the mood, lingers in your mind and stays with you for quite some time. Part II - To be continued here....