“Alisha, doctor just called. You have been missing sessions?” Mom asked. “Yes. I am not crazy. I don’t need him, or his sessions. I’m fine.” I snapped. “Oh! Let’s not go there, shall we? We have already discussed this a thousand times now.” She retorted. I kept quiet; I had attempted suicide a month back. Since then, my overly busy parents had turned their attention to me. They were of the notion that I did that to garner their attention, which was as true as calling Delhi, a rape free city.
Delhi was my city; I loved my city, even though it was cited as the rape capital of the country. I was born there, had spent my 22 years of existence in that city. That city completed me; it had given me everything, joy, sadness, friends, and love. However, that city had started suffocating me. “Alisha, are you listening to me?” Mom brought me back to grave reality. “Mom, give me a month. I want to go away from this city, for some time, please. I want to go to Bombay.” I stated. Delhi had taken away my first love, my Hrehaan. He had died, a month back, in a fatal accident. It had been the worst month of my life. Twice, I had tried attempting suicide; but was noticed by my parents, only in the second attempt. Ever since then, they had been forcing me to visit the psychiatrist. I had never seen them that scared, ever in my life. They kept blaming themselves for it, for being away. Therefore, I had decided, to give life one more chance, a last chance, just for them.”Okay, just one month.” Mom said.
I Landed at Bombay airport, and at that very moment, I wanted to go back to Delhi. One glance at the airport, and my mind said, “Alisha Bombay is dirty. Go back.” Yet, I stepped forward, silencing my mind. I had no idea what Mumbai was, had never visited the city before; had only heard about it. Something told me that it was going to be the best escapade of my life, and I blindly trusted that voice.
“Alisha? You’re Alisha, right?” A voice called from behind, and I knew who it was. “Hello aunt Aparna.” Aunt Aparna was my mom’s cousin; mom had given me a detailed description about her, and she totally resembled that sketch. I was meeting her for the first time, hence was a tad nervous, but, “Thank God you do not resemble your dad, you’re as pretty as your mom.” Her that remark, sent my nervousness on a tour, and made me crack up. Mom had told me about this, ‘hating-my-dad’ part. My parents were bonded by love marriage; initially, mom’s family was against it, but eventually, everyone agreed. However, they never totally accepted my dad. In addition, always said that my dad had wrongly led my mom to love him, to which my mom always laughed, because it was the other way around.
It was my first day in Bombay, and like my usual tendency, I got up early, “Niyati… Niyati… get up. We have to go for jogging.” “Oh! Alisha you carry on please. Go down and ask anyone about the Joggers Park, they’ll guide you.” She said. Niyati was Aparna aunt’s only daughter; she was elder to me. Aunt Aparna dwelled at Bandra, which was a suburb, located at west Bombay. The Joggers Park was just ten minutes walking, from where aunt resided. It had a seaside Jogging track; and the moment I saw the view, I was awestruck, I just couldn’t jog. Finally I could comprehend the reason, why people said so highly about the city. I enjoyed the view, until the sun started burning me. “So Alisha how was the experience? Niyati ditched you, didn’t she?” Niyati’s dad asked. “Okay dad, stop it. I was working till late, last night, hence I didn’t go.” Niyati said, and both, uncle and aunt laughed, and left the breakfast table. “So, Alisha tell me, from where do you want to start sight-seeing Bombay?” “Well, you do know that I’m visiting your city for the first time, right?” I said. “Ha-ha… We are going to get along well.” She smirked.
That weekend, Niyati took me on a rapid-fire tour of Mumbai: Gateway of India, Flora Fountain, Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, Colaba Causeway, Haji Ali Dargah, Mahalakshmi temple, Race-Course, Sidhivinayak temple, Mani Bhavan, Crawford Market, Juhu Beach, Lokhandwala, Versova, Madh Fort. She then took me to Churchgate station, so that I could have an experience of this so-called ‘Mumbai Local’. We caught a train at around 1 p.m. from Borivali station. The moment I entered the train, I had a bad feeling. I missed my Delhi Metro. We took our seats, and no longer had the train started speeding up, than a boy, holding a huge plastic bag, jumped into the running train, “Watch out!” I screeched; maybe a bit louder, as the commuters turned their gaze towards me. “Ha-ha” Niyati Laughed. “Why are you laughing? That boy could have died.” I snapped. “Alisha, now this is Mumbai.” She concluded, and I kept quiet. That boy then removed something from the plastic bag; it was some kind of a hanger. A closer look, and I gasped in disbelief; he was a hawker. I looked at Niyati, but her face flaunted that typical ‘This is Mumbai’ smug, so I swallowed my shock. Train halted at certain Dadar station, and with that herd of passengers got in, I had never seen something like that. “Kuthe utrayche aahe?” A woman asked, and I understood nothing. I looked at Niyati, but she was busy enjoying the show. “Kidhar utarna hai?” Another one tried explaining, looking at my unfathomable look. “Last” Niyati answered, and I gave her an angry look. “Ha-ha Alisha, I’ve started loving you my dear sis, and trust me you’re lucky that I have.” “Oh really? How splendid, that!” I snapped back. We reached Borivali, the most crowded suburb of Mumbai, or so I was told. We visited Sanjay Gandhi National Park; it was a good visit, but the experience of the ‘Mumbai Local’ was something that will be etched in my mind, for the rest of my life. I wasn’t disgusted after experiencing it, au contraire, I was touched.
The next few days were boring, Niyati had to go for work, so did her parents, and I got bored at home. I finally decided to visit the Joggers Park, in the evenings too. I was addicted to it; I couldn’t stay away from it. I hardly ever jogged; I was so stunned by the sheer beauty of the shore, that I never seemed to realize, for how long I had been viewing it. “Are you still not over it?” I heard someone say, I turned and saw a man, and he was talking to me. “Huh?” That was the only reaction that came from my confused mind. “I asked are you still not over this magnificence?” He asked pointing towards the shore, and took a seat beside me. “Excuse me? Do I know you?” I asked. “No you don’t, neither do I. However, I’ve been seeing you here since quite a few days now. Now don’t ask me why. You’re the only person who doesn’t jog/walk.” He smirked. “Oh! Yeah. I just love this enthralling view.” I said. “Why are you talking to him, Alisha?” I asked myself. “You seem new to this city.” He stated, and I was shocked at his perfection of guessing. “I’m right, aren’t I?” He asked with a triumph look on his face. “Well, that was a wild guess. Yes, you’re right. Anyway, I got to go mister, nice interacting with you.” I said and stood up. “The pleasure was all mine, ma’am.” He said, and I left.
I was sitting at this coffee bar, at Lower Parel, where Niyati was supposed to meet me; we were to visit the most hyped part of Mumbai, the Marine Drive. Niyati was late, maybe was occupied with work, and I was getting bored. I already had three cups of coffee; and my body, by then, had reached the state of coffee intolerance. I had to do something to get out of the boredom. I searched my handbag and found a pen. I took a tissue paper from the table, and started eyeing the view that was stretched in front of my eyes. I was seated on the table that faced the main road; there were few cars and bikes parked outside the shop, people walking on the foot-path that was attached to the shop, beggars begging, hawkers trying to sell stuffs, slight traffic on the road, and people trying to cross the road. I unfolded the tissue, and started sketching the view I just had a glance of; it took me some time, to complete it. After detailing the sketch, I glanced at it and felt good. “Hmmm… Now that’s a very good replica of not so good sight.” A voice startled me. I looked up, and sighed. “Since how long have you been sitting here?” I asked the weird man I had met at the Joggers Park. “Awhile now, but that’s not the point. If you can draw such a good picture of such a boring view, imagine what you can do with the breath taking views.” “Well, thank you for those kind words, but no, thanks. This is just a pastime of mine.” I said. “You should make it more than that, you are talented.” He said. I kept quiet. ‘You are talented’, that made me reminisce someone, I didn’t want to. “So from which city you’re? Banglore?” He asked. “Heh. He can’t be right every time.” I thought, and smirked. “Nope! Delhi.” “Oh! You’re from the Capital city, milady.” He said. I couldn’t help but smile, I had never been addressed with so much respect, ever; and the weird part was I loved it. My phone beeped; it was from Niyati. “Okay I got to go; it was nice bumping into you, again.” I said and got up. “If you don’t mind, can I have the pleasure to know your name?” He asked. “What’s in a name?” I smirked, and left to meet Niyati.
Niyati was waiting for me in the car, “So, are you ready to have the glimpse of this glorified Marine Drive?” “Couldn’t be more ready.” I said. Niyati eyed me with a sarcastic smug. This arrogance was omnipresent in Bombay people, and it had started to irritate me; I ignored her. Here we are, she said as the car halted. I got out of the car, and just froze in my place. “My dear Delhi cousin, this is my Bombay, my Mumbai… Come on, have a closer look.” She said. I moved only when she physically pushed me ahead. I was speechless; I just couldn’t believe my eyes. After I regained stableness, I looked at Niyati and said, “So, it did live up to the hype.” “Finally! Sweet victory… This feeling of winning to a Delhi-ite is something, you know?” She smirked. “I’m aware of that feeling.” I acknowledged.
We sat there, on the nearby bench. “So Alisha, the main purpose of my mom, for sending me alone with you, was to get you start talking; I’m sure, you must have figured that by now.” I kept quiet. “Your mom calls up mine, everyday… Everyone wants to know what’s wrong with you… I mean… Why you tried to attempt…” She looked away. “Alisha, you don’t have to tell me, or anyone, if you don’t want to. The point here is, you got to gather yourself up, whatever it is, it shouldn’t be more important than your life… I don’t know, but why I feel it’s about some boy…” I looked away. “Alisha, you can’t jeopardize your life over a boy; that’s immature. There’s…” “Hrehaan died a month back in a fatal accident.” I coldly stated, for the first time, to someone. “That serious it was… the relationship?” She asked. “Yes” I said. She stared at me, trying to read my expressions, but I kept eyeing the sea. A hawker selling tea disturbed the silence between us. “You would like some?” She asked. “Yes.” I stated; eyes still attached to the sea.”So, what are your career plans?” She changed the topic. “Finished college; will join dad’s business.” I said. “Hmm… that’s good. However, first you have to find a way, to get out from this state. No one, but only you, can help yourself.” She said. There was a silence for a long time, until she spoke again, “You hate Mumbai, don’t you?” I looked at her. “Yes, but little less, since I landed here. Bombay is dirty, of course leaving certain areas, like these. Arrogance is all what I see, among Bombay-ites.” I said. “Ha-ha” She laughed, and took a while before she said, “Alisha, like every other tourist, you also have just seen the exterior of Bombay. If you really want to know what Bombay is, you have to reach the core; and for that, first thing you got to do is, give up travelling in cars, though my mom would resent it.” I was pondering over her words. “Also, you will have to be your own guide; one can explore things better, only by oneself.” She concluded.
That night, Niyati’s words kept replaying in my head. I couldn’t get sleep even for a second; ‘only I can help myself’ was what my mind kept telling me. By dawn, the exhaustion of over thinking, had worn me out, yet I had no solution. Frustrated, I got up, and went for an early jog. I jogged incessantly, trying to calm my mind, but after some time, even my body gave up. I stopped, and started panting. I sat down on a bench. My mind was calm by then; I looked at the sea, and saw the sun rising from the dark. The sky turned from grey to purple, to pink, to orange; and suddenly I knew what I had to do. I smiled to myself, and thanked the sun for rising in my life too…
(To be continued…)