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Hacktreks 2

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The International Writers Magazine
: Life and Unrequited Love in Mumbai

Mumbai Dreams
D H Pradeep

Mumbai is a fast-moving city; often known for its razzle-dazzle glitter, and fun. It is the only city in India that I have ever heard of where you have more bars than public toilets. The variety of these bars goes without saying. Dance bars to standing dance bars. Each of them could double up as a pick-up joint.

As I hang out fashionably from the door of this Dadar Fast, the variety in the passing landscape leaves its marks on my senses (Dadar Fast refers to an express train that goes towards Dadar). As I hang out of the door of the fast-moving train my ears absorb the noise of the wind as it whistles against my body; my nose takes in the unbearable stink from the "good morning" excreta of the slum dwellings nestled right next to the fabulous skyscrapers. "What a predicament! I’m forced to take isolated looks and segregated view points of all these things; seeing them just one at a time – the buildings, the shit, the crowd, the fun of hanging out from the door of a moving train. To see them in one complete picture like this, my reason fails me. This could not have been any single person’s dream, any single person’s fault, or even any single person’s deed. Is this great city simply an accident?
Isn’t that skyscraper out there so impressive- so tall and huge, and made completely out of glass? Only if its architects could have done something about the sunlight it reflects straight into the eyes of the people. But then, the building is huge - worth a million rupees, and why should I care? I do not travel to this part of the city that often.
"Ouch! That hurt!" Someone just stepped on my shoe. The train is crowded with people, all hurrying to get where they want to go. Not much to do, but ignore it. No one even stops to say, "I’m sorry!" No one pays heed to that kind of thing here. People here say, "Mumbai mein thande mein lene ka," which loosely translated means, "Cool it, buddy! You’re in Mumbai." Maybe because it is a big city – a big city where you have to be tough to survive the demanding pace – tough and free of emotional baggage.
A visitor might find it surprising to see on one street this magnificent skyscraper and just at the back side of that same building a big, filthy slum. Such heterogeneity makes up this city – beautiful buildings alongside an ugly slum – the spoils and the ruins of the daily wars that humanity wages here for a million reasons, which vary from earning two square meals a day to the pursuit of excellence in life.

Dreaming Of Chammi

Is she not the most beautiful girl that I have ever set my eyes upon! So charming. Dear Chammi.
After returning to Mumbai I had never expected to be able to look at her face. She was always too good for me. Her just being there in the same building was good enough for me.
Will I ever be able to forget that moment when she came out of the escalator! That frozen moment, when I had the packet of fried banana chips in one hand and my other hand on its way to my mouth. There she was -pretty, petite, ever-smiling, chirpy little Chammi.

I did not see her at first. I was plain hungry. My double shifts were killing me. Yet, that glow on her face- could living thing have been so divine?- Her smile that smote me to a tamed silence. How much I loved to go into her cabin for anything and yet for no particular reason!. She just wouldn’t stop talking…as if I listened to all that she spoke. Was it not just to listen to her sweet, magical voice that I sat there? I still reminisce those magical moments when I could abandon not only all my work but my worries as well. Such solace I used to get! Such peace my heart used to find!

Did she look any less beautiful when she snipped off her long hair to a boy-cut? She looked prettier to me, though I am sure I would have felt the same even if it were the other way round.Did I see her when I looked at her? Did I listen to her words when I heard her voice? I doubt that. And her poise and tact with which she avoided me despite me not having yet expressed my liking for her, would it have been otherwise if I had done that. I doubt that. I cannot, but always fathom her with all her charisma.

How embarrassed she must have felt when I who in all silence used to craved for her company aloud? Do I remember having ever heard an out of the place remark from her, despite my madness? Could anyone have been kinder to me? I doubt that.

The glow on her skin, as if she could clean a thousand soaps. So fair she was- not the bed sheet white but the color of the well-bred: the light brown, full of radiance. And then came those moments when my mind wandered into the dungeons of desperation when I demanded something even before it was mine.

The embarrassment: I could never look into those pretty eyes again. How could I have sent her all those messages? How could I have done that? That also, in spite of her having replied me to "back off". How could I? May be the summer heat of Delhi had got into my head. May be. But this time I killed the hope as well.
That moment when just about everything every thing froze; she waited, even time seemed to have waited for me speak out my heart. Those 20 seconds, when I walked away from my dreams.
I have freed her…
Oh! Chammi Please free me as well.

© D.H. PRADEEP September 2004

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