Saturday, June 16, 2007

Kissed by an angel

Thursday was a different day. One that I spent doing things I had been craving to for so many days. Things which gave me a lot of time to reflect on my life. Like a long soak in a warm bath. And a much needed conversation that left me in tears. I looked up at the dark clouds hovering threateningly from my grand window, wondering if this would be the day the city was waiting for. Brushing drenched images aside I added a slide to my presentation - with lots of boxes and arrows. Things which my work life was now surrounded by. I stepped out into the dark a full two hours later, carrying a small backpack and a heavy package that I'd received from home.

Bandstand is usually a lovely place. Most of the days I step out of office to the beautiful shades of sunset over the sea, trying to hold my own against the strong wind. It's crowded with huddling couples, eager rickshaws and an occasional movie unit. Well, today was not exactly the same. I squinted to spot a run down Premier Padmini amidst the drizzle, crossing the road twice to try my luck on both sides. No one wanted to make the trip.

Finally I flagged down a rickshaw and hurried into it, cardboard box and all, asking him to take me to the farthest point into the city that he was allowed to. We passed by the seaface, the radio blaring 'Barso re megha megha'. I hummed along, the sea breeze blowing the shorter strands of my hair all over my face. My super dramatic alter ego was busy, fancying myself as the pretty heroine under the gorgeous waterfall, splashing around and getting drenched without a second thought. ' Nanna re nanna re nannare na na re'. I put my hand outside the auto to catch the raindrops - what every second self respecting actress would do. And then suddenly the movie stopped, like a power cut in a village talkie.

'Yahan se taxi le lena madam'. Take a taxi from here.

A different final point for the autos. I took my own time paying him, hoping a cab would stop by us. No such luck. Getting down gingerly, I focussed on the road, hoping to see the yellow headed cabs flowing my way. Nothing. I surveyed the surroundings. Dark and empty, the drizzle was slowly morphing into a full flown downpour. Several empty autos. One stationary cab filled with four men. A lonely lady with wares of potato wafers and two Bisleri bottles under a small umbrella. This is Bombay, I thought, it's always safe. Finally a taxi. Damn. People in it. Several minutes passed on the empty road. No luck. The rain was falling heavily by now and I could feel the droplets running down my neck.

'Goa ja rahe ho?' Going to Goa?

I turned around sharply to see the Bisleri woman standing next to me with her little umbrella.

'Mahim', I said, managing a wry smile.

'Taxi chahiye?' Want a taxi?

I nodded my head, trying to decipher any hidden messages in her words. Things I usually suck at picking up.

She came closer to me and held the umbrella over my head and yelled out a name. Four kids came running out of nowhere like pixies from an Enid Blyton. They rushed off in different directions on receiving orders from the woman. One older boy stayed behind.

'Soch raha tha kiske liye chhaata pakadke khadi ho', he told her. I was wondering who you were holding the umbrella for.

She replied ,' Bacchi akeli khadi thi na.' The girl was standing alone, you know.

'Meri bhi do bacchi hai, tum jaisi', she smiled. I have two daughters just like you.

I smiled at her wondering what I should say. Was this a trap? Why would she do this?

'Mein pakad lun?', I asked, my hands already full with my things. Shall I hold the umbrella? Frankly, amidst the hundred thoughts that were running through my mind, none of them involved holding her umbrella. Yet I heard myself saying it.

I never heard her reply. It was muffled by shouts of 'Aunty' and 'Didi' that suddenly rung the air. The little kids ran towards us, followed by a taxi which truly seemed to have appeared out of thin air. Before I could react they shuffled me in, their grimy wet faces smiling at me from the different windows. From the one I sat at, I could now see her wares, cold and unprotected in the rain.

Stunned, I mumbled a 'thank you' under my breath and waved at the six excited children and the Bisleri woman. They waved till I went out of sight.

I reached home safely that night. Drenched, but safe.

Funny how sometimes it takes a total stranger to make you smile. Out of nowhere. With so little.