Wednesday, September 23, 2009

A Night at Marine Drive !!!

It was a usual summer night in Bombay, the moon was shining bright in a cloudless sky, the Arabian sea was calm with a few waves coming in to the shore. There was an unusual silence that night, unusual as Bombay was called the city that never sleeps. As I crossed suburban stations and went towards the city, I remembered the last encounter with the city of dreams.

April 2007: It was another summer I spent away from home, this time it was Bombay. I never realized that my entire life would be spent moving around the country. It was 10 PM and I was standing at the bus stand in Pune to board the Bombay Pune Expressway night service. I planned to reach the city by midnight to catch up with some friends who were reaching the city that evening. So I stood there staring at the ticket booth as if prolonged staring will make the window rise up and make a magical hand issue a ticket.

Suddenly it started to rain and I cursed my luck as I ran to the shelter nearby overlooking the highway. Now I was drenched, hungry and waiting for a bus with no sight of the bus. Few other passengers were also standing there but I guess I was the odd one out. Meanwhile an announcement was made at the depot that the bus will be reaching two hours late as it had some engine problems while coming to Pune. "I am going to spend my night at a bus stand", I said to myself. Meanwhile as the rain died down I looked for something to eat, saw a Vadapav stand nearby and went ahead for some grub.

I ordered two Vadapavs to be packed for the night as I went to fetch a magazine in the adjacent stall. To my surprise it was Priyanka, the girl from the party I attended last night at Razdan's. I went ahead and said "Hi !, remember me?". "Hey, you are Akshay, from the party yesterday, right?".
I nodded as I sighed that she remebered me. "So, what are you doing at a bus stand half drenched in the middle of the night?", she said. "I am going to Bombay to meet some friends, who are reaching there by midnight."I said. "Hey why dont you come with me, I am going to Bombay too, perhaps I can drive you off.", she said. I couldnt have thanked god more that day. I was saved from spending the night at the bus stand eating vadapavs and reading India Today.

So, we started off the journey in her black Santro towards Bombay. "So, what are you doing in Pune?", she said. I told her that I was an intern at TIFR Bombay and came to attend the party a friend threw on his birthday. Now I was going back to meet some classmates and then rejoin my work. "But, you live in Pune na, so why are you going to Bombay?", I asked. "I move between Bombay and Pune for work, I am a news correspondent with The Times group.", she said. "I am to cover a page three party in Juhu and I am running late.", she added.

Yesterday night, I was at a party a senior from college threw on his birthday and I was introduced to Priyanka there. But it was nothing beyond the casual exchange of "Hi" that took place then. Now we were really talking as she drove on the expressway. "For a girl you drive pretty well, all girls I know hit something or the other every other mile", I said. "Well you dont know many girls then.", she commented. "No, you are not every other girl" I said as I gave a fiendish grin. She turned on the radio as Elvis jumped around with his guitar singing heartbreak hotel. "I like your choice of music, not many people like jazz", I said. "Well as you said I am not like every other girl", she smiled back.

Now I was shocked, never had I seen such a swift response to an otherwise harmless pickup line. Anyways nothing serious, we chatted along as rain drops started hitting the windshield. "We can change on the wheels after the stopover at Khandala, you can take rest for your new report then.", I said. She smiled back as the speed slowed down due to lower visibility on the road. After an hour and a half we reached Khandala, stopped for a refill and coffee. As we picked up a packet of chips, I took over the wheel and started the engine.

We started off and were back to the chat again, discussing random stuff. As i turned the volume up on an old song on the radio, I started to hum along and did not realize when I started to sing.
"You don't sing that bad, infact you sing really nice", she chuckled. It was more than a complement for me as I asked her to join the song. As she got lost in her voice, I switched off the radio. She stopped suddenly shying away her face as I smiled. "Why did you do that, I sing very bad, it's just because you asked me to join did I sing.", she complained. "So what does your girlfriend do?", she enquired. "I will let you know when I get one." I replied.

Meanwhile my phone rang and I got another shock, my friends' train was running tweleve hours late and they would not reach before five. Since I had to meet them, so I would not be able to go home either, I thought. "I will get down at Churchgate, as I took the turn to the city across the bridge." I told Priyanka. "You are already early for the rendez vous, so why dont you wait for another hour at Juhu while I finish my story and then I will drop you at Churchgate?" She asked, and I nodded. "You can take a walk across the beach as the hotel is just by the beach" She said and I smiled.

"Well, here we are madam, Bombay" I said as the sign above the road welcomed us in Marathi.
In the next twenty minutes, I zipped passed the city's busy roads which are usually packed with cars as I drove in to the Marriot. "I will be back in an hour"she said as she took her bag, "I will be in the coffee shop, meet me there" I replied. I dont know when the one hour passed by as I sipped a Mocha watching late nite boxing at the all night cafe.

"Hi, sorry to keep you waiting, but you know na...", I shhed her as I asked her to sit down and ordered a coffee for her. "Lets take the coffee out to the porch, the breeze is really nice", she asked and we went out on the open sea face. "You know how sometimes the sea breeze reminds me of my childhood when I used to sit by the sea all evening and eat ice candy." She said in a nostalgic tone. "Lets relive those days then", I replied and took her hand as we rushed to the car. "Where are we going", she asked, "nowhere" I replied as I took the western express and then moved towards Churchgate station."Ohh, I forgot you have a meeting with your friends, but its at 5 AM, its only 2 now", she said, "I know", I said. Instead of turning to the station I parked the car at the 24 hour pizzeria opened last month. "I am very hungry, you want something?" I asked. "get me a couple of slices and a coke", she replied. I came back with a large pizza and two cans of coke and asked her to come out. We sat on the boardwalk facing the seas as we munched down the pizza. During those two hours we chatted as we were long lost friends sitting across the table for lunch not realizing it was the wee hours of the night. Fortuately that night, no policeman came across to ask us what we were doing there. It was 4 AM, both of us were feeling sleepy but as I had one more hour to go, we sat there on the bench facing the sea. I didnt realize when we fell asleep, I was woken up by the phone ring and I realized it was 530 in the morning and I was late, but then I realized that Priyanka was holding my arm as she slept on my shoulder.

Though this story is purly a figment of my imagination, it has a few elements of reality. Dedicated to the city that never sleeps- Bombay. I miss the days I spent at TIFR during the summer of 2007.


Asmyaham said...

Every person has a story my friend, and so does every city... well written piece... I adore aamchi mumbai for my own reasons...and do me a favor...say hi to Priyanka...

Ethan said...

@asmyaham: thank you for your comment... i will surely say hi to priyanka, the moment I meet her and Akshay.

PS: I would like to thank Whats your Rashee's song "Jao Na" for the inspiration for this piece....

kasturi said...

A midsummer night's dream i suppose? :P
Your piece reminded me of the terrific summer i had in Mumbai. Thank u!

Ethan said...

Thank you kasturi for your comment. Indeed it was a great summer for all of the VSRP Class of 2007.
I will always cherish the days I spent with so many enlightened minds.

Anonymous said...

Any piece on Marine Drive, always grabs my attention. This one describes one of the many days I have spent, just sitting and staring at the sea. Nice blog you have here!

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