Part – I
The two months that I had stayed in my home thinking I would be reading, writing and even perhaps learning how to play Piano had ended. I hadn’t read. I hadn’t written. I had forgotten whatever I learnt about playing Piano. I had spent my youth and my old age waiting in Bank and begging them to take my request for Education loan on priority. I had circled around the court for gathering weird documents for this loan, I had printed all sorts of stuff for my VISA application and then I had spent rest of the days compiling them as per VISA guidelines. And whatever time that was left after all this, I had spent it on “trying to learn” how to cook and bitching about State Bank of India to literally every person I could.
But all that struggle had finally come to an end. My loan had been approved, tuition fees had been paid, I had received my VISA, I had packed my bags and now I was ready to leave.The train to Mumbai was going to depart at 1 o’clock in the afternoon. I had woke up early despite staying up late, bathed, ate and now I was sitting restlessly with my eyes fixated on the minute hand of the clock and butterflies fluttering inside my stomach. The adventure was about to begin. In five hours, I would be in Mumbai. In twenty hours I would be in Norwich – my current city of dreams. Odd – I know – not everybody is aware of this city’s existence, certainly I wasn’t till a couple of months ago. But there I was, dreaming of boarding the flight to the smallest city I would ever live in. I called the cab, one of the last times I would be using Uber and I excitedly hopped into the taxi bidding adieu to my mother.
Day one of my nightmare had officially commenced. But I had no idea it was a nightmare at all.
The cab dropped me at the Railway station. I excitedly strode to the Platform with my “Norwich dreams” only to find that my train was delayed by five hours. This was the first indication of how things were going to go horribly wrong down the road but though I acknowledged that it wasn’t a good sign but I merely deemed it as a minor setback. I had booked tickets with good time margin between them. So the delay didn’t bother me much. At least till the next hour. Then doubts began to spring in my head like weeds in a garden. I made the judgement call. I decided to take the bus instead. For the first time in my life, I used the station’s wifi and searched for the earliest bus cursing Indian Railways under my breath. Fortunately, I did find a bus that was about to leave in twenty minutes. Hurriedly, I made a dash for the Exit. I paid the Autorickshaw driver three times higher than the regular fare to reach the bus stop, booked the bus with three times higher fare than the train’s ticket price and unknowingly stepped further into the dreadful adventure. I boarded the sleeper bus, fell asleep with my shoes on, only to be awakened by the conductor asking me to take them off and shift to the upper seat. Though a bit irritated, I obediently did what he asked me to do and stared outside as the first few drops of rain hit the window. I had heard the news that it was raining hard in Mumbai – first from a fellow passenger and then from my sister who was already in Mumbai since the previous day – a visit planned to see me before I fly to Norwich. I hoped for the best and took another small nap.
My phone, one of the last few times my Indian number shall be used, rang. It was my sister again. “It’s raining really hard here.” she said. “Even I am stuck in traffic. Where are you?”
“Somewhere in the highway.” I replied.
“Okay, turn your live location on.”
“I have run out of my net pack.” Because who needs it when you are supposed to leave the country in about six hours?
“I will get it recharged,” she replied.
I could sense higher level of adrenaline in my blood but there was nothing I could do but wait. And waiting is all I did for the next three days but of course I didn’t know that yet. What I did know was Mumbai rains were going to fuck me over. And that they did. Soon the roads turned into shallow rivers and traffic began to drift excruciatingly slowly. Panic? Yeah, I was drenched completely in it. But the movie had just started. My sister was calling me pretty frequently now. We were both wondering how I was going to reach Airport at all. Luckily, the bus conductor came to my rescue. “Where do you want to get off ?” He asked. “Nearest place to the International Airport.”
“Well, it’s going to be troublesome.” You think so?
But the bus conductor turned out to be much more helpful than I expected. I spent a considerable amount of time talking to him and the driver when I sat next to the driver seat discussing Mumbai rains, occasional “risks” of helping people (especially a woman – Well I would rather not comment), about Conductor’s brother working abroad and finally about my plans of studying in England. The driver asked me how English currency looked like. After a moment of hesitation, I handed him a twenty pound note out of my wallet. He glanced at it in fascination and to my secret sigh of relief returned it to me. We had reached as near as we could to the airport. I had to get off now. Since I didn’t have any umbrella, the conductor walked me over to the back of the bus holding his umbrella over both of us. He took my luggage out of the storage and again walked me over to the nearest bus stop. I was walking barefoot with my shoes dangling over my neck. The rain was pouring down hard. Five minutes outside the bus and I was already wet. The conductor left me after giving me rough instructions for how to reach the Airport which I didn’t quite understand. All I did understand was that I needed to cross the road to get a Taxi. While walking towards the Skywalk that led to the opposite side of the road, I had the best stroll of my life with the clouds showering their brutality over me for no reason whatsoever (How dare you try to go to England, you stupid dumbfuck!), with my blurry vision (How dare you wear specs while it’s raining, you stupid dumbfuck!), my heavy luggage (How dare you carry so much while travelling to another country, you stupid dumbfuck!) and my wet clothes (How dare you wear clothes that get wet at all, you stupid dumbfuck!).
I was struggling hard to carry my bag upstairs in the Sky-walk. My plight must have been visible all over my face. It was then that I met my heroes. I almost choked on my mental tears of gratitude for them when they helped me with my luggage, first by carrying it up the stairs and then down. However, my troubles didn’t end there. I still had to get a taxi to the airport. And finding one had been the hardest thing I ever did in my life. Maybe after the loan. And after Engineering. And my job. By the time I had crossed the road through the foot over-bridge – I was already wet to the bone and so were my bags. I didn’t care anymore. I just wanted to get a cab. I walked up to the middle of the road multiple times leaving my bag into the supervision of a random person, hoping that it wouldn’t get stolen. Nobody stole anything and I finally found a taxi but I paid extraordinarily high fare to the cab driver. I reached the airport – my one and only ultimate goal of my life then. My heart uttered some really creative curse words for the Mumbai rains and the city’s horrendous drainage system but at the same time it brimmed with gratitude for Mumbai people; for all those kind strangers who had helped me. I had been so absorbed in this entire struggle that I didn’t realize that my bladder was very close to a rather embarrassing explosion. I hurriedly entered inside the airport. Duped by the perpetual lost expression on my face, one of the Attendants approached me and asked, “Are you looking for something?”
“Yeah, Washroom.” I said. The same washroom that I was going to use for the coming three days.