Travels through India

This is a story about three great cities, Mumbai, Kolkata and Bangalore

Chapter 2

Bombay VT (now known as Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus or Mumbai CST) is large – probably not the largest in the country – but definitely in the big league. Tarun hated crowded railway stations – they made him nervous and invariably brought back unpleasant memories of getting lost at a very young age in the teeming multitudes which thronged Howrah station. They traveled to the hotel in a yellow and black Fiat cab (the ones which Fiat doesn’t produce anymore) whose rear-windows would only go down half-way. Tarun would later realize that in Mumbai, this was the rule rather than the exception, and that most Fiat cars in those days were specifically made with such a design. Why, he could not fathom, and didn’t bother to.

Tarun tried in vain to recollect the last few days spent in the village – the place that he and all his batch mates called Kharagpur.

Prasanth had whispered to him as they sat drunk, stoned, and with their fourteenth tea of the evening, Mumbai is not going to be easy. A faint tinge of glee and a hint of sadistic pleasure had flickered over Prasanth’s face as he had nodded and sipped at his tea noisily. Prasanth had added, as if trying to heal the vicious hurt caused by his caustic statements – “I am not trying to discourage you; but Bombay is one of those places where you somehow can lose yourself if you want to. I think you will have fun. I had a friend who became a dance-bar addict; don’t tell me later I didn’t give you adequate warning.” Tarun silently said – O noble soul, a million thanks for enlightening me. If you are so concerned about me – why don’t you join the company in my position – while I go and screw my life up in the US? Common-sense prevailed and they both remained silent till their next cup of tea.

Their last days in Kharagpur had been a mixture of pain, suffering and dollops of fun in the midst of cigarettes, booze and an overdose of marijuana. Clearing outstanding dues at Chunnu (the cigarette-shop owner at the gates of the institute); tearful farewells to the juniors and secret-crushes; long walks till the wee hours of the morning, recollecting and striving to keep each memory, each vision of the campus imprinted in their minds. Prasanth was moving away to the UIUC in the United States, while Tarun had chosen Mumbai. It wasn’t a choice as much as it was a compulsion, but he liked to think of it that way. He had decided to stay back in the country (the softer option, he had argued). Last days were spent decorating the hostel-room walls, with a multitude of colors for the next inmate; and Tarun’s name was added to the list of supposedly illustrious and supposedly brilliant students who had graced the room with their talents, books and cigarette butts.

“Do you know Marathi?” asked Prasanth, as they got up and paid Chhedi Bhai for the last time before leaving the campus. Tarun wondered at the futility and utter meaninglessness of the question and looked at Prasanth inquisitively, and asked “Why? Why do you ask?”

“I just thought maybe a life in Mumbai would be easier if you knew Marathi”, replied Prasanth.

“Don’t they speak in Hindi?” asked Tarun, quizzically. “I thought only people in Chennai hated Hindi”, and they both fell quiet, introspecting. Tarun went back to his room, resumed his packing, smoked one last joint with Prasanth, and relapsed into a slight stupor. It was his last night at the village.

“Get out”, shouted Subho, and poked Tarun with his fore-finger, throwing him out of his reverie with a rather rude jolt.

What’s this place? Wondered Tarun, as he stepped out of the cab, bag in his hands and moved to the back of the car, waiting for the cabbie to come and open the boot. Rows and rows of shops, at least half of them restaurants, with a narrow alley in the center of them all, leading to a narrow marbled hallway, with the name “Hotel New Bengal” written in small indistinguishable letters.

“This is where we are staying? How on earth did you manage to get hold of this place? It must be amazingly cheap, no?”

Subho laughed a joyless laugh. “If you call five-hundred a night for a three-bedded single room cheap – so be it! But you are not wholly incorrect. This is probably the best deal you would get for this price in this part of Bombay. I have a feeling the suburbs would be cheaper – but then again, I am not sure if they have hotels at all. The last time I had come to Bombay, I had stayed in Andheri, and I hadn’t seen anything other than slums, auto-rickshaws and irritated people”

“When did you arrive here? Last night?” asked Tarun.

“Yeah… I went to this place called Topaz with Anup. Anup was supposed to come with me, but then he managed to pester his dad to send him by flight, and thus he came. How did you manage to while time on the train? I suppose you spent the whole time getting stoned.”

Tarun was finding it tough to pay attention and concentrate on what Subho was saying, but managed to infer that Topaz was the dance bar which Subho had been enamored with, and that Anup had already arrived. Tarun liked Anup, though they had shared a purely professional relationship, but because Tarun tended to drink a lot in Anup’s wing; they had developed a somewhat fragile but diligent friendship. Anup was heavily-built (and some would find this an understatement) – but made up for the lack in physical beauty in appearance with enthusiasm and spirit.

“Have you got any stuff?” Subho asked, rolling his eyes, quivering with anticipation. Almost as if he was scared of a negative reply, he said: “Of course, you do.”

Tarun wanted to break him, see him suffer; but felt better sense prevail as he, along with Subho and a smelly liftman, crowded into a dilapidated piece of machinery which was supposed to transport them to the third floor. The hotel smelt strongly of disinfectant and soap, mixing together to a heady concoction. The liftman smelt of paan (betel-nut), cigarettes and sweat, and looked irritable, yet friendly. Throwing the lift door open with a tremendous clang, he stepped out and watched nonchalantly as Tarun and Subho struggled with the luggage. Tarun wanted to leave his bags and slap him, but the haze of marijuana coupled with acute tiredness made him feel averse to action in general, and, with the aid of some well-intended help from Subho, they finally reached their room.

Anup was in the room, looking fresh, with an over-splattering of powder on his bare torso. He lay on the bed, staring straight up at the ceiling fan, twiddling his thumb and playing air-guitar. A cursory exchange of pleasantries took place, as Tarun sank into the comfort of the bed and heaved a sigh of relief, feeling the days frustrations take off slowly and evaporate, as the breeze cooled and calmed his rather enervated brain.

“Isn’t it an absolutely horrid place?” Anup asked, as Tarun closed his eyes in mute relaxation.

“Hmm. It doesn’t look very promising. And what’s with this place, man! I cannot believe we are actually paying a cool five-hundred for this hell-hole!”

Tarun’s discomfiture was understandable and he had good reason to be pissed. The room was small, and as before, small would be a humungous understatement in this case. One look at the room made one feel as if, in a rare moment of inspired thinking and cost-cutting, the hotel-owners had managed to stuff in three beds, along with mattresses and all the other accoutrements into the room. And people actually paid money to stay in it.

“Let’s smoke one…” whispered Subho into Tarun’s left ear. Tarun wondered if he could hit him, then took out the stick of marijuana and cut a bit out. Subho rubbed his palms together happily, clearly overjoyed at the promise of getting high. It had been some time since Subho had left the campus, having been blessed with a better and comparatively lenient project-guide than the others; and had spent a good two months with practically no intoxication. The promise of getting high, brought with it the idea of titillation, and like Tarun, Subho loved getting high in the afternoon. It always gives you more time to enjoy the pleasures of a thoughtless and meaningless existence.

The room became the hub of some rather feverish activity for the next fifteen minutes as Subho and Tarun got to work and Anup tried his best to look disinterested. Four joints were made, and smoked quickly as a dense smoke enveloped the three of them, as they sank, dazed, stoned, and orgasmic, still reeling under the first moments in a true metropolis, into the damp and somewhat irritating comfort of their individual beds.

4 Responses to “Chapter 2”

  1. # Blogger EQUINOX

    Read it dude!!.. great work!.. keep the juices flowin!  

  2. # Blogger NightWatchmen

    I am just trying to figure who the hell Subho is ????  

  3. # Blogger Showknock

    Good work ... deserves a Chapter 3. I dont find time to write blogs here ... just dont!! Neways keep up the good work ... someday I'll write abt the trip to Bbay me and Dumpy had undertaken (remember?)  

  4. # Blogger Sheer melody


    Thanks for the comment. The chapter 3 is in the making

    You'll never guess, and I am not at liberty to divulge :)

    Thanks, Chapter 3 as I mentioned to Equinox, is in the making. Yes, someday when you have the time, I think you should write about it. That was one HELL of a trip :)  

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