It happened one dark October night. Place-Mumbai, people-lots of them, stage-the local train and protagonist- a young school-kid I named Pukar. Fat, ugly, sores and cropped hairs. Wearing navy blue trousers below the shiny green silky shirt and sparkling golden chains-heavily embellished with colorful trinkets of god-a-like portraits. Shoes, he wore none and knew nothing of- an observation but then his patched feet screamed of it.
The moment the wagons touched base over Andheri Sthanak and I boarded its sleepwalked terrains I had a mission of my own, concealed from public adultery by the skinny membranes that gripped my shadowy brains. Pukar stood gripping the iron bar that stood solid watching the streaming mass of dripping intelligent life move past with scant acknowledgement of his presence. The occasional collisions notwithstanding the bars jettisoned the progress of the hurried lots and provided support to others. Such was the state of their existence that things constantly moved around them without them moving an inch away from their assigned positions.
Anyways, so much about the bars. There were other objects too, you know, placed delicately in the time-module that I was in. For instance, the hand-rests, the plastic motion suckers and the metallic air/rain blockers that occasionally moved, but only in stated and assigned trajectories. Up and they opened vistas of retinal sensations, down and they closed the outside world in full. Then, there were those butt-rests whose function it was to sustain posteriors of countless men with dirt on their back and polished wax in the front. Despite the various objects that demanded attention, mine was fixed attentively on Pukar whose call I had not failed to attend.
He stood there by the exit watching intently something in the distance- I could say from the look in his eyes that the distance could probably fit into a light year. It happens sometimes when you peek into a stranger’s eyes, you see things beyond your wildest imaginations. He took me with him to a strange land where for miles there was no life visible, where an endless desert with bright yellow sands simmered under a sparkling sun and the dunes seemed like they were caught in a round of firing cyclones from all around. As he led the way my eyes drifted past him and to the tall monolithic structure that stood ahead. It looked as if it had been placed there by a sheer sense of misguided misanthropy. Picked and left somewhere where its feeling of triumph would meet no takers simply because there were no takers.
His brisk walk towards the structure was magnetic and the wind around him seemed to push him towards it. I followed his lead which took me to the top of that gigantic tower, the base of which had a small door leading into a small room. Windowless, the room could boast of nothing spare a winding stairway as its possession, climbing which seemed to be the obvious choice. Climb he did but not before a visual inspection of the room and an affirmative nod as if to say, ” It is exactly the way I left it. I am in safe territory now”. His every action I noted, with a connoisseurs delight, reveling in its completeness.
The walk up the stairs was paced and uneventful spare the last step before which the destination lay concealed under a web of wooden spirals. The opening at the end was narrow and compacted into a tiny hole with which to squeeze into the top. As the top surfaced I saw him, again with that look in his eyes as if to say, “Take me, again, to a place so far far away”. This troubled me. I was gripped with a sudden revulsion of this intricate chain of imaginations which was not even my own. I tried to scream but nothing came out of the throat. He looked back at me, smiling.
“How could he know? Was this all a trap I had so easily fallen into?”- thought I.
He smiled again, now with a tinge of condescending air as if to point out the glaring difference between his dream and mine. Under a paralyzing fear I was now closer to him than I had never been. He pulled his arm around me, I assumed, to comfort me, to say,”It’s all right, you are safe here”. In a swift motion though his hands reached my back and pushed me out the window, down the tower. And I fell liberated, winds brushing my cheeks thrashing my hairs.
It was then that I opened my eyes and found myself sitting alone in the compartment. Outside, a yellowish light fell over the tiled floors. I pulled myself up and pushed myself out the compartment, into the platform. My destination, Churchgate had arrived and my journey had been short and frightening, the pathogen nowhere in sight, much to my delight.