Thursday, April 9, 2009

Mumbai freeze-frame: Escape

7. Escape

It was unlikely that anyone noticed the diminutive young woman crawl out of the ladies carriage onto the bare tracks, to see her hold her head high towards the sun immediately afterward, breathing in the polluted air as deeply and as vagrantly as an unrestrained swallow of cold water.

Her name was Ramia. She was twenty four years old. That work morning felt to her like a donkey had crawled up her back and squatted, comfortable and settling in. The lecture she was subjected to by the venerable Mrs. Tripathi left her with such a bitter after taste, that it was all she could do to run up to the terrace of her office building and light a cigarette, fingers unsteady. She hadn’t earned her superior’s ire – of that there was no doubt. Someone somewhere had fucked up – what did it matter, who or why? Her position demanded that she, Ramia, face the flak. She had faced it, with just enough self-control, so why was she thinking, again, that she was selling out? And not just selling out, but shaming Him by her inadequacies.

‘Aaah.. Him, he – Feroze… where are you, babe?’, she thought out loud. ‘What are you doing right now? Why are you not here to tell me that everything’s okay and not going to get worse?… And then tell me that there really isn’t a reason for me to keep taking this bull shit, with or without self-control. Feroze, is it really true that we can go away like you said to deepest darkest Africa, or the jungles of Brazil or the desolate foothills of the Himalayas, with absolutely no one around… and prance around like two monkeys high, very high, only on life?’

Putting out her cigarette with a sigh, Ramia made her way down to her cubicle, logged in, sent her emails out, read the ones that she needed, saved them in their appropriate folders, cleaned up her inbox and left the building, walking, this time, to the train station. The train had inevitably drawn up in no man’s land ahead of Mahim. She knew there was something happening with the Tulsi Pipe Road’s slum resident’s organization protesting about their lack of water or electricity or something else.

It took fifteen minutes of looking around the lonely mid-day local compartment before she finally decided that she really wasn’t going to take any of this anymore. And she got off on the bare ground, having carefully negotiated the rather high climb down and walked across the five sets of parallel tracks to the gap in the concrete wall leading on to the road, thrilled that it was something that she had never, ever done before.

Two days later she was arranging her books, fifty-two of them, in alphabetical order according to author, top to bottom, in three large piles on the far corner of the cement floor, not yet accustomed to the banal joy this simple act was bringing her. Two crazy days that had led them to this small room in this small hut set amongst the jacaranda and mango trees in the little clearing in the Vagator forest that the landlord had kindly consented to let them have on off-season prices even though the tourists had already begun gathering. She had made him the fabled mutton kurma, a relic from the kitchens of Mrs. Saud, mother to Ramia, on the first evening, and it had sealed the deal. But enough of that already, Ramia told herself. This is Goa… I am here… And so is He, she thought and giggled, waiting for her Feroze to come back to her from the store with the eggs and fish for dinner.

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