The Evening Drill

I have no clue how my day will begin tomorrow. I do not know what time I will be waking up. I only have a vague idea about what I need to do tomorrow and whom I might be meeting. But more likely I will surprise myself by doing something entirely different from what I had intended to. do. However, what I do know is how my day will come to an end. I know this for sure because I have developed a routine that I don't seem to mind very much. Now I am not a stickler for routines. I don't like them a lot. But for one reason or the other, my day ends in a similar fashion and I don't do anything about it.

It all begins when the Rajabai clock tower starts to chime as her two hands form a right angle. The second quadrant to be specific. The tower, of course is female. She was named after Premchand Roychand's mother - Rajabai. Roychand not only funded the building of this magnificent structure but he also founded the Bombay Stock Exchange. The evening bell of the tower would remind the blind Rajabai that it was time for dinner. It tells me that it is time to head home. So I make my way past the Oval Maidan to the station. During the day the ground is teeming with wannabe International Cricketers and during evenings, it transforms into a quite spot for the outdoorsy couples who enjoy each others company under the wide open sky. The grass is watered during the day, water for which is sourced from the large tanks that lie beneath it. It's a self maintaining place. Not a burden of the water department of the BMC. Clever thinking.

I walk on the Maharshi Karve Marg where I am joined by a few corporate workers, making their way to the station. If I wound the hands of Rajabai tower clock back in time, I would perhaps be transported to the actual gate that lead to the St. Thomas Cathedral that stands silently near the Horniman Circle. This very church lends its name to one of my favorite stations of the city - Churchgate. The church itself is a portal to solitude amidst the bustling financial-banking district of Fort. I seldom visit it. The erstwhile Chief Justice of Bombay is buried very close to the altar and so are other English Sahibs of the Raj across the floor. The silence is not eerie but comforting. And I spend some time there, kneeling, hands folded. But I don't pray. I don't even ponder over anything. I just let myself blend into the silent atmosphere.

And so I continue walking and reach the Fresh and Honest Coffee stall where I order a Filter Coffee or a Hot Chocolate or at times, even Horlicks. I quietly finish my drink and wait for my 21.13 to pull in. It's always her that I wait for eagerly but there are times when I am delayed and I have to reluctantly travel on the 21.17. Sometimes I jump in and capture a seat by the window or at times, the less agile of the first class passengers make a poor attempt to imitate my style and block the door. I then stand in the passage, my heavy bag placed on the floor. My feet clutching her together.

The sight would be blasphemous to any self respecting Hindu, seeing my feet touch Maa Saraswati. But then I gave up on religion long ago. I clutch my book and try to train my eyes on the shifting text as the train rattles with super natural speed and then as she approaches Andheri, she loses all her momentum and slows down. Dragging herself with every agonizing minute , much to the chagrin of us passengers. With every passing station, fresh air starts to circulate in the compartment as hordes of human corpses suddenly come to life and throw themselves out on the platforms.

Before I can savor the emptiness that surrounds me, she pulls into the second last station and I disembark. I make my way to through the crowd milling out of the station and onto the dark alley that connects it to civilisation. I walk past a group of prostitutes that line up along this way. None of them are dressed in the typical garb of a whore. No bright red lipstick or garish make up. Only if they weren't standing in this dark corner at this time of the evening, you would think they are a bunch of housewives out here to do marketing, as Indian housewives call shopping-for-groceries. These women on the other hand are of course, marketing - themselves.

I recognise one of them. I don't see her quite often but she leaves an impression each time. A striking lady. She dresses up in plain sarees that do nothing to hide her full figure. Her ample bosom(natural of course, Indian lady you see) quite prominent even in the faded light. I can be certain that her neckline plunges to reveal a tempting sight. She looks at me with expectant eyes. Her eyes inviting me for a good time, I could do with some fun they suggest. Of course! who wouldn't? So do I walk up and fix a price? Of course not. I shrug my shoulders and look away, another night of melancholy won't hurt. Giving into temptation is not my nature. I walk to the bus stop. Most often I get a bus that drops me 300 meters away from home and sometimes when I feel energetic enough to walk all of the mile to home, 3 rickshaws wallahs offer a ride.

As I walk towards the door, my only friends in the neighborhood wag their tails. I wave at them but look away from their expectant eyes. I don't have biscuits for them and I don't want to disappoint someone yet again. I unlock the door and walk into a warm house. Nothing special about its warmth. In a tropical country like ours, one always walks into a warm place. Day or night. I heat up the food and eat it in silence. There is not much to do afterwards. I try to read or write but I can't do none. I simply lie down on my hard bed, thinking about how the next day will turn out to be. Knowing the answer very well, I let myself drift into slumber. Good night.


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