I am also a law student and I had gone to Bombay to intern for 5 weeks in a multinational company. I was staying in a locality famed for its infamy. My hotel was in a house which was once a stately Parsi mansion, now decayed to its ribs and lying in senile waste – redolent with the smell of cough-syrup and damp moss. The 7×7 cubbyhole that was mine was at the end of a long corridor on t he second floor, which had a 40 watt bulb filling it with strange vacuous yellow light. The ground floor seemed to be a brothel and god only knows what the first floor contained.
The battle used to start at 7 in the morning with me pulling my luggage up on to the bed, grabbing my towel, toothbrush, toothpaste, foam, razor, mirror, soaps and shampoo and rushing to the common washroom whose floor was black with the soot and grime of a very long eternity.
The train rides were motherly, the rising sun soothing enough. Getting down the trains made me fall in love with Malthus, Marie Stopes, the pro-abortionists and all advocates of family planning. The multitude, while jostling up the railway station staircase, would make boxer-fists and so would I. We were moles fighting to get into the sunlight from a crowded burrow.
Let’s not get into life in office. 13 hours of work everyday brought me to the brink of insanity. I could feel my neurons dancing to a fusion-mix of Dard-e-Disco and Eleanor Rigby. The hotelbound journeys were mechanical, with my neurons dancing to a slightly different tune – one seemingly co-composed by Bappi Lahiri and Beethoven. As for getting dinner packed, trudging upstairs to my room, dragging my body through the corridor and flopping on the bed, I wish all these feats could be accomplished in 20 words and 2 commas.
The weekends were different. I spent Friday nights drinking beer and chewing on beef-kebabs which had a tendency to get cold in a matter of minutes. My neighbours were inconsiderate to my mental peace. The TV sets would be blurting loudly in at least 5 different languages. It was the Tower of Babel. Saturday mornings were spent fighting severe hangovers and evenings were spent by the sea. On Sundays I would take long walks and bus rides and cab rides all around the city. I was fascinated by the slums: the diversity of sights, sounds and colours and the narrow alleys illuminated by green light emanating from the shacks on both sides. All these would perk my senses up.
My cellphone could not catch signals from inside my room. I was, for all practical purposes, cut off from the rest of the world. I didn’t mind. I was enjoying my sabbatical. I was enjoying the feeling of being marooned on a deserted island with my laptop – all wired up and lonely, just like me.
3 interesting things happened during my stay:
Once, while I was returning from office, another train dashed past in the opposite direction. After the initial blast of air, I could see a cloud formed by a mass of skulls. It was like a peak into the netherworld. My nerves were giving out. After the train went past I had to get back to worrying about those pending laundry bills.
Once, while climbing upstairs to my room, I saw an old man with dishevelled hair and soiled clothes opening the main entrance to the second floor. That was the only time I saw the corridor there. It was dark and still and had doors, which seemed to have been locked for a few millennia, on both sides. The locks were rusty and heavy. Everything was deathly silent. I got goosebumps.
When it was all over, I found myself in front of my lappy in the smoking chamber of the airport. I was thirsty. I was writing it all down. I couldn’t stop.
In the language of hearts, they shot horses, didn’t they?