The Train Journey- II

18:24 PM:

Anushka had been home for three hours. Spending an afternoon at home was relaxing and rejuvenating. She was glad that her job offered her flexible work timings once every week. She cleaned up, made her weekly trip to the salon and was now cooking dinner in anticipation of Ayaan’s arrival on the daily train that they boarded from Churchgate together at 17:50, one which reached the Santa Cruz station at 18:25.

Ansuhka looked at the clock which had already struck 18:24 and picked up some speed. Her rented accommodation wasn’t too far from the station, in lieu of convenience. She could hear the siren of the train approaching the Santa Cruz station.

Soon thereafter, she felt a shudder run down her spine. A deafening sound had drowned out the trains horns and managed to shake her window panes. It was common to encounter the noise of firecrackers on every street in Mumbai. But this sound was different. It was louder and made every accessory in her apartment tremble. It seemed as if everything around her was just as terrified.

There was utter chaos on the streets below. Scores of people ran in all directions, crying out for help. A little further away, inside the station, the train had stopped moving. Smoke emanated from the train compartments and warning bells were being sounded.

Ansuhka rushed out of her apartment and ran towards the station, all the while hoping and praying for Ayaan’s safety.

All her fears had been realised as she entered the station to move towards the burning train. There had been a BOMB BLAST.

Struggling to move in the opposite direction from the crowd, she eventually managed to reach the train and ran towards the First Class Compartment that Ayaan and she always travelled in.

There were no remnants of the compartment. It had been shredded to pieces by the force of the bomb. Blood and limbs had flown away from the compartment of the train to every corner of the station. A sickly smell filled the air. Human bodies lay scattered around. Most were dead bodies, but a few showed some signs of life.

Anushka felt nauseated with the sights and smell, but continued sifting through the pile of bodies and debris to find Ayaan. Her feet were soaked with blood and tissue debris, as she trudged along, towards the far end of the train. As she scrolled past the numerous bodies that lay scattered around, she felt a tug on her denims. She turned around to find him lying there. His feet crushed under debris from the train and his body covered with a mixture of blood, dirt and grime. He could barely speak and was enduring an immense amount of pain. His face had been burnt and so had parts of his body. His clothes were charred exposing his naked body which was grievously injured and bleeding.

Anushka didn’t know how to react. She cried for help, but none was forthcoming. She tried to lift the debris off his legs, but didn’t have the strength to do so. Feeling helpless, she knelt besides Ayaan and sobbed.

Ayaan brushed her hair aside, like he always did, motioned her to come closer and kissed her one final time. Soon thereafter, he ceased to respond and breathe.

As help began to pour out from all unexpected quarters, Anushka lay there kneeling besides Ayaan, sobbing. A variety of emotions swept through her body in that instance. Anger, sorrow, fear, helplessness. All of which were drowned out by the sheer magnitude of the events that had transpired.

(Seven bomb blasts in a span of eleven minutes had shaken the entire city and country. One of the countless terror attacks in the country since the turn of the century. An audacious bid to derail the smooth functioning of the city and ingrain terror in the minds of its countless citizens. Owing to inaccessibility to the blast site, rescue operations were delayed and inefficient. Bystanders and other passengers on the train helped transport the salvageable victims to the nearest hospitals. Notwithstanding the limited resources, the doctors managed to salvage a large number of critically wounded patients. The death toll rose to 209 people in the days that ensued the blast. A cowardly act to prove a redundant point.)

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The Train Journey

(Inspired by a real life story- Part fact/Part fiction)

May 2006

6:23 am. Santa Cruz Station. The train blew its horn. The wheels set into motion. For people in the train, the platform seemed like it was slipping away. For people on the platform, the train was beginning the first of its many journeys.

But for Anushka, a small town girl, trying to make it big in the city, catching the train was a matter of life and death. It wasn’t often that Anushka reported late for work to the Times of India office, where she had landed a job as an intern at the tender age of 22. But, if she missed this train she would land a rare blemish on an impeccable record.

Anushka ran across the platform, huffing and puffing, pushing the young and the old in the crowd, with equal disdain. The train moved fast, but Anushka moved faster. Using all her skills, garnered as a long jump gold medallist during her college days, Anushka jumped off the platform, to barely make it to the edge of the first class compartment. As if on cue, an unfamiliar face came out of nowhere and pulled her in.

“Are you all ¬†right, Madam? That was quite a risky thing to do!” Anushka tried to talk but couldn’t. Partly because she was running short of breath, but mostly because she was standing in front of her Mr. McDreamy. He wasn’t too tall, nor did he have the best built, but there was something about him. Something that made him irresistible to look at.

“I’m ok. Thanks for pulling me in,” was all she could muster.

“Hi, I’m Ayaan.”

“Huh? Oh, Anushka”

And the conversation started from there, to end only at the Churchgate station where the both of them alighted.

Ayaan was a photography intern at a magazine, Apocalypse. She hadn’t heard of the magazine, but still she believed him. She had no reason to doubt it. Here was a man who was courteous and chivalrous. He didn’t scan her to see how hot she was, he didn’t give her dirty glances, he just looked into her eyes and conversed. What were the chances of finding such an Indian man on a train randomly? But she had and she wasn’t going to let him go.

“I take the 5:37 Borivali slow train from the Churchgate station in the evening,” she said when it was time for them to part.

“And I usually run to get into the train. I may need some help. Hope you’ll be around to pull me in again.”

Ayaan blushed and nodded and they parted ways.

A month later:

“It’s been a month since we have been talking in the train and this boy hasn’t even asked me for my phone number. Is he for real?” Anushka was procrastinating on a lazy Monday morning while she waited for her train and Ayaan to arrive at the station.

A month had actually passed by and Ayaan and Anushka had become travel companions. Or maybe a little more than that. However, Ayaan was too shy to ask and Anushka was too coy to take the first step. On that day, Anushka had decided to end the waiting game. Ayaan was definitely the kind of boy she would consider dating.

“Ayaan, I think I’d like to be asked out to dinner or a movie or something like that,” Anushka blurted out, excitedly, while the train chugged along on the creaky but ever reliable train tracks. The ever busy and non-interfering crowd trained their gaze onto them, some surprised at her audacity, the others curious to know Ayaan’s reply.

“I’d love to, Anushka,” Ayaan whispered and made plans to skip work for the day and spend it with Anushka. Anushka, as reluctant as she was to skip work for other reasons, didn’t mind doing so for Ayaan.

They spent the day soaking in the rich culture and heritage that Mumbai had to offer, right from the crowded and filthy interiors of the Churchgate station to the eternally beautiful and serene Gateway of India, at the sea shore. Eating at the roadside stalls and walking along the Queens Necklace¬†coastline with a faint drizzle and a brief outpour, every now and then, set the perfect backdrop for their blooming romance. Before they knew it, the sun was drowning into the ocean and the artificial lights along the streets of Mumbai illuminated the ‘City that never sleeps’.

After hours of walking, they stationed themselves on the promenade of the Queen’s Necklace. The clouds had stopped their mischief and as if on cue, the violent waves of the sea had transitioned to gentle movements. There was a sudden silence and all that they could hear was the noise of the cars honking, behind them and the waves hitting the rocks at the sea shore, in front of them. Ayaan reached out to hold her hands. She didn’t resist. And before she knew it, Ayaan was close to her and locked his lips on to hers, while his hands brushed her blowing hair aside. Anushka just closed her eyes and soaked in that moment. This was the commencement of her first relationship.

 

July 11, 2006

The fast paced train raced to the Churchgate station, as Ayaan and Anushka, just a month into their relationship stared into each others eyes and laughed and talked, oblivious to their surroundings. Every day had been full of surprises.

“Ansuhka, don’t wait for me today. Its your half day at work and I may be running late.” Ayaan told her as they walked through the exit of the station.

It was indeed Anushka’s half day at work. And they usually did this once a week when she did get the time off only to meet at Anushka’s place later in the evening.

“Don’t get upset, sweetheart, I’ll come over to your place as soon as I’m done with work”

Anushka smiled as they parted ways to go to their respective offices. He really knew how to keep her happy.

 

 

To be continued…………