Thoda aur sarko na … (make some space)
Aare thoda jagga karo … (make some space!)
This lady with a big tokri (basket of fresh, stinky mackerels) kept pushing me …
I was already sitting on top of four baskets of fish, fresh vegetables and probably soiled clothes. All dressed in my best with evening in paris, nina ricci. Now only the smell of dead blood (from those mackerels) ruled!
I was already sulking that theres no fun getting ready and traveling in Bombay local trains .. after all it’s going to be all sweat, dust and grime.. but then i had to meet Kinshuk at Hamla (naval base) …my date on a empty beach of Bombay, in the monsoons.
It was this thought that kept me going in the crowded local western railways … no I wasn’t sitting in the vendor compartment…it was very much the ladies dabba (compartment) but the wrong time… early mornings,when the fish from the docks had to reach the Bombay wallahs!
and I had to reach the beach.
Every week I took this train, to meet him. To walk on the sand and surf hand in hand, not to talk just to walk… on empty, quite shores of otherwise deafening, busting at the seams, dusty, raggy, stinky Bombay.
This was a private beach under the Defence land, no civilian had access to it and I felt privileged walking all alone in the early hours and late evening, who wouldn’t after all these are the small perks one gets to serve the nation!
Today, I was really getting irritated with the fisher folks in the train… they simply rule at this hour… they make you feel like you don’t belong, they curse you if you don’t make space for them and their stinky baggage. You can’t complain about the stink, the scattered fish scales all over or the stinky, slimy water on the floor. It’s okay if you just managed to save your self from slipping on that fish water, all you will get is toothy beetle nut juice laced grin. I always think they don’t belong here, they need to take the vendor compartment or take a tempo or anything but not the train, not a public transport at least! Each time I took the train I would sulk and complain but then finally when my station would arrive I would happily forget everything and head towards my privileged solitude. Today was no different, I jumped of the train (literally one has too if you have all the stinky obstacles and smelly hurdles)
I managed to reach my beach still smelling a bit of nina ricci and a lot of fish, but then the whole beach smells of fish.
There he was standing, waiting for me.
My whole week, I use to wait for this moment and now when I am here I don’t need to say or do anything, all I need is to be!
It was drizzling so we were told not to walk on the shore as the tide was high. I sat there on the edge of the Mess wall, overlooking the beach. I kept watching the waves leap high up and dash across the shores and sweep back sand and empty beer bottles. I could feel the salt in my hair and lips from the sea breeze. Kinshuk’s friends decided to play volley ball on the beach.Cadets usually did that in their free time. Now this was a dampener, I did not get my walk on the beach nor did I get my solitude. I wasn’t complaining as I still had my view.
As I was watching the sea rise and fall, suddenly I saw two hands jutting out of the waves in the middle of sea… first I thought it was a tree, then as I concentrated and realized it was a boy with hands waving… probably he was drowning or was asking for help… I yelled at the boys playing volley ball… I asked them to go save that boy in the sea… Kinshuk and is friend Hari, immediately jumped into the waves… they swam as fast as they could to reach the boy… all i could hear was the roar of waves … did not know what was happening… and then I see that they managed to get hold of the boy… but then I did not understand much… it was only when they reached the shore I realized that what they saved was a corpse already floating in the sea!
He was probably 12 year and his hands were stuck up ( rigor mortis) as if asking for help. That boy was all stiff and curled up! Like a log. They dragged the corpse to the shores and alerted the coast guard… and started playing volley ball again.!!
Hello is nobody going to check his pulse, is nobody going to call the doctor or the police!!! I stood there dumb! watching the routine… I did not know how to react..feel sad? that we could not save the boy, hoping had we seen him early probably we could have saved him, nobody seemed bothered… I was further shocked, disturbed. Nobody!!
(It was routine for them…and yes it was … often in monsoon during high tide dead bodies came floating towards the shores and these Cadets usually ended up fishing them out… It was routine for them to fish these bodies out and then alert the coast guard )
But I am sure it meant something to somebody…someone’s kid, someone’s brother… Who was this boy? … How and when did he drown? There were so many questions… I just stood there watching and the boys got back to their game?
I requested that lets put a sheet over the boy to cover his body … and one of the Cadets said we don’t get a ration of sheets… we are running out of them!
I was speechless as I did not know how to react or say anything!
The Cadet informed me that these are normally fishermen and their families who go fishing and they get drowned in the high tides! These bodies come floating every second day during monsoon and its routine job of fishing them out.
I just stood there watching the corpse all bare, with waves roaring behind me and boys cheering the game.
Kinshuk immediately walked up to me, he took me aside and said ” This is your first time! ” … ” We all had ours! “
That evening on my way back home… the trains were rattling empty… it was just the cool breeze and my faint nina ricci .