(For the uninitiated, Thane is a suburb on the outskirts of Mumbai, and about 40 kms from Mahim.)
Happiness is a strange thing. The more you try to chase it, the more elusive it seems. But I guess its real beauty lies in the fact that you can only feel it when it reaches you, not the other way around.
My watch read 11:30 as I managed to just about have a glimpse of the time in the quiet lulling night, sitting on the steps at Mahim Beach. The splendor of the city shone in its stillness for a change, as an unfinished bridge blocked the full moon, shinning down upon the waters which were doing a little dance of their own. I have always looked at Mahim Beach as the common man's beach. Sure, Marine Drive graces like a queen resting in her shade of purple, and Juhu beach is the place where a man feels alone, in the swarming sea of humanity. But the stretch of Mahim Beach upto Worli is the sea of absolute stillness, lending an ear to every man who seeks his daily solace. I can't help but overlook the young married couple, while the husband murmurs in a loud tone, enough for everybody around to hear, about his successes in life and the wife looks on with a forced awe, probably out of her necessary captivity to fate. The man with a ragged look, the grey moustache and the checked shirt is silent, looking endlessly at the moon. The middle aged man has heavy wrinkles, as he prepares for his customary 20 min sojourn, while sitting on the beach, before he catches the last local and boards home to find a house to run. The rag pickers play around with the shells, with the large shiny ones being stuffed in their enormous ragbags, probably the biggest prize they will ever own, one that they would probably sleep the cold night on the roads with and impressions of crowning glory in their dreams.
With these thoughts in my mind, I boarded a taxi to take another expedition of its own sorts, as I prepared to catch the 1 hour train taking me across the city while showcasing a million little journeys in itself.
Getting down at Matunga station is a nightmare of sorts for those who always know where the next road leads. In the midst of total darkness, I shuffle, with skepticisms to guide me initially, only to be replaced by a total elation at finding myself with nowhere to go and just walking in the tunnel. The slow , idyllic walk is stopped with a mind numbing sight. A crippled mother , of about hardly 4'5 in height with disheveled hair, was combing her daughter's hair, just about matching her as she stood. The mother looked with eyes of promise at her beautiful young child and as I passed by in absolute numbness, somewhere I could hear the mother say to her "You are going to be beautiful someday, my child". I suddenly realize that I have to rush and run, whereby I just about manage to catch the last local and to my amusement, I find the compartment empty.
It is boarded, not surprisingly, by people from all walks of life, all bound by the two things that drive the city today, circumstance and necessity. At the entrance of the carpet, is a nearly naked old man, with strands of unkempt white hair laid out bare, as he sleeps like a child never wanting to wake up. Three old men, with their namaaz caps on, look towards the sky from their windows, murmuring their prayer, presumably. Despite enough places to sit, I go across to a group of people who stand to take in the unique Mumbai winds.
The Mumbai Winds. Sharp and cool at the same time, refreshing to some, a necessity to others. I watch a man, wearing the what is now common sight of a neat white sleeved shirt with two buttons open. He is old and haggard, with a bead in his hand and he is mumbling his prayers too. That is what has driven Mumbai despite suffering from 3 bomb blasts and every evil that has been inflicted to it till date, the NEED TO SURVIVE. Irrespective of faith and sensibilities, every man in this city is fighting to survive. Some in the maddening rush of their lives, and some in their own actions. And having lived 2 years in the city now, I have come to peace with such an act.
As the stations arrive one by one, I realize that this compartment is full of cripples and 'differently abled' people as this is the compartment of handicapped. I would have loved to say that I actually did not feel out of place, but the truth is, the only thing that i felt there was the feeling of dwarf ness. I felt like a midget before their spirit to live and to fight. The stations rushed by and gave me the once again familiar sight of apartment after apartment as I entered the suburbs, and the urban chaos around them.
As I finish my 45 min walk, with music in my ears as an accomplice during this journey of rediscovering life, I realize that every man has his own story to tell and his fortune to weave. And this journey that they undertake in their lives is a far greater battle than the one which I had just experienced.