(Photo by Prashant Acharekar – http://www.flickr.com/photos/acharekar/8280781763/ )
It was exactly 7.32pm at Thane station when the train started moving with an all too familiar double jerk and the gradually increasing noise of the electric motor.
By Advait Bhagwat
It was a Saturday and the train seemed to be unusually full. My neighbour was a 42 year old man with greying untidy hair. He wore a yellowed terrycot shirt with the first button undone, a brown pair of trousers and a particularly old pair of brown leather shoes with no shoelaces. He was staring at his phone ever since I’d noticed him, and he seemed to be completely oblivious of anybody else’s presence. He had just opened his missed calls and i could only see two entries. A woman named “Afreen” had called him 7 times and “Shahbaz” had called him 11 times. The man kept staring at his phone as the train passed by Mulund station.. A man sitting beside him got up and made his way out of the train, making my neighbour jolt back into reality. He kept the phone inside his partially torn front pocket and took out his wallet, possibly to make an analysis of its contents. He checked each section of his wallet thrice and then put it back inside his back pocket. A few minutes later, he took out his phone once more, only to put it back inside in a few seconds. He suddenly got up when the train stopped at Nahur and ran out onto the train station. By now, i had really started getting interested in this man; who was Afreen? A sister perhaps, or his wife, but why had she called him 7 times to no avail? Did it have anything to do with Shahbaz? Maybe Shahbaz was a friend, or maybe it was somebody my mystery man owed money to. Maybe that’s why Afreen wanted to get in touch with him so desperately, to make sure Shahbaz hadn’t done anything to her husband. Maybe Afreen was his mother and Shahbaz was his brother. Maybe my neighbour had lost all hope for some reason and had left his home in search of a way out, perhaps permanently, maybe he’d chickened out of killing himself on the tracks and went inside the train instead, with the hope that geography might make whatever problem he had go away. This was when I realised, how easily I’d painted scenarios where my mystery man was either in a lot of trouble already or was going to get into some. I told myself I was being pessimistic and thought about what other scenarios could explain what little information I had. Maybe it was a little more bollywood inspired. After all, this was the perfect place for such a story; the city of dreams. Maybe my neighbour had just found out who his real mother was. Maybe that’s why he was so nervous, maybe that was why he checked his wallet so thoroughly; he probably wanted to see if he could buy her anything. Maybe Afreen and Shahbaz were his siblings from back home who desperately wanted to know how his first ever meeting with his real mother had gone. Yes, that was probably it, Shahbaz, Afreen and my mystery man were probably raised by Shahbaz and Afreen’s parents and now, mystery man had just found out who his real mother was and wanted to go and meet her in the city where she lived, at Nahur. Yes, that was probably it, I told myself. The train entered Matunga station and i got off, knowing that mystery man was most probably in a lot of trouble, but still hoping against hope, that i was wrong.