Sitting in an empty train in Mumbai is one of those rare pleasures that we all look forward to. Getting a window seat with the wind blowing in your face and your hair all over the place is probably just as rare. But what is pure bliss is when these two things happen together for seven whole minutes on the stretch from Vashi to Mankhurd.
Yes, a long drive across the Palm Beach road with the windows down, all the way from Belapur to Vashi may be great too, but it lacks many things.
Like the amazing view of the creek that makes you forget that every day people dump tons of crap on their way to work and back, and still think it looks breathtaking.
Like the silence that allows you to hear sounds like the wheels of the train cackling on the tracks, the swish of the shrubs and bushes blown by the wind as the train gushes along, the wind beating on your ears, and if you listen really carefully, even the sounds of the water lapping up and down in tiny, little overtures.
Like the pristine appearance and the serene calm of the bluish-black waters that seem to stretch beyond the horizon as if there was no end and the clear blue sky that makes you want to fall asleep in its embrace.
But what the drive along Palm Beach lacks the most is the ability to inspire me to write a few hundred words about it.
The creek may be polluted, the tracks and the areas around it may be covered with human manure and garbage, and the smell may be slightly unbearable at times, but at that moment, I didn’t care. I had my seven minutes in heaven where I put down the novel (‘A Time To Kill’ by John Grisham) and just looked outside the window. They were the most perfect seven minutes of my life.
The train was not empty, but ladies were scattered over the compartment in ones and twos, mostly away from me. There was an eerie quiet around as the train started to move along and it was as if I had all the time and privacy in the world to be left alone with my thoughts.
I had all the time in the world to figure my life out, to plan my future, to dream all I wanted, to stare outside the window and just look without seeing because there was no none next to me yapping loudly on their mobile phones or playing songs on their phone’s loudspeaker – songs that I didn’t want to hear; or interrupting me while I was busy gazing into oblivion, just to ask what time it was or what station was next. Even my phone didn’t ring. I didn’t even get a promotional SMS.
It was as if I was invisible and unreachable to the rest of the world and the world and the people in it were invisible to me. It was as if the universe had decided to leave me alone and let me have my moment; much needed private moment.
And all I could think about was writing this down. It was a moment too beautiful to be forgotten and there are many, many such moments that just fleet away without leaving a trace.
But this was different. This was one of those – the kind I didn’t want to forget, the kind I wanted to remember every tiny detail of, simply because even though it was the most ordinary thing in the world, it managed to engage me, inspire me, and astound me.
It made me close an amazing novel with a gripping story and it made me write. It made me forget that there were people around me because I couldn’t hear them. It made me forget that I had a bottle of Pepsi in my bag that was getting warmer with each passing second because I was too busy typing on my phone; too busy to care about my surroundings, too busy to care about the time, too busy to think about anything other than committing that moment to memory for eternity, too busy ensuring I wrote it down lest my memory failed me, too busy absorbing every single aspect of those seven minutes of detachment and disconnect from the world, too busy not caring about exhausting my battery.
It made me feel relaxed and it set me free.
When I paused to look outside the window again, it had been twenty-three minutes and I only had time to lock my screen, pick up my bags and get off the train.
The moment had come and gone.
But I know I can go back to it any time I want.