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Chocolate and Bread and Nowhere to Go

By Roopa Ramamoorthi
Wednesday December 30, 2009 - 09:27:00 AM

Today I came by train, boarded the train without a ticket in Bihar. Somehow managed to get into the second-class train compartment in Delhi. Again ticket ke bina and came vaise he to Mumbai. Same pant shirt for three days. Chatraphati Shivaji station—never seen so many people in my life. English I don’t really know. Learnt some words in my village school. But I wanted to come to Mumbai, become film star like Shah Rukh Khan. Aree Mumbai chalo, film star bano. 

I hadn’t eaten much in three days. Few rupees I had in my pocket, got samosa and chai at train station through the window, when the train stopped. But aree kabhi-kabhi luck comes. Next to me on train, this lady with fat little three-year- old, got out, left chocolate and bread on the seat. I grabbed it. Put it in my pocket for later. 

I step out of the station, so many cars, big buses. Don’t know how to cross, just follow everyone. Somehow I get to the other side. Now what do I do? Marine Drive, Oberoi Hotel, I’ve seen in movies. But I need to go to the toilet. In my village, just went in the grass, in the soil. Covered it up with mud. Here I don’t know. I go to a corner. See one man going number one. Also unzip my pant. Taxis and cars pass by. Everyone seems to be going somewhere. But where can I see Amitabh Bachan and Aishwarya Rai. All filmstars are supposed to be singing and dancing in the rain here in Mumbai. I only see grumpy men in suits, boots and women in saris rushing to office. Sometimes don’t know even if it is man or woman, even women have short hair and wear pants. 

A big red bus comes. I climb in, sit next to a man twenty-five-ish, little older than me with clean pant-shirt. “Marine Drive goes this bus?” 

“It goes close by, near Mantralaya, then you have to walk.” 

“Can you tell me where to get down?” 

“OK.” The man closes his nose and moves away from me. Some small office babu moving files I guess. I get down. Luckily the ticket collector did not come to my seat, so I still have a few rupees left. 

A small boy about seven in torn clothes without chapals is selling Filmstar going between cars at the signal. Most people roll up their car windows when they see him approaching, do not buy magazines. Then the child escapes being hit by cars when they start and comes back to the pavement. I see him do this again and again. I give the child the chocolate that has not melted and we share the bread. He lets me have the Filmstar and points towards Marine Drive. Before I go he shows me the unused water pipe he sleeps in at night.