Monday, October 5, 2009

Below is a short story that I had written for the Times of India Short Story contest 2 years ago on "India Poised" judged by eminent writer Anita Nair. This had won the 1st prize. Sharing it with you for Ushahkalam.

Swati Sapna (daughter of Vani)
Grand daughter of suri babu (U S Murthy)


The alarm crowed. A lusty king of the farmyard cock-a-doodle-do. He shut the mobile up. One hour and five minutes was all he had before his day began. He would steal five minutes from that. Look the other way, he told that frowning creature in his soul. I do it all the time. A little corruption. A little bribery. I negotiate with the world 24/7. So why not an extra 5 minutes of sleep. He told himself and buried his head under the pillow. And so began another day in the life of an Indian…

5 minutes later his mobile phone alarm rang. This time he awoke with a start, as if a spring screwed into his spine had jumped to life. His eyes wide open and alert. His mind switching on like a computer with a Pentium 5 processor. He was ready.

Mohammad Hasrat Sheikh lived in Mira Road, a suburb in Mumbai. His rented house was just a 3 minute walk from the local train station - The spine of Mumbai.

Hasrat preferred walking to the station every morning because no auto rickshaw took him there - it was not a lamba bhaada you see. But today, the first auto rickshaw driver he saw willingly took him to the station.

It’s a lucky day, he thought.

But it was that unlucky day when his 1st class pass for the local train expired. The board at the counter just read ‘QI’ and ‘Q2’ – supposedly stating separate queues for 1st class and 2nd class. Needless to say no one got that.

As soon as Hasrat reached the counter he announced to no one in particular, “First class”. To his surprise the men in the 2nd class queue smiled and made way for him. No hurled abuses. No comments about the unfair privileges of the 1st class passengers. Within minutes he was standing at platform no. 2 for his fast train.

9.24am – The same old ‘Churchgate Fast’ came to a halt. The crowd at the station, rushed inside as usual but Hasrat managed to get a seat. A window seat at that! As the train chugged out of the station, he took out the morning issue of the Times and read it in contented silence.

Metro rail to start soon in Mumbai.

Finally - no hike in Electricity bills.

Mumbai can become Shanghai.

The people around were the same - The gang of 8 people who always got the window seats and played cards, the college kid with a bag strung across his shoulders, the balding, over-weight man in a sweat stained shirt, fast asleep while standing. Everything was normal.

But the usual raucous medley of voices somehow seemed very pleasing to the ear today. The sooty polluted breeze was apologetically caressing the faces of everybody it could reach. The rhythmic sound of the train sounded like music to the ears. The soft sound of paper against the breeze added to the melody.

Hasrat got down at the Churchgate station and started walking with the crowd. The unnaturally clean footpath hurt his eye! Hasrat in a state of child-like wonder asked the cab driver to take him to his office (which no cabbies agreed to on a normal day). The cab driver smiled and said yes.

This time the alarm seemed louder. The spring in the spine did not seem to have worked. And the Pentium 5 processor seemed to have had a virus attack.

But Hasrat woke up with hope in his eyes. A hope that brought a smile to his winter-dry lips.

It was a dream.

With the smile still refusing to fade from his face, Hasrat left from his house.

He walked towards the auto with the same hope and asked the driver to take him to the station. The driver smiled and said yes.

Hasrat sat in the auto, smiling at the sweet memory of his dream. He remembered what his mom had once told him.

Dreams do come true. Those that you see early in the morning…

“Subah ke sapne sach hote hain”.