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by N. Lalit
Debasis Sahu is a painter par excellence, a prodigy, who arrives in Mumbai to fulfill his goal. Here, he encounters the true personality of the bustling city and its people when his only contact and friend, Krishna, is unable to help him.
All alone, in a metropolis notorious for its exorbitant room charges, he spends several nights with a prostitute in Kamathipura, to conserve his finances, a trick he learns on his very first day while having tea in a small eatery, Ram Bharose.
After several weeks, he runs out of money. His visits to the prostitute with whom he keeps a safe distance ends abruptly. He turns into a roadside bum. It is at this point in time he meets Sheetal Sanghvi, a beautiful but ruthless art dealer. A woman who lusted after men and money.
Debasis falls in love with her in their very first encounter. Sheetal too rejoices at her discovery. However, Debasis' limp puts her off. She labels him as an "incomplete artist", a cripple.
December 2004 - BOMBAY CENTRAL RAILWAY STATION
The Golden Express rumbled into the platform with a potpourri of sounds, its tired wheels screeched in protest and the air horn blew in triumph, scaring everyone, especially the weak hearted. Debasis stood up even before its sixteen carriages came to a halt and trudged towards the exit as the train finally stopped with a noisy belch. He stood his ground, looking outside, with a rainbow of emotions.
“Thief, catch that scoundrel.”
The thud of the running feet, loud calls and cuss words broke his thoughts. Debasis reacted a little too late. A violent push forced him out of the train. Even before he could regain his balance the culprit scrambled across the tracks and disappeared through the emergency exit.
A little later, a group of people came rushing out of the compartment, heaving and puffing in anger.
“Bloody thief,” said the teenager, sporting a pink top and black jeans.
“He's lucky. Had I got hold of him I would have killed him,” said another, apparently the father of the young girl.
“And you. Are you deaf or something?” said the arrogant old man wearing a Gandhi cap, offering Debasis a murderous look.
The group glared at him for a while before climbing back inside to fetch their belongings. Debasis checked his pocket. Everything appeared fine. I guess I was spared. The incident stunned him. What astonished him even more was the sheer size of Bombay Central terminus, its classic looks and the number of people walking in and out of it.
He lowered his handbag on the ground and with a flurry of finger strokes brushed his long black hair; tying it into a short ponytail at the base of his neck. The woven narrow tape that secured his hair displayed the word “Om” all around it. He towered over everyone by a good six inches. Debasis was tall, athletically built with long hands and fingers. His bronze skin gave him that rugged village look and his sage-like eyes scared many people, particularly impostors and liars. Debasis picked up his bag and walked towards the gate. At the exit, he turned around, his painter’s gaze locked on the magnificent edifice, the pride of Indian Railways, memorizing its architectural highlights. The late afternoon sun forced him to narrow his eyes as the rays cut through several glass and concrete structures close to his object of interest.
What a contrast!
He formed a canopy over his eyes with his free hand to protect them from the glare, squinted at the building till each and every section was etched in his mind. Debasis was mesmerized by the arches, the huge porch and the gigantic clock at the top, the size of twenty footballs.
He felt an urge to draw the sketch of such a majestic monument, but discarded the idea. There was no hurry. Patience was his biggest virtue. He turned around and walked out of the tall, ornate metal gates, excited at the thought of returning one day.
A ribbon of vehicles greeted him as he looked down the road from the pavement. His head spun, forcing him to hold the lamp post. It took him some time to regain his balance. He pulled out a piece of paper from his trouser pocket, read the content and headed towards the taxi stand. His eyes darted across the road, observing everything with childlike enthusiasm. The note in his hand bothered him. He looked around in desperation, seeking directions to the address.
The ubiquitous noise, a cocktail of human voices and auto reverberations heightened his anxiety, making it difficult for him to stay focused. Every nook and corner was crammed with peddlers, labourers, sarbat-wallas and casual visitors. The constant movement of people walking in and out of the shops located in old, rickety buildings on either side of the road distracted him further.
5 stars. I chose this rating because it is a well written and engaging book that kept me engrossed for days until I finished it.
About the Author
N. Lalit, raised in Mumbai, India, is an engineering graduate. He started his writing career by authoring innumerable technical papers. Later, he began writing short stories which evolved into full fledged romance novels of various sub-genres such as thriller, drama, mystery and comedy.
Lalit also writes on freelance basis and enjoys the challenges of creativity. He has written over a dozen short stories and film scripts, and his articles have appeared on many popular websites. Currently, he is busy editing Koffee with Kiran, his second contemporary romance work.