This post has been published by me as a part of the Blog-a-Ton 38; the thirty-eighth edition of the online marathon of Bloggers; where we decide and we write. To be part of the next edition, visit and start following Blog-a-Ton. The theme for the month is "The Woman on Platform Number 10"
I won first place in the contest.
"I want to meet you," Anindya typed simply into the all too familiar chat window. In the five-minute silence that ensued, he held his breath. He could hear his heart go 'thud thud' inside his chest. And then finally, the still cursor came alive.
"I want to meet you too."
Relief! Anindya sank into his chair and loosened his taut back muscles.
"Great! Tomorrow? How about seven in the evening after work? Can you wait for me under the indicator on platform no. 10 at Dadar terminus?"
"Yes I can, but how will I recognize you?"
"Oh easy," Anindya typed. "I'll be wearing a dark blue T-shirt with the NIKE logo on it, blue jeans, black shoes and a huge smile on my face. I'm sure you'll recognize me."
"Haha, I'm sure I will. But you need to recognize me too, or else I might just slink away without you knowing."
"That's true. How do I identify you in the crowd?"
"Oh easy," Simran said, echoing him mischievously. "I'll be wearing a floral pink skirt and a dark pink top. I’ll be carrying a brown handbag and wearing a really worried expression on my face. I'm sure you'll know me as soon as you see me.”
They both laughed in their own chairs, miles apart, and yet, strangely close.
“But let’s not talk about all the chatting we did,” Simran continued. “It would be interesting to start afresh and get to know each other for real this time, don’t you think?"
"Ha ha...that makes sense. Alright that's settled then. We shall see each other at seven tomorrow. Now we should both get some beauty sleep, or else it just might be love at first fright!”
Going forward, the story has four different endings. You’re free to choose whichever one catches your fancy.
It was 3.30 am, when Anindya tucked himself under the covers. He would catch five quick hours of shut-eye before heading to work. But even as he slept, he dreamt of meeting his dream woman, waiting for him somewhere on platform no. 10, all dressed in pink and wearing a mock frown. He smiled at the delectable thought. He knew that the first meeting would have to be memorable. He would buy her a bunch of lilies. She had told him once how much she loved white lilies. In fact, that was her virtual chat name too – Whitelily_79. Under normal circumstances, he would have a found a name like that cheesy, but now he only found it to be incredibly endearing. Everything about her was endearing, adorable and downright cute. Yes, it was going to be an important day. That face, shrouded in a veil of mystery, would at long last be revealed. And he would take her by the arm and wrap her in the biggest bear hug ever. Yes, that is what he would do.
She stood poised on the edge of platform no. 10. She had been standing there for the past fifteen minutes. Three local trains had already come and gone and the fourth was chugging its way out of Dadar station. Her face was frozen into a perpetual frown. The light breeze made ripples in her pink floral skirt and pink top. She clutched her brown handbag, her fingers wrapped around it tightly. Her gaze was fixed on the miserably dirty railway tracks, lying inert in front of her. "How funny," she thought. "Wheel after wheel rolls over them, people dump garbage on them, slum dwellers defecate on them, and yet, there they sit, stoic and unchanging, tolerantly suffering all the torture being meted out."
She looked at her watch. It was nearly five to seven and the indicator above her showed that the 6:58 PM Virar local would be in any moment. And then, a new beginning, she thought. Just one leap of faith and then she would find the happiness she had been aching for. She edged forward. She saw the train lights in the distance. But she didn't see the jubilant man dressed in a blue tshirt with a Nike logo, hurry towards her on the platform. She did not notice his faded blue jeans, his brown suede shoes or the smile that got wider with every step he took towards her through the crowd. As the train honked and entered the platform, the chaos of the jostling crowds got wilder. But, a deep calm entered her being and replaced the fear, insecurity and anxiety that had possessed her earlier on. Oblivious to the madness around, she was now aware only of the approaching train and the dull thumping of her heart. She was ready to take the leap into liberation – from solitude, loneliness and lack of love. Just as she closed her eyes, she was suddenly wrenched her away from the platform's edge. With a stagger, she was pulled into his safe embrace. She was stupefied. In an instant, all her past regrets, fury and resentment melted into his honest smile – it struck a chord deep inside her. His eyes had a depth of feeling, perception and intuition and his hands silently promised her that they would never let go. Suddenly she went from having absolutely nothing to a definite hope for happiness.
"Simran, there you are! The woman on platform no. 10!"
His smile was the broadest and gentlest she had ever seen. "Finally! Do you always stand on the edge like that? It’s dangerous you know!"
She managed to stutter a few words of greeting, but remained quiet on the whole. He took her reticence to be shyness. She was beautiful, just as he had dreamt her up in his mind. His lingering wait had finally borne fruit. He gave her the big bunch of lilies that he had bought at Flora Fountain earlier on. She gingerly held the flowers in her hands, and smiled for what was probably the first time that whole day. He took her by the hand and led her away from the Dadar Train Terminal. And she followed willingly, to a new hope, new dreams and a new life.
Anindya, of course was already head over heels in love with her and after a couple of months, he proposed. He didn't see the point in waiting longer....she was the love of his life and there was no way he was going to change his mind about her. She accepted and they began afresh in a new life, overflowing with marital bliss. She told him that Simran was just her online avatar, but her real name was Srishti. He was fine with that, but he would call her Simran always. That was the name he knew her by and he couldn’t bring himself to call anything else. And although he reminisced with her about the days and nights they spent getting close to each other on the web, he stuck to her pre-meeting condition and never discussed it in detail. The result: they got to know each other with fresh perspectives and their love deepened and matured over time.
A year later Anindya was surfing the net trying to research Titan watches for women. He wanted to gift Simran one for their first year anniversary. He wanted to celebrate the time he spent with her and all the time they would spend together in the future. He was certain that a sleek gold watch would convey this perfectly.
The computer was slightly slower than usual, so Anindya decided to clear his browsing history and cookies and format his drives as well. While looking through the browsing history, he chanced upon the website, which had facilitated his closeness with Simran all those months ago. That very same online chatting platform, which he wanted to doff his hat to, each day he woke up next to his beautiful wife. He decided to visit once more, just for old times’ sake. Warm feelings rushed through him as the familiar website opened on Google Chrome. He clicked on his chat history and there was the entire lineup of conversations that Simran and he had ever indulged in. He was just about to call out to Simran, who was busy cooking up a storm in the kitchen, when he realized that the tab next to whitelily_79, was green. Simran was online.
Anindya was stumped. He peeked into the kitchen once more, just to make sure, and there Simran was, busy with her stuffings and stews. How could this be? He looked at his computer screen again and there was the green dot, leering, mocking him. He clicked on it and the familiar chat window popped up.
“Simran?” he typed, vexed. He was not expecting a reply, but his stomach turned to see the cursor move.
“Anindya, hi. So you finally decided to come online and explain yourself.” There was touch of sarcasm in the typed words. A hint of sadness, even?
“I don’t understand this. Where are you?”
“Where would you expect me to be at this hour on a Sunday? At home!”
“But…” he couldn’t seem to get his paralysed fingers to move. Nothing made sense to him.
“Its alright Anindya. You don’t have to feel sorry or embarrassed. I did wait for you on platform no. 10 that day at Dadar TT. But you never came. Or maybe you did come and didn’t like what you saw. It was then I realized, how much of a fool I’d been, believing in fairy tales and online love. I cannot say I wasn’t hurt, because I was. Deeply. But one moves on. I had fun getting to know you, even though I never got to see you. I’ve been online every day since then hoping you’d come online too. I needed the closure, because no matter how much I lie to myself, the truth is, in those few months, I fell in love with you. Crazy, isn’t it? To fall in love with someone I’ve never even seen? Anyways, I needed to tell you this and now that I have, I can rest easy. I’ll sign off now and also delete my account immediately of course. It’s time for me to head towards reality now. Good bye Anindya and I wish you all the very best in life.”
The little green dot went grey and that was it. Whitelily_79 became a virtual memory. Anindya sat motionless as it all sunk in. He couldn’t think, he couldn’t feel. He was numb from the realization that hit him like a ten tonne boulder flung at him from a distance.
Just then, a cheerful voice wafted in from the kitchen. “Sweetheart, dinner’s ready! Go wash up!”
It was the voice of a wife, a lover, a friend – a stranger.
Anindya felt a series of emotions go through him, as he slept that night. He felt excitement, uncertainty, happiness and fear, all at the same time. What would he say to her? He laughed at the thought. He couldn’t even speak to his maidservant or his accountant, or to anyone for that matter. The ischemic stroke he had suffered five years ago, had left him as mute as a funeral procession. He hadn’t spoken a word since that day and he wasn’t expecting to do so anytime soon. How then was he supposed to woo this wonderful woman, without driving her away at first word? He had not thought about this eventuality when he had first begun chatting with Simran online. He didn’t have the answer, but he couldn’t stop asking himself the same question over and over, and doubting his decision to meet her. Sure he had been successful materially, and had enough money to splurge on a would-be girlfriend. But who would want to be in a relationship with a mute romantic?
He lay awake all night as the vexing thought crossed his mind over and over again, tormenting him. It was only at 7.00 AM that he finally fell asleep. It was fine one way or the other – he would call in sick at work later. He needed the day to himself, to get his thoughts in order and prepare himself for the big moment. He would buy her orchids for certain – a mammoth bouquet from the florist near Dadar station. It would be a colourful bunch of orchids – rainbow coloured maybe? She had once told him how much she loved orchids. Her online avatar was named after the flower too – objectiveorchid_79. He had found it a bit tacky in the beginning, but as he got to know her, he began to find it endearing. He began to find her endearing – on so many levels. Soon, he would know how she felt about the real him – the handsome, dashing, well-to-do and oh yes, dumb, him.
It was 6:45 PM when Anindya arrived at Dadar station, looking like a big goof wih the massive bouquet in one hand, while his other hand trembled with all the mounting trepidation. Maybe it’s a bad idea, he thought. But the curious and hopeless romantic in him, helped him trudge forward, his eyes scanning the indicators for no.10. He walked up the foot overbridge and found the exit to no. 10 soon enough. He stood there leaning on the railing and looked for the indicator.
There she was! A veritable beauty in pink. Her floral skirt rippled as a light breeze blew her hair from her face. She was angelic. Dusky, with large expectant eyes and perfectly formed lips. The crowd around him blurred as Anindya felt his heart skip a few beats and butterflies fluttered incessantly inside his gut. This was the moment of truth. She had honoured the invitation and he would be damned if he was going to be all chicken about this and run away. Slowly and surely, he walked down the stairs on to platform no. 10. With every step or two he looked down and garnered inspiration from the “Just Do It” boldly emblazoned on his dark blue T-shirt. A sweeper lazily swept the platform, building up clouds of dust every now and then. But Anindya didn’t seem to notice the dust get on his light blue jeans or his shiny black shoes. He only had eyes for the woman on platform no. 10, who stood under the indicator and twitched around, frowning nervously. He couldn’t help but smile broadly when she finally looked at him in alarmed recognition. A few more steps and he was standing, looking straight into the mystery woman’s face. He was just about to sign to her with his fingers when she held up her palm, asking him to stop. She quickly fished out an iPad from her brown handbag and began typing on it. Once she was done, she held it up for him to read.
“I’m sorry I didn’t tell you this earlier, but I was scared. It’s inevitable now. I cannot hear or speak. I was born like this and I am not ashamed of it. I came here because I like you, because I somehow thought you would understand me. If you are not OK with this, you can walk away. I will understand .”
Anindya was speechless – literally and figuratively. He stared at the brave, proud woman in front of him and felt pure respect for her, not to mention pure love as well. She was looking at him, brimming with self respect, yet anxious for an answer. He smiled his broadest, most genuine smile and handed her the bouquet of orchids. She held them gingerly in her hands, and then looked at him, even as her eyes sparkled a bit with fresh tears – tears of relief, joy and untainted happiness.
They stood on a common ground fraught with what the world would call a diability, but was to them, as normal a way of life as any other. Now words were nothing but cumbersome to them.
Anindya had made his choice. Decisively, he signed to her, “You’re completely and absolutely perfect. Coffee?”
Simran was going to be another feather in Anindya’s very illustrious cap. He had done this many times before, but Simran was particularly interesting. Unlike the other dumb, insensate women that Anindya had ‘tackled’ earlier, there was a definite spark in her that didn’t go unnoticed. He had actually enjoyed talking to her through the chat windows, letting her bare her soul to him, while he remained relatively cryptic. Despite his attempts to veil his deeper secrets though, she had seemed genuinely interested in him. Funnily enough the feeling was mutual and he ended up inviting her to the rendevouz. Although he didn’t want to, he knew that he had to do this. This was how it always HAD to end.
It was ten to seven in the evening and Anindya was ready. He sat on a bench far away from the indicator on platform no. 10, waiting for Simran to appear in his line of vision. Munching lazily on a wada pav that he had bought from a local fast food stall on the platform, he waited patiently for his quarry. The bunch of pink carnations lay listlessly next to him. He had never bought flowers for the others, but somehow, he felt Simran deserved them. She loved carnations – that’s what she had told him during one of their run-on-the-mill conversations. In fact, it was her online name that had first got his attention – cosmiccarnation_79. It still tickled him pink to think about it.
As he sat there, scenes, places and characters from the past flitted through his mind uninhibited. Did he even remember all their names? He did. Kajol Maitra, Debashree Chatterjee and Ritu Verma in Kolkata, Sarada Krishnan and Padma Raghuraman in Chennai, Aaliya Badiger in Mysore, Priti Agarwal, Radhika Churi and Karen d’Costa in Delhi, Sabina Haider and Neelima Rao in Hyderabad….and well, the list was plentiful. And this time it was Mumbai and this time it was Simran Khurana.
The big clock suspended from the roof of the platform, showed that it was already 7:00 PM. Anindya gulped down his wada pav and looked in the direction of the indicator. She was there. The woman on platform no. 10, who had no idea what the future held in store for her. Anindya had to admit though, that she was indeed very pretty, in her pink floral skirt, her pink top and tousled hair. And she had the fiesty flash in her personality, that he already knew about. What a waste, he thought to himself.
He wiped his hands clean on his dark blue T-shirt, leaving a distinct turmeric stain on the “Do” of the “Just Do It”. His faded blue jeans clung to his thin legs, almost like second skin, and his black suede shoes were impeccably clean. He plastered a big smile on his face and began walking towards the indicator.
He thought about all the women in his life, especially his mother, and he let the disgust seep through every pore of his being. He didn’t detest women, he hated them with a vengeance. He believed, with every fibre and breath, that women as a species were THE evil, plaguing every section, every portion and every fragment of the world. They were the black microbes that he crushed under his feet; they were the disgusting, slimy moss that overwhelmed every empty space available; they were the parasitic vines that crept into the brains of good men and corrupted their souls, they were always the victors, never the victims; they were the cause of pain and suffering, the reason for anguish and the epitome of every misery that the world witnessed. Indeed, there should be a law against them, he thought. That’s why he had to do it. That’s why all those women ‘accidentally’ fell onto the railways tracks and were squashed like insects under thundering train wheels. It was a necessity. It was going to be Simran’s fate as well.
Simran, who had been frowning all this while, suddenly recognized him and broke into what he called a ‘sunshine smile trap’. Smiling broadly on the outside, and simmering with intense revulsion on the inside, he waved to her and showed her the carnations, as he moved closer. The incoming train could be heard and seen in the distance. Crowds gathered as usual. That’s what made it easier. That’s why he always chose train stations – the whole process was simple, easy and clean at these locations thronging with people. This particular train – a slow local to Borivili – attracted a lot of passengers, since it stopped at every second station. Perfect, he thought, as the crowd got denser.
Simran’s face was aglow. Oblivious to the chaos, she was positively beaming. He made a mental note of how close she was to the platform edge and how much of a push would be needed to send her toppling. He purposely fought the crowd leading towards the platform edge and motioned to her to do the same. She did. The train pulled into the platform and she was hardly a couple of feet away from him. This was his moment of glory. This was the moment of truth.
“Hi Simran!” he shouted over the noise of the crowd, beaming. He forwarded the carnations to her with one hand and pulled her closer with the other. Suddenly the train honked loud and people scampered madly behind them. Before Simran could register anything, she felt an intense thrust. She screamed. Arms flailing, she fell backwards, landing with a thud. Meanwhile, the gathered mob, could only watch the fast mangling body disappear bit by bit, very quickly under the chunky iron wheels of Mumbai’s singularly awesome mass rapid transport.
Shell shocked, Simran, who still sat frozen where she fell on the hard concrete of the platform, was helped up by some people, while the large mob got larger at the ‘accident’ spot. Anindya had underestimated Mumbai’s unique crowds, who struggled everyday to survive and knew just how to fight it out. He had overestimated his own capabilities. And he had undermined the power of sheer dumb luck. Or was it luck at all? The destitute pink carnations lay strewn on the platform, where hundreds of feet had trampled over them. No one wanted them anymore. No one really cared.
“Oh no, I won’t be able to make it!” Anindya exclaimed to himself, distraught. He had forgotten that it was the 11th of July, 2006 the next day. It was his sister’s 30th birthday and it was veritably sacred. She had informed him months in advance that he was to keep himself free on that day. She had planned a special family dinner and it was mandatory for him to attend – sister’s orders. How could he have forgotten? He would have to explain it all to Simran, but he had just turned off the laptop after chatting with her and he knew well enough that she must have gone to bed as well.
He turned on his laptop again and the white light of the screen bathed the dark room in a soft glow. He quickly logged on to their online chat site, to leave her an offline message.
“Hi Simran, sorry to do this, but I have to cancel our meeting tomorrow. I just remembered that it’s my sister’s birthday tomorrow (yes, yes don’t judge me;-)) and I simply HAVE to be at her place by 7:00 in the evening. Can we meet instead on the day after tomorrow – the 12th? Same time, same place? Sorry again about the cancellation. I’ll make it up to you with the biggest, most beautiful bunch of red roses ever!”
He hoped Simran would understand, as he switched off his laptop. Day after tomorrow, he would make it a point to drive to office, instead of taking the train. He could get the roses from a well known florist in Bandra, close to where he worked and then drive to Dadar TT. That way, the flowers would still be fresh and alive when he met Simran at the station. She would love them. She had once told him how much she loved red roses. In fact, her sign in name on the online chat site was ritzyrose_79. He found it fascinating. He found her fascinating. He couldn’t wait to meet her in person.
As he drifted off to sleep, Anindya dreamt of roses – pink and yellow, white and orange. But the one that he liked best and the one that also disturbed him a little was a single red rose. It was redder than any red that he had ever seen. It was the colour of blood.
Anindya awoke the next day and realized that he was already late for work. He jumped up like a jack-in-the-box, his head reeling with vivid images of red roses. He quickly brushed, bathed, shaved and dressed for work. He left the house, but soon realised that he had forgotten his sister’s present – a brand new ipod – so he rushed back in, grabbed the white box with the bitten apple logo and rushed out again.
The day was a very busy one and before he knew it, it was already 5:00 PM. Anindya would have to leave now if he wanted to make it on time to his sister’s place in Virar – the northern most point of the city. He quickly packed his bags, waved his colleagues goodbye and left office for the day. Bandra station was crowded as usual, but he knew it would get worse as the evening progressed. The 5:33 Virar local pulled into the platform, almost immediately as he reached, and as a seasoned train traveller in Mumbai, he positioned himself a few feet before the First Class compartment marker and jumped into the still moving train. As usual, the train was packed like a can of sardines, and Anindya didn’t expect to find a seat. That would be asking for too much. He was content having enough space to feel grounded in the densely packed metal box. Exactly at 5:33, the train chugged out of the platform, gaining more and more speed as it went forward. A fast train, it would not stop before Andheri and soon in was speeding away on the well-seasoned tracks.
Anindya felt his eyelids droop, as the train crossed Santacruz. It was easy for him to fall asleep standing up. It was not like he would fall – the crowd had almost kept him suspended in the compartment. When he finally awoke, it was because the train had stopped at Borivili. 8 stations down, 7 more to go. Anindya yawned, as his thoughts travelled to Simran and their prospective meeting the next day. He would go online once he reached home later that night, to confirm with ther that they were indeed meeting the next day. How she would love the roses – that was the predominant thought in his head. He couldn’t wait to see her face when he handed her the bouquet. He couldn’t wait to see her.
The train pulled in at Mira-Road station. Although a great many people alighted at Mira-Road, there were still enough people in the compartment to put a claustrophobic person on edge. Five more stops and Anindya would be free of the suffocating ‘sea of humanity’ – as he called it. The train pulled out of Mira-Road and began trudging towards the next stop – Bhayander. And somewhere in between the two busy stations, it happened. There was a loud bang, and the explosion ripped apart the first class compartment. The train halted, as shouts of horror drowned the pleas for help. Blood, bones and muscle tissue were indistinguishable from the mangled metal. It took everyone by surprise – and Anindya was no exception. When his soul was rudely torn from his body, he was dreaming – of red roses, pink floral skirts and the woman on platform no.10.
Simran was in office that day when she heard of the serial blasts that rocked Mumbai on the 11th of July. “How horrible!” she thought to herself, as gory images of blood-spattered bodies and howling relatives, appeared on the TV screen one after another. Mumbai was in shock. No one spoke of anything else, but the blasts and who was behind them. Some said it was Muslim fundamentalists and some said it was radical Hindu activists. Whatever and whoever was behind the attacks, didn’t matter to the common Mumbaikar like Simran. To her, all she could see was her city, burning in flames and grief. She wanted to get all the terrible sights and sounds away from her system and out of her head. She would focus on the hope and brightness of life’s joys. Like the meeting with Anindya the next day. She had received his offline message and had replied back in the affirmative, making particular reference, to how she would refuse to acknowledge him if he didn’t get her the roses. He wasn’t online that night, so she chose to get a good night’s sleep before meeting with him.
The next day, Simran dressed carefully. The kajal, rouge and lipstick came out of the box in which they usually languished, unused and uncared for. She put on her favourite pink top, her pink floral skirt and got the nice, brown handbag out of the closet. The whole day seemed to pass in a daze, amidst the chaos of the bomb blasts and the excitement bubbling within her. She wrapped up her work as quickly as she could and sped to Dadar TT, quickly locating the indicator on platform no.10. She positioned herself exactly under the indicator, as they had planned and checked her watch – it was exactly 7:01 PM.
She could feel the butterflies flitting about inside her stomach. She looked around in anticipation, for a tall man in a dark blue T-shirt with a NIKE logo, black shoes, blue jeans and of course a bright face with a big smile. She looked and looked and looked some more. She kept checking her watch and kept looking around. But no one came. Her hopes were sullied and her heart kind of broken when at 9:00 PM, she finally acknowledged to herself, that he wasn’t planning on coming that day. Severely disappointed, not just with him for standing her up, but also with herself, for giving all this much more attention than warranted, she turned around decidedly and began to walk away.
She had walked a few feet, when something compelled her to look back at the spot – the indicator on platform no.10. There was no one there, but on the floor there lay a large white package. It was a simple newspaper-wrapped package and it was overflowing with the most beautiful long-stemmed roses, of the deepest red. She ran back and picked up the huge bouquet – it had at least 20 roses of the finest quality and a red that she had never seen before. She looked around frantically for him, but there was no one. Not knowing what to do next, she held the bouquet close to her heart and walked out of the station.
Questions plagued her. Why did he bring her roses, and yet not meet her? Why didn’t he come online to talk to her? How did the roses appear out of nowhere and how could she have missed him keeping them there?
A week later she came across his obituary in the Times of India. In utter dibelief, she turned to the glass vase on her table. Twenty roses still stood there, proud as ever and red as blood.