Paperboats And Monsoons

The monsoons were here and Arzoo was in a grumpy mood. She hated the gloomy sky and the traffucked road. As she got into her car and ventured for South Bombay, she could figure that the day was all set to test her patience. 2 hrs & 33 mins – Google Maps showed. She sighed in dismay. Leaving her South Bombay luxury, she now stayed in Goregaon with her in-laws. Things you do for love, she thought and started driving. She hated monsoons. The already crazy traffic of Mumbai was even slower at this time of the year.

The only saving grace for Arzoo was the fact that there was a Starbucks outlet 5 minutes away from her place. She quickly got down and got herself a double espresso. She was going to need it if she had to survive the horrendous day. Back in her car, she continued driving (if she could call it that) while sipping on her coffee. She was just beginning to get comfortable when her phone rang. She hated her boss. After an incessant follow-up which could’ve easily waited till she reached, she hung up.

Our hour and an excruciatingly long playlist later, she had only reached Andheri. Still a long way to go. She should’ve gotten used to it. Gaurav calling – her phone flashed. She cut it. Her husband Gaurav and she had an altercation the day before and she was pissed. Another screech later, it was yet another signal. The bike in front of her drove off, and she swore under her breath. She had a love – hate relation with Mumbai. She liked it, but hated it equally. She loved the speed, hated the roads.

Someone knocked on her window. It was yet another kid selling things. She looked and then decided not to be attentive. For the first time, she was attracted towards what the kid was selling – a boat figurine. Memories flashed in front of her eyes. Childhood – reminiscent of the most beautiful memories with her father. He’d make spectacular paper boats for her, and she’d sail them. The bitter taste of the espresso tasted worse with these bittersweet memories. The knocking continued. Something pulled her towards it. She pointed out the one that she was and gave 50 rs to the kid. She rolled up the windows again and put the figurine on her dashboard.

The RJ was playing “Do Naina Aur Ek Kahaani” and that brought a smile on her face. Some songs truly were magical. The traffic was now clearer, and she started driving towards Bandra-Worli Sea link. Coming to town made her feel free, or at least free-er. She rolled down the windows, continuing to drive on BWSL, letting the wind kiss her all over. She was finally happy for those 8 mins. It started pouring once more once she had reached Worli, and the traffic started getting slower again.

Her life was like that – a patch of happiness and followed by pain, boredom and excruciating sadness. She had everything that a 28-year-old would want – VP at a media agency, own house, a BMW, a good spouse! What else could she want? Freedom – that’s what she craved, and that’s what she didn’t have. Freedom to make mistakes, to cry or to complain. For the world, she was the most “sorted” person in the world, but only she knew how messed up it was in her head.

Another signal. Another halt. She checked Google Maps. Clear road ahead. She’d reach office in 10 minutes. She looked at her Starbucks cup. They had spelled her name wrong again. “What is Arzhu?” She thought and felt irritated. She could see her office building. A vast glasshouse, with hundreds of people in it. She sighed. She had to pretend to be responsible and authoritative and she hated it. She looked outside her window and smiled. Two kids of barely 5, were dancing on the footpath, getting drenched. What freedom! What joy!

On the other side of the road, a young boy was sipping on hot cutting chai. He seemed satisfied, standing next to his bike. The taste of the espresso lingered in her mouth, & she craved for chai. The simple joy of a cutting chai that was more fulfilling to her. She wanted to dance in the rain, she wanted to have the chai & pakora. She wanted to sing “Rimjhim Gire Sawwan” and she wanted to feel free.

And the 2 hrs & 33 mins drive came to an end. She parked the car and stepped out. The beautiful Mumbai skyline looked enthralling. She smiled. It was 9.58 am. She had two whole minutes to herself. She removed her heels, kept her bag aside, and stepped out in the rain. There was no one to watch her dance. And even if there was, she didn’t care. She wanted to break free and be Arzoo for those two minutes. And she did. Those 120 seconds were the longest in her life. She felt serene and free! And then she walked back like nothing happened.

As she wore her heels and picked up her bag, she caught a few glaring looks. “I forgot my umbrella.” she said, unapologetically. As she walked in, her favorite office boy ran to her. “Madam, aap toh bheeg gayi.” She smiled. “Chalega! Kapde hai.” She quickly changed and went back to being the Arzoo Vashisht. But something inside her had changed.

The realization that she knew that she had control of her life, and could live for herself freed her from the monotony of life. For those who entered after her, they could not identify the difference, but everything had changed for her. “Raja Bhaiya, ek cutting chai.”
Arzoo said keeping the boat figurine on her table, next to her father’s picture, and smiled. It was going to be a good day for sure, and it was all thanks to the gloomy day and the traffucked roads.

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