It was the frenzied morning time for office goers of Mumbai and for daily commuters of Andheri station, there was absolutely no time to spare. Amidst those hordes of people moving up and down the railway platform at dizzying speed, Aseefa made place for herself in one corner, with just enough space to accommodate her slender self and her small flower basket.
Every day she sat there doing her daily task of weaving garlands from mogra and genda flowers. She also had Tulsi and Bilva leaves inside a separate bag, for passengers who bought them on their way back home for ‘Pooja’ purposes.
She bought these flowers early morning from a wholesaler and then sold them here.
It was a daily ritual for Aseefa to settle down at that spot outside Andheri station at around 7 in the morning and then have her morning tea together with Bhola around 7.15. Every day they had their tea together. Bhola, an orphan and a fellow platform dweller, was a hawker at the station who sold attar perfumes across the station. Unlike Aseefa, he moved up and down the platform, went inside trains and sometimes, on days when he failed to earn much, he travelled by train and sold his attar in nearby stations areas as well. At the end of the day, they would again meet at the same spot and discuss this and that overall cups of tea.
Today was no different. Aseefa after settling down on the floor was waiting for Bhola to have their morning tea together, however there was no sight of him, it was 8 o’clock and Aseefa became a little worried now.
Through her thoughts was running many threads. ‘Bhola is never this late, what might have happened to him today?’ She fretted in her mind.
‘He was supposed to meet the chawl room owner yesterday and finalize the deal, I hope nothing untoward happened between them’. Vague, disturbing thoughts breezed past her mind.
Aseefa continued doing her work of weaving garlands, small big, large as her mind wavered from one thought to another. They were together for many years now and never once did they miss their morning tea together, barring the one day when Aseefa couldn’t make it to the station as her husband had beaten her up so badly the previous night that she had fallen unconscious. Though he would abuse her quite frequently, Aseefa never had the courage to move out of his house, thinking about her survival and the future of her daughter. But that night something inside her gave her the courage to make the final move, she didn’t deter. The next day she left her alcoholic husband, took her 7 months old daughter with her and started living on the railway platform itself, where she used to sell flowers for the past few years. Since that day, that small pavement outside platform number 7 became her address. And since then, Bhola, an orphan, who used to polish shoes at the platform and has recently started his perfume selling business, are together, through thick and thin.
Their’s was a relationship that grew from being fellow hawkers at the railway platform to acquaintances to friends and finally to lovers. Either of them didn’t have any expectation from each other, yet there formed a strange bond between them that they couldn’t deny within.
Trains went by one after the other, there was no sight of Bhola today.
“Aseefa, where is Bhola today?’ asked Naseer, Bhola’s friend and a fellow hawker.
Aseefa’s face went pale. Bhola did have a second hand small mobile phone that he had managed from someone, but few days back, that phone had given up and there was no means of reaching out to him now. Already tensed, she didn’t know how to look for him now. In a worrisome, she gestured to Naseer, saying she didn’t have much idea of his whereabouts.
Suddenly, breaking the din of the passing trains, she heard her Bhola’s voice.
“Aseefaaaaa..Aseefaaaaa” came the loud shriek from behind. Aseefa turned back, her eyes finally rested upon the man she so desperately wanted to see since this morning. Bhola, her partner was walking towards her in speedy steps.
All this while, she was fearing something ominous and now, finally after hearing his voice and seeing him, there was much peace within her. Bhola came running to her.
Before he could say anything, she snapped at him, ‘where were you? Why are you this late? What all came in my mind all this while. Just because I have accepted to marry you, don’t take me for granted. Don’t you know I worry so much about you? Everyday, my heart skips a beat as I see you hovering from one train to another.’
‘Are Assu, let me breathe, only then will I be able to answer all your questions.’
Aseefa kept quiet. Even though terribly restless within, she tried to retain the anxiety within her and raised the water bottle she carried towards him, asking him to drink water.
‘Is everything fine?’ She asked.
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