Bloop Bloop. And another water droplet has made its way from the ceiling to the floor. I turn to avoid the small puddle that has now formed on the floor. It has become a very familiar action, to slightly tilt while walking and then go straight just to avoid a tiny droplet of water from falling on you. It is something that everyone did in the Churchgate pedestrian subway until recently, when the leakage was fixed.
But during the two years I travelled to Churchgate, the leak stayed. As soon as you got off the train, the station would be filled with the booming noise of footsteps, vendors and trains. After waking for about two minutes the platform ends and flight of stairs going down leads you to the subway. From miles apart, I can point out exactly where the leak was. It was right in the middle of the subway with messy food stalls on both sides that were always covered in a huddle of people. As soon as you see the steps you mentally start preparing to avoid the leak. Sometimes you are unlucky because the person right in front of you is walking at a very slow pace, and you can’t turn in any other direction because there are people everywhere. If you do anything but walk straight, you will collide into another person and their sweaty body will rub against yours. So you might as well keep walking straight and let the water drip on you. It was something that put you off. When you came rushing in at 10 AM after a long journey and that tiny little water droplet fell on you. It felt like the day had started off on a bad note.
But on the other hand, the leak had its perks too. When I usually left from college at 3 pm in the afternoon, a time when Churchgate station is the emptiest, it was easy to avoid the leak. You could walk 2 inches away from it and nobody would bump into you. It gave an odd sense of satisfaction and hope. Every time someone passed through the subway, they would look at the leak and mutter a complaint about how the leakage would never be fixed . I know that I have done it almost every single day. Throughout those two years, the leakage was probably the most irrelevant aspect of my life, but I still wanted it fixed.
Recently, after living in Bangalore for a year, I am back in Bombay for two months. About a week ago I went to Churchgate for some work. As soon as I got off the train and reached the end of the platform, I thought of the leak. But there was something different about the steps I could see ahead of me. They were polished, clean new steps. The subway was completely different. There was a flashy white ceiling with equally flashy and slippery white floor tiles. I kept walking and and stopped right in between. The food stalls were still there, just as messy, covered in a huddle. Then I looked up, but there was no leak. They fixed it, I thought to my self. They finally fixed it. I looked around at the people who were walking. Nobody was turning around out of habit. There were no mutters about the leak that was once there. It was almost as if the leak had never existed. I kept walking and took a cab once I reached outside. After about two hours, I was now walking back to the station and I couldn’t help but stop between those two food stalls and look up again. Just to be a hundred percent sure.
On my one hour journey back home, I could think of nothing but the leakage. At some point I felt stupid for wasting my time thinking about some random leak in a subway. But I couldn’t get over it. I missed the leak. I was feeling extremely nostalgic. Because this is the first time I realised that I had been away for a year. I was now in a completely different city, a city that I definitely liked more. But there is always something unusually blissful about coming home. The trains, the leak, the end of the lane near my house where I tell the auto driver to take a right, the bookstore, the library. All of it gave me a sense of familiarity. There were no secrets here, there was nothing to discover, there was nothing to explore. It was all familiar, it was a routine. I knew exactly what to do, I knew exactly what I felt. And now a part of it was gone, for the better.
Its funny how an irrelevant leak in a random station got my mind full of so many thoughts. It kind of reassures me in the fact, that no matter how irrelevant you think you are, you do have an impact on this crazy world.