Reality Show, live!
Marin Drive was full.
The breeze, a late-afternoon sun of December; Saturday crowds; linked couples gaze at the Arabian Sea; sellers of the cones of peanut and masala chai; strollers, and, few loners sit with dangling feet over the sea wall; crazy traffic on the arterial road; lonely-in-the-crowd feel—typical south Mumbai scene.
“Should we sit?” Mona asked and plopped down on a bench, vacated few seconds before.
“OK.” Lisa also sat down.
“Good view. We wait here.”
They were tired. Long commute, then a walk from the railway station. But the sea proved invigorating.
“Divine!” Exclaimed Mona, hushed tone.
“Come here often?” Lisa asked.
“Yeah.” Said Mona. “Good for de-stressing in this mega city of more than 23 million wanderers.”
“Hmm. Describes the city.”
“Love the sea. Delhi does not have one. I come here on Saturdays and watch the sea. Spectacular therapy for soul!”
“Right. My Jodhpur is arid. Only dunes.”
“I love desert also, Lisa dear. Are there princes around? Wearing swords, handle-bar mustaches and riding white stallions?”
“Better you freelance for the Mills and Boon. Fantastic imagination!”
“Come on! Are not princess like that in Rajasthan? Feudal lords.”
Lisa continued to laugh. “Things have changed dramatically. The royalty now sells nostalgia in their rented palaces for the elite and the foreigners looking for a bit of the exotic India.”
Mona smiled. “You and your prosaic mind! Fit for number crunching only.”
They grew quiet. The immensity of the blue sky and its reflection in a restive sea; the shimmering buildings of the far-off Nariman Point; the mobile mass of strollers on the promenade—pure seduction.
“Love Mumbai.” Lisa said.
“It is scary also!” Said Mona.
“Folks are detached. Stars on lonely orbits.”
“The tragedy of every city these days. Nobody cares.”
“Yes. Folks are getting indifferent. Atomized.”
“We are part of the same culture. Do we care?” Lisa asked.
Just then they heard the sobs—loud, hysterical, body-racking, feminine.
A woman, in early 30s, was sitting on the next bench and howling— unusual behaviour in a public place!
Both the friends were taken aback. They forgot their own desultory discussion and turned around at the source of the loud racket, while other pedestrians, alarmed, gave the woman a wide berth.
Others got busy taking selfies of this sad human spectacle—a reality show, live, on a popular beach area.
The two girls, early 20s, gaped at a woman, weeping unabashed, hardly giving a damn to the world around.
She cried in bursts and then, in a continual spell… paused…and started afresh.
It looked odd: In the middle of a busy place, somebody cries her heart out to nobody in particular…and two women from the distant suburbs watch in numbed shock and total disbelief!
The vertical Mumbai, paved with gold, glitters in the weak rays of a pallid sun, apathetically!
People ignore the sight and increase their pace.
The Weeping Woman (WW) is non-existent!
Later on, Mona recalled the touching drama, on her blog:
The first thing I noticed about was her dress. It was costly, top brands only; Western, well- colour-coordinated. She looked elegant. The sun goggles placed middle of the head. Everything about her spelt class. Tall, slim and fair-complexioned. Model-like. Not an impoverished girl, vulnerable, who can dissolve in a public place. This puzzled us. She continued to sob, stop and sob serially. Although some guys lingered around her, yet nobody dared go and ask her the reason behind the outburst.
They did not have the nerves, maybe.
We too thought we should leave but Lisa decided otherwise: “Come on, Mona. We should not walk out. She needs help. Let us go and find out.”
Without thinking, we went to her, with Lisa in-charge.
She sat down near her and asked quietly, “Hi! Can we help, please? What is the matter? Anything we can do for you?”
The WW was stunned by our sudden appearance and concern.
She blinked, mouth open. Fluttered her lashes and then cried at the top of her voice as if she had found a lost kin or some kindred spirit.
Lisa held her hands.
WW tilted the bobbed head and rested it on Lisa’s shoulder. Crying bitterly.
After several minutes and a soft pleading by Lisa, she relented and opened up in bits.
What emerged was a heart-rending urban story of a broken heart.
The lady was in her early 30s. Worked as a media assistant in a production house.
“Some days are not perfect. It is one of them.” She said.
“How?” I asked.
“Nothing seemed to work in your favour.”
The woman slowly said, “Morning, I get the news that Ma has been diagnosed with breast cancer. Devastating! My best friend gets admitted into the ICU. I cannot believe. Then, most surprisingly, I lose my job in the post-lunch hour. Ultimate blow! Get called by the bald boss. He asks me to leave the keys with him. Like that. No explanation. Nothing.”
We are now genuinely shocked.
“Indeed!” I exclaim. “Not fair.”
The woman becomes quiet. Then: “With a messy divorce on, the downsizing was the last thing. Felt miserable. Angry. Something snapped. wanted to run and hide some place and bawl. Office and home, no options. Decided to come here. Had found my love on this beach. The man with a baby face… a monster in reality. Overcome with sadness, I unburdened, in an anonymous place, where I will not be noticed.”
Lisa said, “Sorry! Never meant to intrude but felt we must help a sister in distress.”
She smiled through raw tears.
“Take care. God bless.” We stood up.
She hugged us spontaneously and said softly, “Thanks, my dearest sisters! Never believed God sends His angels in the form of total strangers—to share your pain, in unlikely spots. And thus, HEAL you up. You are noble. Saved a life toady by talking. God bless.”
We shook hands and left, strangely transformed.
Sunil Sharma, an academic and author-freelance journalist from the suburban Mumbai, India. He has published 19 books so far, some solo and joint.
He edits Setu: