The wild rain drummed angrily on the roof. Violent, it tapped on the windows and attempted at knocking the proud door down. It felt as if it desperately wanted to be welcomed inside the tiny but egotistical house.
Despite its frail condition, house number 369 was known to have never let even a droplet of rain enter through. After Mr and Mrs D’Souza passed away in 2007, their house had been seen bearing the pain of loneliness. Its windows cracked half an inch every year, but never completely gave in to the regular harsh storms. The bright yellow house that once had a beautiful garden in the backyard now stood silently, fighting the nature’s arrogance and wondering if its door will be knocked at again. The house had a slight ray of hope left. It knew that in Mumbai dreams and dream catchers never let an opportunity slip by. The hollows and dells of memory were rekindled when Rahim stopped outside house number 369 during one of his long, long walks.
Hopeless and homeless, Rahim Ali Khan was a fresher in the mysterious city. His eyes had not yet lost their innocence, and his face was untouched by the brush of crime. His slender frame and surprisingly small feet made him lean forward a teeny bit while walking. The lustrous hair locks that played with his eyelashes when batted made his cheeks blush with shyness. Smitten by films, Rahimji had pompously taken a ticket to the glorious city of Mumbai in the certainty of becoming a big star, only to find himself lost in a crowd that cared no more.
Rahim’s big honeyed eyes scanned the little house. The moment he looked inside through the window, he knew this was what would shelter him. Already given up on people he had long known, the yellow house and its fading warmth was his last resort. He sneaked inside and unlocked the jammed door. The house must have happily exhaled the long breaths it had been forcibly taking for years. The walls smelt of abandonment but so did Rahim and ergo, he didn’t mind the connection at all.
On his first night, Rahim spread an old bed sheet and used his jhola as a pillow. He stretched his arms and legs and let out a deep sigh of relief. It was new. This feeling of comfort and safety wasn’t felt by him for the past nine months. Sleeping with eyes open to avoid a drunken celebrity’s inconsiderate behaviour behind the wheels had become a habit. Footpath is a real real-estate business in Mumbai which functions dirtily behind the white curtains of development and ‘steady growth of infrastructure’. Ironically, people who need a home the most are the ones begging for one at the loudest of their agonies.
One thing that Rahim had gradually understood was the constantly changing tempo of the city. It may appear monotonous, but if one looks closely enough one may noticethat the greys keep turning into darker shades of black and that the secrets of the nights keep turning into rumours of daytime with every passing second at a pace best known to human mind. Mumbai could wake up Sundays and doze off on Mondays if it wanted to. Rahim knew he could never untangle the tight knots of the city, so he decided to become another knot. It seemed better to conform to the pattern rather than observing the design from far away.
Days passed without a hiccup, and Rahim took up any job that came his way. His regular visits to the Film city had him labelled crazy among a few directors. He, on many occasions, was asked to keep distance. Rahim was a gatekeeper one day and a baby sitter the other. Sometimes, he took to washing dishes and cleaning cars. Once, he accepted the job of being a teddy bear but lost it in a couple of hours because he had to get out of the costume to scratch his toes amidst hundreds of people. It was tough out there! The only thing keeping him moving was that one dream he came with. The dream of becoming a star, walking with pride,keeping loved ones close being liberal to ‘pack up’, and earn so much that one loses count. Ah! How the glisteningtwinkle in his eyes spoke for his firm belief in destiny.
There were moments so grotesque, they made life miserable. Then again, one look at the clock and he knew his time was yet to come. Mumbai never consoles the weepy, nor does it praise the brave. It looks at each one from the corner of its eyes. Never judging, but never believing either. It is another person, not just a city. The way it comes alive on its own is miraculous and made Rahim never lose hope in it. It had dug treasures of stardom and he was certain his rehearsal days in a dingy auditorium were way behind. He was certain his era of fame and name will come.
For now, it is known Rahim never left house number 369. He never repaired it or painted it. He just let it be. Precisely how the house had once let him be. In a city where things were changing men and men were changing things, Rahim and the yellow house had silently decided on going in an opposite direction. It is said that on a particularly bright morning Rahim’s phone rang and a deep, careless voice on the line suggested a five second screen space. Before he could answer, he felt a drop of water in his forehead. When he looked up, ne noticed a tine hole in the roof. It was raining again. But for the first time in years, the yellow house had accepted the invitation.
Both Rahim and house number 369 survived on premature love marked by the fierceness of Mumbai. Human beings, like parasites, feed on leftover dreams. If there were no aspirations, Mumbai couldn’t bask in the glory of its golden attire.
Sometimes, all you need to be is to be in a city of dreams.