Read part one first. Before the one bedroom hall kitchen there was a room. Not just any room. It was a classroom at the end of a hallway on the third floor of a school. Yeah, thats right. You heard me right.
The room was divided into three parts, appropriated with a bed without sheets, a temporary bathroom the size of a port-a-potty and a bucket for bathing, a little kitchenette and common area littered with plastic furniture.
There were two windows, the one in my room looked into the corridor and the one in the common area overlooked a terrace with trees for pubic hair. On days when the moon took centerstage that terrace begged to be used for dating.
This makeshift arrangement was meant for temporary guests of the school. But, by any stretch of imagination, this wasn’t anything more than a roof over my head. There were no kitchen supplies either so I’d eat “pure” vegan food and champion a glass of watermelon juice down a neighbouring restaurant.
“Bathing twice in the night to stay cool under the breath of an aged ceiling fan was my version of a wet dream. It was fucking hot. I slept topless, knickers torn.”
I’d be woken up to the incessant chatter of pubescent kids in the hallway and classroom inches from my door. On occasions, when I slept in, I’d be greeted by stares and giggles through the corridor window. With the staircase on the other end of the hallway I’d have to walk across all the classrooms on the third floor every morning.
A stretch best described to walking across a railway platform with bogeys stuffed with kids- preparing for departure. Little had they known, for some of us, the next station was beside science class.
“Did I mention schools smell funny? And it was hot and humid in Mumbai at the time. Most of my batchmates felt I was a princess and borderline pretentious. Don’t fucking think so. Pretentious one hundred percent. Back to the story.”
While I was struggling to stay afloat, my friends (who were, also like me, struggling to find work) and I had decided to keep spirits high and not lose sight of our goals. Every other evening we’d gather at The Queen’s Necklace (Marine Drive for those virgin to Mumbai) to share each other’s stories. We’d laugh the hardest by the sea. It was medicative. Unperturbed by agency rejections, we’d keep our pencils sharpened at all times.
Our evening theatrics entailed fantasies of conquering the agency world, earning accolades and awards, and driving BMWs. We were a bunch of pompous kids with only chewing gum in our pockets. Those days ended at Crystal, a Punjabi food restaurant, before boarding a local from Churchgate station. I think it was Punjabi.
Kindly note only I wanted a BMW. The other guy wanted a Porsche. Trust me, you don’t want to know what the third guy had in mind. A horse. He wanted a fucking horse. Told you so.
Every night I’d show up to a deserted school with a security guard perched at the gate. We’d become accustomed to crossing paths at such odd hours. With all the kids gone there was only deafening silence. I’d walk up a flight of stairs to the third floor and walk down the hallway towards the end of my path.
Spooky as fuck. I knew I had to stay strong and not let the weight of my backpack get to me.
The final part coming shortly.