Star-struck

It was a regular ride back home. Another long day at work and I was craving some dessert to cheer me up as usual. My thoughts kept returning to the box of Mysore Pak  on the dining table at home. I gave up my seat at Andheri in order to go soak in some air on the footboard. And I was almost smiling. Until the train pulled into Goregaon station.

Platform 3 at Goregaon resembled a refugee camp. Hordes of men lined up one behind the other, babbling away. On a second glance, there was something very orderly about the way they were lined up. Some enterprising folks had perched themselves on the pink seats generously donated by the Ghanshyamdas Saraf Trust and the recently-installed black stone-topped seats. And yes, there were only men. Not a single woman in that sea of humanity.

I was a little alarmed to see them lined like this. As I waited for the mother to alight the train, a fellow passenger, slightly elderly, reading the distress on my face, held out a hand offering to help me negotiate my way through. She didn’t really have to do that but it lightened me up instantly. Suddenly, the crowd of people ceased to bother me. I also realized that as I made my way forward, those men automatically moved away just so slightly, as if to make way for me. It was a cordial gesture. They were loud and vocal but well-behaved.

For a few minutes, I assumed that they were waiting for a much-delayed train. But no other platform was that crowded. And there was heightened excitement in the air. Clearly, they were anticipating much more than a mundane train. The shouts and whistles only got more vociferous as the train left the station. Most even began banging on the train as it whizzed past them. It almost sounded like a riot until my eyes chanced up on the bright floodlights on the opposite platform.  That entire section had been cordoned for a shoot. Bystanders and commuters had also lined up on the two bridges and the steps leading up to them to get a bird’s eye view of all the action.

I do not know who was there or whether it was television or the big screen. But I heard enough catcalls and whistles to suggest the presence of leading actors of the day. My guess is that it was Bollywood.

The crowd thinned as I approached the station’s exit and once outside, life was back to normal. The rickshaw drivers continued with their pretense of a strike and street dogs chased cars and foraged food while vegetable and fruit vendors prepared to shut shop for the day.

Those few minutes at Goregaon station gave me an insight into just how much of an escape we seek from the nitty-gritty’s of life. Never mind the long day at work and probably a tougher time on the commute. Their joy lay not in going home to a hot meal or an expectant spouse or mother, but in watching their on-screen heroes perform for them in person across a railway platform.

They’d all be a wee-bit more tired tomorrow morning, eyes smarting with sleep deprivation and the legs fatigued. But they will remember tonight with a smile. The night their heroes descended on the platform to entertain them.

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