This watch can stop time’. This was my thought, over and over as I walked towards the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus. Whether you want to run away from home, become a gunda, a peddler, a dalal, Mumbai is where you gotta come. I grew up in Moradabad and started working in a cracker making factory at the age of 13 as my father had badly damaged his hands after an explosion in another cracker factory where he worked.
After few months, my father succumbed to cholera.
Sick of a lonely life in Moradabad I ran away from home when I turned 15.
Somehow I hitched a train ride and came to Mumbai. Worked here in a rich locality as a naukar’ and learnt to copy the fancy styles of the rich people. One day after I turned 17, I sprinkled sleeping powder on my owners dinner, and stole all their valuables while they slept.That got me enough money to open a small shop in Mumbai’s Chor Bazaar after staying underground for a few months. I began selling second hand watches and graduated to selling first copies. Then came the wallets, shoes and later all sorts of electronics you could’ve heard of. Money was everything to me and I earned it in spades.
Saath mei do number ka, teen number ka, Sab kaam karna maine chalu kara. Kissi ko bhagana hai, uthana hai, main karunga. Bas paise hona chahiye. Everything was going on well when one day this old man walked into my shop. It was late and there was no one around. He said he had the most fantastic thing to show me. He said that the watch he was holding could stop time. I laughed at his foolish face. He insisted that he was serious and pressed a button on the watch. The next thing knew, he was on the other side of the shop. No! This could not possibly be true. He did it again and lo, I was facing the other way and my wallet was in his hand. Blood rushed to my face as I got delirious with the possibilities. gave all the money I had in my cash register, bought the watch from him and shoved him out of my shop.I remember he tried to say something but nothing mattered at that point. I started planning all that I could do with this watch as I pulled down the shutter. This watch can stop time’. This was my thought, over and over as I walked towards the railway station. As I boarded a random suburban train, uncertainty hit me. I looked at the watch on my wrist, took a deep breath and pressed the button on the side.The chugging of the train, the constant chatter, the recklessness of the entitled Delhi public; nothing stopped. I tried to look around, but I couldn’t move. I felt sweat bead up on my forehead. It felt as if my breath slowed down and my heart stopped beating. Was I not supposed to wear the watch? I remembered that the old man wasn’t wearing it. People moved around me as I stood rigid. I saw a little girl pointing at me to her mother. I tried to scream but no sound came out. Soon the entire world knew about me.The life-like stone structure with eyes that were always screaming in terror.
© Raghavendra Laxman