Mumbai is a lovely place for a bachelor to start his career – vibrant city, great people, fabulous sea food, beaches & wonderful “night” life… in short, BLISS!! The challenge though, was to find a decent place to stay. For the money that you could afford as a person starting off his career in TCS, most of us stayed in what can be best described as a rat-hole ( At one time, we had 6 people staying in a small 1 bedroom flat in Andheri)
The FOUR MUSKETEERS – Saurav Dubey, Debashish Kumar Bose (our very own DK BOSE – we called him Deb), Vinod Singh and myself (all name changed) had joined TCS in the same batch. After struggling through about a year in “The Rat Hole”, we had decided to move out into a more spacious 2 bed room flat in Borivilli East.
Our flat was at the end of an alleyway, quite a distance away from the main road. The alleyway ended at a dead end (against a wall with some trees behind). A park perhaps, we had thought, as we moved in. There were fairly old houses on either sides of the alley way, most of them had a front porch – with heavy bushes serving as boundaries between the houses. Few of the houses was in need of some maintenance for sure.
“These houses seem straight out of the “Dracula” novels . No wonder, we got a 2 bed room house in this locality for such an affordable price” – Deb remarked, one day as we were returning from office during our first week of stay.
“Why, you are getting your pants wet.. huh..Sissy“ – Vinod said, and we all burst out laughing. After all, we were the BRAVE FOUR MUSKETEERS.
Deb was a man of few words, incredibly intelligent, a great & very helpful friend but VERY shy – and he particularly hated us calling him “sissy”… he hated us even more, when we made fun of his burping habit – he would almost burp incessantly after heavy food.
One Friday night, we were returning from our customary “Dining Out”-it was getting to mid-night, and the streets were deserted. The moon had disappeared behind the clouds, light breeze through the trees made a weird “hissing” sound as we left the main road making our way towards our alleyway.
Strange, I thought, for a place like Mumbai… where shops remained open, and people moved around well past mid-night.
My thoughts were interrupted with Vinod – the most flamboyant guy in the group and lovingly called “Love Guru” – starting off narrating his patented version of “How to influence girls” . Boys will be boys – and obviously GIRLS was the “ALWAYS TRENDING” topic those days among four bachelor 23 year olds .
As we turned onto our dimly lit alleyway, we noticed that a dog standing below a dim street light, the only one lit that night. It was injured near the head – and it was bleeding.
Saurav had bent down trying to inspect the extent of the injury, as we looked on. The injury was near the head, and part of the flesh near its neck seemed to have been bit by another animal – from an apparent fight with another dog perhaps.
A dog howled at a distance… and then stopped suddenly…. Silence, there was complete silence all around… Eerie almost!
The silence was broken by a swift movement from the bush nearby – about 2 feet away from where Deb stood, and it was immediately followed by a strong odor that you get when you visit the wild animals (read – tiger, lion, leopard) cages in the ZOO.
I had heard the term “Petrified” – I was experiencing it now!! I don’t think I could have moved if I tried to. I had the best vision of the bush, and as I looked past Deb towards the bush – I saw two eyes – glowing in the dark…
Vinod had seen it too – Vinod’s face had turned white – he resembled the vampires from “The Twilight Saga”, Saurav was still bending down – too afraid that a movement would mean he would be attacked first, and Deb- who was closest to the bush – was already murmuring “Hanuman Chalisa”
For me, my life’s memories seemed to come back to me – the beautiful garden in our house, the warmth of my mother’s hug, my friends, my first crush followed by the heartbreak – the thoughts faded away as I pictured the headlines in tomorrow’s “Midday – “4 people killed by a raging tiger in Borivalli”
Silence. Absolute silence… as though we were waiting for a cue from someone to tell us what to do.
The silence was broken.. Again!
“Burrrrrppppp” – Deb let one of his killer burps out, at what one would think, as the most inappropriate moment.
The cue had come..
“Bhaag DK BOSE Bhaag” – shouted out Vinod…. (DK Bose preceded & embellished with several choicest slangs from Amristar)
I don’t quite know who ran first… the next moment, I had closed my eyes and RUN towards the house as if my life depended on it – well, it actually did!! The distance to our house, approx 100 metres, seemed the farthest…
“Bhag DKBOSE DKBose Bhag, Bhag Bhag DKBose Bhag…..” – Vinod continued as we continued to run..
Saurav, the fittest and fastest of us all, reached the door first, and we all lined up behind. Saurav’s hand was shivering, and he was struggling to get the key into the lock…
“DKBOSE DKBOSE DKBOSE DKBOSE” – Vinod & his choicest collection continued.. “If I die, my ghost will torment you for the rest of your life, you silly fool” – Vinod was the last one in the queue outside the door, and hence most prone to become “Tiger Food”.
“Click” – the door unlocked, and we all threw ourselves inside… Thankful to be STILL ALIVE! Alive to see the sun rise again!
Later, we learnt that we were staying right next to the “Borivalli National park” – The park wall next to our house was the national park wall. During the rainy months, there would be frequent instances of leopard and tigers being spotted around the area. Folks near the area preferred not to come out too late in the night!!
DK Bose (and his 3 room mates) bhaaga for sure… not just that night, but out of that house and the locality within the next couple of days.
I have never stayed in the vicinity of ANY PARK ever since….