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Roped into Love

Roped into Love

22 mins 251 22 mins 251

July 26th, 7:15 pm [Somewhere near Neral station]

“You better hang onto the rope with all your life mister! I am going to be waiting for you” Naina had yelled out to Kshitij as he ran to the human chain now ready to take on the flooded stream.

It had been an unbelievable day upto now. And she was hoping it would only get better. But she was not sure if he would return.

Oh God! How did I land here out of all places. I just met this guy today. I guess some things are just destined to happen! She exclaimed as all the events since the morning just flashed through her eyes.


July 26th, 7:30 am [CSMT (Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus) Station, Mumbai]

The Monsoon season is seldom a pleasurable experience especially in Mumbai. It can very soon change from light showers, to pouring cats and dogs, to torrential downpour and then to a cloud burst. And if you are to catch a train on such a rainy day you should make no mistake in leaving the house like yesterday - well in Naina’s case, that is what she thought. She had a 1st AC ticket booked on the Udyaan Express for Bangalore. Well the stress on the 1st AC is because it was really pricey and she might miss the train that way letting the money go down the drain or maybe down the sewage where all the water from the rain was supposed to go - but well it did not and was causing this major traffic jam.

The train was due to leave at 8:10 am from CSMT and she was still stuck in a taxi at least two signals before the station - sticking her head out every two minutes to see the line of cars ahead of them as if that was going to make the traffic move faster. Her heart had noticeably started beating faster she realized due to the panic and to add to the misery she was almost drenched due to the circus of sticking herself out of the taxi window every now and then. She felt the water trickling all over and had an awful feeling with the clothes sticking to the body all damp and cold and her hair and makeup had become all messed up with this ordeal as well - but she could take care of all that only if she could just somehow get on the train.


7:45 am

Kshitij was still in the car, and enjoying the view in front of him. A frantic girl in the taxi in the adjacent lane was being a source of entertainment in the boring traffic. The messed up look had made her look even more beautiful, he thought. He was getting a good laugh out of her frantic attempts. But she was beautiful and he was hooked onto her despite the mess.

He was headed for a business meeting in Bangalore and had to catch the Udyaan express. But he had checked the timing on the M-indicator app and the train was running an hour late so he was not worried of catching the train. He had enough time to park the car and then grab a bite at the tea stall on the station and grab a newspaper and then head to his 1st AC compartment which his company had booked.


8:00 am

The taxi had moved ahead one signal and got stuck again. There is no chance that she was going to catch the train. Deciding to hop out and make a run to the station she settled matters with the taxi driver who warned her that It was not going to be easy. Unheeding to his advice she slid the backpack onto her shoulders and picked the travel bag in one hand and the umbrella and purse in the other hand. The driver opened the door for her - not that he usually did that for his customers - but this one was especially a mental case he thought and it would be good to get rid of her as soon as possible. Naina was out in the rain now - both hands full and her legs in one feet deep water but the station visibly achievable. She began walking and was quickly reminded of something she had not thought of before getting out of the taxi - the heels - oh! it is always the heels - it was almost impossible to maneuver the flooded road with high heels. Oh! if only I had worn sports shoes, she thought. She thought of taking off her sandals and walking barefoot - that would be much faster and would avoid tripping. Keeping her travel bag on the roof of the taxi she slipped out of her heels and picked them up and then grabbed the travel bag and started to scramble towards the station.

As she was about to go ahead, from the corner of her eye she sensed someone looking at her, from a car and she casually turned back to look. Immediately her eyes caught on to the eyes of this man in a car in the adjacent lane. He was smiling at her with the largest possible smile that could fit that face. Trying to recollect the face she concluded it was a stranger. That face of his saved him she thought or she would have probably hurled a couple of curse words by now. But it took her a minute to realize that her mouth was gaping open staring at him and that she was supposed to be rushing to the station. She hurriedly half smiling and shyly half shaking her head looked away and started walking almost running. But the image of the sharp features of the face that she just saw were so starking handsome that she could not get the face out of her mind. She thought of looking back one more time to see if he was still looking but decided against it and went on.

8:15 am

The train was approaching the platform and Naina was waiting patiently all soaking wet and in the uttermost despicable condition which the people passing by did not fail to notice as well staring at her from head to toe. She did look comical in a way which she was regretting so much now. It was not worth the walk since the train was going to leave almost after an hour.

Anyway, she got into her compartment and cleaned up. The 1st AC cabin was a very neat and cozy space. She wondered how the person occupying the opposite berth would be. With enough time to get settled and change into a comfortable black tee and a pair of faded light blue jeans and a pair of red slippers - she then hit the pantry for a light breakfast. The smell of the idlis, dosas and sambar was really tempting. She ordered for a Masala Dosa and a cup of tea and enjoyed it while looking out at the rain. She thought of the guy she had seen in the rain. It would be so nice to see him once again in better conditions this time, she thought.

It was almost going to be 9 o’clock and so she headed for her compartment and thought of lying down a bit and almost immediately fell asleep having felt tired with the whole drama from before.


9:15 am

Kshitij got into the train just in time before it could leave and found his compartment and cabin and started to settle in. The person on the opposite berth was already asleep and buried in the blanket so he could not speak to them. He sat looking out for some time at the still pouring rain and then got his book and reading glasses out and dug into his book. It was an interesting read - the novel was called Where the Desert Meets the Sea by Werner Sonne and was a historical novel set in WWII Palestine and was a heart-warming story of love and friendship with the backdrop of the war conflicts. He was completely immersed in the book and had not noticed that the person buried in the blanket had turned while still asleep but he could now see the face.

And Oh! was he glad to see that face. His heart almost skipped a beat. He let his head rest back and calmly sat there looking. The girl scrambling in the rain was now at so much at peace - almost like a vision. She looked even more beautiful. He took off his reading glasses and almost chewing one stem of the glasses he sat there smiling and gazing at that beautiful face again. The steady rocking pace of the train was getting a hold of him and sitting there with the book lying open on his chest and glasses still in his hand he fell asleep.


11 am

Naina woke up by a vibration of her cell phone in her pocket. She was just a bit startled as she saw a person in front. But when she looked again she almost felt her heart come to her mouth. Her eyes were now wide open and she could not believe her eyes. It was the guy from the car in the rain. There was a quick silent Thank you God, thank you God uttered in the heart and then she just sat there admiring him. He looked just as handsome even when he was asleep, she thought. He was strongly built and she could not help but admire his form and kept gazing for a while.

She had woken by the alarm which she’d set before sleeping. The Karjat Junction station must be approaching now she thought as the train began to slow down and it came to a loud screeching halt.

The loud noise woke Kshitij up and he was now looking at Naina who was also staring back at him.

“Hi stranger” Kshitij said with the same 100 watt smile from morning. “I’m Kshitij”.

“Hey, I’m Naina” she smiled back almost sheepishly as he had caught her staring at him when he woke up.

“So we meet again, small world” he said almost chuckling while getting up and looking out the window to check why the train had stopped.

“Yes, small world” she smiled trying to nod her head while inside she was thinking Not small world stupid, It’s called destiny.

“I thought we should have reached the Karjat station but looks like the train has stopped somewhere in between” she exclaimed looking out the window.

The rain was pouring really hard now and the visibility of the outside was very low. They could hear some commotion in the hallway outside.

“I’ll go outside and check, do you mind coming along?” he asked her intently looking a little concerned now with the sudden halt and increasingly bad weather.

The train it seems was a few stops before Karjat near a station called Neral. The situation there was not very good it seemed and the train would halt here until further directions were received. With nothing more that could be done at the moment they figured that they would have to wait and watch.

“Should we grab something to eat from the pantry?” Kshitij asked her, feeling more relaxed now since he knew what was going on.

“Sure, it’s a nice pantry. I had tried the breakfast there” she lead the way and now began to wonder what to speak next.

“So Naina, where’re you headed?”

“Bangalore, and you?”

“Oh well, Bangalore too!” he could not hold back a smile.

“For work?”

“Yes, a business meeting. And you?”

“Work too kind of. I’m speaking at a conference” she replied coolly hoping to not sound snobbish.

“Oh wow! That’s nice. What kind of conference - i hope it’s motivational - i could use some of that” he said laughing a bit but hoping not to sound rude.

“Well, it’s a writer’s conference. I am a writer” she said ignoring his glance and trying to quickly change the subject she hopped into the pantry.

“They have nice dosas if you want to try one” she kept talking. “I tried one this morning and it was yummy”

“I’ll surely try one. But I have to know more about your writing, do you write books? Anything I would have read?” he asked showing great interest.

“I mostly write women’s fiction so you must not have read any” she tried to reply in a fleeting way.

“I guess I have to start reading women’s fiction then” he said laughing in a teasing manner which made Naina almost blush.

Kshitij got a dosa and tea and Naina got herself a sandwich and a cup of coffee this time and they decided to go back to their cabin so that they could chat whilst eating.

They chatted for a very long time even after their breakfast was over and did not realize that it had already been hours. They talked about everything - family, relations, work, dreams, books, music, movies, goals, fears and what not. They were beginning to sense a kindred spirit in each other. They laughed and sighed. He teased her often and she blushed even more often. She admired his thoughts and he felt a secret sense of pride and victory each time she did that. They were slowly but steadily growing fond of each other.

Their trance was broken by some commotion from outside and they stepped out to check. They learnt that about 5-6 kilometers from where the train had halted there was a flood like situation. It was very grave and dangerous and people were stranded there with no help. The train was going to probably halt here for the rest of the day or at least till they heard again - but the situation did not look better.


2 pm

Everyone aboard the train was restless and were sitting in groups and discussing the situation. The moment someone got any news about the situation through a text or phone call they made it public. People were being very friendly and supportive and helping passengers with any emergencies or requirements.

Naina and Kshitij got talking to Tanish and Tiara a couple who was heading home to Bangalore and Sachin who was an engineer working in Bangalore and had come to Mumbai on leave. They spoke for a long time and then had lunch together in the pantry and parted for a short rest. They all seemed very friendly and nice to talk to.

As Naina and Kshitij were returning to their cabin, Kshitij slipped his hand into Naina’s hand and held it for a few seconds. She did not seem to mind and she could not understand why. They just looked into each other’s eyes for a fleeting second and she slowly pulled her hand back. While they were resting a while in their cabin there was a knock on the cabin door - it was Sachin. They had received a message about the situation near Neral and it had taken a turn for the worse. Help had not yet reached the people stranded there. Sachin, Tanish and a few others were discussing on going there to volunteer and help out in any way possible and wanted to check if Kshitij was willing to come as well.

Kshitij was more than happy to help out and Naina said that she wanted to do so in any capacity as well. They got out on the tracks to talk to some of the local people and get information.


5 pm

Arrangements were made. Vehicles booked. Bags and belongings were hurled onto the vans. And discussions were progressing on the plans of action after reaching there. Things were happening really fast. Kshitij was worried for Naina - he did not want her to be in harm’s way but also did not want to let her stay here while he was there. But it was not his place to decide - Naina had affirmed that she wanted to help.

The vans finally began to make a move toward the flood prone areas.


6 pm

With the rain still pouring and decreased visibility it was difficult to drive but they made it to one of the road that had row houses on either side. A team of rescue operators was already there but that was not enough. As the van moved into the village they could see from afar off a place where the large group of people mostly women and children were trapped. The sight had sent shivers down the spines of the volunteers. They got off the vehicle and rushed to the spot. The current of the water between them and the hostages was very high. It would be very difficult to get them out safely without drowning. There was yelling and children crying and they had to do something fast. The current was even growing faster due to which people were not daring to put their feet in. Standing afar off the vans were now on the verge of where the water was filling up fast. They could see the people waving from the row houses and asking for help. They needed a plan and needed it fast.


7 pm

Finally Sachin, Kshitij and Tanish had the plans made. The had arranged for large strong ropes from the nearby village and had tied them together. All the guys in the group who could hold steady in water were going to go for the other end holding on to one end of the rope. The plan was to make a human chain with the rope with their feet firmly grounded in the stream. The other end of the rope was going to be tied down on this side and also held on to by the remaining people. One of them would go to the farthest end and would bring one person at a time and cross the stream with the support of the chain. Tiara and Naina were going to be driving the vans with the people to a safer place where they will be calling for medical help.

As the guys were strengthening the bonds on the ropes and tying them around their waist the human chain was coming into shape. Sachin was going to be the first one in followed by Kshitij, Tanish and the others in the group. As they began walking towards the water flow Kshitij glanced at Naina - this was going to be difficult. The whole thing might just fail and none of the guys might even return. Tiara was still holding on to Tanish as he was walking. Naina felt an urge to just run to Kshitij and hold him tightly and when he looked at her he knew the feeling. They kept looking at each other - it could well be for the last time.

Kshitij could not hold it any longer, he untied the rope from his waist and ran to her and took her in his arms and stayed like that for a minute.

“I want to say something and may not have a chance to say this you know if we mess up over there” he said half laughing trying to cheer her up

“I fell in love with you when I saw you this morning. Despite the mess, you looked beautiful to me. And there are chances that I may not return from where I am going now - but if I do, I am going to stand here on one knee and propose to you. I think I am falling deeply for you and I want you to wait for me and pray for me” he was holding back a tear.

He pulled himself together and kissed her forehead and waved bye.

“And pray for that damn rope that is holding the fate of all of us now” he said yelling as he started running towards the other. He heard some whistles and cheers from the guys all ready in the human chain.


7:30 pm

The water that was knee deep had now increased to waist deep. And at this rate will be neck deep in about thirty minutes or so. They had to move really fast.

Sachin put his foot in the water to check the force. He was swept off his feet and fell pulling Kshitij down as well. But Tanish had held the rope very firmly and was able to hold still.

They pulled them out and then braced themselves to go in again.

This time Sachin planted his foot very firmly and started making the move. It was difficult to move with no support on the other end but they kept pushing forward sometimes stumbling and losing balance but still keeping on moving. They finally made it to the other end.


8:00 pm

The exodus now began from the harms end to the safe side. They had people already lined up on the other side. There were screams and shouts. Sachin went out to the farthest end and first held onto an old lady and lifted her gently in his arms. He put his leg into the stream and could feel the tension of whether he would be able to sustain the current of the stream while carrying someone. It was pouring continuously and the current had gotten even worse since the time they came there. Sachin yelled for Kshitij and Tanish to hold him tightly as his legs were not able to endure as he ventured into the stream with the old lady. The old people were going to be the most difficult as they would have to be lifted and so they decided to get them out first. Kshitij was the first in the chain now and as Sachin put his leg into the water Kshitij held him with one hand and held the hand of the other person in the chain with the other. They were not sure if this would work. But then they had no other choice. Sachin was well built but still the strength of his legs could not hold ground in the strong current. Kshitij held him with all that he could put in. He moved on to Tanish and then the next guy held him. They all put in their body, mind and soul to make the Rope Wall stand firm.


9:00 pm

The current was neck deep and becoming unbearable now. But all the people were out by now. They had switched places and alternated the rounds to and fro through the current. The exhaustion was beyond measure. But they had come through and lives were saved.

Getting out of the water now Kshitij looked for Naina who had been busy taking driving the rescued people over to the safe place. He found her standing by the van and gave a shout out to her.

There was a lot of cheering that began as the guys returned. The rescued people could not stop thanking and hugging all of the volunteers. No life had been lost thanks to the heroics of these guys. The atmosphere was of gratitude and joy.

The lives of the volunteers had also changed in many ways - they felt like they were not the same anymore after such a life changing event. They say that the people whom you are with during a disaster become very close friends and that is what they felt for each other. There was a bond of love and friendship and care and unity that was developing within this group of volunteers. They knew that they had made friends for a lifetime.


11:00 pm

The mission had been a success and all the people were now settled and receiving care from the locals. The volunteers were boarding the vans to get going. The train was not going to leave for a couple of hours more waiting for the water on the tracks to subside. They could get there well in time for the train.

On the van Kshitij sat beside Naina and this time they had their hands locked with each other. They could not stop smiling. The day had changed their lives beyond expectation. They were going to be together. Kshitij had proposed like he had promised and Naina had said yes in the presence of an exhausted but extremely happy and cheering crowd.

Their thoughts ran back to the morning in the traffic. They had a good laugh and could hardly believe what a day such as this could make you experience. As the van drove towards the train Naina placed her head on his shoulder. She felt a peace within her. She knew this was it - the prayers answered - the Rope stood as strongly as the love that they felt. She had fallen in love or should she say Roped into Love.

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