Sometimes, in Mumbai, people giving directions is similar to people offering water to a drowning man. Sweet gesture and just as useful.
I’m outside Churchgate station. A woman walks past me. She looks like she’s not from here…for one thing, she’s wearing pretty shoes in the rain, in the train. And the poor thing is carrying a delicate, paisley-printed umbrella which will get bent out of shape the next time it pours.
She looks about, worried and confused. I think of asking her whether she’s lost. Before I can do that, though, she hails a man and asks him whether he knows a particular building.
The man, who until now, was languidly chewing paan suddenly springs to life, as if he knows the answer to a million dollar question.
He excitedly turns back and points to a cluster of yellow, brown, pallid heights of concrete. “You see that building there, madam…take a right from there!”, he exclaims happily.
The woman, obviously, doesn’t see ‘that’ building! She sees a million, small, tall, low, high, broad, narrow, swanky, mouldy buildings to take a right from.
“Umm…which building, sir?”, she asks hesitantly.
“That one, that one!”, he wags his finger even more excitedly.
“Ah! Okay”, she says.
I know she hasn’t understood. So, as she walks away, I tell her she could accompany me since I’m going that way any way.
We walk. Minutes later, we take a right turn from ‘that’ building…you know, the one that’s so easy to spot, given all the empty space we have.