You laugh at your wife’s apprehensions when your daughter informs you about her college picnic to Malshej Ghat.
“How far is Malshej Ghat from your college in Churchgate? Are all your friends going with you? By when you will be back?” She has a volley of questions to shoot.
You chuckle. Your daughter, Shraddha grinds her teeth in disgust.
“Yes ma, all my classmates are going. Malshej Ghat is hardly 125 km. We will leave from our college in a bus and will be dropped back at the premises by 6 pm.”
You chuckle again seeing the awe on your wife’s face.
“What makes you laugh?” Radha frowns.
“We have set foot into the 21st century and still you are worried about a college picnic?” You can’t stop laughing.
“It is not that, but I have a strange feeling.” She looks disturbed.
You admonish her with a nonchalant wave of your hands.
“My daughter can take care of herself. Don’t get worked up.”
That doesn’t stop Radha from muttering.
“Why does someone want to visit Malshej Ghat in monsoon? What if the roads are slippery?”
You chuckle again at the ignorance of your better half. “People visit the Ghat more during monsoon,” you tell her.
You are amused at her weird premonition.
The day of the picnic dawns and Shraddha’s blackberry that you had gifted for her 17th birthday keeps chiming.
“I will be there on time,” she smiles in excitement.
“I have this sudden lump in my chest. Something makes me feel all is not going to be well…..”, Radha moans.
Your stern looks stop her from saying anything further.
“It will be late, Gitanjali will be with you on the local train back home, right?” Your wife confirms again.
You request your wife not to sulk and send Shraddha to the picnic with a smile.
Radha obediently follows your instructions but her eyes are still disturbed.
“Be careful do not loiter alone under the pretext of taking pictures. Be with a group. Mind the slippery path…..,” she keeps advising till Shraddha and you disappear from her sight.
You drop your daughter at Bandra station. She waves at you cheerfully before boarding her train to college.
Shraddha calls to inform that they are back and she and Gitanjali have taken the train home.
Radha hurries to the kitchen to prepare Shraddha ‘s favourite ‘Kanda Poha’.*
You nudge your wife teasing her for her premonition theory.
“Why only mothers get premonitions, why not fathers?” you laugh as you switch on the television.
There is utter chaos on the television screen.
‘A series of seven bombs have blasted within eleven minutes in different trains on the western line from Churchgate.’
You freeze. The premonition dawn’s on you but it is too late.
The wails of Radha reverberate in the house.
Author ‘s note: The story is based on the serial bomb blast in trains from Church gate on the western line in Mumbai on 11th July 2006.
*Kanda Poha’: A delicacy prepared with puffed rice and onion