As he stretched his hand around Dottie and drew her closer and leant back against the broad trunk of the tree for a second he was in heaven. The spot was isolated in Borivali National Park and not invaded by the picnicking crowd yet. Not very far away they could hear kids yelling. This was not the best of background music for a romantic interlude to him, but it was ok. This moment though lasted just for a second as he felt something crawl up his arm followed by a sharp sting. The sting burned and with the increasing heat in the sting his ardor cooled completely. He jerked his arm back and looked to see an army of red ants crawling up the trunk of the tree. Dottie’s head was snapped forward as he sharply pulled back and began scratching. They sprang up and scratching away got out of there.Dottie was a sport and started laughing but he was irritated like hell.
Just the last week as they had gone and sat on the rocks near Bandstand at Bandra. As he got around to holding her hand a freak wave had lashed against the rock they sat on wetting the fork of his denims completely. Dottie got away as she had just stood up. The ride back home with the salt water drying in his jeans and chaffing his legs on the inside threw romance into the sea.
Then again two days prior to that it was the Girgaum chowpatty a sandy stretch, what could go wrong here when they were not even close to the sea? No sooner had he stretched himself on the sand he felt something soft yield under his palm and then the stink. Yikes, it was dog poo well hidden under the sand and he had stretched his hand in it. No amount of water from the sea or from the vendors stall could wash away the smell. He now did not believe in the romance of Mumbai city as there was not a single place they could sit comfortably or be by themselves. His belief in the theme of romantic Hindi films too was shaken to the core. Heroes romanced heroines around Gardens and Seashores, hadn’t he seen it in countless of them growing up? They sang songs too. Maybe it was okay for Raj Kapoor and Nargis in the fifties. Mumbai in the 21st century had become filthy. It was little wonder that Shahrukh needed to romance Kajol all over Europe or Akshay has to take Katrina first to London and then Egypt. Where could he take Dottie that wouldn’t blow a hole in his meager allowance as a student? No place at all in commercial Mumbai.
Nothing seemed to work for Lancy and that began with his name. That pissed him off most of all. If only Dr. Eugene D’souza - The HOD English & Language studies, in Fr. Antonio College at Vasai alias Dear Daddy, not been a fan of the legends of King Arthur. Who for crissakes names his son Lancelot and that too in 1989? Hi, I am Lancelot and all those opposite would settle down into a paroxysm of giggles. He thought "I could at least have been called Arthur which could have been shortened to Art or Artie and that sounded cool" but no such luck. In the St. Mary and Jesus Church of Succor during the baptism, his loud wail of protest was not taken due cognizance of. It was just fortunate that swords were banned in Vasai & the Queen of England was not visiting there then. Else, he who had been carried in without a name may have emerged out with a full-fledged knighthood. Now you know how the-almost-Sir Lancelot became plain old Lancy. He had sworn to himself that when he became an earning member of the family, the first thing he would change was his name. Until then it remained a work in progress.
Lancy was a bright kid; though he was determined never ever to have anything to do with the tales of Arthur. He knew every adventure in it by heart. Dr. Eugene had made that a given addition to his regular fix of cereal & milk. One tale everyday. When he enrolled in Ruia College in Dadar, he had met Dorothy Fonseca who stayed in the Pali village in Bandra. They became good friends and spent many an hour on the college campus or on the encampment around Matunga gymkhana called the “Katta” every day in a group. Both liked each other but whenever they made their plans to be alone disaster would strike on location. Unlike Lancelot and Guinevere the jungles around Mumbai had not proved either pristine or kind enough to their love. Was Jesus testing their faith in each other or was it a subtle pointer that the city was not for romantics anymore? How can location play a villain in love? Yet somehow it did.
Even the day they sat in the five gardens area near their college and had slid closer to each other; an elderly Parsee gentleman taking his daily constitutional, sneaked up on them and waving his walking stick said in a voice that needed no foghorn to amplify it further “ No Hanky Panky here Deekra, be decent” and then went away chuckling. The gardens in Mumbai had almost become the sole preserve of senior citizens. The cops had begun to drive couples away from the beaches too. The only few hours they could snatch without being driven away were in packed cinema halls of multiplexes. This would set them back by at least Rs. 700-1000 for two and they didn’t have that kind of money all the time. He envied the rich kids who could have their bikes and cars and take off on long drives.
Determined young love does find a way and so it did. Only for them the succour was in the age old transport system of Mumbai. Dottie and he would take a return ticket from Virar to Churchgate and travel endlessly till the hard wooden seats started hurting their posteriors or when the trains got too crowded to even sit in. On some days they would take a bus route, any double decker, and go from one suburb to another.The proximity and a cheap legitimate seat was enough. It was after looking around having stolen a quick kiss, hearing Dottie whisper “Isn’t this wonderful?" that his refrain about Mumbai and loves logistical impossibility faded away. Mumbai the metropolis that never slept had finally heard their clarion call & fixed them a place ; Next to each other while it remained on the move.