it was a summer weekend. i was walking around in belfast. it was pretty hot, so i had taken off my shirt and put it away in my bag. as i was walking around, i passed by a crowd of people standing around and watching something. a lady was sitting on someone's shoulders and recording a video on her phone. i looked at her phone screen (the phone had pretty good zoom!) and could see it was pointed at my friend rama sitting in the balcony of her apartment. rama was being interviewed by a tv reporter in her balcony. i didn't bother asking anyone what was happening, as it started drizzling at that very moment. i wanted to wear my shirt, and suddenly started feeling embarrassed, but there were other shirtless guys around as well. i didn't want to get the insides of my bag wet, so instead of taking out the shirt, i covered my head with the bag and walked towards a more sheltered place.
the rain subsided a couple of minutes later, and i wore my shirt while i kept walking. i met vane and we made small talk while walking together. we were stopped by a couple of random indian guys who said hi and asked if i remember them. they claimed that they bumped into me a few weeks ago in belfast as well, and i didn't remember them back then either. i told them i unfortunately still couldn't remember them, but i might if they told me how we met. they said they knew me from mumbai meat marathon, but i was still blank. as we walked on, and vane asked me how come i never introduced him to the mumbai meat marathon guys. i told him it's because the mumbai meat marathon guys aren't particularly big fans of chicken biryani :D
we walked along tree lined (but unfamiliar-looking) streets until we came to a corner where nickolai and shruti were waiting for us. i was glad to see nickolai as it had been over a year since we had last met. i told her about a recent conversation i had with shruti about how i had found her "hand twin" many years ago in mumbai, and i told her that shruti's hand looks quite similar to hers. they both held out their hands and refused to agree, and it was pretty obvious that their hands looked quite different, but i refused to change my mind. finally they agreed that their hands look similar "from some angles", and changed the subject.
i told them we were walking on sydenham road, and nickolai pointed out sydenham college.
and that's when i realized we were not in belfast, but in mumbai. somewhere in khar west. and we were walking north along SV road, parallel to the railway tracks. at times, we randomly decided to climb up the stairs of buildings and walk through them instead of on the road. somewhere in between, we got separated. and then i noticed kevin following me. i stopped and called out to him, and he pretended not to see me, but then realized i was sure i had seen him and walked up to me. he told me he had been following me for a while, and was playing a game of avoiding me for as long as possible. we discussed shortcuts to home from khar while we walked, and he told me about the secret routes he'd take while walking home.
we had walked a good way, when we realized nickolai and shruti had reached the road below the building we were walking through, and we got back down on it. they had met dannika, and were about to cross a busy street, which looked like a highway.
nickolai ran across, dodging cars and other vehicles, but we didn't follow, as we were too scared. nickolai called us from across the road and told us it's safe to cross - it was actually a red light and the vehicles were moving illegally and had to stop for us. we ran, one behind the other, kevin, followed by dannika, myself, and finally shruti.
across the road, there were a line of stalls, selling tea and fruit juices. beyond the stalls, there was a high railing, and on the other side of the railing were the railway tracks. we were somewhere near kandivali. nickolai told us she had planned a surprise, but first, she had something to give us. she opened a bag of sugar coated chocolate "gems", all red in colour, and told us we could have as many as we like. we took about a fistful each. there were still some left over though, and nickolai encouraged us to have more, as they would get spoiled if not eaten soon enough. i told her i can take some home for my parents, but she said i couldn't - these were "special" gems, and were strictly to be given by her, and not to be passed on to others :P
that done, it was time for the surprise: nickolai pointed to 4 glasses on the roof of the shed on my left. they had straws in them, and had a pale amber liquid.
i told her it's impossible to get up there, and maybe there's been some sort of mistake? but nickolai persisted, and kevin looked around and pointed out that the roof was actually a sloping wooden sheet with planks nailed to it, like a rough ladder. he climbed up, and had a sip from his glass. he said it tasted like fruit beer, and the view was amazing - he was lying flat on his stomach on the sloping roof while sipping on his fruit beer. the rest of us were trying to figure how to get there ourselves.
and that's when i woke up.
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