And to my utter misfortune, the Vaishali/Noida City Centre metro was incredibly crowded. Again.
Well, one couldn’t expect anything less in the early hours of office-time, huh?
The remedy to get by was quite simple: Suck in your stomach, hold your breath, find a space big enough to squish yourself in and you’re good to go.
You couldn’t actually breathe in there but so long as it took you to the mother of all junctions, yes I’m talking about Rajiv Chowk Metro Station, God bless DMRC, you’re good to go.
Since I had gotten habitual of the mad rush of the metro commuters, everything was bearable – the nonsense chatter of school going children and college girls, the necessary time wasting dutifulness conveyed by “Baby, are you awake? Are you going to eat? Oh, you’re going to the loo? Alright, I’ll wait. I’m just sitting in the metro,” of the dedicated girlfriends, the unfocused stares of the people who didn’t give a crap about whatever was happening around them, lost in a world of their own, and of course, the heavy emptiness I felt in the right-hand-side front pocket of my jeans. That pocket was a renowned dwelling fixture for my phone.
Fully attuned to my surroundings which was admittedly quite uncommon for me, I waited as the metro doors slid open and without wasting a second I sprinted to the stairs, chanting in my head, “Please let it be Qutab Minar! Please! Eight coaches, Qutab Minar!” Being late wasn’t gonna get me attendance for the first lecture! And in all honesty, the Qutab Minar metros were less crowded and more swift.
I gasped when I finally set foot on platform number one: Towards Huda City Centre. The metro which was supposed to take me to Hauz Khas, I was a hundred percent sure, would have had a nervous breakdown if even one more importantly irresponsible citizen of India tried to make standing space for him or her.
To say it was crowded would be an act of treason in the understatements of history.
However, I gathered my wits and patiently waited for at least two metros to pass before I dared myself to set foot in that cramped-non-breathing space. I stood in the right queue remembering God as if I had my Maths board exam, preparing myself for yet another battle in Sparta.
As the six coach Huda City Centre metro slowed to a stop and the doors opened, my heart beat sped up noticeably. It was unusual but I ignored it and waited for the deboarders to go on their way. I wiped my sweaty hands on my jeans and gave myself a much needed peptalk in my head.
The metro was still plenty full even after the deboarders had left. When the crowd of the commuters set to travel with me started moving everything got blurred. For a second my brain couldn’t make sense of anything, drawing up blanks. My breathing got even more ragged. Nonetheless, I moved on with my fellow boarders.
Everything was heavily moving in and out of focus and I felt like fainting and throwing up at the same time.
Just as I was about to set foot in the metro train my phobia hit me with full force and I retreated to the back, pushing around dozens of people, hovering on the verge of a nervous breakdown, almost about to break into a sob.
My claustrophobia was back.
It had been a couple of good, peaceful months; a long time since I last experienced it but that day- the day after I lost my phone- it was proven that it still lived in me, dormant but dominant.
And my phone, however evil it may be in my parents’ eyes, prevented me from paying attention to the lack of space around me and kept me busy with hymns and songs. Writing and reading continuously and cluelessly on my phone also contributed to the calm. For a long time, whenever I travelled in the metro my only worry was being tardy.
But that day I realized I had a bigger obstacle to conquer and it had to be done at any cost.
The journey to overcome my claustrophobia started on that day – The day after I lost my phone.