Lost and Foundhttps://indianexpress.com/article/express-sunday-eye/lost-and-found-5573890/

Lost and Found

On Mumbai’s arterial lifeline.

lost and mumbai, everyday stories, public transport mumbai, public transport stories, on mumbai's arterial lines, indian express, indian express news
There’s always best: Things you notice when you use public transport. (Express Archive)

A few mornings ago, the child was functioning in super-slow motion as we prepped for the morning school-bus routine. Having an inkling that we would miss the ride, I grabbed my mother’s change purse. Sure enough, we had missed the bus. The money in the purse was Rs 20 short of an autorickshaw-ride and so I told my boy: “Let’s take a bus and make this an adventure.” We walked to the bus stop at the end of our lane and got into a BEST. Along the way, we spotted the school bus — in fact, we overtook it as the bus went off the route to pick up more children. Realising that we could still catch up with it, I felt secretly grateful that I wouldn’t have to go all the way to school in my dishevelled avatar.

By now, it was a proper adventure. We got off a few stops later, the school bus still behind us. After a quick hop-off and hop-on, I bid the child goodbye, quite excited about my solo bus ride home. Alas, I couldn’t find my change purse. I realised I may have dropped it in the BEST and now braced myself for the 40-minute walk home. As I walked, the morning sun kissing my face, I found some treasures along the way: a pot of lip balm in my pocket, a new centre for collecting plastic and e-waste, a shoe repair guy who also repairs suitcases, and a bakery that I had never seen before. As I passed a bus depot, I figured I might as well take my chances at finding my purse. It turned out that the BEST has several “lost and founds” and the one that was allotted to my route was near the station. The conductors I chatted with were having their morning chai and offered me a cup —  somehow that overcooked milky tea tasted delicious. “Tumcha purse kuthe jaanar nahi (Marathi for ‘Your purse won’t go anywhere’),” one said.

When I reached home and told my mother the story, she said, “I hope you find it. It was my lucky purse. It never ran out of money. You remember you gave it to me?” I had no memory of this, but I was looking forward to taking another bus ride to the station depot and hopefully having another cup of tea with another bunch of strangers.

I was busy the next day and ended up going the day after. The guy at the counter immediately said, “Yes, black pakeet (Marathi for purse). It came here. It had Rs 32.” I told him it wasn’t about the money; just that it was my mother’s purse and a special one. It was deposited at Poisar depot, he said, as is the norm when no one comes to claim it for 24 hours. Then, it would be sent to Vadala depot, the HQ of Lost-and-Found, if a further 24 hours elapse. “Run now, you might just make it,” he said and I did, after thanking him.

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I made a dash for Poisar depot in the manner of someone trying to finish a half marathon. When I finally got there, the guy at the counter smiled at me and said “Black pakeet?” I nodded, too breathless to reply. He asked me for an ID, which strangely I didn’t have, although there was a photo of my Aadhaar card on my phone. He asked me for the bus ticket and I said it was in the purse, of course, and he smiled, knowing I was telling the truth. The fee for retrieving lost property was Rs 30, for which I would get a receipt, but first, I must sign an undertaking that I had received my purse. He also mentioned that I must add a line that I had no complaint with BEST. I was choked with emotion and wanted to write reams, but he gave me a chit of paper that couldn’t hold much. “You know, sometimes passengers take things and BEST gets blamed for it, that’s why this is important,” he added.

Then he handed me the purse with Rs 2 in it, after having deducted Rs 30 as the fee. As a parting shot, his colleague said, “You are lucky. Every day, at 11 am, no matter what, we have to send lost-and-found items deposited here to the Vadala depot. The purse would have gone to Vadala this morning but the boy who takes it didn’t come to work today.”

I forgot to take a selfie, but there is one in my heart.