Let’s call her ruby for now.
I would have thought she had a name like that. Something silly and frivolous.
That’s the kind of person she came across the first time I saw her in the elevator. I had just moved into my new apartment and I figured so had she. She had that sassy single vibe that girls who live by themselves give out. Unlike the smug marrieds!
Over the next couple of months, I figured there were quite a few of us like that in the block. In fact Sandy, the graphic designer and I became pals since we began sharing a maid and then confidences. I’d rather I tell her what was happening in my life than the distorted version shantabai would give her! Arati, the really talkative film editor also became more than a nodding acquaintance
But with ruby it was always just a smile or a hi. With the crazy work schedules we keep and the constant sleep deprivation, the need to chat up new people is minimal.
Yet she did intrigue me. She had some traits that gave her away as a small town girl with tinsel town dreams. Maybe it was the way she dressed or her exaggerated squeals when someone got a dog in the elevator once.
We did speak to each other. Once when I got into a spat with a neighbour on parking space and she was passing by. She jumped into the argument since he had done the same with her at some point. Another time, in the glorious Mumbai monsoon when both of us got into the elevator we spoke about what each of us would love to eat in this weather. Coffee and kababs for me and chai and pakoras is what she wanted. When it was time for me to get off, we both laughed that maggi noodles is perhaps the maximum we would be able to manage at this point.
The liftman once mentioned that she was an actress and her show was on tv tonight. Catch me watching soaps I thought to myself. Another time I passed her by leaning on my car and cooing into her phone. We waved at each other and when I got back 45 minutes later after an invigorating walk, she was still there on the phone and very obviously crying. Boyfriend troubles are so universal said the cynic in me.
For the last month I had been working almost round the clock and here I was on a much deserved break in goa. Thank god the resort had newspapers from Bombay I said as I poured my third cup of coffee. And there she was on the front page. Of course it was her. The piece mentioned the building where she lived. Young tv actress caught with 17 crores in her flat. Matka king’s moll. Was part of a global hawala racket. It was all over the news channels too. She was being discussed and dissected. Neighbours were quoted saying she kept to herself. Her mother in rajasthan was sobbing saying she believed her daughter was happily married to a businessman in London. She herself was looking ill when she was being led into the police van hounded by channels who wanted that elusive sound byte. Without her make up and confident demeanour she looked like a 16 year old waif, certainly not someone plotting murders and terrorist attacks.
Mumbai is a very cruel city….