Anywhere in Bombay at any time of day

8:55AM In the domestic airport, a pack of models live out their fabulous lives in front of less fabulous, common people. The fashionistas wear outrageous clothes and screech their greetings and air kiss. All of the corporate mustachio’d walas don’t know how to react to all of this, so they just straighten their heat-crushed collars and adjust their hair. As though it had moved.

1:13PM In Lower Parel, it’s the end of a 3 day party for associates of a corporation. A hostess sits on a couch in an eco hotel and wishes the delegates a nice trip as they leave in AC buses. Many among them mistake her pleasantries for genuine interest, and ask for her number. As if the relationship she had built with them over the past three days was based on anything other than money. She won’t give her number, so they leave visiting cards, hopefully. She collects their cards into a neat stack on the table. Once everyone has left, she also stands up and hoists a heavy bag over her shoulder. Leaves the hotel to climb into a rickshaw. The card stack sits on the table. Numbers stacked on the table, waiting for a call that won’t come. Later on, a cleaning boy comes. He wonders briefly at the organisation of the cards before sweeping them into the bin.

4:27PM On Malabar hill, a maid takes a long and luxurious shower in one of the expensive flats that she cleans for a living. It’s the second time she’s done this; the first time was after a long period of deliberation and gathering of courage. What if, what if? But today she locked the bathroom door with all three bolts, turned on the geyser and then smiled as the hot water ran over her sore legs. She enjoys this as long as she dares, and then turns off the water and sits on the ledge of the bath. Sari and petticoat in a heap on the ground. Where she lives, there is no quietness. Here, there is only steam and silence in the spacious bathroom. Here, she only hears her own breath, and the shift of her green glass bangles.

2:36AM At a signal near Santacruz, a single vehicle passes every half hour or so through the deep of the night. One teenage Hindu boy has been hired to direct this (very little) night traffic, or to watch over the construction site on the side of the road, or some combination of those two jobs. He passes the time shuffling, pacing. Texting on his old mobile phone, face illuminated by its glow.

On the other end of sweet words is a young Muslim girl. She lays on a sheet between her mother and her brother in their two room home on the outskirts of Dharavi slum near Mahim. Her whole family sleeps around her, and she also lies still. Eyes flickering along rows of text, stray hair framing her cheeks, she quietly receives text messages and hope on an old mobile phone. Her beautiful face illuminated by its glow.

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