She hops expectantly into the sink. I turn on the tap for her; she laps without a glance in my direction, like a duchess so used to being ministered to that she no longer notices the servants and sees only a world where objects dumbly bend to her wishes, doors opening, faucets discharging cool water, delicious things appearing in her dish.
What is the story with the airport sinks, that they will not give us a twist-on twist-off human faucet. "Is it that too risky for the human population? We have to do the one-handed pain-in-the-ass Alcatraz-style faucets. "What is it they think we will do? Turn 'em all on full, run out into the parking lot, laughing, pushing each other into the bushes?
The municipality sent water through six Annawadi faucets for ninety minutes in the morning and ninety minutes at night. Shiv Sena men had appropriated the taps, charging usage fees to their neighbors. These water-brokers were resented, but not as much as the renegade World Vision social worker who had collected money from Annawadians for a new tap, then run away with it.
That was our first home. Before I felt like an island in an ocean, before Calcutta, before everything that followed. You know it wasn't a home at first but just a shell. Nothing ostentatious but just a rented two-room affair, an unneeded corridor that ran alongside them, second hand cane furniture, cheap crockery, two leaking faucets, a dysfunctional doorbell, and a flight of stairs that led to, but ended just before the roof (one of the many idiosyncrasies of the house), secured by a sixteen garrison lock, and a balcony into which a mango tree's branch had strayed. The house was in a building at least a hundred years old and looked out on a street and a tenement block across it. The colony, if you were to call it a colony, had no name. The house itself was seedy, decrepit, as though a safe-keeper of secrets and scandals. It had many entries and exits and it was possible to get lost in it. And in a particularly inspired stroke of whimsy architectural genius, it was almost invisible from the main road like H.G. Wells' 'Magic Shop'. As a result, we had great difficulty when we had to explain our address to people back home. It went somewhat like this, '... take the second one from the main road... and then right after turning left from Dhakeshwari, you will see a bird shop (unspecific like that, for it had no name either)... walk straight in and take the stairs at the end to go to the first floor, that's where we dwell... but don't press the bell, knock... and don't walk too close to the cages unless you want bird-hickeys... '' ('Left from Dhakeshwari')