THE OPPRESSIVE AFTERNOON HEAT OF APRIL withdrew in the shade of the covered parking garage underneath Sea Lord apartments, leaving behind a pitiless Mumbai damp that stopped at the misshapen door to a chilled room filled with cables; inside, three men lay sleeping under pictures of their gods and a grim white fluorescent light. Thirty years ago, a quiet and well-mannered young man named Rohinton Screwvala, who lived in a tower just down the leafy road leading to the sea, convinced the manager and residents of Sea Lord to let him build the room in which these men lay, and let him weave pipes in ducts drilled through slabs and staircases, and let him run hefty cables in those pipes to their homes, where he sent up dramas, soaps and movies in a way that had not been done before.
Two tightly-packed apartment towers loomed above this room and the rest of the garage, on either side of a driveway that sloped down to an open gate. There were 80 flats spread over 18 floors in each of the towers, their windows now mostly obscured by scaffolding erected to rejuvenate a facade worn down by the sea wind. Sea Lord, which stands sentinel to the exclusive South Mumbai enclave of Cuffe Parade, was the fourth block of apartments in the area to allow Screwvala in—making it the fourth residential building in the country to receive cable television.
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