“WHAT DID YOU CHOOSE? The coffee?”
There is such a thing as a very Andheri office. One building away from Mainland China, one alley away from a horrid little advertising agency I worked in for a few weeks when I first moved to Mumbai, stands a functionally grey monolith. It houses, among many others, an office so utterly nondescript it could belong to anyone from a realtor to a stockist of ballpoint-pen refills. It would, however, have to be a stockist obsessed with privacy. Ringing the doorbell that sultry afternoon in April this year led to a voice through a speaker—with the curt tone of automated gates in California-based TV shows—asking me to identify myself. I promised the voice that I did indeed have an appointment “with Madam,” and waited interminably while my claim was checked and double-checked.
The reception area was tiny—a couple of chairs plonked across a man at a desk, surrounded by phones. Clearly, not too many were allowed to come in at any one time. “Two minutes,” said a voice too busy to sound reassuring, and I sat back amid the exaggerated normalcy. Then I looked to my left and saw—within that small, unspectacular bastion of the humdrum—a massive painting, vibrant and striking and carrying a stylish signature that even a philistine like me could recognise. This was certainly a present from the painter—the only modern artist who is truly a household name in India, a man who was besotted with “Madam,” and famously watched one particular movie of hers several dozen times.