Excerpt: An Alien Among Flesh Eaters - Anurag Sharma


- Anurag Sharma

This was an average Monday morning. Not any different from any other weekday. After getting ready for work, I opened the door and got hit by a statue which was standing right in front of me. I got scared and stopped. It took a moment for me to recover from the shock and realize that it was not a statue but a person. It was Ruby, our neighbor. What is she doing here? I tried to put a smile on my face and politely asked, “How can I help you?”

“Is your wife home? I need to speak to her?” she pointed towards my hand which was still holding the door.
“Of course, Rita is inside.” I opened the door for her and moved out of her way towards the elevator.

At work, I was too busy and completely forgot about the morning. The day passed and at the evening, when I came back home, I found Rita in tears.

“What happened?”

“Ruby came here this morning.”

“I know. I met her at the door this morning. I was surprised too. She never acknowledges our presence. What brought her here?”

“She’s in deep trouble”

“What happened?”

“She’s being evicted from the apartment. Where will she go?”


After listening to Rita, I realized the seriousness of the issue. Our neighbor Dr. Ruby Gupta was out of work for almost a year. Like many immigrant scholars, her H1B visa was sponsored by her employer, the university where she did stem cell research. As an immigrant, she was out of legal status, the moment her job ended. According to immigration law she had two options, one: find another job to sponsor her stay, or two: leave the country in 30 days. The downside was that Ruby defaulted on the rent payment for last six months. She also ignored the notices from the apartment management and now the management had sent her the final eviction notice.

“She has to vacate the apartment this month. She came here to call the cab company; her phone has been disconnected due to non-payment.

“No job, no phone, no apartment! Where does she need the cab for? Where would she go in a foreign land? Did she tell you anything?”

“No, she was completely lost. I assured her that we can find a solution to her problem …” Rita paused, “… Please talk to the apartment management. They will listen to you. I stopped Ruby from calling the cab. We will not let her become homeless.”

“We can try. But she should have left for India when her job ended. Why did she overstay?”

“There’s no point in worrying about the spilled milk. We should work to resolve the problem now.

She was too arrogant to ever talk to us. She hardly responded to our greetings whenever we had a chance encounter. But this was not the time to get even with her. I thought for a moment and said, “OK, I’ll speak to the manager. In fact, let us review her situation and ensure that she gets all the help she needs.”

We both chatted for long time that night. We reviewed her situation and discussed various options. One option was to request the management to let her stay for some more time so that she gets time to find a new job. Other option was to help Ruby buy tickets to return to her hometown in India. We had no problem in paying her airfare to India. Rita was fine in supporting her while I was at work.

Next day, around 7:00 PM, Rita and I went to meet her. We knocked at her door and waited for some time for response before knocking again. The door opened with strong odor. Ruby stood there in a disheveled state. I could see the sun setting behind her through the bare bay-window of her seventh floor apartment. She stood there blocking the door without inviting us. Reacting to her questioning look, I mumbled, “Good evening, we just came to say Hi.”

We stepped inside the unkempt apartment without waiting for an answer. Clothes were lying everywhere in the studio apartment. There was a sleeping bag in a corner. Another corner was full of books and papers. Landline phone was still hooked. Rita invited her for dinner.

“What’s special today? You never invited me for dinner earlier.”

“As your neighbor and fellow countrymen, it is our responsibility to help you in time of need” I could hardly complete my sentence.

“Don’t worry, everything will be fine.”  Rita added calmly.

“Everything is fine. I always knew it.” She was rude.

“What did you know?”

“That you were coming here to talk to me.”

“Really? How?”

“I was talking to Lord Krishna. He was standing right here. He told me that you both are coming.”

I didn’t like the sarcasm. I had second thought about our approach of helping her, “What else did Lord Krishna tell you? Please try to understand the gravity of the situation. You are out of status and can be deported anytime.” I tried to explain the obvious.

“Nothing will happen to me. See, they didn’t put me in jail yet.” She sounded unaffected.

“Yes, you are safe so far. It is in your best interest to go back home before you are caught in legal net.” I was genuinely concerned, “Don’t worry about the expense; we can make arrangements for your ticket.”

“What did I do wrong? Am I your enemy? Do you want to kill me?” she shouted.

“Enemy? Killing? What are you talking? The fact is that you don’t have money to stay here or to go back. We just want to help you. We’ll buy you the tickets.” I tried to explain.

She looked at me as if I was the most stupid person on earth and acted as if she was going to disclose a secret, “God told me that I will be alive only as long as I am in the USA. I will die as soon as I am in Indian Standard Time zone. Anyone talking about sending me to India is my killer.”

“Sorry, I didn’t understand. Could you elaborate?” I was confused.

An Alien Among Flesh Eaters
“Remember, you saw me in the gym, and I have seen you in the pool also...”

Her reference to the gym and the swimming pool reminded me how she used to turn her face away whenever I saw her.

“… Termination of my job was not  normal. It was sabotage. My accident was a part of the scheme to kill me. I survived it because I was in Eastern Time zone. I started physiotherapy, yoga, swimming and all kind of exercise. I did everything to get back to work.” She explained.


“In spite of all my efforts, the pain did not end. I cannot work anymore. Lord took care of my job and told me to stay in this apartment. He said, I will die the moment I reenter into India time zone.

“How did the Lord tell you so? Did he call you over phone?”

“Lord Krishna comes before me to talk …” she was full of confidence, “same way as you are talking to me.”

“I see.” I decided to beat her in her own game, “But today Lord Krishna told me that, at times you don’t understand his language. That’s why he wanted us to come here and help you.”  

“No, he didn’t tell it to me.”

“He told you, but you didn’t understand. He told you that you should go home on expiry of your visa. In fact, he was instrumental for your job situation and now he asked the management to send eviction notice so that you can go back to your family, your home. Lord doesn’t want you to be homeless. He wants you to be in your own home in your own homeland.”

“You are wrong. Management sent me the notice so that the Lord can come and pick me up.”

Her confidence scared me. I wanted to make sure that she was not trying to do any harm to herself. I wanted to know if she needed immediate help. So I continued the conversation, “How is he going to pick you up?”

“From there.” She pointed towards the window.

“What?” I was scared. Jumping from that window meant nothing but death. I followed her closely when she moved towards the window.

“Yes.” She pointed towards a spot in the parking lot and mentioned that Lord Krishna will come there to pick her, “His chariot will come there. Didn’t he tell you? Didn’t you say that he talks to you too?”

“Of course he mentioned it to me. But he also mentioned an alternative plan which he will reveal next week.”

“I also didn’t understand him well …” She paused and said with a little hesitation, “Although I am an MD, PhD, I am not very smart. Sometimes I cannot understand a simple statement.”

“I see. Which medical school did you go?”

It took almost 20 minutes for me to gather all relevant information about her except details about her family. She did her PhD in France but coincidentally she went to the same medical college in India where my close friend Ronit studied.  First thing I did after coming back was to call Ronit and see if he knew anything about her family.

According to Ronit, Ruby was a hopeless case. She was well-known for her mental instability in entire college. The management and the faculty just wanted to get rid of her by handing over her degree as soon as possible. Ronit promised to dig deeper to check about Ruby’s family.

Ronit called me on Tuesday and told that Ruby’s parents had died in a train accident long ago. She had a sister. When Ronit called her sister, she got aggravated just by hearing Ruby’s name and threatened to call police if Ronit ever called her again.

The road to help her was not easy. I decided to talk to her again about accepting the airfare from me and going back to her home. Rita and I went to her apartment again on next day. She was more receptive this time but still not willing to talk about looking for a job or going back to India.

On Wednesday, Rita texted me at work, “Come home ASAP, they have come to take Ruby.” Rita told that there was a team of 4-5 people accompanied by police officers in Ruby’s apartment.

“I wasn’t feeling well that time. After hearing this twist in the story, I left for home. When I arrived at the apartment complex, I saw Ruby coming out of the building with an African-American police officer. I approached them to inquire about the situation. The officer assured me that everything was fine. He politely explained that he was assigned the responsibility of taking Ruby to local Women’s Welfare Center. The place is safe with free lodging and food. The center has a team of legal experts to help her get a new job and to claim unemployment compensation till she lands up in new job. Rita also came out of the building with two women. These women escorted Ruby to a marked van parked nearby. The officer wished her well and removed his hat to bid us good bye. The curls on his smooth black head somehow reminded me of the life size picture of Lord Krishna as installed in our ancestral home in Bareilly.

Rita told me everything she heard from the Women’s Center authorities. The center was going to help her get the unemployment arrears for entire year. They also made a deal with the apartment management to waive off her rent and utility bills.

I was glad that everything went well, in fact, it was far better than my expectations.

“O my God, did you notice it?” Rita was surprised, “Do you see where we are standing?”    

“We are in the parking lot, where else?”

“Look carefully. This is the same spot which Ruby pointed to while mentioning about the lord’s vehicle.”

Rita was absolutely right. The vehicles had left but we were still standing at the same spot marked by Ruby as the place for Lord’s arrival to pick her up.

I was confused about entire sequence of events, the parking spot, and looks of the police officer. But I was happy that she didn’t go back to India.