Mumbai, Aug. 20: She edited a magazine, rode in chauffeur-driven cars, inherited a bungalow and owned two flats.
Yesterday, Sunita Naik moved in with a stranger couple after living on a pavement for two months.
Her only friend through the hard times has also found a home and, possibly, an army of companions — 10 fellow canines.
If the woof is back in Sashi’s bark, it’s because of her 65-year-old mistress. Offered refuge by several people, Naik had refused to leave her companion of 12 years unless they took the Pomeranian in too.
“Several people had offered her shelter but she refused since they didn’t want to take her 12-year-old Pomeranian, Sashi. I said I have 10 dogs in my house, and they would be happy to find another companion in Sashi. Then she agreed to come home,” George Misquita, 49, told The Telegraph this evening.
Misquita and his wife Catherine had read about Naik’s plight after a local newspaper ran a story on the former editor who had fallen on bad times. On Sunday, the couple from Vile Parle approached Naik on the pavement outside Sachkand Gurdwara in Versova in the western suburbs.
“They are very nice people,” the frail elderly lady said at her new home. “I am happy to be here. I am happy that I no longer live on the pavement. I suffered living in the open during the monsoons but what could I do. I was helpless.”
Naik, who is single and has no relatives, used to edit Grihalaxmi, a highly popular Marathi magazine for women in the eighties and nineties. A Pune University graduate and fluent in five languages, she had worked her way up.
At the prime of her career, Naik said, she owned two flats in Jayant Apartments, a highrise at Worli. She inherited a bungalow on Pune’s Bhandarkar Road. Then, sometime in mid-2000, the magazine closed down.
She sold both her Worli flats and the Hyundai Accent and Tata Indica she owned and moved to a leased bungalow in Thane. She had sold the Pune bungalow earlier.
Naik says she had Rs 55 lakh in an ICICI Bank till 2009 and another Rs 10 lakh in the bank’s Thane branch, but her savings began shrinking mysteriously. She moved to a rented flat in Versova, but soon found the rent too high, and ended up on the pavement outside the gurdwara about two months ago.
The gurdwara provided her food. Visitors would give her money. Some even paid her medical bills. That was before the Misquitas read about her.
“I call her Mummy. She told me when she was an editor she personally knew the likes of at least two persons who are Union ministers now. I am surprised none of these people have bothered to even contact her after reading her story,” said Misquita.
What does “Mummy” say?
“She told me she wouldn’t like to stay here for long. She would like to be independent, and would try to rent a flat if she gets donations. She wants to start her career afresh.”
Help has been pouring in for Naik. Ghazal singer Ashok Khosla visited her and offered her a Pune flat he owns as a permanent home.
Rajesh Nair, who works with the US army and reached Mumbai yesterday, also dropped in at Misquita’s flat to offer financial help.
The crime branch, too, has taken note of Naik’s plight and recorded her statement. “My bank accounts were being handled by a woman who worked as my personal assistant for 15 years and took care of me,” Naik said. “Maybe, she knows where all the money has gone.”