Bins went away to New York for two nights this week. He stayed with a man I will call Kay, whom he met just once, several years ago, on board a flight. “He seemed very unusual, you know?” says Bins, tracing the history of an unlikely acquaintance. “Now I can confirm he is astonishing! Sixty years old, has a Mohawk hairstyle and works as a banker. He has a wife and children but they live far away. Instead of a girlfriend, in his drawing room he has a beautiful one-armed mannequin — you know these female statues who pose inside shop windows wearing funny clothes — called Iris. She sits forever on a piano stool, wearing a quiet dress, with her knees neatly crossed.”

What!? “Well,” says Bins, blushing only slightly, “it’s nothing strange! He does not treat her like a girlfriend or talk to her or anything. It’s just that he found her in a dumpster, you know? And she looked so sad, so lonely, this human-sized doll with only one arm that he felt he had to give her a home. His house is full of other amazing things also. My eyes are still falling out of my head. And his cousin? She lives next door. She’s even more beautiful than Iris. Unlike Iris, she has a sparkling smile. She has art on every wall of every room!”

The cousin, whom I shall call Keya, is an art dealer. She displays works by some of her clients but also art that she has bought and loved over the years. “There are Mexican masks, for instance. And amazing bowls from Haiti, made from metal sheets. Many little-little animals and wooden toys, some from India. Colourful crocodiles with moving jaws ...” Bins speaks about her in such glowing terms that I ask him if I should feel jealous. “Absolutely,” says Bins, looking soulfully into the distance. “My heart and many other organs are completely lost to her. Tragically, she will not look at me, of course. She already has many handsome men in her life, including a big blue cat.” I tell him that cats are black, grey or white, but he insists I am wrong. “This cat is big, fluffy and blue! With white patches.”

Kay and Keya live in an attractive and leafy suburb 45 minutes from Grand Central station on the Metro North commuter train. On the second morning of his stay, Bins and the two cousins visit the 250-acre New York Botanical Garden, which happens to be on the Metro North line. “Even you would say it is wonderful,” says Bins, who takes a dim view of my tastes. “It is like going to a very special zoo, but instead of animals in cages there are tall trees, reaching up to the sky. Each one looks so happy! It is like they know they are safe and well cared for.” Amongst other attractions, there’s a Rock Garden, a Rose Garden and the Haupt Conservatory, an enclosed habitat for exotic plants. “We didn’t have time for the conservatory,” says Bins, “which is a good thing.” Why? “So that there will be something to look forward to the next time,” he explains.

Manjula Padmanabhan, artist and author, writes of her life in the fictional town of Elsewhere, in this weekly column

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