I can smell it before I see it. The woman, who enters the room has no toes. Or better the woman that stands in the middle of the room has toes that look exactly like cigarette butts. But she hasn’t come to have someone looking at her feet. I take a deep breath and have a look and then a second and a third. The woman is impressively indifferent. The woman wants to collect medication for her daughter’s baby. I shake my head. No, I say and try to breath out again. No patient, no medication. The woman glares angry at me, while I clean and bandage the former toes the best I can. I learn new swear words in Hindi. Quite impressive I think, her vocabulary. “Your feet” I say, but she waves with her hands as if I were one of the many flies around us. I clearly failed her expectations. She rushes out off the door. The smell lingers in the room all day long.
“I am leaving for half an hour to bring these to the post-office”, I say to N. and wave with a pile of letters in my hand. At the corner where I have to cross the street a group of drug addicts gathers around a wooden bench that stands in a dark and shadowy corner. They are five. They share one syringe. The syringe looks like made before the English left India. Three men and two women. One man sucks another man’s toes. Two women are crawling on the ground searching for somewhat that probably never existed. It is a lively place, despite its dark corner. Roasted corn is sold, you can buy cigarettes or sip a cup of freshly squeezed lemon juice. The left-overs of food are thrown into the corner and land short to the feet of the three men and two women laying or crawling there. When I cross the street again, on my way back, only one man is still there. He lies on his back, now sucking at his thumb with the same intensity he did a few minutes ago, when he licked his neighbor’s feet.
On the way back home, standing between too many fellow travelers, I think of a newspaper article I read a few days ago. A woman has been arrested a fortnight ago at a railway station in Delhi because she was found eating peacock claws. I never knew beforehand that peacock claws were eatable stuff at all. I always imagined them being bony, tiny and pretty hard. However, the woman was arrested under a Wildlife protection law that forbids the very consumption of peacock claws. The article left open, how the police officer immediately recognized the type of claws he was confronted with and obviously had not a minute of doubt that they must belong to a peacock. But no, I don’t want to know the details, I just wonder why peacock’s claws are so much more protected and recognized as something to be saved, while a woman just enters through the door, who has no more toes left due to a long life of neglect and a man sucks wholeheartedly at a pair of toes as if they were a delicacy at their own and not a sign of more neglect and passionate ignorance of a surrounding that does not care much. ( The body of the peacock could not be found among her belongings said the article.)
When opening the door, Mrs Rajasthani scolds me that I again took no lunch with me and asks how my das has been: “toeless” I say and she cries: “Read On, don’t you scare me like this, or I will make Okra for dinner!”